I’ve been dabbling in this for a while now, and I have it down to science at this time. This is really working for me. In fact, For the past three months, I have averaged over $1000 in extra income by doing exactly this. I’m not going to try to sell you anything here. I’m just going to lay it all out, exactly what works for me, step by step, right here on this page.
One confession first. The town I live in (North Judson, Indiana), is located midway between Chicago and Indianapolis. So, although it is a rural area with very few jobs, it is an excellent location for making money on Craigslist. It’s important to be close to two or more craigslist cities, unless you don’t mind a lot of traveling. But you can do this no matter where you live.
Another important point. You must be mechanically inclined for this job. You have to be knowledgeable enough to spot a value in a used car or truck. Knowing how to negotiate is another thing that helps.
OK, that said, here are the steps I use to make an extra $1000 or so each month. And it usually only takes me a few hours a week.
1. Study your nearby Craigslist cities, and determine which one has the most people with money. In my case, there are some rural areas near me, where people have very little money (like Kokomo, Indiana), and areas where people have more money (like Chicago).
2. Determine your budget. You don’t want to use the rent money to go out and buy another car you don’t need. Only use money that you can afford. In my case, that’s only about $500 per car.
3. Study the rural (or cheaper) area for a good deal on a used car or truck. I have found that most people who have owned a car for a long time will tell you all about it- what it needs, how dependable it is, etc. These lengthy descriptions show honesty in most cases.
4. Email them and ask more questions. Will the car make it to California? How much oil does it use? How are the tires?
5. Negotiate. Look at cars that are a little more expensive than your budget. In my case ($500), I’ll look at cars up to $800. If I find one that catches my eye, I’ll email them and explain that I am on a tight budget and only have $500.
6. Go check out the car. Make sure you look under the car for rusty floors, leaks, bent frames, etc. Check under the hood for rust, leaks, etc. Look and listen to the engine while it’s running. Take it for a drive and listen for clunks when braking and turning. Make sure the transmission shifts through all gears. Run it until it’s hot, and make sure it doesn’t overheat. Then, when you are satisfied, turn it off, and see if it starts again.
7. Offer less than the original price. Do it humbly. Explain your needy situation, and your dire need for transportation. Don’t try to get the price lower because it needs work, or simply offer less for no reason. Try to gain some sympathy.
8. Bring it home and clean it up. Sometimes just a little touch-up paint in a few strategic spots can make a huge difference. Or power wash the engine and remove all oil stains.
9. Take some good pictures and post your ad on the larger, more lucrative city area Craigslist. Be warned though- people will have your ad removed if it is out of the area. So, if you are out of the area, don’t put that in your title. Put it at the end of your description.
10. Be very descriptive about your vehicle, and tell the truth. Don’t try to hide something that’s wrong with the car. People can sense a liar. Be honest, and wish people success with their new (to them) car.
Put your phone number in the ad. A lot of people shop Craigslist from their mobile phones, and many of them can simply click on a phone number to dial it.
Answer email promptly. Check it often, and again, be honest.
Shrug off low-ballers. Every time I sell a car on Craigslist, I’ll get these emails- What’s the lowest you’ll take? I’ll give you $X. Etc. I always respond with my firm price.
Watch out for scammers. Never accept a check in the mail, even if it’s a certified check or a money order. These are scammers. Even if the check clears, it will be stopped at a later date.
Don’t drive the car. You never know if something else is wrong with the car, or if something is about to pop. Just don’t drive it until you sell it (or until someone comes to test drive it).
Ken Skaggs is a 30-year veteran trucker and safety professional, who has always been a writer, and an entrepreneur at heart. Since 2000, he’s had 150+ articles published by Ten-Four Magazine, Careers in Gear, Driver Story Magazine, and dozens of websites.