How to Sell a Car on Craigslist

At some point, a car owner will move on from their current vehicle. Maybe they want something with more safety features or they just want a newer model. Some car owners need the money for other bills.

Car owners have a few options when they want to sell their car. One of the easiest options is to sell the vehicle to the dealership (or use it as a trade-in). Car owners also could privately sell their vehicle, too, and opt to list their car on sites like Craigslist. Here’s how to sell a car on Craigslist when it’s time to move on from a vehicle.

What is Craigslist?

For those who are unfamiliar with Craigslist, this site offers online classified ads. Remember the classified ads found in the back of newspapers? Craigslist has all the same types of ads.

Individuals can list homes for rent (or for purchase), businesses can place help wanted ads, and consumers can even find other random ‘for sale’ items, too. Car owners also can list their vehicles via this site as a “for sale by owner.”

When placing an ad online via Craigslist or any platform, car owners should:

What many buyers might like about listing their vehicle on Craigslist is that it’s very affordable (only $5). However, Kelley Blue Book notes that the site “…tends to be a magnet for scammers and crazies.” This isn’t to say that car owners shouldn’t use the site, but they need to be diligent when working with prospective buyers.

When listing a car on Craigslist, there are some safety tips to follow:

  • Only accept cash payments or payments through verified payment systems
  • Don’t ever meet a buyer alone
  • Go to a public place and have a chaperone for test drives
  • Use a Craigslist email (don’t include a personal email address)

Determining a Car’s Value

Before a car owner lists their car for sale, they need to research the car’s resale value. Kelley Blue Book (KBB) is one of the best sites to use for determining a car’s value. KBB allows car owners to find either the trade-in value or the resale value to sell the car privately.

In order to determine the car’s resale value, car owners will need to enter all the data about their vehicle. KBB needs the owner to include the make/model, year, features and condition of the vehicle in order to determine the fair market value. Car owners need to be honest when detailing their car’s condition. Buyers will find out if the car isn’t what is advertised.

Car owners should keep in mind that even if they list the vehicle for a specific amount, buyers might still want to negotiate. This is often part of the process. Buyers should think about what they would be willing to accept for their vehicle after researching via KBB.

Prepping the Car for the Listing

Prepping the Car for the Listing

While buyers might want to negotiate, car owners should ensure that they showcase their vehicle in the best possible condition when selling. This means that owners should take their vehicle to a mechanic to have it inspected for any issues and repaired (if necessary). 

In addition, the car should be cleaned inside and out before taking photographs. Car owners might want to have their car detailed to ensure that the interior is as clean as possible. The cost for detailing varies; detailing only the interior can cost around $125 to more than $150. Detailing the car inside and out, though, will likely cost car owners more than $250.

Snap Lots of Photos

After car owners have determined their car’s value, repaired any issues and cleaned the vehicle thoroughly, it’s time to schedule a photo shoot. Car owners don’t have to pay a pro to take pictures of their vehicle, but they should take the time to snap lots of photos including detailed shots of the car’s features.

Here is a list of photos to snap for a for sale by owner’ ad photo slideshow:

  • Exterior shots (multiple angles)
  • Interior front seats
  • Interior back seats
  • Up close shots of the gear shift
  • Close up shots of the infotainment center
  • A photo of the instrument panel and steering wheel
  • Photos of any upgraded features
  • A close-up shot of the wheels and rims
  • Detailed photos of any interior and/or exterior flaws including dents, rust, scratches, etc.

Not only should car owners show all the upgraded features of their vehicle, but they also need to include detailed photos of any damage or flaws, too. When buyers see the car in person, they don’t want to feel that the owner was withholding anything.

Take pictures of all flaws or issues. Buyers will appreciate the up-front information. Even rust spots should be photographed. Note any other issues, too, like a door that sticks or a window that has issues. All these photos can be included in the Craigslist ad.

Staying Safe on Craigslist

Unfortunately, scammers might try to take advantage of car sellers via online sites. When selling a car via any site, it’s important that buyers always take steps to keep themselves and their property safe.

  • Don’t meet buyers alone. Always take a friend or relative with you to meet a buyer. Never agree to meet a buyer alone.
  • Meet in a public place. When arranging a meeting, opt for a public place. Don’t meet at home.
  • Accept payments only through reputable platforms like Zelle, Apple Pay, etc. or just opt for cash. Meet at a bank if the buyer intends to pay cash, or, again, insist on a public place.

Should Sellers Insist on a Deposit?

One of the recommendations from KBB is that buyers can take a deposit. The site notes that sellers can stipulate a $500 deposit or even ask for half of the list price. Why is a deposit important? As KBB explains this protects the seller.

When a buyer has to put down a deposit it may show that they are serious about purchasing the vehicle.

Don’t Forget the Title

Before car owners list their car online via Craigslist or any site, they should make sure that they have the title. Sellers also should ensure that there are no liens on that title.

If the car title still has a lien, this is something the owner needs to handle before selling the car. A car title needs to be free of any liens so that a new owner can take possession of it.

Can a car owner sell a car that they don’t own outright? This is possible, but, again, the lien holder (i.e. the lender) needs to be paid before the sale is complete. Nerdwallet recommends that the owner contact the lender to discuss selling the vehicle.

The site explains that if the lender is a local bank, then the sale takes place at one of the branches. This can make the buyer feel more comfortable, too, as an at-the-bank transaction ensures that the lender can sign off and all the details will be in order.

Some cars might have a loan that is higher than the value of the car; this means that there is negative equity and the car is ‘underwater.’ When this happens, the seller will need to come up with the difference between the sale price and what is owed to the lender.

How to Sell a Car on Craigslist

Other Ways to Sell a Vehicle

While selling a car on Craigslist is convenient and only $5, there are other ways to sell a car privately. For example, Autotrader, Vroom and Carvana all can be used to sell cars.

Sites like Carvana will purchase the car from the owner, and this can be an easy way to unload a vehicle. Car owners can research their best options. In addition, car owners also could try to sell their vehicle to a dealership.

Finding the Next Best Vehicle

Once a car owner sells their car, they might be on the hunt for a new car. Car buyers can visit RelayCars to explore new vehicles and find the best new car for their budget.

RelayCars includes immersive 3D images that let car buyers view cars from different vantage points. RelayCars also gives car buyers the option to view a car model via augmented reality. Using the camera from a smartphone or tablet, car buyers can drop a car into their environment. View a vehicle in the backyard, the garage or see how it looks in the driveway.

With the augmented reality tool, buyers can even walk around the image of the vehicle. This is a bit like having a car showroom at home.

Once car buyers find their favorite vehicle, they can use RelayCars to shop, too. RelayCars also helps buyers find the best price for the car they want. With RelayCars, buyers can shop at home and enjoy an immersive experience to explore and discover a full inventory of makes and models.