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Craigslist vs PrivateAuto for Used Car Transactions

Is Craigslist Good for Selling and Buying Cars?

Not only is Craigslist the largest online classifieds site, it's also the largest online platform for selling used cars.

The good: Craigslist has a massive user base. This means a lot of buyers and a large selection of cars for sale.

The not-so-good: Craigslist’s downsides fall into three buckets.

1. A lack of tools to get the deal done
2. A lack of security
3. An abundance of scams

What Is PrivateAuto?

PrivateAuto is an end-to-end platform for used vehicle transactions in the US. In addition to used car listings, this platform includes integrated payments, vehicle financing options, in-app messaging and scheduling, and an easy way to e-sign the bill of sale.

Because PrivateAuto offers total functionality to get the transaction done, we consider ourselves to be the first and only automotive transactional marketplace. Platforms such as Craigslist act as “meetingplaces” to connect a buyer and seller but don’t offer much value beyond the matchmaker function.

Comparing Craigslist and PrivateAuto

PrivateAuto and Craigslist each have vehicles for sale. However, the entirety of Craigslist’s offering is that of vehicle listings. PrivateAuto, in contrast, is an entire technology solution that includes a marketplace for buying and selling used vehicles.

Let’s look at some key differences between the two platforms.

  • PrivateAuto offers an entire tech stack to help you through every aspect of the transaction, while Craigslist is feature-poor.
  • Craigslist offers dealer inventory and new vehicle listings, in addition to private-party inventory. PrivateAuto is exclusively for private party vehicle transactions.
  • PrivateAuto offers an integrated payment option (PrivateAuto Pay), while Craigslist leaves the buyer and seller to figure out payment options on their own (spoiler alert: there aren’t a lot of great ways to transfer large sums of cash for a vehicle—until PrivateAuto Pay).
  • Fees: neither platform charges buyers; neither takes a cut of transactions. Both charge sellers. Craigslist charges $5 to list a car. PrivateAuto offers two choices to sellers creating a listing:
  • Pay now: $90
  • Pay when the car sells: $150

Craigslist Review

Craigslist for Sellers

As a seller, you can create a listing on Craigslist and add vehicle photographs and the price. Then, you wait for interested buyers to contact you. Once a buyer contacts you, the rest of the transaction occurs off the Craigslist platform. From arranging a test drive to receiving payment, you’re on your own.

Since Craigslist doesn’t offer any fraud prevention features, you should be very careful when selling your vehicle. Give the buyer the vehicle only when you’re sure that the payment is not fraudulent.

Craigslist for Buyers

As a buyer, you can look through available listings on Craigslist and contact sellers when you’re interested in a vehicle. All communication and transactions occur off the Craigslist platform, which involves exposing your personal information to strangers. Since there is no way for you to verify your identity or funds, it can be difficult to get the seller to trust you (and vice versa), which can complicate the vehicle-buying process.

Craigslist Pros

  • Low seller fees
  • No buyer fees
  • Extensive vehicle inventory

Craigslist Cons

  • No clear way to filter out dealer inventory
  • Mixed dealer and private-party inventory
  • No clear way to identify private-party inventory
  • No vehicle history report
  • No “make an offer” feature
  • No counteroffer feature
  • No secure messaging
  • No scheduling feature (for test drives)
  • No identity verification
  • No buyer’s funds verification
  • No integrated financing option
  • No integrated payment feature
  • No fraud prevention features
  • No way to sign documents in-app
  • Releasing personal information to strangers (exposure to scams)

PrivateAuto Review

PrivateAuto for Sellers

Sellers can easily create a listing for their vehicle and manage incoming offers via their listing dashboard, with the option to accept, reject, or make a counteroffer. They can chat with potential buyers via the in-app messaging feature without ever giving out their personal contact info.

With PrivateAuto’s ability to verify funds, sellers can stop dealing with buyers who can’t afford their car. When they accept an offer, the PrivateAuto scheduler allows sellers to arrange a test drive with the buyer without all the back-and-forth of other marketplaces. At the time of the test drive, buyer and seller can conclude the entire transaction via the PrivateAuto mobile app, which allows for the following to occur:

  • The app conducts each party through a step-by-step process that includes documentation, title, and payment
  • Both parties e-sign the bill of sale
  • The buyer pays the seller via PrivateAuto Pay and the seller receives the funds instantly, 24/7/365

PrivateAuto for Buyers

Buyers on PrivateAuto can place offers on vehicle listings and communicate with sellers. They can schedule a test drive with sellers and complete the entire transaction at the time of the meeting—including sending unlimited funds instantaneously and fee-free. PrivateAuto also allows buyers to apply for car financing within the app.

