On March 21, 2023, 55-year-old Khudhair Hamdan was found dead on a road in Arlington, TX, between Dallas and Fort Worth. It was later learned that the victim went on a test drive with would-be buyers of an automobile that was listed on a social media app. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence.
To further underscore the risks of buying OR selling online, also in the North Texas area in the past week, a couple bought a $34,000 pickup on Facebook marketplace that was stolen, and the unsuspecting buyers are out all their money.
With the average age of the cars on the road in the United States at a record 12 years old, I hear regularly from people who want to get something newer, but need to maximize the amount they get for their old car, to lower the future payment. Let's face it, car dealers will trade for anything in any condition, but they want to give you what your old car will bring at auction. Often I suggest to listeners to sell their car themselves. When it comes to selling a used car, especially cars under $5000, Craigslist is the king, and it's free, but there are concerns.
1. First, safety.
Evil lurks all around us, and there have been many crimes, including the above referenced murder, associated with Craigslist and other online places to sell cars. These instances are rare, but do happen. Never have interested parties come to your home. If the person seems genuine and truly interested in your car, meet him or her at a very public place like a Starbucks, or 7-11, someplace where there are a lot of people. Often, police stations will allow you to conduct sales in their lobby or parking lot with video surveillance.
2. The prospect will probably want to drive the car, but do not accompany him or her.
Instead, get his or her driver's license, make sure the picture matches, and hold the license until he or she returns. Request the prospective buyer take no more than a 10-minute test-drive.
3. If you and the buyer come to terms, arrange for the exchange of money and title.
This too should be done in a public place. Although there is a small risk of accepting certified funds, such as a cashier's check or money order, do not take a personal check at all. The safest way is bank wire transfer. Make sure you sign the title in the appropriate places, record the mileage, and prepare in advance a bill of sale. Here is a good one you can use:
Be sure you have the buyer's name, address, phone number, and driver's license number, and hang onto it in case something happens later. These precautions should make for a safe transaction for you.
4. In advance of placing the ad, have any service records you have readily available.
Buyers like to know a car has been maintained, so be ready. If there are mechanical or cosmetic flaws, spell those out in the listing. There is no need in surprising a buyer with problems after having driven to see the car. With that said, be sure to point out the positives, like if it is a one owner car, or a non-smoker car, or if you know for sure it has never been in a wreck.
5. Make sure the car is clean and take a lot of photos.
Although your listing may only allow you a few pictures, have more available to email your prospective buyer. Pictures sell cars, plain and simple.
6. Choose the way you want to communicate with prospects.
Either email or phone works well, but I would start with email only. If your buyer is interested and you want to move to phone call, use your cell phone, not home phone. Search the Craigslist listing in your area for cars similar to yours and determine the pricing ranges. Do not be too high or low. If you price on the upper side of the market, include that you would entertain serious, reasonable offers.
These tips will work at other sites too, but in particular, I would use this information and follow it closely when listing on Craigslist. I can't stress enough, safety first. Be smart, be aware, and trust your instincts when it comes to shady people.
Photo credit: Nikolay Korolkov/Shutterstock.com.