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How to Sell a Used Car on Craigslist Online

By Kira Botkin

woman carWhen you’re selling a car, you’re more likely to get the best price from an individual as opposed to a dealer. When you’re looking for a way to find that individual, remember that Craigslist is a competitive (and still growing) marketplace for car shoppers and sellers.

It’s easy for buyers to search through ads, and you’ll be happy with the free posts to an audience of millions in your area. With pictures and lots of space, you can get more out of the listing than those expensive 20 words you might get in the local paper.

I recently sold my car in four days for a good price, so I’m sharing what I’ve learned with you here.

8 Steps to Selling a Car on Craigslist

1. Take Care of Your Title

Before you do anything else, make sure you work out any kinks with your car title. Resolve any problems early, so that your final sale can go smoothly.

If you have the title, fish it out from whatever extremely safe location (i.e. “lost”) you had used for storage, and keep it handy. If you don’t have the title because you have a car loan, call the bank and find out how much you still have on the loan and how much you would have to give them in order to get the title back. Get detailed instructions from the bank on how they would like to handle the transfer.

If you don’t have your title because you really did lose it, go to your local DMV to start the paperwork for getting a new one. Some buyers will be able to pay in cash, and they’re going to want a quick sale, so get your answers before your car goes on the market.

2. Get Your Car Washed and Vacuumed

I cannot overstate how much better your potential buyers’ first impressions will be (and how much better your final sale price will be) with a spotless car, than with a car that is full of fast food wrappers, old magazines, and smashed crackers.

If you can’t wash and vacuum at home, see if you can find a full-service car wash near you. With a coupon, it won’t cost much to get a wax-and-wash on the exterior and a good vacuuming on the inside. In return, your car will appear more enticing to customers, so they’ll be more willing to buy and more likely to spend.

Once the pros are finished, go over the inside yourself with a wet rag and wipe down every surface that could conceivably collect dust. Trust me, there are a lot of them. If you’ve ever had a pet in the car, take a lint-roller to all the upholstery and the carpet.

When I finished this process with my car, which previously had looked like small animals had created an independent civilization inside it, even I wanted to buy the car.

3. Take a Ton of Pictures

If you don’t take a picture of a certain part of the car, people are probably going to assume there’s something wrong with it. Listings that only have a shot or two don’t get as much interest as those with lots of clear, well-lit pictures showing the car inside and out.

Plus, you’ll waste less time because the people who do contact you will know exactly what the car looks like. You’ll know that they’re legitimately interested if they make the effort to reach out to you.

Things you should capture include:

  • Front, back, and both sides
  • Driver’s seat area
  • Stereo, including capability like music player input, if you have it
  • Engine
  • Odometer
  • Dashboard while car is on (to show that no service lights are on)
  • Backseat
  • Trunk while open
  • Wheels and tires (showing remaining tread)
  • Spare tire and jack (if you have one)
  • Roof (if it has a roof rack, sunroof, or moonroof) and bumper (if it has a towing hitch)
  • Any extra features you paid for, like a spoiler or body kit

If there’s damage to the car, don’t try to hide it, but don’t take close up pictures of it either. Just make sure it’s visible in the shots you take of the front, back, and sides. If you’re concerned about privacy, blur out your license plate before posting the photos.

craigslist sell car

4. Set a Good Price

Consult the Kelley Blue Book, and check out some other, similar listings on Craigslist too. When you pick a price, be honest with yourself about your car’s deficits, and keep in mind that the problems you’ve learned to live with will not be so familiar to the buyers. For example, you might need to knock off a few hundred dollars for that trunk-release valve that sometimes sticks or the window that never quite goes all the way down.

If time is of the essence, you can specify that you will only take cash offers, but know that you’ll make a little less in a cash-only deal. Feel free to use your best negotiation strategies and tactics. You can list the car for a little more than you are willing to accept, since people will definitely try to offer less and sometimes severely lowball you.

If you already know what you’re willing to take, and what other similar cars are going for, you’ll know when to jump on a good offer. Always negotiate up as far as you can. You’d be surprised how far saying something like, “Can you do $X?” will get you.

5. Describe the Heck Out of the Car

Write your description offline so you can proofread and review before you post it. You’ll want to get every detail in the description, but also be clear and concise. Spelling mistakes are not allowed. Generally, you’re trying to paint the picture that you are being honest and forthright about the car. You also need to include a phone number in your listing, even if you’re also providing an email contact.

