Selling Your Car on Craigslist: 7 Things to Know

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Estimated reading time: 9 min

If you’ve got a used car you want to sell there are several options. You could advertise and try to sell it yourself privately. Another option is to approach a dealer and trade it in. In this post, we will examine another way for you to sell your car.

Selling a car on Craigslist could save you cash. Posting an ad on Craigslist can be free and you might get more money compared to trading it in or selling it to a dealership. However, there are some things you should do if you want to sell a car on Craigslist. 

This guide will walk you through the process.

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What is Craigslist?

Craigslist is an online marketplace. People use it to sell everything from houses and furniture to plants and used cars.

The marketplace was founded in 1995 and was originally used for neighborhood advertisements and classified advertisements. 

There are local Craigslist sites for approximately 700 cities across 70 countries today. There is also a Craigslist mobile app for Android and Apple devices. 

Here are a few important things to remember:

  • Craigslist offers thousands of listings for used vehicles
  • Dealerships are allowed to list new cars on Craigslist, but mostly, the listings are for used cars from private sellers
  • Unlike many other car-buying apps, Craigslist doesn’t allow sellers to attach vehicle history reports to their listings
  • Craigslist has no dedicated research hub, vehicle reviews, or dealership reviews

The pros of using Craigslist to sell your car

  • Craigslist has a massive inventory of privately owned used cars
  • Listings are local

The downside of using Craigslist to sell your car

  • You may have issues trying to sift out unrelated products such as collectible car stickers, car maintenance kits, and toy cars
  • Minimal information is provided about individual vehicle sellers
  • Not all locations have a dedicated Craigslist website
  • You’re going to have to deal with strangers

How to sell a car on Craigslist - a step-by-step guide

Using Craigslist to sell a car isn’t complicated, as long as you follow these steps. 

1. Estimate the value of your car

Figuring out how much a car is worth can seem impossible. However, rather than winging it, try one of the following methods for determining the market value of your used car:

Keep a note of any information you find as this could help support your asking price when it comes to negotiating with potential buyers. 

2. Gather together all the paperwork for your car

You will likely be asked to prove ownership when you complete the sale of your car, so make sure you’ve got it handy. Look for other paperwork that might help validate your sale price. For example, vehicle service records, original sales paperwork, Vehicle History Report, or a VIN check will all prove useful. 

3. Write a detailed ad and take pictures

With your Craigslist ad, you’ve got a great opportunity to preview your car for potential buyers. Draft a clear, thorough ad that includes lots of photos of the exterior and interior of your car from a selection of angles. 

Lots of photos are always good, but you also need to spend time writing the description of your car. Remember to highlight your car’s most valuable features, particularly those a buyer might not notice in the photos. 

Think about questions a potential buyer might ask and try to answer them as this will reduce the number of tire kickers who contact you. 

Be honest about the condition of your car so you only get buyers who want what you’re selling. 

4. Meet potential buyers

Dealing with strangers can be a big drawback of selling a car via Craigslist, however, you can make sure your interactions are safe by being extra cautious. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid too-good-to-be-true offers and potential buyers that just don’t feel right. 
  • Make sure you exchange contact information and reach out an hour in advance to check they’re coming
  • Meet in public locations
  • Take a friend or family member along
  • Let buyers know what forms of payment you’re willing to accept. Cash or a cashier’s check is recommended. 
  • Take a photo of a potential buyer's ID before the test drive. 

5. Decide on a price

Getting into negotiations can be intimidating but if you’ve done your research in advance, you’ll be more confident in your asking price. 

It’s a good idea to list your vehicle for a slightly higher price than you’re hoping to get as this gives you more room to maneuver. Buyers tend to want to negotiate a good deal, so be prepared to drop your price by at least a couple hundred dollars. 

Before the buyer arrives, decide what’s the lowest offer you’ll take. If the initial offers seem low, tell the buyer you need a couple of days to think it over. 

6. Draft a bill of sale

The actual completion of the sale and transferring ownership differs from one state to another. In general, be prepared to sign over the title (pink slip) and provide a bill of sale. This paperwork will be the buyer's receipt and they’ll need to transfer ownership via the DMV. 

