Selling a $10K car - do I have to accept cash?
January 17, 2011 3:14 PM   Subscribe

I want to sell my used car that's worth about $10K. Are there other options than asking for cash?

I'm moving to a city where I don't need a car, so I'm looking to sell my 2007 sedan. I don't use it much - 25K miles, it's in great shape, no dents, just got new brakes and tuneup, lots of options, etc. According to Edmunds it's worth around $12K via private sale, but I'd settle for $10K (or more if I can get it!).

I've never sold a car before and I don't really feel comfortable handling $10K in cash. However, I know that cashiers' checks can be shady. What's the best way to handle this transaction with a potential buyer? Having them come by for a test drive and then if they're interested meeting them directly at the bank?
posted by emily37 to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could they pay you on the spot using, say, paypal?
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:20 PM on January 17, 2011

A cashier's check, from their bank, is unlikely to be fraudulent. I was on the other end of a transaction like this and I went to my bank with the seller and had the bank cut him a check right there in front of him.

Or, you could have the buyer bring cash to your bank, with you, and you can deposit it right then. That way you don't need to carry it around.
posted by twblalock at 3:26 PM on January 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding what twblalock said. Also, do not release the car until the check has officially cleared. The great scam is to get a legit looking check that comes back bad after the paperwork has been signed and the car driven off.


This is from Craigslist, applies to car dealings.........

How to recognize a vehicle scam attempt on CL:
- Shipping a vehicle to you is suggested by seller eBay Motors or another intermediary is specified by seller
- Payment by Western Union or a money wire is requested
- Price is unusually low (fraction of blue book value)

If you see these tell-tale signs, flag ad as "prohibited" and avoid
- Offers to ship a vehicle are virtually 100% fraudulent
- eBay has no involvment in craigslist for sale ads, and any eBay or similar emails or web pages you receive are fake
- Never use Western Union or wire transfer to pay for goods - only a scammer will ask for this, and any funds sent will be lost
- Do not buy vehicles site-unseen, regardless of low price. The vehicle does not exist, and any money you send will be lost.
- Stories about divorcees or departing servicemen needing to sell quickly at a low price are generally fraudulent
- If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

More Scam info from Craigslis at
posted by lampshade at 3:38 PM on January 17, 2011

If you're looking to sell a used car via a private transaction, I recommend you first take it to CarMax to see how much they will give you for your used car (if you've got one local to you).

They are unlikely to offer you as much as you'd get from a private buyer, but they'll give you a no nonsense appraisal that you can use as the absolute minimum you should ask from a private buyer. They will buy a car that they've appraised at their appraised price for up to seven days from the date of the appraisal, so you could even sell it to them if you can't find a private buyer willing to make a better offer. Naturally if you sell it to them you won't have any concerns about having to handle cash or dealing with a fraudulent cashiers' check.
posted by RichardP at 3:40 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've done several vehicle transactions in banks. That way the person receiving the money feels safe, and knows that the money is real, and the person handing over the money has the security of knowing that they aren't going to be robbed on the spot. This applies equally to cash transactions and to ones using checks. Talk to your local branch -- my bank is really friendly and helpful about this.
posted by Forktine at 3:53 PM on January 17, 2011

I've been on both ends of this transaction and both times we just did cashier's checks. Not at the bank or anything like that.

Maybe I'm hopelessly naive, but I figure that in the process of selling this car, you're going to get a copy of the buyer's driver's license (before the test drive). Take a photo of the person, too, why not. If the check bounces, you call the police! Because this person has stolen your car. You're not completely safe from fraud or theft in this transaction, but hey, someone could steal your car off the street. A valet could drive off with it.

Don't accept any cashier's check that's for any amount other than the price you agreed on (that's what most of these CL scams are about), but otherwise I wouldn't hesitate to accept a cashier's check myself (and, indeed, I did, when I sold my previous car), unless the buyer set off some other red flags.
posted by mskyle at 4:02 PM on January 17, 2011

Cashier's check should be fine. Paypal I'd avoid- they have a (well-earned) reputation for screwing with people for no good reason, I wouldn't trust them with such a large transaction.

Often the buyer will be the one who wants to pay cash, and this will be followed by a request for a receipt for a fake, lower price. This is so they can save money on taxes and possibly registration.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:14 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do not buy vehicles site-unseen

Make sure you see the car while you're there.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:27 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

For large items I've heard that buddy'ing up to the bank is quite common.
posted by rhizome at 4:40 PM on January 17, 2011

Do you have a good relationship with your bank or credit union?

Have them come to your bank or credit union with the cashiers check and sign the title over in the presence of the teller, who will photocopy their ID and tell them that they will be photographed.

Have them give you their bank's phone number (make *sure* it's the one in the phonebook) and tell them that the teller at your bank will be calling their bank to make sure the cashiers check is real.

If they balk on ANY of this, run.
posted by lalochezia at 4:55 PM on January 17, 2011

Do it at the bank. PLEASE do not take paypal or anything other than cash. If it turns out not to be legitimate, it doesn't matter if you have all their personal info (which could be fake) or driver's license (could be fake too). Just ask for cash, at a bank.
posted by Slinga at 10:13 PM on January 17, 2011

Take cash only, and make the transaction inside your bank. Never touch the cash until he hands it to you inside the bank. Count it, hand it to your teller, and you're done.
posted by santaliqueur at 7:40 AM on January 18, 2011

It should only take about 30 minutes to have Carmax give you a quote. Their estimate is good whether you buy from them or not (just don't mention you're only wanting to sell upfront). I've bought 2 cars from them in the past and got over bluebook for both of them. It's worth a try.
posted by doorsfan at 8:04 AM on January 18, 2011

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