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Shopping on Craigslist is a lot like shopping at the thrift store – if the thrift store didn’t let you look at any real products until after you’d driven 20 miles to look at them. There are treasures there if you know what to look for, but you need to watch out for landmines and scam artists. Here is your map to navigating Craigslist auto ads like a pro – geared specifically to Jeep 4x4 owners and seekers.
If you’re trying to buy or sell your Jeep or some Jeep parts and accessories on Craigslist, there are some general rules you should follow. For instance, if a Craigslist ad …
Asks for personal financial information: walk away. Never give out your personal financial information to a Craigslist seller or buyer. Craigslist doesn’t certify its listings, so there is no filter for identity thieves and scammers except you. Banking information like your routing and account numbers, credit and debit card numbers, PayPal account information and social security number are a few examples of things you should never give to … well, just about anyone, but especially people you meet on Craigslist.
Only take cash. Whether you’re selling your Jeep or a gently used set of mud flaps on Craigslist, don’t accept any sort of payment other than cash. Anyone who wants to pay you through cashier’s check, money order or wire transfer is probably trying to scam you and if your bank cashes a fake, they’ll hold you responsible. Likewise …
Make all transactions in person. Be wary of anyone who asks you to ship items or pay through a wire transfer like Western Union or mailing a check – they’re probably scammers.
Meet in public. No matter what you’re buying or selling, set up the meeting in a public place. You don’t know who might be on the other end of the Internet and it’s best to be safe. If they can’t bring the item, meet them in a public space nearby, bring someone with you and then go to where the item is. On that note, you also need to …
Trust your gut! If you met a stranger in a Subway parking lot and they said “Hey, I’ve got a great set of Pro Comp wheels in my garage, want to come over and see them?” you’d probably say no. But that’s exactly what you’re doing when you shop on Craigslist, so if you meet the seller/buyer and your gut reaction is a bad one, walk away. It’s not worth it.
Of course, before you ever meet a buyer/seller from Craigslist, make sure to look closely at how they’ve been talking. Vague responses to your ad asking about “the item” and not your specific item, are red flags. The same is true if you’ve asked a question about an item and receive a vague answer.
For more information about avoiding scams, get it straight from the horse’s mouth on Craigslist: http://www.craigslist.org/about/scams.
If you’ve made it past the scam screen and are now looking at your potential new Jeep, here’s what you should keep an eye out for (on top of your usual used car check).
Whatever you find in your investigation of the Jeep (or any Jeep parts you may be buying), don’t be afraid to ask about it. It’s possible the stains in the driveway are from their spouse’s Subaru or the lift kit was installed by the previous owner.
Do: Start off Right
Lead with a descriptive title: Year, make, model, color and an accurate price. Make people want to click on your ad.
Don’t: Try to Trick Buyers
Make sure your ad is in the right category, with honest and accurate info. It’s about the right people seeing your ad, not the most people.
Do: Take Pictures
2-3 well-lit exterior photos AND a couple of interiors of your Jeep (Not stock photos from the internet) will go a long way to selling your Jeep faster. Pro tip: Clean the Jeep first!
Don’t: Obscure Damage
If your Jeep has some dings, show them now. A potential buyer may change their mind if they’re annoyed about driving 45 minutes to find out your Jeep has damage.
Do: Give the Details
Post the year, make and model as well as the color, engine, mileage, transmission and 4-wheel-drive capabilities – at the very least.
Don’t: Copy and Paste Specs
A potential buyer is interested in your Jeep, don’t give them a robotic list of info pulled from the Jeep website.
Do: Include Mods
If you’ve modified your Jeep at all, make sure to include that information in the ad. It can help explain the price and insures your weekend warrior isn’t going to be used as a mall crawler.
Don’t: Bury the Lead
Information is great, but don’t write a 2,000 word essay and mention the brakes are shot at the end. Use bullet points, keep it organized and put the most important information first.
Do: Talk about the Title
Let them know up front what the situation with the title is. Are you the original owner, is the title clean, salvage, rebuilt, missing?
Don’t: Be Negative
Honesty is vital to a good ad, but make sure to stay positive. After all, you want them to buy your Jeep.
Do: STOP YELLING
WHEN YOU WRITE YOUR AD IN ALL CAPS, IT SEEMS LIKE YOU’RE YELLING. YOU ARE NOT BILLY MAYS, IT DOESN’T WORK FOR YOU.
Don’t: Forget Spell Check
Check for misspellings (especially in the YMM) and if English isn’t your first language say so, so that they know why the language might be a bit choppy.
Do: Update Your Ad
Craigslist ads filter by date posted, so make sure to go in and update your ad once a week. If you change the price, make sure the title and body match.
Don’t: Post Multiple Ads
Few things are more annoying than seeing the same ad posted ten times on one page of Craigslist search results. Make one post and update it regularly to kick it to the top of the results and make it more visible.