How Do I Sell a Vehicle I Haven’t Finished Paying Off?

Hello, humans of the Internet, and welcome to Letters to Doug, your favorite weekly column wherein Doug writes letters, such as “J.” J is one of the most important letters, because without it, they’d just be Immy Eat World.

If you’re interested in writing your own letter to Doug, you can! Send me an e-mail at, and I will respond to your letter as soon as possible! Ha ha, I’m just kidding. I probably won’t respond, but it doesn’t hurt to try! Unless the thing you are trying is cocaine.

Anyway, this week’s letter comes from a reader who calls himself RaptorMan, though I’ve decided to name him Ivan. Ivan says:

Hi Doug,

I have been toying with the idea of selling my 2014 Ford Raptor. I still owe some money on the loan I financed it when it was brand new. In my mind I could sell it very easily with pink slip in hand. However, because I still owe on it how is the right way or is there a right way to sell a vehicle that you still owe the bank money on? Or is it better to pretend that I want to sell it but don’t ? Or do I just join a cult that performs ritualistic bondage on my junk? Or just stay and cry myself to sleep?

Your thoughts are appreciated


Well, Ivan, you’ve asked an excellent question, because ol’ Doug has experienced this very same thing on many occasions. Of course, ol’ Doug never experienced this exact same thing, because ol’ Doug doesn’t have a Raptor. This is because ol’ Doug doesn’t scream at youth sports referees and share his political opinions with stylists at Super Cuts.


Anyway, the question is: how do you sell a car if you haven’t paid it off yet? And the answer is: by finding a buyer who isn’t an idiot.

Believe it or not, I sold my Ferrari this way. I financed it through Pentagon Federal Credit Union—the single greatest credit union in world history, in the sense that they loaned a pantsless blogger enough money to buy a 10-year-old Ferrari, at only 0.99 percent interest—and when the time came to sell it, I hadn’t paid it off yet. So when the guy came to buy it, I didn’t have the title. And you know what he did?

Nothing. He didn’t care. He paid me anyway. Then I signed a comprehensive bill of sale, I paid off the car the very next day, I received the title the next week, and I sent it to him. This is how adults conduct business.

It was the very same situation when I sold my Hummer. A guy came to look at it who owned a CR-V, so I figured he was going to ask me about the Hummer’s fuel economy, or at least its crash safety ratings. But he didn’t. He bought the thing right there and then, we shook hands and made a deal, and he gave me a $1,000 deposit. Then we signed a bill of sale. The next day, I paid off the Hummer, I sent him the title, and he sent me the rest of the money. Case freakin’ closed.


I’ve also purchased cars this way. Four years ago, I bought a 2007 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG station wagon from a guy in Indiana who had finished paying off the car, but didn’t yet have the title. I gave him the money, he gave me the car, and I drove it home with his special license plate on the back, and a promise that he would send me the title when it came. I knew I could trust him because his special license plate advocated for a children’s hospital, and criminals would never purchase such a thing.

No, I’m kidding. I knew I could trust him because I relentlessly Googled the guy and discovered he was a respectable homeowner with a good business and he once appeared at a local town board meeting advocating against some traffic light. You don’t screw a guy on a Mercedes wagon deal if you’ve gone to a town board meeting to fight against a traffic light.


Now, I admit you will occasionally find buyers out there who are averse to this sort of thing and don’t want to purchase a vehicle that is financed. If you encounter a buyer like this, you have only one option: you must kill them and eat their eyeballs.

No, no, don’t do that. Do one of these two things. One, just pay off the truck before you list it, so you’ll have the title free and clear when it’s time to sell. If you can’t or don’t want to do that, just wait and find a reasonable, trustworthy buyer who understands that it may take some time to get the title because the truck is financed.


Of course, you can also do what most Raptor owners do, which is option C: trade in the truck on a new Super Duty, because the Raptor simply isn’t large enough to fit in with your heavily macho lifestyle that consists of a) raising two small kids and a dog named Buster, and b) commuting to your job in a suburban office park.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars, which his mother says is “fairly decent.” He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer.

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