When it first launched, Craigslist was revolutionary. It was a totally independent classifieds site where you could easily - for that time - search and find everything from cars to jobs. One of the things they have focused on is maintaining their original intent of being an all access listing location.
Around them, however, other companies have entered the space and built increasingly detailed and helpful for sale by owner sites that have left the first mover at a disadvantage.
Benefits of Craigslist Cars for Sale by Owner
One of the major benefits of Craigslist cars and trucks for sale by owner has often been the ability to skirt the experience of working with a dealer and paying all their fees to buy your next vehicle.
Instead, you could head to your local CL page and find something that fit your budget and work directly with the seller. In theory this is a great option, you save the dealership hassle and you get a better deal going straight to the source.
Unfortunately, reality isn’t as simple. Craigslist cars for sale by owner has over the years become a stomping ground for scam artists and thieves which makes every test drive a somewhat dubious experience. When it works it’s great. When it doesn’t, it can be incredibly problematic.
Common Alternatives to Craigslist Cars and Trucks for Sale by Owner
Thankfully there are other options like CarGurus and Autotrader. These sites have both taken note from some of Craigslist’s weak spots in terms of anonymous buyers and sellers by implementing some ID checks. This allows parties of the potential transaction to feel more secure in the process and more easily complete the sale.
Example of CarGurus Listing
What these competitors have still remained weak on, however, is the completeness of the listings that you browse. One of the benefits most people enjoy about shopping at a dealership is that they feel more secure in the vehicle’s quality.
When buying privately it’s tough to verify that on most sites and especially difficult when the sellers only post 4-5 photos. No one wants to drive out to a car just to find there is some undeclared dent or issue.
The Newest Private Market Options
That’s where the newest generation of listings sites come in. Options like BringATrailer, Carsandbids, and Topmarq all focus on the idea that you should be able to buy the vehicle based solely off of the information presented in the listing.
That’s a big task.
But it’s been successful. Incredibly successful.
Example of BringATrailer Listings
Rather than let anyone around post a low-quality listing with bad photos, these sites all heavily restrict who and what is posted to ensure that every listing lives up to the standard. With over 100 images on most listings and a full rundown of the vehicle history plus vehicle history reports, car buyers have found that this is a new stress-free way to buy cars.
BringATrailer and Carsandbids are auction sites. Some still prefer using the auction method while others might rather just agree on a price, but the part that matters is that the buyer knows exactly what they're getting.
So now you can avoid all the hassles of a dealer and steer clear of the dangers often associated with Craigslist cars for sale by owner. Win-Win right? Almost!
Transactions: The Final Frontier
One of the big pitfalls of the auction sites - there are several other popular ones too - is that they are all pre-sale. Meaning that their version of support for the sale is they provide you with the email of the buyer / seller. You are then left to your own devices to figure out how to handle the rest of the process.
This can become difficult for a few reasons. First and foremost, you want to make sure the money is real. No one wants to end up empty handed after handing over their vehicle. Typically you could stop at a bank with both parties to verify the cash, but that’s hard when you are buying online. Secondly, how do you handle shipping?
Do you pay first? Ship it first? Send the title? Keys?
If you ask even seasoned buyers these four questions, you’ll likely get a different response for the best process from each one. The reason why is because there is no perfect answer. The sequence you choose between two private parties will depend on each party’s level of comfort.
To remove this last but crucial step from the list of worries that buyers and sellers often have, there are some services that attempt to help close the gap. Things like Escrow.com are available to manage the process end to end versus leaving the steps up to chance.
Using aescrow system will automatically verify the funds from the buyer before anything changes hands or contracts are signed. Once money is verified in escrow, the rest of the transaction becomes much simpler. The seller can carry out the process and transfer the vehicle without any worry that they won’t get paid afterwards.
In fact, because the escrow payments come via ACH or Wire rather than a check, you may even have funds available in your bank sooner than if you sold it to a dealership.
What's Next for Car Buying?
There has been no shortage of articles talking about the transitions to online car sales and how the pandemic will affect the industry from now on. The major auto dealerships, however, have very little incentive to get you to buy online because they want you in person to upsell their financing and service options.
So if you are looking for the next generation options that will push car buying forward, look at the companies building new avenues to provide you with high quality service without all the old school hassle. While Craiglist did great things to bring listings online, they've lacked the innovation and speed at which others have brought private vehicle listings to the masses.
What's Next for Car Selling?
One of the all time benefits of cars for sale by owner is how much the sellers get. By removing all the middlemen, you can get the best possible return on your vehicle. Many are still not completely comfortable with the experience given some of the drawbacks mentioned above.
As such, it may be worth checking out the Topmarq offers comparison feature that allows you to get instant cash offers for several of the top US dealers. In many cases, these offers can be nearly as good as a private party price but without any of the hassle. Given it takes only about 5 minutes to get your quotes, there's no risk to try it out.