  • If your car has some damage – especially body damage – you must mention it. If damage is visible in the pictures and you don’t comment on it, people will be suspicious.
  • If you know the car has problems that will be immediately apparent upon a test drive, describe those briefly.
  • If you have any maintenance records, summarize them.
  • Definitely include the current mileage of the car.

6. Create Your Post’s Title and Submit the Ad

Your subject line should be concise yet informative, and it should fit a simple format like: “2002 Chevrolet Malibu – Great commuter car – 93K.” Put the year first, then the make and model, and mention the miles if they’re low. Most listings match a structure like this, so you’ll miss potential buyers with something less genuine like “Wow! Terrific car! Low miles. Chevrolet Malibu.”

Craigslist will host pictures for you, but only four of them. I recommend getting a Photobucket account (or a similar photo-hosting site), uploading your pictures there, and then inserting them in the body of the listing so you can include as many as you want. Make sure your pictures are a reasonable file size, however, as heavy downloads or oversized images can turn away impatient searchers. Plus, your Photobucket account will run out of space quickly.

craigslist car listing

7. Set Up Test Drive Appointments

Figure out ahead of time when you can host some test drives. I usually allotted about 45 minutes for each person. If you write out a schedule ahead of time, you’ll be better prepared for when calls and emails start coming in.

When you assign times, make sure you get each person’s name and phone number (in case they are late or forget). Don’t hold spots for people if you think they’re not serious. You can’t waste valuable schedule space on people you can’t get a hold of.

Additionally, decide ahead of time where you will meet them. I met people at a church parking lot, and met sellers at the grocery store. Don’t meet anyone at your house or theirs. It’s just not worth the risk of some of the dangerous and unpredictable things that could happen.

8. Make Sure to Re-post Your Ad

You’ll notice the frequency of calls dropping off after the first couple days, since new ads are getting more views than your old one and most people don’t go beyond the first few pages of search results. Delete and re-post your ad after two or three days, and you’ll be back on top.

If you don’t re-post, your ad basically becomes useless after a few days as no one will view it anymore. Lastly, if you followed all these steps and still haven’t gotten any calls, your price is probably too high. Don’t hesitate to reconsider your price or rewrite your description when you re-submit your post.

Final Word

Always keep your guard up when receiving emails from “prospective buyers.” Craigslist has plenty of potential buyers, but the marketplace is also full of scammers, especially when it comes to buying and selling cars (i.e. common Craigslist scams). If someone offers you more money than you asked for, that’s a tell-tale sign of a scammer. Also, never do any transactions through a money wire service and don’t deal with anyone claiming that they’re international. Remember, “If it sounds too good to be true, then it is too good to be true.” Keep that in mind and stay on guard, and you’ll be fine. Good luck!

Do you have any firsthand experience selling a car on Craigslist? What was the experience like?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Kira Botkin
Kira is a longtime blogger and serial entrepreneur who enjoys gardening, garage sales, and finding stray animals. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where football is a distinct season, and by day runs a research study for people with multiple sclerosis. She hopes that the MoneyCrashers team can help you achieve your goals and live a great life.

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Comments

  • http://savingmoneytoday.net Mike – Saving Money Today

    Great tips! I’m actually going to put a car on Craigslist soon so these tips will come in handy. I just have to get it washed and polished up for some pictures. thanks

  • http://howtosellyourcar.net Michael D. Forbes

    Kira, good information, especially the parts about mentioning damage/needed repairs, rather than trying to HIDE them. Honesty goes over better than deception.

  • KMN

    Thanks for your help, Kira. We listed our car this morning and sold it to the second caller — in only a few hours! And we had MANY more calls asking about our (not any more) car.

  • Luis

    I know all this information, but where do I need to posted?

  • Luis

    selling a passport Honda 1995 160 miles. Need it oil pump and is loaded left side on the door but the door is opening. New battery everything is okay. I just asking for $1100.00. !

    • Kira Botkin

      Sorry, this is MoneyCrashers, not Craigslist! You can post your ads by going to craigslist.org and finding the specific site for your city.

  • http://www.rayskillmanchevrolet.com/section/secondary/buy-here-pay-here-cars-indiana-finance-specials Tyra Shortino

    Whoa! Four days is pretty fast, Kira. Great photos and including a tagline on the title are great marketing moves. Those would definitely attract more potential clients. But above all these, a good price is what will make buyers tick.

  • Chohaec

    I want selling my car Honda Insight 2004 A/C, 2DR CPA,Silver and new battery replacement.
    It’s very good condition it has little over 95,000 miles on and very gas for 51 miles a gallon…
    I am asking price $5,500.

