how to safely sell a car

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how to safely sell a car

Postby frugaltype » Wed May 22, 2013 6:47 am

This seems to have vanished due to yesterday's website problems.

I'd like to sell a car, but as a female (probably applies to guys also but somewhat less so), I'm concerned about safety issues. I really can't see myself driving off on a test drive with some unknown person or watching them disappear over the horizon with my car by themselves.

How do people handle this? Thanks.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby johnep » Wed May 22, 2013 7:06 am

Carmax will buy cars but you will only get wholesale for it. If you trade it in on a newer vehicle, you typically only get wholesale there although it is sometimes hard to figure when you combine the tradein with a purchase. You will get a better price by selling it yourself. I have done that several times but have come to the same conclusion you have, that there are safety risks in doing that. I am a guy but still think it is risky, especially in a large metro area. Therefore, I am willing to accept wholesale for my vehicles. The only alternative I can think of is to make friends and co-workers aware of your desire to sell the vehicle, and post on work BB or church or elsewhere where you are dealing with people you know. Best wishes.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby dickenjb » Wed May 22, 2013 7:40 am

No free lunch here as in everything else in life. Sure you can sell your car on Craigslist and get more than trading it in at a dealer.

But you will invest your precious time and since I live in Greater Philadelphia, risk showing off your car (and home) to potentially criminally minded people.

Not worth it imho.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby Grandpaboys » Wed May 22, 2013 7:50 am

If it was my wife and I was gone, I would hope she would go to Dealer and trade for what she wants. Your fear imho is warranted.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby TTU » Wed May 22, 2013 8:01 am

Ive sold three cars in the past two years. Meet at a public location during the day. Think McDonalds, grocery, etc. Have him (or her) check the car out and give you the keys to their car when they take it for a test drive. Ask to hold onto their license. Let them drive it without you in it -

Honestly, the chances they steal your car are slim to none, especially if you met in a public place and you are holding onto their keys and their license. Worse comes to worse, make sure you have a low deductible for theft prior to letting people use it for test drives.

Another option is to have a friend with you for the test drives. I personally do not think your fear is warranted, but you are smart to do this is a safe manner. The above has worked for me. Good luck
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby likegarden » Wed May 22, 2013 8:26 am

I just bought a new car and then sold the 2002 Buick LeSabre by myself. That old car had a little oil leak, then it needed new tires to be ready for sale, so I spent $900 before selling it for $3800, $200 below KBB price. It sold in 5 days on craigslist, the first weekend, to a retired couple. Money was transferred at the bank, we had the same bank. Perhaps I should have taken several weeks to sell and do not do the $900. My final net price was probably the wholesale price.

I am 73 years old male and did not want any complications. Female OP also does not want any complications. I did not respond to scams like from out of local area places, but I got stressed out and wanted to get it over fast. For me selling the car by myself was not worth it. The next time we will be trading it in at the dealer. Buying a new car is stress enough, don't need more.

By the way, thanks to Bogleheads I learned everything I needed to know from postings here, how to buy a car via internet and how to use craigslist. Thank you!
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby TomatoTomahto » Wed May 22, 2013 8:45 am

johnep wrote:Carmax will buy cars but you will only get wholesale for it. If you trade it in on a newer vehicle, you typically only get wholesale there although it is sometimes hard to figure when you combine the tradein with a purchase. You will get a better price by selling it yourself. I have done that several times but have come to the same conclusion you have, that there are safety risks in doing that. I am a guy but still think it is risky, especially in a large metro area. Therefore, I am willing to accept wholesale for my vehicles. The only alternative I can think of is to make friends and co-workers aware of your desire to sell the vehicle, and post on work BB or church or elsewhere where you are dealing with people you know. Best wishes.

A benefit (possibly the only one :D ) of a trade-in is that (at least in NJ) you only pay sales tax on the new-vehicle minus trade-in amount.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby bungalow10 » Wed May 22, 2013 10:05 am

Meet in a public location. Take your camera phone and take a picture of their license and then one of them and then let them have the keys. I would not get in the car with the person, but I would have no issues letting someone drive my car. Also, make them leave their car and keys with you.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby Batousai » Wed May 22, 2013 10:21 am

Sell it to carmax for wholesale and count difference between the opportunity cost of selling it privately and wholesale as risk mitigation and sleep well tonight knowing you used fancy financial terms. Alternatively, if you are planning on getting a new car, you can trade it in and (at least where I live) get a reduction on sales tax based on the value of the car you are trading in. This would close the gap some, but makes car negotiating messier.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby bungalow10 » Wed May 22, 2013 10:24 am

Batousai wrote:Sell it to carmax for wholesale and count difference between the opportunity cost of selling it privately and wholesale as risk mitigation and sleep well tonight knowing you used fancy financial terms. Alternatively, if you are planning on getting a new car, you can trade it in and (at least where I live) get a reduction on sales tax based on the value of the car you are trading in. This would close the gap some, but makes car negotiating messier.


