Selling a car

How to handle the car handover

07 December 2017

Ever played the ‘trust fall’ game? That’s the one where you close your eyes, take a deep breath and fall back into a group of people who’ve promised to break your fall.

There aren’t too many moments in life where we need to trust people so blindly, but selling your car involves one: the handover. If you’ve opted for a private sale and you’re selling your car to a stranger, how can you be confident that they’ll do what they promise? Are you putting yourself at risk when it comes to payment or transferring of any documents? What happens when they take it for a test drive? Should you forget the whole thing and just take it to a dealer?

Luckily, selling can be simple. Here's what to keep in mind at each stage of the car handover to keep you safe and financially bruise-free.

Don’t take chances with your safety

Before worrying about the money, take steps to ensure your personal safety measures. A common-sense approach is best when it comes to meeting people you don’t know and letting them inspect your car. When in doubt, trust your gut and do the basics:

  • Take a photo of the buyer’s driver’s licence with your phone, or take down the driver’s details.
  • If you feel more comfortable, meet in a public area.
  • Before any test driving, check that your car insurance policy covers other drivers.
  • Bring a friend along for the inspection or negotiation.

Safe payment methods for selling your car

Your car is often one of your most valuable assets, so it’s no surprise that the payment process can be stressful. When it comes to payment methods, we all have different preferences; some prefer a direct electronic transfer, others like to be a little old-fashioned and use a bank cheque. The most important thing is to get some proof of payment.

For Anna in Melbourne, selling her VW Golf online happened without a hitch: "I had no problems. They came and saw the car, agreed to buy it and then sent a bank cheque which means the bank had secured the funds and guaranteed them. It was pretty old school but it worked. I’m not sure if that’s how most people do it but it was what the buyer suggested and it suited me too."

Another option would be to meet at the buyer’s bank branch. This way, you’ll be able to get on-the-spot assurance that payment is complete.

To be safe, never hand over the keys until you’re absolutely sure that the payment has cleared.

Organise the paperwork

The money’s in your bank account so now it’s time to write up a receipt; one copy for you and one for the buyer. List the car’s details, such as model and registration, along with details of the payment, including the time, date and amount.

Along with the receipt, you’ll be handing over a few documents that you will need to gather in advance:

  • Any required vehicle transfer documentation.
  • Registration and roadworthy certificates.
  • Servicing logbook and owner’s manual.

Requirements when transferring vehicles vary from state to state. Please refer to the relevant road authority if you’re not sure what’s needed. While you’re sorting out these documents, don’t forget to review any of your ongoing car payments like your roadside assistance membership, car insurance policy and your toll road pass, making a note to cancel them once the car has been sold. If you start getting bills from a toll company for trips you never took, you’ll know you’ve forgotten something.

You don’t have to rely on blind faith when handing over the keys to one of your most valuable possessions. By taking steps to safeguard your financial and personal safety, you’ll stay calm and in control the whole way through.

Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Information provided is general advice only and has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, financial situation or needs.

The information is intended to be of general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.