A year after I graduated from college, my dad presented me with an Emerald green BMW that I named EMMY (yes, I named my car and it’s a girl). She was cute, small, and just what I needed to get me around town. She was also purchased off Craigslist from a guy who wanted to punish his son for slacking off in school. My father, who had been diligently checking the internet for BMWs, came across the ad for the sale of the car. Instead of jumping on the deal immediately, my father decided to wait it out and do as much research on the car, the person selling it, and vehicle purchases from Craigslist before he would make a financial transaction with a complete stranger. We met the man at a Walmart and my dad talked to the seller as I drove around in my version of a test drive. By the time I returned, I was in love with a girl named Emmy. While I was test driving, my dad and the seller conversed and the seller dropped the price of the car an additional $200. Apparently, while I was driving around my dad and the seller talked about something they had in common—their kids. My dad told the seller of how I had graduated not too long ago and how he wanted to buy me a car. The seller confessed to my dad, a perfect stranger, of how he was disappointed in his son’s attitude towards academics and he was selling his car to teach him a lesson. While I felt bad for the son, I happily took the keys and drove off in my BMW. I mean, seriously, that dad was going to sell the car anyway so as much as I felt bad for the son who would come home to find his car and a cd that he left in the cd player gone, I wasn’t going to miss out on my opportunity. I loved that car, may she rest in peace.
Purchased off Craigslist for $3300
After I loss Emmy to a sudden battle with the concrete barrier on the highway, I had a window of about two weeks to find a car. You see, to get the best deal on insurance rates I have bundled multiple accounts that require you to maintain all accounts with the company. I certainly was not going to pay for car insurance when there was no longer a car to be insured, but I also did not want my home insurance, for example, to increase because of this. So back to Craigslist we went. My dad was looking for another BMW, which I wouldn’t have minded, but I felt like he kept showing me pictures of cars that looked exactly like Emmy. Then I found it, my new ride. I found a car, similar to this for less than $5000. Yep, I’m driving a Mercedes with no car note for less than $5000. Now let me show you how you can do the same SAFELY, with my 12 Commandments to Buying a Car on Craigslist.
Purchased off Craigslist for under $5000
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- Do your research. There are only two ways in which you can purchase a car from Craigslist– dealer or owner. Anything else is a scam!
- If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Know the fair market value for the item you are trying to purchase. Just because it’s on Craigslist doesn’t mean that you won’t find anything comparable for less somewhere else.
- Stay away from money wires, transfers, or shipping of vehicles. Scam! Scam! Scam!
- Once you decide to meet, meet in a public place. I viewed both of my cars from Craigslist at a Walmart and/or Target.
- No title no deal. If someone cannot provide a clean title, you have no way of knowing if this person is the legal owner of the car.
- Do not bring money with you when meeting a seller. In my opinion, this is like inviting someone to rob you. Hello my name is (insert your name here) and I have thousands of dollars in my pocket. Do you want to rob me? Creepy, huh?
- Trust your gut. Not everyone out there is trying to scam, con, or rob you. I facilitated this last sell on my own and despite advice from my dad to walk away, I pursued my car and trusted the seller based off of a gut feeling. She turned out to be an honest and nice person but she broke a few of my Craigslist shopping rules. She mentioned a transfer in an email correspondence and the title was not readily available in the negotiation phases. In this instance, I acted based off feeling not good sense and it worked out.
- Talk to people who own the same make, model, and year as the vehicle you are trying to purchase. While I love my car for aesthetic reasons, this particular make, model, and year is known to have issues with battery drainage, which has been an ongoing issue with this car. It’s not the fault of the seller or me for buying it. It is what it is.
- Owners over Dealers. If you are searching Craigslist to find a deal, remember that dealers often don’t include taxes and dealer fees when advertising cars. The price on the sticker is not the actual price of the car and depending on the price and your budget you could end up with a car note. Owners, in my experience, have been known to budge on their price and you drive away without the financial worry of a new car note and hidden dealer fees.
- Take a mechanic or someone who knows cars with you/Don’t go alone. Look at everything and take pictures of the car just in case something happens between the time you test drive it and the time you actual purchase it, you can have proof of the condition of the car. Check the condition of the tires, look under the hood of the car. Turn the car on and off. Accelerate and hit the brakes. Turn the radio on and off. Open the sunroof. Make sure the power seats, power mirrors, and power windows work. Ask for ALL service records and actually review them. Order a Carfax to find out detailed vehicle history. Walk around the car to inspect the exterior. Check for chipped paint and potential rust damage. Turn on all lights. Check seats belts. Everything.
Deal Locally With Folks You Can Meet In Person. follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts on Craigslist.
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