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Home » Auto Ownership

Craigslist Cars: 7 Steps to Get there Before the Vultures!

Last updated by on 19 Comments

I Sold my Car on Craigslist

A little over two years ago, I decided to start taking the bus to work. Not long after, I posted my car on Craigslist to sell it. I literally received multiple calls on the first day I posted it (including one from the eventual buyer). There is a huge demand for used cars on Craigslist. Craigslist is the go-to place for thrift-seekers looking to buy used vehicles.

Think about it:

  • They aren’t going to go to a dealer to get ripped off.
  • Car listings in newspaper classifieds are pretty much dead.
  • And other online directories like AutoTrader.com and Cars.com are pretty much dominated by dealer listings.

So they turn to Craigslist. It’s a great place to sell your car.

Buying a Car on Craigslist

craigslist carsCraigslist is also a great place to buy a car, but you really need to get the jump on others in order to find a good deal and get to it first. If you have searched Craigslist for a used vehicle, you know that it’s tough to stay on top of all of the listings that come out for exactly what you are looking for. By the time you’ve seen the listing for the car that you’ve been waiting for, it’s already sold to someone else.

The following method is the only way that I know how to get the jump on those vultures and find a good deal on a Craigslist car. This method requires you to have a feed reader account, like The Old Reader or Feedly set up. They are free.

Craigslist Car Buying – Get there Before the Vultures!

Step 1: Know exactly what cars you want. It could be multiple makes and models. But know what those makes and models are and make a short list of them.

Step 2: Go to your local Craiglist page and do a search for one of the vehicles that you are looking for.

Step 3: Click the little RSS feed in the very bottom right corner of the page and subscribe to that feed using your feed reader account.

Craigslist_vehicles

Step 4: Repeat for every vehicle make and model you’re interested in.

Step 5: To improve your reach, repeat for every local region on Craigslist that you wouldn’t mind driving to. For me, this is a 60 mile radius.

Step 6: Watch as the new Craigslist listings get delivered into your RSS Feed. Check your feed daily (most of you probably already do this with other feeds). You’ll see an up-to-the-minute feed for each Craigslist car search query.

cars_on_craigslist

Note that you may have to click the listing in the feed to see pictures of the vehicle posted on Craigslist. If I see a vehicle that I want to follow up on, I ‘keep as unread’, so that the listing doesn’t disappear from my unread feeds. It’s a way to weed out the bad listings from the good.

Step 7: Act immediately. Offer to meet up with the seller ASAP that day. As a seller, I was willing to see whomever wanted to see the car ASAP, and was going to sell to whomever gave me the first reasonable offer. I wasn’t going to put it on hold or wait for anyone.

That’s it – it’s much simpler than it looks. This method isn’t a guarantee, but if you check your feed reader as much as I do, the odds are that you’ll get there pretty quickly, and you won’t have to go back to Craigslist multiple times daily to do searches for all of the cars on your list. It saves you the hassle.

All the standard Craigslist scam warnings apply: only sell to someone in person, don’t ship anything, cash, certified check, or money order only – you should know the deal by now.

Not Just for Cars!

Not only can you use this technique to find vehicles, but it’s a great frugal technique to keep in mind when you’re looking for something specifically to buy used and locally. Hmm… I think I’m in need of a used kegerator.

Craigslist Car Discussion

  • Have you sold or bought a car on Craigslist? Tell us your story!
  • What Craigslist ninja tips do you have?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


19 Comments »
  • Bonzo says:

    This is a good suggestion for buying anything off of Craigslist. But may actually be a bit deficient if your thesis is that you have to move FAST. This is because there is often a delay of a few to many hours between when an item is posted on a web site and when your RSS feed sees it.

    So even if you react immediately upon seeing the post in Google Reader, it may be hours old.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      Bonzo – that’s not true in my experience. Whenever I launch a new post on 20somethingfinance, it is live in my feed almost immediately.

    • Steven says:

      You may need to check your feed reader settings. When i used to use RSS, i had it set to search every 60 seconds, and i never had any issues, they always came through near-instantly. Craigslist may also have some kind of delay on it, but i dont see why they would, it wouldn’t cost more to have it immediately, and they are like a public service, they want to make it as convenient as possible for people, and having a delay is extremely inconvenient.

  • HedgeHoncho says:

    I just couldnt see myself buying a car on craigslist. I would hate to own a car that wasnt certified by the dealer or without a warranty.

    cars are a money pit to begin with, but add when they start to break and you have no warranty, they become more like a money black hole.

