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Paying cash for a car. What are your options?

Seems to us that everyone is taking the finance option to purchase cars these days… BUT what if you’re one of those who has the cash to buy your car outright? What are your options?

There was certainly a time – some ten million years ago – when people actually used cash to buy things. Crazy, right? In these golden days of yore it was all pretty simple… head to the bank, withdraw the money or get a banker’s draft, go to the dealership, pay for your car and hit the road.

Sadly, it doesn’t really work that way anymore. And nowadays there are a fair share of schemers and scammers out there just waiting to milk you for all your hard earned cash is worth.

Now, when we’re talking about crooks, we’re not necessarily referring to the dealership or seller – but the ‘buyers’. Money laundering is a HUGE problem in the car industry, with criminals using counterfeit money or fraudulent cheques to purchase cars.

Obviously criminals are much better at making fake currency than we’re likely to be at spotting them… so naturally, many dealerships now actually refuse to accept cash payments or will only accept a certain limit.

You may also notice when buying through a dealership that the salesman in those immaculately shiny shoes is nudging you to opt for a finance option as opposed to paying for the car outright. If you’re wise, this is the moment to ask yourself – ‘What’s in it for him?’ – And depending on the finance agreement the dealership are offering, the answer could be more money. If interest is charged, this will generate more profit for the dealership.

So, what are my payment options?

Assuming you’re not an automotive criminal mastermind AND you’ve successfully resisted the charms of the shiny shoed salesman who was sweet talking you into finance, then congratulations and step this way… you now have three cash payment options:

Electronic transfer

In this day and age this is pretty much the go to method. The dealer provides you with their bank details, then you transfer them money. Once those all-important funds are safely in their account, you can collect your car and speed off into the sunset. Ba da bing, ba da boom.

If you’re a bit more old-school and stash your cash in great wads under the mattress, then get to the bank where the money can be checked to make for legitimacy and then make the transfer.

Card Payment

Dealers will usually take debit card payments on the day you collect your car, however there are those who may insist that this is done in advance, especially if you intend to pick up the car during the weekend. Some will also allow you to use a credit card for the transaction – however it’s worth noting that they will likely request that you pay the merchant fees.

Before you provide payment using these methods, it’s a good idea to check with your cardholder what the limit on your account is, and that this will be sufficient!

Cheque payment

Though fewer people will use this option nowadays, there are dealers who will still accept cheques.

Whether it’s a banker’s draft or a personal cheque, you will still need to wait for the bank to clear payment before you’ll be able to take your new four-wheeled friend home – and this can take up to ten business days…which sucks because no one likes to be kept waiting!

The dealer wants the cash and you want your car – so you may want to consider the above alternatives.

What if I’m buying a car privately?

You need to put some serious consideration into private buying. First of all, you need to ask yourself – ‘Am I comfortable turning up to a strangers house with a bag of cash?’ – remember, that kind of scenario doesn’t tend to play out too well in the movies.

If the car is a budget buy and a few hundred quid then we can understand you taking this approach, but if you’re looking to pay into the thousands then that’s a whole different story…

Our advice? If you’re going private you want to handle the transaction as professionally as possible. One of the safest ways to pay cash in a private sale is to go to the bank with the seller and withdraw the funds or draw a banker’s draft. OR if you’ve already got the cash, arrange to meet the seller at their bank and they can deposit your funds into their account.

Completing the transaction in a public place with CCTV monitoring will make both you and the seller feel secure. Once payment has cleared to the seller, all keys and paperwork can be safely handed over whilst you are still at the bank and you each go your separate ways. For that added sense of security, you may wish to bring a friend or family member with you.


The fact of the matter is, fewer car dealers will handle large volumes of cash anymore, so this is a buying option that’s becoming…well, less of an option. But as long as your cash is legit, there’s nothing stopping you from taking it to a bank and sending electronically to the dealership – 21st century style!

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4 thoughts on “Paying cash for a car. What are your options?”

  1. philmogz says:

    Don’t forget Hpi check in case there’s outstanding HP/finance on the car you’re buying.

    1. WWAC says:

      That’s right Phil, when buying a car you should always check if there is any outstanding finance. It could save you a lot of hassle..

  2. Michael Bell says:

    I had a bad experience buying a new car for cash from a dealer by electronic transfer. The dealer denied receiving the transfer, a substantial 5 figure sum, since he had miscalculated the amount due. A nasty moment. Lesson: always provide a reference, eg Car reg and/or Name and address if the dealer doesnt give you one.

    1. WWAC says:

      That’s a good point about providing a reference when transferring the money electronically. A great reminder, thanks!

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