Craigslist Used Cars: Facts That Will Save You Thousands

With an economy like this one, everyone is looking to save. Automotive purchases are one of the biggest expenditures the average consumer faces, so it’s generally worthwhile to research the decision. collected thousands of classified & dealership car listings daily to present both the best deals and the biggest trends for your bargain hunting enjoyment. Over a quarter million actual cars were used to calculate the statistics and tips below.

Craigslist Used Cars Fact #1: Craigslist Has the Best Deals
Dealerships make money by purchasing cars at a lower price and selling them at a higher one. Purchasing from a dealership includes useful services such as 50-point inspections and the avoidance of outright fraud, but at the end of the day the dealership will add a few thousand dollars to each used car on the lot to stay in business. Buying from another private party avoids this charge, and you can generally agree to take the potential purchase for a two-hour independent mechanic inspection that will be as good as any dealer certification.

Related: 5 Steps to Buy a Car on Craigslist

We’ve calculated savings between dealership and craigslist prices for a number of popular models below. The Toyota Corolla is visualized in detail, with a summary of all cars in the following bar chart. All cars listed are clean title.

Craigslist used cars - Toyota Corolla Pricing

Average Savings Craigslist vs Dealerships

Craigslist Used Cars Fact #2: Trading In Your Car Is the Wrong Price
In a perhaps obvious corollary, dealers make money by buying your car at a lower price than their customers will likely pay for it. If your primary objective is to quickly exchange your old vehicle for a new one, a dealership makes a great option. However, expect to lose at least a few thousand from what you could sell it for yourself, and up to $4-5k from what the dealer will eventually part with it for. Skeptical? Check the below graph of Corolla prices against Kelley Blue Book Private Party and Trade In values.

Craigslist used cars - Trade in values

Craigslist Used Cars Fact #3: Luxury Cars Depreciate Exponentially, Cheaper Cars Linearly
Sad but true. No matter what state of the art engineering went into your car, more people want new luxury vehicles than old ones. This means supply and demand will create an artificial loss in value much steeper than that experienced with a more utilitarian vehicle class – posing a hazard to new luxury owners and an opportunity for those looking to buy a few years down the road. The following plot shows average pricing for clean title luxury vehicles (with a Camry thrown in for comparison). The average first year depreciation for a Mercedes, BMW, or Audi vehicle was $12,463.

Craigslist used cars - Luxury Car Pricing

(Bonus) Craigslist Used Cars Fact #4: Car Pricing Is Clustered by Country of Origin
This will only save you money if you’re undecided on car brand, but is a fascinating display of how both national exchange rates and perceptions play into price independent of model. We took the arithmetic mean of car manufacturers grouped by nation to encompass both luxury and economy models – Germans clearly price highest, with Japanese and American cars about equal. Korean manufacturers present the best bargains with even 3-4 year old vehicles regularly priced under $10,000 (which in Hyundai’s case leaves the car with six more years of bumper to bumper warrantee).

Craigslist used car price by nation

Buying a car can be difficult and stressful! However, if you’re willing to bargain hunt you can easily save thousands compared to naïve buyers. The key points to remember are to deal with other individuals when buying or selling, and to consider purchasing a well maintained used luxury vehicle to avoid the worst depreciation.