Know the Risks When You Sell Your Car Privately

risks of selling your car yourself
Considering to sell your car privately is often a way to get the most money for your car. However, the do-it-yourself approach does have some risks associated with it

Whether you want to sell your car or you need to sell your car, it’s worth your while to think through your options before deciding how to sell your car. You can either take it to a dealership (either to sell it outright or trade it in towards another car) or you can try to privately sell your used car. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. One difference is that you tend to have better chances of getting a higher price in a private sale than you’ll get at a dealership. However, whether or not the potential for a higher price is worth the risks you take on in a private sale deserves careful consideration. Keep the following in mind before deciding which route you’ll take:

The Condition of Your Vehicle

Everybody wants to get a good price, and when you’re trying to privately sell your used car, private buyers are going to do everything they can to get you to come down on the price. Every little ding and dent, any rips or stains in the upholstery – they all become ammunition for the private buyer to try and force you to accept a lower price. Dealerships are often more lenient on these points, and sometimes will take a car on trade-in even if it doesn’t run at all. But the private buyer is often very nervous about even minor cosmetic defects. If your car isn’t in tip-top shape, you run the risk of being negotiated down to a much lower price, or putting a lot of money into your car to improve it before trying to sell it.

The Time Investment is Often Huge

If you make the attempt to sell your car privately, you have to take into account the amount of time you’re going to spend on all the details of making it happen. This is what most people tend to overlook until they’re in the middle of the process and realize it’s totally not worth it. If you’re lucky, you might be able to sell your car in a matter of weeks, but it might also take months, and you just never know. Here are the things that suck up a lot of time:

1. Preparation and Advertising: You won’t sell your car if nobody knows it’s for sale, which means you have to advertise. You’ll want to use as many different venues as possible to increase your chance of a faster sale: online classified listings, social media, you name it. Some of them will be free and some you’ll have to pay for – possibly as much as $25-$75 to run a decent ad for a week. Keeping up with social media takes constant updates. And don’t forget you have to come up with just the right wording and description of your vehicle that will attract potential buyers and take pictures. Sometimes some repairs are necessary to sell your car. Keep in mind, that in California a recent smog check is required and is responsibility of the seller.
2. Fielding Inquiries: Now you have to take more time to answer each inquiry that comes in, whether by telephone or email, and you have no idea how serious any of these people are. Whether you specify when interested people should call or not, you can expect phone calls and text messages at all times of the day and night, which can quickly become very tiresome.
3. Appointments: Then there are going to be the people who want to see the car, which means setting appointments for showing the vehicle and hoping the person shows up. If they don’t, there’s yet more time wasted, and you can bet there will be no-shows. It’s just the nature of things. People who do show up are going to want to take it for a test-drive, which means even more time as you ride along with them – unless of course you’re going to trust a complete stranger to just drive away in your car (hints: don’t do this and make sure not to cancel your insurance before you sell your car!).
4. Upkeep: Showing your car is like showing your house – you’ve got to keep it perfectly clean at all times because nobody wants to look at a dirty car.
5. Documentation: If you’re lucky enough to sell your used car, then you’ve got to get all the right paperwork together. Do you know how to put together a bill of sale? You can expect to spend some time at the DMV making sure everything is in order – and you know how pleasant that usually is.

All five of those time-sinks listed above disappear completely if sell your car to a dealership or trade it in. You literally don’t have to do any of that.
your car for sale


Although it’s nice to give people the benefit of the doubt, the plain fact of the matter is that there are lots of people running scams out there who want to take advantage of you when you’re trying to privately sell your used car. Remember, you’re interacting with complete strangers. Some people take you on long test-drives for no other reason than they’re bored. They have no intention of buying your car, but they’re wasting your time and gas. Then there are buyers who agree to a price, go out to get a cashier’s check, and drive away happy. Then when you go to cash or deposit the check, you’re informed that it’s a counterfeit. Your car is gone and you have no money to show for it. You’d be surprised how easy it is to come up with a fake cashier’s check. You might also get a private check that bounces or one that is completely fake. Either way, there’s not much you can do about it. Being the victim of these kinds of scams is both humiliating and demoralizing.

The Dissatisfied Buyer

When you sell your car privately, you also run the risk of the buyer coming back and claiming there’s something wrong with the car and that they want their money back. If you unintentionally (or intentionally) failed to inform the buyer of any significant issues with the vehicle, you run the risk of winding up in court dealing with a lawsuit from an irate buyer. When you sell your car to a dealership the sale is final – end of story.

How Will Your Sell Your Car?

If you go to websites that provide value estimates for used cars, they will typically show you what you might get from a dealership and what you might get from a private sale. While the private sale price is almost always higher, take a good look at the difference – it’s really not that much is it? And now go back and look at all the time and risks, the stress and hassles when you privately sell your used car. Is it worth it? Only you can make the final decision.

There is a Better Way to Sell Your Car!

You can avoid all the risks and hassles of privately selling your used car in San Diego by selling it to Driveo. We call it the “Cruise in, Cash out” process, and it’s incredibly quick and easy. We take pride in offering competitive prices that will leave more money in your pocket – stress free! Get started right now and receive your quote online in minutes or learn why Driveo is better than selling yourself!