ARTICLE IIIn the second and final installment of 'Buying an Inexpensive Car on Craigslist', I will show you how to safely handle the initial meeting with the seller, how to properly inspect the vehicle, negotiate the price, and FINALLY how to safely purchase your new ride!
Step One: Meeting with the Seller
At this point in the car buying process, you should have already narrowed down your budget, key vehicle attributes, and found a few cars that meet your criteria.
There are two golden rules to follow when meeting with a Craigslist seller to inspect a used car:
1.) Never go alone. Obviously this is a safety precaution against any less than honest individuals, but it also provides another set of eyes that may catch something you have missed. The car buying process is an emotional one, meaning that you may be so stoked about driving that Mercedes convertible with the 6 disc changer, that you completely miss the huge oil leak under the car!
2.) Meet in a fairly busy public place, during daylight ONLY. Even if you aren't carrying the cash to buy your car at the first viewing, the seller may not know that. If you've spoken to the seller thoroughly as instructed in Part 1 of this series, you should have a pretty good feeling of whether or not there are honorable intentions at hand.
Upon your first meeting, stop and chat with the seller before you even begin checking out the car. This will help you establish rapport and you'll have a chance to meet the person who drove the car that may soon be yours. I bought my Civic from a mild-mannered Asian-American accountant, and after speaking with him for 5 minutes I had a pretty good feeling that the car was not driven exceedingly hard or treated poorly.
The seller seemed like an honest straightforward dude, just as our conversation on the phone suggested, so I found it acceptable to proceed to the next step: Proper Vehicle Inspection.
Step Two: Proper Vehicle InspectionBegin by walking around the car and checking out the body. I know that used cars have their share of dents and dings, but take your time and take a 360 degree stroll around the vehicle. One of the cars I viewed, I didn't even get a chance to fully circle the exterior and told the buyer "i know it's a great price, but to be honest, it's a lot more beat up than I had expected. Thanks for your time but I'm going to pass". This saved both my time, and allowed the seller to go on and try to sell to someone else. If you're not interested, just say so. Nobody's feelings will be hurt.
If everything seems kosher after an initial walk around, I move on to check things like tire tread-wear, obvious paint jobs (suggesting an accident), and take a quick look under the engine for any leaks.
You don't need to be a mechanic to do this, and it's a lot easier than it seems. Also, if the person accompanying you happens to know more about cars and mechanics, then this is a great opportunity for them to help you on this. Here is a good article I found on used car inspection:
|Used Car Inspection Guide (Click Here to View)|
This article is an awesome resource on a detailed inspection process of your used car. I would follow the instructions in the article unless you want to buy a several thousand dollar driveway ornament. I'll leave the rest of the inspection section to About.com, as there's no use in repeating what's already been done well. Print a copy of the About.com article and bring it along when you check out potential cars.
Once a car meets your approval visually, mechanically, and financially, you're almost there! Be sure to thank the seller for their time, and inform them that their car is one of your TOP choices. If you have a few more cars to see that also seem promising, be sure to view these, however make sure you let the owner of the first car know that you are potentially interested and qualified to purchase. Inform them that you will be getting back to them within one hour, one day, or whatever your time frame is for a final decision. Even if you are sure this is the car you want, it's important to take some time before making a final decision.
Step Three: Negotiating the PriceHopefully by this point you've had the chance to check out a few cars. If your experience was anything like mine, some were alright, and others were downright laughable ("She should pay ME to take that thing!") 8-).
Once you've picked out your car, phone the seller and make an offer. In my case, the owner of the Civic I purchased was asking $4,200. During our initial conversation I discovered that he made a ballpark salary at or above $40,000 a year (I asked him about his job), that he was upgrading to an Infiniti , and that he was recently engaged. Everything pointed to the fact that he did not NEED the money, however he was financially savvy enough to be driving a 1998 Honda Civic with a salary well above the national average. These factors led me to believe that the seller would potentially accept something considerably lower than his asking price.My advantages were that I was paying in cash, and that I could make a decision within just a few hours, allowing him to mark "sell car"off of his to-do list.
In the following hour, I researched the private party value of the car on both KBB.com and Edmunds.com; Note that KBB.Com is a pain in the ass to use, so I suggest Edmunds.com . I found that the PRIVATE PARTY VALUE in GOOD CONDITION was $4,100. I called him up and offered $3,400, being sure to mention that I had "cash in hand" and could pick-up ASAP.
Being the financially savvy accountant that he was, the seller declined my offer. I told him I would try to come up with more money if I could, but I was already going to have to eat ramen noodles for the next month to be able to come up with the $3,400. This was partially true.
At this point, I briefly browsed Craigslist on my iPhone one last time, finding no other cars that even came close to being as good a fit that this car was. I made up my mind: I had to have it.
After borrowing a few hundred more dollars from my family, I called the seller back and told him that I had $3,800, that i could not find a penny more. I was sure to mention how this would be a nice, sizable down payment for his new Infiniti.
After a brief hesitation he accepted. Score!
Step Four: Safely Purchasing your New (Used) Car!The price is decided and you're a short while away from driving off in your brand new (used) car! Before you head off to any dark alleys with a fresh bank envelope, be sure to read this section for a hassle free transaction.
After deciding on the final price, set up a time and location for the transaction to take place. Again, ensure that you
1.)Bring along a friend or family member, the more large and intimidating the better
2.) Meet at a Populated Public Place during daylight in view of plenty of people.
(I elected to meet at an upscale shopping center parking lot, however there's no reason you couldn't opt for the parking lot of your local police station. Don't get the wrong idea and think that this is a potentially dangerous transaction, it isn't. However, there are certain people in the world who rob and steal, so it's always better to err on the side of caution!)
Before leaving though, be sure to print off and bring with you a 'Bill of Sale', like the printer-friendly version found here:
Printable Bill of Sale. Print off 2 copies just in case.
- Note: Not all states require a Bill of Sale for the transfer of a vehicle from one private party to another. In fact, my state did not require a bill of sale, however the peace of mind that goes along with having an extra piece of paper documenting the transaction could prevent future headaches! There's no reason not to.
Once you've arrived at the destination, greet the seller again and give the car one last quick lookover before you sign your name on the title. Once the ink dries, there is no turning back, so make sure you are 100% positive about your decision.
You should leave the money in the car until you are ready to sign over the title.Make sure that whoever is accompanying you is alert for anything that seems odd, however at this point you should feel very confident in the trustworthiness of the seller. If you are hesitant in any manner, now is the time to walk away.
The Final Paperwork
First, fill out the Bill of Sale and make sure that the Seller's information matches the information found on the title. Next, get the cash and watch the seller count it to give you the okay that it is all there. If everything is kosher, sign your name on the title and the vehicle is now legally yours. Till death do you part. Make sure you give the seller their license plate and ask if there are any spare keys or remotes.
Part ways, and enjoy your new ride.
Congratulations! You've just purchased a new car for thousands less than what you would have paid at a dealer. Be sure to perform all scheduled maintenance, keep good records, and drive the speed limit. Well, the last part is up to you.
I hope this has been helpful, please click the Google '+1 ' button below or leave a comment. Feel free to link to this blog or send it to any family or friends!