Sunday, May 30, 2010

How to buy and sell cars on Craigslist for fun and profit


Find the deal
Surfing Craigslist at the right time and acting fast is the key. I took a quick peek at the free online advertising giant and found a money-maker. A 1979 Pontiac Trans Am, priced at $400, sat at the top of the cars for sale list in the Birmingham, Alabama area. It was 11 p.m. I hammered out a quick email asking about the car’s location. A few hours later, at 6:30 a.m., I checked my email and received a response. The car was just a few miles away and they included a phone number. I knew I had to act quickly. How many others had seen this same deal? I was the first caller and set up a time to see the car just a few hours after the ad was posted on craigslist. Being first is half the battle. I felt like I had won a prize before I had even seen the car.

Pursue the deal

Photos can help narrow down your choices but don’t ignore ads without photos. Craigslist ads that include photos of the car can be helpful but also possibly misleading. Sellers may only include photos of the car’s best assets. Some sellers do not include photos on their craigslist ad. Maybe they are hiding the ugly, rusty, beaten corpse of a car or perhaps they aren’t tech savvy? I was lucky in this case, my ad had no photos but I was rewarded for my efforts. The Trans Am I found had been stored inside a garage for the past eight years. The motor and transmission had flown the coop but most of the body panels were in great shape for a neglected 31-year old car. The deal was sealed the moment I saw the Nocturne blue Pontiac Trans Am.

Think like a buyer and seller – buy low, sell high
Thoroughly inspect the car in person with the mindset of reselling it. Will that lumpy quarter panel and bullet hole in the door scare a would-be buyer? Take into consideration the price you’re paying and the market value of the car. Check price guides such as buyclassiccars.com for older cars or edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book for newer cars. If the car you’re buying has hard to find parts in good condition you can gauge your profit margin according to the value of a few parts. The fenders on this Trans Am were in excellent shape. On ebay, good, original ’79 T/A fenders sell for $300 each. My $400 craigslist find had a $200 profit in the fenders alone.
Buyer beware. Why are they selling cheap?
Be wary of sellers eager to dump their vehicle on you without a title. Follow your state’s motor vehicle title laws by checking your state’s DMV website. My Trans Am find was being sold to make room for a baby. The garage was being converted into a bedroom and the T/A had to go. It also didn't hurt that the car was a birthday gift from the husband’s former wife. His new wife was more than happy to see it hauled away. Be ready to act when you see a good deal but be wary of the inevitable scammers that lurk behind the computer screen.

Buy the cars you like to drive, have fun
Stick to buying cars you enjoy and you won’t get stuck. If you favor a certain make and model car, chances are you will be more knowledgeable about those specific vehicles. You will be familiar with problem (rust-prone) areas and driveline weaknesses. Turning a profit on cars you enjoy owning is a bonus.

Sell to sell again

To make money you must sell the cars. It is tempting to own a yard full of good deals but that will only stifle your momentum. A buyer from Georgia saw my ad on the Birmingham, Alabama craigslist site. He was looking for a good body to make into a drag car. I included my phone number and details about the car. The car sold two days after I placed my ad. I made a nice profit and all parties were happy with the outcome.

Make your Craigslist ad pop

To make your ad more appealing to craigslist buyers, post large photos via a photo hosting site (try imageshack or photobucket). It is simple copying and pasting of code into your craigslist ad. You can see how to do it on howtodothings.com
I hated to see my bargain Trans Am hauled away but I know my driveway will be home to another one.