Master the Craigslist – Used Car Buying Tips

Why buy used?

A used car (be it 1000 miles or 100,000 miles) is much cheaper than that same car when bought brand new off the lot (obviously). Craigslist, aka private party, lets us find these cars for the best price. Read on to learn how to become a master of the used car buying and selling process.

Finding the right car

First, find a budget that you are willing to work with. If you do not have the cash, and if the car qualifies, a bank or credit union may offer a loan.

Always refer to KBB (Kelly Blue Book) for the current private party value of the car you are purchasing. This will give you a better idea on how much you should be paying for the car, as well as potential negotiating power to lower the price.

If not familiar with cars, we suggest finding a shop to do a Pre Purchase Inspection. That way you know the mechanical condition and can use it as negotiating power. The thing to remember with all used car buying tips, you must always negotiate the price.

Pro Tip Most people expect to get lowballed, so they set the price much higher than what they would really like to get.

A Note on Smog

If you live in a state that requires a SMOG check, make sure that the seller has a smog certificate included. Verify that the smog was completed within 90 days, otherwise it is not valid for transfer of ownership (CA).

Double check to make sure the registration is current. A lot of times, people sell their car for a cheap price only because they cannot smog it due to a Check Engine Light, or other issues.

Setting up for finding the right deals

On the Craigslist page, navigate to your location’s web page, then click Cars and Trucks by Owner. In the search settings, set the range from $0 – (Your Max Limit). I like to add about 20% to my max limit to allow for cars that can be negotiated within the budget.

After you save your search settings, and refresh your page, you will see all the vehicles in your area that are for sale.

Pro Tip Save this Craigslist page to your home screen on your phone and your computer, that way its quick access and you do not have to mess with the settings again.

If you have this on your home screen you will see it more often, reminding you to check the listings and therefore increasing chances of finding the killer deal.

Contacting the seller

Remember, these used car buying tips apply for all private party car buying platforms, not just Craigslist. When I sell a car, the biggest thing I hate is when people ask “is the car still available?”.

Be polite, but do not waste anyone’s time. Contact the buyer through phone call when possible. If it’s a smokin’ deal, it will NOT last on Craigslist. The phone is the quickest and most direct method. Do not dilly dally around and have the sweet deal scooped up by a car dealer!

When buying a car, I look at the person selling me the car just as much, if not more, than the car itself. Mainly, it shows me what kind of treatment and service history the car received. If the person was older, spoke intelligently, and looked wealthy, we found that most times the car was in great shape to match.

Most Important Questions to Ask

“How long have you had the car?”
“What kind of maintenance have you done with the car”
“Why are you selling the car?”
“Are there any leaks or major mechanical problems?”

Ask these questions over the phone, and try to get a general understanding of the car’s shape before going out to see it, especially if its a long distance.

Saving time is key, you would be surprised how often people say “The car is flawless” on the ad. Asking these questions lets you determine if they are honest.

Set up an appointment to see the car if you feel like the information you’ve gathered about the car matches what you’re looking for.

Getting Ready to Meet and Test Drive

When meeting with a seller, I always bring:

Scan Tool for Monitors / Codes
Powerful Flashlight (I recommend Streamlight flashlights)
Pivoting and extendable mirror to check for leaks
My Drivers License / ID
Cash (I bring cash with me, but leave it in the car. I only do this if the amount is under $3000. Anything past that I just go to the bank with the seller and get them the cashiers check or cash when the deal is done).

Anti-Lemon Used Car Inspection Checklist

Before the meeting

Verify the sellers has the necessary paperwork, aka Pink Slip, proof of registration, and smog certificate (if required by state). Although not necessary, print out a copy of the bill of sale form.
Use CarFax or Autocheck to run a VIN background on the vehicle. This is key!
Set up personal guidelines to the maximum amount willing to spend on the car.
Make sure you have the funds ready, or instant access to them in the payment form the seller prefers.
Advise the seller you want the car to be COLD for your test drive. We want a cold engine to get a complete analysis. This is a key part to the used car inspection checklist!

