How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist Quickly

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 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.

Craigslist car search

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  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 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?

How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist Quickly and Safely