January 25, 2016

7 Simple Reasons Not to Buy Cars on Craigslist or eBay

The Internet has made many things easier, including buying used cars in Oklahoma. But is it a good idea to trust the web with your next car? Buying a car on Craigslist or eBay might seem like a cheap way to find some new wheels. In reality, it’s often a cause of headaches and heartbreak.


Curbstoning is an old trick in the used car world, but the Internet has made it easier and more popular. In short, curbstoning is the term for a used car dealer posing as a private seller. Most curbstoners sell vehicles this way to make profit on cars they can’t sell on their lot. This may include cars with flood damage or prior accidents.

Many curbstoners advertise in classified ads such as those on Craigslist. It can be hard to tell if a private seller is actually a curbstoner, but there are a few signs. Look for:

  • Out of state license plates, dealer tags, or missing license plates.
  • The seller insisting on a cash payment, not a bank draft or cashier’s check.
  • The title of the car being in a different name than the seller’s name.
  • The seller offering to do title and tag paperwork for you.
  • The seller refusing to show you the title.
  • The seller’s phone number showing on multiple car listings in the same area.
  • The seller giving you a long story about why they are selling on behalf of someone else.
  • The seller refusing to answer questions about the car’s history, or not knowing about the car’s past.

If you suspect that the seller of the car is not being genuine, walk away. You could be saving yourself tons of headaches and future problems.


Curbstoning isn’t necessarily illegal. There are plenty of other used car scams that are, though. If you’re buying a used car from a private seller, be on the lookout for some of these common scams:

  • Fake Wire Transfers or Escrows – The seller of the car will ask you to transfer some or all of the payment for the car via wire transfer or an escrow service. Never do this unless you’re 100% confident in the service. Fake escrow companies can steal your money and leave you with no car and no cash.
  • Fake Car Shipments – In some cases you’ll find people claiming to sell cars across state or country lines. They’ll offer to ship the car to you in exchange for an extra fee, but when you send it to them they’ll break the contract and disappear.
  • Title and VIN Scams – In some cases you’ll come across cars with titles or VINs that don’t line up. Never accept an explanation – this is a red flag in every case.

No Vehicle History Report (Unless You Buy One Yourself)

A vehicle history report is a great way to learn more about the history of a car. Vehicle history reports contain information about sales, title transfers, accidents, claims, and maintenance. They are a powerful tool for a car shopper and can help protect against shoddy cars.

Most dealers offer vehicle history reports from CARFAX or another company for all their cars. Private sellers generally do not. If you want a history report for a car on Craigslist, eBay, or another site, you’ll have to buy one yourself.

No Mechanical Inspection (Unless You Get It Done Yourself)

Any time you buy a used car, you should get it checked by a mechanic. This is true no matter what, but it goes double for private sales. Private sellers are not totally trustworthy. They are not backed by dealer service departments or mechanics. That means you need to be cautious when buying a car online.

The best way to be sure of your chosen car is to take it to a mechanic. Many mechanics will inspect a car for less than $100. Plus, they can finish in a few hours or less.

Always ask your mechanic to check the car’s most important parts. This includes the engine, drivetrain, transmission, steering, brakes, and wheels. A good mechanic will almost always catch something you missed. Sometimes it will be a minor issue, but sometimes it will be a major problem.

Harder to Get Financing

Another disadvantage of private sales through Craigslist or eBay is that it’s harder to get financing, especially if you have poor credit. When you buy a car at a dealership, the dealer can help you find a creditor. They will often work with you on the rate to get your payments and interest to a level you’re comfortable with. Some dealers, like us, even offer their own in-house financing to buyers with credit challenges.

In contrast, a private car purchase almost always means financing through a bank or credit union. Banks usually have strict requirements for your credit score and aren’t very flexible on payment schedules or interest rates. Some banks won’t even offer financing for cars bought outside of dealerships. If you don’t have great credit, it can be tough to get financing from a bank or credit union for a private purchase.

Harder to Transfer Title

Even when you can get financing for a car from a private seller, it’s still tough to use it to complete the sale. Another drawback of buying cars privately is having to complete all the paperwork yourself.

Car dealerships have financing and sales departments that can draft a bill of sale, handle title transfers and tax paperwork, and even help you add your car to your insurance. In contrast, a private seller will generally just sell you the car and walk away. Unless you know exactly what you’re doing and what you need, you could end up missing vital information.

Harder to See and Test-Drive Vehicle

A final disadvantage of buying cars online through Craigslist or eBay is the difficulty in arranging test drives. Many cars on these services are sold over long distances. If you’re buying a car in another city or state, you probably won’t be able to see it or drive it before you buy. This opens you up to all kinds of risks.

It’s almost always a bad idea to buy a car sight unseen. Always do your homework and check the car thoroughly before putting money down or making an offer. Make sure you can drive the car before you buy it to check for any major problems. You won’t regret taking the extra precaution.

The KEY – Used Cars You Can Trust

At The KEY in Oklahoma City, you won’t run into any of the problems you could with a private seller. Our car buying process is designed to be streamlined and fair. We can have you approved in a matter of minutes, even if you have poor credit. We’ll also work with you to develop a payment plan that fits your lifestyle and your budget.

Ready to learn more about buying a used car in Oklahoma City? Contact us today at The KEY in OKC! We’re the city’s number one car dealer for people with bad or no credit. We can help almost any buyer get into a quality used car at a great price, no matter what their credit situation is. Contact us today at (405) 526-7010 or visit our Facebook page for more information and details.