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Hagerty Employee

Use these 3 little words to find your next online car steal

My name is Chris, and I find cars. While that sounds like it could be an intro to a video series dedicated to the spelunking skills of a barn find hunter, I’m not nearly that adventurous. As I’m afflicted with children, a chronic lack of cash, and hay fever, I’m not dragging a trailer across the countryside knocking on doors. But my online methods are nearly as effective, with much less chance of contracting tetanus along the way. I'd like to share them with you.


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Hagerty Employee

Great tips! Another search term that can bring interesting results is "project".

Intermediate Driver

"Invested" also delivers entertaining results. 


Great article.


"original" can be useful. You get unrelated matches of course, but original paint and original owner are both useful terms for some people's search. The word "owner" can be good too as it usually is only in an ad if their is a short ownership history (i.e., second owner).


Don't click the "coupe" filter. Its crazy how many people do their ads wrong. This became apparent to me when trying to find a 4 door sedan and a good third of the ads were 2 doors, convertibles and even old trucks (not crew cab).


If you don't want to do all the searching yourself and have somewhat defined wants... tell friends. Mine think I am the Mustang guy (I have one... would take a parts car, don't want one of every year) so I get sent just about any older Mustang ad mentioned to me. None have resulted in a sale so far, but some of the suggestions were good cars just not what I needed at the time.


I've been doing the try and check new listing every day until hitting one I remember trick. Makes the job pretty quick. My cut off years are similar, though for trucks I tend to go 60-94 as that covers what I consider to be the modern but not digital truck era.

Intermediate Driver

I have noticed that Facebook defaults to automatics even for cars that had manuals as an option. You have to go out of your way to note that your listing has a manual transmission.


Also Facebook is worse for searches for entertainment, like "invested." I'm here to try to find owners whose decision to sell their project car is the only thing keeping them from being the subject of a Werner Herzog documentary. I'm not here for real estate. Facebook ruins everything.

Community Manager

One of my favorite searches is "Divorce" because of the cars you find, but also you can get some fantastic stuff for your house for cheap! 


Chris has listed some good points.
I used to do similar stuff, but since I'm in Europe and I tried to find a car in the U.S.,

the good deals didn't last long enough for me to get a chance to react. These methods Chris is using, are valuable time savers when trying to dig through the clutter.

What happened though, was that I was getting frustrated by missing the good ones.
So a day before my flight left to U.S., I typed the year+make+model in the Google search bar. I bought the second car that the search produced 😁


Nice article. Thanks. My interest, like numerous others these days, is Land Rover Defenders NAS '94, '95, and '97. Certainly collectible and in high demand with a price to match.


I use SearchTempest to search CL nationwide and have picked up a car in Detroit and another in Chicago and did roadtrips back to Austin TX.    I've recently checked out Offerup but it seems a bit sketchy to me.

New Driver

Sorry...but the best auto search word EVER is: "garage".

Intermediate Driver

Ebay, Craigslist and Facebook searches have ALL been rendered completely useless as everybody includes every keyword imaginable in their listing.  TOTALLY WORTHLESS.  Search features should work for the user, and they don't.


Proposed edit:

My name is Chris, and I find cars. While that sounds like it could be an intro to...” should be followed by “...a 12-step recovery program,...”


So, what are the "three words?"


I’m also a car finder and seller for friends.  I’ve even sold a classic truck I never saw for a distraught relative of a friend in Colorado (I live in Georgia), a 1959 Chevy Impala to a buyer in France who didn’t speak English, and a Lexus to an Arab from Egypt.  

I have used Hemmings, Ebay, CraigsList, Autotrader and a local website called  I’ve also placed and looked for ads on the local grocery store bulletin board.