So, what’s the best way to pay for a Porsche?

I sold a car for cash the other day – real pound notes (or, rather, £50 notes). It’s something that everyone (me included) tells you not to do, but the buyer seemed genuine (I know, I know) and was keen to pay this way.

So, why is cash not a good idea? Well, for starters, it can be forged and the bank won’t be sympathetic if you try to pay in photocopied fifties. Yes, there are checks you can make, including using a UV light and making sure that the watermark and metal strip are present – but if you have £27,000-worth of notes, as I had, that’s going to take a while.

And that leads me to another problem with cash – counting it all. However honest the buyer seems, you’d be mad not to make sure that it’s all there – he could have made a genuine mistake himself – and that takes time.

Then you have to get the money to the bank which, in most cases, means walking to a city centre. I had to, and felt understandably nervous, although I’d have been very unlucky if, the one time in my life I’d got mugged, was the day I was carrying the value of a 911 in my shoulder bag!

And paying money into the bank isn’t always straightforward. Odd, when that’s what banks are all about, but the ground floor of my local HSBC has been taken over by automatic paying in machines which would have taken me all day to feed the notes into, so I had to go two floors to find a real person to interact with. Then, I was surprised to find that she counted all the notes by hand, despite having weighing equipment to hand.

Speaking of HSBC, I got my fingers burnt the last time I paid in a large amount of cash because the bank tried to charge me £400 in fees for doing so – arguing that my ‘Internet account’ wasn’t designed for people who paid cash in. Er, this is a bank… I had a real fight sorting that out, so this time I paid the money into another account and did an internal transfer (which cost me nothing but surely was more work for the bank). I’d urge you to check the small print on your account as many banks are charging over the odds for handling cash now.

So, what’s the best way to accept payment for a car? Good question, as there’s no completely foolproof way. I like banker’s drafts – basically a cheque drawn by the bank not the individual. These, though, can be forged, so I ask the buyer to give me their bank details so I can ring the branch and confirm that the draft has been issued. I will then ask the buyer to accompany me to my bank when I pay the money in.

The other option is a bank transfer, which is great for me as a seller, as I will wait until the money has cleared into my account before releasing the car. Not so good for the buyer, though, because there’s always the risk the seller will slope off with the money, or the car could get damaged before it’s passed on.

There does, therefore, have to be an element of trust between buyer and seller. Whichever side you’re on, though, if you have any doubts, walk away.

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