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Many drivers despise car dealerships due to high markups and sketchy salespeople. While it used to be the only way to purchase a new or used car, you can now research cars online and arrange a pickup or delivery over the phone or email. You can even purchase a brand-new Tesla directly from the company’s website.

Common websites people use to avoid going to dealerships include eBay and Craigslist. However, the buyer must be on the lookout for a few things when purchasing a car from one of these sites. You can definitely find reliable cars on Craigslist, but you can also fall victim to scammers.

No financing

If you purchase a car at a dealership, the dealer can work out a financing plan, so you can pay for the vehicle in installments. Craigslist sellers almost always want their money upfront and in cash. If you want to buy a more expensive car, you may have to take out a loan from your bank. This can be a difficult option for someone with bad credit.

No test driving

Many dealers have no problem letting you test drive their vehicles, as long as a sales associate is with you. A private Craigslist seller, however, will be less likely to give you this opportunity. Even a shiny, like-new car can have mechanical flaws only noticeable while you drive. If the seller refuses to let you test out the car, you’re better off finding another one.


This term refers to used car dealers who try to sell cars they can’t move off their lots by pretending to be private sellers. Unfortunately, curbstoning is considered legal unless the dealer is unlicensed. So, many unscrupulous dealerships can get away with selling vehicles in poor condition.

A few signs can tell you when someone is curbstoning. Ask to see the car title. If the seller refuses or if the title is in a different name, there’s a good chance they’re trying to scam you. The vehicle may also have a missing or out-of-state license plate.

No vehicle history report

A reputable dealer will have vehicle history reports on all their used cars. This report includes past maintenance and inspection, accidents, and title transfers. Even if a car looks fine after a few accidents, it may require more repairs in the future after some parts have worn down.

A Craigslist seller probably won’t have a detailed vehicle history report prepared for you. CARFAX or AutoCheck will usually charge a fee to private sellers, so most won’t go through the trouble of obtaining one. If the car has experienced a lot of damage, they may avoid getting one. If they claim to have no knowledge of the car’s history, or say they’re selling it for someone else, they may be curbstoning.


Private sellers can be just as bad as auto salespeople when trying to sell a car. If you’re on the fence about buying, they may try to sway you with a story about how they’re out of work or need the money for a hospital bill. Try to avoid these kinds of sellers. In most cases, they’re either exaggerating or not telling the truth at all.