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How to Sell a Car on Craigslist: 5 Things to Know | Credit Karma
Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.
We think it’s important for you to understand how we make money. It’s pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.
Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That’s why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.
Of course, the offers on our platform don’t represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.
If you want to sell your car, Craigslist can be a great place to advertise and sell your car on the cheap.
Craigslist charges only $5 for by-owner car ads — and cheap advertising isn’t Craigslist’s only perk. You may also end up getting a better price for your car by selling it privately instead of trading it in at the dealership.
If you’ve considered selling your car on Craigslist but thought it would be too difficult or complicated, you may be surprised to see how simple the process can be.
Selling your car?
See My Car’s Estimated Value Now
How to sell a car on CraigslistHow to protect yourself when selling a car on CraigslistAlternatives to selling a car on Craigslist
How to sell a car on Craigslist
Thinking about selling your used car on Craigslist? Here’s how to prepare for the sale.
1. Get an estimate of your car’s fair market value
You won’t attract any legitimate buyers for your car if you’ve priced it way too high. On the other hand, if you price your used car too low, you’ll get less for it than you deserve.
To ensure you’re pricing your car appropriately, begin by checking out its estimated fair market value on Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.
2. Set up a clear and detailed Craigslist ad
When you’re creating the Craigslist ad for your used car, include as much information as you can.
Include your car’s year, make and model in the headline of the ad. And in the description, include everything from the engine size to the mileage to the type of upholstery.
Be sure to mention any damage or issues with your car. And if you added any extra features like a stereo, spoiler or new tires, you’ll want to include these too.
Finally, make sure that you include a lot of photos.
3. Make a plan to meet potential buyers
Pick a spot to meet people who are interested in buying your car. If you don’t feel comfortable with people coming to your house, a public space, like a shopping center, is fine.
Keep in mind that someone buying a used car is probably going to want to take it for a test drive. If you have multiple people wanting to look at your car, make sure to screen them ahead of time and budget enough time between each meeting.
4. Collect the necessary paperwork
The first document you’ll need to track down is your car’s title. If you still owe money on your vehicle, your lender will have a lien on the title. In this case, you could pay off your loan before the sale or ask your lender for guidance on how to handle things.
If you own your used car free and clear but can’t find the title, don’t panic. You should be able to apply for a new one at your state DMV or transportation agency.
Next, you’ll need to have a bill of sale. Rules for bills of sale vary by state. Depending on where you live, you may be allowed to create your own. Otherwise, some states now make it possible to download and print a bill of sale from the state transportation agency’s website, or you may be able to pick up a hard copy from your local DMV.
Before you start meeting potential buyers, some other documents you might need include a release of liability form, warranty documents and maintenance records.
5. Be ready to negotiate before closing the deal
Used-car buyers are out to get a deal — and they’re probably going to want to do some haggling. That’s OK. But if you can’t agree on a price, don’t be afraid to walk away.
Once you settle on a price, your buyer may want to pay with a check. If so, consider finalizing the sale at the buyer’s bank branch or ask for a cashier’s check. That way you can be sure the check is legitimate before handing over the keys to your car.
Once you’ve received payment, you’ll transfer your car’s title into the buyer’s name and fill out a bill of sale.
How to protect yourself when selling a car on Craigslist
You shouldn’t jeopardize your safety to sell your car on Craigslist. Here are some ways to protect yourself.
Keeping you and your car safe
Letting people test drive your car may make you feel uncomfortable. If you let them drive off alone, what if they don’t bring your car back? On the other hand, who wants to hop in a car alone with a total stranger?
Here are a couple of ways to protect yourself and your car when you’re meeting somebody for a test drive.
Bring a friend. Avoid meeting somebody for a test drive alone — especially if you plan to ride for the buyer’s driver’s license. Take a picture of the license and send it to a friend. If the person you’re meeting isn’t OK with providing a license, don’t hand over the keys.
Keeping your wallet safe
As Craigslist recommends, restrict your interactions to local buyers who you can meet face to face. If someone from another state wants to wire funds to you, run the other way. You could be dealing with a scam artist.
