How do you buy a car from a private owner?
Dear Driving for Dollars,
We found a great deal on a car owned by a private owner. She lives three hours away and is driving the car down here for our mechanic to inspect it. If we like the car, (the owner) will leave it at our house and return home. She has $8,000 left on her lien. She had us speak with her bank today. They verified what remains on the lien and gave me an address to send a cashier's check to pay it off. However, after we pay it off, the bank will release the title in her name to her. She then has to sign it and send it to us so we can register the car. We were planning on having a bill of sale notarized and signed by her when she was here. Is there anything else we can do to protect ourselves?
-- Jess and Stacey
Dear Jess and Stacey,
Chances are your car deal will go just fine, but you might want to take the extra time to go with the seller to her bank and complete the deal right there to be sure. Is there a branch of her bank in your town or nearby? If not, you may want to travel to her town to complete the transaction. If you go to the bank together, you can pay off the car loan directly and the owner can sign over the rights to the car's title at the same time. The bank probably has someone on staff who can notarize the bill of sale, too.
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