How To Sell Your Car On Craigslist Quickly & Safely
I have been selling stuff on Craigslist for some time. In the past few years, I have also offloaded some cars on the free site. The process is simple, but you do have to understand the laws of your particular state. I would continue to buy and sell cars, but after a certain number, I would need to get a dealer license. I am not interested in making this a business, but I do like the freedom of selling my vehicle on my own and reaping the reward (all cash baby!). The best part is there are no fees to list the car and no commissions to pay, unlike eBay Motors. Based on my experience, I wanted to show you how to sell your car on Craigslist in the safest and most efficient manner. Just as a note, all of my vehicles sold in less than two days for straight cash!! I encountered no issues and would recommend it to anyone as long as you follow these steps.
Sell Your Car on Craigslist – The Steps
All of my vehicles were in working order when I sold them on Craigslist. I know quite a few people that will sell their vehicles for parts, but I do not do that unless I have a junker. The following steps outline what I did in order to sell my cars quickly, but also in the safest manner. Remember, you are dealing with people you have never met before. You should take every precaution that you can. Now, let’s get onto the first step in the process.
Step 1 – Legal
You can’t just put your car up for sale and not think of the legal ramifications. Each state is different on how they want buyers and sellers to deal with a vehicle purchase. While I cannot cover every state and their legal stances, I do recommend going over to DMV.org to see what your state might require. You should also make sure to check with your state’s DMV website. Since you are the seller, you only need to deal with that part of the transaction. These are the items that I had to deal with in North Carolina.
- Clear Title – You obviously can’t sell a car that isn’t yours. If the title is in your name, the make sure it is clean (ie, free of liens). If you ever had a loan on the vehicle, then that loan needs to have been paid off. If your car still has an active loan on it, then you cannot legally sell it. You don’t own it. Trust me when I say that I have come across quite a few people trying to sell cars that the bank still owned. You can’t do it! Make sure all liens have been released. You might have to contact the bank if they didn’t release it properly. In some states you can sell a car without a title, but it just makes it much harder for the buyer. You do have to disclose this upfront.
- Damage Disclosure Statement – This is not required in all states, but it is in mine. This is a document that you and the buyer sign. You fill out the one page form talking about any damage that you are aware of.
- Bill of Sale – This is an optional document, but one that I highly recommend. It is a simple form that you fill out indicating who the buyer is and how much the agreed upon price is. You can print out two copies and hand one to the buyer and keep one for yourself.
[box type=”info” ]I have spoken with other people in other states. You can legally sell your car when the lien is not clear as long as you have your bank’s approval. The laws of each state are very different, but make sure you clear all lose ends with the bank before trying to sell the vehicle out from under them.[/box]
The title is going to be the most important document that you have. Once you have a possible buyer, then you can fill out the other forms with the buyer. Remember, you need to check with your local DMV to see what is required of you. All states are different and I am not going to list each one here.
Step 2 – Price
Once you have the legal taken care of, you will want to focus on your price. Craigslist is built on price. When you search the site, you can filter by price. When people are looking for cars, they tend to just put in their budget and then go looking. Some will even break down the models they want to see. This is where your price is going to set your apart. I don’t know the science behind setting a price, but I do understand how to price my car to move. As I said, I sold all of my vehicles in less than two days. From the time I listed the vehicle to the time I had the cash, less than two days passed. The main reason for this was my price.
Since Craigslist is free to list on, then you don’t have to worry about fees. The main factor in pricing is being competitive. You should look around the site to see if anyone is selling your year and model. How do those compare to yours? What are their features and how about the condition? This is just simple market research. I would also suggest you head over to eBay Motors to see if your car is selling. What are the prices on there? These are things that you need to take into account.
Check out your car’s value at Kelley Blue Book and see what you can get for it. If your car is in good condition, then you can get close to what KBB recommends for private sales. I use this site to see where I should think about pricing my car. Once I get the number, I go back to my previous research and come up with an asking price. You should be comfortable with the price, but never price yourself too high. If you have the highest price, then you will have a hard time selling your car. People on Craigslist are looking for bargains. If they wanted to get hosed, they would just go to the dealer! 🙂 If you want to get more information, then I would also recommend Edmunds.com. You can put in your car and see what others like it are priced in your area. This is a great way to learn more about your competition.
Related: Keep your vehicle value up to date in your free Personal Capital Account. Now you can measure your real net worth!
You can also check out TrueCar.com and look at their used car listings section. You can put in your year, make, and model and see what dealers are charging for the same car in your zip code. While dealers tend to charge more due to overhead, you can at least get a general picture of pricing. I also recommend TrueCar for buying a new car. It’s a great and free service!
If you come up with a competitive price, then you should have no issue with selling your car. There is a sweet spot with pricing a vehicle to move, but luckily you can change your Craigslist ad at any time. Don’t be afraid to be flexible.
Step 3 – The Description and Photos
OK, you have your legal forms ready and your price is good to go. Now you need to focus on describing your vehicle and taking good photos. Remember, the price is what draws peoples attention, but the description and photos is what causes them to act. I have found the best way to describe your vehicle is with honesty. Does your car need any work? Does the interior have wear and tear beyond what it normal? You should list the good, the bad, and the ugly when listing on Craigslist. Since I have done this a few times, I can easily point out an ad that is trying too hard. It is an instant turn off. It is like reading a salesman’s words just like hearing his voice. If you try to hard, it becomes apparent. I don’t want to be sold on the car, I just need to know the most about it. I will become sold on a car when I actually see it and test drive it.
