How to make money flipping cars on Craigslist (with tips)

Have you ever scrolled through the car section on Craigslist? You’ll find a lot of cars that aren’t worth going to see, but you’ll also find some cars that have good car flipping credentials.

If you search through other car related categories on Craigslist you’ll also find tons more car related stuff. It’s this wide range of cars and other automotive stuff that creates such a good opportunity for someone looking to flip cars. Let me give you an example of the kinds of steals you can find.

Last year, I found this Ford Ka for sale on Craigslist. The car was poorly photographed and the advert didn’t mentioned the mileage or year. But it was described as being in good condition and I liked the look of the price. So I called the seller and asked for more details. It turned out the car had low mileage and good history, so I arranged to view it. It was actually in really good shape, I got the owner down a bit on the asking price and decided to buy it.

The car just needed a good clean and I photographed it in proper light at a good location. I then waited a few days and reposted it. Within a couple hours I had some texts and a call asking to hold the car. The next day the car was sold, and after a little negotiation I made a tidy profit.

You don’t find deals like that every day. But there are good deals to be found if you spend the time and learn what to look for.

So here’s what you need to do to flip a car on Craigslist.

Which cars should you flip on Craigslist?

Firstly you need to find a car to flip. The best way to do this is to spend a little time scouring Craigslist every day until you have an idea of what you want to buy. You can flip any kind of car but we always advice sticking to small cars with low running costs and insurance, normally retailing between two and three thousand pounds or dollars. The kind of car that would appeal to a first time driver, senior driver or someone looking for good reliable transport. This type of car is usually easy to appraise, so if you do miss something you shouldn’t get any big scary bills. These cars also are generally fast sellers and you can make good profit.​ ​

Ideal your Craigslist flip should have:

  • ​​Low running and insurance costs – Buyers looking for car for town or city use are normally looking for car that aren’t going to cost a fortune to run or maintain so bigger engines are a big no.
  • An exterior colour in either Grey, Black, Blue or Silver – We would always advice sticking to traditional colours whether you are an experienced trader or not. With darker colours and silver being among the obvious choices.
  • In the appropriate trim level and interior colour – The same advice applies to the interior colour choice. Stick to dark colours and avoid cars with excessive ware and tear.
  • An automatic gearbox – Automatic gearboxes have never been so good and are ideally suited to urban environments. So most city drivers will be looking for an automatic at this price point. But be sure to make sure the gearbox is working correctly and walkaway if you aren’t 100% confident the box is issue free.
  • It should be Petrol powered – Generally petrol engines suit smaller cars and city driving better and are cheaper to fix and diagnose than a diesel engined car. It’s also worth considering potential environmental charges for city cars in your local area.
  • Low mileage – Mileage is always important and in most cases the lower the mileage the better. Lots of city cars are used sparingly, so you need to look for lower mileage cars as most buyer won’t except ”motorway mileage” cars.
  • Have full service history – Having a solid service history is important for any car. So make sure the car has a good history. If a car is low mileage make sure the last owner has had the and belt services done to schedule. In some cases owner skip cam belt and gearbox services due to low mileage. But you will find it harder to sell if the works not been carried out to schedule.
  • ​No major bodywork – Bodywork is expensive to rectify and any large panel damage should be avoided, it’s also time consuming and can add time to the flipping process. But city cars often come with bumper and alloy wheel scuffs which are normally easy and inexpensive to repair.
  • HPI clear – Always make sure a car is free of outstanding finance. NEVER SKIP THIS STEP!

Remember even if the item is a good deal there is aways a little room for movement on Craigslist. So you can probably get an even better deal. 

How to value a car you plan to sell on Craigslist

Once you’ve found a car that you think you can flip, Research the values of similar cars. You can search on Autotrader or use a car buyers guide to figure out a retail value. If the retail pice is much higher than the posted price, then you may have found your car. We cover how to value a car in great detail here – How to value a car you plan to sell (with tips).

The next step is always necessary and is to add value to your new car. This can be as simple as having giving it a professional valet or carrying out simple smart repairs, both can add huge value for very little outlay. We have written an article on how to add value to a car and you can find it here – 16 ways to increase your cars value.

As we’ve mentioned above good photographs can go really help increasing a cars worth. Find out photograph guide here – How to photograph a car with a smartphone.

When you flip is ready the only thing left to do is to post it on back on Craigslist.

When selling on Craigslist, you should always expect people to try to negotiate. So set you price on the high end of what you think it’s worth, so you car drop the price when negotiating. It’s best to have a minimum price in your head before you start negotiating. You may have to post a car a few times before it will sell, just remember to price it sensibly, it will eventually sell.

All that is left is left to do is the paperwork and we have covered everything you nee to know in a separate article you can find here – ​How to transfer ownership of a car.


Craigslist flipping can bring in a lot of money for not too much work, which makes in a great way of making extra money but you can also build a successful business this way. You can also used Craigslist to sell other services like car valeting or parts. You can also use this strategy to great effect on other classified sites and on Facebook.


1. Price your car realistically

You need to price your car realistically – particularly if you want a quick sale. You can do this by checking the prices of similar cars in popular classified ad magazines and online, or by using a valuation service. We have written a detailed article on the subject – How to value a car you plan to sell.