At the car

Engine Inspection – Use the combination of the pivoting mirror and flashlight mentioned above to peek behind components and around the valve cover, checking for leaks. Inspect everything carefully, pay special attention to the serpentine belt area and leaks around the valve covers.

Check for Codes – Connect the scanner and make sure there are no engine codes. Make sure the monitors for smog are all completed – if not, be suspicious.

Check the body panels and paint, does it all look even? Is the texture the same everywhere? Look for panels that are a slightly different color or hue, which may indicate a sign of collision that was already repaired.

Check all the paperwork before starting the drive – make sure they own the car and that they have a pink slip with their name on it.

Check tires. Are they a matching set? Good Tread? Any signs of uneven wear? Could mean bad alignment or an accident in the past that prevents proper alignment.

Check brake pad thickness through the wheels if possible.

Check maintenance records (see if big service items have been done, like timing belt and water pump if the engine is a timing belt engine)

Check condition of oil. Open the oil filler cap and look under for any foamy, milky substances, which MAY indicate sludge or head gasket issues.

Upon vehicle start up, check the exhaust pipe for smoke. Listen to the engine for any uneven running aka “misfire” and try to smell for coolant or oil burning off which would indicate a leak.

Look over the serpentine belt(s) and all other engine components for any signs of damage, wear, or leaks.

Peek under the car to check for leaks, rust, and damage.

During the Test Drive

Engine Check – Make sure to use some power and get the engine to a high RPM (don’t redline someone else’s car). Have the windows down and constantly monitor for noise from the engine, as well as the suspension. Note how the vehicle idles, it should be smooth for the most part. Keep checking the instrument cluster for warning messages as well as overheating. Be keen to any burning oil or coolant smells.

Brake Test – Come to some stops at different speeds/intensities and try to listen for screeching or grinding noises

Alignment Check – During the test drive, while on a somewhat even road, let go of the steering wheel for a few moments and see if the vehicle drifts to one side. Keep in mind, most roads have “road crown” and will slightly cause all cars to drift to the right, but a barely noticeable amount.

Transmission Check – Make sure the test drive takes at least 15 minutes, ask the seller for permission first. This will allow the transmission to fully warm up. For automatics, issues could potentially arise online when hot, and not be present when cold. You will feel jerkiness when the auto transmission is malfunctioning. For manuals, do a clutch test by engaging 4th gear at a slow speed and go wide open throttle – see if the clutch slips (the rpms will climb extremely fast like you are in neutral).

Wiggle Test – At about 30 mph roll down your windows do a few quick left to right steering wheel maneuvers. Listen to the suspension and chassis – it should not make ANY noises while doing this.

Suspension Check – Go over some bumpy roads, and take some angled driveways / turns. Listen for any binding suspension components which will present itself with a loud knock. Also listen for failing wheel bearings by rolling up all your windows and checking for a loud whirring rotational noise.

Interior and Features – Finally, check all the features. This means A/C, reverse camera, navigation, etc. Check all window motors by rolling up and down the windows. Make sure everything is working to your desire.

During the Test Drive, DO NOT:

Drive the car like you are taking a hot lap around the Nurburgring
Go on an extended period test drive unless agreed upon with seller
Do anything that would put you or the car at risk, cosmetically or mechanically.

Remember – an honest seller will often also have a car that is in fairly decent shape. Verify that the story they tell you matches the clues you see with the car.

Ask one of the previous questions to see if the answer remains the same this time around. If something doesn’t match up, chances are the seller is hiding something, and I would investigate further.

“Gut Feeling” plays a big role in this game. Be alert to your senses and you will not buy a lemon. This is one of the key used car buying tips.

Inspecting the Car

If inspecting yourself, print out and follow our Inspection Checklist

Make sure to find a professional shop to do a Pre Purchase Inspection if you are not mechanically inclined. Anything wrong with the car, especially when NOT told about by the seller, can be potentially used to reduce the selling price or to save you from thousands of dollars in losses.

One of the used car buying tips I want you to take away from this is that any car can be a “good deal” so long as the issues within the car are discovered and price lowered to compensate.

