If you are in the market for a used car, you might be wondering whether you should look for one on Craigslist. You have probably heard the horror stories about people being victimized by Craigslist scammers. While that is certainly true, there are ways to avoid those pitfalls.
There are several scams that are very easy to spot. They include;
The seller offers to ship the car upon receipt of payment.
- The seller wants payment via money gram, postal money order, etc.
- The seller wants the payment wired to another country.
- The seller claims to be in the military and is stationed overseas.
- The vehicle is priced way below the book value.
- There is no phone number in the posting or if there is one, the person is a go-between or pickup agent.
In addition to these, there are some disadvantages to purchasing a car through Craigslist. One is that you have no recourse against the seller if there is a problem with the sale or the car. Also, the seller cannot help you with financing.
There also some many advantages to buying a car through Craigslist. You can often find a good deal. Craigslist is local so it is easy to meet the seller face to face to look at the car. Many other online sites are not local. You can look at a lot of vehicles quickly without having to drive anywhere. Also, you do not have to commit to buying the car online as you do with some other sites. Craigslist does not involve itself in the transaction. That leaves you free to negotiate with the seller and pay them directly.
There are many ways to make your Craigslist used car purchase a satisfactory and safe experience. First, make sure you have the seller's phone number and not just their email address. Then arrange to look at the vehicle in a public place during the day. You will be able to inspect the car and see any defects better in the daylight. You will also want to look over the service records on the car if the seller has them. Do not bring cash with you when you look at the car as you could be walking into a planned robbery.
You should also inspect the title to the vehicle. If the seller cannot show you a title walk away. No matter what they tell you, without a title, you will not be able to register or legally drive the car. If the title has a lien on it, make sure you see the original lien release. The title should also be in the seller's name. If it is not, the seller may actually be an unlicensed or unscrupulous dealer that is jumping the title. Title jumping is illegal in most states. It is usually a sign that the car has been in a major accident, flooded or has some other serious issue.
Even if there is no problem with the title, you need to protect yourself by doing two very important things. One is to get either a CarFax or AutoCheck report on the car. These reports tell you if the car has been flooded, salvaged, junked, been in a major accident, had its airbags deployed, had multiple owners, been branded as a lemon, etc. They will also tell you the last recorded mileage. Many sellers will provide the report to you. If not, you can purchase one for less than $35. The information they provide is well worth the cost.
The second thing you need to do is have the vehicle checked out by a mechanic before you buy it. The mechanic will tell you any current problems the car has that even the seller may not be aware of.
Once you decide to buy the vehicle and agree on a price, make sure you get a receipt for your purchase and get the title in your hand.
Karen Campese is the Co-founder and CEO of Cars4Charities, a not for profit car donation center. They have over 1,000 respected charities that you can donate car to. When you donate your car, you get a tax deduction and help a good cause.