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…

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).

How to sell your car on craigslist.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. 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.

My Experience with Selling a Car on Craigslist

We actually took the plunge and sold our car on Cragslist. We posted the car late on a Saturday night and received multiple e-mails and phone calls over the next couple days. The eventual buyer drove it on Monday evening and called the next day to say he would buy it. Overall we negotiated a fair deal – only a couple hundred less than our asking price.

The key to this deal was the willingness of both parties to reach a fair deal. We met halfway for the test drive (20 minute for both of us) and my wife and I drove about 40 minutes to his bank so we could sign over the title to them and get a check made out to us.

We may have been able to avoid the bank, but I feel more comfortable receiving the check directly from the bank instead of receiving a cashier’s check from someone I don’t know. (Cashier’s checks are extremely difficult to check against fraud, and you often won’t know until it bounces back, which could take up to 2 weeks… after which tie your car is gone and you are left without a car or the money).

Overall the buyer was great to deal with and the process went smoothly.

Do you have tips or any experience with selling your car on Craigslist or other online services?

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. Robert says

    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.

    • Ryan says

      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. 🙂

  2. Money Reasons says

    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…

    • Ryan says

      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.

  3. DDFD says

    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!

  4. Ace says

    Congratulations! It always makes me nervous to think about making large transactions through Craigslist. It seems like everything worked out fine for you. Did you select the buy purely based on the offer price? Or were there some other metrics that you used to help narrow the field.

    • Ryan says

      The buyer was one of the first people to arrange a test drive at a mutually agreeable time/location and everything fell into place after that.

  5. FinEngr says

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

  6. Katie says

    Congrats! My sister and brother-in-law actually bought their minivan from Craigslist and found out that it was a man that was from their company. They were very sketchy about the whole thing but it turned out to be such an amazing mini and they love it and have no complaints.
    -Just make sure whoever decides to sell on Craigslist and meet their potential buyer that you go with someone else or at least tell someone where you are going…you never know who is out there 🙂 Just a friendly FYI!

  7. Grx says

    Don’t know how much use NADA actually is with private party sales. Probably not much. In fact, every other guide even disagrees with NADA on trade-in value! A friend told me NADA is used to basically inflate values for bank loans and the dealers use it for same reason. I wouldn’t try to use that guide to price a vehicle unless you never want to sell the vehicle. You’re not a dealer.

    I sold a car on CL in 12 days. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be to sell this vehicle.

    After which, I found out why.

    Most sellers on Craigslist are out of their minds. Anytime you see one of them flagging NADA, you know they’re crazy. They don’t honestly present condition (I did) nor do they present a realistic price (I did).

    Compared to 90% of the sellers on CL, the people who came and saw my vehicle must have thought I was a dream come true. I sold it to the second party who contacted me! The majority of cars for sale on CL are still for sale month after month. And the sellers think their asking price is correct? How is that even possible?

    I’ve studied CL auto sales for a long time now. What I’ve determined is that if a vehicle has not sold within 14 days, it probably never will.

    This article is dead on correct. If you want to sell the car look at KBB and then look at Edmunds. Kelly is usually much higher. Be realistic about the condition and then average the two. Favor toward Kelly median price.

    For all the complaints about lowballers on CL, the real problem is The Sellers. If you are realistic about everything you will not have time to get lowballed. Your vehicle will sell. Go the other way and be prepared to sit on the vehicle for months, deal with idiots, pay for ads and in the end lower your price to where it should have been to begin with.

    Hope this helps.

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