We live in the age of the search engine and free internet ads.  Rejoice!

Back in the day,  waay back at the beginning of the Malaise era, shopping for a For Sale By Owner car was a Sunday-only activity.  Why Sunday? Well, the Sunday paper weight about five pounds, with seemingly half of it dedicated to the classifieds, and half of the classiifieds were cars.  They were separated by make and year – sometimes.



Classified ad page from 1948.  The world was both wilder and tamer back then.  

A typical ad would read:  1962 Chevrolet.  $95.  476.3887


And that was it.  No photo, no condition, no model.  Just a year and a price, along with a phone number.  Choosing the right car took months of legwork!  When Pop totaled his ’69 Cougar in ’76, it took him the better part of six months to find a decent replacement, a ’69 Mustang ‘vert he has to this day.

Fortunately for us – We have Craigslist.  Here’s how to put it to work for you!

1. Choose and use the filters!

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This is the toolbar on the left hand side.  It allows you to search for just about anything, if you know how to manipulate it.  Since we’re looking for oddball cars, it’s important to expand the size of your search…

2. Geography is your friend!

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While grandma’s green Gremmie may be a block away, a great Malaise era car may be sleeping in a garage 100 miles away as well.  Use Craigslist to focus on the cars you want to look at, and set a reasonable distance to drive.  This becomes your search radius.  For me, it’s about 150 miles.  When I tick off all areas, the number of cars is above 2500.  Time to narrow it down:

3. Filter by the Malaise Era.

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Simply plug in 1972 and 1992 and click “update search.”  I did just that, and there’s still 2500+ cars to choose from.  Time to get a little picky…

4. Set a budget.

For this series of articles, we have a $3000 budget based on 1/10th the cost of a new car.  Let’s plug that in and see what happens:

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Notice the $50.00 in the min column.  This is important, as some sellers think they’re get more airplay by “selling” their car for $1.  I find this quite annoying, so I filter them out.  We’re still at 2500+ Malaise Era cars and trucks to choose from, so let’s add another filter:

5. Cap the mileage to identify the Old Fart Cars.

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For this exercise, the mileage cap is 55,000 – but note the min at 2000.  People often leave the zeros off when quoting miles, saying a car has 180 miles when they mean 180,000.  Bingo Bango! we drop from 2500+ cars in the area to a mere 160!  Now we can look at the ads!

And here we go!


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Front seat has some failed stitching, but for a $2K asking price, it’s a good example of how to make Craigslist work for you! 

But wait!  There’s more!

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28,000 original miles.  New convertible top.  How can you go wrong?  You cant!  A fun little car at a great price!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you become a Craigslist expert  inside of fifteen minutes!

We’ll cover how to read the ads next time.  Happy Hunting!


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