DETROIT -- For close to two months I've been monitoring Facebook Marketplace daily to get a feel for its strengths and weaknesses. And recently, I placed an ad on Marketplace and on Craigslist for my used-car, a 2004 Honda S2000, to see the challenger compares with the 800 pound gorilla.
There are far fewer eyeballs viewing your car ad on Facebook Marketplace than other online venues. A S2000 similar to mine on eBay Motors racked up 174 views in two days and 874 in a week. After 10 days on Marketplace, just 75 people clicked on my ad. Craigslist doesn't show the number of views, but within 10 minutes of my ad going live, three scammers responded.
Nearly every online venue for used-cars has drawbacks. On sites such as eBay and Cars.com, you have to rely on pictures and descriptions for vehicles that are often far away. Those may not always tell the whole story of a vehicle, even if it comes with a history report from Carfax or Autocheck. Marketplace solves that problem because ads only appear for vehicles within a 100 miles radius and any deals are likely to be done in person.
Scammers have posted cars online that they don't own almost since the used cars became a hot commodity on the Internet. And Marketplace has already seen the first attempts at cyber crimes.
Last month a very clean 1994 Range Rover appeared on eBay Motors in Los Angeles; two days later a hacker posted that same vehicle for sale — with the same pictures and description — in Northville, Mich., a Detroit suburb.
"Hackers in general try to get information they can use in other places. If they can create a relationship with you on Facebook Messenger and Facebook Marketplace, and then they can use your e-mail address and then figure out your password on another service, that would be an advantage to a hacker," said Brian Blum, an analyst who tracks Facebook for the Aim Group, a Florida-based consulting firm. "They aren't going to sell an expensive vehicle they don't have. Data is their currency."
Since discovering Marketplace, I've added it to my list of sites that I follow for classic or collectible cars. The asking prices are reasonable. Because you can see who you are dealing with, it seems more secure. With 1.7 billion users, Facebook could rewrite the book on selling used-cars online. It's free, safer than the alternatives and it is very local, so you can not only walk away if you don't like the car, but you can dicker on price if you do.
Courtney Hammons, who bought a 2007 Yukon after letting two mechanics check it out, talked the price down from $7,200 to $6,500: "Even the dealership said that we were getting a heck of a deal."