After agreeing to a price, I asked the seller how he wanted to handle the transaction. He requested that I send him a down payment as a starter. I was already uncomfortable with the transaction so I proposed that we use an escrow service (I chose escrow.com, no affiliation). I would transfer the entire purchase amount into an escrow account and it would be released on delivery of the car. He countered with having the release on delivery of the physical title. I agreed saying that the car had to be on the carrier with verification from the transportation company picking up the car (including checking the warranty number and reporting on the general condition) and I had to have the title in hand. I filled out the escrow forms that evening and wired the money to escrow.com. The seller then had to fill out forms on escrow.com as well. The escrow process isn’t a piece of cake, but it’s not too bad.
Whatever you do here, there are holes that can give concern to either party. Unless you’re picking up the car and paying cash, there are at least a few leaps of faith that you will probably take in the process. I didn’t have the car yet – it was on a transporter at the time – but neither did he. Some nail biting ensued, but I think the seller was even more nervous than me. You can also have the transport company get involved in the title transfer. Next time, I think I’ll do it that way. At least a bonded, insured and reputable party will have both the title and car at the same time. And, since the buyer is paying for the transport service, they should be in control of the transaction.
Never having done this before, I just hacked at the process. Getting the car across the country was the next step. I checked in with several of the auto transport companies. Most of them have online estimators. I wanted an enclosed trailer which jacks the price up a bit, but was totally worth it in my mind. It’s an old convertible, after all.
After looking at several, I chose Intercity Lines (no affiliation). My main reasons were that they had a carrier in Southern California a few days later. Secondarily, they are based in New England, the car’s final destination, so I assumed there would be some speed advantage it getting the car to me. As they stated, their truck was there to pick up the Lincoln a few days later. Coordinating with the seller was a bit difficult, but it was clear Intercity had done this sort of thing before. There was some nervousness and tension on the part of both me and the seller during the handoff, but it went just fine.
The seller chose to mail me the title and we had some tension around what had been committed about transfer of title and release of escrow. I thought I was very explicit about everything, but next time I will do a better job at documenting everything. Again, I’ll probably use the transportation company as the pivot for transfer of car, title and escrow.
The car took forever to get to me. The driver, Marco Polo, apparently had to circumnavigate the planet to find his way back to New England. So much for making assumptions about a home base bias. Actually, while the delivery was later than originally scheduled, the driver and Intercity were pretty good about communication during the process.
In the end, the car arrived, the title arrived, the seller got his money. But the honeymoon was over.