a man buying a car on craigslist

5 Tips for Buying a Used Car on Craigslist

Buying a used car on Craigslist can go two ways: you could end up with an amazing deal or get stuck with a lemon. It is a risk that could pay off, so if it’s something you want to try, there are a few precautions you should take first. Even if you do take these precautions, there’s still no guarantee that you will be happy with your purchase, but here are five smart steps to take to exponentially increase your chances of buying a great used car on Craigslist. 

  1. Know what’s important and find it.
    Many sellers try to amp up their ads by distracting you with descriptions such as “heated seats” or “leather wrapped steering wheel,” failing to mention that the car needs a new transmission. Take advantage of the filters on Craigslist to sort by dealers, private sellers, warranty, certified pre-owned status, and more, so you won’t end up wasting time looking at cars that don’t have what you want. 
  2. Make sure there’s a clean title.
    If the cars comes with a missing or suspicious title, that should be your cue to walk away. Even if the seller comes up with a convincing story, don’t fall for it. It is incredibly time consuming and difficult to sort out a problematic title, so you want to avoid that if at all possible. In some cases, the seller’s bank may still hold the title, so be sure to have the seller call the bank and have the title delivered to you before you hand over the money. 
  3. Call before you meet.
    If you’re interested in a car but there are still a few things you would like to know, don’t be afraid to give the seller a call before you meet up in person. Ask for more details, photos, and whether there are any issues with the car. This call will also help you get a feel for the seller. Listen to your gut. If he or she seems sketchy or wishy-washy, it may not even be worth it to meet in person. 
  4. Meet in a public area.
    Safety is the most important concern when it comes to Craigslist transactions, so you need to make it your first priority. Never meet in an isolated area. Many people choose to meet in the parking lot of a police station, which may make you feel more comfortable if this is one of your first purchases on Craigslist. Remember, no car is more important than your well-being, so if a seller insists on you meeting at a remote location, don’t go through with it.
  5. Have the car inspected.
    A car may look great, but you never know what’s actually going on underneath the hood unless you’re a mechanic yourself. If you’re not, you can ask the seller to meet you at an auto body shop with the vehicle so you can have it inspected by a professional. This could save you a lot of money down the road if you find out the seller is lying or covering up anything. 
Last Updated: October 18, 2017