Stay Safe When Selling Car on Craigslist, AutoTrader, And

February 25, 2011

In my book, HELP! I Gotta Sell My Car NOW!, I list what to do—and what not to do—when you are meeting a potential buyer or seller for the first time. The primary consideration is to BE SAFE. This means you don’t meet strangers at your home or in strictly residential areas. Instead, meet in a nearby shopping area or a fast food restaurant parking lot. Make sure the area is busy and filled with lots of people. Daytime is better. If you must meet after dark, make sure the area is well lit and there are lots of people around.

New Online Dangers

Why all the concern? Oakland, California police have recently warned about a new Craigslist robbery scam. There have been a string of robberies—some violent—after cars were advertised on, which is one of the most popular online classified websites used to buy and sell items of all kinds, especially pre-owned vehicles.

The current scam in Oakland revolves around ads offering especially good deals on high-end vehicles. After emails are exchanged, the two parties agree to meet in the early afternoon or evening in residential neighborhoods where it’s hoped the transaction will be completed. Police report that this is where the victim is robbed, and even physically attacked.

Just because this happened in northern California doesn’t mean it can’t happen elsewhere around the country. And Craigslist is just one of hundreds of online classified websites where used cars are listed. All buyers and sellers of pre-owned vehicles need to be alert to the potential danger of meeting strangers in circumstances where there can be large amounts of cash on hand.

What Else Can You Do?

Selling your car online? It’s a good idea to bring a friend, or even two when you meet in person to show your vehicle for the first time.  Let friends or family know of your plans. Have them check on you at a specific time after the meeting if you don’t call them first. Be sure to have your cell phone with you. If you become suspicious of the buyer—for any reason—don’t let them in your car. I state clearly in my book to have a pre-planned reason to leave immediately. Don’t be afraid to say:

 “I’m sorry I wasted your time. Something has come up and I need to leave right now. Again, I’m sorry. Bye.”

And leave. Your safety is more important than being polite.


L. James Johnson is the guy who wrote the book on how to sell your car online: HELP! I Gotta Sell My Car NOW! New Rules for Selling Your Vehicle Online! is available on

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