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How to Safely Buy a Used Car on Craigslist

How to Safely Buy a Used Car on Craigslist

So you’re in the market for a used car and you’ve decided to turn to Craigslist. Maybe you want to have the flexibility of negotiating a great deal, or perhaps you just want to avoid pushy or sketchy used car salespeople. Great idea! But you’re unsure of how to go about looking for the right car or maybe you’re nervous about being stuck with a lemon. You’re not alone.

Here are some tips and tricks for protecting yourself when buying a used car from Craigslist:

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What the law says:

I’m sure you’ve heard of lemon laws which provide protection to consumers who buy used cars that have been misrepresented as being in good condition or otherwise fail to meet quality and performance standards. But did you know that lemon laws only apply to auto dealers in most states?

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That’s right, there is almost no legal protection when you’re buying from a private seller. The large majority of states view private car sales as “as is” sales. That means that whatever condition the car is in when you receive it is your problem to deal with. For the most part, used private car sales are “buyer beware”.

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Still, there are basic ways to protect yourself from getting a dud, from being tricked by sneaky private sellers, and even ways to secure possible legal recourse if something does goes wrong with the sale.

Rules to follow:

  • Always get it in writing. Whether it’s a promise of the condition of the car on the whole or the condition of a particular part or system, print out the Craigslist ad before you ever contact the buyer. Pay special attention to listings that have promises of new or recently repaired parts. Get evidence of the promises they are making. Keep any and all correspondence in writing, whether it be through email or text message. Secure a paper trail.
  • Always ask important questions before you go to inspect the car. Ask if it has had repairs recently and where they were done. Ask for a copy of receipts for proof. Ask if the seller has had any issues with the car. Ask for the VIN if you want to go the extra mile and do an online check like CarFax. Make sure the seller’s answers are in written form, if you ever need to reference them later.
  • Always ask to test drive. Not every private seller is comfortable allowing this, because if you’re test driving their vehicle and something happens to it, the seller is on the hook legally and financially. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.
  • Never buy a car without having a mechanic inspect it. If the mechanic finds issues with the car, ask him or her to itemize their findings on the inspection report. Use the issues as a point of negotiations. Often the seller wants to get rid of the car, so they may be willing to work with you on splitting the repair bill or lowering the purchase price of the car.
  • Never let the seller choose the mechanic. You don’t want to take the chance that the mechanic is actually the seller’s buddy who may be willing to fudge information to help a friend. Always choose a mechanic you trust. You may have to foot the inspection bill yourself, but it is money well-spent.
  • Never complete a private sale without a receipt. It doesn’t matter if the receipt is written in crayon on a piece of toilet paper. A receipt is needed to prove what you paid, when you paid it, and to verify the condition of the car. Make sure both you and the seller signs and dates the receipt. A receipt may make or break your case in civil court.
  • Never pay for a private sale in cash. I know cash can be a powerful tool in price negotiations, but there is no way to track how much cash you paid and when, aside from your word. Make sure you pay in a way that’s easy to track, like PayPal or by check.

Signs you need to walk away:

Here are some serious signs that you may just need to walk away:

  • The seller can’t produce a title.
  • The title the seller produces looks sketchy.
  • The title shows a lien on the car whose status the seller won’t or can’t verify.
  • There are signs of water damage in the car (new upholstery, rust under the seats, waterlines).
  • The car has fresh paint (a sign of covering up damage after an accident).
  • The 17 digit VIN on the dashboard doesn’t match the VIN on the car door (a sign the car was stolen).
  • There are signs of fluid leaks around the car which is an indicator of a major problem.
  • The seller is jerking you around when it comes to arranging an meeting, test drive, or inspection with a mechanic. If the seller has nothing to hide, then they should be willing to work with you.

When it comes to a private used car sale, check the laws in your state by visiting your DMV’s website or calling your local DMV chapter. Remember to always take safeguards to protect yourself and don’t let the buyer pressure you in any way. Be prepared to negotiate and be prepared to walk away. If you put yourself first, you should be able to successfully buy a safe used car from Craigslist.

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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