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How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist

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If you’re planning to get rid of a used vehicle, you might be wondering how to sell your car on Craigslist safely, and for the best price.

Selling through Craigslist can save you cash: It’s free to post an ad, and you’ll likely get more money than you would with a trade-in or by selling to a dealership. But it also takes some effort to create a good ad and screen for serious, safe buyers. This guide walks you through the process of selling a car on Craigslist.

1. Estimate your car’s value.

Between inflation and depreciation, it can seem impossible to figure out what your car is worth. Instead of winging it, try these methods for determining the market value of your car:

As you do your research, be sure to document what you find since it could help you support your asking price during negotiations with buyers.

2. Gather the car paperwork.

In order to prove ownership and complete the sale of your car, you’ll need to have your car title available.

But gathering additional paperwork can help, too. Other documents will help you find valuable features that you can include in your Craigslist ad and validate your sale price to buyers. That includes your vehicle service records and the original sales paperwork — plus, you may even want to spring for a Vehicle History Report or VIN check.

3. Write a detailed, clear ad and take good pictures.

Your Craigslist ad is your opportunity to give buyers a preview of your car. A clear, thorough ad — one that includes lots of photos of the car’s interior and exterior from a variety of angles — allows a buyer to evaluate the vehicle’s appearance and decide if they’re interested.

In addition to posting good photos, you’ll want to give some attention to the description you write. In your ad, be sure to highlight your car’s most valuable features, especially those that a buyer might not notice. You can also answer common questions to help prevent redundant emails from buyers. Just make sure to be honest about the condition, so you end up with buyers who really want what you’re selling.

4. Meet potential buyers.

One of the biggest drawbacks to selling through Craigslist is dealing with strangers. But with a little caution, you can make sure your interactions are safe. Here are some pointers:

  • Trust your gut. Avoid meeting buyers who seem unusual in their communications, pushy or eager to close a deal online, as well as those who make offers that are too-good-to-be-true.
  • Exchange contact info. Get the buyer’s name and cell number, and reach out an hour in advance to confirm your meeting.
  • Stay visible. Always meet in a public location where people can see you.
  • Don’t go alone. Plan to bring a friend or family member along.
  • Discuss payment. Let buyers know upfront what form(s) of payment you’ll accept. Cash is recommended, as well as cashier’s checks in certain circumstances — but only if you can oversee the buyer while they obtain cash or a cashier’s check at their bank. Other forms of payment can bounce or may be forged.
  • Take a photo of the buyer’s ID. Tell potential buyers that you’ll need to take a photo of their drivers license before the test-drive. You don’t need to be in the car during the test drive and it’s probably safer not to — just make sure you have an extra copy of the key.

5. Determine a price – but be prepared to negotiate.

Negotiating your sale price can be intimidating, so it’s best to prepare beforehand. If you’ve done your research on the car’s value, you can be confident in your asking price. But you may want to list the vehicle for slightly more than you’re hoping to get.

If you aim too high, you might scare buyers away — but since buyers generally expect to negotiate a good deal, you should be prepared to come down by at least a couple hundred dollars. Just make sure you don’t agree to a reduced price before the buyer sees the car.

You should also decide what’s the lowest offer you’ll take. If the initial offers seem low, don’t panic and take the money. Instead, tell the buyer(s) you need a day or two to think it over and consider asking if there’s something you can fix to improve the offer.

6. Draft a bill of sale.

The process of completing a car sale and transferring ownership will vary from one state to the next. In general, you should be prepared to sign over the title (also known as a “pink slip”) and/or provide a bill of sale. This paperwork will serve as the buyer’s receipt and they’ll need it to transfer ownership through the DMV.

7. Notify your insurance and the DMV.

The transaction isn’t done after you receive the money. In fact, you’ll want to take immediate steps to avoid being liable for the new owner’s behavior and having to pay insurance for a car you no longer own.

In most states you’ll need to file a release of liability form with the DMV, and you may be required to submit additional paperwork. Once you’ve started the process, reach out to your insurer to cancel your policy for the vehicle.

Alternatives to selling a car on craigslist

If the risks of selling on Craigslist are too much for you, you could try selling online through a different platform, or find another way to sell in-person. Here are some common options to consider:

  • Dealerships. At a dealership you may be able to get a title-for-cash deal that could be completed in as little as a few hours, but your offer won’t be as high as when you sell privately. Plus, if a bank or dealership holds your title, or if you’re still paying off your car loan, you may have to pay the full balance before you can get a cash payment.
  • eBay. You can reach a wide audience of buyers on eBay, though the process is a lot more involved than Craigslist. You’ll need to register, create a seller’s account and provide a credit or debit card and your checking account information before you create a listing. You’ll also need to manage price changes, and you’ll be charged fees, both when you list the vehicle and after you close the deal.
  • Online car buyers. Car buying websites like KBB and Autotrader can make selling fast and easy, and both of these sites give you an “instant cash offer” for free. However, online buyer sites will generally give you a lower offer than private buyers, and they may charge various fees for things like creating a listing or posting more than a couple of photos.
 

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