How to sell a car on Craigslist: 5 things to know

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In a Nutshell

Before selling your car on Craigslist, you’ll need to estimate its fair market value. Take some time to create your Craigslist ad, and be sure to include plenty of detail and photos. Before meeting with potential buyers, collect the paperwork you’ll need to finalize the sale. Finally, protect yourself by dealing with only local buyers and by meeting in public places or with a friend in tow.
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If you want to sell your car, Craigslist can be a great place to advertise and sell your car on the cheap.

Craigslist charges only $5 for by-owner car ads — and cheap advertising isn’t Craigslist’s only perk. You may also end up getting a better price for your car by selling it privately instead of trading it in at the dealership.

If you’ve considered selling your car on Craigslist but thought it would be too difficult or complicated, you may be surprised to see how simple the process can be.

  1. How to sell a car on Craigslist
  2. How to protect yourself when selling a car on Craigslist
  3. Alternatives to selling a car on Craigslist

How to sell a car on Craigslist

Thinking about selling your used car on Craigslist? Here’s how to prepare for the sale.

1. Get an estimate of your car’s fair market value

You won’t attract any legitimate buyers for your car if you’ve priced it way too high. On the other hand, if you price your used car too low, you’ll get less for it than you deserve.

To ensure you’re pricing your car appropriately, begin by checking out its estimated fair market value on Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.

2. Set up a clear and detailed Craigslist ad

When you’re creating the Craigslist ad for your used car, include as much information as you can.

Include your car’s year, make and model in the headline of the ad. And in the description, include everything from the engine size to the mileage to the type of upholstery.

Be sure to mention any damage or issues with your car. And if you added any extra features like a stereo, spoiler or new tires, you’ll want to include these too.

Finally, make sure that you include a lot of photos.

3. Make a plan to meet potential buyers

Pick a spot to meet people who are interested in buying your car. If you don’t feel comfortable with people coming to your house, a public space, like a shopping center, is fine.

Keep in mind that someone buying a used car is probably going to want to take it for a test drive. If you have multiple people wanting to look at your car, make sure to screen them ahead of time and budget enough time between each meeting.

4. Collect the necessary paperwork

The first document you’ll need to track down is your car’s title. If you still owe money on your vehicle, your lender will have a lien on the title. In this case, you could pay off your loan before the sale or ask your lender for guidance on how to handle things.

If you own your used car free and clear but can’t find the title, don’t panic. You should be able to apply for a new one at your state DMV or transportation agency.

Next, you’ll need to have a bill of sale. Rules for bills of sale vary by state. Depending on where you live, you may be allowed to create your own. Otherwise, some states now make it possible to download and print a bill of sale from the state transportation agency’s website, or you may be able to pick up a hard copy from your local DMV.

Before you start meeting potential buyers, some other documents you might need include a release of liability form, warranty documents and maintenance records.

5. Be ready to negotiate before closing the deal

Used-car buyers are out to get a deal — and they’re probably going to want to do some haggling. That’s OK. But if you can’t agree on a price, don’t be afraid to walk away.

Once you settle on a price, your buyer may want to pay with a check. If so, consider finalizing the sale at the buyer’s bank branch or ask for a cashier’s check. That way you can be sure the check is legitimate before handing over the keys to your car.

Once you’ve received payment, you’ll transfer your car’s title into the buyer’s name and fill out a bill of sale.

How to protect yourself when selling a car on Craigslist

You shouldn’t jeopardize your safety to sell your car on Craigslist. Here are some ways to protect yourself.

Keeping you and your car safe

Letting people test drive your car may make you feel uncomfortable. If you let them drive off alone, what if they don’t bring your car back? On the other hand, who wants to hop in a car alone with a total stranger?

Here are a couple of ways to protect yourself and your car when you’re meeting somebody for a test drive.

  • Bring a friend. Avoid meeting somebody for a test drive alone — especially if you plan to ride along.
  • Ask for the buyer’s driver’s license. Take a picture of the license and send it to a friend. If the person you’re meeting isn’t OK with providing a license, don’t hand over the keys.

Keeping your wallet safe

As Craigslist recommends, restrict your interactions to local buyers who you can meet face to face. If someone from another state wants to wire funds to you, run the other way. You could be dealing with a scam artist.

Alternatives to selling a car on Craigslist

  • Facebook Marketplace: If the anonymity of Craigslist worries you, selling to people who have profiles and pictures on Facebook Marketplace may give you more confidence.
  • If you’d prefer to list your used car on a site that focuses completely on automobiles, could be a good choice for you.
  • eBay Motors: If you’ve sold items on eBay before, eBay Motors may be a better fit for listing your used car.
What's the best site to sell my car?

Bottom line

Feeling overwhelmed after reading all these guidelines and precautions? Don’t worry — selling on Craigslist has its benefits.

Yes, you’ll have to do some prep work before listing your car. But if you put the work in, you may be able to sell your vehicle faster and for a higher price than you’d get at a dealership.

About the author: Clint Proctor is a freelance writer and founder of, where he writes about how students and millennials can win with money. When he’s away from his keyboard, he enjoys drinking coffee, traveling, obse… Read more.