Your description should include your make, model, year, mileage, engine size, any add-ons, and the like. Whatever your car has on it that makes it different should be listed. After the description, you will need to have photos. It is the same thing as staging a home for sale. If you don’t do it properly, then people will not look at it again.
You should try to take photos on a nice, clear day. Take photos of the outside, inside, engine compartment, odometer reading, and any flaws that are visible and in your description. Transparency is key here. Let your pictures tell the story of your vehicle. Remember, people hate wasting their time and getting duped. Don’t be one of those sellers as people have the ability to trash you online and once that happens, you can forget about selling your car on Craigslist.
Step 4 – Meet up and Negotiations
This is where you start to haggle. I only sell vehicles for cash on Craigslist. I don’t accept checks, money orders, certified checks, or anything else. Cash is king on Craigslist! I do have some advice about how you deal with the meet up. Many sellers don’t mind having people come to their home. While it can make it easier, it is not always the safest place to meet. When I sell my cars on Craigslist, I always make sure to meet up in a public place. This is not because I am paranoid, but because I am cautious. I want to make the buying and selling process the safest it can be for both parties. Meeting in a public place is ideal when selling your car on Craigslist.
Related: How to negotiate a deal on Craigslist
Part of the negotiation comes the test drive. This is a crucial part of the experience. I have never ridden with one of my buyers when they test drive my car. The reason is that I have no idea how well they are behind the wheel and I don’t want to find out. I always have a current picture of my license plate for reference and my vehicles are fully insured. If something happens, then I call the police and report the buyer. I have never come across an issue with a test drive, but I know a few people that have. Just be prepared and don’t put yourself into a bad situation.
If you want to be even more cautious, ask the buyer to take a picture of their driver’s license. Just like you have to hand it over during a test drive at the dealership, an honest buyer should have no problem with you snapping a picture with your phone. The more information you have, the better!
Once you meet up with your potential buyer and they test drive the car, then you will want to start the negotiation. I have never met anyone that wanted to pay my asking price. Isn’t that the art of the sale? I don’t have a problem with people haggling with me. I am not Carmax! Depending on your need, you will want to either stay firm with your price or move down a little. Don’t give away the farm now people.
You want the seller to think they are getting a great deal, but still not drop your price by half. One tactic I use is to make the buyer think there is competition involved. I tell them that I am meeting up with another potential buyer right afterwards. This sense of competition can really close a deal quickly. This method has always worked for me if I feel the deal is not going the way I want it to. I never push a buyer to make a decision, but I will try to influence how much they are willing to pay.
If you price the vehicle the right way, then you should have some room to negotiate. People expect this part of the sale, so give them what they want and make them think they are getting such an awesome deal. Value is in the eye of the beholder!
Step 5 – Closing the Deal and Legal Cleanup
Alright, so now you have a possible deal and you are getting ready to get some cash. Depending on your state, you and the buyer will need to have the title notarized. In my state, this is a must. If you try to go to the DMV to transfer the title over to you without the proper notarization, then you will be denied. To have it properly notarized, you and the buyer need to sign the title* in order for it to change hands.
*DO NOT sign the title before you sell the vehicle. The notary will deny the signature and you might have to go get a duplicate title (and spend money to do so).
I recommend calling your local bank branch and see if they have a notary on staff. Many do and they offer the service for free if you’re an account holder. If you only have an online bank account, then you can check out a UPS store in your area if you have one. They charge $5 per notarization, but it is quick and painless.
If you can go to a local bank, then that will make it easier to transfer the cash as well. Once you have the title notarized and the cash changes hands, then you have completed the sale. Well done! Before you start jumping up and down, make sure you collect your license plate if you need to turn it in. Some states require this, while others don’t. Again, check with your local DMV.
My state uses the plate turn in to notify them that you are no longer the owner of the car. This is when the bill of sale works well. They need to know where the car went and sometimes have to verify it. You don’t want to continue paying property taxes on something that you no longer own. If you have any property taxes due on the car, then you will need to pay them when you are at the DMV. Once they have the plate and that you are no longer responsible for the car, then you are done. You have your money and the car is gone.
Now you can celebrate!
OK, you can’t celebrate just yet. You likely have insurance still on the car. After the sale is completed, you should contact your insurance company to discuss dropping the car. You don’t own it anymore, so why still pay for it? Insurance companies have different requirements for dropping coverage. For mine, all I had to do was confirm I turned in the tags. I’m sure they confirmed it with the DMV on their end, but after that, I just had to confirm in an email they vehicle was sold, then it was dropped from the policy.
OK, now you can celebrate!
Have any of you sold a car on Craigslist before? How did it go? How fast did you sell it?
There was a terrible murder of a young husband and father near Barrie, Ontario a few years back. He took a man out on a test drive of his truck and never came back. The truck was listed on Kijiji and Auto Trader which are 2 popular Canadian sale sights.
That has coloured how I sell my stuff and safety cannot be emphasized enough.
Yes, that is scary. There have been murders around the US that were called the “Craigslist killings” where people would lure others to their home with a sale. This is why I don’t ride with people when they want to test drive the car.
Great tips sir! We sold a car on Ebay a couple of years ago and the process went great…other than it being my Jeep and not wanting to get rid of it, but that’s a different story. They actually didn’t haggle at all which was good. We did try Craigslist and had a few potential buyers, but no one wanted to pay our asking price.
Yeah, that makes sense. You don’t really get to haggle on eBay. I have been able to get asking price a few times, but that was only because I used my method to create “competition.”
Great points that I never considered. I’m not a big car buff so I always feel like I am susceptible to being taken advantage of. I recently bought a used car and sold my old one to Carmax. They have that no haggle policy which made things really easy.
