Are You Safe Buying a Vehicle on Craigslist?

José Pinomesa, Chairman
Oregon Independent Auto Dealers Association

I am sure you have heard about and you may have visited it many times but are you safe buying a vehicle that you found advertised there?  This is often the question asked by many and sometimes it is too late.  Since you can post ads for free it attracts many listings that may not seem to be what they are so you have to know what you are doing otherwise you are going to get scammed.

Some of the easiest listings to pick out are those that do not have a phone number attached.  It is impossible to do business with someone related to an automobile with only an e-mail so skip these all together.  I would also skip those that are in a far away city or state and agree to ship the vehicle after the sale for no charge. 

Most of these ads have a vehicle priced thousands below actual market value waiting to find a sucker.  These ads also do not have a phone number attached which make them very shady.  In fact craigslist considers these to be 100% fraudulent.  My advise is to do business with someone that is local.  If a private party has listed a vehicle make sure the title is in the same name as the person selling it otherwise you might be buying it from a curber.  A curber is defined as anyone buying, selling and/or dealing in vehicles without a license.

A federal odometer disclosure must be done at time of sale from the buyer to the seller.  If you cannot witness this in person then buyer beware!  You will also have many sellers that do not have a title since it is being held by a security interest holder due to an auto loan associated with it.  In these times you do not want to trust anyone to pay off a vehicle if you give them the money because it may not get done.

The other type of vehicle you see advertised are those that have been in accidents and put back together with or without a branded title.  Branded titles are those vehicles that have been given a notation on the title by usually an insurance company and are worth far less than a vehicle that has a clean title or have never suffered an accident.  Some of the most common brands are totaled, salvaged, flood or lemon law.  Buying one of these vehicles for too much money will more than likely give you plenty of grief not to mention could cost you even more money to correct an unknown problem later.

Buying a car in these times can be very tricky when you are on your own.  Doing business with someone you know and trust can not only save you money but bring you piece of mind.  When in doubt call on a professional to make sure you are getting what you think you are getting.  Buying a vehicle with a clean title is considered to be normal in my business practices but then again it is pretty normal to see craigslist filled with branded titled vehicles or even no title at all.  Just because you saw it on line does not mean you are good to go!

— This article was written by José Pinomesa who is the 2009-2010 Chairman for the Oregon Independent Automobile Dealers Association in Salem and the owner of José Mesa Auto Wholesale, LLC in Portland.  Buying your next new or used car from a member of a nationally recognized automobile dealer association will provide you piece of mind knowing that everything will be taken care of properly.  For more information please visit the following websites at and .

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