Published On: January 12th, 2024

The timeless design, craftsmanship and cultural significance of classic cars make them a tangible connection to automotive history. Some cars showcase the emerging technological innovations of the time, others reflect the pinnacle of the evolution of design over the years – and they can be pretty fun to drive! While the value of a classic car will depend on many factors, rarity, condition, popularity or significance, performance/engineering and even the documentation, the need for ensuring a smooth sale or purchase will always be critical. Private sales of classic cars will often take advantage of using an escrow agent to facilitate the transaction and insulate all parties from risk.

Complexity Of Automotive Purchases

Even when buying a commonly used car, you probably want to take the car to a mechanic or have it inspected in some way, and for classic cars that can cost much more, doing due diligence is that much more critical. Many times this means a multi-step transaction is needed for selling cars to collectors where both the buyer and the seller must fulfill multiple obligations over some time. These transactions can include steps for things such as:

  • Vehicle inspection
  • Paying earnest or deposit money
  • Right of refusal
  • Transportation and/or delivery of car
  • Multiple payments over a period of time
  • Delivery of vehicle title
  • Any special contingencies

Broadly speaking, this type of purchase process requires what’s known as a “holding and disbursement escrow” wherein the escrow agent is the holder of the funds and documentation for the sale and verifies the deal conditions are met before disbursing the assets in the transaction.

Third-Party Mediation

With more steps in a purchase comes a larger chance of something going wrong during the buying process. Should an issue arise, automotive escrow agents will work with both parties to resolve it and either continue with the purchase or return the funds to the buyer and cancel the car sale. Things like contract language or misunderstandings that would result in an unsatisfactory outcome or involving attorneys can instead be addressed by the escrow agent. This saves the time, cost and risk of a bad sale for the buyer and the seller. Escrow agents are neutral to both parties and only have an interest in ensuring the sale is done in a manner everyone is pleased with. 

Financial Protection & Fraud Prevention

The risk of financial loss and fraud is much more important to consider for large transactions. With classic car values continuing to grow, more and more vehicle buyers and sellers prefer escrow services to protect themselves. Automotive escrow services give security for both parties, acting as intermediaries and holding funds securely until both parties fulfill their obligations. This prevents fraudulent transactions where either the buyer doesn’t pay or the seller doesn’t transfer ownership.

However, to protect themselves, Buyers and Sellers need to conduct due diligence as follows::

  1. Verification of Funds: Seller verifies the buyer’s ability to pay (through an agreed-upon means) before the sale can proceed.
  2. Verification of Vehicle Title/Ownership: The Buyer can verify the legitimacy of the vehicle’s title and ownership documents, protecting the buyer from potential issues.

The exact terms of both of these verifications can be different but regardless of the exact details, both the buyer and seller will have access to the corresponding documentation that proves legitimacy. These documents are kept on file until the completion of the purchase.

How Automotive Escrow Sales Work

The specific details may vary depending on the buyer and seller, but generally, the automotive escrow process is a 4 step process:

  1. Initial Agreement Reached: Both parties agree to terms of the sale,  including the car’s price and any conditions that must be met by both the buyer and seller.
  2. Deposit Into Escrow: The buyer deposits an agreed-upon amount into the escrow account, this can be the whole amount or a portion of the amount. The seller does not have access to these funds.
  3. Conditions Of Sale Met: Stipulations set by either party are met and independently confirmed by the escrow agent involved. 
  4. Car Sale Completed: The funds for the vehicle have been released to the seller and the ownership of the vehicle is transferred to the buyer.

Overall, using an escrow service adds a layer of security and trust to high-value transactions, ensuring a smoother process for both the buyer and seller involved in the purchase of an expensive vehicle like a classic car.

For more information on the sale of your vehicle, contact Arizona Escrow today at (602) 956-2629