Carmax does make it easy, but you are not getting a good deal with them. They will low ball the crap out of people because they have to turnaround the sell the car for a profit.
What an interesting side hustle. I knew you were a car guy but I think this car selling on craigslist fact had escaped me. I’ve indirectly sold a car on Craigslist. I paid my Mom a commission to handle selling my car because it was parked in my parent’s driveway for a year after I moved to NYC and when I realized I’d be staying here awhile I told them to go ahead and sell it. She got rid of it in less than week for far more than if we’d taken it to a used car dealer!
Thanks Erin! It can be good if you know what you are doing. The biggest issue with Craigslist is you have to know how to negotiate.
Wow, I’ve been afraid to sell shoes on craigslist. But if you can make it work safely with a car, I guess I should suck it up and give it a try- I’m tired of those ebay seller fees.
It can be scary at first, but that is why I recommend meeting someone in a public place. Understand your surrounding and you will feel safer about the transaction. It gets easier as you do more transactions.
I would like to list my car but can’t find the listing page. When I go to open an account they warn me off. HELP!!!
When you are in your city specific Craigslist, there will be a link under “Craigslist” called “Post to classifieds”. You just have to go through that. You don’t even need an account to post anything.
Many cities now offer FREE meeting spots specifically for Craigslist transactions. These are public and often adjacent to police stations or under video surveillance.
Just another sign that Craigslist is becoming a very “normal” way for people to do business.
No, I haven’t bought or sold a car on Craigslist but I did have a co-worker who bought her car on eBay, which worked well for her. But again, she was the buyer, not the seller. I can see how Craigslist would be more ideal, since there are no fees and no middle men. Glad it’s worked well for you!
eBay is good because it facilitates the sales process. The issue is that it costs you money. The way that I protect myself it to have buyers sign paperwork regarding the condition of the car and how it is sold as-is. The more paperwork you have, the easier it is to protect yourself from unscrupulous buyers.
I have also bought cars on Craigslist, so I understand both sides.
My hubby and I were literally talking about this on Wednesday. We are debating selling his car ourselves, going through some third party or using it as a a trade-in. Perfect timing and REALLY helpful! Thanks for sharing!
You will get the most money selling it yourself, but you do have to know your local laws and make sure you follow them. Other than that, it is easy!
Thanks for the tips Grayson! We will be purchasing a new car in the next 12 months so perhaps we will give Craigslist a shot at getting rid of the old one.
Thanks Brian. Best of luck if you do decide to sell it on Craigslist.
These are great advises. You have to know the legal process and never give in on common sense. If someone or something doesn’t appear to be right for you then, it is probably not right. Transferring the title nice and clean is essential. The moment you sell the new owner can have an accident or run a traffic light/ speed camera and it may come back to you. Then, you need to prove that you sold the car.
Just sold my car on Craigslist last month, went incredibly smoothly.
All great tips, especially about cash is king and not meeting them at your home. Safety is especially important when dealing with CL. It’s fairly common for criminals to come by to look at something you’re selling and case your home to come back and rob you later. No one from CL ever comes inside my home.
One bit of advice – both Edmunds and Kelly vastly under-valued my old car. I ended selling it for 50% over Edmunds, and 100% over Kelly, so use them as a starting point, but do your research on CL, Autotrader, etc. to make sure you’re not leaving money on the table unintentionally.
What state do you live in? Here in Oklahoma we can sell a car that has a lien on it. As long as you let the buyer know it is really no big deal here and let the bank know what you are doing. Give the buyer the bill of sale, go to the buyer’s bank if they are getting a loan. They cut a check to the lien holder and one to your for the difference.
I am in NC. I wrote this in there because most people don’t coordinate the process well enough. If you have a bank where you can go into, this process is easier. There are many banks who are not in the state or are online. This makes selling with a lien on the title very difficult. Many won’t allow you to sell the asset until the loan has been paid. It really all depends on the bank, state, and laws. I typically just tell people to get it paid off first, but you can sell it with a lien as long as all parties are working together.
I’m trying to sell a car that is worth about $12,500 – Is there a way to do this safely without taking cash? I don’t like the thought of carrying that much around, but I also don’t want to get scammed or have somebody cancel a check.
Cashier’s check at their bank?
Do you have the ability to do the transaction at your bank? I have done this a few times with no issues. On top of my bank taking the cash and immediately depositing it into your account, you can also get them to notarize your sale documents if your state requires it.
I have learned that Cashier’s checks can be bad. I have had it happen to me. This is why I only deal with cash and many times I do the entire transaction at my bank.
thanks for the tips! first time seller and sold my car my car super quickly.
You are welcome and congrats on the first sale!
I am now selling a vintage Shasta Camper on C-List, and really appreciated this article. I’m a very experienced Craigslister, but I learned a few things from this article. My general rules are 1. No selling at our home, unless it’s extremely necessary (large items, furniture, item needs power). 2. Cash, cash, or cash! 3. Take someone along. Even if it’s my Wife, she isn’t going to beat up a robbing thug, but, 4 eyes are better than two. And, it always helps to have the Good Cop/Bad Cop thing going when negotiating!
Those are great rules of thumb. I agree with adding another person into the mix if you can. If I can’t, then I tell sellers/buyers to meet me in a very public place. Just that alone can keep anything from going awry. I have used the good cop/bad copy routine before with some quality success!
