Tell me your private party sale stories

Hey folks, I’d like to learn about people’s experiences when buying and selling private party. What’s the most challenging part of the process and why? Any stories where things went wrong?

(I’m doing research for a new business idea, but won’t pitch the idea here to avoid any bias.)


The most challenging part of selling a car is that all-too-many people either fail to read or are unable to comprehend the text of the ad. Here are a few examples of the bizarre telephone conversations:

Freak #1: What color is the car?
Me: As the ad states, it is silver, with a dark blue interior.
Freak # 1: Oh, I wanted a red car.

Freak #2: Does it have a V-8?
Me: As the ad states, it has a 2.5 liter four cylinder.
Freak #2: I’d never drive a four cylinder car!

Freak #3: Does it have an automatic transmission?
Me: No, as the ad states, it has a 4-speed manual transmission.
Freak #3: How do you expect me to drive it if it doesn’t have an automatic transmission?

Then, there are the folks who phone you after 11 PM, and the ones who make an appointment to see the car, but never show up.

This pattern even extends to selling parts and accessories. Before I traded in my 2002 Outback, I removed the optional cargo carrier and the pet barrier in order to sell them privately. In my ad on a Subaru-centric forum, I clearly stated, in all caps, “I WILL NOT SHIP THESE BULKY ITEMS, but if you live in NJ, Downstate NY, or Eastern PA, the drive will be worth your time”.

Almost every call that I got asked… "Will you ship that item to me in (pick one) IL/MO/FL/NC/ME/CO?

Reading… a lost art.


I’ve sold a few cars over the years but now I would try to avoid it at all costs. Back when it was as easy as putting an ad in the paper, getting a few calls and one or two drives, and done deal. Now the paper is the last place to advertise, you can’t have people coming to your house, can’t take a check-even certified to find out a week later it is bogus, and even $100 bills are questionable.

Three of the cars we sold out of town, the guys never transferred the title so it was an extra trip to force the transfer. I sold one car to a guy that worked for me and had a little trouble getting the money. He acted like he was doing me a big favor paying me. So 30 years ago no problems but in the last 20 years, not so much.

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Even if I take a “hit” of God-only-knows how much money by doing a trade-in, that is what I do at this point, rather than deal with the virtual field of landmines that surround private sales.

Maybe yes, maybe no. The phone freaks to whom I referred earlier were all the result of newspaper ads. The car in question was my '81 Chevy Citation, and the Ford dealer actually refused to take it in trade toward the purchase of my '86 Taurus–hence the newspaper ads. After months of zero success with those ads and just as many months of paying car insurance on a car that was just sitting there, I wound-up selling the Citation to one of the other teachers for a really low price, just to get rid of it.

My lowest price was $50, knocked down from $100 for one of my rivs because it needed a new light switch. Then she didn’t even transfer the title. I held the $50 for a couple months I case she wanted her money back, then put it in a slot machine and made $300. So not sure then what the actual sales price should be. :blush:

Now I don’t feel so bad for selling that guy my Citation for $800.
It didn’t burn any oil, and it didn’t need any repairs other than needing to have the E-brake cable replaced–AGAIN–for the 3rd time, because of GM’s defective design. As it was, it couldn’t pass inspection because of the e-brake, so I cut the price to $900, he offered $800, and I agreed.

He claimed that he was able to drive it for several more years, and he also claimed that he was able to get a valid inspection sticker, despite the inoperative e-brake. I was just glad to have been finally able to get rid of that inadequately-engineered car.

I always hate the “what’s the least you’ll take for it?” question being asked by some before they’ve ever even seen, much less driven, the vehicle. I’m fine with someone making an offer that’s less than what I’m asking. I generally expect that. But I set the asking price first. Now it’s your turn.


