Price sticker on used car lot

(© Gunter_Nezhoda -

NEW YORK — Buying and selling used items can be a tricky business – with one in four Americans feeling “intimidated” by the thought of making a deal they’re unsure about.

According to new research of 2,000 U.S. adults, 69 percent who have ever personally sold or bought a used item admit they wish they could go back to before making the deal, so they could do things differently — especially when it comes to cars. Over the past year, used cars were the most commonly-bought items both online (34%) and in-person (31%).

Commissioned by CarLotz and conducted by OnePoll, the study found 65 percent of Americans have purchased a vehicle from another individual — but only 27 percent bought their car from a stranger in-person. According to respondents, 66 percent of their used car purchases were made online. Meanwhile, 15 percent of respondents sold a car directly to another person, with most of those sales taking place in-person (69%) rather than online (19%).

Half of those who have sold a car (49%) believe the process has taught them a lot about cars and the car market in general. Even with the rise of online marketplaces, vehicles are still the one item where nearly half the poll (49%) still prefer to meet in-person.

While 41 percent of potential buyers of any used items — from phones, to books, to clothing — are fine with having things shipped to them, one in three would rather meet in-person. Over a third (38%) would insist on bringing someone along with them to meet sellers, while 37 percent would only interact with sellers through texting or messaging.

Let’s keep it online

Interestingly, sellers are more cautious about meeting potential buyers than the other way around. Only three in 10 are willing to meet buyers in-person — half would rather ship items directly and 29 percent prefer interacting with buyers online only. Just like their potential buyers, if they plan to make the deal in-person, 41 percent prefer to have someone they know alongside them.

The trend of buyers and sellers wanting to make a deal in-person revealed a lot about people’s overall comfort levels. Although seven in 10 consider themselves “pros” because of their experiences, over half (55%) have hesitations about buying or selling items to others.

Hesitations include the fear of being lied to (42%), sharing their personal information (41%), and making the deal alone (37%). Two in three (64%) say keeping their personal information private is important when they’re making deals with others. If someone violates their privacy, 45 percent would back out of the deal. Similarly, 41 percent will refuse to give their real phone number and 40 percent won’t reveal their real address.

make a Deal

Don’t forget to clean out your car

Even so, private information (19%) tops the list of items found in used cars, followed by old CDs and cassettes (17%) and spare parts for the car (17%).

“Simply put, the modern vehicle is like a cell phone on wheels,” says Liz Messick, vice president of operations for CarLotz, in a statement. “Four out of five vehicles sold last year contained personal data such as phone numbers, addresses and even our garage door codes. Oftentimes, people will sell or turn-over their car to a third party for sale without wiping it clean.”

Ironically, many believe it’s okay to do a background check on the person they’re making a deal with if they have access to their personal info.

Forty-six percent would look up their social media accounts, 44 percent would see if they live in a good neighborhood and 36 percent will even try to figure out where the other person works. To add a level of comfort, many insist on meeting in public places like shopping centers (29%) or police precincts (17%).

Two in three think research is key before purchasing something used. These respondents take up to 36 hours to research before agreeing to a deal. This preference stems from an underlying fear about not knowing as much as possible before a purchase. Using the right platform also makes a difference in how people feel about making deals. Facebook Marketplace has the highest level of excitement (44%) while Craigslist generates the highest level of frustration (15%).

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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