It depends on how much you value a dollar. Carmax was willing to pay me just over $10k on a car recently that I sold privately for $12,400. $2k is a lot of money, and had I been willing to work harder for the sale or wait longer I probably could have gotten another $500 for it.

Selling the car amounted to taking a few pictures, posting them online, and having exactly one person come test drive it and then come back with a check for my asking price. Well worth $2k+.

eta: I'm female and have sold two cars on Craigslist as well as a couple dozen other things.
Last edited by bungalow10 on Wed May 22, 2013 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby Sam I Am » Wed May 22, 2013 10:25 am

Message deleted.
Last edited by Sam I Am on Sun Oct 06, 2013 12:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby ILnative » Wed May 22, 2013 10:36 am

another vote for Carmax. We sold an older car with lots of miles on it and actually got more than KBB. It was easy peasy - in and out in less than 2 hours. If you have one nearby you could always take it and get the price (I think it is good for so many days) and that gives you something to think about when comparing to what you think the value is - and the delta is your opportunity cost....
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby yolli71 » Wed May 22, 2013 10:40 am

bungalow10 wrote:
Batousai wrote:Sell it to carmax for wholesale and count difference between the opportunity cost of selling it privately and wholesale as risk mitigation and sleep well tonight knowing you used fancy financial terms. Alternatively, if you are planning on getting a new car, you can trade it in and (at least where I live) get a reduction on sales tax based on the value of the car you are trading in. This would close the gap some, but makes car negotiating messier.


It depends on how much you value a dollar. Carmax was willing to pay me just over $10k on a car recently that I sold privately for $12,400. $2k is a lot of money, and had I been willing to work harder for the sale or wait longer I probably could have gotten another $500 for it.

Selling the car amounted to taking a few pictures, posting them online, and having exactly one person come test drive it and then come back with a check for my asking price. Well worth $2k+.


I agree w/ this 100%. As others stated, meet in a public place during daytime hours, take a photo of their license w/ your cell phone, and make sure you hold their keys while they test drive your car. If they're interested, only accept cash as cashier's checks could be forged. If they insist on certified check, have them go to the bank w/ you and deposit before handing them the keys.

I have sold 2 cars on Craigs List...one for 3k and one for 7k. In both instances CarMax's offer to me was a joke ($800 and 5k). In both cases I sold my vehicles very quickly...I could've probably made more if I waited it out. All I had to do was get my car cleaned up, post a free add w/ some pics, and answer emails or phone calls. Any emails that looked suspicious, I simply deleted. It is absolutely worth the effort to sell on Craig's List IMO.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby wageoghe » Wed May 22, 2013 10:45 am

I am in the sell it to CarMax or trade it in crowd. I can see that several posters have "easily" sold cars to apparently reputable, eager buyers. I can't imagine that is the case all of the time. For me, personally, I don't want to deal with callers/emailers/etc that might or might not be interested. I don't want to go some public location, take their photo, hold their license (or take a photo of it), go to the bank to get money and deposit it, go to the license office to transfer the title.

One recent poster sold a car via private sale for $12,000+, while CarMax apparently would have given around $10,000. Yes, $2000 is a lot of money. Even given that, I would just as soon have an easier transaction and just be done with it. Safety plays a part in the equation, but inconvenience plays a bigger part for me.

I'm that for all the stories of nice older couples or nice young men who are willing to pay a "reasonable" price, etc there are plenty of creepy customers or customers that want to wring the last dollar out of the price.

Maybe when it gets down to an older occasionally used vehicle (old pickup, van that you don't use any more, etc), I would be more likely to consider selling it via Craigs List (or similar). CarMax probably isn't interested in a 1991 Chevy van anyway! But if I am replacing my daily driver, I prefer one stop shopping. I might not get the best deal that way, but that doesn't bother me.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby Peter Foley » Wed May 22, 2013 10:50 am

I've sold my last two cars using Craigslist, prior to that I used Car Soup. While I would agree that it would be risky to go along on a test drive alone, it isn't necessary to go on the test drive. As mentioned, just have them leave their car keys and driver's license. Meeting in a public place is a good idea, but I have not taken that precaution myself.