Seal the Deal

First, before anything else, make sure they have the pink slip, as well as the smog certificate. Verify they are the owner by asking to see their ID and matching it to the name on the pink slip.

Make sure the smog certificate states that it has been completed within 90 days, otherwise its invalid for title transfer. Other states may have more paperwork so get familiar with your states requirements.

Reach a price that both parties can agree to.

Do NOT be afraid of throwing out an offer. They just spent their time showing the car, and people hate to lose time. Most times they will take a substantial amount below asking value as long as you show them things they have left out in their ad.

Sellers usually prefer cash money, but if the car is more expensive you should pay with a cashier’s check. Since there is a lot of check fraud going on, sellers are typically sketched out.

Invite them to come to the bank with you while you have the cashier’s check made out. If both seller and buyer have the same banking company, an instant transfer can also be arranged.

After completing the transaction, make sure to save the sellers phone number for any further questions. Also ask them for any sets of spare keys, and service records they have.

Thank you very much for reading

My name is Anton and I’m from California. My website CarLifeDaily.com is an auto repair and used car buying and selling advice blog. Check out the website and make sure to subscribe to receive exclusive member-only content weekly!

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Car Night Driving Tips (Tricks, Tips and Driving Guide for Beginners)

STAY CALM AND FEARLESS

Have a relaxed mindset, and never panic during your night driving. Being fearless and sticking onto the road rules would make you half a way through the journey. We have seen some new drivers, who panic in some situations causing them to applying break forcefully, shaking the gear leaver to know in which number of gear they are in or clicking the viper blades or indicators coming in action when they panic. Try not to be that, stay calm and do your actions.

Keep your windshield clean. Remove off the stains, dried drops, smudges, finger prints, dust and greasy matters to have a clear vision of the road in the night driving glare. First, lift the vipers from the bonnet using your hand and de-dust it, then pour a sufficient amount of water all over the windshield and allow draining. Now, use your viper gear to clean the windshield by squeezing the detergents stored under the hood. Following these steps will make you to avoid mild scratches on your wind glasses and have a clear vision on the road.

Applying the viper as such to clean the windshield may swipe up the dirt and mud particles accumulated around the blades and can cause permanent scratches on your windshield.

GLARY NIGHT VISION AT NIGHT DRIVING

Additional care should be paid for car driving, especially by the beginners to moderate skilled drivers during night times, than during the day. Driving the car at night times seems to be a scary part for many drivers due to the glary vision of the opposite vehicle that leads them blind for some microseconds when passing by. Keep in mind, glary visions are the main dangers of driving at night.

For this, avoid seeing the light beams of the opposite vehicle and concentrate on the road space required for the lively movement of your car during the exact crossing time of the opposite vehicle. While crossing, if you are not sure about the road, don’t apply, but be ready to pedal on the brake, particularly when you travel on the road where you handled some patches and damages already.

LOW/HIGH BEAM LEVER

Use your high and low beam indicator wisely. Use high beams at night driving only when you see no cars on the opposite side. Flipping from low to high beam for a while can actually help you in finding the pot holes, humps, broken ridges and the damaged roads even at long distance with a shadowed vision.

Pull down the high beam to low level to make your nearby road visible while you pass the opposite vehicle on the same road. This on the other hand, indicates the opposite vehicle driver to do the same, so that both the drivers may have a better vision in low beam (some drivers don’t obey this and no need to worry about it). If you head other vehicles coming opposite continuously, try to be in the low beam position. This will help the opposite driver to have his vision properly without your high beam.

KEEP YOUR VISION LONG

Keep your eye sights long to the end of the road covering almost all the area of your road. Try to understand this. When you drive in dark, try to keep your sight sticking to the regions as your car head lamps explore new areas of the roads. Actually, this will help us to have some time to react when we find some abnormalities on the roads like, humps, potholes, speed breakers and etc.