Alternatives to selling a car on Craigslist
Facebook Marketplace: If the anonymity of Craigslist worries you, selling to people who have profiles and pictures on Facebook Marketplace may give you more If you’d prefer to list your used car on a site that focuses completely on automobiles, could be a good choice for Motors: If you’ve sold items on eBay before, eBay Motors may be a better fit for listing your used car.
What’s the best site to sell my car?
Feeling overwhelmed after reading all these guidelines and precautions? Don’t worry — selling on Craigslist has its benefits.
Yes, you’ll have to do some prep work before listing your car. But if you put the work in, you may be able to sell your vehicle faster and for a higher price than you’d get at a dealership.
About the author: Clint Proctor is a freelance writer and founder of, where he writes about how students and m… Read more.
Sell Your Car on Craigslist? Yes! 11 Easy Tips For a Great Sale
A 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee similar to the one we sold on Craigslist. Photo: Chrysler
Don’t be afraid. This can be very good.
Over the years I’ve bought and sold tons of things on Craigslist, including my 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee (which was a great experience). So when my friend Hansen Lukman asked on Facebook if it was a good idea to sell his car on Craigslist, I replied, yes!
For a guy, selling things on this open-source classified site seems less risky (and yet, even Hansen was wary), but for women, it can seem downright scary.
But it shouldn’t be. I’ve learned ways to protect myself from fraud and risk when selling and buying, and we all know that selling a car privately can net you more cash than selling it to a car dealer. So here are my tips for selling a car (or anything) on Craigslist.
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1. Prep Your Car for a Buyer to Fall in Love
Make sure your car is in its best, most presentable shape. Get it washed, polished and detailed so it’s clean and smells nice. Think about replacing anything that might need it, such as floor mats, and remove anything unnecessary such as car seats or trunk organizing bins. Be sure any accessories, such as a cargo cover, grocery net or spare tire kit, are clean and stored in the cargo area.
A few photography tips can go a long way toward selling your used car. Photo: Desiree Miller
2. Take great photos
I can’t say enough about this. Buyers scour photos for details to know if they want to take the next step and contact you. To help them, take your photos as soon as you’ve detailed your car, take them in an attractive place that is NOT your driveway or in front of your house, and take complete photos (so, don’t cut off the bumper) so the buyer can truly see what the car looks like.
Make sure the light is great so colors and details can be seen. Take photos of all the exterior angles and of important interior details; also photograph any damage that the buyer should be aware of. You can upload a dozen photos and often, buyers ask me to email more photos before they commit to taking a look.
3. Do Your Homework: How much is your car really worth?
This is critical. Research the private party price for your car on sites like KBB or AutoTrader, and be honest about your car’s condition, the value of its features and the current marketplace. Look at how many just like it are for sale and the asking prices. You might even take note of a few and ask the owner to email you with the sales price once it’s sold.
Once you know the market value, set your price: asking price, ideal sale price, and lowest minimum price.
Related: Is a used car a better bet than a new car?
4. Write a kickass ad
Jeeps for sale on Craigslist run the spectrum from pristine to in need of TLC; prospective buyers can also look at ads from dealers, individuals or both.
Include what would you want to know when looking at used car ads: price, mileage, year, condition, features, damage, any significant repair work, that it has a clean title.
Then include this: cash only, no third parties, no money orders, no shipping, no funny business.
When I first started using Craigslist I had tons of scammers answer my ads with all sorts of crazy offers. Once I added the no-nonsense clause, they stopped.
5. Create a folder for your posting information
Keeping all your information in one place will help you to repost your ad if your car doesn’t sell in the first week (your Craigslist ad expires after a week). Keep all your photos, your ad copy and the activation link that Craigslist sends you in a file. This is great for reposting, editing your ad if you realize that buyers want to know something you hadn’t originally included, and emailing more photos to potential buyers.
If you have to repost your ad and want to use the exact same ad, just click the original activation link and you can repost in seconds. Another reason to love Craigslist.
