Feature article

6 tips for selling your car safely

Selling your car privately means you’re likely to meet a few strangers. Here’s how to stay safe during the sale process.

Kiwi are a trusting, friendly bunch but, more than ever, it’s super important to stay safe while selling your car. Compared to most marketplace sites, Trade Me gives greater security and customer accountability, but you’ve still got to use your smarts when meeting potential buyers. Unfortunately, getting robbed or ripped off can happen to anyone, so here are six top tips for staying safe.

1) Know your buyer

Ahead of any meeting with a buyer, be sure to vet them thoroughly. Check out their Trade Me feedback history and you’ll see if they’re trustworthy and credible. If they’re lacking much in the way of Trade Me user information, don’t be afraid to do a little cyber hunting and look for info about them online. These days, pretty much all of us leave a hefty digital footprint and fairly quickly you should be able to get an impression of their credibility and trustworthiness.

2) Keep it professional

The flip side to this world of online transparency is that you’re just as researchable as they are. As such, avoid giving away too many personal details and, where possible, stick to your Trade Me info – a potential buyer really doesn’t need to know your date of birth, middle name or full dental history. When it comes to meeting for viewings and test-drives, share a number you’re comfortable with them having and only give your home address if that’s where they’re coming for the viewing. Never send a copy of your ID to anyone – if they want to see it, you can show them when you meet in person.

3) Meet in a safe space

When the buyer is ready to check out the car, it’s an excellent idea to do this in a safe place where there will be plenty of other people nearby. It sounds obvious, but avoid any dark, sparsely populated areas or parts of town you’re unfamiliar with. And if you simply must host the viewing at home, don’t let your new acquaintance into the house – keep the interaction outside the premises. If they request to use the bathroom, you’re not obliged to say yes. There are plenty of public facilities out there. In a nutshell, refuse any unusual requests or anything that makes you uncomfortable.

4) Safety in numbers

Wherever you’re meeting your potential buyer, ensure that someone you trust is going to be around to support you. Friends, family, loved ones – someone will be happy to be there to help ensure your safety. It’s never a good idea to meet a stranger for the first time unaccompanied, no matter the circumstances. There’s the added bonus that you’ll have double the vigilance required to spot anything dodgy with how things are unfolding.

5) Manage the test-drive

If you feel uncomfortable about any part of the interaction, be sure not to hand over the car keys. If you’re happy with the way everything is progressing, make sure you see some personal details - including their driver’s licence - before they take off in the vehicle. It’s also reasonable to request they leave a personal possession with you while undertaking the test-drive, if you’re allowing them to perform it alone. And, if you’re accompanying them for the drive, make sure your trusted companion is coming along too.

6) Trust your instincts

Use your instincts and intuition. If pre-meet you’ve not been able to learn enough about their credibility and feel uneasy, walk away. Equally, if something about the in-person interaction with the buyer feels wrong or off, don’t be afraid to pull the plug and move on.

Top tip: If all goes safely, smoothly and successfully with the car viewing and they want to buy the vehicle, make sure the money has entered your account before transferring the ownership details. Be prepared for different ways of receiving payment – they may even want to pay by cheque.

Be vigilant, not paranoid

It’s important to remember that the car buyer is probably as wary about meeting you as you are them. Be cautious and professional, but also friendly and helpful. If you approach the meeting with too much hesitation and suspicion, you could scare off the perfect buyer. We don’t want NZ to lose its friendly, open reputation and create a nation of ‘Paranoid Percy and Paula’ but we do want you to stay safe and have an enriching, smooth selling experience.

Use our car selling advice section for more help in securing a successful sale.