A Step-By-Step Guide to Selling Your Car on Craigslist

Posted on
10 min to read

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to selling your car. From dealerships to third-party companies and DIY marketplaces, you’ve likely done some research and found it hard to decide which strategy is best. While there are several online marketplaces for buying and selling vehicles, Craigslist remains one of the most popular. 

Craigslist is an online classifieds website that lets users buy and sell a wide variety of goods and services. Everything from household appliances, furniture, apartments and even job opportunities can be found on Craigslist. It should come as no surprise that it’s also a great platform to buy and sell vehicles.

Below is our step-by-step guide to selling your car on Craigslist. We’ll break down everything you need to know to prepare your vehicle for sale, determine a good price and complete the deal with the right buyer. 

How to sell your car on Craigslist

Step 1: Compile the documents needed to sell your car

The first step to selling your vehicle is to get your paperwork in order. Legal documentation is an important part of the car-selling process and you’ll want to make sure all your bases are covered before your car is listed. 

This step can be a bit difficult and time-consuming, as each state has its own rules and regulations. It’s crucial that you review your state’s requirements for a private automobile sale. Check DMV.org for a thorough overview of what each state requires and don’t be afraid to consult with experts if you’re unsure of anything during the process. 

These are some of the documents most states will require to sell your vehicle:

  • Vehicle title: To sell your car, you’ll need to have the title of the vehicle in your name. If there are multiple names on the title, it must have a legal signature from everyone on the title before the car can be sold. If you’re not the original owner and the vehicle is still under the previous owner’s name, you’ll need to visit the DMV and transfer the ownership before you can complete the sale. Make sure this is done before listing your car for sale so everything goes smoothly once you find a buyer. 
  • Bill of sale: A bill of sale is considered a contractual agreement between a buyer and seller, which includes both parties’ information including the vehicle being sold. While not required in every state, it’s smart to fill one of these out to have for your records. It’s a simple legal document that contains a high-level overview of your vehicle sale in one place. You can create copies for yourself and the buyer. Bill of sale forms can be downloaded from the DMV
  • Damage disclosure statement: This is another document that isn’t required in every state but is still smart to have. A damage disclosure statement keeps a record of any previous or existing damage to the vehicle. Since most private used car sales are considered “as-is, where-is”, this documentation is not common. For more information on a car’s damage, you may try looking at the vehicle’s history report on a site like CarFax.
  • Emissions test documentation: If you’re buying or selling a car in a state that requires regular emissions testing, include your up-to-date emissions test results along with the sale of the car. 
  • Warranty information: If the vehicle has any type of remaining warranty, from the original manufacturer or was purchased separately, you should research the transfer process, if possible. Your warranty could also increase the value of your car and will likely attract more potential buyers, so be sure to research this when setting a price and listing your vehicle. 

Step 2: Clean and repair your car as best you can

While this step might not seem like a big deal, it could be the difference between a buyer choosing your car or passing it up for something that looks more presentable. If you’ve ever been shopping for a car you know that every vehicle on the lot or in the showroom is polished, clean and has that new car smell. Getting your car fully detailed isn’t realistic for every seller, but you should at least vacuum and wash the car before taking any advertising photos that potential buyers will see.

Car cleaning checklist:

  • Wipe down and sanitize the interior. Pay close attention to the cracks and crevices in the center console, dashboard, side compartments, seats and steering wheel. 
  • Vacuum the seats, floors, carpet and floor mats. If there are any stains, try your best to remove them.
  • Wash the windows, windshield, mirrors and sunroof if your car has one.
  • Fix anything that needs repairs: burnt-out lightbulbs, loose screws or other simple interior fixes.
  • Wash and wax the exterior of the vehicle.

Step 3: Determine your car’s market value

This next step is a big one! Choosing a price to list your car on Craigslist will require some research and marketing savvy, but there are reliable tools to help you make an educated decision. Kelley Blue Book (KBB) is the first stop for many car sellers and for good reason. 

KBB has a powerful search engine that accounts for your car’s information like mileage, add-ons and overall condition to calculate an estimated value range for your vehicle. It’s widely used in the automotive industry and one of the most trusted resources for price estimates for buyers and sellers alike. 

Other options similar to Kelley Blue Book are cars.com and autotrader.com. These websites provide dealership list prices and let you see what car dealerships across the country would charge for a certain vehicle. Use these sites to find what price range your car falls into. Don’t forget to look at similar vehicles for sale on Craigslist to help you arrive at a competitive price. 

Step 4: Take great photos of your car

A picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to selling a car, your pictures could be worth thousands of dollars. Present your vehicle in the best light possible by taking great photos that show off every detail of your car. Be sure to include multiple angles of the interior and exterior of your vehicle. Don’t try to hide cosmetic faults or damages on the car either—customers won’t take kindly to unpleasant surprises when they come to check out the vehicle in person, especially potential long-distance and out-of-state buyers coming to purchase your car. 

Step 5: Create a detailed description of your car

Writing your car’s description on Craigslist is where you need to be as accurate and transparent as possible. The more information you’re able to provide, the better. Go into detail about the car’s make, model and history as much as you can. The more information you give customers upfront, the more trustworthy you’ll appear and the fewer questions they’ll have when it comes to buying. If a person can gather enough information on their own, they’re more likely to feel confident about purchasing your car. 

