I recently sold my car on a very tight timeline. I tried three well-known methods, a car dealership, autotrader.com and Craigslist. Selling a car is not an activity for the inexperienced or faint of heart. (Especially in the United States: traditionally a non-haggling culture, whose two exceptions to that rule happen to be for cars and houses, the two largest-ticket items anyone will most likely ever purchase. This market oddity makes no sense at all and typically ensures that realtors and car dealerships always have the upper hand.) If you’ve done your research, you’ve read the gruesome accounts of unsuspecting people being maimed or murdered while trying to do this very thing (as mentioned in this article). If you’re hellbent on proceeding with Craigslist, you’ll need three things, a thick skin, intuition and a whole lotta luck.
I left my local jeep dealership feeling about three inches tall last Friday. I was utterly deflated. “$13,500, that’s our best price. If we were to go to auction on your car today, that’s what we could offer,” the glassy-eyed, soulless car vampire tried to stare me down. In addition to him, a group of large, stone-faced men hovered around me in the sales office. They tried to wordlessly intimidate me into agreeing to sign over my 2007 Jeep Wrangler, in near-perfect condition, without so much as batting an eye at the astonishing $6,500 undercut on Bluebook value.
Collecting every inch of bravado in my soul I scoffed at their ridiculous offer, collected my key, got back in my Jeep and drove away. I managed to drive as far as around the corner before pulling over to hyperventilate.
$13,500???? WTHeck?? Maybe I need to rethink my game plan. Should I have accepted that offer? Do pigs fly?
But I didn’t cave. And I never went back.
The appearance of a thick skin in the face of those deflating moments (even if I wasn’t really feeling very thick-skinned in reality): quintessential.
Using the internet to sell your car can be a great idea but scams are everywhere; seller beware. You’ll need to use your brain and intuition to detect and avoid them. My Jeep was listed for sale on Autotrader for a little over a week. During that time I was contacted a few times about the vehicle, mostly by someone with a letter like this:
“Thanks for your responding, l’ll want you to get back to me with last price of the ITEM,Again l would like to send payment asap. Please let me know if a certified Bank check is ok.After my check clears my shipper will come and pick it up at your location.I would have loved to come and take a look but I can’t. My shipper will though. If you can get back to me with your details I’ll get the check out asap. Need your Full Name and Address Not P.O Box and your Telephone Number.”
scam artist potential purchaser never mentions the year/make/model of the car.
-They call it “the item”.
-They offer to buy it sight-unseen.
-They want your information.
-They haven’t given you any information about themselves.
-(& Their grammar is atrocious.)
Emails like this ended up in my trash can without so much as a second glance. And thus ended my experience with Autotrader (which I actually paid to list on). That site may well be a dying trend. Has anyone actually ever sold their car using autotrader? Because, come to think of it, this is the second time I listed a car there and the second time my efforts resulted in nihil.
This brings us to good old Craigslist. As I mentioned previously, I needed to sell my Jeep on a very tight timeline. (When I first listed on Autotrader I had only two weeks to sell prior to leaving the U.S..) After the horrifying dealership incident, I was struck with the thought, nay inspiration, to post my car for sale on Craigslist. And that same wacko inspiration was immediately dismissed.
People get murdered, swindled, scammed routinely while using Craigslist. It is a last resort!
But then I realized that with only a week left, it was time for last resorts and I listed the Jeep late on a Friday night. A few short hours later, early Saturday afternoon, I received my first bite from the ad. I gave the email a dismissive glance, not expecting anything but another scam attempt. But lo and behold, the heavens parted and I found that I’d received my first legitimately interested response. The potential buyer told me his full name, gave me his phone number, told me what city he lived in and that he wished to arrange a time to see the vehicle (he specified the make/model), I was a little bit taken back. But I picked up my phone and called him. We scheduled a time to meet the next afternoon, in the parking lot of a shopping center, and I arranged to have my sister join me for the test drive.
When the sister and I arrived at the designated meeting spot, sister and I were immediately put at ease. A very normal, happy, friendly man, his wife and teenage daughter were waiting to see my Jeep. We all hit it off immediately. There wasn’t a single axe murderer in the bunch. An hour after a successful test drive I received an offer and the next day I gave up my precious Jeep Wrangler for a cashier’s check that was not made out for $13,500, and that I was not worried in the least about being able to cash. It was the best possible outcome. I liked the buyers so much that I now consider them friends. We hugged when we said goodbye, for the love of Pete. Maybe it’s a Jeep thing. Maybe it was a little bit of pure luck. But it happened, and it was magical.
Should you use Craigslist to sell your car?
Are you crazy? Do you have a death-wish? Do you feel like you can risk losing your car?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, see a shrink. And if you didn’t answer yes to any of those questions and still feel like you want to use Craigslist to sell a car, go for it. I did. And it was the best car-selling experience of my life, once I got over the fear of being murdered.