Found a buyer for my old beater car. Tell me how the sales transaction plays out.

This is a follow-up to my earlier thread in GQ asking about how one handles the curbside license plate transfer from a used car seller to a used car buyer. Thanks for all the help with that topic, folks. Moving on…

Okay, so someone bit on my Craigslist ad. We’re getting together tomorrow to seal the deal, assuming that the car meets his expectations (which, fortunately, are not that high, I’ve gathered). I’m new to the whole used car sales dodge. How will this transaction play out exactly?

There’s me. There’s him. There’s the car. There’s his money. There’re my plates and registration sticker. There’s his plates (which he’ll bring, he said). There’s the paperwork which must be filled out, signed and exchanged (title, sales affadavit DMV form, bill of sale). And of course, there’s the possible test drive.

Can someone tell me exactly what happens, and in what sequence? I’m most interested in how the test drive works, so don’t spare the details there (do I go with him, does he given any money beforehand, how long is the drive, etc?). Are there any red flags or other warning signs that I should watch out for?

Also, is it insane to enact this transaction alone? I mean is there any real danger involved here that I’m being set up for a robbery or something?

Thanks all in advance.

I’ve bought two used cars and a motorcycle and sold one. I’ve always done it alone.

It generally goes: test drive, offer/acceptance, fill out paperwork, exchange paperwork/money, shake hands.

Only once did I have someone come on the test drive with me. If you are uncomfortable giving your car to somebody to test drive, then go along. Personally, I’m more uncomfortable riding with someone I don’t know. I mean, worst case, they’re going to steal or wreck your car. Do you really want to be in the passenger seat for either? It’s not unreasonable to see his car and ask for the keys as collateral while he has your car.

For motorcycles, it’s very common to hand over the money before doing a test ride, but it’s uncommon for cars. Probably because you can’t drop a car.

It’s fairly common to ask to see a drivers license and either photocopy or photograph it.

It’s unlikely someone is setting you up to steal your junky car. The guy with the money is at more risk, since money isn’t nearly as traceable as a car is. But, again, if it makes you uncomfortable, have a friend there.

I don’t know the NY specific stuff (for example, in CA, the plates stay with the car), so I won’t comment on that.

You might want to write out a letter saying that you’re turning the title over to whomever buys the car and keep it handy in case the local DMV has a problem with the affadavit form and issuing a new title.