Here are some of the items you should include in your description: 

  • Vehicle make, model and submodel
  • Engine size and type (e.g. diesel, EV, gasoline, etc.)
  • Color (interior and exterior)
  • Interior type (fabric, leather)
  • Mileage
  • Transmission type (automatic, manual)

Features and add-ons:

  • ABS
  • Air conditioning
  • Apple CarPlay
  • Automatic headlights
  • Bluetooth
  • Cruise control
  • Dual airbags
  • Power door locks
  • Power windows
  • Rearview camera
  • Sunroof
  • Tinted windows
  • Tow hitch

If your car has any maintenance or repair history, write up a brief description of what happened to the car and what work has been done on it. Make a note of any cosmetic faults or damages in the description, and whether you’re open to negotiating. Be sure to include your general location (you don’t need to be too specific, but a town or city is helpful) and the best way for buyers to contact you. 

Step 6: Publish your ad

After all that preparation, this step is fairly straightforward. Double-check all your documentation, upload your photos, write the ad for your car on Craigslist, then post it and wait for buyers. This step can be nerve-wracking and require some patience, but you can use this time to prepare for closing the deal. 

Step 7: Be ready for potential buyers

You’ll want to have a plan ready ahead of time before buyers start approaching you about your car. Where will you meet them if they want to come see the vehicle? Are you willing to negotiate with them if they come to you with a new price? How will you screen potential buyers before you hand over the keys for them to test drive? Be sure you prepare for any questions buyers may have while allowing for enough time in your schedule to accommodate each customer.

Step 8: Close the deal

When you’re finally closing the deal, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Primarily, your safety and the safety of your car. While you’ve probably already had an initial meet-and-greet with the buyer for a test drive and likely validated their information, it’s smart to meet in a public parking lot to complete the transaction. We recommend deciding on a location between you and your customer, during the day and in a fairly well-trafficked area. Many sellers even bring a friend as an extra security measure—they don’t have to be a part of the sale itself, but just having them nearby can go a long way in keeping you safe.

What if the buyer is out of state? 

If you come in contact with a buyer across state lines or even across the country, don’t worry. There are solutions to help you complete the sale. Professional auto transporters specialize in safely and efficiently moving personal vehicles. Motor carriers have the skills and equipment to move everything from cars, trucks and SUVs to motorcycles, ATVs, golf carts and more. 

Don’t let distance get in the way of selling your car to the right buyer on Craigslist. Learn more about how auto transport works

The pros and cons of selling your car on Craigslist

The pros

  • Make more money than you would with third-party sellers and dealerships. When you sell your car on Craigslist, you’ll be able to name your price and pocket all the money.
  • Reach local customers fast. Craigslist is targeted to local buyers, so most people viewing your car for sale will be nearby. Most buyers will be able to drive to your location for a quick pickup, and if you decide to ship the car to their location, Montway can help with the shipment. 

The cons

  • You’ll need to research your own price. Selling your car on Craigslist requires you to set a price, but with tools like Kelley Blue Book and truecar.com, you’ll be able to find a good estimated value for your vehicle. No matter who you sell to, be it a dealer, broker or third party, you should always research the value of your vehicle.
  • Your town or city might not have its own Craigslist site. Depending on where you live, you may have to advertise your car for sale in the next closest city to you.
  • Your ad could get mixed in with other car-related results and become less visible due to Craigslist’s chronological listing of for-sale ads. This is where writing a thorough and accurate description for your ad can help you reach the right audience. 
Wooden blocks spelling FAQ

FAQs about selling your car on Craigslist

Does Craigslist charge to sell cars?

Yes. It costs $5 for a listing that lasts 30 days. At the end of those 30 days you’ll be asked to pay another $5 to renew your listing for another 30 days. 

How long does it take to sell a car on Craigslist?

The time it takes to sell your car on Craigslist will vary depending on several factors. The condition of your car, the price you’re selling it for and your location will all contribute to how quickly you’re able to find a buyer. Some sellers can find a buyer in a week or less, but on average it may take up to 60 days to sell your car on Craigslist. 

How do I protect myself when selling my car on Craigslist?

Common safety precautions go a long way when completing a sale. We recommend meeting with your customer during the day, in a high-traffic public area like a grocery store parking lot. It’s wise to bring a friend along for the sale as well. Be wary of providing unorthodox information about yourself or your vehicle when communicating with potential buyers.

Is posting a car on Craigslist worth it?

If you’re willing to do the work required to sell a car on Craigslist (determining the value, taking photos, cleaning the car, meeting with buyers) then it can be well worth the effort. Since you get to determine the price and keep your profits, selling a car on Craigslist can be worth it for the right seller.

How do I sell my car quickly on Craigslist?

If you’re looking for a quick sale, the advice mentioned throughout this blog still applies: thoroughly clean your car, take great photos and write a highly descriptive ad for your vehicle. In addition to that, you may need to price the car lower so it’s more attractive to potential buyers, or be willing to negotiate. 

You can also attract more potential buyers from out of state by offering to ship the car to their location. You can find professional auto transporters that safely ship cars anywhere in the country, including Alaska and Hawaii. 

Collage of images depicting a car carrier truck and a shipping advisor looking at a computer screen

Safely ship your car with Montway

With potential car buyers located all over your state, or even across the country, it’s important to have a reliable way to get the vehicle to them. If you have a customer that’s ready to purchase your car, hire a professional vehicle shipping company to get it to them safely and efficiently. Learn how to select the best auto shipping company and make sure you’re prepared for car transport success

Montway is the nation’s top-rated auto transportation company and has a mission of delivering a 5-star vehicle-shipping experience to every customer. Ship your car anywhere in the U.S. with Montway’s extensive network of carriers and rest assured knowing your vehicle will arrive safely and on time. Get started with a free instant quote on your car shipment or speak directly with a vehicle shipping advisor at 888-666-8929 .

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