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 not sure about.

According to a new survey of 2,000 American adults, 69 percent who have ever sold or bought a used item in person admit they wish they could go back before making the deal so they could make things right otherwise – especially when it comes to cars. Over the past year, used cars were the most purchased items online (34%) and in person (31%).

Commissioned by CarLotz and conducted by OnePoll, the study found that 65 percent of Americans have purchased a vehicle from another individual – but only 27 percent have purchased their car from a stranger in person. According to respondents, 66 percent of used car purchases were made online. Meanwhile, 15 percent of respondents sold a car directly to another person, with the majority of these 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 growth of online markets, vehicles are still the only item where nearly half of those surveyed (49%) still prefer to meet in person.

While 41 percent of potential buyers of any used item – from phones, books, clothing – are fine with having things shipped to them, one in three prefer to meet in person. Over a third (38%) would insist on bringing someone with them to meet sellers, while 37 percent would only interact with sellers via text or message.

Let’s keep it online

Interestingly, sellers are more careful in meeting potential buyers than the other way around. Only three in 10 are willing to meet buyers in person – half prefer to ship items directly and 29 percent prefer to interact with buyers only online. Like their potential buyers, if they plan to make the deal in person, 41 percent prefer to have someone they know by their side.

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%) are hesitant to buy or sell items to others.

Hesitations include fear of being lied to (42%), sharing their personal information (41%) and getting the deal alone (37%). Two in three (64%) say keeping their personal information private is important when they make deals with others. If someone violates their privacy, 45 percent will 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 your car

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

“Simply put, the modern vehicle is like a cell phone on wheels,” Liz Messick, vice president of operations for CarLotz, said 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. Often, people will sell or give their car to a third party for sale without writing it off.”

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

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

Two in three think research is essential before buying something used. These respondents take up to 36 hours to research before agreeing to a deal. This preference stems from an underlying fear of not knowing as much as possible before making 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%).

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