by Andrew Rohrlich

About 30% of the car sales in the U.S. were done online last year, mainly due to the digitization of online shopping following the pandemic. Facebook Marketplace is a popular platform for buying and selling used cars private party.

The process of buying a car on Facebook Marketplace is similar to that of other online marketplaces like Craigslist or eBay. You have to do everything from communication to the sale yourself.

Here’s how to navigate some of the challenges of buying a car on Facebook Marketplace and get the best deal.

An Overview of Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace has become a go-to platform for used car sales in the past few years. As a result, the number of people using Facebook to buy and sell cars has increased.

The main reason for the popularity of Facebook Marketplace is that it’s easy to use. All you need is a Facebook account.

Marketplace Pros

Buying a used car on Facebook Marketplace comes with the following advantages:

  • Easy to search: Facebook's algorithm keeps track of your interests and shows you relevant options on Marketplace. You can find various cars in one place without having to search individually. When Facebook sees you're searching for a term repeatedly, it will start to show you more relevant results.
  • Quick communication: You can use Facebook Messenger to quickly contact the seller and ask any questions about the car.
  • Multiple Options: With billions of users, Facebook Marketplace has many listing options compared to other online marketplaces.

Marketplace Cons

Despite its popularity, there are certain drawbacks to Facebook Marketplace.

  • No regulation: Since Facebook does not get involved in the transactions, there is no regulation of the sellers or buyers. You have to be extra careful while dealing with people on the platform.
  • Possibility of scams: You must be aware of the various scams on Facebook Marketplace. There have been instances of people being duped by fraudulent sellers.
  • No payment security: Since Facebook does not have a built-in payment system for Marketplace, there is no way to ensure the safety of your payment. You have to settle on a payment method with the seller.

Buying a Car on Facebook Marketplace Safely in 9 Easy Steps

It's important to know how buying a car on Facebook Marketplace works to avoid any scams. Here are 9 easy steps to buying a car on Facebook Marketplace successfully.

1. Start By Researching and Determining What Type of Vehicle You Want

First and foremost, make up your mind about the car you want. Do your research about the vehicle type, its features, and market prices.  You should also consider your budget and what type of car would best fit you and your needs. If you already have a car in mind, check out its Facebook Marketplace page to see if there are any active listings.

2. Filter Your Search Options and Read Descriptions Closely

Let's say the car you're looking for is a Honda Civic. To find it on Facebook Marketplace, you can use the search bar and type in "Honda Civic."

You'll then see a list of all the Honda Civics for sale in your area. Filters will be on the left-hand side of the screen, which you can use to narrow your search further.

For example, you can filter by year, price, mileage, condition, and more. Once you find a listing that meets your criteria, read the description carefully.

The seller should list the car's year, make, model, trim, price, mileage, and any damage or problems with the car. You can always reach out to the seller if anything is missing from the description.

Don't merely settle for the first listing that looks good. It's essential to compare different listings to get a better idea of the market value of the car you're interested in.

Check at least six to eight listings to see the average price point. When reading the description, look for the following:

  • Does the car have a clean title?
  • Has the car been in any accidents? If yes, look for pictures that show the damage. If the pictures are unavailable, you should contact the seller and request to see them.
  • When was the last time the car had routine maintenance?
  • Was the car a personal vehicle or was it used as a ride-sharing vehicle?
  • Is the car leased or financed? If yes, you'll need to get in touch with the leasing company or bank to find out more about the process of taking over the vehicle.

Don't reach out to every seller you see. It will only result in a lot of back-and-forth without any solid leads. Instead, focus on three to five listings and decide which seller you want to talk to.

3. Reach Out to Seller With Vehicle Inquiries

If the description did not answer all of your questions, that's normal. The next step is to contact the seller and get clarification on anything unclear.

When messaging the seller, introduce yourself and explain your interest in their car. Mention what you liked about the listing, and ask any questions you may have.

Some examples of things you might want to ask are:

  • When will the car be available for a test drive?
  • Is the car still under warranty?
  • What is the car's service history like?
  • Has the car ever been in any accidents?

Asking questions shows that you're serious about buying the car and lets you get a better idea of what you're getting yourself into. You can also discuss your preferred form of payment and set up a meeting time and place with the seller.

Most sellers are willing to give the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to potential buyers. You can use this number to get a Vehicle History Report, which will tell you more about the car's past.

