Years before I began shipping BRZO I found my self trying to search all of Craigslist for cars. At the time I was looking for a 1961 Jaguar E-Type convertible.
My reasoning was that I was working on a restoration of the car and my backup plan to was just to sell it on Craigslist.
So my question was, how much are people asking for their E-Types? Turns out quite a bit and that was the basis of my restoration budget.
Fast forward to now I have since restored and sold the car onto the next owner. You will still find it difficult to search all of Craigslist for cars. Here I present with my top tips to help you find your dream car.
To search all of Craigslist for cars you need a tool that will do the leg work for you. There are web-based tools like Autotempest and Onecraigs are not sanctioned by Craigslist and lock you into your desktop to search.
BRZO (my app) is a mobile app that has a relationship with Craigslist and provides the best user experience for people search for cars, trucks, RV’s, motorcycles, tools parts and wheels — Just sayin :). BRZO makes it easy to search by City, State, Country or even Worldwide.
Thought it’s not about searching all of Craigslist for a type of car, it’s about finding the right car and in this article we give you tips on how to quickly and more accurately find that car.
These tips apply to finding a car on Craigslist whether you are on a mobile device or on the Craigslist website.
Tip #1 – Try to be specific, but not too specific
When you are searching for all cars on Craigslist you need to find a few good potential cars and then start contacting the owners. The problem sometimes can be that you either are looking too specifically (e.g. Purple BMW M3 Convertible with a Manual Transmission and the “Superman Red” interior) or you are being way to broad (e.g. “Honda Accord”).
When you are too specific, obviously you won’t be able to find a good potential group of vehicles to call on, but when you are too broad, you will quickly become overwhelmed by the options available.
So how do you find a good medium?
Two factors we almost automatically consider is Age and original Volume of vehicles sold. For example if you are looking for a Subaru Outback from 2000-2004, chances are there are literally hundreds (maybe even thousands) of those available on Craigslist. Subaru sold millions of those cars over the years and they are now over 12 years old. You will be quickly overwhelmed by the results. You will need to narrow your results by looking closer to home or by specifying a specific package/color combination.
Now if you are looking for a 2006-2008 BMW Z4 M Coupe, there were only about 1,815 of them produced (according to Wikipedia). The volume simply will not be there and you are going to need to search wide and far! I literally would look nationwide for “Z4” and specify the years built and simply leave it at that.
With BRZO you can quickly specify how broad of a search when you create a new listing and you can easily specify the year range.
Tip #2 – Search only for Clean Titles
You don’t want a wrecked car. I will repeat, you don’t want a wrecked car. Even cars who have a “Rebuilt Title” you don’t want a wrecked car.
The first step in ensuring you don’t end up with a wrecked car is by making sure the title has no “brands” (or indications that there has been an accident in its history). Branded title cars often carry a 20% discount and are typically difficult to sell. Do not buy a wrecked car!
The second step to ensuring you don’t buy a wrecked car is to get a “Vehicle Inspection” by an indepent auto mechanic that you found. Be sure to reach out to a specialist in the types cars you are trying to purchase. So if you are looking for a Honda, get a Honda master mechanic to inspect your car.
Same for BMW, Porsche, Audi… get a specialist who works on these cars day in and day out. A good inspection will cost around $300 but can literally save you thousands. For most specialist workshops you will need to schedule the inspection. If time is short don’t get worked up and just buy the car, find the car you want, put a deposit down on it and then schedule the inspection.
You will thank yourself knowing exactly what you are in for after the purchase.
Tip 3 – Don’t trust that people know what they are talking about
Those paddles on the steering wheel does not mean the car has a manual transmission! It’s an automatic. “Double Clutch” transmission, it’s an automatic. “Manumatic” it’s an automatic!
Become familiar with the options you are looking for and what they physically look like in photos. It is difficult to tell a lie with a photo.
Just because it says, “M235i” on the back of the car doe not mean the car is an “M2” those are very different vehicles and simply not one in the same.
You need to become familiar with the car you are looking for and then how to identify it in photos. Photos are your friend and is the quickest way to filter out incorrect ads. For example 99% of cars with 3-pedals are manual transmission cars. If the car has 2-pedals it is an automatic.
Tip 4 – Comparison Shop with Search
Sometimes if you are looking for a car you might not care about specific options like the number of doors, whether or not you have a sunroof or even a navigation system.
Once you are set on the general make and model of car, try doing a bit of comparison shopping by searching for Sedans only or Coupes only, even Automatics only or even Manual transmissions only. This process will help you generate a quick rule of thumb for pricing on the go.
For most cars a manual transmission means a $500 discount, but for more sport cars, a manual transmission can command thousands of dollars in premium. Get to know the market prior to making an offer.
Tip 5 – Negation is so negative but it works!
The normal Craigslist user doesn’t even know that you can “hide” listings that contain specific words from the search results. But the more savvy will commonly hide listings that they don’t want to see.
Examples of this are “-conv*” which will hide any result that contains a word beginning with “conv” like Convertible. Another example is “-auto*” which will hide all the listings that have words beginning with “auto” like Automatic.
Turn-off the “Search Title Only” filter in your searches so that the entire body of the listing is considered and those listings with “Auto” are hidden from the results.
This is a quick way to find super niche model variants like Station wagons. For example BMW E30 Tourings (Station Wagons) are not common in the USA, but they are highly sought after. To quickly find them you can specify Touring or Wagon in the title, but you can also skip that and do a negative search to remove “coupes”, “sedans” and “convertibles” to see what remains. This is a great way to find misspellings.