As to selling the car to a dealer or trading it in, by the time I sell a car it is not a premium vehicle. I tend to sell when it is still basic reliable transportation. My last sale was a 2000 Subaru Forester just a month ago. I received about $2000 more than the trade-in value. If your car is in "good" condition, not above average or excellent, you can expect a low ball offer at trade-in.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby Aptenodytes » Wed May 22, 2013 11:09 am

I sold our last two cars through Craigslist and Cars.com. We keep them too long to be able to get much through the dealers and services. I sold a 2001 Honda Odyssey just yesterday. If you set your goal of making the process run quickly and smoothly, it can be done very straightforwardly.

+ write a good ad (this is good advice: http://hooniverse.com/2011/11/02/how-to ... -used-car/)
+ gather all your service documentation to show the good care you took
+ clean the car the same way the dealers do
+ look carefully at all the ads in your region to get a good estimate of what comparable cars are selling for. Remember that what you read in the ads are the asking prices, not the selling prices.
+ price your car aggressively to move fast. I have set sales prices at about where I estimate the market bottom to be, taking all relevant information into account (age, mileage, condition, etc.)

If you do all the above you will have an extremely good chance of selling the car to the first person who comes to look at it. The good ad you wrote will have conveyed all the information the buyer cares about accurately and completely. The price you set will mean any serious buyer who checks it will want to buy it. The cleaning and service records will work at the margin to nudge into the buy position.

Therefore it ought not to be too much of a burden to find a friend who can be with you when you show the car at a neutral location (parking lot etc).

This strategy doesn't get you the maximum possible price, but it gets you a healthy margin above the alternatives to a private sale with minimum hassle on your part.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby archbish99 » Wed May 22, 2013 12:11 pm

Craigslist is good, but definitely less than smooth all the time. We recently sold our car for $7500, but I went through about two weeks of getting 3-4 calls per day asking if we would take $5000, etc. I got very tired of the question "What's your best price?" or "How low are you willing to go?" (If I were going to give a lower price for the asking, that's what I would have put in the ad!) My other big learning as a seller is to pull the Car Fax for your own car ahead of time. I've sold two cars now, and both times the Car Fax has had inaccurate negative information on it that kept turning off buyers, but they never told us that's why they suddenly lost interest. Got the CarFax corrected, and sold the car within three days both times. As far as security, I didn't let people take the car without me. That probably was a risk, but not something I ever found a satisfactory way around.

We actually had far more trouble with the car we bought than the car we sold, because we as the sellers had our paperwork together and ready to go. We dropped the car off with the mechanic doing the inspection, met there when it was done and went over the results and discussed whether anything they found should impact the price. Once everything was agreed, we drove to his bank, where he got a cashier's check and we signed over the title. (To be really ambitious, we could have proceeded directly to the title office and done that together as well, but there's no requirement that both buyer and seller do so here in Washington. Once the title is signed over, you're each independently responsible for reporting the transfer and the state matches it up.)

The guy whose car we bought had never sold a car to a private party before, and it showed. If you have a loan on the car, pay it off and get a lien release before you try to sell the car -- a title with a lien on it is a huge headache to transfer for both of you. We went over a month driving a car with a bill of sale, but no title, because we were dancing with the lienholder.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby Aptenodytes » Wed May 22, 2013 12:20 pm

archbish99 wrote:Craigslist is good, but definitely less than smooth all the time. We recently sold our car for $7500, but I went through about two weeks of getting 3-4 calls per day asking if we would take $5000, etc. I got very tired of the question "What's your best price?" or "How low are you willing to go?"

I recommend the option to have initial contact by email only. You can either ignore frivolous inquiries or respond at your convenience.
My other big learning as a seller is to pull the Car Fax for your own car ahead of time. I've sold two cars now, and both times the Car Fax has had inaccurate negative information on it that kept turning off buyers, but they never told us that's why they suddenly lost interest. Got the CarFax corrected, and sold the car within three days both times.