I’m getting a little off the track but I have to admit the car had 350,000 miles on it but ran fine with a full tank, new battery, fresh wax, etc. The thing is I had given it to the kid so was hoping to sell it for a couple thousand a few years before to pad his wallet a little. Wasn’t going to happen though. About a year before though a guy showed up to look at it and said his son had wrecked his car. Too much money for him but I think I could have sold it then for maybe $500, 800, who knows? I should’a pinned him down until I got a yes out of him. I don’t know how many years I had it for sale and all I got was one call asking how many miles-click. Yeah wadda ya do if you’ve got something perfectly OK but not marketable?

The most challenging part, other than the flat out scammers, is the number of knuckleheads who think everything’s a negotiation even after the negotiations are over and you’ve agreed.

“I’ll give you 5k for this car.”
“Uh, so I only brought 3800, will that be ok?”
“Yeah, will it be ok if I only sell you three of the car’s wheels?”

I particularly enjoy the ones, when I’m selling some old rusty heap from the Reagan administration, who come out with a magnet and very carefully inspect and touch all the rust on it while theatrically frowning and shaking their heads. Yeah dude, I know it’s rusty, and I know you saw the magnet trick on Youtube but I’m selling the damn thing for $500 and you seem to be expecting a factory-fresh Bentley.


My experience has been nearly perfect. I keep my cars a very long time. Currently, my three cars have an average age of 23 years. In the past, I have had three old cars totaled, with it being the other driver’s fault. If you wait long enough, someone will hit you and you will get retail for your car.


That’s an old tactic. “OK, can you get some more money from the ATM or would you rather write a check for the balance?” is the proper response :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:.


Thank you for all of your replies!
Looking forward to more stories if you all have them. :grinning:

Sold an older Ford Taurus. Had about 3 or four people come and look at it with no results. It was old, rusty under door, high mileage. Good and reliable enough to get a struggling soul to and from. A single mother came and handed me cash literally without glancing at the car. Got her kid and put her in and took the title while she was in the drivers seat. I asked if she had any questions, and wanted to give her all the deficiencies, but she just put it in gear and drive off with her friend behind her.

Neighbors put their early 90’s F150 in the local paper back when it was a 12-13yr old truck. The 2 line ad didn’t give enough room for all the details so every call wanted to know what engine and how many miles. After being told itt was the wrong cab/engine with high miles they decided if nobody really wanted to buy the truck they’d just keep it for awhile longer. Had bought a newer F150 so they didn’t really need 2 trucks but got tired of dealing with the calls. They kept racking up miles on the truck going on 1,000mi or longer trips.

Dad sold our old 16ft boat on Craigslist after having interest but from people who didn’t know if their vehicle could tow even this 1,600lb boat. If dad hadn’t been trying to help he would have just told them “sure” and taken the money and ran. The eventual buyers turned up wiith a truck that Dad felt could handle the load and sold it for $1,800 which was more or less market value for an older fiberglass runabout that needed a little TLC but was in good shape for a 30+yr old boat.

In the mid 1990’s, I lived in PA and had a 1987 Mazda pickup. I advertised it at a reasonable price. A middle-aged woman asked a few questions by telephone, and asked me to bring the truck to her because she didn’t drive. When I got there, I found she was African, she gave me cash, and she informed me that she would be shipping the truck back to her family in Ghana! Easiest sale I ever had.


I have about given up on private party sales for anything, auto-related or not.

The last used car I sold went extremely well. It was a Geo Metro that blew a head gasket and I let it sit for too long and the mice destroyed the thing and you needed a biohazard suit to open the door! The scrappers were paying $250 for this car so I put it up for that as there were many good parts and someone offered me $300 to hold it and he rented a trailer and came within a few days. It was the smoothest sale ever and he was extremely happy with the car, even though it has become basically junk to me. There was no drama or BS.

