Protecting Yourself When Buying a Used Car on Craigslist

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    There are all kinds of things for sale on Craigslist, including used cars. While this can be a place to get a good deal on a car, it can also be rife with scams. Here are some tips for protecting yourself when buying a used car on Craigslist. 

    Determine Your Comfort with Independent Sellers

    Unlike when you buy from a dealership or larger organization, many of the sellers on Craigslist are just individuals looking to cut out the middleman. This can be a great situation for both buyers and sellers assuming each respective party is, well, respectable. 

    While used car salespeople are notoriously pushy, they’re not the only ones who can give a bad vibe. Be cautious when buying a used car on Craigslist directly from another person, as it’s much harder to know if they’re a reliable seller. Honesty is typically a good sign. Avoiding questions or being dismissive of concerns is not. 

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    Research the Fair Price for the Vehicle

    Car dealers need to make money. That’s the game of running a business. On the other hand, an independent seller will likely part with their vehicle for less than they paid for it, unless it’s a classic or special kind of car. You’ll want to research the fair value of a vehicle before you even think about going to look at it. 

    Certain specifications, such as all-wheel drive or an automatic transmission, as well as milage, can play an outsized role in determining the fair value of a used car. You’ll want to do some digging on his front so you can get a pretty accurate picture of what a car is worth, even if you’re not willing to pay that much. Some car search websites will even allow you to input specs for certain makes and model years to get a fair value estimate. 

    Know How Much Room You Have to Negotiate

    There are a few things you need to know in order to effectively negotiate the price on a used car from Craigslist. First, it’s important to be realistic with how much you can spend on it. If you’re able to get financing on the vehicle, that can give you a lot more flexibility. This might not always be the case, however, if you’re buying from an individual seller on Craigslist. 

    Of course, you’ll also want to have an estimate of fair value before you even start the negotiation process. Furthermore, you can make a lower offer and keep shopping if it’s not accepted right away, and then come back to that original car if it still seems like the best deal.

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    Meet at a Neutral Location if Possible

    If you’re buying a used car on Craigslist from a stranger, you might want to consider if it makes sense for you to go to their house. This is especially true if you’re planning to look at the car alone. While the vast majority of people will be totally fine, you can never be too careful. 

    Consider meeting at a neutral, highly visible location near the seller’s house. This won’t be too inconvenient for them, and will be far safer for you. Additionally, having the seller drive the car somewhere will make it harder for them to mask any issues. 

    Check the Title

    The title of a used car is an important thing to look at before buying one. Having issues with the ownership rights to the vehicle can be a massive headache that is almost never worth the effort. If it seems like there’s something off, it’s probably best to just keep looking at other options. 

    Test-Drive the Vehicle and Consider Having It Inspected

    One of the biggest mistakes you can make when buying any used car is not giving it a thorough enough test drive. When you arrive to test-drive a used car from Craigslist, literally test everything you can. This should include all lights, audio equipment, and anything electronic in the car. You also need to do this as you’re driving the vehicle as well. 

    You should also ensure the car is insured before you test-drive it. Ask for the insurance and registration and check them against the owner’s ID before taking it for a spin. Also, don’t drive overly aggressively, but also test the brakes and accelerator a little bit. Any strange noises while you’re driving should raise some red flags. 

    It’s also smart to have the car inspected by a mechanic before you buy it. They’ll be able to identify things happening under the hood that would go totally unnoticed by the average person. 

    Craigslist can be a good place to buy a used car if you’re willing to put in some effort. Consider these ways to protect yourself when buying a used car on Craigslist.


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