Buying a used motorbike on Craigslist with the title to be mailed after?
May 18, 2014 7:51 AM Subscribe
I'm considering purchasing a used motorcycle from a Craigslist seller (in Virginia/Washington DC). There is a lien on the title which he is to pay off after purchase. Am I being naive?
posted by austere to Law & Government (15 answers total)
Hi guys. Thanks for reading.
I've done a fair bit of research about this, and it's a bit frustrating because while this is a very common issue, it's apparently also a common scam with used motorcycles on Craigslist. It's worth noting that motorcycle in question is for all intents and purposes my "dream bike", so I want to be doubly sure that I've considered the various ins and outs of the situation before I make a decision.
The seller is located about 3.5 hours away from me. I believe he lives in northern Virginia where the motorcycle is registered, but he may live in DC proper. The bike is a 2013 Suzuki GSX-R 600 with only a couple thousand miles. We have agreed on a price of $8,000. As is apparently very common on craigslist, the only issue with the bike is that he is still making payments on the bike. He says that I can give him the money, and we will complete a bill of sale at a bank and have it notarized ("this should be the proof that you bought the bike"); then he will pay off the lien and the title will be sent to him within 5 days at which time he will express mail it to me. I asked him if we could just pay the balance of the loan off in person to have the lien removed so I could ride away with the title, but he said that the finance company is located in Ohio as far as he knows, and that he has checked whether they have a local office and they don't.
He is articulate in his emails and has been very communicative. He provided me with a phone number a few emails into our conversation (though I've not yet had need to call him). I tend to be a bit untrusting of people, and there is nothing about him in our communications thus far that I've found to be sketchy or which has made me uncomfortable. My only fear here is simply never receiving a title (taking the obvious precautions against being robbed with that kind of cash on hand). Perhaps the bike has been stolen and rebuilt? Perhaps he's just going to wait a few days and mail me a title which still shows a lien? I'm not sure what exactly could wrong, but in perusing the internets, people seem to frown on these sorts of transactions within the motorcycle community.
My girlfriend is confident that as long as we are able to meet him at his actual residence to check out his bike and get a notarized bill of sale which specifies that he is to pay off the balance of the loan and mail me a non-salvage title and a lien release, as well as checking the bikes registration against a photo ID of his, that should be sufficient to protect ourselves. But is that enough?
In truth, I don't know much about any of this. I suppose my questions are as follows:
1. Are we able to write specific stipulations/details on the bill of sale and have that notarized as a contract of sorts (my intention being to clearly represent what it was that the parties were agreeing to buy and sell with regards to the condition of the motorcycle and the title being clear & non-salvage).
2. Is there any way (apart from the pre-purchase inspection) to verify that the bike is not a salvage/rebuild without seeing the title?
3. Is there anything else I haven't thought of, or some other way in which we can be irrevocably scammed?
Following my own logic, I do feel that checking a photo ID against the bikes registration, and getting the notarized bill of sale should be sufficient, so long as there is a clear indicator there of what we are receiving at the time of the sale, and what we expect to receive shortly after (which, again, is a non-salvage and lien-free title for the bike). I'm just not sure whether the bill of sale alone is an appropriate document to encompass all of that information. I'd really like to feel that I have something to stand on if weeks pass and I never receive a title and the guy disappears somehow.
Thanks very much for your help!