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How to Sell a Car on Craigslist Quickly

Laura has successfully sold cars on Craigslist in the past, and she enjoys sharing her experiences with others.

Picture of a clean car ready to sell

Picture of a clean car ready to sell

Price, Appearance, and Description Are Vital to a Good Craigslist Sale

Selling a car on Craigslist can be an easy and rewarding experience. Most likely you will save yourself about $2,000 more than a trade-in at the dealership or at the local CarMax. If you do a little research to appropriately price your car, write a descriptive online advertisement and thoroughly clean your car, you can sell it quickly, usually within 48 hours. Since new ads are posted constantly on Craigslist, it is advantageous for the seller to sell in a day or two, before it gets buried too far down the list.

How to Determine Your Car's Value

Kelley Blue Book or are great online resources to help determine the worth of a used car. They consider the region in which you are selling, the make, model, year, mileage and all the features of your car. The website easily guides you by asking you questions. When you are finished with their quiz, it lists all your car's features and the value based on the condition of the car. You can even print it out and have it with you to negotiate with a potential buyer.

Once you have a suggested price from Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds, go to Craigslist and see what your competition looks like. Search for your make and model of car to see what similar cars are listed for and how many listings you are competing with. This will help you sanity check your price. Once you have a figure in mind, price your car about $500 higher, so you have room to negotiate. Remember, cars that are priced to sell quickly are usually right at or just under the Kelley Blue Book recommendation.

Screenshot of Kelly Blue Book Quiz

Screenshot of Kelly Blue Book Quiz

Use Craigslist to quickly sell you car

Use Craigslist to quickly sell you car

Place Your Ad in Classifieds on Craigslist

After you have completed your research to price your car, cleaned the car and taken pictures, then you are ready to post your ad on Craigslist. Open the website and select your city or metro area. Next click "post to classifieds." When selecting the type of posting, be sure to click on "cars by owner." You will be prompted to write your ad describing your car. Be as descriptive as possible. Use the list of features on the Kelley Blue Book tool. Be sure to add anything important, like if you recently replaced a transmission or if the car has a new set of tires. Be honest in describing your car. It will save you and potential buyers a lot of time if you are accurate in your description.

Before final posting, Craigslist will want to verify your ad to make sure it is legitimate. It will send you an email with instructions on how to further edit or post your ad. It is important to save this email in case you want to change your ad in the future. Craigslist will keep your listing for 45 days.

Tires with good tread

Tires with good tread

Take Pictures of Your Car

Craigslist allows you to download eight images for your listing. Make sure to take good digital pictures that feature your car at its best. Take the pictures on a sunny day. Be sure to take photos of the exterior and interior. If your car has tires that are new or in very good condition, feature a picture of the tread on tires. Loading the pictures on Craigslist can be time-consuming, but it is far better to feature them with your ad than have to email them to potential buyers when they want to see them.

Be Careful of Scams on Craigslist

Be smart when buying or selling on Craigslist. Make sure you select the email address that shows up anonymously to the viewers. Don't list your phone number on Craigslist. Do not accept personal checks and be sure money orders are legit.

Also, don't show your car alone. Make sure someone else is with you. If you do not want someone coming to your home, meet at a public place. A bank parking lot is ideal. Depending upon your state, you may need a notary to sign your title transfer anyway. If the buyer wants to test drive the car, make sure he leaves his license and keys with you as collateral. Be safe!

Clean Your Car Before Selling It

Your car has to look impeccable before you try to sell it. You wouldn't want to buy something that looks old and dirty, would you? If the competition in your area for selling used cars is tough, your car's appearance could mean the difference in a sale.

Start with the inside. Throw away the trash. Empty the console. Clean the dash, consoles, cup holders and steering wheel with a good cleaner like Armor All. Use a water and white vinegar solution to clean the grime and fingerprints off the glass without streaking. Empty the contents of your glove box except for the owner's manual. Remove any CDs or DVDs from the car.

Wash and wax the exterior of the car. Buff the car really well so it shines like new (or as good as it can get). Shine the wheel covers too. Once the car is all clean, park it in the garage if possible.

What Happens If the Car Doesn't Sell Quickly?

If your car has been listed for more than a week on Craigslist and you haven't gotten any inquiries, it is likely that your price is too high for what you are selling. Reevaluate your price and your ad description, then refresh your ad, so it moves to the top of the list on Craigslist. If after two weeks it hasn't sold, pull the ad, wait a couple of weeks and list it again. If it is priced right, it will sell!

CarMax or Craigslist?

CarMax and Craigslist are both viable options to sell your car. Of the two, CarMax is definitely the easiest option, if you are willing to sell for less than the value. When I sold my Toyota Sienna, the car was eight years old. CarMax priced it $1,000 less than my dealer trade-in offer and $3,000 less than what I sold it for on Craigslist. And, it sold in 48 hours on Craigslist.

The key to success? Pricing it fairly, cleaning it thoroughly and writing a descriptive ad. Also, list the ad on a Thursday or Friday since most people will have more time to shop on the weekend.

Easy Checklist to Sell Car on Craigslist


Remove personal belongings

Gather service records

Clean car exterior

Clean car interior

Obtain car title

Do research on competition

Determine car value

Take pictures

Write ad on Craigslist

Check email or messages often

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 LauraGSpeaks