How to Buy and Sell Your Car on Craigslist

Gone are the days of dealership hopping. Sites like Craigslist can be a potential goldmine for auto buyers. Sellers can list their cars on the website, too, generating far more interest than newspaper ads.

Here are some tips for buying and selling a car online.

Buying a Car

Search smart: Craigslist allows you to search vehicles listed by dealers, private sellers or both. Dealers are more apt to list cars and trucks that have warranties or certified pre-owned status. Owners post lots of “like new” listings as well as rust buckets that don’t run. Narrow your search by price, condition or odometer readings to weed out the wrong vehicles.

Schedule a meeting: You’ll want to test drive the vehicle before agreeing to a sale. Meet in a public place (the parking lot of a big box store or auto parts retailer is a good option). Take a good look at the car or truck and ask about the vehicle history and request any maintenance records.

Inspect the vehicle: Before handing over a check, get an inspection at a reputable auto shop. Ask about paperwork, too. You can run a vehicle history report through a company like CarFax, and the seller should provide the title.

Settle on a price: Expect to haggle over the price of the car. Look up the estimated value on Kelly Blue Book to make sure you’re not paying too much — and remember that if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Finalize the sale: Meet at your bank and trade a certified check (or cash, if the seller insists) and have the transaction witnessed by a notary public. A paper trail is great protection if the deal proves problematic.

Selling a Car

Write a great description: Your listing should include details like the make, model and mileage as well as any recent work (new brakes, new tires) that would make the vehicle more appealing. Be honest about the not-so-great features, too. If the air conditioning is broken, it’s better for the seller to read about it in the listing, not during an August test drive.

Take lots of photos: The more photos you include, the better. Prospective buyers will want to see everything from the odometer reading and condition of the interior to snapshots of the engine and undercarriage. Include photos of any issues such as dents or rust, too. You may want to have the car detailed — or at least run it through a car wash — before taking photos.

Pick a price: Use Kelly Blue Book values to determine what you car is worth and look at similar listings on Craigslist to see the listing prices of similar cars.

Sell your car: To facilitate a smooth transaction, draft a bill of sale; request cash or a certified check; sign over the title (don’t forget to make copies of the signed title, bill of sale and check for your files) and have a notary public at the bank witness the transaction before handing over the keys.

Just bought or sold your car? Be sure to talk to your Farm Bureau agent about updating your auto insurance policy.