Can you give a car dealer cash? #AskTCE

Car buying advice
Can you give a car dealer cash?

“Can you give a car dealer cash?”  Asked by an anonymous Google searcher, August 2012

Car dealers are almost always very reluctant to take more than about £500 in actual cash (the paper, folding kind), although the amount will vary from dealer to dealer.

Money laundering has ruined it for everyone

The motor industry has been targeted by money launderers in the last few years, and a few car dealers have been caught out badly when they found out that the thousand of pounds of cash they had been given was counterfeit.  If a car dealer suspects a buyer of possible money laundering or fraud activity, they are required to report it to the police immediately.

The car industry presents a relatively easy target for money laundering and fraud, as a car can be removed from the UK within hours of taking delivery, usually well before the car dealer can get the cash to the bank or before any fraud can be discovered.

Most car dealers no longer accept personal cheques or bank drafts either, as they take several days to clear (up to 10 working days for a personal cheque) and can easily be forged.

How to pay a car dealer by cash for your car

Usually, a car dealer will want you to either pay by debit card on the day, or transfer the amount electronically into their account before you collect your car.  If a car dealer allows you to use a credit card, they will usually require you to pay the credit card merchant fee as well (which can run to hundreds of pounds).

If you are reluctant to transfer your full payment via electronic transfer (BACS or CHAPS) in advance, the best bet is to pay by debit card when you pick up your car.  This will usually involve calling your bank in advance to advise that you intend to make a large transaction very soon, and they may well require you to call and confirm when the transaction is being processed, but it is a safe and secure way of paying for your car from a car dealer.

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Stuart Masson

Stuart is the Editor of The Car Expert, which he founded in 2011, and our new sister site The Van Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the car industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.


  1. A dealer wants to charge me £700 for using an Amex card. Can they do that?

    • Stuart Masson

      Hi Mirella. Most dealers will pass on the merchant fees if you are paying for your car using your credit card, and Amex’s merchant fees are pretty much the highest around. There is nothing to stop them from doing so, but can certainly call American Express yourself and find out directly what their merchant fee would be, to see if the dealership is trying to profit from the fees. Thanks, stuart.

  2. It does seem to be difficult to be a cash-paying customer in today's society. I miss the days where I could pay cash for all my purchases without being seen as a criminal.


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