I second this. I consider linking to the Car Fax report a critical element of any good ad. You want to remove as much uncertainty as possible for potential buyers, as seamlessly as possible.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby slick_dealer_05 » Wed May 22, 2013 12:31 pm

I have sold a car and bought two of them from craigslist.
I hate used car dealerships and haven't had a single issue in trading via cash through craigslist.
I wouldn't recommend CL for baby boomers or anxious folks but if you are young enough, it's very easy to trade

Couple of tips for craigslist -
    Meet in person at a nearby gas station (most of them have security cameras around)
    Trade via cash
    Be fast in responding to emails/phone calls (I always mention my phone number on craigslist posts)
    Make sure to delete your post when your vehicle sells (I hate morons who keep their post online even if their item is sold - waste of my time)
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby Riverstwo » Wed May 22, 2013 12:54 pm

Craigslist is great in my opinion. I am a female and have sold boats, Vespa's, cars, refrigerators and purchased on Craigs List as well, all went smoothly. Wording your AD correctly is foremost important. The ad should state: FIRM OFFERS ONLY, will not reduce price. That will keep 75% of the pests away and also bring on the more serious buyers. Do as much through email first to make sure the person is serious. Send extra photos. When you finally meet, go to a large shopping center and/or bring a friend with you.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby Batousai » Wed May 22, 2013 12:57 pm

bungalow10 wrote:
Batousai wrote:Sell it to carmax for wholesale and count difference between the opportunity cost of selling it privately and wholesale as risk mitigation and sleep well tonight knowing you used fancy financial terms. Alternatively, if you are planning on getting a new car, you can trade it in and (at least where I live) get a reduction on sales tax based on the value of the car you are trading in. This would close the gap some, but makes car negotiating messier.


It depends on how much you value a dollar. Carmax was willing to pay me just over $10k on a car recently that I sold privately for $12,400. $2k is a lot of money, and had I been willing to work harder for the sale or wait longer I probably could have gotten another $500 for it.

Selling the car amounted to taking a few pictures, posting them online, and having exactly one person come test drive it and then come back with a check for my asking price. Well worth $2k+.


I used the term risk mitigation, and I used that term for a reason. 2k is the most you could save (ignoring time opportunity cost), not the most you could lose. It is the cost of mitigating the risk of getting robbed, raped, or murdered in a transaction with random person. To you, you found the risk an acceptable one which is fine. I've sold cars through Craigslist before, so I've found it acceptable. However, my risk tolerance, your risk tolerance, and the OP's risk tolerance are all different.

An increased reward is always there for people who will take an increased risk, that doesn't mean it's always worth it to increase your risk.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby bill88 » Wed May 22, 2013 2:01 pm

99% of the folks you run into are nice, good people. That said, it's not naive to consider the risk factors.

You might try word of mouth -- to friends, co-workers, church, etc. If it's someone a friend or colleague knows, that would make a difference, i.e., not a total stranger.

If you go the Craigs List route, then I agree with the other posters who suggested bringing a friend to a public place.

I'm not wild about letting the potential buyer drive off alone. (Also not wild about being in the car with him or her if they turn out to have an A.J. Foyt complex. :shock: )

The last car I sold (when I was young and stupid) private party didn't end well. '66 Sunbeam Tiger (nice car when the windshield wipers worked). I wasn't home, nice young guy showed up, mom gave him the keys. He drove the car into a curb or some projection. Bent the frame, drove it back, and -- nice young man that he was -- offered to pull the manual shift car into the garage for my mom. Then he left.

I had to track him down at his place of work. He was remarkably unwilling to -- as the current phrase goes -- "accept responsibility" for damaging my now very used car. Small claims court. Got pennies on the dollar.

Of course, this example is the dumb way to sell privately. But people who seem nice and seem responsible may turn out to be neither.

Hope that helps. Good luck with the sale. :happy

Cheers,
Bill
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby Randomize » Wed May 22, 2013 4:32 pm

I sold my last car on E-Bay. The fees take a nasty bite out of it but it's better than what a dealer would take. The guy was buying it as a present for his daughter so he just sent the money through Paypal (he picked up the paypal fees) and had her pick it up at the airport.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby lawman3966 » Wed May 22, 2013 4:54 pm

Regarding the Test Drive and Liability Insurance:

I notice several people proposing having the prospective buyer drive your car without you in it. That's fine from a personal safety standpoint. But, you really should check with your insurance company before doing this, and determine exactly what your coverage level is if there is an accident. I've heard from many sources, including insurance agents, that if a permissive driver, who is not on your policy is driving, your coverage levels revert to the legal minimums for your jurisdiction. Thus, even if you've paid for $500K of liability coverage, if your jurisdiction has a $50k coverage minimum, your guest driver may (not certain that this rule is universal) have $50K coverage and no more. You could be responsible for any damage beyond that.

