As noted before I've been hunting for a vehicle on craigslist for a while now. In the course of doing so, I've read a lot of car ads on craigslist.

I must say, the quality of these ads is all over the map. It's clear to me that some folks actually want to sell their vehicle while others, for reasons that escape me, seem intent on not ever selling a thing.

In order to help that second group, I've assembled a list of things you can do to help ensure that your auto classified does not result in any interest, much less a sale.

  1. Never ever post a photo or a link to photos of your vehicle.
  2. When contacted via e-mail asking for photos, say that there are none and don't bother offering to take any.
  3. Leave out essential information, such as the mileage, model year, and color.
  4. Post your ad on Friday so that the folks who plan to go looking at vehicles on the weekend are likely to see it. But make sure you're out of town.
  5. Repost the same ad every 2-3 days for several weeks and never realize that you're probably asking too much for your piece of shit.
  6. List "towing package" in the ad, but provide pictures that show the tow hitch (or anything related to one) notably absent.

That's all I've got. Feel free to add others in the comments.

Posted by jzawodn at February 14, 2004 07:04 PM

Reader Comments
# Scott Johnson said:

Take a picture of your car when it's brand new. This is the picture that you'll send to prospective buyers five years later (that is, in the event that you actually DO send a picture).

on February 14, 2004 11:09 PM
# Mark Denovich said:

A someone who has bought 6 cars, 2 sailboats, and 4 motorcycles over the internet, I'd add one more to the list...

Never list a price, or even hint at a reasonable price. Certainly never make a counter-offer, just remain indecisive.

This is especially true if the item for sale is in unknown condition and/or is of interest to a very small pool of potential buyers.

As a frequent buyer of niche vehicles (Alfa Romeos) I find it's best to just completely avoid buying from non-enthusiasts. They tend to employ all the above tactics when selling their cars.

BTW: My #1 tip for buying a used car: Do not become emotionally attached to the car that you are contemplating buying. If you fail: You will overlook rust, you will not hear expensive engine problems, you will forget to bargain, you will forget that other all cars exist, you will be unable to walk away from the deal. Being able to walk away is the only real power you have as a buyer...



on February 15, 2004 02:30 AM
# Lee said:

* Another good tip is to advertise, for example, a convertible, but then post a picture of a hard-top. Or say "condition: Excellent" and have a picture that says otherwise.

* Misspell your e-mail address and/or other contact info.

* Butcher the English language: If you can't be bothered to proofread a simple sentence, that proves that you did all the oil changes, tire rotations and so on.

on February 15, 2004 11:40 AM
# Bob said:

I am going to veer slightly off topic at this point and provide a link -

This is a great series of articles written by a guy that went undercover as a new car salesman for Edmunds. It will take about an hour to read but it is great to get you in the right frame of mind to purchase a new car. Very entertaining and insightful.


on February 15, 2004 09:36 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Yeah, that Edmunds story is excellent.

on February 15, 2004 09:38 PM
# Peter Davis said:

I was thinking of listing my car on Ebay, maybe I'll try Craigslist first. Hadn't thought of it before. Thanks :)

on February 19, 2004 01:47 PM
# Allyn Edwards said:

er one thing, a "towing package", according to car manufacturers, does not include a hitch. For example the one on our previous van refered to the larger V6 engine and more readily available power/break light hookup for the trailer. A hitch itself is usually something you must get seperate.

on February 20, 2004 12:54 AM
# bill schroer said:

Hi, I'm very new to computer anything! I am an old classic car nut & have an excess of them, some really nice and some good to so-so but I'm honest about them. It's time to sell some of them and I did a survey the other day about car sales on-line, and craigslist came up. Well I'm having a hard time with it because of my stupidity w/ the computer. Is this the place for me or do I just need someone else to do this? Bill

on November 28, 2004 07:03 AM
# Steve said:

Nice list of how NOT to sell a car:

The last one I sold online had the following text, and it sold fast despite my brutal honesty!

"1991 Volvo 740 Turbo Wagon. It has the rear jump seat allowing 7 passengers. Power windows, leather, power sunroof, charcoal grey.

This car looks great (except one hood ding), runs very nicely, breaks down often and is expensive to repair. We've replaced the engine, turbo, A/C, transmission and an assortment of other costly repairs. But it looks and
drives great - when it's running. The A/C blows very cold, except when driving uphill. It will probably break down the first week you own it, but people love Volvos, so in case you are looking for a smooth riding, safe and attractive money pit with only 133K miles (less on replacement engine), here is your chance."


on December 30, 2005 10:46 AM
# Steve Monrad said:

Very true, but for the record it's quite possible to have a 'towing package' on a car without a hitch receiver. Many manufacturers have offered such a package with some or all of these features - heavy-duty cooling system, suspension, brakes, lower transmission ratio, transmission fluid cooler, etc. The point of the 'package' is not to provide a trailer hitch or even a receiver but to make it more likely the car will survive when you do.

on January 25, 2006 08:13 AM
# Sell Car said:

to this day I still get 20 ads a day from people who have no idea how to even spell what they want to sell. I have to edit most of them so they look ok on my site.

on March 9, 2007 03:41 PM
# I sold my GTI on eBay said:

Hilarious. But so true.

