Where to Find a Working Bare Bones Used Car

Category: News. Written by Grant 

This is the second part of SeattleAuto.net’s series on Buying a Used Car for Under $1,000.

It’s hard to think that it’s possible to buy a working, semi-reliable car for under $1,000, but if you cut out the plush comforts, it’s still a reasonable goal. Here’s a recap of the most important things we need in our vehicle.

  • Clean title, current tabs
  • Working drive train: engine and transmission, no fluid leaks
  • Working brakes, seatbelts
  • Starting car

Our list isn’t long, but for $1,000, we can’t expect to have a perfect car. What we do want is a car that works reliably for at least 10,000 miles (hopefully). We can figure that if our $1,000 project car lasts for 10,000 miles, then we’ve bought the equivalent of a $20k vehicle that can lasts for 200k miles – which is extremely good. Even if our project car only peters out at 5,000 miles, we’ve still doing fairly good by that math.

Where to Find Our $1,000 Project Car

While most car buyers head straight to the used car dealership lots around Seattle or down South for deals, we know that our car will be near impossible to find at a dealership. The reason is that dealer markup is high – at least $1,000 over what they paid for a used car. That means attempting to even buy a car for $1,000 means we would be hard pressed to find a car, let alone want to buy any car the dealer is offering for that price. This leaves our options to private sellers or auctions.

Auctions seem to have a mysterious air about them due to the late night infomercials where you see hear a mega announcer tell you that you can grab cars for pennies on the dollar. If your gut instinct said “That’s too good to be true”, then you would be absolutely right. The fact is that if auctions were such a good deal, everyone would be doing them.

The problem with most public auctions are that the cars you’ll see are abandoned, flooded, wrecked, stolen or impounded vehicles. Not pretty. These cars were simply left by their owners for whatever reason and towed to a yard. To make matter worse, many auction yards don’t even let you inspect the vehicle from the inside, pop the hood or turn the car on (if the car is still working, that is). I can guarantee you that these are not the types of cars you want to rely on. Auctions are best left to the mechanics and dealers who have an expert eye on figuring out which cars are worth bidding on and which cars are not. Even then, the cars fit to sell are often sold at value, as they are being bid on by knowledgeable buyers.

We may do a write-up on auctions in the future for you diehards out there that really want to explore that route – as you can get some good deals if you absolutely know what you’re doing. But for now, we’ll move on.

Seattle Area Private Seller Listings

Private sellers make up a huge portion of used car sales, so we have ready access to an inventory out there. The problem is just looking up all those listings.

Luckily, the internet is a dream for the modern car buyer, as we can access just about every major listing of private seller vehicles out there. Some of Seattle’s most popular listing services are:

  • Craigslist: http://seattle.craigslist.com
  • NW Autos: http://marketplace.nwsource.com/nwc/autos/
  • Auto Trader: http://www.autotrader.com
  • Cars.com: http://www.cars.com
We’re a big fan of Craigslist because they’re free and popular with private sellers. Going to the Craigslist website, we click on the cars and autos tab and now have a screen filled with classifieds. Narrowing down our search, we then filter out cars by price from $0 to $1500 (we assume we will have some negotiating room to knock down the final price if we go over $1,000).

Here’s a screenshot of the result page:

Craigslist has come up with over 1,000 results – which is huge – until you quickly realize that most of the results are just random junk. There are a few that immediately stand out however as legitimate listings, so let’s investigate those listings and more!

Next: Beware Buyer: The Used Car Listings

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8 Responses to “Where to Find a Working Bare Bones Used Car”

  1. darce on June 3rd, 2010 11:50 pm

    Id be so thankful for finding a car so cheap but that is all the money I have at this time

  2. Danielle on February 28th, 2011 8:56 am

    I would love to buy one of your cars that is under a thousand dolloar i have just had a child and we really need to get around so please call me at 17737231003

  3. omollo william on November 10th, 2011 2:03 am

    I am really looking for a car that fits what you have described above but i am only able to raise 600 dollars. Pls contact me, thanks.

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