Is it dangerous buying a car on craigslist?
There is always some degree of risk involved in buying a used car, whether you see it sitting in someone's yard, call a classified ad, find one by word of mouth, or use craigslist. Even if the seller is an honest individual and represents the car accurately, there may be components in the car that are on the brink of failing of which the seller is unaware.
To minimize your risk, take your mechanic or a savvy friend with you, or better yet, take the car to your mechanic so he can hoist it up and get a good look. Compare the asking price with the Kelly Blue Book value. Look up common problems associated with the make and model you're considering by consulting Consumer Reports. Think twice if the interior is filthy because if owner wasn't cleaning the interior, then he or she may not have been doing regular maintenance either. Take the car for a drive and be sure to go out on the highway to see if it pulls to one side or the other. You will get a feel for the brakes and the general road-worthiness of the car in general. Do not be pressured into making a hasty decision. If this car is sold, there are always other cars available.
This website is a good resource for information that you may want to keep in mind before you start buying cars on craiglist. The author discusses the most important ten ways to avoid getting ripped off. Anyone looking to buy a used car from a private party will definitely find this list very useful.
Consumer Reports is a seasoned, respected resource for many household purchases, as well as for vehicles. There is a cost of $26 to join for a year or $5.95 to join for just one month. Magazine subscribers get a reduced yearly rate. Look up a particular car and it details trouble spots by year, a model summary and model specs, road test results, estimated price ranges for each year, as well as an overall verdict. The home page also lists best and worst used cars, along with most reliable and most fuel efficient.
This site gives some good tips from someone who has personally bought several cars on Craigslist. He has a number of good, commonsense suggestions. (We would add a note of caution about dealing in cash as you must be careful and not make it easy for someone to rob you.) His best advice is to be leery of people and their moral fiber; don't trust too much and draw up a contract if you strike a deal with someone.