skip to content
Driving Line Mark Logo

How Not To Sell Your Car On Craigslist: Our Favorite Things Terrible Online Vehicle Sellers Say And Do

There exists no greater source of wonder and merriment for automotive enthusiasts than used car ads on Craigslist. It is here that you'll encounter the full gamut—crazy deals, rare classics, over-priced dreamers and complete basket cases, all sharing the same Interweb space with each other as they compete for your attention and your dollars.

This variety is also true of Craigslist sellers. Few of them are professionals in any sense of the word, but many still possess lofty expectations about the value of their vehicles, casual attitudes towards sharing any information about the car or truck they are selling, and a casual detachment from the realities of what it takes to make a deal.

You'll laugh, and you'll cry, when trying to buy a Craigslist car from one of these people, who seem to have their own language and style to communicate across the digital divide. With this in mind, we've put together a round-up of our favorite 'things you should never say or do' when trying to sell a vehicle online, culled from the thousands of Craigslist ads that we've browsed through in a car-buying fugue state.

'Ran When Parked'

Is there anything more frustrating than not being able to tell whether the car listed in a particular ad is actually functional? Craigslist sellers have developed dozens of euphemisms to imply that maybe, perhaps, just possibly the vehicle they're selling is driveable (needs fuel tank, missing ignition key, currently underwater), but 'ran when parked' is by far the number one choice.

Chevette in the woods

It leaves the status of the car so open to interpretation that there's no way they can be caught out if you show up at their home/barn/mud pit/hoarder's nest and not only does the vehicle fail to turn over, but it's actually missing major components like the motor, the wheels, or the axles. Trust us—if they don't care enough about the car or truck to at least attempt to start it before they list it for sale, chances are they don't know anything else about its condition, either.

I Know What I've Got!

In a similar universe as the 'ran when parked' seller is the 'I know what I've got!' Craigslist poster. This individual is so certain as to the value of the vehicle they've listed—regardless of how beat-down, non-functional, or rusted out it might be—that they're convinced each and every person reading their ad is trying to cheat them.

Hald a car in the tall grass.

It doesn't matter how logically you present your offer to Mr. or Mrs. 'I know what I've got!' These people have been watching Barrett Jackson on an infinitely repeating loop and are dead certain that the Plymouth Omni on cinder blocks behind their outhouse is going to fund their retirement. 'It's a collector's item,' they say, casually brushing the pine needles off of an '89 Pontiac Grand Am that's missing one door and all of its glass. '$10,000, non-negotiable.'

Pictures Taken From Space, While Traveling At A High Rate Of Speed

We're not sure what percentage of Craigslist cars are haunted by something so terrifying that their owners are afraid to get closer than 50 feet when trying to take a snapshot, but we've lost count of how many blurry, zoomed-out, taken-by-satellite shots we've seen of what might be a car, but which may also be a clump of trees or a dumpster.

VehiCross in the dark.

Throw in those who feel the need to photograph their car while running past at full speed, in the dimmest of light conditions, or while engaged in hand-to-hand combat, and you're going to need state of the art image recognition software to figure out what year that F-150 might actually be.

Pictures Taken Closer Than You've Even Been To Another Human Being

There is no happy medium in the world of terrible Craigslist car ads. For every photo taken from the next zip code, you're also likely to encounter shots where the seller has zoomed in to the point where' they've activated their camera's x-ray function.

Car Bumper

Half a fender, part of the dashboard, one single wheel, a badge on the trunk—that's all your going to get from this close-up enthusiast, who is apparently terrified that if you saw the entire vehicle in a single shot you might have a stroke. There's a common subset of these particular Craigslist sellers who are simply too lazy to pull out of the garage, and are content to snap away in tight from wherever their accumulated boxes of Beanie Babies and soiled newspapers allow them to stand.

No Pictures At All

It's absolutely, completely reasonable to ask someone to pay upwards of $60,000 for a car or truck that they can't see. There is absolutely no compelling need to make any effort at all to take photos of your vehicle. In fact, the more money you're asking, the less documentation you should provide. Sellers are always attracted to mystery, and what's more mysterious than an invisible car?

Dude, Where's My Title?

Speaking of documentation… Shout out to everyone on Craigslist trying to sell a car that probably can't ever be registered, may never have been registered, or might in fact be stolen, all of which explained away with the simple phrase 'no title, comes with bill of sale.'

Car with pile of bricks

You might be able to get away with this in some states with ultra-lax DMVs, but most of the time, if you're missing the paperwork that goes with the vehicle, chances are you've let a few other details slide, too, like who the actual owner really is.

How can you protect yourself from buying a Craigslist lemon? Check out our tips on what to check for with your next online truck purchase.

Return to beginning of article

Recommended For You

Loading ...