2007 BMW 530i

HOW TO SELL YOUR CAR ON CRAIGSLIST (AND NOT BE MURDERED)

I recently sold my car on Craigslist… and I didn’t get murdered. Actually, I’ve bought and sold a number of cars and motorcycles, as well as a variety of other items, using Craigslist and so far, not one transaction has resulted in my murder.

All that being said, I feel it is incumbent upon me to clearly state that I can not be held accountable

I am reluctant to label myself as an expert in the field. But, I believe that readers may benefit from my experience and also arrive if not unscathed, probably not murdered. All that being said, I feel it is incumbent upon me to clearly state that I can not be held accountable, if after reading this article, you and/or your loved ones are murdered during the process of selling your car on Craigslist.

So, you want to sell your car. Perhaps you need some extra dough, or you want to buy another car and need a more substantial down payment than trading your car to the dealer will provide. Maybe you’ve gotten yourself into some sort of trouble that requires some quick cash. That’s your business, not mine.

WRITE A STRONG POST THAT DOESN’T INVITE MURDERERS

You want to create a post that attracts real buyers. Not scammers, tire kickers, and of course, murderers. There are a lot of vehicles for sale on Craigslist. As a seller, you’ll have a lot of competition. You want to stand out with a strong post that not only makes your car look like the only one worth buying, but also one that makes you look like you know what you are doing and can not and should not be murdered.

I always assume that in each group of potential buyers, at least one that meets me is considering murdering me.

Listing all of the positive attributes of your car is of course required. Be honest. If the car is not in great shape but would make a great “kids” car or a daily driver that will get you to work every day without fail, then say so. Same goes if your car is a low mileage creampuff with no service lights, leaks or mechanical issues. You want the right people making inquiries, which will result in fewer people coming to look at your vehicle and reduce your chances of becoming another homicide statistic. I always assume that in each group of potential buyers, at least one that meets me is considering murdering me and stealing my car.

Be very specific in your ad. Include a lot of details about your car, including how you prefer to be contacted. If you only want phone calls, make that clear. If you will not respond to texts, make that clear. Be firm about how you want to be paid. I’ll expand on the payment issue later.

Being very clear and specific will help you weed out the scammers and of course, people that want to kill your family.

IGNORE SCAMMERS

I write great Craigslist posts. I do a lot of writing in my business, and my business revolves around marketing and branding. So, this type of writing comes very easily to me. Still, each time I post a vehicle for sale on Craigslist, the scammers start creeping out of the woodwork.

An easy way to identify the scammers–and killers–is to adhere to my advice about being very clear and specific.

Those messages come from either scammers or drooling idiots.

For example, if you receive texts or emails asking about information that is already in the post, like mileage, vehicle location, condition or accidents, you know that is just somebody trolling for victims–financial or, um, otherwise.

A good rule is to ignore any text or email that sounds like the person didn’t read the post. You may be anxious to sell your car, but fight the urge to engage. Those messages come from either scammers or drooling idiots that you don’t want in your car and near your nice leather interior.

Finally, let’s just all agree that I don’t have to explain why you should not entertain any offer that requires you to send the buyer any money or deliver/ship the car before you’ve got money in hand.

Most scammers just want to steal your money and property. But, depending upon the amount of money involved, if you get ripped off, you’ll probably just wish you were dead.

VERIFY POTENTIAL BUYERS

Remember “trust, but verify,” from the cold war 1980s? Great! Now, toss out that whole “trust” part. Perhaps in circles that trade in nuclear diplomacy, there needs to be at least the appearance of trust. But, you and I do not have the support of the United States Armed Forces. On craigslist, the only thing you can entirely trust is that there is no shortage of untrustworthy people out there, scrolling through posts and sharpening their fangs, looking for…YOU!

Today, we have the advantage of the Internet. Use it. Use it. Use it. 

Today, we have the advantage of the Internet. Use it. Use it. Use it. Did I mention that you should use it? Use Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., to verify the people who have reached out to you through your ad. It may take a couple of emails or calls back and forth to mine a few key pieces of information. But, once you’ve got their phone number or email, a first name and the town in which they live, you should be able to find them online.

Now, just because you can’t quickly find a person online does not necessarily mean they are up to no good. My recent buyer had initially told me that he was from St. Charles, when he actually lives in Elburn. He went with St. Charles because many people have no idea where Elburn is located. In fact, had I not had a roommate in college from Elburn, I really wouldn’t know where it was. Since after the first email, I couldn’t find him online, when we spoke I learned he lived in Elburn, and I was then able to confirm his identity to a degree that made me comfortable.

BRING A WEAPON

This sounds excessive, but it’s not. Remember, there are people out there that want to murder you and steal your stuff. You gotta level the playing field!

He’ll be on the ground with a broken jaw in less than 2 seconds!

You have to wisely pick and choose a weapon. Most likely, you’ll be meeting people with only the best intentions. If you show up with a handgun strapped to your hip or a friend carrying a shotgun, nobody is going to stick around long enough to make a deal.

How will you know when to deploy your chosen implement of destruction? Oh, you’ll just know.

