Why We Didn’t Sell Our Car on Craigslist

Last week I detailed why we considered buying a car through CarMax, and I wanted to do a follow-up on a service of theirs that we actually used.

Why We Didn’t Sell Our Car on Craigslist

Realizing that our ’99 Nissan Altima needed $1500-2000 in repairs, it didn’t take a lengthy conversation for us to determine that it was time to finally let it go.

After looking up the Private Resale value of our car on Kelley Blue Book, we discovered that our Nissan Altima was worth somewhere between $2300 and $3000.

With that knowledge in hand, and understanding it needed quite a few repairs, I went into the selling process knowing that we’d accept anything over $1000!

Past Craigslist Experiences

I’ve sold a handful of cars through Craigslist and in the majority of situations I think it’s the best option to maximize your profit.

However, ALL of the cars we’ve owned have been high-mileage, older vehicles. They’re typically not in perfect condition and there are a myriad of things wrong with them. In this situation, if you were to sell your car on Craigslist, the seller can choose to do one of two things:

  • 1. Inform the potential buyer of any issues with the car – this will likely reduce the offer you’re going to receive (which is the reason most people don’t go this route)
  • 2. Lie and hope that the potential buyer doesn’t discover any of the problems

Ethics and Morality Get in the Way

After talking things through with my wife, we determined that IF we were going to sell our car through Craigslist we were going to be honest with the potential buyer and inform them of all of the issues with the car and the impending repairs. I can’t say this is how I’ve handled selling cars on Craigslist on the past. Sorry to those people that happened to buy my old cars – I know, I’m a jerk.

We realized that a person looking to buy a car in the range of $1,000-$3000 probably doesn’t have much money. It’s also likely that this person is struggling to make ends-meet and has a family that they’re trying to provide for.

With that in mind, we simply didn’t want to be dishonest (for the sake of maximizing our gain) while hurting someone in the process that likely needed the money more than we did.

With that being our primary motive there were a few other things I disliked about the possibility of selling our car on Craigslist:

  • You get bombarded with emails and phone calls
  • You have to set up individual appointment times for people to come see the car
  • Said people may show up and they may not, thus wasting your time
  • You can invite the people to come to your house to view the car, but with the world that we live in today, it’s typically safer to meet them at a random location – again, wasting time

Consider Selling to CarMax Next Time You’re Looking

Knowing that we had already planned to test drive cars at CarMax, we also decided it wouldn’t hurt to allow them to give us a bid on our Altima.

For those of you that are unaware, not only does CarMax sell cars, but they’re also willing to buy anybody’s car!

Without really knowing what to expect, here are a few things that I discovered:

1. It didn’t take long – it took around 20 or 30 minutes for them to fully look over my car and give me an offer on it. Considering I place a high value on time, I thought this was pretty good!

We were able to test drive 3 cars and by the time we returned I also had an offer in hand for them to buy my current vehicle!

2. I’m still unsure of how well they inspect the car – our ’99 Altima had been in a pretty serious accident about 4 years ago and they definitely spotted the new paint that was (professionally) used to touch up the hood of the car, but beyond that I’m not really sure if they looked at anything.

They claimed our tires were in good shape – which they weren’t.

Furthermore, and much to my surprise, they claimed that the car had no other problems and that it was in good condition.

3. I didn’t have to lie – the thing about the CarMax car buying process is that you don’t really talk to the mechanic that’s looking over your car.

While it probably isn’t morally correct, I wouldn’t have felt bad about bending the truth when telling a large corporation about what was (or wasn’t) wrong with my car. Regardless of what I wouldn’t have told them, they never asked, so I didn’t have to lie! Or ‘bend the truth.’

4. Their offer was fairly competitive – knowing that the Kelley Blue Book value on my car was $2,300-$3,000, CarMax gave me an offer for $2,000!

It didn’t take me long to agree to sell the car, especially considering I’d already determined I’d part ways with it for anything over $1000!

A few other things about Selling Your Car to CarMax:

  • The process couldn’t have been easier – once we brought the car back in to officially sell it, it literally took 10-15 minutes to sign a few pieces of paper and for them to hand over the check.
  • It saved me a ton of time – I didn’t have to field phone calls and emails. I didn’t have to schedule inconvenient appoints with random people. And I didn’t have to worry…at all.

Next time you’re looking to sell your vehicle, I’d encourage you to check out your local CarMax and allow them to give you an offer. Hopefully it’ll go as well for you as it did for us!