I realize that I've never faced this issue because I've only owned three cars, and drove the first two until they were junkyard material.

Regarding Personal Security:

I don't have a magic solution to the security issues which I think are well founded. One thing though, I would get personal information on the buyer concerned before meeting him, and check him out on the Internet, including possible criminal background checks. You can have some nasty surprises when meeting people you know only from a CL ad. Someone hit me from behind at a yield sign a few years ago. Since he lied to me about his identity at the site, I only got his name later. Upon entering his name into Google recently, I find that he has multiple arrests, including driving w/o license, DUI, and Assault and Battery. We conversed for several minutes at the accident scene, and I never would have guessed he was a criminal type. For these reasons, I think your security concerns are well founded, and confess that I have no solution for them, other than bringing a very tough person with you.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby harrychan » Wed May 22, 2013 5:05 pm

When I sell things or solicit service on Craigslist, I always do a quick search on google or facebook for their names. You would be surprised how easy it is to find the actual person, their pics, and background on the Internet. If nothing shows up or they do not reveal their real name, I skip them. That is how I sold my last car and gave my address to some free gardening items I had. I would never put my real phone number or address. At most, I would put my google voice number which they can text to.
This is not legal or certified financial advice but you know that already.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby frugaltype » Wed May 22, 2013 7:27 pm

harrychan wrote:When I sell things or solicit service on Craigslist, I always do a quick search on google or facebook for their names. You would be surprised how easy it is to find the actual person, their pics, and background on the Internet. If nothing shows up or they do not reveal their real name, I skip them. That is how I sold my last car and gave my address to some free gardening items I had. I would never put my real phone number or address. At most, I would put my google voice number which they can text to.


Thanks, all.

I've given away some stuff in freecycle, but I generally leave it in front of a nearby vacant lot and use my nom du Net email address. I did once, after an email exchange, give the person my address, and she turned out to be a very nice lady remodeling her house herself.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby nonnie » Thu May 23, 2013 3:49 am

I have a female friend who used Craigslist and then actually met her prospective buyers at her local police station. She asked the buyers to bring a Xerox of their driver's license and left that and the buyer's car keys with the police while taking the test drive.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby sadie wess » Thu May 23, 2013 9:35 am

Do be careful. It is not just how much you value a dollar but,more importantly, how much you value *safety*. No price tag can be put on that.


As a woman alone, you will be have vulnerability that many do not.

The post about meeting at the police station is a wonderful idea!

And, a thank you to those men who posted considerate and kind remarks, as well as being protective of their spouses/companions. Truly, thank you.

Sadie
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby BigFoot48 » Thu May 23, 2013 10:57 am

We just sold a car using AutoTrader, and agree with all the advice above on meeting in public, photograph license, Google them, don't go on ride, take only cashier's check prepared in your presence at their bank, etc.. I know of a couple, man and wife, who were killed by a test driver who wanted their car, so constant vigilance is required.

My Google search revealed buyer was local minister and I knew where he lived, so I had his picture and that was the guy with wife that showed up at Walgreens so we all went for the ride. My spreadsheet analysis of 30 Odysseys for sale convinced him to pay my asking price, less a $200 discount I gave him for making a negotiation effort. But the one twist was he was also a Schwab customer so we met there and make a direct transfer from his brokerage account to mine. No check needed!
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby scottyja » Thu May 23, 2013 3:37 pm

We've sold a couple of cars on craigslist and have never had an issue. I think it helped to meet at our credit union. We would go inside and get copies of the buyer's drivers license and current insurance, and I would always go on the test drive. One time a guy came to look at our car and just thought we were meeting at the credit union. When I wanted to go inside and get copies, he chose not to and left. Perhaps he was uncomfortable with how I was doing it, but it made me feel a lot better.
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Re: how to safely sell a car

Postby Barefootgirl » Sat Jul 27, 2013 9:43 am

Great tips here...valuable thread.

I guess I need to call my insurance co. since I wasn't thinking so much about theft of my auto than I was of potential damage related to an accident, etc.

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