Avoiding Scams When Selling Your Car

Whew! Only 15 more to go by Friday. NEXT!

When you sell your car, you want to fetch the best price possible.  You will have invested good money into cleaning your vehicle, repairing any issues, and photographing your car from every angle.  Unfortunately, buyers are not the only ones who are vulnerable to frauds—sellers can be conned as well. You must be wary of anybody who is willing to be less than honest to con you out of your car.  Before you post your carefully crafted Craigslist ad, here are some tips to avoid scams when selling your car.

State Your Terms

You may be anxious to get your old car off your hands, but you will have to have made clear guidelines of what you accept first.  Have them contact you either by email or by phone.  Your ad should state exactly what information you want from the candidate so that you can have it all organized up front.  They need to contact you with their full name, number, email, and address.  You should also state your terms, including the form of payment you accept, and whether you will accept national or overseas buyers.  Keep in mind that checks and money orders are a riskier payment option because someone can forge them.  In addition, monthly payments are best avoided to prevent complication, so state this in your ad as well.  Always verify all forms of payment before signing over your car.  Also, note that selling your car to someone in another country will make for an expensive and lengthy process, and can get hairy if the buyer has not seen the car, so you may find it more convenient to sell within the country.  By disclosing these terms in the ad, you have already turned away some candidates, and so the only remaining screening will be for the people who agree to the terms.  

Screen Potential Buyers

If the candidate agrees to your conditions, you can screen them over the phone.  Having them call you may be better than having them email you because you can interview them in real time.  It will be easier to trust your gut, for example, if he or she starts to sound suspicious over the phone.  Remember that it is more important to get a buyer you can trust than to rush and fall into the trap of a con artist.  The candidate may offer to buy the car without seeing it first.  This is highly risky because the person can send you a fraudulent check or have another person pick up the vehicle.  If you feel uneasy about the potential buyer in question, then it is best to trust your intuition and steer clear of the person.  Once you have interviewed him or her over the phone and have gathered all of the above information, you can offer a test drive.  

Be Wary of Third Party Services

Escrow services can make selling your car smoother, but note that you must use a legitimate lawyer or bank.  Con artists will sometimes pitch an unknown escrow service, which is part of a larger plot to swindle you out of your money.  If you use an unknown service, the scammer will take your car and you will find that the funds you were supposed to receive will no longer exist.  Always research the escrow company first before agreeing to use them.  The Better Business Bureau is an excellent source to help you decide the legitimacy of the company.

Ask for Their License

Before you let someone test-drive your car, you should always ask for their license first before you meet.  Having a scanned copy of their license will allow you to access public records of any criminal history for this person.

Meet in Public and be Cautious

It can’t be stressed enough—always meet in public and go with a trusted friend of family member.  Before you both go to test drive the vehicle, have a route planned so that you go exactly where you want to go.  If you offer your buyer your service records, make sure you block out personal information such as your social security number and credit card numbers.  If he or she decides they would like to purchase the car, complete all paper work together and be sure the payment is verified before you complete the Bill of Sale.  Keep these documents in a safe place.

Use a Certified Car Buying Company

If you want to avoid the danger of conning, consider selling your car to a company that specializes in buying used vehicles. Selling a car fast is much easier through this route; while you may not make as much as you would selling to a private buyer, you won’t deal with the headache and be assured that you’re not being conned by a wily scam artist.

Tom Brown
Tom Brown is an automotive market enthusiast living in the United States. He holds a diverse background in automotive marketing and enjoys utilizing that to produce insights into the inner workings of the industry.