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I plan on selling a used car via Craigslist, and I hope to get between $4-5K for it. I don't want to take a check from a stranger, but I'm concerned that no one will be willing to show up at my house with $4,000 in cash.

What is the best way to handle this? Money order? Cashier's check? Or do you think that potential buyers would be perfectly fine with cash (and I'm worrying for no reason)?

EDIT: If the best way is a cashier's check or money order, how do I know it's not fake?

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Thanks for all the great answers! The buyer did indeed bring cash, and it's now in the bank :-). –  Matt Solnit Nov 30 '10 at 18:25
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5 Answers 5

up vote 29 down vote accepted

When I asked this particular question on a car forum recently, I got the following suggestions:

  • Accept cash, but make sure you check it's not home printed, so to speak
  • If the buyer wants to pay by cashier's check, meet him at his bank and see him draw the check out of his account right there and then (no "here's one we got earlier" cashier's checks, the danger of them being a good fake is very real)
  • Any other method of payment? Tell the buyer to take a hike

When we bought our last car, we met with the seller in the DMV's parking lot as there generally is some police around and paid him cash. Here in NV the plates stay with the PO so you have to get it registered or a movement permit anyway before you can drive the vehicle so this worked out pretty reasonable and safe for both parties.

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Is there a way to call the bank in question and ask about the legitimacy of a cashiers' check? I know that places like, oh, Volkswagen Credit (who financed my car) prefer cashiers' checks so I assume they can do some validation on them. –  fennec Sep 2 '10 at 2:43
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Good tips. I like meeting at the DMV, that's a good idea. –  bstpierre Sep 2 '10 at 3:34
    
@fennec - I'm not sure if the bank will confirm to you that they indeed provided the buyer with a cashier's check. Actually I simply don't know if they will for a member of the public. The situation with a company that provided you with a car loan is a bit different, after all they have a lien on the car and have a lot more experience in going after people who try to dupe them. Plus someone with a car loan has a legitimate interest in paying it off... –  Timo Geusch Sep 2 '10 at 12:52
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I don't know how fast are wire transfers between bank accounts in the US, but here in Europe we can have them in under an hour usually for an extra fee (during bank working hours) - so you could take a laptop with Internet connection to the transaction, make a wire transfer and wait that hour drinking coffee for the transfer to arrive before handing the keys and papers and the buyer driving away.

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One option is that the buyer brings cash and you together with the buyer go the bank where you have an account and deposit the money there - then the bank checks the cash and once the cash is accepted you no longer care if it was counterfeit. Once money is deposited you handle the keys.

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I have sold cars before to individuals and always just received cash. I would think as long as the amount is less than $10,000.00 and the buyer is serious they will get there with the cash. Of course there is no possible way to guarantee the cash will not be counterfeit.

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I sold my car on Craigslist for 2K and received cash. I bought a car from Craigslist with $4K cash.

For larger amounts where the buyer doesn't want to pocket such large quantities of money, meet them at their bank and have the banker do a draw on their account. Hustle that check to your bank and be done.

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