5 tips for buying a car on Craigslist


Written by:

So your car is on its last legs, and you’ve opted to forego the dealership dance and instead buy your next car online.

How can you make sure you’re getting a good deal?

Many online car buyers go to Craigslist to search for a used car, but there are some tips the savvy ones follow to ensure that they don’t end up in a lemon. Read on to find out what they are.

Image Credit: iStock.


SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn't have to be hard. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.

2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you're ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals get started now.





1. Cross-check the price

When you see a car listed online, you can easily check the price against the value listed in Kelley Blue Book. But you’re not just looking for a price that’s too high — you’ll want to avoid a price that’s too low as well.

In a perfect world, a car might be priced low because the seller really wants to get it off his or her hands. But in a somewhat more realistic world, it could be that the seller is trying to woo you just to get you there in person or to sell you a car that’s been around the block a few too many times.

When it comes to buying cars on Craigslist, you might want to stick to cars that are being sold for something close to their reported value.

Image Credit: iStock.

2. Look for inconsistencies in the listing

An article in Popular Mechanics about how to avoid a Craigslist scams makes an interesting point related to inconsistencies you can spot in the photos of the car. When looking at the photo, make sure the scenery matches the location.

In other words, that car listing in Wyoming probably shouldn’t have palm trees in the background.

There might be other inconsistencies in the listing as well. Make sure the written description of the car makes sense for the type of vehicle it is and look for any holes in the story about the car. (For example, if it’s recently been repainted, maybe ask why — was it to give the car a makeover or to cover up damage from an accident?)

Image Credit: iStock.

3. Get the VIN before visiting the car

You really never know what you’re getting into with a used car, but a vehicle history report can help. If you’re serious about going to visit a car, get the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) before you do.

When the seller gives you the VIN, plug it into a site like Carfax.com to pull up the vehicle history report. From there you can see if the car has been in any major accidents and you can also see how many owners the car has had.

By learning this information before you see the car, you can at least make sure the visit won’t be a waste of time.

Image Credit: iStock.

4. Inspect the Car in Person

To make sure you don’t end up deep in a true car buying horror story, always see the car in person before you decide to buy. If the car is too far away to do that, see if you can commission a trustworthy mechanic near the car to take a look for you.

And if there’s no way to see the car, it’s probably best to hold out for another one that you can get to.

A Craigslist ad and a vehicle history report can help you determine if the car is worth seeing, but only a test drive and an in-person inspection can tell you if the car is worth buying. There’s simply no substitute for seeing for yourself.

And when you get there, look for signs of body damage, listen for strange sounds while it’s running, take note of any unpleasant smells, and see how the car feels to drive both on the highway and on back roads. You should have a strong sense of what it’d be like to use the car on the regular before you fork over any cash.

Image Credit: iStock.

5. Bring the Car to a Mechanic — or a Mechanic to the Car

Although nothing can substitute for an in-person inspection, taking the car to a mechanic while you test drive it — or getting a mechanic to go with you to see the car — is one of the best things you can do when buying a car you found online.

The trained eye of a mechanic can spot things under the hood you might never notice yourself. He or she will also know all the right questions to ask and how to properly value the vehicle considering its make and model and the wear and tear.

Having a professional by your side doesn’t just help you know whether or not the car is worthy of buying, it might even help you get a better deal. 

Want even more tips? Check out our Craigslist Car Buying Checklist, with additional red flags and learn more about what you should always do before you purchase a car on Craigslist.

This story originally appeared on UpturnCredit and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

Image Credit: iStock.