Monday, November 29, 2010

How to buy cheap, classic cars on craigslist

Craigslist 1968 Buick Riviera, bust or bargain?
10 tips to surf your way to hidden, classic car treasures. Craigslist, a website that allows sellers to post free classified ads, is home to thousands of new automotive ads each day from all across the world. Navigating the craigslist search engine is easy but finding your dream car on a budget requires diligence. 

I stumbled across this 1968 Buick Riviera on craigslist's Birmingham, Alabama cars and trucks listings recently. The seller listed a "68 Buick Antique classic muscle car" for sale. The ad read:

1968 Buick Riviera GS automobile. Body has lot of rust spots. 455 CI - 7.7L Engine. Engine purred when parked some time ago. This was a once beautiful and powerful automobile. Can be restored into a magnificent ride. $1900.
The "68 Buick" ad did not have photos. This usually means your dealing with a computer newbie and/or a mature seller. Ads without photos will cut the number of prospective buyers in half. No photos also means better bargaining potential. My mind raced. Did I find a big-engine Buick driver for cheap? A quick phone call was made to the seller. He revealed that he didn't remember how much he was asking for the car. "My grandson placed the ad a couple of month ago," he said. The Buick's condition and other details were also sketchy. The seller did remember that the odometer read about 50,000 miles. A short road trip was in order.

1968 Rivieras hide-away headlights are vacuum operated.
When I first laid eyes on this craigslist '68 Riviera, I was underwhelmed to say the least. By limiting my search to "1968 Riviera," I would have never found this backyard beauty. Lucky me. A quick walk around and a subtle head shake was all it took for the seller to read my mind. He quickly got to the point. "Why don't you make me an offer we can both live with?" Mmm... My internal voice was telling me to run away before I made a deal to drag this once-proud Riviera to my driveway. Thankfully I passed on making an offer. I couldn't overlook the fist-sized hole in the driver's side floorpan or the fact this car needs a lot of work to get it back on the road. 
Buick sold 49,284 Rivieras in 1968.

This '68 Riviera remained glued to the ground that day but don't let this deter you from searching for your dream car online. Try these simple craigslist search tips to help you find your dream car deal.

Tips for buying cheap, classic cars and trucks on craigslist
  1. Search for similar, sometimes misspelled terms. For example search "69 Camero" or "1969 Chev" instead of "1969 Camaro." 
  2. Click search "entire post" option for searches.
  3. Select "By Owner" option for searches. Dealers rarely make deals.
  4. Get a better deal on ads without photos. More room to bargain, fewer buyers respond to these ads because you must see the vehicle in person.
  5. Expand your search to cities outside your area. 
  6. Be the first to show up with cash.
  7. If you must tow it home, ask the seller to pay towing or drop price.
  8. Ask sellers if they have any other "older" cars for sale.
  9. Ask sellers if they know of any "older" cars in the area.
  10. Keep a list of phone numbers of interesting craigslist vehicles. Contact sellers after ad expires to possibly strike a deal.
Bob West's additional craigslist car buyer's bonus tips for Junkyardlifers:
  • Search for ads in surrounding cities. ie: I live in Phoenix. I always search ads in Tucson, Flagstaff and other AZ cities that have their own craigslist. A couple hours drive can score you some primo items.
  • Place wanted ads. If you're looking for a 1952 Kaiser, place an ad saying so. You'll get responses from some high-priced sellers, but you may also get a call from Aunt Gertie, who doesn't drive anymore and has a low mileage Manhattan sitting in the garage.
Send your photos, tips and stories to junkyardlife
Email junkyardbull@gmail.com

1968 Buick FM stereo radio.

1968-'69 Buick Rivieras have this wrap-around bumper.


Buick's 1968 Riviera was built as a luxury sports car.

1968 Buick Riviera rear seats.

The pristine padded dash is a highlight of this 1968 Buick.

Bucket seats and console shift were popular options on '68 Buick Rivieras.

Buick's 430-cubic inch V8 produced 360 bhp @ 4600 rpm in 1968.

1968 Buick Rivieras have well-appointed instrument clusters.

1968 Rivieras were rear wheel drive.


Vinyl tops should have been outlawed in 1968.

1968 Buick Riviera's aggressive styling is defies its 4,200 pound heft.

1968 Buick's radiator is missing but carburetor is reportedly on the premises.

I would prefer a set of Buick Rally rims instead of Riviera hubcaps. Still, no deal. 



1968 Riviera interior might clean up but rusty shell all but gone.




Send your photos, tips and stories to junkyardlife
Email junkyardbull@gmail.com