Selling A Car: 4 Mistakes Everyone Makes

You know you can get more for your car on the open market than with a trade-in at a lot, but inexperienced sellers often don't know what they're getting into. These are the biggest mistakes people make that can lead to getting less than your car is worth. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

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4 Big Mistakes Everyone Makes When Selling A Car

  1. Not documenting the sale. You need a proper bill of sale so you can prove ownership was transferred and release yourself from liability.
  2. Not checking the marketplace. Ask for too little, and you're missing out on dough. Ask for too much, and you'll get no buyers. Do your research.
  3. Being too trusting. There's a lot of scammers out there, so perform the necessary due diligence to make sure your buyer is on the up and up.
  4. Not getting the money up front. Until the cash is safely in your bank account, don't hand over your keys.

Tips To Get Your Car To Sell Quickly

  • Set a reasonable asking price. If there are a lot of other vehicles of the same model priced lower than yours, you'll have a tough time finding interested parties.
  • Spread the love around. List your car on as many sites as possible to cast the widest net you can.
  • Take good photos. The more photos you have, the more legitimate your listing will seem.
  • Get repairs done. Have dents removed and any other small things that will make the car look more appealing.
  • Clean up. Vacuum the interior and have it sale-ready before you take photos.
  • Keep maintenance records. Show you've been a good owner, and buyers will be more likely to trust you.
  • Only deal with truly interested buyers. If someone sends you an all-lowercase email, doesn't use complete sentences, and immediately wants to know if you'll accept less than you're asking, don't waste your time arguing. Only negotiate the price after the potential buyer has checked out the car and you've seen they're legitimate.
  • Don't drive too hard a bargain. There's always a trade-off between getting what you asked for and selling your vehicle quickly. Remember that if you let a buyer walk away, you can't be sure another one will take their place. Be reasonable, and if the offer is good enough, take it.

How Do I Notify The State That I've Sold My Car?

Each state has different rules. Some require a notarized bill of sale while others do not. It's a good idea to visit the website of your state's Department of Motor Vehicles and find out exactly what they require before putting your car on the market. You'll want to follow all the rules for title transfer and vehicle registration so you don't get stuck with bills for the behavior of your buyer.

The Fastest-Selling Used Cars In The U.S.

Rank Model Average Days On The Market
1 Fiat 500e 22.2
2 BMW i3 23.2
3 Lexus IS 200t 24.5
4 Toyota Prius Plug-In 24.7
5 Hyundai Veloster Turbo 24.9
6 Nissan LEAF 25
7 Scion FR-S 25.1
8 Mercedes-Benz GLC 25.7
9 Ford Fusion Energi 26.1
10 Tesla Model S 26.1

What If The Buyer Wants To Pay In Cryptocurrency?

Do you trade in cryptocurrency regularly? If not, then this probably isn't a good place to start. Crypto has a lot of advantages when it comes to verifying transactions, but if you've never used it before, it'll be tough to take advantage of those aspects. Demand the buyer use whatever method you're most comfortable with, and if they try to change it on you or give you less than what was agreed upon, simply walk away because nothing good is going to come from letting yourself be talked into something you're not comfortable with.

Common Car Buying Scams

Scam Method How To Protect Yourself
PayPal overpayment You get an email that looks like it's from PayPal for more than the agreed amount (for example, for $3,300 instead of $3,000). The buyer apologizes for the mistake and asks you to send the overpayment amount back via a different method, or give them a check when they pick up the car. After they're gone, the original PayPal payment is withdrawn or revealed to be a hoax, and you're out the money and the car. Don't hand over the keys until you've withdrawn the online payment into your bank account.
Escrow service scam You get an email from an escrow service saying payment has been made. You click a link and are asked for your bank account or other info to initiate the withdrawal. Once you enter your info, your identity is stolen. Don't enter information after following a link in an email, and only use payment services you're familiar with.
Home test drive The buyer asks for your address in order to come for a test drive. While you're out test-driving the car, another person robs your house. Don't give your address to a potential buyer. Meet them in public.
Simple test drive robbery The buyer asks to try out the car, and then just drives off and never returns. Don't let anyone test drive the car alone.
Pick-up by a friend The buyer says they'll send the money, and a friend will come to pick up the car. After the car is gone, you find out it was purchased via a stolen identity and the payment is canceled. Ask for a copy of the buyer's driver's license, and don't let anyone other than that individual pick up the car.

The Buyer Wants To Pay Via An Escrow Service And Have Me Ship The Car To Them. Should I Do It?

If you're selling a classic car or a rare vehicle, it's possible buyers will seek you out from distant locations. If you're selling a Toyota Camry or Ford F-150, then this is a huge red flag. The escrow service might not be legitimate, and it won't matter if they offer to pay the expensive shipping cost if you never see the money. Only use an escrow service or online payment method if you're familiar with it, and make sure the money has cleared before shipping the car. If they don't like the idea of you having their money before the car is shipped, tell them they can always come buy the car in person and send it home themselves after you've been paid.

