Remember the classifieds section of your local newspaper? Online
marketplace Craigslist replaced the classifieds a long time ago,
making it easy and virtually free to buy used furniture, find a
nanny, get rid of that old grill that’s been lurking in
the yard, or sell your car. The only thing the site charges
listing fees for are job postings in the biggest cities, and
apartment listings in New York City.
Craigslist was started in 1995 by San Francisco native Craig
Newmark as a simple email newsletter. In 1999, Newmark expanded the
business, opening up Craigslist as an online portal available
to all. Today, Craigslist has local websites in more than 700
cities in 70 countries. Craigslist users post more than 80
million classified ads in the U.S. each month, and more than 60
million people check those ads.
The vast majority of people who buy and sell through
Craigslist are not looking to scam anyone. However, there are
a few high-profile cases of people who have used Craigslist to
commit crimes. Anyone looking to buy a car on Craigslist needs a
plan. Follow these tips to make sure you make a safe, legal, and
Before you leave the house
- Narrow your search. If you want a 2010 Buick
Regal with fewer than 75,000 miles, plug in those specifications on
Craigslist and it will show you cars that meet your search
criteria. If the search comes up empty, tweak your search
- Know the car’s Blue Book value. If a seller is
asking more than the Kelley Blue Book value, it may be tough to
negotiate the price down to the market value. If the seller is
asking less than the Blue Book value, it may be because of
mechanical issues he hopes you will overlook.
- Look at how the ad is written. You can
sometimes get clues about the seller’s personality from the ad. “No
low ballers! Don’t waste my time trying to drop the price!” has an
- Call first. Ask the seller as many questions
as possible over the phone. Does the seller sound sincere, or like
someone who’s just thinking about selling his car? Does
the seller sound like he’s trying to hide something? If anything
about the conversation gives you pause, listen to your gut and move
- Ask the seller for the VIN (vehicle
identification number) and order a ReserveVINCheck or Carfax
Vehicle History Report. It’s possible the seller is telling you
everything he knows about the vehicle, but he might be the second
or third owner and doesn’t have the full story.
When you go look at the car
- Meet the seller in a well-lit location with
lots of foot traffic.
- Take a friend or two to be your eyes and ears
while you check out the vehicle. Preferably, take someone who knows
- Take your phone and make sure it’s easy to get
- Do not flash cash or wear jewelry. If a seller
thinks you have money, it will be harder to negotiate the
- Take the car for a test drive. No matter how
good the vehicle looks on the outside, take it for a spin on
stop-and-go roads and the highway.
- Make sure the title is in the seller’s name.
Examine it thoroughly.
- Get an inspection. Do not agree to buy a car
until a certified mechanic has checked it from bumper to
Use Bankrate’s calculator to
estimate the monthly payments on your next new car.