About the Author

By , on May 4, 2012
Andy Tenton
Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the publisher of WorkSaveLive.com.

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  1. Dan says:

    I had a similar experience. I had a Dodge Neon that was so messed up, Id feel bad giving it away knowing repairs would be worth more then the car. Took it to carmax and got $500.

  2. Janelle says:


    I’ve been perusing your website today and I have enjoyed what I have been reading until I came across what you said above. You are right, it isn’t morally correct. Bending the truth is called lying. I know you don’t have children yet, but when you do, they will be watching EVERYTHING that you do and “bending the truth”, as you call it, will show them an aspect of your character that I believe is wrong. I am glad that they didn’t ask you any questions so that you didn’t end up “bending the truth”. But had they asked you, the right thing to do would have been to tell them what you know. Not telling them, “bending the truth”, shows a lack of trust in God. If you believe that He is going to provide for you and take care of you, then you can go into situations like this knowing that if they were to not purchase your car, then God had another plan.

  3. On the contrary I sold my broken and junked Hyundai Elantra on Craigslist in less than 24 hours. Carmax wasn’t ready to buy it, and junk car buyers weren’t willing to give more than $500. Eventually a mechanic bought it thru craigslist for $1200.

    I would say try all routes to sell your car, not just one…

  4. I wonder if CarMax is available in Canada

    • Andy says:

      There have been a few that mentioned they aren’t; I also just looked on their website and it appears to only be in the states.

  5. I’ve never considered selling my car to CarMax but I like the points you raise here. I wonder which one you’d get more money for – if you sold at CarMax or if you traded it in to a dealership when you’re trying to buy a new car.

  6. Shilpan says:

    I agree with you Andy. I sold 2005 BMW Z4 to CarMax in last September. I was really impressed with their customer service. You’ve made the right decision mate.

  7. CultOfMoney says:

    I have to admit that I’ve never sold a car, and in fact have only bought one, so the idea of a hassle free transaction should I need to sell a car is quite appealing. I’m a big fan of haggling and negotiating, but the time invested selling things on craigslist is usually fairly high, I can only imagine the issues selling a car there. Glad that you got to keep your principles and made a few extra bucks!

  8. Katie says:

    Wow, that was a great offer considering you were going to take anything over $1,000. I hate when I buy something off of Craigslist and the person was dishonest but good for you for wanting be one of those honest people. Congrats on getting a better deal.

  9. This Aggie Saves says:

    That sounds like a good deal! Will definitely have to keep that in mind for whenever it’s time to upgrade my vehicle (which hopefully won’t be for a very long time!)

  10. Sounds like a great deal for you! When I sold my last car I did so on craigslist. I did have to deal with a lot of emails and flaky people, but I also lived in a 13 story apartment building so I didn’t have to worry about them knowing where I lived. The first person who actually came to look at the car bought it so that was helpful.

    The only other thing is to remember KBB is a guide, not what you’ll actually get. My car’s KBB was 2500-2800 and I listed it for 3500 and sold it for 3200. I don’t know if my case was unusual (a cash price point in the DC market at the time) or the norm. Just make sure you know what you’re willing to sell for and don’t let people pressure you.

    My car did have a couple problems, but it was 13 years old so people have to expect that at the price point. I answered any and all questions the buyer asked honestly so I felt like I did my job informing them of everything I knew of that they asked about.

    • Andy says:

      That is great you were honest when informing them. I know when I was struggling with money and needed the cash I certainly was not so forth-coming. I kind of regret that but it is what it is.

      Going forward we’ll definitely make sure to be as transparent as possible.

  11. Modest Money says:

    That’s got to be the most hassle free car selling experience I’ve heard of, especially considering the problems with the car. I wonder how they wouldn’t notice the problems with it. I guess they thought the car looked in decent shape from the exterior and were actually lowballing you. I’d definitely feel less bad not telling some big company about problems with the car too.

    • Andy says:

      They mentioned the car looked GREAT for the age. It did…and I’m sure they take that into consideration because most people buy on looks rather than function. My guess is they didn’t notice the problems with the car, but all they had to do was take it for a test drive and they could have easily discovered the things that needed to be fixed.

  12. Sounds like it worked out perfectly for you. I agree – if they ask, tell them. If they trust their mechanics, then that’s their choice. I’m dreading when my 05 Cobalt goes, so I’m trying to hold on as long as I can. It’s still got a lot of life in it a 121,000 mi.

