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Used car prices are dropping quickly after three years of hiked prices. It’s time to start looking for that perfect used car, and Craigslist is a great place to get one cheaper than from a car dealer. But there are scammers, oh, how there are scammers lurking about. Over the past few years, it has gotten worse. So, LendingTree has some tips for what to watch out for as you shop around for the used car of your dreams.

While searching and contemplating a used car on Craigslist, watch out for these potential pitfalls:

Paying a deposit for a later sale

A Tucker Torpedo for sale | Getty

If a seller asks for a deposit or money upfront to reserve the car, pass. There is nothing that binds him to show up when you’ve got your money together, or to acknowledge you ever met, let alone gave them money.

Are the images of the used car actually of the car that is for sale?

Pay attention to the images shown (and if there aren’t any images, pass). Make sure what is described in the ad matches what you’re seeing. Also, notice the environment around the car. If it looks like it was photographed in the Midwest, and the car is for sale in Florida, there is probably a problem. 

The seller gets pushy about buying the used car immediately

Used cars for sale | Paul Harris/Getty

There are a couple of red flags when a seller seems anxious to sell the car quickly. First, it could be stolen, and two, they may want you to pop before you have time to research the car’s background. Or, they’ve made a quick bubble gum and duct tape fix that won’t hold up for very long.

What about paying with a money wire?

Don’t. Money wires can almost never be traced, so once the seller has the money they could drive off and dump their burner phone into a dumpster on the way out of town. 

Should I pay with Venmo or PayPal to protect my transaction?

No, because both services specifically exclude vehicle sales from any of their protections. 

If the seller asks for your Social Security Number, should you show them?

Used cars for sale | Getty

No. A private vehicle transaction shouldn’t require the seller to need your SSN. If it’s for a loan from a lender, then that’s different. But the seller shouldn’t be involved in that part of the process.

Should you show the seller your driver’s license?

This is a gray area. Especially if you’re paying cash, then why would they need it? But another way around it, according to LendingTree, is to ask to see their Driver’s License as well. And it might be a good idea to cover the ID number before showing it to them. 

What information does the buyer actually need?

Nothing until the deal is complete. Once you and they have signed the title to transfer it they need your full name and address. They don’t need your SSN number, mother’s maiden name, bank account number, employment information, or passport.  


All the Reasons You Should Not Buy a Car Off Craigslist