Because PrivateAuto Pay provides escrow-like services for free, you can easily buy a car remotely and have it shipped to you.

Buyers can also access the following within the PrivateAuto app:

PrivateAuto Pros

No hidden fees

  • No buyer fees
  • Window brochure QR code included
  • Vehicle advertising available
  • In-app messaging and test drive scheduling
  • Buyer and seller verification
  • Vehicle history reports available
  • Instantaneous payments of any amount, 24/7/365
  • In-app financing
  • E-signing of the bill of sale for both parties
  • Guided walk-through of necessary paperwork for buyer and seller
  • Verification of buyer funds
  • No dealer inventory to sort through
  • Get additional services without leaving the PrivateAuto app (warranty, insurance, financing, inspection, transport)
  • Share PrivateAuto listing across other platforms, including Craigslist, to broaden reach
  • Piggyback on other sites: use other sites to find a buyer, then use the PrivateAuto infrastructure to get the deal done.

PrivateAuto Cons

  • Less vehicle inventory than Craigslist
  • Fewer buyers than Craigslist
  • Higher seller fees than Craigslist

Craigslist vs PrivateAuto: Reach

Craigslist has far more users than PrivateAuto, so a listing on Craigslist gets many more eyeballs than a listing on PrivateAuto. Unless the PrivateAuto listing is shared across other platforms.

Unlike other car websites, a PrivateAuto listing is shareable. This means that a seller can use their PrivateAuto listing URL or QR code on Craigslist or other sites, with messaging such as “I’m using PrivateAuto to process the transaction” or “message me on PrivateAuto for details.”

Essentially, a seller can get PrivateAuto’s transactional infrastructure AND Craigslist’s reach. Win-win.

A seller could share their PrivateAuto listing across Craigslist and many other sites, making their visibility far greater than what Craigslist alone can provide.

Craigslist vs PrivateAuto: Pricing

Neither Craigslist nor PrivateAuto have buyer fees. When it comes to seller fees, Craigslist wins out, as listings cost only $5. PrivateAuto has a listing fee of $150 or $90 (depending on whether sellers opt for “pay now” or “pay later")

PrivateAuto allows you to share your PrivateAuto listing on other platforms, including your website—or to Craigslist—at no additional fee.

Craigslist vs PrivateAuto: Advertising

Beyond the listing itself, Craigslist does not offer any form of advertising or promotion for your vehicle. PrivateAuto allows you to advertise your vehicle on their website and mobile app, and it allows buyers to look up your vehicle’s VIN and get more information about the car.

PrivateAuto also offers detailed vehicle history reports and a window brochure with a QR code that allows sellers to drive online and offline traffic to their car listing. Share your PrivateAuto listing on your website, across social media, in a text message, or on other listings sites.
PrivateAuto vs Craigslist: Transactionality

PrivateAuto vs Craigslist: Transactionality

PrivateAuto is the clear winner when it comes to features that make it easier for buyers and sellers to interact prior to the transaction. Craigslist doesn’t offer any transactionality; it’s a bare-bones classifieds site.

PrivateAuto offers the following transactional features:

  1. Verified buyer funds
  2. Messaging and test-drive scheduling
  3. Accept and reject offers, or make counteroffers
  4. E-signing the bill of sale

Verified Buyer Funds

PrivateAuto can verify buyer funds, and sellers can opt to receive offers only from buyers with verified funds. Craigslist does not offer verification of funds.

Messaging and Test-Drive Scheduling

PrivateAuto allows buyers and sellers to message inside the PrivateAuto app without exchanging contact information and schedule test drives through the app. Craigslist forces buyers and sellers to exchange contact info (and expose themselves to risk in the process).

Where Craigslist requires the buyer and seller to spend time on back-and-forth communication for negotiating price and meeting up, PrivateAuto allows for seamless negotiation and test drive scheduling. It’s built into the app workflow.


