There are more and more ways to get your hands on a used car thanks to services like Craigslist and eBay. But if you don’t know what you’re doing you can end up with a car you regret buying, or even in an unsafe situation.
Here are some tips for buying a car on Craigslist which should help you deal with any private sale, whether its from Craigslist, eBay or AutoTrader.
The general feeling about buying a car from a private seller is that it seems shady.
“I had a lot of worries buying a car from a Craiglist posting,” said Arthur Zakrzerski, who recently bought himself a used 2013 BMW X1. “It always felt like someone was trying to rip me off and it was hard to trust the seller. I always thought they were hiding something, or acting really unprofessional.”
Unlike with a used car dealer, it takes a bit longer to trust the seller. And after the sale is complete, you’re left with no customer support or any kind of service. Some used car dealerships have service departments or even extended warranties to offer, helping you get an extra piece of mind when buying a used car.
While a private sale doesn’t have any of that, the key is to find a listing that you can trust.
“A lot of the concerns with buying from a third party stems from the quality of the vehicle,” said Radek Garbowski, COO of Unhaggle. Unhaggle is a lot like a car broker. They help buyers find a car, and can take all the stressful negotiating out of buying a vehicle to purchase. “Finding a quality vehicle also means that there’s no discrepancy with the description car in the posting compared to what they are actually offering.”
He recommends finding a posting that has numerous pictures. “If they’re being transparent, they’re going to be showing everything they can,” he said. “A used car will always have some imperfections, so they should show those imperfections.”
Get a list of used car postings that provide you with the most amount of information. The postings should have a lot of pictures, and a detailed description.
“Make a list of all the people within a certain price range or distance, and find out which ones are similar,” said Garbowski. That will be helpful when it comes to negotiating. This will also be your short-list of cars to see in person. Contact the buyers via email, asking for any additional details. If the seller is quick to respond and courteous, it means they’re taking the sale seriously.
“If you’re going to see the car in person, always meet in a public place,” he said. “Meet during the day, it’s very important from a safety perspective.”
Let’s say you’ve found an acceptable car and found the seller to be respectable and responsive when you contact them. One good idea is to get a Carfax or vehicle history report.
“That will tell you any damages or repairs that have been performed on the car,” said Garbowski. “One downside though, is that it won’t show you some things, like fixes that weren’t done with an insurance company.” So some accidents that were resolved without the interference of an insurance company won’t show up on the report.
Furthermore, to help better inform you of a car’s history and its future, Garbowski also recommends a pre-purchase inspection.
Testing A Car and Buying
Getting comfortable with the used car you’re looking at buying? Then its time to meet the owner and take it for a test drive. We have a whole article about how to test drive a used car, but a main takeaway is that it’s important to take your time during the test drive and thoroughly ensure the car is operating normally and safely.
Satisfied? Then its time to negotiate with the buyer. Remember that list of comparable vehicles on sale? That should help you gauge how much the car you’re considering buying is really worth. Garbowski recommends not offering the asking price unless you’re really desparate. “Start at a price you’re comfortable with and then work towards what the vehicle commands” he said.
The seller should have a bill of sale that you will sign and take to the DMV. It will include the signatures of the seller and buyer and other information like the vehicle identification number (VIN). As the buyer, it’s your responsibility to get the title and register the vehicle under your name.
Buying a car from a third party site like Craigslist or Kijiji requires more trust and a careful eye for the details. Be sure to ensure the car represented is as it’s described, and take your time to give the seller your trust. Once you’re comfortable with their posting and vehicle, it will be easier to proceed with the purchase.
How to buy a used car from craiglist