With dealership showrooms in some states closed and stay-at-home orders in place across the country, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the car-shopping process. And while it goes without saying that now isn’t the best time to sell your car, if you must sell — whether to raise some needed cash, reduce your expenses or for some other pressing reason — there are steps you can take to keep the process safer for all involved.
Related: How to Sell Your Used Car
Keep the Process Online as Long as Possible
For many sellers, creating an online listing is the first step in a selling process that eventually goes offline when it’s time to conduct showings and test drives with prospective buyers. But in the middle of a global pandemic, the information you include in your listing is even more important as a virtual introduction to your car. Think about what a buyer would most want to know about your car, then write your description and select your photos accordingly.
One of the easiest ways to keep the selling process online longer is by hosting virtual showings with interested buyers rather than the typical in-person ones you might normally do. With FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or another video-calling service, you can use your smartphone to conduct a virtual tour from your driveway and answer any questions about your car.
Navigating the Test Drive
Letting a stranger test-drive your car can be a nerve-wracking proposition in normal times, and sitting in close proximity to someone you don’t know might seem doubly scary right now. And since we don’t recommend allowing a complete stranger to test-drive your car without you along for the ride, what else can you do?
One option could be to make a test-drive video, upload it to YouTube and share it with interested buyers. If you have the right video equipment, such as a GoPro camera and a head strap, you can make a first-person video, or you could have someone in your immediate household use a smartphone to film while you drive. A virtual test drive won’t suffice for some buyers, but it may be enough for those who weren’t particularly interested in a test drive in the first place. Other ways you can ease potential concerns about buying a car sans test drive include providing an inspection report from an independent mechanic and a vehicle history report from a trusted third party (such as Carfax).
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The calculus is a little different if you’re selling your car to someone you know, like a friend or family member. In instances like these where the trust level is high enough that you’re comfortable letting them drive your car on their own, there are steps you can take before and after the test drive.
First of all, someone who is feeling sick shouldn’t be test-driving your car. Even if they say they feel fine, you should follow social distancing guidelines and both wear face coverings when meeting. Consider giving the interested buyer a pair of disposable gloves right before they test-drive your car to reduce the number of surfaces they touch. If gloves aren’t available, they can use hand sanitizer before getting in your car, and after the test drive, you can sanitize common touch points before you drive it again.
If all of this is making you more anxious about selling your car, there’s also the option of selling it to a dealer. While the process can be faster, you’ll likely get less money for your car than if you’d sold it yourself.
The rise of mobile payment apps has made it easy to transfer money between individuals, and while a touchless transaction might be especially appealing right now, none of these services should be used to receive payment when selling your car. The Federal Trade Commission offers tips on avoiding scams when using mobile payment apps, but the potential for fraud in this context outweighs any convenience factor these services — which are designed to make it easy to transfer money between people who know each other — offer.
Tried and true payment methods like cash, or a cashier’s check for the agreed upon price, are still best. It’s also advisable to complete the sale at a bank — your bank if the buyer is paying cash so it can be deposited into your account, or their bank if they plan on paying with a cashier’s check so you can witness the teller issue it. Just be sure to reach out to the bank you plan to meet at ahead of time; many bank branches are temporarily closed while others are open by appointment, and calling ahead will let you learn what policies are in place concerning social distancing and face coverings.
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