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How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

How To Sell a Car on Craigslist

Updated on:
Content was accurate at the time of publication.

Ready to sell your old ride? You could take it to a dealer, but you’ll probably get more money if you sell it privately. That’s why you should learn how to sell a car on Craigslist.

For just $5, you can put up an ad that can attract hundreds (or thousands) of views. In the meantime, we’ll give you some tips on how to make the most money — and stay safe — in the process.

Before you can create an ad, you need to determine your car’s value. You don’t have to be an expert to get an accurate estimate — all the resources you need are online.

Use Kelley Blue Book (KBB) to get a feel for your asking price. Notice that it can provide two estimates: one for trade-ins and one for private-party sales. The numbers you should focus on are the private-party estimates.

Although it has largely the same functionality, you could also use Edmunds’ appraisal tool. If each site gives you a different value, consider choosing the higher of the two. This may give you some wiggle room during negotiations.

If the car you’re selling is a hard-to-find trim, write down the price differences between yours and the standard model. You can use this when negotiating.

It’s often illegal to buy a car without a title. You should have your title ready to go when you sell a car on Craigslist (or anywhere else). Plus, buyers may be understandably wary to buy your car if you can’t prove it’s yours.

Your buyer will also need the title to transfer the car into their name. If you’re unable to find your title, you can order a replacement from the DMV.

Maybe you don’t have the title because you’re still making payments. In that case, you should contact your lender for guidance. When you want to sell a car with a loan, you usually have to pay the loan off first.

Finally, round up your service and maintenance receipts. You could also get a VIN check. Proving your car is well-maintained and accident-free (if applicable) could tip the scales in your favor.

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

In addition to posting good photos, 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.

There’s one big drawback to selling a car on Craigslist, and that’s dealing with strangers. Here are a few tips that can help keep you safe:

Trust your gut. If the buyer is too pushy or seems suspicious, don’t feel like you can’t walk away. Don’t cave to high-pressure offers, and don’t give out your home address.

 Avoiding Craigslist scams

Familiarize yourself with common Craigslist scams to avoid becoming a victim. The scenario below, for instance, is a con:

The buyer sends you an electronic payment but “accidentally” overpays. Then, they ask you to send back the overpayment by wire transfer, which you do. What you don’t know is that the original payment was fraudulent and will later bounce.

Exchange contact info. Get the buyer’s name and phone number before they head your way.

Meet in public. Some police stations have meeting areas specifically designed for buying and selling. If this isn’t an option, consider meeting in a busy parking lot during the day to complete the sale.

Don’t go alone. Bring a friend or family member with you. At the very least, let a loved one know your plans. Tell them where you’re meeting the buyer, and give them the buyer’s name and contact information.

Set expectations. Let the buyer know what forms of payment you’ll accept. We recommend cash deals. A cashier’s check may be the next safest, but only if you and the seller go to the bank together to get it. That way, you know the check is good.

Take a picture of the buyer’s ID. Before you hand over the keys for a test drive, take a picture of the buyer’s ID. Also, it’s not safe to hop in the car with a stranger, so you may want to let them test drive your car on their own.

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, you should be prepared to come down by 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 on the lowest offer you’ll take. If the initial offers seem low, don’t panic and take the money. Tell the buyer you need time to think it over and consider asking if there’s something you can fix to improve the offer.

Some states require that you provide a bill of sale when you sell your car. A bill of sale will serve as the buyer’s receipt, as well as your contract. The buyer will need it to transfer the title into their name.

If your state requires it, you might need to fill out a specific bill of sale form. It may also need to be notarized. Even if your state doesn’t require it, writing up a bill of sale is wise. Give one to the buyer, and keep one for your records.

The transaction isn’t done after you receive the money. You’ll want to take immediate steps to avoid being liable for a car you no longer own.

In some states you’ll need to file a release of liability form with the DMV. Once you’ve completed the process, reach out to your insurer to cancel your policy for the vehicle.

 Avoiding DMV penalties

In many states, insurance companies electronically notify the DMV when they cancel a policy. Depending on where you live, you could face fines and suspensions if the DMV gets this notification and your car registration is still active.

Let the DMV know that you’ve sold your vehicle before canceling your insurance. For more information regarding your specific state, contact your insurance agent or local DMV.

Craigslist isn’t the only place to sell your car. If it doesn’t seem like a good fit, consider the alternatives below:


You could sell your car to a dealership, and closing the deal will likely be a little easier. After all, dealerships buy cars everyday. However, you’ll likely pay for that convenience. Dealerships usually offer less money than what you could get from a private-party sale.

Online car buyers

You could sell your car to a car-buying website.

For instance, you can get a near-instant offer with Carvana. You won’t need to negotiate or write an ad. Instead, you’ll provide your VIN and answer a few questions. After, it will give you an offer that’s good for seven days.

But like with dealerships, you’ll probably make more money if you sell to an individual.

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is a popular place to sell cars. Since this will be a private-party sale, you may not lose out like you would by selling to a dealer. And while the selling process is similar, you may reach a wider audience than you would on Craigslist.