Car Buying

How to Be Safe When Selling a Car

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2015

Most shoppers know that they'll get more money for their old car by selling it themselves rather than trading it in to a dealer. But some shoppers are worried about the safety risks posed by selling a car themselves. How can you trust a potential buyer? Should you invite them to come to your home? And what steps can you take to ensure the meeting is a safe one? We have some answers that should help you feel a little safer about selling your car.

Meet in a Public Place

One important tip for shoppers interested in selling a car is to meet potential buyers in a public place. We suggest a populated parking lot for a strip mall or a retail store such as Walmart or Target where there will constantly be other people coming and going.

The main benefit of this is that a potential thief may be unlikely to carry out any obvious illegal activity if there are too many witnesses around. This isn't necessarily true if you meet at your home, where a thief posing as a car buyer would likely have a little more privacy and a little less of a chance of getting spotted or caught if they try to rob you.

Take Some Collateral Before a Test Drive

It's hard to decide whether or not you should go on a test drive with a potential car buyer. On one hand, they'll be driving your car -- and you don't want them to do anything dangerous that could damage the vehicle. Of course, they're much less likely to do something dangerous if you're in the passenger seat. On the other hand, being inside the car could cause problems if they turn out to have bad intentions.

To maximize your own safety, we suggest not riding along on the test drive. After all, your car is nowhere near as valuable as your life. But don't let the test driver take your car without some collateral. Consider taking their car keys or their driver's license to ensure they'll come back. If you do decide to ride along on the test drive, that's perfectly normal -- but make sure someone knows where you are and who you're with before climbing into the passenger seat.

Check Out Their Story

One other tip made easier in today's modern age is to check out a potential buyer online. Get the buyer's full first and last name, and type it into a Google search. If you can verify their occupation, age, hometown and other details -- from a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook account, a Twitter page or other social-media account -- then you might have a little less to worry about when they show up to drive the car, as it's clear they're using a real name and not a fake one. Of course, not all potential car shoppers will have an online presence, so you shouldn't get too worried if nothing pops up.

Be Vigilant

Overall, our top tip when selling a car is to be vigilant. If something doesn't feel right, don't hesitate to tell a potential buyer that you don't want to meet up or that you aren't interested. Bring a friend or a family member to meet the buyers if you want, and keep our tips in mind, as they'll ensure your car-selling process goes as smoothly as possible.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
How to Be Safe When Selling a Car - Autotrader