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May 05, 2010


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1. I would generally go with them - then you know they haven't driven off w/ your car. More importantly, however, is that they will have questions as they are driving and if you are in the car w/ them, you can answer the questions. Do, however, give them free reign to go wherever they want to drive, let them experience the car on streets, on highways, etc. If the unfortunate happens and they have a wreck, the whole thing is still covered under your insurance policy.

2. Usually, your signature needs to be notarized. You can go w/ the buyer to the bank and have them notarize both of you sign it, or you can notarize it before the transaction and simply give him the title as part of the transaction. Make sure he signs the title before he leaves the transaction

3. Cash & Cashier's check are the simplest. Paypal or similar online could also work.

4. Informing the insurance agent and signing the title are all you have to do to be released from liability. The signature on the title verifies that the buyer has taken control of the vehicle and all related liabilities and the insurance agent can verify that once you've called them. If you want, you can also make a copy of the title after the buyer has signed it for your records should anything happen. In most states (I believe), the buyer is required to take the title to the DMV and have it transferred w/in 30 days. Their insurance should be in full effect from the time the title is signed, however.

As far as the license plate, that is entirely up to you. I generally let them keep the license plate - when they transfer the title, the tag will transfer as well. The only reason to keep the license plate is for sentimental reasons - the license plate is the cheapest part of vehicle registration. You won't save very much money by keeping it for your next car (<$20 or so for me).

The Secretary of State has answers your title questions:,1607,7-127-1585_1619-25461--,00.html

I've never sold a car privately before, so I am of no help on the rest of the questions. I will say that if I were attempting to buy a car and the seller wanted to copy my drivers license prior to a test drive, I would pass on the car. A complete stranger on the street asking to copy that much personal information would be a red flag for me. I would be more than willing to SHOW the seller my license (to prove I had one) but no copies.

1. How do you conduct test drives? Go with them? Take a deposit (like a copy of a driver's license or some cash)? Simply hand over the keys and let them go?
-- I just go with the driver. the test drives are normally pretty quick

2. I have the car's title in my possession (no debt on it, of course.) Will I simply need to sign it and turn it over to them to sell the car?
--Just sign it over, and the car is sold. I would also recommend you print of a bill of sale to protect you.

3. What sort of payment should I accept? Cash and cashier's check, of course. Anything else?
-- if it under 5k i normally take cash, anything over get a cashier check and a number to call the bank to confirm the check

4. Once I sell the car, I'll notify my insurance agent. Anything else I need to do to be released from liability in case there's an accident with the car? Do I need to contact any state agencies? And for that matter, do I remove my license plate when I sell the car or leave it on the vehicle?
-- turn in the tags as soon as possible. In NC you must turn in the tags before you can cancel the insurance. Yes, remove the license plate so you can return it to the DMV.

Different rules in different states, I guess; we purchased from a private party (through a mutual friend) in NJ (I live in DE) and she accompanied us on the test drive. After negotiating, we just signed the title, handed her a personal check, and drove off. We registered the vehicle within the 30 days (required by law). We were never asked to hand in the NJ plates. She gave us 2 days to get insurance before she cancelled hers.

Numbers 2 & 4 are state dependent. You can do the research on your state's website. I know that when I sold my truck to my son that my state (PA) and his state (NC) had different requirements/paperwork that had to be met. Such things like odometer statements and notary requirements are different.

I would be very cautious about taking a cashier's check. Apparently they are easily forged and banks can't tell you they're fake until they've wound their way through the clearance process - six weeks or more. Even if you call the bank to verify, if it comes back you'll be liable. Here's a post from on it -

The buyer may want to take the car to their mechanic for an inspection. You may want to plan how you want to handle that, as well.

In Georgia, you can transfer your old plate to your new car for a minimal fee. A new plate costs considerably more. Can you do that in your state? Even if not, I would keep the plate just to simplify things.

When I sold my car privately I accepted a certified bank check. We went to a notary to sign the title over.

I also provided the buyer with a "Bill of Sale" that just listed a few basics like the VIN, Mileage, Sale Date, Sale Price with both of our addresses and signatures (that was then notarized). Some states require this, some do not, but it helps with the paper trail in proving ownership and transfer. I would check to see if your state requires one.

This is very timely for me. I have all the same questions as FMF. Any thoughts on selling to a dealer? I realize that you will get less than by seling to an individual but it eliminates all of FMF's concerns.