    • bbatson says:

      I respectfully disagree. Truthfully, most dealers don’t care about the car any more than a private seller, and more often than not they probably care less. For most used cars, you’re not going to get much of a warranty from a dealer anyway (30 days, perhaps?). It’s perfectly reasonable to make an offer CONTINGENT on the car passing a rigorous inspection from a trusted mechanic.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      It’s possible to get transferable warranties from private sellers if the vehicle is new enough. If the vehicle is not new enough, most dealers will only give you a 30 day warranty, or you have to pay for it. If you really want a warranty, you can buy one for any age vehicle, but they can be pricey. You also have to consider that many of these newer certifieds that you get from dealers are vehicles just coming off lease. And lease drivers usually are rougher on vehicles than owners.

  • Ron Ablang says:

    Hmmmm. I wonder if there is an app for either IOS or Android that enables one to get these searches automatically delivered to their phone?

  • Danielle says:

    I sold my 12 year old Camry on Craigslist a few years ago. It worked out great, I got a lot more money than I ever would have as a trade-in. It sold quickly, too. My one recommendation would be to sign a contract that you, as the seller, are not liable for whatever happens to the car after it’s sold. I was upfront about the car, I didn’t hide anything – but I didn’t want the buyer to try and hold me responsible if something on it unexpectedly broke or died. I found a law firm that sold these kinds of contracts online for $10, and just filled in the blanks. The buyer had no problem signing it.

  • PTgalOklnd says:

    I’ve had horrible experiences trying to buy on Craigslist. There are so many shady people trying to sell their cars it can sometime be hard to pinpoint the ones that are actually being honest about the car or out there to make a few bucks on a lemon. I’ve had some bad reads on people I’ve met up with or spoke to about their cars. Like calling two separate people about almost identical cars that were both refurbished after being vandalized in almost the same fashion… condicidence, no?

    I’ve had better luck paying a little more a dealer for a cleaner car (inside/out/carfax), or even from someone I know. Good tips though on previous comments about selling in terms of using a contract. I’ll keep that in mind later on.

  • Romeo says:

    I’m with a few people here in that Craigslist is a scary place. I tried to once sell a Bowflex but the person told me that he was from Illinois and although I was in Connecticut he’d send a moving truck to come get it? I knew that I posted it for a deal, but really? No one was going to chop me up :)

    As far as this post goes, though, I had never thought to use Craigslist and my feed reader combined. Definitely a tweet and share worthy post.

  • JPeteQ@gmail.com says:

    I sold my hybrid Honda Civic on craigslist a few years ago. I had all the maintenance records and provided a carfax report to whomever was interested. I sold it within two weeks. The buyer paid less than he would have from the dealer, I made more than I would have from the dealer, and was able to pay off the lease with $2000 or so left over. If you do this, make sure you have a document stating that the new owner has permission to use the vehicle (until you can get the title transferred from the leaseholder to the new owner’s name).

    I also sold a motorhome for my parents on craigslist. Both listings, the first person that looked also purchased the vehicle. But I’m very careful about keeping records and being very honest and upfront about the condition of the vehicle.

    I was also very plain in the postings that under no circumstances would I ship or trade the vehicles, the person buying had to be the one picking up the vehicle and I accepted a certified check or cashier’s check or cash only. (I invested in a $20 pen to make sure the bills were legit.)

    I would absolutely sell a car again on craigslist and I would buy one too.

    Warranties on anything are a waste of money, pure and simple.

    • Moses says:

      Good information.

      next time thought save the $20.00 bucks on the pen
      a small drop of Iodine works the same if the drop turns black
      fake bill. Iodine diapears with in 24 hr from the bill.

      we all learn from one another if were smart.

      Thanks again. :)

  • Smith says:

    I am going to buy a car soon, and i didn’t even think of using craiglist to do it. Now I am definitely going to try to buy a car from craiglist and use the tips found in this article! Thanks!

  • Lucian says:

    Interesting technique. I was used to do the rss thing when I was a freelancer and I wanted to post a bid first on good projects.

  • Eric says:

    I love Craigslist, have now traded 3 of my vehicles for other vehicles on Craigslist (most recent was just this weekend), and sold 2, with 2 more going up for sale in the near future (selling our cars with payments, driving paid for cars from now on)

    Just be careful, lots of spam out there, and I always list on the ad that they are sold “As-is” and place that on the sales receipt as well.

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