Place a Standing Ad on Craigslist

Targeted wanted ads on Craigslist can be a great way for deals to come to you while you do other things. You can place an ad that says, for example, the following:

AD TITLE: Have an older year model car laying around?  I pay cash!
AD DESCRIPTION: Automotive dealers aren’t prepared to trade in old cars and often don’t see the value.  I will offer you a fair value based on my expertise in the market. Email me the make, mileage, and condition of your vehicle and I’ll send you a cash offer. This is not a scam, I buy cars.

After you receive responses you can quickly assess what you would pay wholesale and pick and choose from cars you think would be good for your brand to acquire.


Both Craigslist and Google have alert systems you can use.

The early bird gets the worm!  Beat everyone to the goods.  Use the CPro iphone or Android App to get immediate custom alerts when someone posts a car that meets your criteria.

See a demonstration.

You can use Google Alerts to get email notifications sent when new cars are listed on Craigslist or any other site as well.. In the Search Query field, enter “ITEM site:LOCATION.craigslist.org” (without quotation marks), substituting “ITEM” for your desired item and “LOCATION” for your local Craigslist®. For example, if you are seeking a Dodge Charger in Tampa, the correct format would be “dodge charger site:tampa.craigslist.org.”  The same works for any website but leave off the location.  “dodge charger site:hemmings.com”

Befriend Tow Companies, Antique Shops, Salvage Yards, and Apartment Buildings

The cool thing about this is you can grow a very large bird dog stable just by being out and about on the town.  In an year’s time you can easily have over a hundred people looking for you as they go about their business.

Offering a finders fee to people who are in regular contact with inventory is a sure way to find hidden gems.  The larger your network, the more profitable this technique becomes.  It’s important to really reward people who give you tips.  One dealer we talked to paid anywhere from $50 to $200 depending on the type of car.  Let people know up front you pay cash for leads on cars that result in a purchase.

Apartment buildings

We said ‘unconventional’!  People in apartment buildings often have hobby cars that they have worked on and can not get to start.  This is a potential goldmine.  Most apartment complexes have rules about having a car in one spot too long – especially with a car that won’t start or is up on blocks and becoming an eye-sore.  The apartment notifies the tenant that a fine will be assessed.  The apartment and the tenant usually are happy if someone can come along and pay cash to get rid of the problem.

Antique shops usually have established relationships with flippers and pickers.  You can also hand out your card at flea markets.  These are the best bird-doggers to have because many of them live in rural areas.

Tow truck companies are out on the street and can tell you where the cars are.  Helping these guys out with cash for leads pays dividends when it’s time to get that guys hobby car out of the apartment complex.

Create a Checklist of Deal-Breakers Before You Waste Time Driving out to See a Car.

Use the checklist to save time.  Time is money!

How many miles does it have? High miles usually scare buyers away and sellers don’t always disclose this in their ads.

Does it have a clear, in state title? Salvage or rebuilt titles can deter buyers, and you’ll want to make sure that the title has not liens or loan payoffs required in order to obtain the title. You’ll also want to know if the title will require out of state processing, which could require a notary.

Is the title in your name? If the seller doesn’t own the car, and they don’t have power of attorney from the owner, they legally can’t sell it. Don’t fall for any “well my mom said I could sign for her” stuff. That will open you up to all kinds of legal liability.

Are there any mechanical problems? If so, specifically what are the mechanical problems? Something that the seller considers a small problem might actually be a big problem. Make sure you ask specific questions. This question usually sniffs out major issues that the seller hasn’t already disclosed.

In what condition is the paint? Is it fading or peeling anywhere? New paint can cost $300-$3000 depending on quality. You’ll need to know upfront if you should include that into your repair budget.

Is there any body damage? Does the car have rust anywhere? Scratches and small dents can be fixed inexpensively, but major bodywork can be expensive and may dramatically impact the car’s value.

Does the car have a check engine or any other dash lights illuminated? You might assume that this question would be answered in the mechanical problems question, but you’d be surprised how many sellers leave this important detail out. Check engine lights can make cars fail vehicle inspections, and many states require cars to be inspected before assigning new ownership.

What is your reason for selling? Beware if the reason for selling is questionable. Ideal answers to this question are “we just don’t need an extra vehicle” and “we needed a car for the winter and this car is rear wheel drive”.

How far away are you located from me? Driving 100 miles out of the way for a vehicle that isn’t worth buying is very frustrating. That being said, it is possible to find great deals on cars that are harder to get to because other people overlook them. Either way, make sure you ask as many questions as possible before making the trip.