We have two cars both late models (one is recntly inherited unfortuanately). I was thinking of trying to trade both of them in for a new car. Thoughts?

i have recently purchased a used car, and i did some test drives both with the seller in the car as well as when i gave them a copy of my drivers license. in general it is quick, so this really shouldnt be an issue, though i did like the fact that i could ask questions as they popped up in my head.
Preferred Financial Services

Answers to your questions:
1. View a Drivers License and then go with them.
2. Depends on the state, but yes. For example, New York requires one to go to the DMV to transfer the title and you have to return the plates I think. Depending on the car and how much effort you want to put into it, I tend to get a copy of their DL and print out a simple bill of sale.
3. I cant think of anything else… (I think banks have a 3rd option that is very similar to a cashiers check but I cant remember what it is.) If you sell it on ebay, paypal is acceptable as is direct money transfers.
4. You should notify the DMV/State just to be thorough. Keep your plates. This can depend on the state, so you should check with your state’s DMV.

The most important things you can do to increase the value of your car, is put the lipstick on a pig. For some cars that can be as simple as spending a Sat. detail it. For others (one's that tend to have higher value), that can mean replacing a few things. I can not stress this enough. One stain on the seat that could have been fixed with some effort could be the difference between a sale and a no sale.

Where to list it? Well that can depend on the car you are trying to sell. For most, Autotrader, craigslist, and local listings will tend to be the best (do all of them). Selling a Porsche on Craigslist is a bad idea. If you have a specialized car (M3, S4, Defender 90, modified in some way), an enthusiast website might be best because they all know what your car is and place a higher value on it. Let people know its for sale via facebook or by placing a for sale sign in it when its parked in your driveway. There is a car I drive by on the way to a building I own and should that car ever have a for sale sign in the window, I'll give it some serious consideration.

The first reasonable offer tends to be the best offer. I make money off people who think their car is worth 10k, receive 2 offers at 7,500 but turned them down, and now 3 months later their wife is telling them to get rid of the thing NOW and I get it for 5k because now I'm the only offer. Don't be this person.

Take a ton of photos. If you take 50, only 10 will be any good. Be honest in your web adds. If you waste my time with an add, my offer will reflect that cost... if I even make an offer. Your car is what it is and you're not going to fool me if I can see it in person and find it of lower quality.


A dealer is not always a bad option. I would take it to them and see what they offer you. Often times the trade-in values are part of a larger package.

One more thing - Ebay has a search option that allows you to search for expired listings. This is a great tool to see what cars were bid up to, and what they sold for (if they sold). This is the real market- unlike blue book.

Thanks Tyler

Sold a few cars over the years (PA)
1. I take a look at the driver's license and go with them, so you can point things out and answer any questions.

2. I always go to an Auto Tags place and sign the title over in person. The people there can notarize and setup the driver with new plates & tags, then it's on record with the state. You can keep or hand in your old plate.

3. I would say cash. I would only take a cashiers check if I could cash it with them at a local bank or watch them withdraw it from a local bank. These can be faked and it can take weeks to determine it was forged.

4. Call your insurance, and if you go to an auto tags place, they file the paperwork with the state (PA). You can transfer the plate over OR they can get their own plate (which means you should take your old plate back).

Thanks for the advice, everyone. It's very helpful. Keep it coming!

Craigslist. I have found it to be the best place to buy and sell cars. No listing fees, very few if any scammers and it's got a huge audience.

FMF--It's a shame you can't just post it here, since your readers 'know' you and would trust that the car is in good working order, etc. But, then you would have to give up your anonymity (at least to those who were interested in the car)!

NEVER take a cashiers check, too easy to forge, a personal check is fine IF YOU go to their back to cash it with the buyer on "sale day".. Check for driver's license and insurance (proof) BEFORE a test drive and GO with. You WILL get a lot of "internet fraud" offers via craigslist, etc., (use ALL teh free websites available - there are may) so post" ONLY Cash buyers in person" in the ad, shoe polish on a clean car windshield with a "for sale" sign has sold me a LOT of cars in 20+ years, along with ad's on work bulletin boards, etc., word of mouth w/ neighbors! sure the fluids are "clean" and full, the car is "clean" including the underside and engine - if you're like me you detail those often anyway, remove all "junk" from the car and "stage it well". I've always gotten DEALER RETAIL for my used cars that buyer's NEVER regretted...Plan on 30-60 days and reduce price a bit at 30~ day point...

I have bought and sold a car in the past couple years, so here are my observations:

-Craigslist is nice, but I found that if your ad sits there and is near expiring, you'll get a lot of bargain-seekers calling you offering you half-price. It's kind of annoying. I eventually did both Craigslist and Carsoup and sold on car soup. The car I bought I found through Craigslist.

