Beware Of That Online For Sale By Owner On Craigslist

Hey Cool Car Fans,

2004HondaPilotRecently, I had a client ask me to look at a vehicle for them on Craigslist for their son.  It was a 2004 Honda Pilot EXL with about 175,000 miles and the seller was asking $6,500 for this vehicle.  It is amazing that these old SUV’s will still go for that much money on sites like,,, etc. and this was being offered by a private party.  I picked up the vehicle and as I always do I went and had it inspected at one of the shops that I use the to inspect vehicles for my clients.  Keep in mind, that most people believe they are going to get a much better deal from a private party purchase than buying from a dealership, but I rarely find that to be true.  This case was not any different.

Upon inspecting the vehicle I discovered that it had some issues, which did not surprise me with 175,000 miles on a 9 year old vehicle, but I certainly wasn’t about to pay retail and then get it repaired.  I already knew that it needed four new tires, but the brakes where shot, both tie rods were gone, the radiator needed to be flushed out, the timing belt and water pump had never been done so they were driving it on borrowed time and much more.  When it was all said and done to get this vehicle right, so that I could feel comfortable delivering it the price tag was $2,300 in repairs.  I went back to the seller and explained it to them and their response was that I should bring it back and they would sell it to someone else interested on Craigslist.

Welcome to the whacky world of high mileage used vehicles.  Some sucker is going to get a vehicle that they will think they just have to put new tires on and odds are pretty good they won’t have the timing belt and water pump done.  Which brings me to the next story because a recently had a client who had purchased a high mileage Subaru that they paid cash for online.

The person told them that they had the timing belt and water pump done and after spending $3,800 on this 1998 Subaru including repairs with 180,000 miles it broke down on the highway.  She was a single woman and stranded on the freeway until 2AM waiting for her insurance company to find a tow truck.  A police officer came by once to ask if she was okay, along with some strange old man with a cane offering to give her a ride somewhere.  Her beloved mechanic told her that it wasn’t the timing belt and water pump that blew, but everything around it fell apart and she still owed $1,750 on this piece of junk.  I was able to trade it for her and get a newer Nissan Altima that was under warranty with a low monthly payment, but that’s the challenge of buying used vehicle from people online.  Believe it or not, they do not always tell the truth about why they are looking to sell their vehicle.

If you’re going to buy a cheap ride online make sure that you get it checked out and do not just take people’s word for it that the vehicle is in great shape.  There is usually a reason why they are selling it to begin with and typically it’s because they are tired of making payments to a mechanic or their shop has told them the vehicle needs a costly repair.  I have purchased vehicles from private parties and dealerships that they have told me need nothing and I discover that the vehicle needs any number of things to make it road worthy and ready for delivery.


John Boyd

Auto Consultant – John Boyd: The Cool Car Guy

John is an auto consultant with his license at a car dealership in Denver, Colorado. He can help you save time and money on any make or model, new or used, lease or purchase – nationwide! Call or email John about your next vehicle! or Twitter @coolcarguy