PARKING LIGHT FOR ROUGH ROADS

Roads are always associated with patches and damages contributing to small to large damages to the vehicle. In some bad cases, a neat, smooth road ends all of a sudden and continues to be a bad, damaged roads with pits and hard rocks. This is often faced during the night driving time causing the car more vulnerable to hurt, especially when you drive at a constant high speed. When you face such situation, slowing your car immediately may harm your car, as the vehicles following you don’t expect this from you. In such cases, switch your parking light in one hand and this can indicate the drivers coming behind you to control their speed without hitting your car’s back.

I have tried this many a time where I felt safe.

Especially, when you lead on a road followed by three or four vehicles behind you at constant speed wouldn’t expect you to stop or slowing suddenly for a bad scenario in the middle of the road unexpectedly. Sometimes running your car on the damages roads is better than getting hit by the rear following vehicles.

If you want to stop your car crisply in such cases, cut down your speed from 100 km/h till it reaches to 60-50km/h and release the brake and re-press the brake pedal hardly once again will make your car stop safely. Not to harm your co-passengers, give signal to your passengers on emergency braking.

SLEEPY DRIVERS

Sleepy drivers are really the dangerous giant in the roads of both day and night driving whom we need to get rid of. But more often, the vulnerability is higher at night times due to less traffic and perfect time to sleep, especially for those who are tired of driving from long distance. Even research has been done on this and found that tiresome drivers take micro sleep for 6 to 10 seconds without their knowledge.

Giving a short horn during overtakes, particularly for long vehicles like trucks, lorry, buses and etc., would add another layer of safety for you. Pressing the horn for twice would make the truck driver to have a notice on you and your activities.

OVERTAKE USING OTHER CAR WINDSHIELD

Sometimes we see groups of vehicles flocks together on overtaking heavy loaded or long vehicles. In such situations, based on the chance of crossing one another, you may have to remain in the flock by driving at slow speed for a while. Later the group gets disperse as vehicles move ahead overtaking one after another. In such cases, we might continue to stay in the same lane, while one or two other vehicles of same lane direction would move to the opposite lane to overtake. If you are among the one behind the vehicle travelling in the opposite lane, it is more responsible job for you to have your safety.

Sometimes the overtaking vehicle would come back into its own lane, while heading another vehicle on the opposite lane. Also, the overtaking driver may have time and space only for his vehicle to pass on, where you might end up in trouble following him on the opposite lane. This generally happens to many drivers when they lose their patience in staying in the flock of vehicles for some time. During overtakes, as you have a vehicle before you, try to see through his windshield to get an idea about the opposite lane vehicle. This can actually help you to have some extra time to decide to slow down or coming back to your lane again

SHORT HORN SOUNDS

Give short horns at regular intervals (pom pom pom) than pressing the horn to give a long press (poooooooom). This might sound funny, but it actually works. Especially, when we get in contact with other roads passing across or the road that connects to the highways. Giving such short horns would make the people to notice about your car coming being ready to cross the road.

Some roads are broad for long distance and later divides into two roads, while a short half a meter height divider separates two roads which has blurred marking or with no reflector stickers. This type of dividers is risky specifically when they start after coming down from a bridge. All kinds of such problems are not such a big problem in daylight, however, in the night driving, especially when we travel on the new roads, it is highly important. So beware of short divider.

TURNING ROADS AND BAD CURVES

Turning roads are actually a trap for us, it seems simpler than they actually appear. This is not about the hair-pin bending where we would not be at a pace of speed.
When you don’t get the vision of the bending road, for sure be alert and bring the speed down is on the safer side. Never misjudge the road curve for our safety measures. At times, some open land roads have some treats like, that we might not know whether the road bends to the right or left until you reach closure. Make sure you stick on to the lane and pull down the speed in such situation without being panic.

EMPTY WATER BOTTLE

Having juices and beverages on travel might add a great value for the journey, however small bottles of less than a litre may cause some trouble if it is on the floor unnoticed in dim light, as they may run in between the three pedals. But no need to remember a horror scene whenever you see a pet bottle in the car, rather just keep an eye on them when you are handling them.

