If you’re looking to sell a car, you have two options: dealerships or private individuals. Dealerships want to make a profit and will undercut you however they can. Private sales are more likely to get you the best price, and one of the top options to sell a car privately is Craigslist. If you need cash, you may wonder how to sell a car on Craigslist quickly and get top dollar for it.
Auction sites like Craigslist are an excellent way to sell items you no longer need. As with any marketplace, it’s possible to get scammed, especially when selling a pricey item such as a car.
Our guide shares the best tips to follow to sell your car privately on Craigslist safely and without stress.
How to Sell A Car On Craigslist Quickly and Safely
Selling a car privately seems like it takes a lot of effort. You want to make a decent profit, but not deal with hassles. Below are the nine steps to follow to sell a car on Craigslist and earn top dollar.
1. Have Your Title in Hand
While selling a car isn’t necessarily difficult, having the title to your car is necessary. If you own the car, you should have the title to sign over to the potential buyer. Having issues with the title will likely cause problems in selling your car, so this is a vital step.
If you’ve lost the title or need a new one so you can sell the car, go to your local DMV to request a new one. It may take some time, so make sure you plan for this.
If you have a loan on the car, your bank has the title. You need to pay your car loan off before you can receive the title. Before putting your car up for sale, call your bank and explain the situation to them.
Ask them how much you owe on the car and how much you need to pay off the loan and release the lien. This is important to do before putting your car up for sale, that way you know what to expect.
Depending on where you live, your state may require a notarized signature. If this is your case, it’s important to plan the sale during business hours.
2. Wash and Detail Your Car
Everyone loves a clean car. Before you sell a used car on Craigslist, make sure you clean it inside and out. If you clean the car yourself, the below is the minimum you should do:
- Wax and wash
- Vacuum the interior
- Wipe down surface areas that may have dust
- Spot clean stains
You can even get it detailed, and if you use a site like Groupon, you can score a good deal on the cleaning.
No one wants to buy a car that smells like smoke, kids, or pets, so this will help you fetch the highest dollar amount for the car.
3. Take Quality Photos
A picture says a thousand words. The same goes for the photos you’ll take of the car. Take quality photos. Use an actual camera if you have to. But make sure the photos are well lit, not grainy, and that you take lots of them.
When I was looking for cars online, I only searched for cars with pictures. I would only click on the posts that had multiple pictures — at least 20 of them, if not more.
To make sure you have enough photos, try taking multiple shots, angles, and on the inside and outside of the car. Below are the following areas of the car to consider taking photos:
- All sides of the car
- Dashboard while the car is on
- Driver’s seat area
- Open trunk
- Spare tire
- Wheels and tires
If you have any specialty added features to the car, such as a sunroof or spoiler, include pictures of those as well. Pictures help your car stand out, so don’t skimp on this step as it can impact your sales price.
4. Price it Right
Before you try to sell a car on Craigslist, know what it’s worth. This is the case when you try to sell anything locally. Don’t just price what you think is fair or what you paid into it. The fact is that the car is no longer new and may not be in perfect condition.
If it’s older than two years, most likely it doesn’t have any warranties or any guarantees that would entice someone to buy from you specifically.
If your car is older, an added bonus you can provide is a CarFax report on the car to potential buyers.
You can use resources like Edmunds.com or Kelley Blue Book to receive a fair estimate. Both will ask you simple questions about the car, and the process of finding out your car’s worth takes less than ten minutes.
From there, you can base a price on the average of both, or whatever you think is reasonable based on the information the sites give you. Don’t forget to use OBO (or best offer) as it’s probable that a buyer will want to negotiate.
5. Be Descriptive
Think about the last time you bought a car from someone, whether it was a dealership or private party. Most likely, you bought it based on the features, the miles per gallon, the fact that it had third-row seats, or the like.
The seller described the car in a way that convinced you to buy it.
It wasn’t necessarily that the car was the number one choice for you. In fact, most cars fit what people want and expect out of them. But that car felt right for you because the salesman talked you into it.
You need to think the same way when selling a car on Craigslist. Put yourself in the shoes of a buyer and ask why they would buy it.
Does it only cost you $20 to fill up each time you go to the gas station? Write that down. Did the car accompany you on multiple road trips and run like a champ each time? Write that down. Did it survive the apocalypse that is your mother-in-law? Seriously, write that down.
You’d be surprised at what can entice someone to buy a car. People love a good story, and they love a car that the previous owner cared about, even if it still needs a little TLC.
No one wants to buy a car that looks like it has little life left in it and is in poor condition.
6. Be Honest
If you want to know how to sell your car on Craigslist, being honest should be at the top of your list. While writing your description, include any damages the car has or anything you’ve had to work on in the past.
Be sure to mention if the car needs any work done. For example, if you just changed the tires but now the brake pads need replacement, write that down. Again, you can go the extra mile and provide a CarFax report to communicate transparency in the sale.
A little work and TLC won’t scare off every buyer, but it’s the right thing to mention any work the car needs as it will impact pricing. That way, if they don’t have the money or time to fix it up the way it should be, you won’t have a guilty conscious, and they won’t be stuck with a regretful purchase.
If the car has dents and dings, a cracked windshield, or even a salvage title, you should provide that information. Certain states do require inspections, so many buyers are looking for cars that don’t have issues that will fail inspections.
7. Create the Post and Repost as Needed
Once you’ve got the pictures, description, and title, you can now list your used car. This is the easiest part of the process of selling a car on Craigslist. However, it’s important to know that you may not get a buyer right away.
While a Craigslist ad will stay up for 30 days, many people won’t search that far back. Make sure your ad is up to date and repost as needed. I would say at least once a week until you have a buyer or offer.
8. Make the Process Easy For Potential Buyers
Make yourself available for calls and texts during the time you are trying to sell a car on Craigslist. Be flexible in the time that you meet with people. Offer test drives, with you in the car, and don’t be afraid to answer questions, even if you answered them in your ad.
You want to make the process of buying your car easy. There are different methods to do this, like the buyer giving you cash and you writing a bill of sale, but there are other ways to go about it too.
Discuss this with the buyer before the purchase. You may prefer a cashier’s check or money order for the sale. If that’s the case, it’s best to meet at their bank to ensure the payment is legit.
No matter what method you choose, remember to be safe. Don’t fall for scams like money transfers, wires, or even checks, since you won’t know if they’re fraudulent.
Finally, don’t meet a potential buyer in private places, or at night. Take a friend or family member with you, if possible. Stay alert and stay safe. Making the process easy on them doesn’t mean you have to throw your good sense out the window.
9. Obey the Law
Each state has different rules and regulations on selling a used car on Craigslist, or any other private method. You may need to get an inspection before you sell it. You may have to sign the title and a Bill of Sale.
Whatever your state requires, make sure you follow the rules. If you have any questions about selling your car, you can go to the DMV website to learn what you’re required to do in your state.
Selling a used car privately may seem like a hassle. While it does take some work, following a few simple steps often results in a sale that satisfies both you and the buyer.
When trying to sell a car on Craigslist, remember to put yourself in the shoes of potential buyers. Ask yourself what you look for in a car, and what would cause you to look the other way.
With transparency, you can sell a used car on Craigslist and make good money to put towards another car or other needs.
What other steps would you follow when trying to sell a car on Craigslist? Would you buy a car from a private individual? What do you look for in a used car?