I have been trying to sell my vintage, 1977 LandCruiser FJ40 since the end of September, so about 3 months so far. I knew it would be a bit of a chore, but finding the right owner is important to me. Currently there are 3 people considering it, all are out of town and 2 are out of state. Being in NM, the most interested buyer is in New Jersey, and is asking for a suggestion on how to proceed. We haven’t actually settled on the sale price, so not sure how to take that, but I’m going to confirm vehicle sale requirements for where I am. The buyer is looking at the cost to have it trucked his way. The main suggestion I am seeing is to ask for a deposit for $1k and to sign and mail the title to him. When the truck arrives, I will need to get the remaining cash, but don’t quite see how that part is going to work, unless the truck driver has the money. What are your suggestions?
Selling a vehicle across state lines makes it much harder when dealing with Craigslist. You need to make sure you have the funds before that vehicle is released to anyone. I would use a service like Escrow.com to handle the financial transaction. You can learn more at https://www.escrow.com/services/vehicle-escrow.aspx for their vehicle escrow service.
Excellent post! I’ll need to do this with my motorcycle soon and will definitely come back to reference this.
I’m selling my 1991 Volvo 240 DL for $1200. The rear end is going out.
98 chevy s-10 truck 1,1oo or best offer
I would test out best offer first to see what you get. You don’t have to sell it after the first offer.
I have a 1994 Dodge caravan, has a cracked windshield & burns a little oil (has 263,000 mile but still VERY dependable). I have made 8 trips to & from so. Illinois, would not be afraid to go any where in the van (owned it for 1 year & all I’ve had to do is put a starter in it about 300 miles ago.
Bobby, I think you might be a little confused with this post. This is not Craigslist or people looking for Craigslist listing. This is showing people how to sell their car quickly and safely. By your comment, I don’t think you’re asking for advice on what price to list your car.
We’re selling our Audi for a considerable sum, way more than we would like to carry around in cash. Our bank is not local. What would you suggest for making a safe, secure transaction? My husband suggested meeting at their bank to confirm the cashier’s check with them. Would that be feasible?
Well, first off, good luck with the sale Becky. I would go to a bank (preferably theirs) and have the bank complete a cashiers check right there for you. That should verify the funds immediately. You will still need to get the deposit done as soon as possible. You can also check out an escrow company like escrow.com
Hi Grayson. I plplan on selling my Escape for 13,500. I still have a lien with Carmax and thought I’d meet them there as both my safe, public place as well as having them pay off the lien if they want it. Hypothetically, if they give Carmax a bad check, will Carmax go after them (presumably they’d get their info) or me (I’ve already cleared it with Carmax I can sell it). Thank you!
You will still be on the hook for the loan. Since it’s your loan, if the check that’s paying it off is bad, you are still on the hook. I’d recommend you don’t use a regular check, but a cashier’s check from the borrowers bank.
How about selling a Texas-registered vehicle in California with a Clean Texas Title? Would it be legally fine?
You should easily be able to sell it in CA. One thing I have heard is you’re responsible for smog checking it before selling it. Other than that, you can sell and the buyer will be responsible for all other aspects of the sale (transfer title, sales taxes, etc). You will just have to sign the title and get the money (after the smog check).
Thanks for the tips Grayson! You should post a clear and beautiful pictures of your car.
I made a deal with someone to buy my car here in Texas. I had to go somewhere, they took my keys and my car while we were gone. The sheriff’s dept will not help us at all. They said we negotiated a price and even if it was a test drive I could not prosecute. I all BS on that. I need to go to hire a lawyer.
The hell you can’t prosecute. If you still own the car/title, then you can surely prosecute. I don’t know the specifics of your deal, but they if they took your car before the deal was done, then you need to go find other cops to get the car back and hire a lawyer. That’s called theft!
I’m selling a car for around $4k in New York. My wife is going out of town and she owns the car. I’m going to try to get it sold in the meantime. I have a general durable power of attorney duely notarized and witnessed. My question is, how does the whole exchange go down in practice? My impression is you don’t touch the forms (esp the title, also no title notarization in NY) until the deal is done. But they can’t drive the car until they have plates and a temp registration right? So you agree on a price, cash out, fill out title transfer, they take your title and bill of sale etc (and lone copy of my POA) to the DMV then come back with plates and sticker and POA (I hope) then they get the keys when I get my POA back? I’ve been scratching my head on this one. Also, is PayPal viable?
This is definitely a strange situation. I’m no lawyer, so I can’t tell you what to do about the power of attorney. That could cause some problems. Generally, you don’t want to sign anything until the deal is done. I’m not sure the POA will do you any good in this situation as your wife is just out of town. If she is the only one on the title, then it has to be her signature on the title. This should be done in front of a notary with the new buyer.
A buyer (at least in my state, NC) can drive the car to the DMV without plates as long as they have the title notarized over and the bill of sale. That gives them a temporary reprieve from issues. You can’t drive it around for weeks, but it gives you ample time to get to the DMV.
Paypal is not really a good option. They can easily send you the money, then fight the charge and Paypal will take it back out of your account until they investigate. I wouldn’t use Paypal. On top of that, they will charge you a good amount to get that money into your account.
People are asking me to send them the license plate # before meeting me to see the car so they can enter it into carfax. This makes me nervous because I think they can get too much personal info about me from my license plate ( address, name etc…) my car has a clean title though , so the history is fine. They might think I’m hiding something if I don’t give them my license plate, even though I’m only hesitating due to security/ privacy / safety concerns. What would you recommend ?
You can give it to them. They have to pay for a carfax report, so that means they are probably serious. It doesn’t divulge all of your information anyway, so the security concern should be minimal.
Im stuck trying to sell my truck. Smh…
What do you mean stuck? Have you tried selling it, but no one wants it? What troubles are you encountering?
