The high prevalence of atherosclerosis and the corresponding derived morbidity drives the investigation of novel imaging tools for disease diagnosis and assessment. Multi-spectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) can resolve structural, hemodynamic and molecular parameters that relate to cardiovascular disease. Similarly to ultrasound imaging, optoacoustic (photoacoustic) imaging can be implemented as a handheld arrangement which further brings dissemination potential to point of care applications. Correspondingly, we experimentally investigate herein the performance of non-invasive optoacoustic scanning developed for carotid imaging, in phantoms and humans. The results demonstrate that traditional transducers employed in ultrasound imaging do not offer optimal MSOT imaging. Instead, feasibility to detect human carotids and carotid-sized vessels in clinically-relevant depths is better demonstrated with curved arrays and tomographic approaches.