How to not get screwed by the dealer
October 12, 2010 4:50 PM   Subscribe

selling car to dealership question

I know people tell you to do a private sale, but I need to sell it quickly, and the whole process of private sale is not something I think I can handle. I am not a people person. I'm nervous about meeting strangers, and I'm worried about the whole process of the final sale, paperwork, not getting scammed. I'm not really one to stick up for myself, so an aggressive person would screw me over (I guess ironic that I'm going to a dealer...)

At any rate, the deal said that the process is that I sign the title and it takes a day or two to get the check, because it takes two people to sign the check and they're never in at the same time. I do NOT want to sign the title without the money, that sounds crazy. What do I do to protect myself in this situation? I don't see why they can't hold the check signed, and I can bring in the car and title when it's ready. I guess I can still fill out the paperwork in advance?
posted by mbird to Work & Money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think your instincts are good here. I would not sign over the title until they gave you a check for the full amount, period. Even if it does take them 2 days to get a check signed, they don't need your title to get that process started.
posted by jon1270 at 4:58 PM on October 12, 2010

"At any rate, the deal said that the process is that I sign the title and it takes a day or two to get the check..."

Yeah? I would not do that. I would not sign my title over without getting a check that I was sure was valid, like a cashier's check in my hand. What do they give you in exchange for your title and car, a receipt with a smiley face on it saying we owe you one check?

More practically speaking, even from a reputable dealer, there can always be SNAFUs with the check, even when both parties are well intentioned. Having the check in hand reduces the chances of that happening.

Can you bring a friend along with you for moral support to a different dealer? I understand that this is stressful, and having some backup might be useful.
posted by 517 at 5:10 PM on October 12, 2010

Could you give them the car now and the title after the check clears? The title represents the real legal ownership of the car but them having the car means that they should be able to sell it right away, they just might not be able to deliver it.

Is this a stand-alone used car dealer or part of a franchised dealership (IE the used car department of a Honda dealer or something)? If it is the former, I'd VERY careful unless you know the dealer really well personally. If it is the latter, you're probably okay, especially if it is part of a larger network of dealerships owned by a holding company.
posted by VTX at 5:27 PM on October 12, 2010

If you are near a Carmax, I sold a car to them and it was easy as pie. They also gave me a much, much better price than any dealer would offer, like 80% more. You just show up, someone appraises it, gives you a written commitment to what they will pay, and you can use it then or come back later to take advantage of it.
posted by procrastination at 5:45 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had a good experience with Carmax too.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:24 PM on October 12, 2010

Yeah, you're not crazy. Don't mess around with any scenario where the check doesn't cross your palm before you leave the lot. There is no good reason I can think of why a reputable dealer can't make that happen. Most dealers, even used ones, have someone who is pretty much full time doing paperwork, and they can cut checks. I sold a car to a friend who ran a used car dealership with no trade (I was buying a new car), and he was able to do this.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:01 PM on October 12, 2010

For what it's worth, when my sister sold her CR-V to the local Honda dealer, they took a couple of days to get her a check. She was OK with it because they gave her an offer that was much better than expected and didn't need the money that day. They got her the check in two days, as promised.

That said, I would not consider doing this at other than a reputable franchised dealer that has been in business for a long time. Even then, you might get screwed. You're totally in the right to expect money up front.
posted by wierdo at 7:24 PM on October 12, 2010

no check, no car.... find another dealer to make the purchase.
posted by HuronBob at 7:41 PM on October 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers guys, it's nice to have confirmation. I just have to convince them that I don't want to hand over the title till I have payment in hand. I can try offering to leave the car with them, but if something happens to it, I would still be responsible and liable, as my name is on the title, and they could refuse to buy it after an "incident" or lower the price, they're not going to be as motivated take as good care of it if it's not their vehicle, so I think it's best to hold the car and title till payment is ready.

I've had a good experience before with carmax as well, but am not near one currently. I would definitely go through them again.

Thanks weirdo (ok I feel kinda funny saying that), I'm glad to hear the story, though I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea.
posted by mbird at 7:45 PM on October 12, 2010

As a current used car shopper who has seen 10 dealerships 4 auto auctions and 10 private parties in the last week, I can safely say that in general used car dealers are not to be trusted. I have been offered three cars with blown head gaskets and three with selective paint jobs that were "never in an accident". I would follow the advice here and never trust anyone with your car without payment in hand and the pink slip signed over.
posted by Felex at 1:21 AM on October 13, 2010
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:04 AM on October 13, 2010

Response by poster: I'm starting to wonder even with the check in hand, should I be worried about signing over the title?
posted by mbird at 10:54 AM on October 13, 2010

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