I have a couple of questions for you. I’m currently in the process of buying a new car and looking to get rid of my current car. I’m used to selling products on Craigslist, but nothing as large as a car. When you meet up with a person, do you ask if they have insurance and a valid driver’s license? If so, do you take pictures of this information?
If I bought a new car and still owned my current car, what do I do with my license plates? Will they be transferred to the new car and if so, would the person who is interested in my car able to drive it?
I don’t care so much about insurance. That’s why I have insurance on my own. I do ask for a driver’s license and jot down the info or take a picture. If they are serious, they will allow you to do so.
If you are buying a new car and not using the old car as a trade in, you will most likely be getting a new license plate for the new car. The old car will still have the old plates. In my state, you turn in your plates when your car is sold, unless you trade it in at a dealer, then you can transfer your plates. The car you’re trying to sell needs plates for someone to test drive it. If you do sell it, make sure to take the plates off before they drive away with the car. The bill of sale will suffice if they get pulled.
First, I wanted to commend you on a great article Grayson in walking through the process of selling a car. You made several great points throughout the article about what to watch for and how to close the deal.
In reading some of your comments, I noticed a few people have been a little leery of using Cragislist due to safety concerns. Thus, I wanted to let you know about a product we recently launched called MotorLister (www.motorlister.com).
MotorLister helps to reduce stranger danger by digitally introducing buyers and sellers before they meet in person. It’s a way to get to know the other party, and who knows maybe even find a new friend or date. In addition it’s easy to list your vehicle using MotorLister.
We’d love your thoughts so check it out and let me know if you’d be interested in chatting about how we’re helping make private car buying and selling safer.
Interesting new concept Chris. Looking it over, I’m not really sure how this makes buying and selling easier or safer. Connecting over a digital space doesn’t inherently increase safety. I’d assume I would be able to look over their Facebook profile/Twitter account, but that doesn’t give you a true way to weed out the unsafe sellers.
I do wish you the best, but using common sense and doing a transaction in a public space are two of the best ways to make sure they are safe and secure.
Thanks for the well wishes Grayson.
You’re correct, both the buyer and seller would be able to see the others social profiles: Facebook, Twitter, etc. which we believe will allow them to get to know each other and help them to make good common sense judgements.
To that, we agree with you…following common sense and doing the final transaction in a public space are are very important. If at all possible, we recommend doing the final transaction at police station, many of which have opened their doors for these transactions.
I have never heard of a police station opening their door for this type of thing, but it makes sense. That would kill any bad intentions right then and there.
I live in Milwaukee, WI and you can do the transaction at the police stations here.
That’s good information. Thanks Marie!
The Tampa Police Department encourages people to do their transactions at the police stations as well.
That’s good to hear!
When a potential buyer want to do a test drive what kind of info should I request from them? Thanks
Simply ask to see their driver’s license and jot down the info or take a picture of it with your phone.
Grayson- Are cars in a certain price range easier to sell than others. I plan on selling my used Lexus and KBB is around 10,800. I think it would be better strategy-wise to list it under 10 to make it a better deal and attract more buyers who wouldn’t search above that. Thoughts? Also, do you think people will be able to come up with 10k cash? At what point is financing a requirement? Thanks!
Sorry Daniel. I didn’t see your comment as it went into spam. I think the idea of going under $10k is a good idea. If they are searching for a car in that price range, they usually have the cash or will get financing. It’s not your problem if they need to finance, as long as they bring you the certified check from the bank or have the bank wire it to you. If they are financing the $10k, then it will be a little more strict on how you receive the funds.
Did you say what security or identification you get from folks before they test drive your car? Is it just the license plate numbeer?
I am first timer on Criagslist in Texas – any notable legal requirements here as the seller? thanks
I have a picture of my license plate number. I do ask to take a photo of their license if they let me. If not, then I will ask them for their license number.
I’m not in Texas, so I don’t know what legal aspects you need. I would call the DMV to make sure you have all of your legal basis covered before you try to sell a car.
Is it safe to use my home phone number in ad? They can always look up where I live so am hesitant. Would cell phone be better?
I would go with your cell phone.
I am selling a Nissan Altima 2011 looks very good and is priced at $12868 (Edmund’s “Clean” price). Is this the right price? The car still has a warranty and has had no accidents and has 32000 miles on it.
You can always put it up there and test. Just don’t price it like that. Price it with even numbers like $12,800 or even $13,000 to see what people do. You have to gauge the interest level.
Hello there Grayson,
Firstly just wanted to say, great work on this info, really appreciate the time and courtesy for putting time into something so helpful to others. I live in Massachusetts and am interested in making a sale but i had just a few questions if you might consider helping me out with.
So I get the whole – Cash Sale and – public place for making the Sale (great points), but i have some questions that practically concern (1) the Title Transfer Documentation (2) Insurance Transfer and (3) The deregistration of Existing owner once the sale has taken place (i.e at what point does this legally occur)?
Looking at the DMV sit for Mass requirements:
1) They say at the time of sale, the seller needs to fill out certain Vehicle Specs & Sale transactions details on the back of the Title and if necessary, additionally provide the a “Bill of Sale” if the information on the filled out on the back of the title title does not suffice.
I surely do intend providing a Bill of Sale but my question here is, in your opinion, , does the Title (with the Title sale information filled out at the back as suggested on the DMV site) constitute a Title transfer? I figure, both the Existing Title document and Bill of Sale handed over to the buyer should be enough documentation following the receipt of Cash payment. What do you think?
2) When does the deregistration of Existing owner (as in me) happen once the sale has taken place (i.e at what point does this legally occur)? Does this happen automatically when the new owner registers the sold car (after taking possession of my hander over title) in his own name – OR – does it happen when I hand over my plates to the RMV/DMV to have my name removed off those plates ?