  • joey faele

    2000 Toyota Camry Le 4cyl 141,000 miles runs mint ice cold a/c tinted windows 4 doors gray.very good condition in & out .! asking price $4,600. call joey@1917-225 6447.

  • Lapc260181

    1993 lexus gs 300 6cyl 3.0L runs great a/c 4 doors, very clean,black. I’m asking price $ 2000. call 714 800-0170 en santa ana california.

  • Major Brar

    2001 Ford Taurus SE, 6cyl. 85600 miles, runs mint ice cold a/c 4 door, automatic,black very good condition in and out.! asking price $3900. blue book value $4430.00 call Simer OR major @608 836 9763.

  • Kenjen

    How can you make sure you get your money when selling your car to someone you do not know? Also, do you ride along on a test drive? Do you ask for a credit card or similar item when you let the people take the test drive (in case they don’t return)? Thanks!

    • Kira Botkin

      When I’ve sold cars on Craigslist, I always went with them for the test drive. I also only took cash or cashier’s checks. You could also have someone else go with you and stay behind with the seller. If they don’t return with the car, you call the police.

  • KSchroeder

    What about AFTER the ad is posted and you are getting offers? What then? How to transfer the title?

    • Kira Botkin

      That entirely varies by state. Here in Ohio, the title has a place on the back that you can sign to transfer it to another person. Then that person takes the signed title to the DMV and they do the transfer in the computer and print them a new title. I’ve also just gone to the DMV office with the person and signed it right there, so they can get their new title and license plate immediately.

    • jbass5

      NEVER sign a title as the seller without the buyer signing in your presence too. It becomes a negotiable document allowing the car to be sold and re- sold many times while according to the state,it’s still in you name…you can even be liable for things like towing and storage if it’s abandoned, or even worse if it’s in an accident..

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathydiane52 Kathy Ingram

    i have a 2002 white mustang for sale for 6,300.00. verry good condition.clean title.everything works and in good condition. no dents or broken windows.

    • Judytyler45

      How did you place your ad. I have been trying for two weeks and all I get is how-tos! So confusing

  • Brunoivillegas

    I have a 1998 honda accord and great condition clean tlttle …$3200
    or best offer car is in medford oregon my number is 541 324 6221

  • Sife

    This page does not say where to post my car on Craig’s List for sale.

  • Sethrobertson

    i’ve found comparing kbb, carmax prices, and completed auctions on ebay gives me a pretty good idea of fair market value. i read a great book on buying and selling on craigslist. it’s on amazon under “how to buy and sell a car on craigslist ebay and autotrader”

  • clint

    i have a 2002 mercury cougar for sale. Its a 2.5 liter v 6 with about 101,221 miles on it but it has new oil filter and oil done, 2 brand new tires ,plugs wires and all the trimmings just needs a little love. it runs great its black and sporty. have pics on phone. asking 2,800.oo firm…..641 932 2012.

  • Bnwilliams2

    My Dad has a 1991 S10 Chevy truck for sale , would make someone a great work truck or farm truck, it has high miles but has fairlly new tires

  • Crbedrosian

    I have a 1999 Mercedes 500 SL AMG -Two tops -one all glass –car show condition –PRICE $.18,500—miles 33,800. Must see.

  • Josue Gonzalez267

    I have a 2002 pontiac grand am with only 102k.. Black all power options with moonroof very clean in and out good tires super fast runs 100% just past insp… $3500 willing to nego.. 8563454522 must see!!!

  • Bobing87

    i have a subaru outback 2002 H.6 3.0 only 65k miles … 7600$.. if u wanna see it or want me to send pics let me know.. it has sunroof, leather. AWD, VDC, run good.. 9089438572 im bob i live in NJ elizabeth

  • Ralphbeaudet

    2005 Chevy Silverado Ext. Cab with 22” chrome wheels For Sale: $9,500.00 cash! Serious buyers only! 979-277-2926 or [email protected] for more info. 12-30-2012 Thank you & Happy New Year!!!

    • A Commenter

      Do you seriously not know the difference between this website and Craigslist? Seriously?

  • keithpr

    I have to say, I take issue with #5. I’ve had extremely little success being overly forthcoming in the ad. The car can have 10 different very minor issues, like a small chip in paint, a kink in the back bumper, a dome light that needs a new fuse or bulb, etc.. these are things that don’t really matter to someone who just needs a car and fast, but when you list too many things, no matter how small, people just see ALOT of problems and assume the car is too messed up to go test drive, and the ad gets ignored. Post the same car with a very simple statement: Needs some minor work, and add a positive like “this car will easily reach 250k miles” when you are listing it at 180 or 190 speaks volumes. People want to know that the car will not fall to pieces 6 months after they buy it.

