Private Car Sale - Bank Transfer - What Can Go Wrong?

Dear Ozbargain

Selling my car over the weekend. Priced at (13k). The buyer has mentioned he has no access to cash as the banks are closed (Sat pm). Pick up is on Sunday. He has said he will do a bank transfer in front of me at the time of pick up. I have asked for cash still.

What can go wrong here?
Is it worth seeing the car drive off and the cash is in transit?

Any other work around? New tech for transfer this amount (pay ID)?
Can the banks up the limit temporarily to access that much cash from atm ?

Any words of wisdom/advice?

Thanks in advance.

Thanks to everyone for sharing their ideas and thoughts and setting my mind straight. Appreciate it. Hopefully it will be straightforward from here.

Points taken from the helpers below;
- Cash transaction (King of all other options).
- No bank transfer especially during a non-business day as the transaction can be cancelled. It can also be faked to a certain extent.
- Bank transfer if the buyer is genuine and the funds have cleared to seller account before picking up car. Move the funds to a different account just for a peace of mind (I guess).
- Do the transaction on a business day if there is no access to banks (cash/cheque). Bank cheques can also be cancelled so be wary of this and make sure the funds clear.
- Go to bank for transfer of funds if necessary and have witnesses.
- A bill of sale signed and witnessed is legally enforceable. So get something in writing and also get it witnessed an example:

For interest:
Buyer arrived with cash on Sunday. Few good things learnt. Thanks y'all.


  • No way I'd be doing that, wait for the money to clear in your account. Or just wait until Monday and the buyer can pay in cash then.

    • Thank you for the Monday idea. Might even skip work to not lose sleep Sunday night.

      • Agree with all the posters here, and you.

        If the buyer is legit and you want to feel good about the sale, take Monday off and finalise the car then. As you have the day off you will even have the time to meet the buyer near their home/work to minimise disruption to their day.

    • Every time there is some sort of scam involving waiting for funds, the lesson usually is cash … and cash you actually have been given.

      Yet here we are with this thread. How many times does this lesson need to be said?
      (Obviously not everyone is scammer but that's not the point)

  • +11 votes

    Just make sure it's an instant transfer, not one that takes days. Also get photos of their licence and the transfer paperwork.

  • Could write up a contract too saying something like “I (whoever) of (address) agree to purchase (car and license plate) etc etc”

  • Don't. Cash or Wait for monday.

  • Cash. If buyer doesnt accept, seems too fishy then, next.

  • Definitely don't do bank transfer. Not worth the risk.

  • No.

  • +17 votes

    Bank cheque? Go down to the bank with the buyer and go to the teller together, they will get the bank cheque drawn out in your name. The teller prints it out and hands it to you. You then go to your own bank and deposit it. Safer than direct deposits and a lot safer than walking around with $13k in cash in your pocket…

    IF you want $13k in "cash" a lot of banks wont hand over $13k on the spot in cash and will need to have it organised a few days in advance. This will also trigger AUSTRAC and there will be paperwork for the buyer withdrawing over $10k and then will trigger AUSTRAC again when you try and deposit more than $10k.

    • Wow thanks for the additional information! I guess I will ask for Monday for him to bring cash or go down the safe path of bank cheque. Thing is the pick up is tomorrow (Sunday). I guess he has to organise it for pick up and I should simply wait till he is ready with cash/cheque.

      • Yeah, it may take a day or two to get the cash sorted to the branch, as they usually have to do a special order. A bank cheque can be drawn up on the spot. Basically, they pay the bank, then the bank pays you. And it's safer than cash, because even a bank cheque has no value to anyone else other than who is written out on the cheque itself.

    • They say this, but I've never had a problem getting semi large amounts out, walked into a branch just yesterday and got $10k (they only had $50s, but what can you do).

      • It’s hit an miss. I’ve gone to my local bank to get cash out and been told no problem on some large amounts ($9k) and other times (Between $5k and $7k) been told they can’t do it that day and offered a free bank cheque instead…

    • I believe the buyer can still cancel the bank cheque?