My weapon of choice is a not-too-big, not-too-small pair of Vice-Grips. Just keep it in your coat pocket, or if it is too warm for a coat, in your back pocket. It’s a good all around tool to have with you when selling a used car, in case something gets stuck or a part looks loose. And, if your potential buyer turns out to be a hoodlum, you’ll be ready to pull the wrench out and take a solid, roundhouse swing at the guy. He’ll be on the ground with a broken jaw in less than 2 seconds!

How will you know when to deploy your chosen implement of destruction? Oh, you’ll just know.

LEAVE A TRAIL

Once you’ve set up a meeting with a potential buyer, start leaving a trail, so when you disappear, while your body may not be discovered for months or years or never, investigators will be able to crack the case.

People that murder other people after meeting via a Craigslist ad don’t seem to understand the concept of the IP address.

You’ll probably have cell phone call records. But, any criminal worth his/her salt knows enough to use a disposable cell phone. If there are some email conversations already in the cloud, that’s a good start. From what I’ve read, it appears that people that murder other people after meeting via a Craigslist ad don’t seem to understand the concept of the IP address.

DON’T MEET IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WOODS AT DUSK

Meeting in a public place is something that Craigslist itself recommends, and a number of police stations are allowing people to meet in their parking lots to transfer vehicles.

It is also not a bad idea to bring a friend along. But, not your BEST friend!

It is also not a bad idea to bring a friend along. Not your BEST friend! Just somebody that can stand there and make the plan of murdering one person (you) twice as difficult. And, since you didn’t saddle your best friend with this responsibility, if things really go south, feel free to use your acquaintance as a human shield to protect yourself.

Meeting in public is a good idea, but that may give you a false sense of security. No matter where you meet, as soon as possible, using your smartphone, snap a photo of your counterpart’s driver’s license and email it to your spouse or a friend or your work email. Hell, CC it to all of the above. Sure, there is the possibility that it could be a fake ID. However, the driver’s license includes the person’s photo, which will make for a good clue when the cops are trying to figure out who abducted you, forced you to empty your bank account and then dumped you in the river.

ONLY TAKE PAYMENT FROM A BANK TELLER

If you successfully sell your car and return home unmurdered, you’ll want to sleep at night without worrying if the stack of cash you were given as payment for your ride was printed on a laser printer in the backroom of The UPS Store or some dank basement in the former Soviet Union.

I have a great policy. I tell all buyers–and I even mention this in my Craigslist ads, which also filters out the homicidal maniacs–that however they want to make payment, be it check, cash, cashier’s check, fairy dust, good vibes, whatever, we go over to their bank, they hand payment to the teller and the teller cuts a cashier’s check. The teller won’t cut the check if the money is not in the account, so you know it is good. Plus, the check goes from the teller’s hand to you, so you know it is legit.

Of course, he may stick around until the bank closes and murder the teller, too. 

And lastly, no matter what happens. Like, say, you get the cashier’s check, walk out of the bank and the guy jams an ice pick into the base of your brain, then grabs the check, the car title and the keys and drives off, the bank teller is an additional witness. Of course, he may stick around until the bank closes and murder the teller, too. But, that’s not your problem. Plus, that’s a lot of work, and criminals are notoriously lazy.

NEVER SIGN AN “OPEN TITLE”

First off, don’t sign over the title until you have the money in hand. Get the bank check, and you can both sign the title while you’re still in the bank. It is rare that somebody gets murdered inside a bank. So, the odds are really in your favor.

Now the guy wants you to sign an “open title.”

Okay, everything is good and the deal is done, and now the guy wants you to sign an “open title.” This means that you sign over the title, but he doesn’t sign as the buyer. This makes it easier for your buyer to resell the vehicle without the hassle of transferring the title twice. But, it is illegal, and while this infraction pales in comparison to murder, just don’t agree to the open title.

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU MOST LIKELY HAVE NOT BEEN MURDERED!

If you heed all of this advice, you are considerably less likely to be murdered while selling your car through Craigslist. Of course, there are no guarantees. If somebody REALLY wants to murder you, they’ll find a way, or they’ll just do it with little or no concern for the consequences.

Good luck!

Larry Bloom

About Larry Bloom

In addition to being the editor of the BOC | NETWORKING blog, the host and facilitator of all BOC meetings and events, as well as the Vice President of the prestigious Highland Park Chamber of Commerce, Larry Bloom is the President of ATI Graphics, Inc., a Highland Park, Illinois based branding, graphic design and web development and consulting firm established in 1997. In a crowded field of branding and web consultants that have materialized to capitalize on an expanding industry, Larry Bloom stands apart. With 16 years of web development and over 20 years of design and branding under his belt, Bloom eclipses many of today’s “experts” by offering a modern eye for strategy and a “pre-web” sensibility about business and marketing. Over the years, he has helped businesses make millions of dollars by educating clients on effective messaging and the difference between a web site and a web presence. Bloom's "On-Demand Advisor" program offers great value to clients. You can learn more about ATI Graphics, Inc. at www.atigraphics.com