  • Jesus

    2002 Nissan altima 110k miles..manual transmition..email at [email protected]
    $5200

  • andrea

    I have a 2010 silver chev malibu in excellent condtion, fully loaded, onstar ready with sunroof for 19,000 dollars please call andrea@9032633251

  • luis nissan

    I have a 1993 nissan maxima for sale great miles 123 great realiable car just needs emission done being sold for 1,800 or best offer if interested please call 860845_4708 or 860_845_4709

  • Donna’s Car

    I have a 2003 Hyundai Tiberon for sale. Its a GT 6 cyclinder, black leather interior. It has 115,000 km. Great little car but need money for University. I want $6,000.00. please call 250 267 8187.

  • Lola

    I have a 2001 Dodge Caravan that is HANDICAP ACCESSIBLE
    Ramp, power in floor, Power Sliding Passenger Door, Power Windows, Air Conditioning, Cruise Control, Rear Back Seat, Dark Blue in color, less than 120, miles
    Selling price 16,000. Please call 471 926 2886

    • TONTON

      do u still have ur car?

  • TONTON

    I have a 1999 HONDA ACCORD 2 DOORS WITH 193K, 4cylinders, black color, new tires, and sunroof. price 1600 dollars. please call 2016808021

  • [email protected]

    Marcus Hodge
    I Have a 2002 Black Toyota Avalon XLS 4 door 4 cylinders with sunroof,electonic doors and windows with 119593 miles with signature chrome rims,leather seats,6 disc cd changer,tape deck, and all the paper work thats been done to it available,only thing wrong with it is needs to replace arm rest and have to open driver front door from outside cause of door handle but everything else works fine..price is $5500.00..if interested please call 614-871-7917 for michael or cynthia hodge house # or 614-584-7283 for Michael Hodge cell#..but try to reach the 614-871-7917# first.. thank you

  • malibue bob

    I have a 4 door 1968 chevy malibu in great shape new engine/trans manifold,620 carb,rv cam and headers also new brakes front and rear front end restored with new rubber grouments new head linner has some rust lower driver panel and around rear window have replacment part sounds awsome and runs great. leave message if interested and ill call you. Want 10.000 firm( bob) can send pic

  • Blair

    I’m selling my convertible its a 1998 Sebring it’s gold in color asking 6.000 or best offer call me at 267-546-7550 mrs.blair runs good.

  • cristian

    Kjempebil skal selges. Har vert godt vedlikeholdt av eiger. Mykje nytt i
    forstilling (demper, bærebru o.l.). Bilen er eu-godkjent og tatt all
    service. Reg. reim og hovedservice blei tatt vår 2012 hos
    orginalforhandler. Bilen er eit sjelden godt eksemplar og går godt med
    kjempegrp på veien. Det ligg ein NAF- test fra mars 2011 som kan sendes
    på epost eller liknande, feil der vart utberta i etterkant. Må prøvast
    og sjåast

  • Rumaldo Ch

    I have a 1995 HONDA PRELUDE 2 DOORS WITH 120K, 4cylinders, white color tires in good contition, and sunroof. price 3000 dollars. please call 210 8238344 i can send pictures thx

  • al

    2000 green Subaru Impreza wagon for sale. 144,000 miles; 2.2 liter; 4 cylinder engine. Runs good and the body is in good shape with good all weather tires. Has been well maintained. I am the second owner and have owned it for 12 years. asking price is $4700.00 Call 406 549-1434.

  • Miguel A. Gomez

    97 F 150 truck, V6, single cub, 157,000 miles, excellent condition. Asking $4,600.00 or negotiable. Really need to sell. to buy smaller car. Please call me at: (336) 329-2453

  • Paul Nakamura

    I have a 2011 Toyota Sienna Van, Limited, AWD with chrome wheels, running boards,Navigation,DVD new tires,front and back sensors,bluetooth wireless,ltd. premium package, HID headlights, V6, 268HP, pearl white with 29,500 miles. Original price $46,606.oo plus $2,700.00 in extras. SELL FOR:$30,900.00, NEGOTIABLE, CALL 650-872-0567 ASK FOR: Paul

  • Mahi Tuna

    2013 427 Corvette Convertible. White/Blue Stripes. 1SC Option Package. Car has every option, 5255 miles. 505hp. $66,000. Always Garaged Location Ohio [email protected]

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