For example, you may wonder if you must have insurance to register a car in California. Knowing how this process works before you start browsing will make everything smoother.
Find a Car
After you’ve made your wish list, it’s time to start shopping. Facebook lets you filter your search by:
- Price range: Check the car’s Kelley Blue Book value to see if it’s priced fairly.1
- Vehicle type: There are many types of vehicles available for purchase on Facebook Marketplace, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, and RVs.
- Body style
- Vehicle history: Some listings come with a free CARFAX report or service record. Sellers can also self-report the vehicle’s history, previous owners, and what it was used for (personal or commercial purposes).
- Exterior/interior color
- Transmission type
Get This Information
Before you purchase a car on Facebook Marketplace, it’s essential to ask the seller for the following information:
- Vehicle identification number (VIN): Once you get the VIN, you can look up the car on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website to see where it was manufactured, as well as its vehicle history reports and any open car recalls.2
- Maintenance: What maintenance has been done on the car and when did it occur? If possible, get a mechanic to inspect the vehicle to see if it needs repairs and, if so, how much they’ll cost.
- How long the car has been available: Cars that have been available for longer leave more room for negotiations. Check the date the seller originally listed the vehicle.
- Previous owners: Find out how many people owned the car previously and what they used it for. This will clue you into the car’s wear and tear, which you can cross-reference with maintenance records.
Facebook allows you to see the seller’s commerce profile and ratings, which you should definitely check. It’s best to buy from experienced sellers with good ratings.
Look Out for These Scam Warning Signs
One of the main disadvantages of buying a car from a private seller versus a dealership is that you’re more likely to be scammed. However, you can avoid getting scammed by looking out for the following red flags.
- The listing is too good to be true, with an unbelievably (and probably falsely) low price.
- The same vehicle is listed in multiple locations throughout many states.
- The seller claims they will use eBay’s Vehicle Purchase Protection, which is available only for purchases from eBay.
- The seller refuses to communicate through Facebook Messenger.
- The seller refuses to meet you in person or let you see the car in person before you buy it.
- The seller refuses to use Facebook’s shipping checkout service.
- The seller tells a particular story about the car, like that it belonged to a dead relative or a military member deployed overseas.
- The seller wants you to complete the purchase through another website.
- The seller wants you to pay using a gift card instead of money.
- You’ve googled the seller’s email address, and it has been cited in cases of insurance fraud.3
See the Paperwork
Ask the seller for the following documents.
- Vehicle history report: This document will list the vehicle’s previous owners and history of accidents, maintenance, and recalls. You should be able to get this through the VIN.
- Registration: Make sure the car’s registration is up to date.
- Car insurance: The car should be insured and should have proof of insurance, unless you live in New Hampshire or Virginia, two states that don’t require auto insurance. You can either take over the current insurance policy for the vehicle or obtain your own in order to drive the car away from the seller legally.
Test-Drive the Car
Ideally, test-drive the car in a public place during the daytime for your own safety. It’s best to test-drive during good weather when it’s bright and sunny.
One of the biggest advantages of buying a car from a private seller on Facebook Marketplace is you’ll have more leverage for negotiating. To get the lowest price possible, bring proof of the car’s value, like the Kelley Blue Book information you researched. Also, bring the mechanic’s repair estimates, if any.
You’ll have better luck negotiating if your seller needs to sell the car quickly, so ask them about their circumstances. Also, ask about the original vehicle equipment. If anything is missing, you can ask for a reduced price.
Buy the Car
Unfortunately, cars aren’t eligible for Facebook’s Purchase Protection, which guarantees refunds if an item is damaged or otherwise different than described. That’s why it’s critical to do your due diligence and choose a safe payment method to prevent identity theft and other scams. When you’re ready to buy the vehicle, we recommend using an escrow service so the money is held until the purchase is verified. You can also use PayPal, a check, money order, or Facebook Messenger, which lets you send money, to make the payment.
Once you’ve purchased the car, fill out and sign the bill of sale, which should include the:
- Names and addresses of both parties
- Odometer reading
- Purchase price
One copy of the bill of sale should go to you, and the other should go to the seller.