What's the Best Way to Take Payment for My Used Car?

CARS.COM — Whether you're dealing with a buyer in person, via email or over the telephone, always be careful when accepting payment as the seller of a used car. Scam artists are good at what they do and count on your eagerness to sell your old car.

Related: Selling Advice

Remember these steps to make yourself less vulnerable as a vehicle seller:

  • Never wire money to a potential buyer under any circumstances. If the buyer for your used car pays via a check or money order rather than cash, accept only the exact amount of the negotiated sale price for the vehicle.
  • Confirm with the issuing bank (or lender if it's a payment with loan financing) that the check is valid. Look up contact information for the bank on your own, as a forged check likely will include a phony bank address and phone number.
  • When possible, go to the bank with the buyer to verify the check's authenticity and sufficient funds. In addition, to be safe, it's a good idea to request a cashier's check for the money that's drawn from a local branch rather than a personal check. The vehicle buyer may have to pay a fee, but you'll avoid a likely bigger one for taking a bad check that bounces.
  • Stick to your timeline and don't rush the transaction. You're a private seller of a used car, not a new car dealership with a financing office to handle the paperwork. If the bank is closed when your customer wants to pay you the money by check for the vehicle, hold off until you can verify the check's validity. To be sure you are safe from an insufficient funds problem, try to negotiate the option to wait until the check you accept clears the bank before handing over ownership of the vehicle to your customer. How long that takes to see the funds deposited in your bank account will depend on your institution, but it should be less than a week. Think of it as test drive for the check you accept.
  • If the buyer wants the option to pay by money order, follow the same safe-payment guidelines for sellers when accepting a money order as for accepting a check. Verify the customer name and amount of the money order with the issuing bank, and request the payment be with a money order from a local institution whenever possible.
  • If the risk of those methods leave you feeling squeamish as a private seller of your used car, there's always cold, hard cash.

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