3) Once i make the sale, how and particularly “WHEN” do i removed of the Insurance for the old car? Do i have to inform my Insurance company that the sale has taken place? If so then when exactly after the sale do i need to do this? after i deregister my number plate? or after the seller registers the sold vehicle in his own name?
Sorry for the crazy questions, but i’ve more or less figured out pretty much what i need to do over craigslist but i do not know how to go about the above issues. Hope you might be able to help. Thank you very kindly.
Thanks for the kind remarks and good questions.
You do need to fill out some specifics on the vehicle title. Most require just an odometer reading at the time of the sale, along with a few check boxes indicating if it was a salvage or flood vehicle. One you sign the title and the buyer signs it (usually in front of a notary), then the title transfer is in the hands of the buyer. They have to take it to the DMV, have it transferred into their name, then pay any applicable fees/taxes on the vehicle. They also have to pay sales tax if that is applicable in your state.
Some states require you to turn in your tags as part of the deregistration process. I don’t think you have to, but that just tells them you no longer own the vehicle associated with those tags. That’s how it is in my state. Once I turn in those tags, I’m done. I no longer own the car and the transfer process is in the hands of the new owner.
Regarding insurance, I’ve added some language to the post to address this, but most will have some requirement before you can remove the sold vehicle from your policy. The three companies I have been with just needed confirmation over email that I turned in the tags. I believe they can check with the DMV. Once they had that, they removed the vehicle and I stopped paying for that vehicle. Since you don’t know when the buyer will go register with the DMV (they are supposed to do it immediately), insurance only requires you to finish your part of the deal.
Great questions and I hope my responses answered them.
Thanks a whole lot for that Greyson, you’re simply the best. That was very helpful indeed. I understood the deregistration (Question.2)and insurance (Question.3), but there was just a little clarification over the first part (the title) that i was hoping for.
So I’ll just quickly run through what I’ve understood of it(the title transfer part) and perhaps you could point out if, where and exactly what I got wrong:
(a) I receive the payment and hand prepare a bill of sale to hand over at the time of sale when the title transfer is ready as well. Nothing wrong there, so lets go to the following parts that seems a little more in doubt.
(b) On the back of the Title, fill out the following details as prescribed by the DMV (Mass requirements) -Date of sale,―Odometer at time of sale. ―Purchase price ―Printed name and place for signature of buyer and seller.
(c) This doesnt appear to be stated on the DMV (Mass site), but I take it, it is your suggestion; Take the filled out to the bank or notary and the buyer and seller should both sign on there.
And there, were done I hope, just hand him the documents, keep the plates, return them to the DMV, deregister and inform the insurance company that I’ve done so. And that’s it.
I hope that was all correct, if I’ve stated anything incorrectly I hope you might point out what and where it is that I have done so.
Thanking you very kindly,
You’re most welcome.
Just fill out the back of the title document and don’t sign it until you are in front of a notary. When there, you and the buyer can sign it and be done with it. Once those are signed, it’s pretty much done. You just take the plates (always remember to grab you plates), go to the DMV to return them, and your end is done. Once you return your plates, call insurance and have them remove the car. It’s no longer your car once the title is signed over to the buyer and you return the plates.
Thanks a billion Grayson, much appreciated. You’re going to heaven for all of this!! Great info, fantastic work here. Take care and all the best. Cheers mate.
Great post! I’ve sold about 3 cars this year (mine, my mom’s, and my brother’s) and pricing it has always been difficult. KBB’s surely helpful but more often than not, I’m not happy with their pricing suggestions. I found something that helped me, though. I think it’s worth a read. (http://michaelricafort.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Sell-Your-Car-Like-a-Pro)
Something to ask about safety — some buyers ask to test drive the car. I always refused. I can drive it for them but still this makes me uncomfortable. Not being paranoid and all, but who knows right? What do you do when this happens?
Oh, you have to let people test drive your car. I don’t ride with them when I do. I have a picture of my license plate, then take a pic of their license. If they take the car, I call the police and report them. I’m not going to ride with them and you can’t drive them around in the car. That doesn’t give them enough information. I’m surprised you’ve been able to sell the car when refusing test drives.
Nice advice Grayson. Next year, I am gonna sell my car and would sell it on Craiglist. I just hope that the deal here is better compared with the typical way of selling a car.
Great tips on step 3. I was unsure of what photos to include of my Camry. I haven’t sold it yet, so I’ve been trying to see what I could do to help me sale it faster. Now, I just need to wait for a sunny day.
Great writeup Greyson
I am in NC and been thinking about flipping cars on craigslist. I know they have a 5 cars a year limit without a delarship license, how did u you get around that?
Also since you don’t have a dealer license, do you get a new place for every car you sell, then turn it on to dmv after it sells?
Do your insurance company give you a hard time for the fact that you insuring multiple cars for only short period?
I don’t really flip cars on Craigslist. I’ve just sold quite a few of them, but no more than 5 a year. I don’t want to deal with getting a dealers license. That would be too much of a hassle. Since I don’t go over that limit, I don’t have any issues with insurance and I just get a new plat for each one.
Safety is so important when selling anything online and meeting strangers, especially when you are dealing with large amounts of cash, like for cars. I always recommend that you meet in public places. When you have come to a price agreement, follow each other to the bank and exchange money in the bank.
I actually started flipping used cars about 2.5 years ago and found out that nothing beats buying gov seized cars and reselling them for a profit. You can find real gems there. If tried craiglist but there is a lot of shady people around there.
