Used Cars: The Dangers of Buying on Craigslist

February 28th, 2020 by

A For Sale sign is being placed on the windshield of a used car in Philadelphia.

If you are on the lookout for used cars, Philadelphia has an abundance of options for you, but none are half as good as those offered in Freehold, NJ (but we will circle back to that later). From dealerships to private sellers, you can get a pre-owned vehicle whenever you what.

In an attempt to stand out just a major city, many people have turned to online platforms to sell their vehicles. Craigslist is one of the most popular websites for listing a vehicle because it lets the seller reach a larger audience in the local vicinity. While this may seem like a good idea, there are some very real dangers of buying on Craigslist.

Our auto experts here at Raceway Kia always recommend making a used car purchase from a dealership. But we’re not just saying that because we sell used cars. Take a moment to read through our informative list of the dangers of buying on Craigslist.

Danger #1: Too Much Time and Effort

While buying small purchases online may be an efficient way to reduce the time you have to spend out shopping, it can be the opposite for buying a used car. Hear us out.

First, you have to already know what car you’re looking for. Then, you have to take the time to search through hundreds of classified ads on Craigslist. In your search, you may not even find what you’re looking for. If you want a very specific make, model, trim, or year, you could potentially go for quite some time without finding it.

Let’s look at the best-case-scenario and say you found the exact vehicle you’ve been dreaming about. The next step is to initiate communication. This is typically done through email messaging with Craigslist because most people don’t want to put their personal phone numbers on an online advertisement. So, you’ve sent the message, and now all you have to do is wait for a reply. There is no telling when the seller will get back with you. It could be in a matter of minutes, or it could be never. If the seller does reply, you will most likely get their number and call to set up a time to go see the vehicle. This will mostly happen on another day.

As you can imagine now, this entire process takes quite a bit of time as opposed to simply stopping by a dealership.

Hands are holding a cell phone that says it has no new messages.


Danger #2: No Guarantees

As with buying anything sight-unseen, there are no guarantees when you purchase a vehicle on Craigslist. If you want to look at a vehicle history report, you’ll have to do that research on your own. You could ask the seller for the VIN number so that you can run a check on the car, but that goes back into the first point of taking too much time. Used cars on Craigslist are typically sold as-is with absolutely no promises.

If issues with the vehicle arise after you hand over that cashier’s check, it’s all on you. On the other hand, if you buy from a dealership, you will be given a vehicle history report, and you can rest assured that they will help you with any problems. Dealerships want to build long-lasting relationships with their customers by establishing trust. Trust is something you simply can’t get with a stranger from Craigslist.

Danger #3: Stranger Danger

On that note, we will move into our next point. Stranger danger is a real thing. With several crimes linked to Craigslist occurring since the site first launched, there is a legitimate threat when meeting someone to make a large purchase such as this. The seller will already know that you have the money to buy the vehicle, so there is a chance of theft. If you do decide to buy a car from someone on Craigslist, make sure that you are meeting in a secure location with cameras such as a bank or police station.

One might argue that car salespeople at dealerships are also strangers. This is true, but there is a sense of trust because they are employees under a trusted brand. That makes a world of difference.

Danger #4: Scam Artists

Elaborating on the last point, scam artists are abundant everywhere. Commonly associated with big cities, running into a scam artist from an online ad is a likely possibility. These predators are looking to make a quick buck off of hardworking, honest folks by falsifying titles, tampering with odometer readings, and even slapping fresh paint on the car to hide any damage. This is why it’s important to get the VIN number and do your own research before committing to a private sale.

You could also just head to your local dealership and save yourself the aggravation. As we said before, once you hand over that money, the car is your responsibility. If it turns out to be a stolen vehicle, you’ll have to deal with that. If you discover serious issues with the frame from an unreported accident, that’s on you to get fixed as well. The list of scam possibilities goes on and on.

Danger #5: No Dealership Perks

If you think that dealership perks only come with new cars, you’re way off! When dealers accept a trade-in, they don’t just roll the vehicle out onto the lot and slap a “For Sale” sign on it. Great care is taken in properly detailing the vehicle and ensuring that it’s in the best of shape. They clean it from the inside-out thoroughly, fill-up the fluids, and even check the tire tread. You may or may not get this kind of service from a private seller.

There are a select few people who care about their cars. They will probably wash it and getting it looking nice to sell. However, a lot of people just want to see their vehicle as-is. You may find yourself sitting in someone else’s filth or filling up windshield cleaning fluid as soon as you get home with it.

A couple is signing paperwork for a used car at a dealership.

Danger #6: Financing Is a No-Go

If you’re looking to buy a pre-owned vehicle, chances are that you’re on a budget. The first thing to note is that private sellers sometimes charge a tad more than dealerships. There are a few cases in which a private seller heavily discounts their vehicle simply because they want to get rid of it. This could be for a variety of reasons and may work in your favor or not.

When you’re thinking about buying a used car from Craigslist, you should know that financing will be out of the question. Private sellers almost always want to be paid in full. If you are on a tight budget, this could be a big problem. With dealerships, you always have the option of financing. All you have to do is get approved and set up a payment plan.

Danger #7: Selling Your Car

While this would hardly be considered a danger, it can definitely be a problem to sell your old model. With private sellers, you don’t get to trade-in your current model for theirs. You will need to attempt to sell your own vehicle, which can take a long time. On the other hand, if you trade-in at a dealership, the price of your current car can go towards the price of the car you want to buy. This can help you out significantly in cutting down payments.

Find the Perfect Used Car

If you’re looking for a used car, visit us in Freehold, NJ, today! We’ve got a great selection of new and used cars for sale for you to choose from, and you can trade-in your current car with no problem. We have a lot of services for our customers to take advantage of, including regular sales/specials, a great financing team to help take the stress out of buying, and we have a great Service and Parts center.