How To

How to Buy a Car on Craigslist When Dealerships Charge Too Much

As inflation rises and supply chain issues persist, the cost of a new car becomes more and more out of reach. The second-hand vehicle market has boomed as a result. Dealerships are cashing in as much as they can, buying used vehicles cheap and flipping them for profits greater than those of a new vehicle. Craigslist has long been one of the most popular online sites for buying and selling used cars; it may now be your best friend.

You can find a variety of vehicles at different prices and conditions, from classic cars to cheap beaters. However, buying a car on Craigslist also comes with some risks and challenges. You need to be careful about scams, fraud, and hidden problems that could cost you money and headaches later on. So how does someone buy a car on Craigslist safely and successfully without being a car expert?

Define your search.

Before you start browsing through the listings, you need to have a clear idea of what kind of car you are looking for and how much you can afford. You can use the filters on Craigslist to narrow down your search by make, model, year, price, location, colour, and more. You can also use sites like Kelley Blue Book or NADA Guides to check the fair market value of the car you want. This will help you avoid overpaying or falling for too-good-to-be-true deals. Shop around your local neighbourhood or use a search engine to perform a Craigslist search by state and look beyond your city.

Size up the listing

Once you find a car that catches your eye, you need to examine the listing carefully. Look at the photos and see if they match the description and show the car from different angles. Avoid listings that have blurry, dark, or stock photos. Read the text and see if it provides enough information about the car’s condition, history, features, and flaws. Avoid listings that have vague, exaggerated, or poor language. Check the seller’s contact information to see if it is valid and consistent.

Contact the seller

If you are interested in a car, you need to contact the seller and ask for more details. You can call or text them using the phone number provided, or send them an email through Craigslist. You should ask for a photo of the car’s title and a vehicle history report from sources like Carfax or AutoCheck. The title will show if the car has any liens, salvage history, or odometer issues. The vehicle history report will show how many owners the car has had, its maintenance record, and any accidents or damages. If both documents look clean and clear, you can proceed to arrange a meeting with the seller.

Meet to inspect the car.

You should always meet the seller in person and inspect the car before you buy it. You should choose a public place with safety cameras, such as the parking lot of a large store or a gas station. You should also bring someone with you for safety and support. You should walk around the car and check for any signs of rust, dents, scratches, leaks, or mismatched parts. You should check the oil level and colour, the tyre tread and pressure, and the lights and signals. You should also test drive the car and see how it performs on different roads and speeds. You should pay attention to any noises, smells, vibrations, or delays in the engine, transmission, brakes, steering, or suspension. If you have any doubts or concerns about the car’s condition, you should get a pre-purchase inspection from an independent mechanic.


If you are satisfied with the car’s condition and want to buy it, you need to negotiate with the seller on the price. You should do some research beforehand and know how much similar cars are selling for on Craigslist or other sites. You should also consider any repairs or improvements that the car might need in the future. You should make a reasonable offer based on these factors and be prepared to walk away if the seller does not agree. You should also avoid any pressure tactics or emotional appeals from the seller.

Exchange money and a title.

Once you agree on a price with the seller, you need to exchange money and the title. You should always pay in cash or use a cashier’s check from a reputable bank. You should never wire money or use any online payment services that are not secure or traceable. You should also get a bill of sale that states the date, price, vehicle identification number (VIN), mileage, and names and signatures of both parties. You should also get the original title from the seller and make sure it is signed over to you properly.

What are the drawbacks compared to a dealership?

However, you should be aware of some of the disadvantages and risks of purchasing a car on Craigslist before you give in to temptation from a low price on a used car. Here are some of the cons that you should consider:

You don’t know who you’re dealing with.

One of the biggest problems with buying a car on Craigslist is that you don’t know anything about the seller. They could be honest and trustworthy, or they could be lying and scamming you. Some of the common scams that you might encounter on Craigslist are:

Fake ads: Some sellers post fake ads with stolen photos and descriptions of cars that don’t exist. They lure you in with a low price and then ask you to send money through wire transfer or gift cards before you see the car. Once they get your money, they disappear, and you never hear from them again.
Title jumpers: Some sellers buy cars with salvage titles or liens and then sell them without transferring the title to their name. This way, they avoid paying taxes and fees, and they pass on the problems to you. If you buy a car with a salvage title or a lien, you might have trouble registering or insuring it, and you might end up paying more than what the car is worth.
Bots: Some sellers are not even real people but automated programmes that send automated messages to potential buyers. They might ask you to click on a link or provide personal information that could compromise your identity or security.

To avoid these scams, you should always do your research before contacting a seller. Check the vehicle history report using the VIN number, ask for proof of ownership and maintenance records, and inspect the car in person before agreeing to buy it.

You Don’t Have Any Protection or Warranty

Another downside of buying a car on Craigslist is that you don’t have any protection or warranty if something goes wrong with the car. Most cars sold on Craigslist are sold “as is”, which means that the seller is not responsible for any defects or damages that the car might have. You are taking a gamble when you buy a car on Craigslist because you don’t know how well the car has been maintained or what problems it might have.

If you buy a car from a dealership, on the other hand, you have more options and guarantees. Certified pre-owned vehicles have been inspected and fixed up by the manufacturer. They also come with longer warranties and roadside assistance. You can also get financing options and trade-in offers that can make your purchase easier and more affordable.

You Don’t Have Any Support or Service

The last con of buying a car on Craigslist is that you don’t have any support or service after you buy the car. If you have any questions or issues with the car, you can’t rely on the seller to help you out. You are on your own when it comes to finding a mechanic, getting repairs, or dealing with recalls.

When you buy a car from a dealership, however, you have access to customer service and professional staff that can assist you with any concerns or needs. You can also benefit from regular maintenance and service specials that can keep your car in good shape and save you money.

You saved money; now enjoy your new car.

A new car may be out of reach for many, but a great deal can still be found if you search all Craigslist for a quality used car. There are benefits to buying from a dealership, but understand that those benefits come at a price. Be smart in your search and avoid scams; however, most people on Craigslist are legitimate sellers. A “new-to-you car” can cost thousands less when you buy direct from the current owner.

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