Your Guide to Buying a Car on Craigslist
In the past two months I have bought two cars with the use of Craigslist, and although it can be a long tedious process it is well worth the reward. Both of the cars have been from the owner and not a dealership, because buying from an owner it is easier to talk them down and there are fewer taxes involved. But before I go any further, I must make one thing very clear. In the process of buying a car, there will be a few cars that are extremely young and should have a high value blue book value, but have a listed selling price that is insanely low. Or someone will email you, offering you a nice clear perfectly running car with a blue book price that is 4 to 5 times more then what the seller is offering. Regardless of car make model and price, they will communicate via email with you and offer to ship and pay through an eBay service and it will seem like you are safe in trusting your money because it is eBay. Never under any circumstances even bother with an offer like this, unless you want to donate to the “help them get rich charity”, offers like these are always fraud. Now that you are aware, let’s get into the process of looking selecting and purchasing a car.
When searching, you are looking for a few things. Before looking at anything make sure that the car has a phone number to contact the seller at, dealing with email addresses rarely brings responses and has potential to bring fraud. First make sure that the ad has pictures, get a good look at the car make sure it is clean and looks well kept up. The reason for this, is that the more pictures and detail shown in the car, means that you will have a less chance of missing a dent or scratch or a deal breaker on the car. Next, look for mechanical text, if the engine or transmission or power train has been replaced then it might be a problem. My reason for saying this is, those vital parts of the car (engine and transmission) are a good indicator of how well the car has been taken care of. So if replaced then they must have gone bad, which means that you have a high chance of having other problems with the car. If the car is over 100k miles, then one thing you want to look for, is a car that has the water pump and timing belt changed, this is something that most higher mile cars will need to have changed at some point however this isn’t a urgent thing unless the car is over 160k miles. If the car hasn’t had too many repairs, has and has a number to contact the seller, and you like the look of the car as well as price then call them to view the car. When you call them, it would be a good idea to get a VIN number and look up the carfax report. Also, check the Kelly blue book value for the car, this value serves as the highest value that the car should be bought for.
When you look at the car, make sure to try and talk as much information about the car as possible. Look at the exterior, be very detailed and look for rust dents or any defects that you didn’t notice in the picture be extremely detailed in this because some cars will have tape covering the rust or a defect. Next, look inside the car look for rips and defects or missing parts. At this point you want to pop the hood before turning the car on, check the oil (which should be clean or at least not thick) this will be another indication of how well the car has been taken care of. Next check the transmission fluid (which should be pink or at least transparent), look for frayed or cut wires or anything out of place. At this point turn the car on, keep the hood up and check the tires the tread wear will serve as another indicator of the cars up keep. Leave the car running for about 10 minutes, make small talk or just sit in the car and relax for a minute. At this point you are checking for strong smells of gas or burning, also you are checking for engine noises that are unusual. The car should be able to sit in idle with no issue, and at this point if anything has seemed wrong or out of place then leave the car and start your search over again. But if the car passes these tests, then it is time for a test drive put the car through its paces, drive how you would normally drive. Check for engine noises and a shaky gas pedal, when driving the car the ride should be smooths no noises screeches, or any problems. After the test drive, let the car sit in idle for a little while longer, and take a second to go over the car one more time. After all of this, if you like the look and feel of the car, then it is time to purchase.
When you are ready to buy the car, it is important to keep in mind the listed ad price. Make sure you bring the ad price, but tell them you have less and see if they will agree to that selling price, most sellers will come down a few hundred bucks at least. If not then you still have enough money to meet the ad price, at this point it is time to do the easy part. Make sure you see the cars title, if the title says original, then there are no problems, however a rebuilt title should have been something the seller made you aware of from the beginning. When buying the car, make sure you have a bill of sale for your records as well as for tax purposes. Both you and the seller should sign the title at the appropriate spot, as well as the bill of sale should be signed by both. After this, get the keys and let the seller clean out their belongings and you are finished. At this point, you should head directly to the DMV and purchase license plates, as well as register and pay taxes for your car. Make sure the bill of sale and title is dated, this will help you if you get pulled over for not having any plates on the car on the way to the DMV. After all of this, it is time to enjoy your new car.