Buying or selling a car is a huge ordeal. Unless, of course, you’re filthy rich and have money to burn.

If you’re like me, you probably don’t fall into that category. So when you’re in the market to buy a car, you want the most bang for your buck.

You want a car that you like to drive, is reliable, and that is at least somewhat respectable. And when you’re selling a car, you want to fetch the highest price tag. If you’re sentimental, you might also look for a buyer who you think will treat your baby well.

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Easy Approaches

Thanks to services like Craigslist, buyers and sellers can easily connect with one another. Oftentimes, this enables sellers to get quality cars at prices dealers couldn’t even think about offering. There’s certainly nothing wrong with using Craigslist to buy or sell a car — it’s essentially the classified newspaper ads of the Internet Age — but before you go connecting with any random stranger, it’s important to remember you’re dealing with random strangers.

Keep your wits about you and consider the following tips:

When You’re Selling a Car

What NOT to Do When Buying or Selling a Car on Craigslist

  • Don’t be dishonest in your advertisement. At the end of the day, if you want to sell your car, it doesn’t make sense to be deceptive in your Craigslist ad. By being as honest and accurate as possible — and including lots of photos — you’re considerably less likely to waste your time by showing your car to potential customer after potential customer. 

    In theory, the more honest you are with your description, the easier it’ll be to sell your car because you will only get queries from interested folks. You’ll also be more likely to get closer to your asking price. If you took pictures of every spot but the dent in the bumper, the buyer instantly has an advantage in talking your price down.

  • Don’t take a personal check. It’s unfortunate we live in a world where people choose to be dishonest. But that’s the case, so NEVER take a personal check from a buyer. Instead, insist on a bank check, money order or cash. That way, you won’t have to worry about a check bouncing and having to track down the money you’re owed.

  • Don’t invite strangers to your home. Those dishonest people? Well, they can also be really shady, too. As such, you probably don’t want them to know where you live. Instead of emailing prospective buyers your home address and asking them to stop by at their earliest convenience, consider arranging a show-and-tell at some public parking lot. Grocery stores, shopping plazas and gas stations could do the trick. Your best and safest bet is to meet at the police station.

  • Don’t show up alone. You’ll also want to bring a buddy along with you to that aforementioned public parking lot. These days, you can never be too cautious. Having a friend nearby will increase the likelihood that the transaction will go smoothly.

  • Earlier this year in Missouri, Taylor Clark went to a parking lot to sell his 350ZX to Michael Gordon. Gordon shot Clark and killed him, dumping his body in the woods and then returning back to work. These kinds of stories are rare, but could have been prevented if there were more people around.
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    When You’re Buying a Car

    What NOT to Do When Buying or Selling a Car on Craigslist

    • Don’t show up to meet someone without talking on the phone first. In order to get a little bit of an idea about the person you’re planning to meet up with — how they talk, how they sound, what their personality is like — make sure to set aside five or 10 minutes for a quick phone call. Chances are you’ll be able to gauge how serious the seller is and whether meeting up with him or her is worth your time.

    • Don’t take the seller at his or her word. You can’t take the word from a stranger you meet on the Internet at face value. Don’t forget that in most states, private sellers push their cash “as is,” meaning that even if you’re sold a bunk car, you’re stuck with it. Prior to handing over payment, make sure to thoroughly inspect the car and take it for a test drive. Better yet, bring one of your mechanic buddies along with you to scope out your prospective new vehicle.

    Don’t trust that they’re being honest in their ad, either. Recently, I was looking at an ad for a Mustang Shelby GT500. The seller had a whole slew of bullet points with various add-ons and mods and how much each one cost him. It was his way of saying “look, this cost me a ton of money and I’m basically giving it away for free.” The one that caused me to actually laugh out loud was these floor mats that go for about $90. His price: $500.

    • Don’t pay the full price quoted in the ad. Here comes the fun part: haggling. Whenever items change goods between individuals, there’s always a little wiggle room in terms of the pricing. Used cars can carry heavy price tags, so you might be able to knock at least $100 or $200 off the sale price. Whatever you do, don’t pay the price quoted in full. Channel your inner bargaining skills, and see how low the seller is willing to go.

    • Again, don’t show up alone. Show up with a buddy when it’s time to complete the transaction. Don’t be caught off guard, alone in a terrible situation. By bringing a friend along, you’re increasing the likelihood that no harm will come your way. And it never hurts to get a second opinion, either. Don’t end up “car drunk” where you’re so obsessed with the potential great new ride that you overlook glaring problems. Having a friend there can keep you from buying something you’d eventually regret.

    Now Go Get To Buyin' And Sellin'

    Now that you have a Craigslist car buying and selling tutorial under your belt, it’s time to head over to Craigslist to either post your car ad or start searching for your next ride. Good luck!

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