      I've sold 2 cars so far and I have asked the buyer to show up with cash and then we walked together to my bank and I let the teller to deposit the money to my account. That way I didn't have to worry about forged notes or nothing.

      • It’s very hard to cancel a bank cheque. Even harder if you are at the bank with the buyer and the teller hands you the cheque. A bank cheque is the banks money, not the buyers and it would be hard to explain why you want it cancelled if the teller hands it to the recipient.

        To cancel a bank cheque, it usually requires the return of the cheque. A bank cheque has your name on it and can only be cashed by you, cash doesn’t.

        But that’s fine, if you want to sell a car and walk around with $20k of cash until you can get it banked, have at it.

        • -6 votes

          Unfortunately this myth has been debunked in previous threads by actual bank tellers.

        • I agree that it might be hard to cancel a bank cheque but crims always have their ways.

          Did a quick Google search, MEBank:

          "If your bank cheque has been lost or stolen, get it touch to cancel it – send us a message using internet banking or call on 13 15 63. We’ll send out a Letter of Indemnity for you to fill out as part of the process of claiming your funds back."

          I'm still more comfortable with cash, but wouldn't carry it for the buyer to my bank either :D

          And I didn't neg you btw :)

          • @datafellows: If you claim it as lost and it was actually cashed by the person named on the cheque, I highly doubt the bank would just cancel it. They would have to investigate if the cheque was cashed or not. It would be a similar process to trying to cancel an EFT. Not as easy as you are making out.

            I always offer to pay for vehicles using a bank cheque if over a certain amount and I go to the bank with the seller and have them give their details to the teller take the cheque directly off the bank. I don't even touch it. Hard to cancel a bank cheque when the teller is the witness for handing it directly to the recipient.

            And the neg will have come from some idiot who doesn't know how bank cheques work or think that a bank cheque is the same as a personal cheque. Banks cheques cant bounce. They are basically a paper version of an EFT/direct deposit. You pay the bank by EFT. The bank then pays the seller. Once it's in the form of a bank cheque, that money is no longer yours or coming from your account.

            You don't want to take the risk of handling the cash, but you also don't want a piece of paper that is the same as cash, but added to that it is cash that has your name on it and only you can cash it… As a buyer, If the seller is a peanut and wants $15,000 in cash, THEY assume the risk of getting it to their bank. Not me. Once I get it out and give it to them, it's their responsibility.

          • @datafellows: By the time that letter gets to the person OP would have cashed the cheque and spent the money.

      • Correct. Bank cheques can be cancelled if they are reported lost or stolen:

        So a potential scam is for the buyer to pay by bank cheque, take the car and immediately contact their bank to say they have lost the bank cheque. It takes a couple of days for the funds to clear, just like a regular cheque. That’s plenty of time to take the car interstate for rebirthing before the scam is discovered.

        • More disinformation about bank cheques being cancelled.

          Did you even read the circumstances why a bank cheque would not be honoured on your link?

          "Reported stolen or lost
          If NAB is told that a bank cheque is stolen or lost and is satisfied that this is the case, NAB will not pay the cheque if it is presented for payment by a person who has no right to it. NAB may provide a replacement cheque for a fee."

          …considering the OPs name would be on the cheque hard to see how that would apply.

        • Complete BS. Before e-conveyancing was a thing, houses are commonly bought and sold on a regular basis with bank cheques.

          They aren't easily cancelled as other people have said, it is the banks money.

    • I withdrew 14k in cash for a car recently. Just had to sign the receipt from the bank. Only had to call ahead that morning too.

  • Even if he does the transfer in front of you it will take several hours to days to go thru.

    I'd just say let's do it first thing Monday at his bank as the transfer won't go thru over the weekend for that amount.

    Otherwise you end up with an awkward situation where he has "paid" for the car but you don't have the money…

    • Payid is not instant. You needed to have done a small transfer before and waited 24 hours for that to clear.

      • It's instant for some banks but not all banks.