​2. Write a great advert

You need to write a great description of the car detailing the options, colour and any interesting desirable features. You should alway be 100% honest when advertising a car. Giving a true description of the car saves you and the potential purchaser time and money.

Make sure to include the following facts in order:

  • Year of registration & registration plate info
  • List of equipment and special features
  • Approximate mileage
  • Full service history if it has it
  • Number of owners if low
  • Price
  • Contact details

3. Clean your car before you start marketing it

Prepping the car for sale is really important, if done correctly it gives you the edge over your competition, adds value and make the sales process easier. Even if you’re going to sell your car for under a thousand. Spending time cleaning your car can add thousands to the cars value. You could hire a professional, but washing your car yourself will be much cheaper. We have written a simple step by step guide to car valeting here – Car valeting a step by step guide. And you can find the equipment and products you need to clean a car professionally here – essential car valeting equipment.

4. Take great photos of your car

The internet is a very visual experience so great photos are the best way to stand out to buyers. It’s best to take as many as possible, including all the relevant service history and documentation. You can take great photos with a smartphone. We have written a complete guide on how to photograph a car with a smartphone.

5. Market your car in the right place

Picking the best place to advertise your car is important. You can choose from local paper classified ads, eBay, Craigslist, Autotrader or Facebook. For most sellers Facebook is the best option for sell a car and It beats classified websites, paper ads and all other forms of social media.

The real beauty of Facebook has made managing, posting and responding to your adverts super simple and efficient. Facebook allows you to manage your adverts across multiple groups all in one place. Without the need to juggle phone calls or email enquires form multiple websites. Once it’s sold you just mark it as so and it’s removed from the listing, anyone who has enquired receives a notification telling them its now a sold item.

We explore all the options in our article – ​​How to advertise and market a car.

6. Get a new MOT

If you are in the UK then getting a new MOT for your car will give a potential buyer a lot more confidence in your car, particularly if there’s less than three months on the current one.

7. Repair minor paintwork damage or simple mechanical faults

Fixing general problems with the car will make it easier to sell. So make sure all the mechanicals are doing what they should and replacing any worn out parts. Making sure any engine lights are off and that the air-conditioning is cold.

8. Have the cars documents ready and in one place

Have all documents and history to hand including MOT certificates, service records, receipts and registration certificate or logbook. A fully stamped dealer service record adds value if you’ve got one.

9. Settle any outstanding finance

You can’t sell something you don’t own. If you have an outstanding hire purchase loan on your car, you will need settle any outstanding finance on the car before you sell it or you will be breaking the law. If you can’t afford to settle it before the sale let your finance company know you are selling and settle your outstanding account once the car is sold.

10. Always leave a little haggle room

Everyone wants a deal, so it’s important that you leave a little room for movement in the price. Just don’t add too much and overprice the car.

11. Don’t tell any lies or make and untrue claims

Don’t make false or reckless claims about your car. Describe the car as accurately as possible and never lie to a potential buyer. State the car’s condition clearly in adverts and on the receipt. Especially if it’s being sold for spares only, or requires substantial repair work.

12. Test drive tips

Take the potential buyer’s contact details when arranging for them to come and view/test drive the car. Including their full name, address and phone number and ask the buyer to show you their driving licence if they’re expecting to test drive the car. It’s important to check that the buyer is insured to test drive the car. Your own insurance may cover you but it’s important that any test driver has insurance cover.

You should always accompany prospective buyers on a test drive and if you change seats part way through, take the keys with you and hand them over when you get back in the car. If you are worried about taking viewings or going on a test drive ask a friend or relative to accompany you while the buyer is viewing the car and on the test drive.

13. The car sales process

It will be much easier to sell you car if you follow the basic tips below;

  • 1. Always have the car cleaned before demoing it.
  • 2. Always make sure the car is in good mechanical condition, and all the pressures and levels are correct. 
  • 3. Always make sure you have all the relevant paperwork and service history ready for inspection.
  • 4. Buyers will almost always want to haggle so its always best to have your lowest price in mind and stick to it.
  • 5. Never leave the buyer alone with the car keys.

If you want to know more or want to learn how to handle a test drive find my more detailed guide ​​how to sell a car in five simple steps.

14. Take a deposit on a car

certain they want to go ahead and buy a car. As once signed by both parties the contract is legally binding and the deposit will be none refundable, the contract can then only be broken if both parties agree to terminate the agreement. If you want to learn more check out our article on the do’s and don’ts of taking a deposit on a car.

15. How should you take payment when selling a car

Getting payed via bank transfer or debit card directly to your bank account at the time of the handover is the safest way to make payment for a car. Alternatively you can take cash at the same point.

16. What paperwork do you need to fill out when you’ve sold a car?

Once you’ve sold your car its important to put the deal down in writing and include the following details:

  • 1.  The date
  • 2.  Price
  • 3.  Make and model
  • 4. Registration number
  • 5. Vin number
  • 6. The names and addresses of the buyer and seller

Make two copies – one for you and one for the buyer – and make sure all parties sign both receipts!

If you are based in the UK we have covered everything you need to do and more in our article ​How to transfer ownership of a car in the UK.