How to Safely Sell Your Car on Craigslist

How to Safely Sell Your Car on Craigslist

Despite the fact that Craigslist has gotten some bad attention over the years, it’s still a very popular way to sell things that you don’t want. If you’re thinking to yourself, “How am I going to sell my car for cash?”, then keep in mind that Craigslist poses a great solution.

Craigslist also offers many other things for sale, so be aware that most anyone can reach out to you wanting to see your vehicle. This doesn’t mean that everyone who uses Craigslist is a creep or weirdo, but there are certainly people out there interested in things that you might consider less than savory. Even worse, there are plenty of predators who use Craigslist as a way to find people that they can prey upon; this includes all kinds of dangerous and illegal activities. When selling your car on Craigslist, you can’t underestimate safety measures. So follow these tips and be safe.

Here are some tips for how to safely sell your car on Craigslist!

Before You Make a Post

Before you make a post to sell your vehicle, there are some things you should consider and keep in mind to make sure you do things as safely as possible. First, you’re going to want some pictures of your vehicle – probably at least four: one from the side, one from the rear, one of the front end and at least one of the interior. When you take these pictures, drive your vehicle to a location other than your house. Go to a public parking lot or similar place to take the pictures so that your home and address are not anywhere in the images.

You should also use image software to cover your license plate in the pictures. You don’t need some expensive photo manipulation program – even a basic paint program on your computer or phone can make a black box over your license plate. Also, be mindful of any reflections of yourself on the windows or other surfaces in your pictures.

Ultimately, you just want to make sure there is no private information or anything in the images that can be used to find out who you are. Yes, in the end, you’ll meet the potential buyer of your vehicle face-to-face, but until then you want to control what is known about your identity. Remember: it won’t just be interested buyers looking at your post. There are people who may want to cause you harm using Craigslist as a way to search for victims, so the less you give them, including anything that reveals your appearance or gender, the better.

Information in Your Craigslist Post

Once you actually make your Craigslist post, you want to continue to be careful about the information you provide and reveal. As I said, make sure you post images that do not include your home or your license plate number in them. You also do not want to provide any contact information about yourself in the post you make.

Craigslist includes a simple function that lets people send you email without you having to actually give your email address or other information. Use this system so that people can message you through Craigslist rather than having your contact information directly. Publicly posting your email address is a good way to have it picked up by automatic systems that scour the internet for email addresses to flood with spam and potentially malicious items.

Your post should be made in the geographic region where you are, but do not provide any more specific information about your location. You want to control what you let other people know about you and your post should be as neutral as possible. No one needs to know your age, gender, appearance, or anything else when they should only be interested in the vehicle you have for sale. Some of this may seem a bit paranoid, but you’re better off feeling silly for being so overly cautious than paying the price for having the wrong person find out where you live.

Set Up a Phone Call

Although email can be easily done through the Craigslist relay—therefore never revealing your actual email address—it’s always best to set up a phone call with the potential buyer. If they don’t want to talk to you on the phone, this a red flag. They should actually want to talk to you about your vehicle so they can ask you questions about it and make sure you’re a real person.

You also want to make sure that they are a real person. Write down some questions before the call if you’re nervous, such as “What made my car stand out to you?” or “Why are you interested in this vehicle?” Use your own words and phrase these kinds of questions in a way that is more natural, but you get the idea of what you should be asking.

Ultimately, you want to ask them what they’re looking for and what their needs are when it comes to the car. The person on the other end of the line should be genuinely interested in the car. If they don’t act interested in the vehicle or what you have to say, chances are they’re not really trying to buy your car from you and it could be a setup to be robbed or get your vehicle stolen.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of a complete stranger having your phone number, which I am, then consider using a disposable mobile phone for selling your vehicle. You can buy mobile phones with preset minutes on them very cheap at a number of different retailers. This way, you can only give out the number to this phone to someone who shows genuine interest in the vehicle. If you’re the one calling them, then you can use the prepaid phone to make the call, so they don’t get your actual number on their caller ID. Once again, this lets you control how much of your personal information is out there.

If the caller also begins asking you about the price and trying to get your car for cheaper, this isn’t a good sign. This likely means that the person won’t be using the car themselves and just wants to sell it for a higher value. It also means that they’re not interested in the car and they’re just more interested in getting a cheap deal.

Meet in a Public Place and Set Stipulations

If the person passes your phone call test and you’re having a great conversation about the car, this might be a good time to set up an in-person meeting with them if you’re feeling good about it. Remember to always trust your gut—if something doesn’t feel right to you, don’t follow through. You can always hang up the phone and back out of the deal.

Ask the person to meet you in a very public place. This could be at a popular coffee shop on a Saturday morning or a shopping mall parking lot. Just be sure that there will be plenty of other people around. Also, tell the potential buyer that you’d like to see their driver’s license before taking the car for a test drive. This should scare off anyone who is up to anything suspicious.

It’s a good idea to choose a public location that is not particularly close to your home. While you don’t need to drive two towns over to meet with a potential buyer, you also don’t want them to see you leave your house across the street to meet them at a restaurant. It should be close enough to you that you know the area and feel comfortable, but not so close that someone with nefarious intentions can easily see where you live as you go there.