Hello, this is a great article on tips and ways to get your car sold. I have a question: do you think/or have any advice on selling a fwd vehicle in a mountain/lot of snow in the winter area? Do you know how I can attract people from other areas Rather than only in my exact area?
You don’t have to post the ad in your area if you don’t want to. Find a city that is close to you and then post the ad in that location. That’s probably the best way to handle this situation when you’re market might not be where you live.
Just wanted to let you know that I read your blog on how to sell a car on Craigslist last Monday night. I listed the car on Craigslist around 11am on Tuesday and met the buyer at 3pm. A lot of your info was very helpful, and the car was officially sold to the same person by Thursday afternoon. He and I both said that the transaction couldn’t have gone smoother. I put in my ad that anyone who wanted to see my car would have to meet in public and be willing to let my friend hold their driver’s license if they wanted to go for a test drive (I wasn’t willing to had over my keys). He is a fire chief buying the car for his daughter who is graduating from college, and he was really impressed with all the safety bits I put in the ad (I’m a woman, so I’m careful). I got the price I listed because I did the research you recommended, and I listed it a few hundred dollars less that blue book – but worth it to sell the car quickly and not waste time meeting several people. Thank you!
Thank you for taking the time to stop by and comment. I’m really happy to hear the tips worked well for you and that everything went smoothly and safely. That’s awesome! Glad you sold your car as well.
Your post was very helpful as I am selling a car on Craigslist. I listed my car a couple days ago and decided today to check on the ad to make sure it had not expired. Upon going into my account, I discovered my ad had been deleted, saying the ad had been flagged. I use CL often and have never had this experience. Investigating a bit further, it appears this is a common practice…that someone (notably used car dealers) will flag one’s ad to get it removed and thus remove the competition. Just wondering if you or anyone else has had this problem and what to do about it. Thanks again for any advice on this.
This does happen often for some people and it’s usually car dealers who have a competing car above your price point, so they will flag your ad and get it taken down. There isn’t much you can do about it, but put it up again. It takes time, but this is what you get when you use a free site like Craigslist. Not everything is perfect and I’m sorry they are doing this to you.
What about PayPal. I am not familiar with what to be aware with PayPal. I listed a vehicle and got someone interested out of state… Does this sounds to good to be true, and what other safety precautions should I take?
I wouldn’t use PayPal for such a transaction. They could be using a hacked account or some other issue. If you need to work with an hour of state buyer, then think about working with an escrow service, like escrow.com or another one.
I’m a newbie to this car buying/selling and while this is really helpful, it seems so daunting!
What if – a buyer wants to go for a test drive, you take a pic of their ID, they drive off, but they damage the car or get into an accident? Since they aren’t on the insurance, am I correct in assuming that I’m still liable for the damages?
I have also heard of people turning in their plates and canceling insurance prior to selling it to avoid the risk of accident, and the whole dmv/notary coordination. What are you thoughts on this?
Always contact your insurance company to let them know you’re selling your car and then ask about test drives. Remember, if you cancel your insurance before, you can’t drive the car either (not legal in most states to drive without insurance). You need to understand your insurance policy or get clarification. If someone gets in an accident with your car while on a test drive, you’re going to be liable either way. You can sue them to pay for the damages, but it’s better to stay protected under your insurance than to cancel. I know in my state, I can’t turn in the plate without notarization of the transfer to the new owner, so it wouldn’t work for me.
I’m selling a custom 2004 Chevy Tahoe in great condition! It has under 120k miles also with 24″ rims, 6 TV’s and sits 8! It has a Sony Touch screen radio with 2 built-in amps and w/automatic start alarm system! I am asking for 10k!!! Is that too much?
You’re probably priced too high in this case. No much value put onto oversized wheels and TV systems with premium sound. With your vehicle in excellent condition (very few vehicles get rated this way), the max I could see is $7,500.
Let’s say the transaction is finished and you have given the buyer the signed, notarized title. You have taken your plates. So, at his point, the new owner is sitting in a parking lot (maybe at the police station) with his new vehicle with no plates. How does it go from there? Can he leave it there and go get his plates? I thought cars without plates in public are not legal. How does that work?
Thanks for all the good info! You have saved a lot of people from trouble. You may have saved a life.
Most states allow the buyers 24 hours to get to the license department (or DMV) to get their license plate. That’s why the bill of sale is very important. They can show that if they are pulled over to show the legitimate sale of the vehicle. Once it’s all said and done, it’s no longer your responsibility and the buyer has to get their registration done soon.
What or how do you put your add on craigslist, what are the steps do I call craigslist? What is the phone number for craigslist , thank you robert
Just type in Craigslist.org in your browser and it should bring up the one site closest to your location. Once you do that, you click the “post to classifieds” link and go through it.
It makes sense that selling a car without a title would make it difficult for the buyer. Since once it’s sold it becomes the buyer’s responsibility, the seller should be honest about all aspects of the vehicle. Doing so allows the selling process to go much smoother for everyone involved.
Hi there Grayson, my husband and I just had a very uncomfortable car selling experience. Two scary looking guys showed up and one sat in the drivers seat and the other looked under the car for 2-3 minutes. Then they said to meet at a smog station nearby and never showed up. What could they have been looking for under the car? Concerned. Thank you.
It’s really hard to say what they might have been doing. They could have been adding a tracking device to your car to see if they can steal it later (this is the paranoid side of me) or they could have really been just looking it over (one know more than the other) and then having a change of heart before heading to the smog station. I really don’t know, but just have a little more knowledge of what’s going on around you for a little bit to be on the safe side.
