The Auto Shop

How to keep from being ripped off when buying a vehicle on Craigslist

So the time has come for you to get a new vehicle. Maybe you lurk craigslist multiple times a day for that lifted 4×4, that tuned Japanese import or maybe you just need something that drives, for as cheap as possible. Craigslist has it all.

Now let’s say you’ve found a seller who’s responsive. Here are the first things to do in order to keep from being taken advantage of when you’re shopping from a car on craigslist.

Get the VIN number

There’s really no legit reason a seller could give to refuse to provide the VIN (vehicle identification number) when they’re advertising a used car for sale. Even if there isn’t much of a listed history for it on CarFax or other sites, it still gives a good glimpse of any mandated reporting from accidents or title issues.

Pay attention to the title status

Be on the lookout for rebuilt titles — and get a thorough pre-purchase inspection. Even on a rare vehicle, you don’t always want to risk a rebuilt title. It could be from anything: a major accident, flooding, hail, even fire or biological stains from childbirth, you might never get the full story from someone who’s selling a car with a rebuilt title.

Don’t be shy on your test drive

If you have a question about something, say something! Not only that, be sure to try out every single button, switch, light and lever. You’d be surprised at what older cars might have wrong with them, and any little thing can be a bargaining chip in your favor when you go to negotiate a price.

On top of this, be sure to at least take the vehicle onto the freeway, and pay attention to how it sounds and feels as you drive. While the seller may be quick to explain away some of the sounds or vibrations, any knocks, over-revving or hesitation. At the end of the day, nothing can show quite what might be wrong with a car more than flooring it. It might not make the seller all that happy, but the least you can do is ask!

Get an inspection

Last, but definitely not least, you’ll want a comprehensive pre-purchase inspection. If the car is pricier and you have a good relationship (so far) with the seller, you should feel entitled to at least ask them to split the nominal cost with you, or else ask them to take it to an impartial mechanic and pay for the inspection themselves. However, if you go to yours, expect to take on most of the cost.

However, at The Auto Shop we can help anyone out with an inspection! So if you’re not quite sure about what otherwise looks like a gem, we can get to the bottom line to tell you whether it’s a lemon!

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