How to Safely Purchase a Car From Craigslist

Finding a new car can be challenging. It’s even more difficult in today’s world as we learn to navigate the new normal presented to us by the coronavirus. Quarantine rules and social distancing regulations — staying at least six feet away from other people — make things like sitting down at a dealership impossible. One option that is always available is to purchase a car directly from a seller on Craigslist. 

What precautions should you take to help you safely purchase a car from Craigslist, and what should you avoid at all costs?


  • Don’t Ever Go Alone


While there are plenty of people who are honest in their attempt to sell a vehicle on Craigslist, there are just as many people on the site who are there for the sole purpose of ripping you off or even harming you. The first rule of online shopping is never going alone

Always take a friend and meet in a public place. If your city offers a safe space for Craigslist meet-ups — which many often do — take advantage of it. 


  • Do Have It Inspected


When you’re shopping on Craigslist, the worst thing you can do is to take the seller at their word in regards to the quality of the vehicle. Have it inspected by a mechanic of your choice. Don’t let the seller choose the mechanic — again, assume that everyone is trying to scam you, and no one will be able to. If they insist on using their guy, walk away. 

Make sure your mechanic is checking for things like rust. The worst places to find rust are in the bed, cab corners, floor, exhaust, fenders, frame, rocker panels and wheel wells. Make sure your mechanic also checks for signs of fresh paint, recent repairs or attempts to hide rusty fenders. 


  • Don’t Pay in Cash


You may have to bypass a lot of different cars on Craigslist with this rule, because many may be listed as cash only. That’s okay, though. Paying in cash might seem easier, but it offers you little to no protection if something goes wrong. Other than your word, you’ll have no proof of how much money you spent on the vehicle. 

If you don’t want to use checks or money orders, use a money transfer app like PayPal or Venmo to create a digital paper trail.


  • Do Ask for a Test Drive


You wouldn’t buy a car off the lot without a test drive, and you shouldn’t buy one from Craigslist without doing the same. Ask for a test drive. If the seller shuts you down immediately, consider looking for a different vehicle to purchase. 

Some may not want you to test drive a vehicle in the event that you get into an accident. However, as long as you have auto insurance, it will cover any damage that occurs, even if you’re not driving your own vehicle. 


  • Don’t Settle


Just because this is the first Craiglist car you’ve seen and it looks like it might suit your needs, don’t settle for anything less than the perfect option for you. Tell the seller that you’ll think about it and contact them later if you decide to go through with the purchase. 

This step is an excellent way to separate legitimate sellers from those trying to con you. Actual sellers might seem a little disappointed but will let you go your own way. Con artists will try to bully you into the purchase immediately. If that happens, walk away and don’t look back. 


  • Always Be Careful When Buying on Craigslist


Shopping on Craigslist can be a bit of a minefield. You can discover a fantastic deal on the car of your dreams, or you could find yourself scammed out of the shirt on your back. Always be careful, never go alone and keep yourself safe, especially while the threat of the coronavirus is still out there. 


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