Nate90LX New Reader
9/30/08 6:24 p.m.

Basically are there any tips or tricks to finding a cheap grassroots project car. Other than checking craigslist and all the major online classifieds everyday, what can you do? Are public autions worth the time and hassle? I am currently trying to find a ultra low budget ($500-$1000) Miata project to combine with parts from a rusted out '95 in my garage, and turn it into a fun local autocross car. Every few days a cheap car pops up but I call or email and they don't return messages or emails. Are there any tips, or are these kinds or cars a one in a million chance?

mel_horn HalfDork
9/30/08 6:32 p.m.

Check the $2008 Classified thread. It's not just for Challenge cars, (but the argument could be made that it's meant for the challenged...)

All kidding aside, I'd rather deal with those on this forum than the general public...

I have been somewhat lucky in finding project cars behind repair shops in my travels. Sometimes the owner just gives up and the garage owner just wants rid of it...

Nashco SuperDork
9/30/08 6:45 p.m.

There is no free lunch...if a good car is available for a good price and it's publically available, lots of people are going to see it, so the early bird gets the worm. There are a thousand ways to find a good deal, but I've found the best way is to use the places that are easiest to search and to search often. Today, that means craigslist.


Jensenman SuperDork
9/30/08 6:58 p.m.

Sometimes it's just blind luck. Also, search with people interested in the type of car you are wanting. The Spec Miata crowd would be a good place to start in your case. Try (no affiliation other than the owner is a friend) as a good place to start.

Salanis SuperDork
9/30/08 7:06 p.m.

Don't just look at "For Sale" ads/postings. Post your own "WTB". I found a spec Miata guy with a torsen he couldn't use that had been too lazy to post an ad.

Varkwso Reader
9/30/08 7:37 p.m.

Search often and network with everyone you can. It helps if you are open to more then one specific car and model. It is how I ended up with a 83 Supra, a 77 Buick Station Wagon and a 99 Corvette FRC for killer low prices.

Xceler8x Reader
9/30/08 8:28 p.m.

I always use That's the best craig's list finder I've used.

I also check the back of used car lots for the real ugly betty's of the car world.

My third option is tow yard auctions. Most have one once a month near me.

JThw8 Dork
9/30/08 8:57 p.m.

as a BABE addict and therefore scrounger of cheap cars its just all a matter of the hunt.

If its a good deal and its on CL or similar then you just have to be quick. I've acquired many a car because I had cash on hand and a trailer at the ready.

But more often than not, especially in the current economy I've had luck in looking at "ok" deals and negotiating downward.

$1200 69 Caddy, negotiated down to $500 gets 10mpg and noone wants it $1000 78 VW Bus negotiated down to $500 why...seller was tired of dealing with lookie lous.

Be serious, bring cash and lowball like there is no tomorrow. You'd be amazed what can happen.

Also see if you can find the local red cross resale lot. People donate cars, Red Cross needs to sell them. At our local lot they have the front lot, with some nice cars at a fair price and the back lot full of dirt cheap beaters....those rule. Lately it seems to be populated with jeep cherokees and grand cherokees.

HiTempguy New Reader
9/30/08 9:30 p.m.

(parrots what everyone else has said)

Now adays the online classifieds are not nearly as good for deals as they used to be. Nonetheless, I search, craigslist, autotrader, and buysell (bargain finder) everyday. Whenever I am back in my hometown I look through the local classifieds. I also heavily search the province wide car forums (just so happens, the Calgary car forum is the biggest car forum in north america IIRC). I picked up my Civic for a good deal, and I am thinking of selling it (should be able to pull off at least $500 net profit). There is a really good deal on a turbo legacy that just popped up in kijiji. Do want!

Jensenman SuperDork
10/1/08 7:26 a.m.

Check those local trader papers you see in the convenience stores too, for instance here in SC we have the Carolina Trader, the Pennysaver and IWANNA. Those are loaded with dirt cheap cars. I have a buddy who has gotten killer deals on a '66 Midget, a Datsun roadster, a GT6+, an MGB GT and a B roadster through the Carolina Trader.

Travis_K Reader
10/1/08 8:02 a.m.

Id say keep checking craigslist, and be ready to be there the very first minute the seller will show you the car with money in your hand if you want to buy it. I was trying to buy a car for months and every good deal id find it would be thrusday and id say i wanted to come look at it sunday (work and school until then() and it would be sold before then.

bluej HalfDork
10/1/08 8:16 a.m.

very similar to craigshelper, but I like the interface better.

patgizz Dork
10/1/08 8:29 a.m.

don't look. let them find you.

i got my $99.50 caddy accidentally, the $500 highly modded Z34 because my friend wanted to dump it and i'm the first one he calls. put word out to your circle of influence that you are looking for sub-$500 cars and let them do the legwork, you'll get some calls because everyone seems to know at least one person that has that olh pile next to the garage that "they wanted to fix up" and never found the ambition to tackle.

additional option for rusted out miata: buy a locost frame from someone who gave up on the project.

Karl La Follette
Karl La Follette Reader
10/1/08 9:52 a.m.

Run ad in newspaper "" dont trade in your good car let me buy it cash "' post ad at Post Office and maybe town hall by license tag agency . Dont be afraid to post signs on telephone poles outside old retirement communities .

egnorant Dork
10/1/08 10:15 a.m.

Keep your eyes open! Let your friends know what you are looking for. Have cash and transport avaliable.

I have a part time job delivering pizza that runs me down all the steets in a certain area all the time. Sometimes you spot that treasure. I bought a Miata that had sat in the same spot for about 6 months with one flat tire. Just walked up and asked one day. $500

1991 Capri XR2 from a friend of a co-worker..$250.

Make friends with people who might spot these cars for you.

Pick and Pull guys, parts store guys, even the electric meter reader guy!

Police officer friends have found me a Bugeye Sprite, Ranger pickup and a new riding mower.

College kids come from all over and have fun cars that break down.

A friend of mine delivers stuff to oil rigs...he spots stuff. His friend sometimes delivers diesel parts...he spots stuff. Talk to a fellow that the friend noticed had a 67 Mustang and a Torino Cobra about 40 miles away. This fellow knows a guy with 2 69 Mustangs for sale... The guys daughters boyfriend works with a guy who has a trailer for sale....and a couple of Austin Healeys which I now own! works!

PM me! My Miata is for!


Our Preferred Partners