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Selling A Car: Don't Let This Happen To You!

By Edited Jun 14, 2015 0 0

People sell cars privately all the time, with little trouble. They shake hands, exchange money, sign over the ownership, and then part ways.

But there is one little detail, that many people forget to do when selling a car. Make sure and keep a copy of the purchasers name and address for "just in case". You may think "just in case of what?" I got the money.. I signed it over... what could happen?

This might make you rethink you strategy when selling a car. Here is my story:

I live in Ontario, Canada, but I am sure this could easily apply in other countries. I had decided to sell my older car, as I had finally saved up enough towards a new one. As we all know, you don't get much trade-in value anymore, so I decided to sell my car myself.

I cleaned it up, took pictures, hauled out the maintenance records, and got it checked over by a mechanic. In Ontario, you take your plates off the car once the sale is complete, because they will then go on your new car. In the perfect world, your new buyer would either get a trip permit or get his own plates for the car and drive off.

I did everything I was suppose to do. The buyer answered my ad, we agreed on a price, then we decided upon a day for him to come and look at the car. We took it for a test drive (always go with them) and he seemed happy and a nice guy. We dickered a bit on the price, and came to an agreement.

Selling a Car

We shook hands, I gave him a receipt for his money. I wrote his name on the ownership transfer portion and signed it. At the last minute, I decided to take a photo copy of this ownership document and the receipt I gave with his name on also. I have a home office, and my copier was right there. He was waiting outside for the keys and the paperwork.

I drove it to his friends place, where he was staying, as it was evening time, took off my plates, gave him his paperwork. Everything he would need to get plates the next morning when the offices open, and went home. Thought that was the end of it. But it was NOT.

Selling a Car - Six Months Later

Exactly six months later, I get a letter in the mail from the Toronto Police Department (I do not live in Toronto) letting my know that my car had been in an accident outside a bar, and that the driver had run off, leaving the car running in the middle of the road. My car had been towed to a yard at a cost of $100.00 per day. By the time I got this letter it was up to $1000.00 dollars! There was a phone number to call a particular police officer.

With shaking hands I called him, and he explained that when this car was in the accident and the driver ran off, they ran the plates. The plates were stolen, and by checking the vehicle identification number in the dashboard, it was still registered to me.

Selling a Car - I had the Proof Who Bought It

I explained that I had sold this car six months earlier. He said unless I could prove when and WHO I had sold it to, I was considered responsible for this car and the accident.

I dug through my files (this is where being a bit of a paper pack rat paid off!)  and pulled out that photo copy of the purchaser (I had copied it off of his license, so I know it was him!). Once I told the police this, they asked me for a copy, and said that I was no longer responsible, because I had a purchaser name and proof of intent to purchase with a copy of the receipt as well. (Not everyone keeps a copy of a receipt they have given out) How many times have you written out a receipt on some rogue piece of paper when selling a car? No copy?

Selling Cars

Selling a Car - Keep Copies of Everything

He was later picked up at his home and arrested. The Police Officer phone me back, to say that I should be very proud of myself for getting this information, because otherwise I would have no proof of a purchaser, and I would still be responsible for this car and the accident.

It turns out he could not get insurance, and had a sketchy police record, and by putting on other plates (in this case stolen from another car) his name was no where on this car. So that would explain him running. If he didn't get caught, there was no paper trail tying him to this incident. He didn't realize that I had taken a copy of everything while he had waited outside that night.

Keep a Record of the Purchaser's Name and Address

So, for added insurance, when you are selling a car, get the purchasers name and address. Compare it to a piece of ID. If they don't want to give it to you, or show you ID, then your alarm bells should go off, they are probably not who they claim to be. On the back of the ownership portion, where you put the purchasers name, you should write a name, don't just sign it over and let them fill that out. You should fill that out. If they give you a hard time about it, then don't sell the car to this person, it may just come back to bite you!.

It is terrible that now a days, you can't just sell things with a handshake, you have to protect yourself. I had driven it to a friend of this guy, to save him the trouble of getting the plates that day night, and to get it off my driveway. that was my first mistake. He should either get the car towed, or get a trip permit (which would register his name in the system) or get proper plates, even if it means leaving it in my driveway for a day or so.

Selling a Car - Signing It Over is Not Enough

Just signing the ownership over, doesn't guarantee you are done with the car. It can come back to haunt you! Create your own paper trail and you will be fine. I have warned many friends of this incident, they didn't believe me until I showed them the police letter. They had sold cars lots of times. My son quite frequently sells off his project cars. But now he makes sure to see some ID of his buyers, and copies their name and gets them to sign the receipt then takes a copy. You just don't know what they are going to use this car for.

Just be careful when selling a car..

I think I will trade my next car in next time!

Kelley Blue Book Used Car Guide, October-December 2010
Amazon Price: $9.95 $7.36 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 14, 2015)
whether you are buying or selling cars, knowing their value is a good place to start.


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