        • After you have done an approved transfer can become instant

          • @thatonethere: I’ve paid people for motorcycles up to $5k using PayID/Osko and they have been instant. No pre-transfers or approval. One guy was on the phone at his PC and the payment came through while I was talking on the phone. Never paid them before and won’t ever pay them again.

            • @pegaxs: I've had it work and also not work. Last one I did the deposit by OSKO to check it worked, then when I came to pay the full $5000 it failed. Bank later called me up and said they had blocked it as "suspicious" but this was after an hour or so by which time I'd arranged an alternative payment. Very frustrating. Might be possible to sort out by calling the bank if you know about it, but the failure message were not helpful.

  • For that amount I'd only accept a bank cheque.

  • I sold a bike last month and did an instant bank transfer, albeit he paid a deposit a few weeks before. Just make sure the funds are in and not pending and you're safe.

  • Get him to payid to an account and then immediately payid it to another bank in case he tries to do a backcharge.

  • Dont do it.

    Meet with cash at bank. Get them to deposit into your account.

  • Pay in cash or wait for money to clear. In the case of paying in cash, do it at the bank so you know it's legit.

  • Our buyer was happy to transfer to our account, which we confirmed when it arrived and then arranged a time for handover. We did that for $18k in Febuary. We moved the deposit into a second account.

  • Nope not a chance.
    It’s easy to schedule the transfer for the next day but then cancel it. Receipt looks the same.

    Do it Monday morning. Meet at bank, get cash. Then transfer to your account.

  • Osko payment settlements are almost instant and perfectly safe.

  • bizarredeal

    User name checks out.

  • We own a Car Dealership and according to our bank (Westpac) it is impossible to cancel a transaction once a receipt has been produced (shows the done/completed icon). The bank will not cancel the transaction and it is deemed highly illegal to cancel for a transaction of goods or services. In addition, the only way it will not work is if the bsb/account numbers are incorrect also the date and time need to be current. Nowadays, people will not arrive with 13k cash and they won't stuff around getting a bank cheque etc.

    • I always pay with cash?

    • Thanks. Appreciate your words. This somewhat gives me the confidence should he show up with the option of bank transfer. Still though not sure how I would feel with the car gone, I have transferred the car online (DoT) with cash on 'transit' until few days. Probably my last resort, hoping it doesn't go to this option.

      • Suss out the person. If you have a suspicion then play it safe. Fill out your DOT forms and wait to post the seller side in until it has cleared. The transaction won't pass until both seller and buyer papers are received. It stops people doing dodgy things with the selling price etc (avoiding correct amount of stamp duty etc)

    • Depends on your bank and how the payment is made.

      For ING, if the payment was made through Direct Entry (hint: only 18 character reference is available), then you can cancel and recall the payment straight away (they will have rules on how long after the payment you can cancel).
      Note that most banks dont offer this functionality. I stumbled on it and tested it a month ago.

      If it is done through Osko or NPP (hint: 280 characters) and the payment has been sent to the other bank immediately, then u have no chance to cancel immediately. You need to raise a "case" with your bank to get the funds… But that will take time.

    • If someone pays you from a bank account they do not own it can be reversed. Your account could be closed too.

      • I was told the BSB relays to the bank so your bank would need to contact the other bank to free up funds. However, from memory, the banks ask a tonne of questions before that happens and there is a cooling period (business days before it all happens). At the end of the day, I've never had the issue as long as you follow your checks. All the best.

  • I sold a car for $7.5 k like this. Bank transfer still took a few days to clear but I let the buyer drive away on the weekend.

    As long as you have their licence and address and signed transfer paperwork, if the payment does not come through then you can pursue them via a small claims process and a magistrate would of course rule in your favour. Only in an extreme case would you have to go to a Magistrate though.

    I think you will be fine.

    I don't like to have that much physical cash, plus I think it's not legal to carry over $10k on your person? Just a hassle to bank anyway, or to take time off work on a weekday.

    There's risks both ways, including risk of losing $13k cask or getting mugged.