BE A REAL HERO

When you feel sleepy, never hesitate to leave the driver’s seat for the sake prestige or fame. A real driver never takes chances in collapsing the whole happy journey or the fun of driving a car. Feeling tired and sleepy after a long continuous drive is actually a human nature and some of us really feel shame telling we feel sleepy and handing over the car to our spouse or friends. Most accidents happening at night time are higher due to lack of sleep of the drivers which is bad for us and others too.

Cheap Car Rental: Booking Holiday and Business Car Rental in Advance

When seeking cheap car rental, many people prefer to book holiday or business car hire in advance. Car hire is usually a must for most business trips, unless you are being picked up at the airport. Driving a company car is fine for short trips, but when you have long distances to travel, or even overseas, then you have to hire a car and you want something appropriate for your needs.

Holiday car rental can be even more important to most people, particularly if they have large families involving two adults and three or four children. It’s bad enough having two children in the back of a small car let alone three! You likely know what I mean!

On vacation you might need a 4×4 or even a people carrier (strange name) that can fit your whole family comfortably and without complaints the whole way! These are not always available at airports, so you could have a problem if you don’t book in advance. The same is true of more prestigious business cars such as 7-Series BMW, Mercedes or similar, and for these you will almost certainly have to book your business car rental in advance.

That’s fine if you are seeking cheap car rental in your own country, but you may have difficulty doing so when traveling abroad. It’s difficult enough booking a car in Hawaii when you live in Colorado, but try making an advance booking in Kenya when you live in Australia! Wouldn’t it be great if you could find a simple way to book business car hire or a car for your holidays from your own home? Or have your secretary do it for you without tearing her hair out?

Most people prefer to book their car in advance when going on vacation or for business trips. Cheap car rental is easier to get by booking early online, and by doing so they make sure they get the car they need, and not just ‘what’s available’. Others don’t seem to bother about forward booking of hire cars: they will book air tickets and train tickets in advance but leave their cars to luck!

Cheap Car Rental Cost Advantage

There are several advantages of booking your holiday car rental in advance, not the least being cost. Most car hire firms will charge less for an advance booking than if you simply turn up at the desk, so booking your vacation or business car rental in advance will probably save you money – particularly if you book a car online. Sometimes that’s not possible with business trips, but you should at least know when your flight is due to arrive at its destination. You can book your car online in advance for that time and likely get a better price than somebody walking off the plane and trying to get cheap car rental at the desk.

Better Choice of Cars

There are other advantages though, not the least being the choice of cars you may be offered. Booking car hire in advance enables you choose the car you want – at least up to a point. If you hire a car from the airport you are restricted to what they have available: not just what is available for airport car rental, but to what is left, particularly if you are near the back of the queue!

It’s not easy to find a car to suit you if you have five or six in your family, and lots of luggage. In fact, you might not find anything and have to pay for a couple of taxis to your hotel so that they can help you out with renting a car big enough for your needs. It is far better to have booked your holiday car rental in advance.

Cheap Car Rental Price Comparisons

If you know the type of vehicle you need, you should be able to compare cheap car rental prices across car hire firms and also across models that meet your specifications. By hiring a car in advance you should be able to achieve that by entering your needs into a search engine and be offered a range of vehicles in order of price for any country you want.

Perhaps you have different collection and drop-off points, so how would that affect the cost of your car hire? Is it easy to search over a number of car hire firms or do you have to visit the web pages of each separately? How about searching over a range of countries? If you live in the USA and are traveling to Austria or Switzerland for some skiing, wouldn’t you like to be able to book the car you want and be able to get the best price for it?

3 Kids and a Mini!

These things are not easy to do and people generally settle for trying to get as near the head of the queue as possible at immigration and customs, and reach that car hire desk as quickly as they can. Then you have the problem of how many others have hired cars that day, and is the type of business car rental you need still available. It’s all worry and stress you can do without. What if you can’t get a car? It doesn’t bear thinking about! 3 kids and a wife, and you failed to get anything but a mini! That might be taking cheap car rental a step too far!

You can find a world-wide cheap car rental service along with rail booking service if you need it, on Global Car Rental that offers you a photo and specifications of the cars available from a range of vacation and business car hire firms from which you can choose your ideal car.