General Question

Emilyy's avatar

What's the best way to avoid scams and/or death when selling a car on Craig's List?

Asked by Emilyy (2133points) June 6th, 2008

Of course I know not to accept money from overseas and ask for a money order and all of that, but I’m wondering specifically how to deal with the transactions once I find people who seem like serious buyers. Should I keep some sort of collateral while they test-drive my car? Or should I ride along on the test-drive? Is it best to meet in a public location like a park rather than tell people where I live? My father is in another state and has been watching too much Dateline so he’s freaking out that I am going to get swindled or murdered in the process of trying to sell my car. Any help is much appreciated!

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23 Answers

PupnTaco's avatar

Sell it on eBay. They have protections in place already.

jballou's avatar

You should definitely meet in a neutral location. Someplace where they can easily check out the car and maybe drive it around the block. It’s totally normal for you to ride along with them for a test drive. If you want them to be able to drive it alone, most dealerships keep your license as collateral (but they ride along with you anyway)

Also- bring a friend! Don’t go alone.

Also, to save time, you might find out where you can get a title transfer done beforehand and maybe meet somewhere close to that location.

cheebdragon's avatar

take a male friend with you, meet at a grocery store, only accept cash and check the bills! You can get a money checking marker at staples or office depot to mark the bills for $3

cheebdragon's avatar

For the test drive you and your friend need to be in the car!

CameraObscura's avatar

Depending on the value of your vehicle, it’s sometimes a good idea to invest ~$100 prior to listing to streamline and expedite the process. $10 on a Carfax vehicle history report and ~$75 on a pre-purchase inspection at a neutral car shop. Preferably the dealer. Showing a potential buyer these two things helps greatly to show that you’re an honest, motivated seller.

Be clear in the ad. List everything you know to be wrong with the car.

Decide on a price and list it as “FIRM” multiple times in the ad. You’ll encounter people offering half your asking price and a riding lawn mower unless you make it clear from the outset. Especially on craigslist.

At the very least, top off the engine oil, have the proper air pressure in the tires and do a thorough wash and detail.

Definitely ride along on the test drive. Not only do you want to make sure they don’t steal the car, you want to make sure they’re not dogging on it as well. Don’t be surprised if they want to take it by a shop to have a pre-purchase inspection if you don’t do it beforehand. Choose a shop together to make sure the mechanic is not their friend.

Also remember (a lot of people succomb to this…), when people start haggling with you because there’s a dent here, or this belt may need to be replaced in six months- you’re selling the car cheaper than it was new precisely because it’s used. They’re not expecting to see a new car and you’re not advertising it as such.

scamp's avatar

The othersn posted some really good ideas here. I just want to add one thing. Do the transaction in the parking lot of your local police station! Let them assume your husband is working inside, and you should be safe! Good luck!

Emilyy's avatar

Ooh, scamp, I like the sound of that one!

scamp's avatar

<——takes a bow

jballou's avatar

No offense, but meeting in the parking lot of a police station? I dunno, not one wants to be made to feel like they are under scrutiny. As a potential buyer I might be a little insulted and just move on to someone who doesn’t give me that hassle.

I think most of the other suggestions are pretty par for the course in terms of buying a privately owned used car, but if you’re really that nervous about it all- maybe you should get some quotes from local dealerships and see if you’re happy with what they’re offering. That way you won’t have to deal with buyers at all

scamp's avatar

The idea is to make Emily feel safe. An honest person should have no qualms about being there.

jballou's avatar

I understand what you’re saying, and I also understand that I am a large man from a densely urban area and I rarely feel unsafe, even in unsafe situations, and have no idea what it feels like to be a woman in a situation like that.

That being said- she’s selling a car, not a nuclear weapon. There’s being safe and there’s going overboard. And my only real point in all this is that if it’s such an issue to the point where you’re going to intentionally misled people into thinking a station full of cops has your back, then maybe privately selling a car in a city just isn’t right for you. That’s all. There are other safer ways to sell a car if that’s the case.

I am an honest person, and I’ve bought and sold tons of things on craigslist, but if I was asked to meet someone in the parking lot of a police station- it would make THEM seem shady, and I wouldn’t want to deal with it.

But like I said, I’ve lived in a city as a big guy my whole life, so I don’t really feel unsafe like some people do, so maybe I’m off base.

scamp's avatar

We’ll let emily decide how she wants to handle it. Maybe she could hire you as a bodyguard? Thanks for your input.

CameraObscura's avatar

I just threw up in my mouth.

Don’t ask to meet at a police station. I can’t think of a better way to come off looking like a rookie who has no idea what you’re doing. Completely unnecessary. Thousands of cars are bought and sold each day without incident. Just be smart and don’t get taken for a ride.

cheebdragon's avatar

I use to live across the street from a police station, i could seriously throw a rock and hit a police car from my front porch that’s how close I lived! There was more crime on my street than the rest of the city…..........do you know why????
BECAUSE THE COPS ARE NEVER THERE!!!!!

Emilyy's avatar

We’ve gotten slightly off topic but I’ll happily chime in just for the heck of it since It’s 2:47 on a Friday and I’m bored at work.

scamp has the right idea simply because I’m 23 and female and might have more concerns about safety because of that. I’d thought about bringing my 6’2” 200-lb boyfriend along on the test drive, but I guess in a worst-worst-worst-case scenario where someone poses as a potential buyer but has a weapon or something and wants to harm you, what good is having two people instead of one really going to do? That would be an argument for meeting at least near a police station, even if not in the actual parking lot.

I’m actually a very trusting person so even considering meeting in any sort of a public place makes me feel weird, like I have no faith in humanity. But I would like to protect my address and other personal information from people that I don’t know well. Like I said in my original post, there’s just so many Dateline-esque horror stories that you never know what’s going to happen. I’m still figuring out how I’m going to do this, but I’ll keep ya’ll posted on what works and what doesn’t.

and @CameraObscura: I liked your ideas above, but my concern is not looking like a rookie. My concern is my safety. If I lose a little street cred to be safe, that’s fine by me.

Response moderated
CameraObscura's avatar

It’s not about “street cred”, it’s about looking like a confident, experienced young lady selling a car. If you were to tell me on the phone that you wanted to meet at a police station (and I could get over this fact) I’d immediately know you most likely have no idea what you’re doing. This would also alert me to the fact that you won’t be bringing your 6’ 200 pound boyfriend.

cheebdragon's avatar

Thomasr~ what’s with you and the driving/traffic school links?

cheebdragon's avatar

as much as I usually love to disagree with cameraobscura…............I must admit that I agree with her on this one.

CameraObscura's avatar

I’m a he LOL. Wow, you must have though I was one butch bitch!

cheebdragon's avatar

LOL yes I did!
The whole yelling at strangers in parking lots thing makes a little more sense now, but I still think it would get you killed in my town,

scamp's avatar

Sorry, but I thought you were female too CameraObscura .

CameraObscura's avatar

If I can handle Queens NY, I’m sure I’d do fine in Pomona. But yeah, as for the picture, I’ve just got an affinity for drugged out social icons.

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