The last car before that was a different story and involved multiple calls on my part to various local police departments. The guy bought the car from me, then ran it up onto a curb and bent tie rods/control arms, then wanted me to take it back. He went on to tell me he was a cop and would have me arrested for not allowing him to return the car. I said some choice words and hung up. Then the incessant calls started! I ended up calling various local police departments where I live and where this guy claimed to be a cop. Let’s just say they weren’t happy about someone claiming to be an officer! I called the police and said this guy either isn’t a cop and if he is, he should be removed from duty immediately! He was just a fraud and had obviously done this to other people. I got a call back from the police not long after and said I wouldn’t be hearing from him anymore and I didn’t. They also said he had basically destroyed the car by off-roading it and further damaging the suspension and denting the car out of frustration when I refused his demands.

I have also sold a few used kayaks in recent years. I kayak a lot in my spare time and sometimes talk about my hobbies with customers of my IT business. They will be like "There is an old kayak in our garage we need to sell and they offer it to me for some insanely low price to get it out of their hair. Some of these I have kept while others are not my thing and I sell them after using them once and deciding I don’t like them and would rather have the space than another kayak. It is always the same… I get like 100x contacts that are complete idiots, scammers, or whatever and only 1-2x decent people. It will usually sell to the 1st or 2nd person that calls and is actually legit, not some crazy lunatic or whatever.

I mean there will be a picture of the kayak and a detailed description, then they ask “What color is this?”, “How long is the kayak?”, “What is the brand and model?” I mean the ad reads “Perception Pescador 10ft kayak in black cherry marble” and people don’t get it??? Then I have a whole bunch of other information including that the price is firm, etc. but then you get the $25 offer for an $800 kayak. Seriously??? I put in my ads that I block anyone who doesn’t read the ad right at the top and still get these questions so I block like 100x people each time I try to sell something.

I used to sell used computers in my IT business but NO MORE!!! I would deal with the same nonsense, people calling and threatening me when it broke a year or more later, etc. Again, I had multiple instances where I came very close to taking drastic actions to protect myself, had to involve law enforcement, etc. The last straw was when some meth head threatened to kill me because I found and replaced a $35 part that was broken and only charged him $35 extra for the part as I was already inside the device and replacement took me only about 30 seconds longer. Anyway, he told me I was ripping him off and threatened to kill me. I tore off, about running the guy over with my car in the process and had the guy’s computer because he was unwilling to pay and became threatening.

I was getting pretty busy before the pandemic hit but my workload has skyrocketed. I raised my rates and can also pick and choose who I want as a customer if I get a bad vibe from them. I am also more focusing on commercial and governmental clients because they always pay and don’t bring me drama. So making $800 from a customer who is more than happy to pay is way better than getting a death threat from a crackhead that is pissed about $35. I deal with residential customers but make sure they understand I charge the same for them as a business. Most of my customers are just happy to have someone show up and do the job correctly. That seems to be a lost art these days…

I thought Craigslist was bad but I actually have WAY BETTER luck there than Facebook although not as many people seem to use it. I still get calls about people wanting a used computer so let them know I will charge them more for a used computer with no guarantee than I would for a brand new one with the latest technology and security support because I simply do not want to deal with this and don’t need to. I give used computers that are repairable or good for parts to the local school district for their IT tech program and to give to students that can’t afford a computer or the local foster care agency. Hopefully they can use these to get an education and not become their crazy lunatic parents on drugs that I have had to deal with!

Stuff that is too old or junk just gets piled up until I have a truckload and it goes to the scrap yard. That was my plan for the Geo Metro if it brought me drama but it luckily didn’t.

I find it helps to bury your contact information in the details of your ad. The problem where people don’t read the ad has gotten very bad with mobile devices and Internet listings. Mobile users will only look at the picture and then they immediately try to contact you.

My answer to that is a low price … if it’s still for sale 3 months from now. :slight_smile:

I always answer that with: The lowest I’ll take is the listing price,… Now if you are standing in front of me and the car with cash in your hands, that is a different matter…


When someone asks “what’s the lowest I’ll take?” I just say why? Did you think the ad stated the most I’d take?


I have seen a craigslist ad by a frustrated seller that gave the impression that they wanted more than X for the truck, so don’t even bother offering that amount or less.