Buy a Used Car Off Craigslist

Craigslist is an online forum populated with free classified advertisements. One product that is often bought and sold through the service is used cars. Private parties can post used cars for sale for any price and it will be listed chronologically with other used car postings. Purchasing a used car online is convenient, but it's important to understand the process to prevent being ripped off. Use these steps to buy a car off Craigslist.


  1. Decide on a make and model.
    • Perform research on different car brands to determine which fits your needs.
  2. Visit the "cars & trucks" section of Craigslist.
    • Select "by owner" within this section if you wish to omit the postings of used car dealers.
  3. Browse your city's used car postings for your make and model.
    • Wade through the many posting titles to find one that catches your eye.
    • Hit Cmd+F or Ctrl+F to open the "Find" menu and enter the make and model keyword into the search bar. This tool will only search the current loaded page of Craigslist.
  4. Investigate the legitimacy of the post.
    • Look for posted mileage, a reason for the sale, service history and a detailed description of the vehicle.
    • Scroll to the bottom of the post to locate photos of the car. The more photos posted of the vehicle (the limit on Craigslist is 8), the better. If there are no photos or 1 shady-looking photo, the seller might be trying to hide flaws.
    • Scan the post for negative signs. These include cars described as modified or salvaged, posts announcing that the seller recently purchased it or that they are selling it for someone else, and posts with very few details.
  5. Check the value of the car.
    • Enter the car's information into an estimate website such as Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds or NADA. These sites ask you to report mileage, condition and features of the make and model of your vehicle and generate an approximate value for that vehicle according to the information you provided.
    • Compare the estimate to the asking price of the Craigslist seller.
  6. Contact the seller.
    • Email the seller using Craigslist automated email address process or call the seller if he or she has provided contact information within the body of the post.
    • Ask for additional pictures and information from the seller. Craigslist photos are small and low-resolution; request full-size photos of the car.
  7. Set up a meeting to see and test the car.
    • Inspect the car visually, looking for any body damage or flaws that the seller failed to mention. Examine the interior for upholstery problems and unpleasant odors.
    • Ask the seller about the vehicle's previous use. Plow trucks, retired patrol/taxi vehicles, and racing vehicles are subject to much more wear and tear than the average car.
    • Check the odometer and compare it to the overall state of the car. In older vehicles the odometer may have rolled over, especially if the numbers don't align or the pedals and steering wheel are unusually worn compared to the stated mileage.
    • Drive the car on quiet streets as well as busier roads. Try to get the car over {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}} to see how it runs on high speeds.
    • Question the seller about service history and request to see receipts for oil changes and auto body repair.
  8. Purchase the car and sign the title.
    • Follow your state's procedure for title transfers at the Department of Motor Vehicles.


  • Take the car for inspection before buying it. If you are unsure about the quality of the vehicle, have a local shop check it out. The seller might even subtract some of the inspection price from the price tag of the car if you buy it.
  • Consider checking the vehicle history report with Carfax. Carfax is a service that takes vehicle VIN numbers and finds information about the car.
  • Open your used car search to nearby Craigslist cities for a larger pool of options.
  • Use to search multiple cities in a specific radius.


  • Private party used car sales are "as is" sales. If you buy the car and decide you do not want it anymore, the seller has no obligation to return your money.

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