PrivateAuto allows buyers to make offers and sellers to accept them, reject them, or make counteroffers. Craigslist only allows buyers to accept the listed price or move on.

E-signing Feature

PrivateAuto allows both the buyer and the seller to e-sign documentation, such as the bill of sale, on their mobile app. Craigslist does not have an in-app signing feature.

PrivateAuto vs Craigslist: Payment Features

Craigslist is simply a platform to connect buyer and seller, and does not offer any features that make the transaction process quicker and safer. On the other hand, PrivateAuto offers an integrated transaction feature called PrivateAuto Pay.

This feature is available in all 50 US states and works 24/7/365. That means sellers will get their money as soon as the buyer initiates payment—no more checking your bank account time and time again, waiting for that payment to finally come through.

PrivateAuto also offers buyer financing and split payment options, so sellers can arrange whether they want to be paid in cash, crypto, through PrivateAuto Pay, or all three. PrivateAuto Pay can process unlimited funds, making PrivateAuto ideal for those high-end vehicles.

Craigslist vs PrivateAuto: Fraud Prevention

PrivateAuto is the clear winner when it comes to fraud prevention. Craigslist doesn’t verify identity, and it exposes users’ personal contact information to strangers.

On PrivateAuto, both the seller and buyer verify their identities via selfies and driver’s license information. Sellers can choose to sell only to verified buyers, and vice versa.

The verification process is quick and simple, and PrivateAuto does not use your information for any purpose other than to verify your identity and make the vehicle-selling process safer for everyone.

Craigslist vs PrivateAuto: Service Integrations

For vehicle buyers seeking additional services, Craigslist is not much help. PrivateAuto, in contrast, has integrated a number of core services that buyers may need. On PrivateAuto, you can apply for vehicle financing, get an insurance quote, arrange to have your vehicle shipped to you, get a warranty, or arrange a vehicle inspection.

PrivateAuto is a one-stop-shop for getting the deal done—and everything that comes after.

Choosing the Best Online Car Platform

The verdict on Craigslist vs PrivateAuto? PrivateAuto wins in every regard except price—but the transactionality PrivateAuto provides for the price is a terrific value.

Best Platform for Sellers

PrivateAuto wins out over Craigslist when it comes to selling vehicles quickly, easily, and securely. Especially for vehicles over $5,000, for which Venmo and other payment options fall short.

Craigslist has the edge in pricing, but PrivateAuto’s fee is well-deserved, considering the time savings, security, and transactionality the platform offers.

With identity verification, instantaneous payments, financing, and scheduling features, PrivateAuto has no comparison in the private-party vehicle space.

Best Platform for Buyers

PrivateAuto wins on the buy-side as well.

Neither platform charges buyer fees, and PrivateAuto offers many more buyer benefits than Craigslist. To maintain their safety, buyers can choose to only contact verified sellers and those with a detailed car history report (including repairs, maintenance, and accident history) on PrivateAuto, while the same is not possible on Craigslist.

PrivateAuto also offers split payment options, and instant fee-free payments up to $1M.

PrivateAuto connects buyers to a world of services that integrate seamlessly with their PrivateAuto account. Whether they want to shop for a warranty, get an inspection, or apply for financing, it all happens in one place.

There’s nothing else like PrivateAuto in the world of automotive transactions.

Selling Your Car Privately with PrivateAuto

Thinking about selling your car privately? Check out PrivateAuto—the easiest, safest, and only self-service way to sell your car privately. The sales process consists of a few simple steps:

Gather necessary documentation

You’ll need your vehicle title and other documentation. Have all the paperwork you need to sell your car privately handy, so you’re not scrambling to find it at the moment of completing a sale.

Register on PrivateAuto and get verified

To make PrivateAuto a safe place for everyone, we require email, phone, and driver’s license verification, including facial recognition. Get started here.

List your car

Easily create your PrivateAuto listing with our step-by-step guide. Bonus: we include a window brochure with a QR code scannable to your listing.

Set your terms

It’s your car, so you drive the deal! You can control where, when, and who you meet. Decide whether to accept only ID-verified buyers, or buyers with verified funds. Don’t waste your time with buyers who aren’t verified to your preference.

