Seller Beware: The Perils of Selling your Car Private Party

Are you in the market for buying a car this year? Are you thinking about selling your existing car on your own? Like a spring of water is a desert landscape, the promise of yielding some extra money is alluring.

For some, selling a car privately has been a successful endeavor but for others it has brought pain and peril. Before you jump in, consider these three things: safety, hidden cost, and hassle.

Let’s start out with safety. I’m talking about both financial and physical safety. When you list your car on a classified site, you are inviting people to contact you. That’s the point after all! Those prospective buyers are not always who they say they are. Even the savviest individuals can get duped.

Lesson Learned

Case in point, a colleague of mine recently listed a car on Craigslist and was contacted by what seemed to be a legitimate prospective buyer. That buyer asked for a vehicle history report and insisted on using a service he preferred. That service turned out to be a phishing scam to steal credit card numbers!

But let’s say you get past that point and you feel like you have taken all of the right precautions. You still need to meet that buyer. You need to let them test drive your vehicle which you are liable for. You also need to coordinate the payment which gets trickier if you owe money or if they are taking out a loan. In professional car deals, title is released when payment is cleared to make sure that someone doesn’t get to drive away with a car when the seller hasn’t yet received their money.

When you sell on your own, that responsibility is on you.

But I’m Looking for More…Money

The number one reason that consumers look to sell private party is the hope of getting more money but if you are just looking at the selling price you may be missing the true cost of selling private party. If you don’t have a car that sells quickly, you have a carrying cost for that car.

That may come in the form of an additional month of insurance expense and, in some states, additional property taxes as well. In addition, you bear the liability and responsibility for anything that happens to that car while you are trying to sell. If the car is in an accident, stolen, or has a service related issue, that’s on you.

If you are planning on buying a new car, you potentially have the burden of carrying payments for both concurrently if you don’t own your car outright. If you end up using a paid service to handle some of the administrative aspects, you pay additional fees for that convenience. All these hidden costs can add up and quickly negate the expected gain on selling price.

Oh the Hassle!

Lastly, let’s talk about the hassle. Most of us live pretty hectic lives between work, kids, and running our households. When you sell on your own, you are having to do the work of marketing your vehicle, managing communications with prospective buyers, showing the car, arranging a test drive and handling the payoff of any outstanding loans. If you have that kind of time, more power to you! I don’t.

So what’s the alternative? Do I concede and sell to a car dealer for less money? Selling to car dealer may be the smartest choice for your situation and doesn’t necessarily have to be a losing proposition if you weigh in the factors above.

Depending on where you live, there could be tens or hundreds of dealerships interested in your car. The key is finding the right ones.

Before you enter in to any car deal, private party or at the dealership, check out the all-new VingoTM Car Value Calculator and find out what your car is really worth. It’s free and getting an accurate value takes just two minutes.