I'm interested in purchasing a car from an owner in another state. The owner currently owes money on the car and so the bank has the title. I've verified the car's service history and ownership, but wish to retain the option to cancel the sale until after I see it and test drive it in person. Next week I will be about 200 miles from the owner so it's a good time to make the purchase, but making two trips (one to see the car and one to take ownership) may not be realistic.
My first suggestion was for him to take out a short-term personal loan to pay off the car, get the title, and then we could transfer funds and ownership at the same time at an impartial third party (such as AAA). However, he cannot get approved for the personal loan taking this option off the table.
It seems like the only remaining option, other than walking away from the deal, is for me to get a notarized sales agreement, transfer the money a few days early for him to get the title, and then meet up to review the car and transfer ownership. The sales agreement could have a clause to allow me to cancel the sale upon inspection if anything is amiss.
Is the option I've proposed safe? Is there anything I need to make sure I do to insure he cannot force the sale or, worse, keep the money and the car after I transfer funds to him? Is there another, safer option?