7. Notify the DMV and your insurance company

Once you’ve received payment, a couple of things are left to do. Try to do the following as soon as possible because then you’ll avoid being liable for the new owner’s behavior or paying insurance for a car you no longer own.

  • File a release of liability form with the DMV. You may be asked to submit additional paperwork.
  • Reach out to your insurer and cancel your policy for the vehicle you’ve just sold. 

What to do if the buyer of your car is out of state

More and more people are shopping for cars online and many of them do their shopping out of state. If you’re contacted by a buyer who’s across state lines or even across the country, don’t stress. 

Some solutions can help you complete the sale. Professional car shipping companies, like SGT Auto Transport, specialize in moving privately owned vehicles and have the skills and equipment to move everything from cars and motorcycles to trucks, SUVs, and ATVs. 

You don’t have to let distance get in the way of making a sale. Find out how much it costs by requesting a free online quote

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How do I accept payment on Craigslist for a car?

Physical cash is the best and simplest option. A cashier’s check or money order are two alternatives but don’t hand over the keys to your car or the title until the money order or check clears in full. This can take several days, depending on your bank. 

Whatever method you choose to accept, make sure you include this information in your Craigslist listing. 

What to be careful of when selling a car on Craigslist

If you want to stay safe when selling a car on Craigslist, the following precautions will help you be prepared. 

  • Always use a proxy email address or phone number
  • Plan details in advance
  • Always meet in public and bring a friend
  • Stay safe should you arrange to meet a buyer at your house
  • Use a secure form of payment
  • Trust your instincts when vetting buyers

What alternatives are there for selling a car?

If you’ve got a car you want to sell, Craigslist isn’t your only option. Here are some more that might suit you better:

Facebook Marketplace

Craigslist buyers are anonymous, which can put some people off and have doubts about any dealings. However, with Facebook Marketplace, people have profiles and pictures, which can give you more confidence in selling your car. 

Dealerships

The offer you receive from a dealer won’t be anything like the one you’d get if you sold your car privately, but you could negotiate a title-for-cash agreement and finalize the deal in a few hours. 

eBay

Selling a car on eBay is a little more complex than using Craigslist, but you do get access to a larger pool of potential buyers. 

Before you can create a listing, you must sign up, create a seller’s account, and supply payment information such as a debit or credit card number, PayPal, or bank account details. 

Cars.com

Cars.com is an online website that focuses solely on automobiles and could be the ideal place to sell your used car. 

Online car buyers

Many online car-buying websites such as Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book can give you an instant cash offer for your car. This makes the selling process so much easier, but the offer you get will be significantly lower than an offer from a private buyer. 

If you need to get your used car shipping to the new owner, our shipping advisors are on hand to run you through the process and answer any questions you might have. You can reach them at {{phone-number]] or via [[live-chat]]. 

FAQs

I want to sell my car on Craigslist, how much will it cost?

Craigslist charges only $5 for by-owner car ads. Your listing lasts 30 days and at the end of that timeframe, if you want to renew your listing for another 30 days you must pay another $5.  

What should I avoid on Craigslist?

You should avoid adding any personal information in your Craigslist posting, including your name, real phone number, or real email address. 

How can I protect myself from getting scammed selling my car on Craigslist?

You can stay one step ahead of scammers and keep your money safe by following these tips:

  • Be familiar with Craigslist and the services it offers
  • Deal locally
  • Never share personal information with a buyer
  • Be wary of fake escrow service sites
  • Create a disposable number for conducting business

Is Craigslist still good for cars?

If you’re planning to sell your car locally or privately, Craigslist is still a good platform to use.

How long does it take to sell a car on Craigslist?

The time it takes to sell your car will vary depending on several factors. Your location, the condition of your car, the price you’re selling it for, and more, all contribute to how quickly you’ll find a buyer. 

It might take a week or less, however, on average, expect it to take up to 60 days to sell your car on Craigslist. 

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