    • Andy says:

      We didn’t really want to get rid of the car but we were just tired of dumping money into it. We’re hoping our Honda will go to 300,000 miles (191k right now) and I’m hoping the newer car will go at least 200k!

  13. Hmmmm….I was planning on listing one of our cars on Craigslist and Autotrader this upcoming week

    • Andy says:

      You should still list it but I’d still take it into CarMax just to see what they’d offer! It will only take 20-30 minutes and it will be good for 7 days. So you can have it up on Craigslist, see what kind of traffic/offers you’re getting and if nothing works out quickly you can go back to CarMax and unload it at the end of that 7 day period if you wanted.

  14. Nick says:

    Wow that is pretty interesting. I haven’t considered selling to Carmax too. Was the offer contingent on you buying a car from them or was it $2,000 no matter what?

    • I want to know the answer to this question too! Was the $2k contingent on you buying a car? That’s a really good deal considering that it didn’t take long at all. I am very familiar with selling on craigslist and ebay, and it is a huge time waster, especially since people always have a ton of questions and want to come see the items in real life.

      • Andy says:

        Craigslist is a great way to maximize the amount but for an extra $200-500 I’m not sure if it’s worth the time. There is a lot of hassle involved and working with various schedules/shaddy people. It all depends on the offer though. If the offer was $1000 I would have probably shopped it out on Craigslist a bit.

    • Andy says:

      $2000 no matter what! No strings attached. You have 7 days to bring it in after they give you the offer though, if you go over the 7 days they have to reinspect it.

  15. I’ve sold cars on ebay and craigslist and it can be a pain, I’d never considered selling a car to CarMax. And you got a great deal and don’t have to worry about lying or anything because they have their mechanic looking at it. Nice!

  16. Interesting take. We don’t have Car Max here in Canada but we have things like it. In the past I have actually sold my cars to my mechanic. He fixes them up and uses them as loaner cars when people are getting repairs done. It works really well.

    • Andy says:

      I’ve never thought about selling my car to a mechanic but it would seem pretty logical! We’ve bounced around with mechanics the last couple of years and we’re just starting to get comfortable with the one we’ve been using lately. Hopefully we can develop a decent relationship with them because it does seem like a good solution!

  17. I included a link and short description of this post in my weekly blog roundup. Thanks for the great content!

  18. Michelle says:

    I’ll definitely have to check out Carmax next time. I’ve never really looked into it.

    • Andy says:

      I hadn’t really considered them before. The only reason we even gave them the chance was because we were going there already. It ended up working out quite well though!

  19. Edward Antrobus says:

    My family has never sold a car, at least not to anyone other than the junkyard. We’ve always run our cars into the ground.

    • Andy says:

      That’s awesome Edward! I wish we could run them into the ground but I think there has to be a line where you start paying too much for car repairs. I’m all for driving cars until they die but not if they’re nickel and diming you (or fifty and hundreding you like our car was doing to us).

  20. Good for you doing the ethical thing. If we as a society get to the point where the majority of people and the majority of market transactions are made by unethical people or via unethical means, we may well be finished. No one succeeds that way.

    • Andy says:

      That’s a very good point Thad. One of the main reasons we didn’t buy from Craigslist is because we were a little nervous that somebody would lie to us about what’s wrong with their car….so we just didn’t want to take the risk.

  21. Car max is definitely a great option, but I have found that for selling cars, autotrader.com has done quite well for me. They offer a more targeted audience for your sale and will reach a lot more people than craigslist, bringing you more money for your car. You can pay one flat rate (something like $50) and then your car will stay listed until it sells. The great thing about this is that you don’t have to keep re-listing it ever so often like you do on craigslist. In my experience, people who find your car on craigslist are looking to drive your price down more than those coming from auto trader.

    • Andy says:

      Good point Jeremiah! I’ve recommended for some of my clients to use AutoTrader but it wouldn’t have worked well for our situation. I would have had to lied again to somebody if I wanted to maximize profit or sell it for anything more than $1,000.

      Do you really think AutoTrader gets more visits that Craigslist? Craigslist has it hurdles but there is no denying A LOT of cars sell within days (or hours) of being posted on that site.

  22. 101 Centavos says:

    Interesting – I just gone reading another post on new vs. used cars, and selling your used car to CarMax never even crossed my mind. Good idea.

    • Andy says:

      Yeah, it’s worth a shot to see how much they’d offer. It might be way off but it might save a lot of time and hassle as well.

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