Vet incoming offers

Manage offers in one place with the ability to accept, reject, or counter offers within the app. Listing on multiple sites? Filter all communications through PrivateAuto by sharing your listing link on all platforms. Your personal info is protected: no more giving out your phone number or email address. All communication happens in our app.

Choose a buyer

When you find an offer you like, accept it and proceed to the next step with that buyer.

Schedule a meeting

The buyer will want to look at your car. No more back and forth texts. You never have to give out your phone number. Rather, use our handy scheduling feature to schedule test driving and coordinate a time and place for meeting. (Oh, and you’ll be able to finalize the transaction instantly at the first meeting, FYI.)

E-sign documents

After the buyer is satisfied with your car and the two of you have agreed on a purchase price, you can easily e-sign the Bill of Sale within our app, from your phone. With our shared documents feature, you can easily locate the paperwork needed after the sale.

Get paid, instantly

Before PrivateAuto, receiving funds was the most stressful part of the entire selling process, especially for any used car sale over $5,000. There just aren’t a lot of good ways to move large amounts of money quickly and conveniently. Those days are over! Verify and receive funds instantaneously with PrivateAuto Pay, our innovative banking integration. Guaranteed funds for transactions large and small.

Transfer title

When you sell your vehicle, fill out the necessary information on the back of the title transfer form and sign the car title in order to transfer ownership of the vehicle to the new owner.

Craigslist vs PrivateAuto FAQ

Is PrivateAuto safe?

Yes, PrivateAuto is the safest vehicle-selling platform available. In addition to allowing you to communicate with vehicle buyers without sharing your contact information, PrivateAuto offers fraud prevention features including driver’s license verification and selfie verification.

What is the best site for private car sales?

PrivateAuto offers more features than any other vehicle-selling platform, which makes it the best website for private car sales. You’d be pressed to find another platform that allows you to sell a vehicle as quickly and securely as PrivateAuto. For more information, take a look at how PrivateAuto stacks up against competitors.

Is it a good idea to buy a car from Craigslist?

While it's possible to find good deals on Craigslist, it can be a risky option due to a lack of transactional security. PrivateAuto, on the other hand, offers a secure platform with more transactional features.

How do I accept a payment on Craigslist for a car?

On Craigslist, the buyer and seller typically decide on a payment method, which can be risky as there's no in-built secure payment option. PrivateAuto offers an integrated secure payment system to protect both parties.

How do I avoid getting scammed when buying a car?

Avoiding scams when buying a car involves vigilance and caution. On Craigslist, the onus is on you to vet sellers and verify details. With PrivateAuto, the platform's verification system provides additional security to minimize the risk of scams.

How do I know if my car buyer is legit?

On Craigslist, determining the legitimacy of a buyer can be challenging due to the lack of built-in verification features. PrivateAuto verifies buyers and also verifies funds. Knowing the identity of a buyer—and knowing they have the funds to buy your car—gives you a lot more peace of mind.

What are red flags when buying a car on Craigslist?

Some red flags on Craigslist include too-good-to-be-true prices, requests for unusual payment methods, and a lack of details about the car or seller. PrivateAuto's secure platform helps minimize these risks by providing detailed vehicle information, seller verification, and secure payment options.

Should you give out your VIN number on Craigslist?

Giving out your vehicle identification number is generally safe.

What is the safest payment method when selling a car?

PrivateAuto Pay is the safest payment method when selling a used car.

  • Instant transfers
  • Up to $1M USD
  • Works anytime: nights, weekends, holidays
  • Fee-free
  • Secure

What to be careful of when selling a car on Craigslist?

When selling a car on Craigslist, be wary of fraudulent payments, potential safety issues during viewings, and miscommunication. PrivateAuto eliminates many of these concerns with its secure payment system and structured communication channels.

How do you negotiate prices on Craigslist?

Negotiating prices on Craigslist can be haphazard, as it lacks structured negotiation tools. With PrivateAuto, buyers and sellers can negotiate directly and transparently within the platform.

How do you know if a car is legit on Craigslist?

Determining the legitimacy of a car on Craigslist can be challenging due to the lack of a standard verification process. PrivateAuto verifies sellers and includes a vehicle history report with listings, providing peace of mind for buyers.