Keys hanging out of a red car door

Three Tips for Safely Selling your Car Privately Online

You’ve heard the stories.

Some naive soul puts his car for sale online, then goes and meets the “buyer” in a sketchy, poorly lit parking lot. Said buyer jacks the car and leaves the seller in the parking lot, car and penny-less. Or, maybe that same buyer decided to give an ex-felon that responded to his Craigslist ad his home address, so that said ex-felon can come “see the car.” Instead, he stripped it of parts when our innocent seller wasn’t home.

While these are horrible stories, they pale in comparison to some of the killings that have happened when people try to sell their car online. For some reason, many consumers just won’t sell their vehicles to a reputable – and safe – dealership.

I mean, I get why. You’ll make slightly less money selling it to the dealership than you will online. But, is it really worth it? Guess that’s up to you.

Here are three tips to keep yourself safe when selling your car privately online.

Screen Prospective Purchasers Thoroughly Via Phone – Not Email

If you start off communicating via email, that’s fine. But, you’ll eventually want to talk to them over the phone. If you’re shy and don’t like meeting strangers, then you have two options: either don’t sell your car, or sell it to a dealership.

Anyway, talk to your prospective purchaser over the phone. Make sure not to disclose any information such as plate number, street address, etc. Don’t try and sound too eager to sell your car, because you might miss a cue. The way a person talks gives you a good idea of their intention. In order to make sure they actually want to buy your car, ask them a lot of questions, such as why they’re interested in buying the car, what they’re looking for, how often they’ll drive it, etc.

Honestly, don’t think too hard about it. Just ask questions (and provide feedback) that might help an honest buyer. If you ask enough questions they can’t provide answers to, or they start getting unreasonably irritated, simply end the call.

Never. Meet. Alone.

Whether you arrange for the sale to happen in your own driveway (don’t ever let a buyer into your home) or you decide to meet elsewhere, don’t ever attempt the transaction alone. And, it’s always a better idea to meet in a public place. If your prospective buyer suggests that you to meet on a deserted back road — or at night — then stop conversing with them.

The same rule applies to buying a vehicle as well. Always have someone there, and arrange to inspect your potential purchase in a populated and well-illuminated area.

Trust your Gut

Finally, trust your gut. It does more for you than you think it does, and you’d be surprised how accurate it can be sometimes. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, drop the sale. Another buyer will come along, and if they don’t, you always have the option to sell it to the dealer.

I know the first and third tip sound infuriatingly obvious for some. While there is no set-in-stone way to sell your car, a lot of it boils down to common sense, and thinking carefully about the situation before jumping into a sale.

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