I've Been Scammed! What Should I Do?

If your car has been stolen, you'll likely need to file a police report. If you're able to track down a buyer who used a fraudulent payment method, don't confront them personally, because nothing good will come from that. Instead, find a lawyer who can help you explore your options and possibly recoup some of the money you lost. It's better to go through the courts so you don't end up in a situation where someone could get hurt.

In Depth

Nobody likes messing around with car dealerships, and you might be able to get a lot more for your car by selling it online. But be sure to avoid these four common mistakes that can lead to your used car haunting you long after you've stopped driving it.

Mistake #1: Not documenting the sale. Cars aren't like other items. If you sell someone your old T-shirt, and they go rob a bank while wearing it, it's not your problem. But cars have something called "Owner liability," which means that if you sell your car, ownership is not transferred until the state has documentation.

In other words, if you sell your car without proof, and the buyer crashes it, lights it on fire, or plows right into a shopping mall, you could be found liable because you're still the owner. A bill of sale will prove that you sold the car, and will release you from liability if the new owner gets into an accident before they register the car.

In other words, if you sell your car without proof, and the buyer crashes it, lights it on fire, or plows right into a shopping mall, you could be found liable because you're still the owner.

A bill of sale will also prove that the car was sold as-is, with no implied warranty. That way, the buyer can't later claim that you promised to pay for repairs or that you didn't deliver what was promised. You can also cancel the insurance and registration so the state knows you no longer own the car and has the date of the sale.

If you don't have a bill of sale, and the new owner never registers the car, you can be liable long after you last saw it. If there's a lien on the vehicle, it might be mailed to your house. Don't ask us how we know about that one, just trust us that you don't want to deal with that mess.

Certain states require a specific bill of sale form, while others allow a generic form. We aren't lawyers, and this isn't legal advice, but it's a good idea to make sure you follow the rules for your state. That's why we've created a full guide to selling your vehicle, which you can find on this page. Check it out beneath this video.

Certain states require a specific bill of sale form, while others allow a generic form.

Mistake #2: not checking the marketplace. Your car was once your baby, and maybe you're reluctant to part with it. But selling a used car for more money than a new model costs is a bit of a stretch. And yet, people try it all the time. They'll even sell high-end rides for three times the original price, which only makes sense if the car was driven by Steve McQueen.

Make sure to do your research on the actual value of the car, and check out online sites for how much it's being sold for. If you lowball yourself, you'll lose out on money, but if you price the car too high, it won't sell, and you'll be wasting your time.

Mistake #3: being too trusting. If you're using a site like eBay or Craigslist, you should know now that the web is crawling with scammers, and they often pose as buyers for marginally clever schemes. If someone offers to buy the car sight unseen and wants to do the transaction immediately, that's a red flag.

If someone offers to buy the car sight unseen and wants to do the transaction immediately, that's a red flag.

Ask the buyer for a copy of his or her driver's license. If they don't want you to see it, then they might not be who they claim to be. And if they want someone else to pick up the car, that's also a warning sign. Don't invite them to your home for a test drive, as they might have a partner ready to burglarize your home while you're out.

Meet them for a test drive in public, and don't let them test drive it alone in case they just drive off. And bring a friend just in case they do. A man in Australia had his car stolen during a test drive when prospective buyers busted out a TASER and stole his car, so you can't be too cautious.

There's a lot of scams out there, so be sure to read our full guide, which you can find by scrolling down this page. Get started now beneath this video.

Mistake #4: not getting the money up front. The wealth of car buying scams extends to the payment step as well. Don't ever take a personal check, and don't agree to let a stranger pay in installments or to switch the payment method on you, because if they don't pay up, you'll have to track them down.

A cashier's check is a good idea, but make sure you know the bank, and deposit the money before you let them take the car. A recent multi-state scam involved buying cars with fake checks that by all appearances looked like real bank checks, and by the time the sellers realized they weren't real, the buyers were long gone.

Paypal scams are also common, where buyers send emails that look like they're verifying Paypal transactions, sometimes even overpaying by a bit. Then they tell you to return the excess money by another method, and once they're gone, you find out the original transaction didn't post, and now you're out some money and your car.

Then they tell you to return the excess money by another method, and once they're gone, you find out the original transaction didn't post, and now you're out some money and your car.

If you do get scammed, it's a good idea to consult an attorney and find out what your options are. But before things get to that point, getting everything in writing is critical so you'll have plenty of evidence to prove the terms of the sale. To find helpful resources, see our full guide now, found right beneath this video.

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