Finding Reliable Used Cars Under $2000 on Craigslist. #auto #shopper

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Finding Reliable Used Cars Under $2000 on Craigslist

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Internet Sites

Finding a used car under $2000 is very easy on Craigslist Cars for Sale. Many people replacing older vehicles with new ones find that dealer trade-in deals offer far less than a private party sale, and place ads on Craigslist. How to Find a Used Car on Craigslist provides a step-by-step guide on how to find such cars in general. This article will concentrate on cars under $2000.

Whether you’re looking for a first car and can’t afford more, or simply want to have one less monthly bill, finding reliable used cars under $2000 on Craigslist may be your best bet. However, especially in this price range there are many pitfalls to avoid as described below.

Choosing the Make, Model and Year Car You Should be Looking For

Especially with cars under $2000 you want to stick with reliable makes, since all legitimate cars in this price range will have high mileage. Some of the more reliable makes are Honda, Toyota, Lexus, Infiniti and Acura. You can (and should) look through a recent Consumer Reports cars issue (April each year) for reliability scores by class, make, model and year. Identify the makes and models you’re interested in based on their reliability score, size, engine power, air conditioning, transmission type, etc. Then, look up typical pricing for the ones you’re interested in, by year, at to see what you can afford. If you’re unfamiliar with models you’re considering, visit a local dealership and test drive some cars to see which ones you like and which are a bad fit (figuratively or literally).

Finding Used Cars Under $2000 on Craigslist Cars for Sale

Next, point your browser to and click on “cars+trucks” under “for sale”. In the page that comes up, enter e.g. $1500 in the first box and $2000 in the second box under “price”. This will keep you within your budget, but avoid complete junkers far below your target budget. In a major metro area you should still find hundreds of vehicles using this simple search.

Identifying Used Car Scams on Craigslist and Finding Reliable Used Cars

Craigslist is a fertile ground for scammers, which is why the site warns you away from the most obvious signs of fraud. Never buy a vehicle that needs to be shipped to you, where you need to go to another site, where payment by wire or through an escrow service is requested, and/or where the deal simply seems too good to be true.

Scammers by definition have no scruples and will often give a sob-story or other justification to lure you in. They may claim to be a soldier being deployed and needing to sell quickly. Perhaps they’ll say they’re recently widowed and can’t bear to see their poor departed spouse’s car any more. Whatever the story they try to feed you, if the price is significantly lower than what a reasonable seller would ask for that vehicle (check to know what that should be) it is almost definitely a scam. The car may not exist, it may have been damaged in a flood or totaled in an accident, it may have had its odometer rolled back, or it may simply have been stolen. Whatever the case, you will either end up with no car, or with one you wish you never laid eyes on.

Some examples found in the Baltimore Craigslist as of this writing, and where supreme caution is advised include a “Superbe 2005 Honda Acccoorrdd EX-L” for $2000 where Edmunds shows no EX-L for that model year, and the EX model has an Edmunds “True Market Value” (TMV) in excess of $10,000, and a 2005 Toyota Camry XLE for $1930 where Edmunds shows a TMV of nearly $9,900. More reasonable, but still an exceptional deal might be a 1998 Infiniti I30 for $1850 where the Edmunds TMV is $2906. Perhaps the mileage of this Infiniti is higher than one would expect for that model year, or some cosmetic issues are causing the seller to reduce his or her asking price.

Once you identify potentially interesting ads, contact the sellers and set up a time to meet and test-drive the car. Identify the top 4 or 5 prospects and using their Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, order Carfax reports to weed out ones you should avoid. Carfax sells comprehensive reports based on the VIN of each car (as of this writing, March 2011, Carfax charges $34.99 for a single report and $44.99 for five reports). These reports may identify the following problems:

  • Cars reported as salvaged by the state
  • Cars reported as total loss by insurance companies
  • Cars returned to the manufacturer as a “lemon”
  • Cars reported as having suffered flood damage (e.g. after Katrina)
  • Cars with especially high mileage
  • Cars with their odometer rolled back to reduce their apparent mileage
  • Estimated number of owners (fewer is better!)
  • Cars from commercial fleets or rental companies
  • Cars that have had their airbags deployed and replaced
  • Cars with frame damage from accidents
  • Maintenance and service records

Even with a clean Carfax report, make sure to request and review the car’s maintenance records, and take it to be inspected by a reliable mechanic of your choice, not the seller’s.

What You Should Expect When Looking for a Used Car Under $2000

When buying even a reliable used car under $2000, make sure to budget for at least some repair work, as well as taxes, title, and licensing fees. Buying a used car under $2000, whether on Craigslist or elsewhere, remember you’re not likely to find more than a reliable, high mileage car (though you certainly may find less). Don’t expect a late model year car with spotless exterior and interior and low mileage or you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment at best, and being scammed at worst.

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