How to Identify Desperate Car Sellers (and Make Offers They’ll Accept)

The best deals are always going to be the ones where a seller NEEDS to sell a car, whether they admit it or not.

Not everyone has all the time in the world to sell their car and wait for top dollar.

Especially not private sellers, who often can only afford to hold one car at a time.

Here are some ways to identify if a private seller might need to get out of a car fast.

1. Seller is Making Room for a New Car.

Most people who try to privately sell their cars do so due to the fact that they do not like the dealership’s value placed on their cars like CarMax.

In fact, they often announce just that in their ads, saying their reason for selling is a new car on the way.

While the idea of selling on their own on Craigslist, eBay Motors, or AutoTrader seems like a good idea at the time, when their newly ordered car is 3 months away, the desperation builds up fast as their time shrinks on their new car delivery.

Their window of trading to the dealer is gone, the value of the car goes down with time and there is no room in the garage.

These things will push a seller to give you their car at the same low price the dealer was willing to pay for it 3 months prior.

A small loss for them, and a great opportunity for you.

2. They have a “broken” car and can’t afford to fix it.

The most desperate sellers on online classifieds sites are normal sellers with no mechanical experience who have a broken-down car.

The average person only uses a dealership for repair and most dealers are in the business of making money, especially with service.

That said, it is very typical that even small easy repairs for an independent mechanic look like a $5,000 repair on a base model Lexus or Jaguar simply due to inexperience.

Those sellers who typically have a car loan and do not have the cash to make such repairs are very eager to find someone else who will take over their car.

3. eBay cars listed on AutoTrader and Craigslist Too.

eBay is the most expensive platform to advertise on for a consumer.

That said, the average person will resort to AutoTrader, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other platforms to sell a car instead.

People who list non-exotic cars on eBay typically have a need to sell and are willing to negotiate to not have to spend an additional $100 listing fee the following 20 days.

That creates a unique opportunity for a savvy buyer. There are also other hints.

Desperate eBay sellers will share similar problems to what we discussed in #1 and #2 and may even be selling estates, or their friend’s cars who do not use eBay.

This provides a unique opportunity as it shows the owner isn’t capable of selling the car and will be more likely to sell cheap.

4. Desperation Keywords.

While this is more common on Craigslist than or AutoTrader, private sellers who are in tough financial binds and/or eager to sell will mention specific keywords that indicate their desperation to unload the car as fast as possible.

Paying close attention to their ads will tell you just how dire their situation is.

These keywords can be things like:


“Fire sale”


“Pay rent”


“Must sell”


If the ad says the new car is already here and this one must be sold, then this indicates urgency.

The price drops in the ad also show urgency.

If someone is lowering their price by 10% every week, it’s a bad sign for them. Those who are in no rush know what they have and hold firm for more money.

You can also assume that those who have an investment opportunity and need to dump their toys also have an urgency because opportunities come and go.

Do not be afraid to offer less on those deals.

How to Make Low Offers That Get Accepted

So you’ve recognized some desperate sellers and want to try to buy a car. What now? Do you just message them a blind number?

Of course not.

First, reach out and express true interest in the car. Compliment the color or condition. Then, at the end of your message, say something like, “I am very interested in making a deal. Would $XX,XXX get this off the market?”

Probably they’ll respond no and ask for more.

This is what separates the winners and losers in a negotiation.

If they “meet you halfway” right off the bat, they have more room to work down.

Let’s say they’re asking $60k and you offer $54k, and they counter at $57k.

I would respond something like “No thanks. I believe my offer was fair, dealers are only paying around $50k for this. Let me know if $54k would buy the car.”

(Side note – if you’re going to tell them what a dealer would offer, make sure that’s an educated number)

Assuming they say no again, now you wait.

One of two things will happen.

Either they’ll negotiate with themselves, or you’ll have one more real shot at the car.

Let’s assume they don’t reply with a lower number.

What I would do is reply one more time and say “I am buying a car today. I’ll come up to $55k pending PPI if you’ll agree to that price”.

I’ve gotten many cars secured with that line.

By the way, this is a fine script to use on any car you are approaching, just more likely to work with desperate sellers who have real money dangled in front of them.

Now that you know how to identify a desperate seller and make a hack-worthy offer that they just might accept, make sure you are a member of the Exotic Car Hacks platform.

Without it, you’ll be missing out on big savings for maintenance, insurance, taxes, and more.

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