Receiving full payment for car by Paypal, any pitfalls?

Buyer protection and seller protection don’t apply to vehicle purchases/sales.

I was talking about fraud, not a chargeback. Chargeback is simple to defend. Here is a copy of the Bill of Sale with the buyer’s signature that matches the name on the PayPal account that matches the name on the ID he showed me.

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My recommendation was to hang on to the title and the keys until the money was in your hand even if you use paypal. The person that was defrauded in that situation is the person who’s Paypal account was hacked, not the seller of the vehicle.

I’ve purchased a car with a $14,000 check before and the seller gave it to me and held onto the title until my check cleared. I would assume that was because he had insurance on the car and had the check not cleared, he would have just reported it stolen. Obviously it’s not ideal to have to report your car stolen because of a fraud during the sale, but as long as you hang onto the title and have insurance, you’re not going to be completely out of the money if you get scammed during the sale.

Generally speaking, in most private party car sales, the buyer is the one at the most risk. They have no idea how many copies of the title the seller has. There are plenty of scams out there where the seller uses DMV tricks to screws him out of the purchase by getting a new title with a lien or selling the car out from under the buyer or other methods. If anyone should be insisting on meeting at the DMV, it should be the buyer.

A check “clearing” and the transfer of money from the check writer’s bank to the depositor’s bank are two different things. A check can clear and your bank make the deposited funds available, and you could still have risk that the check will be discovered to be phony. In that case, the depositor is out the money. Same thing can happen with a cashier’s check.

The way to eliminate the risk is to receive the funds from the check writer’s account from a teller at his bank.


How could you report it stolen, when you gave the person the keys knowing they would drive away never to be seen again? The crime involved is writing bad checks/fraud, not auto theft, and you’d just be digging yourself a bigger hole by committing insurance fraud and/or perjury.

In fact, doing as you suggest only exposes you to bad things from all directions, since if the buyer drives off and has an accident, you’d find yourself being held liable as the owner of record of the car.

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You’re right. I could have been more specific. It would be issuing bad checks and then after he called me to return the car, if I didn’t, it would be the separate crime of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (punishable the same as auto theft). That is when he would involve his comprehensive insurance.

I never suggested lying to insurance. I think it goes without saying to check your policy to make sure you’re covered before letting someone drive off with your car. I never suggested doing what that guy did with me, just pointed out the likely reason he did it. I specifically suggested waiting until you had cash in hand.

People buy cars and get in accidents shortly after all the time. It’s not nearly as big of a deal as you make it out to be.

Sure it’s no big deal - because there’s no question of if and when the car was sold. The “big deal” here is that you either sold the car or you didnt. If you sold it, it cant subsequently be stolen from you. If you didnt sell it, you still own it and are liable for damage caused by it. Cant have it both ways, and trying to do so only muddies the water and creates the possibility of being bitten in the butt no matter what happens.

The only reason to “hold the title” after a sale is so that the car cant be easily flipped. It increases the probability that the buyer will still have ownership when it comes time to repo the car as restitution for the check fraud.

There isnt an insurance policy out there that will cover a car you’ve sold.

I admit you may be 100% correct about insurance because I don’t know that much about insurance. If you do, then I submit to you on that.

However, I’m not sure you’re correct on the criminal side. We’re talking about a private party sale here with a rudimentary bill of sale and a check. The check is the consideration for the item. If the check is fraudulent (whether fake or insufficient funds), then there is a question of whether consideration was even given and whether the sale actually took place. I would venture that some states have different laws and case laws than others when it comes to this sort of situation.

The repossession angle you mention comes into play when the buyer signs some sort of promisory note, usually involving a business. The note is the consideration. It has value regardless of how much money the person has in the bank. The note/contract lay out what happens in the result of non-payment.

I’d rather my insurance be liable for a scammer wrecking my car than have no insurance coverage when my car disappears in scam sale… if that’s an option. Like I said, I don’t know if it is, so once again, I’m NOT recommending this practice!

Oddly enough, even with my law enforcement experience and taking dozens of stolen and unauthorized use of an auto reports, I’ve never run into a situation like this. Probably because I almost never worked day shift.

Selling a car: cash only and exchange takes place inside a bank’s lobby. You could also draw up a point of sale and get it notarized inside the bank.

Buying a car: same as above, but check out the car at the seller’s house first and walk away if you are not comfortable with the seller, no matter how good the car looks.

Buying used carries risk, and even more risk when buying from a private person. That’s why you are getting a discount compared to buying new/used from dealer.

Cash for keys/title. That’s the only way I ever sell a car. Both times it was for under $5k. I offered to go to their banks but they were OK enough to bring cash to me.

You get a feel for someone doing an in person transaction and if anything doesn’t feel right the deal doesn’t go through. I would never sell a car through paypal or even with a check or money order. Too many horror stories of charge backs. If they need to write a check or money order at their bank they should well enough be able to withdraw the cash. I’m willing to hold a car for a couple days if they need to do a funds transfer but I only take cash. Call me paranoid but no issues with that so far.

If you’re an honest seller you should be able to find honest buyers. I’d look for the same scrutiny as a buyer.