Craigslist for Used Car Searches

craigslist logo

What has become a go to shopping hub for just about everything. I know my wife and I often use it. We have bought and sold many items on craigslist. Everything from furniture to sporting goods.

What about used cars? Can a good used car be found?

Yes, it can be a good site for used cars, but patience and caution are in order. In today’s post, I will take you through my view of craigslist. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

For this post, I am going to assume everyone knows how to use craigslist searches. Most everyone has purchased something there. If you don’t know how to use it, please let me know and I will be glad to help.

The Good:

It is easy to place an ad on craigslist. This means there are more people selling on craigslist. There are many low priced cars on craigslist. There is a lower barrier to entry. This works well for you the cash car buyer.

Craigslist searches can be limited to your local area. This helps to keep most cars shown within a comfortable driving range.

Searches can be limited to “BY OWNER ONLY.” This is what I recommend in the price range of cars for which we are searching.

You can limit search results to only show ads with a picture. You can further limit your search results by stating a minimum and maximum price range.

I like being able to search either the body or title of ads. I like being able to search the body for things like “one owner” or “low miles”. These terms are often placed in the body of an ad. I like searching the title to limit for specific makes of cars, like Toyota or Ford.

The Bad:

Search term stuffing.

People will load the body of their ads with terms they think may be used to get their ad to display. Things like Toyota or Honda despite the fact the car for sale is a Buick. This leads to a results page cluttered with ad after ad for cars you aren’t interested in buying. You can work around this by limiting your search to the title of the ad, but then may miss an ad you would like to see.

Misleading pricing.

Owners will list their car for $1 or list their lease or loan payment as the purchase price. These are easy to spot, but take up space on your screen. I was searching on cars under $1,500 just to see how many good cars I could find under this price point. I saw four Mercedes listed that looked to be less than a year old wanting someone to take up payments. The highest had lease payments of $790 per month. This is another way your search results can be cluttered by unwanted ads. This issue can mostly be eliminated by setting a minimum price point of $500.

The Ugly:


You must be wary of scams when doing your car purchasing on craigslist. You can ill afford to have the money you have scrapped together for a cash car to go to a scam artist. I don’t know if there are more scammers on crags list than other sites, but it seems that way to me. This is why even though it is a great place to look for cars, I have been hesitant to discuss it in a post before today.

I finally decided that enough people are likely to try it, I would be better off making people aware of some of the scams that are out there so they can know what to watch out for.

I haven’t had a reason to search for a used car in a couple of years, so hadn’t done much searching on craigslist. As I got closer to starting my blog, I started searching craigslist to see what kinds of cash cars were out there. For the amount of searching I did I was surprised at the number of ads that looked suspicious. I am always looking for a deal that looks to good to be true. I have had good success in finding these kinds of deals. The problem is on craigslist I felt I found many more of these to be scams.

Most of these scams involved buying a car sight unseen from out of state. They tended to be playing off a military deployment or death. I am sure there are many others, these are just the ones I have seen. Please don’t buy a car you haven’t seen with your own eyes. This one action will eliminate most of the scammers.

I do want my readers to look for those rare gems that are out there, but I don’t want them to get scammed. Below is a link to a craigslist page about scams. It has specific warnings and common sense tips. Please review these before searching for a car on craigslist.

Craigslist about scams page

Now you know the good, the bad, and the ugly of craigslist. With this knowledge you can start your cash car search and be forewarned of things that might irritate you and things that might hurt you. Armed with this information craigslist can be a great place to look for your next cash car.

Happy hunting. Let your car search begin!

Question: What kinds of things do you buy on craigslist? Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.