I’m selling my 2009 Toyota Camry. What’s your take on putting up a sale sign on the vehicle. I like your blog. It has been very helpful for all. Thank you very much.
Any advertising helps really. That’s a cheap way to get attentions (especially when you’re parked in a busy parking lot or at work). The sign is a few bucks, so it can’t hurt.
What if they don’t come back with the car?
That’s why you take a picture of their license before they take your car. If they don’t come back, you call the cops and report it stolen. With your license plate number and their license, they will find it.
I like how you said that cash is kind on craigslist. I think when you are dealing with a lot of people you do not know, cash definitely is the best route to go. I did not know that meeting in a public place would be best for any transaction on craigslist. Thanks for the advice!
Great Read, thanks! I was wondering what to do after I sold my car regarding the plates and how they would be able to drive it away, but found the answer in the comments. I listed mine on cars.com as well. It’s free and I got more legit hits than craigslist.
Glad you found the answer and thanks for letting me know about Cars.com. I’m sure there were many more legitimate hits there.
I have a question, please. How do you sell a car that is financed? I purchased my car from a dealer and have a payment. I don’t drive the car because a have a few cars. The dealerships won’t give me what I owe and I owe what blue book says it worth.
In most states, you can’t sell a car you don’t legally own. Since the title is in the lender’s name, you have to contact them to see if you can sell it in order to pay off the rest of the loan. Dealerships will rarely give you Blue book value because that’s what they will sell it for. They have to make a profit on the car. I know in my state, you can’t sell the car unless you have the title available.
how the hell do i list my car for sale on craigslist
You place an ad in your city. There is a link on Craigslist to place ads.
As the seller, can I notarize the title 1 month before the sale actually happens? 2 months before the actual sale date? In my state only the seller’s signature has to be notarized. Thanks!
That depends mostly on your state. While in my state, it’s the same case, I can’t put my name on it and sign it without a buyer’s name and address, so you wouldn’t be able to do it before in my state and get away with it.
What about if someone wants to pay you through PayPal?
I wouldn’t do it.
I have a car for sale for nearly 3 weeks which KBB shows as 11K for private sale. I am selling it 2,500 below Blue Book value, but haven’t got any requests to see the car. I was hoping to sell it quickly. Do you have any suggestions on how long to stick with price. I’ve seen other comparable cars sold by dealers 11K to 14K.
I also tried CarMax, and they only wanted to give me 6K. Which is insanely low.
The car is well maintained BMW. You have any thoughts on whether I should adjust my ask price?
Have you checked other listings of people going third party to see what their asking price is?
I’ve never heard of/ lived in a state where you need a notary to witness a title signing.. OR, WA, CA, NV
And YES… you can sell your car private party, even if you have a loan you’re making payments on…
You just need to meet at the bank, and they write 1 check to the bank for the payoff, and the other to you if the sale price is more…. IF you sell the car for less than the loan.. you pay the balance…
SIMPLE…. Again… never heard of that one either… at least out on the West Coast, or Southwest…
They do in NC and a few others I’ve been to. You can’t legally transfer a title without a notary witness. Just because you’ve never heard of it doesn’t make it not a part of the process in many states. There are 50 states, so quite a few different laws to keep up with.
Yes, you can sell a car with a lien on it, but the issue is there are too many who don’t finish the transaction because the lienholder doesn’t sign the paperwork to do the transfer. Meeting at a bank is not going to clear the lien. Many people don’t have loans at a local bank. If it’s where they don’t have a branch, you can’t just meet at a bank and that’s that. You make it sound like everyone has a lien at their local bank. This isn’t 1950. People have liens with many online banks. You can’t just meet at a bank and pay off the loan. It has to get to the bank, they have to process and then send the clean title, which then needs to be transferred to the new owner. You should use an Escrow service for this.
Any thoughts on the sale of a vehicle that won’t run? It’s part of an estate. We don’t want to lose lots of money, but we need to sell it without investing much in it.
Just sell it as is with best offer. You won’t get much for something that doesn’t run.
Grayson, I will not meet you on the street corner to buy your car. I wouldn’t trust that. I want to make sure that you are the owner of the car and know where you live. I would only buy a private party car at the residence of the owner of the car. I would make sure the car title and license of who is selling me the car matches the address where we are making the transaction. I want to make sure I can find you if something goes wrong with the purchase. Such as, my state has a lemon law where I can return the car to you for my money back if the car cannot pass state inspection and it exceeds a percentage of the value of the car. I would pay more and buy from a used car dealer rather than to take this chance.
That’s fine, but that’s rarely recommended to head to a home to make a big purchase. There is no safety standard there. Most police departments don’t even recommend this. Think about it. You’re coming to see a car and possibly carrying large amounts of cash into a place you don’t know or have anyone around?
Match the ID to the title and you’re good.
I wouldn’t meet you at a street corner, I would meet you at a bank or a legitimate business. I don’t pick random street corners. No one I’ve ever sold a car to has ever had any issue with this method. In fact, most said they preferred it.
Thanks very much – this was extremely helpful and I followed it to a tee.
I used my bank (WF) and they had a notary – I’m not even sure they charged me anything – much more confortable than standing in line at UPS. They motorized the title and the bill of sale and gave me copies. Very nice and painless.
I was wondering how the sales tax issue was handled?
I just bought a car from Carmax and they added the state and county sales taxes on top of the price they were asking for the car.
If you sell to another individual do you get stuck having to take the sales tax out of the cash you got for the car? Or do you have the buyer pay a separate sales tax on it? What is the best way to handle this?
Typically the buyer pays the sales tax when they register the car (in most states). The seller should not have to pay sales tax.