How to sell your car for cash

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Do you want to sell your car privately? Are you worried about accepting thousands of pounds in cash from a complete stranger? You should be. Here’s why, and how to get around it.

Money laundering and counterfeiting are real problems for the authorities, and efforts have been made over the last few years to crack down on these crimes. The car industry has been targeted for much of this illegal activity because cars are easily obtainable and highly mobile, meaning a criminal can pay for a car in dirty cash and literally have it out of the country before the cash is checked by a bank.

Car dealers often refuse to take cash at all

Take car if you plan to sell your car to a stranger for cash
Yeah, this is probably legit…

These days, most reputable car dealers will not accept more than a couple of thousand pounds in cash, and some won’t handle it at all on the sale of a car. Instead, they will insist on an electronic transaction via debit/credit card or bank transfer (well, after they have done their best to sell you their car finance offering). This protects their interests and makes the bank responsible for the legitimacy of the account in question.

As a result, counterfeiters and money launderers have been turning to private sellers to get rid of their ill-gotten or counterfeit cash. Once you sell your car, and have handed over the keys to somebody you can probably kiss goodbye to any chance of reclaiming your loss if the cash turns out to be fake.

So how do you deal with a buyer paying cash when you sell your car? You could ask them to transfer the funds into your account, but then you don’t really want to be giving strangers your bank details any more than you want to be taking their cash.

A bank cheque has traditionally been one option, but they can still be counterfeited (and would you actually be able to tell???), so that’s not much of an improvement.

The other nightmare scenario for sellers is that if you have taken a large amount of cash from a buyer, you then have at least one person who knows where you live/work and that you have a lot of cash on the premises right now.  This is especially difficult if the transaction has taken place out of banking hours, so you can’t get to the bank until the next working day.

The best precaution to take when you sell your car

The best way to sell your car for cash is to arrange for the buyer to meet you during normal business hours and go with you to your bank. The bank will check the cash and count it on the spot, and it is immediately deposited into your account. You can then happily hand over the keys and wave goodbye without any stress, or the potential horror of turning up to the bank afterwards to find the money is no good and your car is long gone.

If the buyer has come to view the car out of business hours, you can ask for a small deposit and then have the balance paid as described above the next day.

If a buyer is not prepared to go along with this simple process (often making excuses that it is not convenient to meet during business hours), it is a warning sign and you should simply walk away from the deal with your car. If a dealership won’t risk accepting large cash payments, why should you?

The Car Expert advises you how to sell your car for cash

Recommended Reading:

Can you give car dealers cash? Buying a car with cash is harder than you might think.

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Stuart Masson
Stuart Masson
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive 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.

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  1. l advertised my car recently. l had one gent who said he couldnt meet the asking price as he had only x amount. l told him l would take the service plan of it, worth 400. He then declined it and that was that. The next day he came back to me and said he wanted it. The sale went ahead and money in the bank. Later in the day l took the oppertunity to point out to him was he aware that there would be no road tax due to new regulations, he replied yes he was aware. l aslo reminded him that there was no service plan in place as he had accpeted to pay a reduced sum as pointed out in emails. Now hes not happy with that and threatening all sort of recourse. How do l stand.

    • Hi Derek. If you are a private seller then there is nothing he can do. If you are a trader, you would have to refer to your correspondence to show what was offered/promised.

  2. This is a great bit of advice, would never have thought of it actually.

    What is the best way to receive payment if you sell your car privately? You say “you don’t really want to be giving strangers your bank details any more than you want to be taking their cash” which alarmed me as I’ve done this in the past several times. What other options are there?

    • Hi Mario. Best option is to go to the bank with the buyer. Buyer hands cash to the bank teller, and you hand your bank details to the teller, asking them to deposit the cash into your account.

      If this just isn’t practical, only accept cash from the seller if it’s during business hours and you can get straight to the bank. And best to have a friend with you so you’re not on your own.

  3. Some excellent advice – I hadn’t really thought about it until I decided to sell my car privately and was wondering about the best way to handle it. Thanks!

  4. I had two guys try and scam me when I was selling my BMW a few months ago. Something didn’t seem quite right about him, they just seemed too eager, had all the money on them when they came around and didn’t want to meet during business hours (only after work on a Friday, which would have meant I would have had a lot of cash at my house all weekend until the bank opened on Monday). One kept looking around my house like he was looking for a way to come back and break in. I basically had to order them to leave, and reported their registration number to the local police who probably did nothing at all.

    • I think you probably made a good decision there, Theo. Hope you were able to sell the BMW without too much hassle in the end!

What are your thoughts? Let us know below.