I support Steve's comment as well - honesty helps the buyer trust you (as a seller). I know this works for me as a buyer on eBay. Unless the auction is of little value I look for details which show 1) the seller knows what they are decribing and 2) has written enough detail to describe thhe flaws and the plus points of the item. A seller who hasn't done this may just be incompetent at selling online or deliberately hiding something. So I just 'walk away' to the next auction.

So flaws do sell ... I sold my car on eBay with broken air conditioning ... in Southern California!

on November 25, 2007 09:30 PM
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on January 8, 2008 04:29 AM
# Gene said:

I'm a dealer and sell many cars through Craigslist, so this was amusing. I think I do a much better job, but perhaps some of you guys could look at one of my ads and give me some (constructive) comments...

BTW, someday I'm going to put together a list of the worst thing buyers do... or how not to BUY a car. My personal favorite: calling a seller and immediately asking if he would take less for the car. This instantly identifies you as a dork that no experienced seller wants to waste any more time with.


on February 15, 2008 10:48 PM
# Svenski said:

I have been looking on CL for quite some time for a particular
vehicle and have noticed CL has become a 'dumping ground'
for unwanted vehicles.What a shame.What gets me is I found
a vehicle I really wanted to look at,yet the CL poster
does not post their ph.number,only an email adress.
The seller has not emailed me back after several attempts
by me to contact.And this has happened on numerous occasions.
Also,I have been 'stiffed' by others from CL who say they
are coming over my house to either buy something I listed
for sale or do some work for me and they never show up.
CL is FLAKEY!Two thumbs DOWN!

on January 11, 2009 12:25 PM
# said:

I had an add on craigslist for 2 jetskis that I did not sell. I got a call the other day from a company saying they can sell the skis for anyone familiar with this process? Here is the website the caller gave me. It seems like a deal no one can refuse...however there has to be something I am not understanding.

on January 17, 2009 08:10 AM
# said:

Almost all the scammer type craigslist ads have mis-spellings.
Biggest frustration is car dealers/resellers flooding there ads in 'owners' section instead of 'dealers' section.

In Canada car resellers would buy accident/rebuild status cars off auctions and try to sell them on craigslist. I think if you buying any car for more than $5k you should run carfax or carproof or similar report on it.

I'm a lazy guy so to make my task of browsing and researching the cars listed on craigslist easier, I wrote couple of firefox addons/ greasemonkey scripts which sort of evolved with time n use.

Basically this utility shows user reviews, guesstimated price, factory recalls, similar cl listings, reliability info right on the craigslist car ad page. This saves lots of time and gives a good picture of what the car is worth. Also it highlights if its rebuild/accident car or a moving sale, one owner etc in different colors. Once you start using it and with some time you begin to get the picture as to which used cars are good buy. Its not a eye candy though.

My other utility filters out the ads which doesn't have 'essential information'(i.e. Year, Model, Price).
Find it here:
or just search for "used car buying off craigslist"

on February 27, 2009 05:20 AM
# Mike Annable said:

I realize this post is 6 years old, but that just goes to show you how things haven't changed on Craigslist.

Many people whine about 2 much inventory on there, bu that's a good thing for the buyer.

I post for my dealership and each ad gets me 90 days worth of traffic from users using the keyword search feature. If I'm looking for a 2005 Ford Mustang the first place I will check is Craigslist.

on January 23, 2010 11:40 AM
# Highway Cinema said:

Here's another one that will gaurantee no sale: Never check your voicemail and never return phone calls.
I've been trying to buy a Chevy wagon from a guy who keeps reposting the ad every 12 hours for the past 3 weeks. He lists phone number. Have called every day and just get his voicemail. In my message I beg him to have the professional(ha!) courtesy of calling me back whether he still has the car or not.
No return phone call. He never replies to emails either.
I did manage to figure out that he is a dealer and the dealership said that he is using this "demo trade-in" as his daily driver all over the Phoenix area(in 104 degree heat).
Hmmm, he claims the car has 130K miles, but how many more since he wrote the original ad?
In a perfect world, Craigs List would be 100% jerk free.
Flakey? It's not just the sellers. I've heard sellers also get some totally flaky people who never show up, who mis-read the ad, who offer some stuff in partial trade(likely that crappy free couch they found on... Craigs List!

on June 25, 2010 12:31 AM
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