Paying for a car that is 250 mi away
May 24, 2015 9:10 PM   Subscribe

I am interested in a vehicle that is being sold by a private seller that is 3 1/2 hours away and in a different state. The asking price is $7500, which is a lot of cash to be carrying, especially after all those stories in the news about the cops being tipped off by the bank and just taking your money.

Plus, I think that you get put on a government list if you pull out more that $5000. On the other hand, the sellers are (rightfully) wary about cashiers checks. I really don't want to wait for a check to cash and make two trips. They do own a small business (roofing), but they don't take credit cards. I could see about a wire transfer, but my bank only has branches local to me, not sure how that would work. We have a debit card with that amount available, could we go to their bank and have the bank accept the debit? Any suggestions appreciated.
posted by 445supermag to Work & Money (16 answers total)
I think services let you email money these days. Like square? And google wallet? Not sure what the upper limit is, but it might be worth considering ....
posted by aniola at 9:35 PM on May 24, 2015

Is there a branch of your bank wherever they are where you could withdraw the money? Or maybe go to a western union in their town with them present and wire them the money?
posted by Weeping_angel at 9:37 PM on May 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

My bank charges about $30 to wire money. Personally I'd probably bring cash and do the transaction at their bank, but wiring money is safe and fast.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:43 PM on May 24, 2015

Cashiers check, meet in the bank parking lot and complete paperwork inside branch (they will let you with no issues).
posted by arnicae at 9:53 PM on May 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Banks are required to report cash transactions over $10,000 - so you are probably safe on that dimension.

Banks can wire money to any other bank - the trick (that I dont know the answer to) is how to arrange it so it is simultaneous with the purchase.
posted by metahawk at 10:05 PM on May 24, 2015

You can pay via Paypal.
posted by vignettist at 10:54 PM on May 24, 2015

Be careful that you don't lock yourself out of your card if you have a daily spending limit. This happened to a customer attempting to buy several thousand dollars worth of money orders to pay for a car. Also keep in mind some retailers place a daily limit on money orders/cashiers checks and money transfers (if you chose not to use a bank). It's a pain.
posted by rubster at 12:48 AM on May 25, 2015

I'd go with cash. If a cop stops you, say no when he asks if he can search you. In California, the state where I live, there's a requirement that you be convicted of a related crime within a certain time period for a forfeiture to stand. It doesn't make the problem of police arbitrarily seizing money go away but it does reduce it.
posted by rdr at 3:54 AM on May 25, 2015

The civil asset forfeiture program, which is how most cops were getting away with this process, has been recently limited.

Still, it is probably not a good idea to go carrying around large amounts of cash.
posted by jgreco at 4:54 AM on May 25, 2015

You would certainly want to contact the seller in advance for agreement regarding the method of payment if you have some payment plan that doesn't put cash in their hand when you pick up the car....
posted by HuronBob at 5:15 AM on May 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

This is what cashier's checks are for. In a perfect world, you'd go into a local branch of your bank and have them cut the check with the seller there. Failing that, you can tell them to use their phone to lookup the bank's number to call and verify that they issued the check (If you were forging a check, you'd change the phone number on it to go to an accomplice).

In theory, a teller could report any cash transaction that is out of the ordinary for you and your account. Anything over $10,000 and they're required to report it. However, those reports don't really go anywhere. They'll really only get used for anything if you start to establish a pattern of large cash transactions (like you're laundering money or some other criminal activity) or if you turn out to be terrorist. Since you're not doing any of those things, you shouldn't worry about creating a record of the withdrawal.

Even if the car was close to me, I would still use a cashier's check rather than cash for that amount.
posted by VTX at 8:43 AM on May 25, 2015

Absolutely do not wire money to them. Out-of-town car sales often turn out to be frauds. As others have suggested, go to the bank with the seller to get a cashier's cheque.
posted by LauraJ at 10:23 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just out of curiosity, why are you buying a vehicle in these uncomfortable circumstances? 3-1/2 hours drive, a different state, ornery sellers - setting aside the fraud risks, this seems like a setup for a giant hassle. How are you going to register and title it? Will that take another trip to an out-of-state DMV first? What if you hate how the vehicle handles after an hour? In fact, how are you getting it back home? (Unless it's a motorbike and you have a truck, or maybe a camper van that you'll tow...)

In any case - do not pay cash. Carrying $7500 in cash is ridiculous and risky. (I picture a worst case scenario of a car crash and dollar bills fluttering down the interstate - ugh.) And do NOT use Paypal - I can't tell if the person who suggested that was joking or not. A cashier's check is standard in these circumstances.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:02 AM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just out of curiosity, why are you buying a vehicle in these uncomfortable circumstances?

In the cold light of day, it does seem pretty outrageous. And you don't know the half of it. It has a salvage title, just to put an unsavory cherry on top. And we intend on putting a heavy camper on it and driving cross country (and back) in only a couple weeks. But it's also half of blue book. And I've been looking for quite a while and nothing has shown up ( a local dealer has a very similar truck for $11K and it has 510,000 miles on it).
posted by 445supermag at 11:20 AM on May 25, 2015

Why on earth would the seller be wary of a cashier's check? That's what pretty much every landlord I've ever had has requested for every deposit and first month's rent. I'm pretty sure when my SO sold his last car, they paid by cashier's check. Chashier's check is super normal for this.

You definitely don't want to use PayPal (ugh). Venmo's limit is $3k, and Chase QuickPay is $2k - I'm guessing that any other user-to-user electronic payment system is going to max out around there.
posted by radioamy at 12:45 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cashier's check, not cash. But if you do use cash, meet them in a very public place as posters above suggest.
posted by killdevil at 7:41 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

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