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How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist

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My wife and I are selling one of our cars so we can buy a family car. We decided against trading in our car because we think we can get a better price for our car and don’t think we will have much trouble selling it because it is a popular model (Honda Accord) and has low mileage (50k).

Once we decided we needed to sell our car we looked at our options. Basically you can place it on Craigslist (free), newspaper classifieds (nominal fee), park it in a public area (free), or put it on Ebay (most expensive option). We decided to give Craigslist a shot because we know several people who have had luck going that route and it is a free option. We aren’t in a hurry to sell the car, so we want to take our time and make sure we can get fair value for it.

How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist

Craigslist is an online classifieds site where it is free and easy way to post items for sale, items you want to purchase, help wanted, etc. It’s a great place to buy, sell, trade, etc. Here are sine tips to help you sell your car (or anything else) on Craigslist.

List a sale price, but be willing to negotiate

Determine Pricing. Don’t just pick a price out of the air. Go get comps from an online source such as Kelley Blue Book or NADA. KBB lists average prices for different vehicle makes and models, as well as prices for trade-ins, private sales, and suggested retail value (dealership prices). NADA gives price ranges for trade-ins. You don’t have to use these prices as the Gospel, but rather as a starting point. Remember when pricing your car to take other factors into consideration such as condition, mileage, vehicle popularity, how much you owe, etc.

Be willing to negotiate. Once you have a prospective buyer, you will probably need to negotiate the price. Be willing to bend on your price a little if necessary. If you are not willing to drop your price, be sure to state that in your ad copy and be firm but polite when negotiating. (but a better idea would be to just price it slightly higher than your desired price and be willing to come down a little; buyers expect some price flexibility in all but the most popular vehicles. As with all negotiations, be polite and respectful, but also be willing to walk away from the deal if it isn’t to your liking. There should never be any pressure to make a sale or to buy.

Create an add that “sells!”

Create solid ad copy. Be descriptive. You night be surprised how many people don’t write a good description of their vehicle – often leaving out key information such as make, model, year, color, trim level, or even the price! Take your time to write down all the details and write a description that will “sell” your car. Be sure to notate any problems your vehicle may have – any prospective buyer will find out anyway, so it’s best to respect a prospective buyer and be honest up front. One last tip, DO NOT WRITE IN ALL CAPS. IT’S HARD TO READ AND EQUATES TO SHOUTING!

Include photos. You will receive more responses to your ad if you include photos. Craigslist limits you to 4 photos, and the quality isn’t the greatest because they are scaled down for size/quality. If the photos that show up on your ad don’t do your car justice then let buyers know you have more photos available upon request, or host them on a photo sharing site like Flickr and include a link in your ad. Prospective buyers can click the link and see multiple hi res photos of your car.

Make yourself and the car available

Make yourself available. You don’t want to list your car for sale right before the weekend, then head out of town. Be sure to make yourself available so potential buyers can take a look at your car or take it for a test drive. The same thing goes for e-mail or phone – be sure to check your e-mail and have your phone turned on.

Make the car available. Another way to get people to see your car is to park it in a public location and leave that information in your ad. Some people park their car in their driveway or outside their home. If you are uncomfortable giving your address out to strangers, consider parking your car at another location. Just be sure to get permission before parking it in a place that doesn’t belong to you.

Note about privacy on Craigslist: Craigslist will not display your e-mail if you do not wish them to do so, so you can receive e-mails through their autoforwarding tool; this is a great security feature. Likewise, many people prefer not to leave their phone number for privacy reasons. Go with your gut on this one and do what you are comfortable doing.

No scams!

Don’t fall for scams. There are thousands of scams out there, and Craigslist seems to attract a lot of them (not through the fault of Cragslist, mind you; just the nature of their service). Craigslist has a great section on avoiding scams. The short of it is this: Only sell locally, or to someone you know if they are not local. Avoid wiring money via services like Western Union or MoneyGram, do not accept cashier’s checks or money orders, avoid third party escrow services, and NEVER give out your financial information. More information on Cashiers Check Scams. Finally, if the deal smells bad, just walk away. In most cases, you will have no recourse if you are taken in on a scam and it’s better to lose out on a potential sale than lose everything.

Do you have tips for selling your car on Craigslist or other online services?


Published or updated March 30, 2011.
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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 basicmoneytips

I have sold a lot of items on Craigslist but never a car or truck. However, I did try and sell my truck once and did not have much luck. I did get a few people by to test drive.

Even though I was not successful, I still prefer Craigslist to Ebay, mostly because of the fees. I would suggest that route first.

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2 Ryan

That’s the route I am going for now. So far I’ve had quite a few positive leads, and I’ve only had it listed for 2 days. Hopefully we will sell it soon. :)

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3 Money Reasons

Nice article. I need to do that to my car in a year or 2.

Say, just curious, I haven’t really sold anything with Craigslist yet (yes I’m one of the few…). Do you think I should try to sell something small before I try to sell my car on it? Or is it simple enough that it doesn’t really matter…

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4 Ryan

Don, this is the first item I’ve sold on Craiglist, though I’ve sold things on Ebay before. It’s easy to set up an account and only takes a few minutes (it’s 100% anonymous, so you don’t have to worry about entering personal information).

My only caution is to be on the lookout for scams because there are many of them out there!

Overall though, you should be fine if you are cautious.

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5 DDFD

Great post! I would add that you might want to meet the prospective buyer in a busy public place and not at your home. Safety first!

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6 FinEngr

Including photos is key – if I see the ad doesn’t included any, I won’t even click the link (no matter the price!)

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