-Of all the test drives I took or gave, no one ever came with me--maybe it's a MN thing? I always left my car there so that's kind of collateral, I guess. If the buyer's are smart, they will almost certainly ask a mechanic to look at it.

-I had a sales form I found on the internet that I made the guy sign when I sold, but when I bought I don't think I signed anything (other than the title stuff).

-If you have been the only owner, a Carfax to present to prospective buyers is always a nice touch.

1. Either my husband or I accompanied them on the test drive so we could answer questions...usually they had family members that would stay at the house and wait along with either me or my husband. Their car will be parked in your driveway, so you already have a "deposit".

2. Yep, sign over the title.

3. We only accepted cash.

4. We called our insurance agent. We also signed a Bill of Sale and found the DMV form online to sign that explains that the buyer has 10 days to get new license plates (we kept ours). You can find state specific requirements online via your state's DMV site.

I have sold two cars. I used the Green Sheet and the Thrifty Nickel (local classifieds) for one for $15 total in 2004 and Craigslist for the other for free in 2008. Local classifieds usually charge by the word, so I would use Craigslist first and branch out if you don't get a quick response (2-3 days at most).

The car I sold in 2004 took three weeks since it was in crappy condition. It was a 1997 Mazda Protoge that my parents bought me for college in 2002 from a credit union auction for $1200 that had been crapped up by the previous owners. It leaked lots of oil, had no A/C (in Houston), and had no power anything. CarMax offered me $200, but I sold it through the Thrifty Nickel for $1400 after asking $1700. I was totally honest and the buyer bought it for parts for the Protoge his son wrecked.

The car I sold in 2008 was a 2003 Hyundai Sonata with a major wreck on its history in 2003. The dealership we bought our Prius at offered us $2000, but I sold in two days on Craigslist for $4800. Again, we were completely honest and got the Kelley Blue Book value.

Good luck!

BTW, the Carfax suggestion is really cool...I'll have to do that when I sell my cruddy Aveo...

BillV, selling to a dealer would be fine if they paid the going rate, but they've never offered that to me.

Like I wrote above, they offered me $200 for a 1997 Mazda Protoge (CarMax sucks) and offered my husband and me $2000 for a 2003 Hyundai Sonata.

I sold both of those cars for $1400 and $4800 respectively.

In general, dealer's don't offer enough. I'd sell your cars on your own and use the money to buy a new car.

I can help anybody with their Craigslist ads...the trick is to take 4 great pictures and make a thorough list of your car. Buyers love easy-to-read points. Also, list your car at least $500 above Kelley Blue Book if it's in good to great shape since people enjoy haggling (seriously, they will haggle you down $500 and be much happier than if they paid list price...even if it is the same amount).

If you buy a print ad, remember to make a list of points to mention when they call. I'd also pay a little extra to refer to my Craigslist ad (more details without having to call).

wow! good for you and Mr.BFS.
I was prepared to take a small hit for convenience but what you quote is extreme.

Those are big differences. How's the web site doing?

I sold a car a few years back and I am in Michigan, as you are FMF. You will only need to sign the title over. ( put down the current mileage and sign the back). You do not need to have it notarized.

@BillV, thanks! The blog's doing well (addictive like chocolate though)...I actually am guest posting on FMF on 5/14! I'm so happy. :-)

I'd suggest looking up your Kelley Blue Book values or values and try the dealer least you might get lucky and get the convenience without a huge hit. Then, if they offer you sh...umm, a bad deal, you can simply sell the cars yourself and get that great feeling of sticking-it-to-the-man and personal accomplishment. :-)

Don't bother with paid car ad sites, sell it on Craigslist. Everyone looks for cheap cars on CL.

As far as the test drive, ask to see their driver's license, then go with them. Your insurance might have a problem if you're not with them. I sold a motorcycle on CL, so for the test drive, I just followed them on my other motorcycle (that replaced the one I sold).

Title transfer requirements are dependent on the state. Most state or county websites have some information on this, it's worth a read. Most likely, you'll want to print up a simple bill of sale as well. Include the VIN and make sure that is says you include no warranty written or implied.

Cash is king! Buy a pack of counterfeit detecting markers, they're cheap. If you're going to do the cashier's check or something similar, just meet at the bank and have them issue the check while you're there. Then you know it's good, and this type of request will scare away scammers.

As far as the last question, that depends on the state. If you can't find the information online, call the motor vehicle office and ask.

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