How to Screen Potential Car Buyers

If you’ve chosen to sell your car yourself on a site such as Craigslist or, rather than go through a third-party service that’ll do it all for you, you might find yourself in a position in which you’ll need to see if the potential buyer is being honest. If you don’t engage in some form of a screening process, you may be setting yourself up to be scammed or worse. But screening out potential car buyers is actually pretty simple. Whether they e-mail, call, or text you, the following suggestions should still be followed, though not necessarily in order:

Ask Them For Their Full Name

They’ll have to provide you with their full name anyway to make the sale official, so asking them for their full name at the start isn’t a big deal. Or at least it shouldn’t be. If they’re hesitant to provide you with their full name before you meet, you should be wary of meeting them. You should most likely move on to another interested party.

Be Clear About the Forms of Payment

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Let the buyer know up front what forms of payment you’ll be accepting. The three main forms of payment that you should accept are:

  • Cash-in-hand
  • Certified Money Order
  • Certified Check

Other forms of payment can be risky. For example, if it was just a regular check, it could bounce, meaning that you’ll be liable for a penalty fee with your bank. However, whatever payment options you decide on, you need to let it be known from the very beginning. If they’re not willing to pay through one of those methods, move on.

Don’t Accept Payment Plans

If the potential buyer asks for a payment plan, tell them no. You will need the full amount upfront. Even if you agree to a payment plan and have them sign a contract, if they were to stop payment in the future, you’ll have to go to court and spend a significant amount of time trying to get what you’re owed (or at least some of it).

See Where They’re Located

You will want to meet the potential buyer in person to make the exchange. Ask them where they’re located. If they’re not in the area, see if they’d be willing to come to you, or at least somewhere close by. It can be more trouble than it’s worth to deal with a buyer that’s located at the other side of the country or somewhere abroad. Plus, if the potential buyer is not willing to meet, it can be the sign of a potential scam.

Of course, later on in the process, if you do choose a buyer, you will have to make sure that you both exchange certain paperwork and documentation. But for the purposes of this article, the concern is with initially screening potential buyers and determining who to sell your car to. This is why it helps to plan ahead and give yourself enough time to make a smooth transaction.

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