Online car sales are one of the most rapidly growing industries in the world. Every day thousands of vehicles are sold or traded on the web, with Craigslist being one of the most popular marketplaces for both peer-to-peer sales and dealerships.

A lot of people have reservations about using Craigslist, because of safety and privacy concerns. We’ll address these concerns and discuss how to market your vehicle safely and successfully using this application.

What Does Craigslist Require You to Do to Sell Your Car?

Verify a valid email address

One of the reasons Craigslist is such a popular marketplace is that users aren’t required to create an account to use their services. Craigslist isn’t entirely anonymous though; even if you post as a guest, you’ll still need to submit and verify a valid email address to post.  While many users prefer the anonymity that this site offers, there are advantages to creating an account.

Pay for your post

Craigslist now charges for all vehicle advertisements, a change that went into effect in April 2019.  According to the Craigslist help section, the paid posting rate for ads by vehicle owners is $5 and applies to cars, trucks, RVs, and motorbikes. Paid posts made by dealerships range from $3 to $5.

What to Do Before Selling Your Car on Craigslist

Locate the title and address liens

Barring a few special circumstances (like selling classic cars), you’ll need a valid title to sell your vehicle in almost every state. If you need a replacement, you can file a request either in-person, by mail, or online through the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. If you’re still financing the car, you’ll need to settle any liens before you can transfer ownership.

Take clear, high-quality photographs

Take care in choosing a key picture for your ad. This is the first impression patrons have of your car, and it’ll likely be the deciding factor in whether or not they click to learn more. Humans are visual beings and are more likely to interact with your post if you have quality pictures. Don’t forget to blur out your tag to protect your identity.

Set your asking price

Kelley Blue Book is an excellent tool to estimate the value of your vehicle. This website factors in the car’s make, model, condition to determine how much your car’s worth. It’s also a good idea to browse other local car ads in your area so you set a competitive price. Knock the price down $100-$300 for each automotive problem you identify, even more for costly fixes. If you’re not in a hurry to sell, consider doing small improvements to increase the car’s value.

Clean your car inside and out

Definitely tidy up your car before taking pictures and letting potential buyers test drive it. A thorough vacuuming, some windshield cleaner, and a few armor-all wipes can make a world of difference for your old ride. Discard any trash and check under the seats too. Stale fries and fast food cups aren’t a great aesthetic.

Steps to Selling a Car on Craigslist

Dust off your old Gmail Account

Make sure you have access to a valid email. If you don’t regularly use your email, it’s a good idea to hop on and make sure you still remember your login info before posting your ad. Craigslist will use your email to verify your account and notify you if a user responds to your ad.

Consider creating an account

Decide whether you want to create a free account or post anonymously. An account isn’t required to post on Craigslist, but making one has its perks. If you post as a guest you’ll be unable to access drafts and flagged or expired ads. There’s also no way to edit a posting without having to submit a whole new one. Anonymous posters will be prompted to enter an email validation code for every post created. Although aggravating, validation codes help weed out spam accounts and ensure the user has a valid email address.

Sell with integrity

Be honest about the car’s condition—even minor things. Detail all damages and mechanical problems (ie. the window won’t roll down, the seat won’t recline, or the fuel door latch sticks). Not only will prospective buyers appreciate your honesty, but they’ll also be more comfortable with buying from you.

Compose your ad thoughtfully

Weed out errors and improve readability by running your post through a grammar-checker like Grammarly before submitting it. An article titled “Five Reasons Your Car’s Craigslist Ad Sucks and How to Improve it” explains, “Even if your spelling and grammar is proper, poor typing etiquette can make your ad difficult to read. Examples of (this) include typing in all capital letters, in jumbled text, or in run-on sentences.”

Formulate a detailed headline

Create a concise headline that hits all the important selling points, like the year, make and model of the car. Keeping the title brief will let casual browsers know what they’re looking at a glance and catch the eye of people who are specifically looking for what you have to offer. Refrain from using this space for a cheesy sales pitches (Great family car! Spotless interior!)

Post real photos

It’s common sense that your car should look it’s best in the photos you post, but you need to make sure any imperfections are visible too. Angle the camera so you can get clear photos of the front, back, sides, and interior of the car. Don’t zoom in on the problem areas, but don’t crop them out either. Craigslist limits ads to 8 pictures, so make them count! Using image-hosting sites to add additional photos within the description is no longer supported by Craigslist.

Include the VIN in your post

Consider adding the VIN in the post so interested users can order a vehicle history report for your car. There’s no personal data tied to your VIN, so listing it won’t put you at risk of identity theft or scams the way your vehicle tag number can.

How to post your ad

Enter http://craigslist.org/ into your browser bar. The webpage will use location services to automatically route you to the closest region’s homepage. You can select from nearby cities on the right-hand side of the screen to select a more specific location or click on the region headline section and type your city manually.

Once you’re in the right place, click “post to classifieds” and select the “car/trucks for sale by owner” option. You may be prompted to agree to a list of guidelines before continuing.

This will redirect you to where you’ll create your ad. Once you fill in all the fields, hit “continue” to review your post before submission. Next, read and accept the terms of use, you may be prompted to enter a captcha word.

After you’ve completed these steps you’ll get an email containing a link allowing you to publish your ad. Don’t delete this email, it’s the only way to delete your post if you don’t have an account.

Repost, repost, repost!

Delete and repost your advertisement every couple of days to make sure your ad stays near the top of the listings. Newer ads will push older ones down making them harder for buyers to find. No one is going to look through 10 pages to relocate your ad. Make things easier for your prospective buyers by keeping your post bumped to the top. Craigslist removes postings automatically after 30 days.

Allow test drives

Allowing test drives can push prospective buyers who are still on the fence into closing the deal, but you should take some precautions if you choose to do this. Meet in a public place and bring a friend. It’s also a good idea to ride along with the interested party while they try it out. Some buyers like to bring a professional mechanic along to assess the vehicle, so be prepared for that too.

Be Cautious

As with any online marketplace, there’s a chance you might be approached by a scammer, avoid being swindled by following these simple steps:

  1. Ask to speak with the prospective buyer on the phone. According to Josh Sadlier, a seasoned Craigslist seller and content developer for Edmunds.com, scammers often hide behind the safety of their keyboard when hustling buyers. Talking to them on the phone will help you get a sense of whether they’re legit or not.
  2. Listen to your gut if something seems fishy. Sadler suggests being cautious if the buyer has too many stories and complications (like asking you to ship the car or saying they’re only able to pay with a personal check because they don’t own a debit card)
  3. Meet in a safe public place. Optimally bring at least one other person with you— there really is safety in numbers!

Interested in an easy and safe way to sell your car privately?  Try PrivateAuto.

  • List until sold for free.
  • Printable window brochure.
  • Avoid scammers with verified email, phone number, and driver’s license.
  • Accept, reject, and counter offers.
  • Schedule inspection and test drives.
  • State-specific bill of sale and other documents that you and your buyer can electronically sign from the app.
  • Upgrade to premium to verify funds, transfer payments, and more.

Ready to sell your car? Get started and create a listing today.