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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?

  • 1
    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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    I run a small local computer-repair business & I take cheques ('checks' to you American folk), amongst other payment methods. To take payment via cheque, I require the address & phone-number of the customer (same for bank transfers & PayPal payments), so I can action it if the customer never pays. Taking cheques from strangers isn't such a big deal, just ensure you have their details in case something goes wrong. – AStopher Oct 11 '15 at 14:32
51

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
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    @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
  • @fennec, my father was overnight shipped a UPS shipping label to ship a car engine to a remote seller. They included a cashier's check from some small bank in Virginia. I double checked the bank identity by searching online if it existed, and that the address and phone numbers matched up. I then gave them a call. I explained that I had in my possession a cashiers check issued by their bank and that I'd like to verify its been validly issued. I read the check number and other codes and the amount. He certified it was a fraud and mentioned they had a string of these fake checks recently. – jxramos Sep 14 at 19:30
14

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.

9

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.

4

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.

4

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.

2

If they bring cash, meet at your bank to verify. If they want to use cashiers check, meet them at their bank. Large amounts use wires directly to your acct and verify (not only received, but deposited) before handing over the title/keys.

  • This is a good idea. Banks have machines that can detect if any of the bills are counterfeit. Plus, banks have tons of cameras so you're less likely to be robbed. – IceArdor May 1 '16 at 18:45
2

This question is old, but I have sold a car this way before and don't see the method I used listed. This method is also probably better than the other methods in the case where the purchase amount is larger (closing on 5 figures or above) or if you simply don't feel comfortable carrying any large amount of cash around.

In my case, I arranged to meet the buyer at a bank we both had an account at. In the case you don't share a bank, for a large amount of several thousand dollars, even the hassle of opening a new account to facilitate the transfer can be preferable to some people. Once at the bank, tell the person who greets you what your intention is, namely that you are selling a vehicle, that you both have an account at the bank, and that you would like to transfer funds from the sellers account to the buyer's account. They may direct you to a teller or they may have a "personal banker" assist you with the transaction. How a particular bank does this may vary from bank to bank - they may require that the seller fills out a deposit slip and the buyer fills out a withdrawal slip after which they pull the money out, count it out, then deposit it back in the register, or they may have a more streamlined process. While they are doing this you can sign any necessary paperwork (e.g. the back of the title or whatever is needed in your state) and once they have confirmed everything is ready to go you can hand them the paperwork and keys.

In my case, once this was completed there was also an additional step that needed to be done at the DMV, so you may need to go there to finish things up. But really, if you are doing a multi-thousand dollar big purchase transaction like a vehicle there is no reason to not take a little extra time, go the extra mile (literally) if needed, and make sure everything is done right and everybody is happy.

  • Agreed that the pain & cost of opening up a new account (if you don't share a common account with the other party) can be worth it for the risk reduction. – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Dec 6 '18 at 21:11

protected by Chris W. Rea Jan 3 '16 at 5:44

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