6. Post your ad—and what not to include
This part is pretty easy, but keep a couple of things out of your ad: Your address: DO NOT check the map box—unless you really want people coming to your house.
Don’t include your phone number; I never include mine, instead, I use the Craigslist reply email. I only provide my phone number to people who email to ask about the sale item.
Consider opening an email account just for this sale and use a gender-neutral name. Even if you open an email account with a name like Jeep4Sale, the name on the account still comes up in the recipient’s mailbox. Since my name is Scott, it’s a nice protection barrier—people don’t expect a woman (unless they Google me first, which most people don’t seem to do).
7. Reply to inquiries—except the crackpots
You can ignore them. Try to filter out the earnest inquiries, some of which can, due to English-as-a-second langue issues, sound crackpot-y even when they are earnest. Reply promptly, answer questions honestly and send more photos if requested. This is where you should know what price you’ll accept, a location for meeting a prospective buyer and what payment process you’ll require for the transaction. For more on that keep reading.
8. Meeting your prospective buyer
Of course bring a friend, though it’s probably most helpful if that person stays in his car so that the buyer knows you’re protected but doesn’t feel outnumbered. Let the buyer look the car over and answer her questions. If she wants to take a test drive, great! Take a photo of her drivers license, be sure your insurance will protect you in case of an accident (do this ahead of time of course) and hop in the back seat (assuming she didn’t come to this meeting alone either).
9. The pre-sale inspection
You wouldn’t buy a used car that hadn’t been inspected by a mechanic, right? Don’t expect your perspective buyer to, either. If she’s interested, ask her to make an appointment with a mechanic (you might give her some dates/times that are convenient for you) and meet her there. Ideally the mechanic is right next door to her bank so that when all goes well, you can complete the transaction.
I bought my car with my cell phone. Really!
10. The transaction: Get your money!
You want cash right? The best place to get it is the buyer’s bank. She can either have the bank cut a cashier’s check—which you can watch being prepared so you know it’s good—or finalize her loan and write you a check. You’ll also probably need to have the title transfer notarized, which her bank can also do.
With check in hand, remove the license plates from your car and call for your Lyft.
11. What else to keep in mind
Make sure the car’s title is clean, free of liens, loans or ex-husband’s names.
The buyer’s bank may also be able to wire transfer the cash to your account, typically for a small fee.
Be sure to cancel insurance on the car as soon as it’s sold
You may need to return your license plates and a provide a bill of sale to your Department of Motor Vehicles; check your local laws
Be sure to clean all your items out of the car before the final transaction; you don’t need her enjoying your EZPass or Outerbanks overland permit.
What was my own Jeep sale experience like?
Excellent. Our Jeep had a blown engine, and while it ran, it barely did. I researched what it was worth, about $1, 000, and listed my add on Craigslist. I was upfront about its condition and immediately a fellow from Long Island emailed me. It was EXACTLY what he was looking for.
Turned out that he buys old Jeeps and fixes them. He offered me $800 and came to get it the next day, bringing his girlfriend and a tow bar. He hooked it to his truck and I sadly waved good bye to the Bat-Mo-Jeep as it rolled out of the driveway. It was the car that brought our babies home from the hospital, that moved us more than a few times, that took us up and down the East Coast visiting family. But they were happy tears, too; our Jeep was going to a good new home, thanks to Craigslist.
See Hansen’s tips for selling a car on Craigslist; his are pretty good too!
Journalist, entrepreneur and mom, Scotty likes to say the automotive business found her, she didn’t pursue it. But recognizing the opportunity to give voice to powerful female consumers and create a voice to match their spending power, her mission became to empower women as car buyers and owners. A career-long journalist, she has written for the New York Times, Town & Country, Adweek and co-authored the book Stew Leonard, My Story, a biography of the founder of the iconic grocery company Stew Leonard’s. Her love of cars started when her father insisted she learn to change the oil in her MG Midget, but now it mostly plays out in the many road trips taken with her family.