Nearly gone are the days when used car buyers and sellers would pick up a copy of the local penny saver and cruise the “for sale” section. In addition to larger online marketplaces like ClassicCars.com or AutoTrader.com, buyers and sellers are flocking to Craigslist as the replacement for their local classifieds. While the postings are virtually endless, the anonymity that Craigslist provides has raised concerns as to the safety and validity surrounding the site’s listing. Granted, the vast majority of the items posted to Craigslist are on the up and up, the short guide below should provide some additional tips for buyers and sellers new to Craigslist.
Read Between the Lines
Taking cues from the listing itself can be a big help. Does the posting seem aggressive? Is it riddled with spelling errors or mismatched and incorrect information? The way a posting is written can give you clues as to the buyer’s or seller’s personality. Much like human resources professionals can quickly weed out resumes based on sketchy information, so can a savvy car buyer.
Ask for Paperwork
In the back and forth that takes place on Craigslist before you agree to purchase the vehicle, ask about paperwork. This should go without saying with ANY vehicle purchase, but again, the anonymity of the site will often lead to vague descriptions that don’t provide near the depth of information that other car listing sites will provide. If you agree to inspect the vehicle and paperwork in person, be sure to go over the documents with a fine toothed comb.
Bring a Friend and Keep it Public
The vast majority of Craigslist purchases take place face-to-face. This is the element of Craigslist purchases that makes some buyers and sellers the most apprehensive. As the saying goes, there’s strength in numbers, so bringing a friend along for the ride can’t hurt. Numbers can also come in handy by meeting in a public place. Parking lots of busy department stores, malls or restaurants can also add a layer of security and reassurance for both you and the other party.
Take a Lap
Before you walk right up to the prospective vehicle or buyer, consider driving or walking a lap at a distance. Taking a lap gives you a chance to double check that the vehicle at least appears as advertised, and also give the scene a quick survey. If everything looks as it should you can proceed as planned. If your warm-up lap doesn’t look right you can call the buyer or seller and let them know that you’ve decided to pass on the transaction.
Weed Out Window Shoppers
If you’re selling a popular make or model you’ll likely be dealing with a number of offers and requests for information. You can vet serious buyers by requesting that ALL buyers be willing to use an escrow service. Online escrow services actually work to the benefit of both the buyer and seller. Sellers know that the buyer is serious as all purchase funds are verified up front before the vehicle leaves their possession. Buyers know that their funds are held securely with a third party until they can verify that the item in question is as it was advertised.