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3 Tips for Safely Selling a Car Online


As you probably know, the government's cash for clunkers program -- which provides rebates of $3,500 to $4,500 to people who trade in gas guzzlers for fuel-efficient cars -- has been so popular that it's running out of funding. Although the Senate majority leader said August 5 that the Senate would vote to provide another $2 billion for the program (the House already did), that doesn't mean you should get in line at your local dealership if you still have a clunker you want to unload. If you're car is worth more than the rebate, you may get a better deal selling it on your own.

If you take this route, be sure to protect yourself from fraud -- especially if you sell your car online. Follow these three tips:

Make personal contact. If you advertise a vehicle online, don't rely on e-mail to communicate with potential buyers. Many scammers (who might send you a fraudulent check) use e-mail because they are based overseas, says Keely Funkhouser, director of fraud prevention strategies at AutoTrader.com, the Internet's largest auto classifieds marketplace. If a buyer isn't willing to talk with you by phone, it's a red flag.

But don't get too personal. If the buyer wants to test drive the vehicle, meet at a public place -- not your home. Take someone with you and ask to see the buyer's license, Funkhouser says.

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Make sure you get paid. Sounds simple, right? Of course you wouldn't hand over the title until you got a check. But Funkhouser says you shouldn't accept a personal check because it could bounce. It can take a bank up to two weeks to authenticate a check, so the buyer could be long go with your car before you realize his check was a dud. Ask for cash or meet at the buyer's bank to confirm that funds for the purchase are available. If the buyer lives in another state, you can use an escrow service, such as Escrow.com, to handle the transaction. Don't agree to accept a cashier's check that's over the amount of the purchase if the buyer asks to be refunded the difference -- it's a scam.

Tomorrow: Tips for Safely Buying a Car Online



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