4. Take Plenty of Safety Precautions Throughout the Process

A downside of peer platforms is the lack of buyer protection. That's why it's important to take extra safety precautions when meeting with a stranger to buy a car. Here are some tips to follow.

Verify the Seller

You can ask for the seller's driver's license to verify their identity. If they are hesitant to provide their license online, ask to see the car in person and request to see their license while you’re inspecting the car to make sure the name on the license matches the name on the vehicle title.

Inspect the Vehicle Closely

When listing cars for sale, sellers often take pictures in a way that may hide damage or flaws. That's why it can be useful to inspect the car in person before making a purchase.

If you're not mechanically inclined, bring a friend or family member who is. They can help you spot any potential issues with the car.

Check under the hood, in the trunk, and under the carpets. Look for any rust, leaks, or dents. Make sure all the lights are working, including the turn signals, headlights, and brake lights.

Take the car for a test drive to see how it handles on the road. If something doesn't feel right, trust your gut and walk away.

Review the Vehicle History Report

The Vehicle History Report shows you the following information:

  • Previous ownership
  • Accident history
  • Odometer readings
  • Service and repair history

Most importantly, the report also tells you about the liens on the vehicle. A lien is a financial claim on a car held by a bank or other institution.

If you buy a car with a current lien on it, the institution has the right to take it back from you to satisfy the debt. The last thing you want is to get caught in a situation like this.

Make sure you review the Vehicle History Report before making a final decision.

Watch Out for Scams

Social media platforms are convenient outlets for buying or selling cars but it’s wise to take a few precautions.

A common scam is when the seller asks for a deposit to hold the car. They might say that they have other interested buyers and you need to act fast. Once you send them the money, they disappear.

Don't ever send a seller money before seeing the car in person. If they're not willing to meet up, it's probably a scam.

Another popular scam is when the seller offers to ship the car to you. They might say that they're currently out of state or overseas. They'll ask you to wire the money for shipping, and then they disappear.

You can spot the red flags early on by looking at the description. For example, if the pictures are missing or there's a stock picture, that's a sign that the seller might not be legitimate.

If the price is way too low, expect something fishy. Be especially wary of sellers who are trying to unload a car too quickly.

5. Make an Offer on the Vehicle and Negotiate Reasonably

One of the best tips for buying a car on Facebook Marketplace is to negotiate rather than settle for the seller's asking price. Most vehicle purchases start with a bit of negotiating. If you're not comfortable haggling, ask a friend or family member to help you out.

Start by making an offer lower than what you're willing to pay. The seller will likely counter with a higher price. Then, you can start to negotiate from there.

6. Prepare for Secure Payment or Vehicle Financing

Depending on the vehicle, you might be able to pay for it outright with cash. If not, you'll need to get financing from a bank or credit union.

Bring the money in a certified bank check if you're paying with cash. Since Facebook does not have an escrow service, you'll need to make arrangements with the seller on how to exchange the money and keys.

7. Transfer Title and Handle Other Important Documentation

When buying a car on Facebook Marketplace, make sure you get all the paperwork in order. It includes the title, registration, and bill of sale.

The title is a document that proves you own the car. The seller will have to transfer the title over to your name. Besides this, get the seller to sign a Bill of Sale. The document should include the following:

  • The price of the vehicle
  • The date of the sale
  • The make, model, and VIN of the car
  • Odometer reading
  • Signatures from both parties

8. Don't Forget About Car Warranties and Insurance

Many people have protection on vehicles through car insurance and extended warranties. Before you finalize the purchase, ensure you understand what type of insurance coverage you’ll need and shop for a policy so that you can have it in place immediately.

9. Pick Up or Arrange Delivery of the Vehicle

Finally, collaborate with the seller to decide how to get the car to you. If the vehicle is not in your city, make shipping arrangements in collaboration with your seller.

There you have it, Facebook Marketplace is a quick and easy way for prospective buyers to browse and shop for cars. It is also a great resource for sellers to get their cars off the ground and into the hands of eager buyers. With the information from this guide, you should be well on your way to buying a car on Facebook Marketplace the right way.

This article was written by Andrew Rohrlich. As a brand and product marketing expert, Andrew Rohrlich has crafted products, experiences and communications for household names like Gap and for multiple automotive technology businesses. For nearly a decade Andrew has studied automotive retail in depth from a customer point of view and aggregated the industry’s best research, thought leadership and know how to provide credible and important information to auto shoppers and sellers.

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