Also, when you leave the location, whether to consider an offer or just because things didn’t work out, be aware of your surroundings as you leave. Make sure you are not being followed by the person who met you, or anyone else they may have working with them. If you feel like someone might be following you, make a few unnecessary turns and see if they do too – just don’t turn into a dead end or somewhere you don’t know. If they are following you, then drive to the nearest police station – they will certainly drive away and you can file a report if you have been harassed in any way.

Bring a Friend and Know What to Expect

Never go to meet with someone who is potentially purchasing an item from you through Craigslist by yourself. Whether you are selling a vehicle or a piece of furniture or anything else, do not do a sale alone. Have someone with you, preferably someone who can fend off an attacker or handle a physical altercation if something happens. If the buyer has a problem with you bringing a friend along, then end all talks of making a sale right then and there. Nothing is more important than your safety.

It’s also important to ask the person who will be coming along with them when you meet. While some people may come alone, most people are smart enough to bring a friend to this sort of thing. If the person is evasive about who they’re bringing, this is a red flag. You should be clear with the person that you’ll be bringing someone else with you.

When you go to the meet-up, make sure everything is what you expected. If you talked to a woman and she said she would be bringing her husband along, but three men show up, then just get out of there. Whatever you and the buyer agree to in terms of a meeting should be what you actually walk into. If they tell you that it’s okay and they’ll be making the purchase, just politely tell them you prefer dealing with the original person who can call you when they’re available. Just remember to be cautious and safe as you leave.

A man and a woman are pointing to a car in a parking lot outside.

Be Safe on the Test Drive

Most buyers won’t want to buy your car without driving it first. If you’ve gotten this far in the Craigslist transaction (talking with them on the phone, getting them to meet you in a public place with their driver’s license), chances are that everything will go fine. This doesn’t mean that you should let down your guard, however.

It’s a good idea to go with the potential buyer on the test drive. This is where it also helps to have a buddy with you—you both can go along and you’ll feel safer with someone else there. If for some reason you can’t take someone else with you, arrange a phone call with a family member or friend. This way they can call you while they know you’re with the person and check in to make sure everything is ok. You could also arrange a code word to use just in case things are going wrong and your friend will know to call the police. If you can’t bring someone with you, always let them know where you’re going to be.

When on the test drive, don’t take any valuables with you, but do take your cell phone. Choose an area that’s very familiar to you and let the drive be short. Go through areas that have plenty of people. Always return from the original area where you started—never let the potential buyer take you to a different location.

The Transaction

Let’s say everything goes fine. The phone call went great, you met them, took a test drive, and everyone is happy. The buyer wants to purchase the car. The buyer will likely try and negotiate with you about the price. This is normal, and you should accept whatever price you feel comfortable with.

This is where the buyer may try to ask you for favors—driving him or her to a bank, accepting a check, or dropping him or her off with the car at another location. Don’t agree to any of these things. If the buyer doesn’t have cash to complete the sale, let them know that they can contact you when they have the money and they’re ready to buy the car. If this happens and you have to meet the buyer again to make the sale, follow all the same rules as before to protect yourself: meet in a public place, bring a friend, etc. Just because you have met them once and they didn’t attack you doesn’t mean they’re suddenly safe – ultimately, they’re still a stranger.

You shouldn’t meet the buyer at your home unless for some reason it can’t be avoided. You should never let the potential buyer into your home for any reason. Ensure you have a bill of sale ready but don’t sign anything until you’ve received the money. If the person is smart and has done Craigslist car sales before, they’ll know to come ready with cash.

Always Trust Your Instincts

This has been stated several times already but it truly cannot be overstated when it comes to something like this: trust your instincts. If, at any time, you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, then listen to that voice and get yourself to a safe place. You might feel silly or like you’re making a fuss over nothing – ignore that feeling. It is much better to be embarrassed about overreacting than to become a statistic on the nightly news.

Also remember that the buyer you are dealing with could feel the exact same way about you. They should also want to meet somewhere public, bring a friend along, and only stay in locations where they are safe too. So don’t be alarmed if they also seem a bit paranoid – they don’t know you any more than you know them. But you have to watch out for yourself and protect yourself – trust your instinct and always make sure you are safe in every situation.

Final Thoughts

Selling your car on Craigslist is oftentimes an easy task and can get you cash for your car quickly. However, there are people out there who scan Craigslist and take advantage of sellers on there who may have never sold their car on Craigslist before and don’t know what they’re doing. This is why you need to be prepared.

Remember to always talk to the buyer beforehand, as this will give you the best idea about if they’re serious and genuine or not. Make conversation with them about the car. Meet in a public place away from your home, and never accept anything less than cash for the car. After the car is sold, ensure you aren’t responsible for anything that may happen to it by letting your local motor vehicle administration or registry know that you sold the car. They may have you complete a release of liability document so that you won’t be held responsible should it be used for criminal activity.

Be safe when selling your car on Craigslist—follow these tips!

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