Negotiations and the Transaction

Money on a table

So, someone's interested? Great! What's next?

Well, it's reasonable to expect the buyer will want his or her mechanic to thoroughly check out the car. We think that's always a good idea—it's due diligence on the part of the buyer, and it could prevent claims at a later date that you tried to hide a serious problem.

Besides, even if the inspection discloses an unanticipated repair, wouldn't you rather hear about it now, than from the lawsuit, after the car spontaneously combusts?

If, at any point, you get uncomfortable with the process, don't allow yourself to be bullied.

By the way, in all the years we've been inspecting cars at the garage, it's almost always been the owner who has delivered the car to us. Why's that? Imagine if there were an accident, or the radiator blew up on the way to the garage. (We have a phrase for this in the industry, but we just use the acronym, FUBAR.) That would be a bona fide mess. Taking the car to the mechanic yourself is a great way to avoid the prospects of that scenario occurring. Besides, look at it this way: if they're serious enough to pay for an inspection, the chances are good that you're about to get a legitimate offer on your car.

If you're the seller, we'd suggest meeting the prospective buyer at the garage, after the mechanic has inspected the car.

A note from Miss Manners: it's important to remember that the mechanic's report is the property of the prospective buyer. You shouldn't necessarily expect to be able to pour over it in detail or ask the mechanic a lot of detailed questions.

But, fortunately, you have your own report! Use your mechanic's findings to refute anything that seems unreasonable.You can negotiate a fair price right at the garage, once you've discussed the mechanic's report with the prospective buyer. From time to time, the mechanic may even be happy to act as a mediator in reaching a final price.

If, at any point, you get uncomfortable with the process, don't allow yourself to be bullied. You can always say, "I'd like to see a copy of the report, and share it with my mechanic." Don't allow the buyer and his mechanic to gang up on you.

If you're the seller, you should have in mind the lowest price you're willing to accept. Be ready to deduct the cost of any repairs about which you were not already aware, and which you agree are reasonable.

Once you've agreed on a price, you can even do the transaction right there, at the garage.

The actual process for transferring ownership of a vehicle varies from state to state. In most cases, however, it involves signing and dating the back of the vehicle title. A simple Bill of Sale, though not required, is also a good idea. Then, the buyer will need to march over to his state's Department of Motor Vehicles and apply for a title in his name. You can find out the process for your state right here.

Remember, for an added bit of protection, we suggest you ask to see the buyer's driver's license and write down their full name and the license number.

As for payment, we suggest a cashier's check, or cash. Don't accept rupees, wampum or earnest assurances that a relative will be emailing you shortly with wiring instructions.

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