My 12 Commandments for Purchasing Cars from Craigslist

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  1. 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!
  2. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  3. Know the fair market value of 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.
  4. Stay away from money wires, transfers, or shipping of vehicles. Scam! Scam! Scam!
  5. Once you decide to meet, meet in a public place. I viewed both of my cars from Craigslist at a Walmart and/or Target.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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 seat belts. Everything.
  12. Deal Locally With Folks You Can Meet In Person. follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts on Craigslist.


7 thoughts on “My 12 Commandments for Purchasing Cars from Craigslist

    1. You should find out how many payments you have left and then pick a date before that as your goal date. Let’s say you want to be done paying off your car by October of 2012 (17 months). You then divide the balance owe on your car by the number of months until your goal end date. This will give you the amount you need to be paying each month to elminate your car note sooner than you expected. Good Luck!

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