6 Tips for Buying a Car on Craigslist

Buying a car on Craigslist can be a great way to save thousands of dollars. These 6 tips show you how to save money the next time you need a new car!

To save money the next time you buy a car, you might consider using Craigslist. Before you shake hands with the seller, follow these simple tips when buying a car on Craigslist. They can help you get a better deal.

1. Be Patient

Sometimes the best Craigslist deals for cars do not appear immediately. In some cases, you might have to wait one or two years to buy a car. If you in a rush to buy, you might have to settle for a higher purchase price or an alternative make or model. Be as patient as possible. Eventually, you will find your desired vehicle with low mileage, excellent maintenance history, or your target purchase price.

2. Look At Surrounding Cities

Another option is to look at the vehicle listings in surrounding cities. If you live in a semi-rural area, you might be able to find a better vehicle selection when you are willing to drive 2 to 6 hours away. This takes a little more planning as you might have to meet on the weekend or take a vacation day from work, but, it can save you thousands of dollars.

You might also consider this option if you are looking for vehicles with certain features. For example, you might want a vehicle with 4-wheel drive. If you live in an area that rarely sees snow, 4-wheel drive & all-wheel-drive vehicles are rarely listed. But, if you can drive 4 hours north where they have a real winter, you can find more 4-wheel drive vehicles and fewer front or rear-wheel drive vehicles.

Related: What Car Brands Depreciate The Fastest?

3. Look at Private Party & Dealership Listings

Even though you might use Craigslist to avoid the dealer, sometimes dealers still have the best vehicle inventory. you might have to pay dealer fees, but, it looking at dealer listings can be a good way to quickly comb the boards of surrounding cities. And, their listing prices can still be potentially cheaper than similar listings in your own town because of supply and demand.

There are some dealers that are in business to flip vehicles and offer lower prices because they are constantly acquiring new inventory. Just make sure to schedule a test drive before making the drive.

Related: 6 Quick Ways to Manage and Lower Your Auto Insurance Rates

4. Test Drive Your Vehicle

It goes without saying but test drive the vehicle. If you have a friend or family member with a mechanical background bring them along to look & listen to the car. Ask the owner about any mechanical repairs they have made or might need to be made.

Get as much information about the condition of the vehicle before you schedule a meeting to get an accurate idea of potential repair costs or the cost to replace the tires. Ask the owner if he has factored any needed repairs into his selling price.

Also, visit various car forums or Edmunds to research the maintenance histories that might be common to a specific vehicle year. This knowledge can give you some questions to ask the owner & some areas to investigate when you meet for the test drive.

Related: 9 Tips To Finding the Best Auto Loan for You

5. Know the Blue Book Value

Don’t think you have to pay the seller’s asking price. Research the Kelley Blue Book value for your area or TrueCar to find the average selling price. This can help you from overpaying as some sellers might be asking above book value because they might have upgraded the vehicle like tinted windows, a custom paint job, dual exhaust, or an expensive subwoofer system.

6. Be Prepared to Negotiate

Unless the seller is firm on their selling price, there is usually some room to negotiate. It depends on how soon they want to sell the car & how many other people are looking at it. Selling prices are different in each metropolitan areas and some cars hold their value better than others. Usually, you can get a car for at or below Blue Book value.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a lower purchase price. Don’t “lowball” the seller with an unreasonable offer. Unless the car is a clunker, they aren’t going to give it away for free. Be respectful and ask for a lower price. They might respond with a counter offer to “meet in the middle.”

Also discuss how the seller wants to be paid (i.e. cash, cashier’s check, or a combination of the two). Being prepared to pay might also help the seller give you a lower selling price. If you decide to wait a day or two, they might find another buyer that is willing to pay the asking price.


Buying a car on Craigslist is a great way to save money. You just have to be prepared to negotiate & possibly drive a longer distance to find your vehicle. By educating yourself on the current selling prices and the most common maintenance issues, knowledge truly is the power to get the best purchase price.

Disclosure: The information provided by The Financial Genie is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice. You should consult with an attorney or other professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs. The Financial Genie does not make any guarantee or other promise as to any results that may be obtained from using our content. No one should make any investment decision without first consulting his or her own financial advisor and conducting his or her own research and due diligence. Additionally, some of the organizations with products on our site may pay us a referral fee or affiliate commission when you click to apply for those products.

  • Categories

  • Leave a Comment