That’s right! I bought my car for one price, drove it around for five years and then sold it for the exact same price! The good news for you is that nothing I did took incredible effort. Rather, it was more an application of a few tricks anyone could do themselves. So if you want to drive a free car, keep reading.
Finding the Car
There’s a saying among car traders, “You make the money when you buy the car.” What that means is that if you buy the car for a low enough price, selling it for a profit won’t be hard. Since our goal is just to sell it for the same price, we don’t need to get an absolute screaming deal. We just need a price that’s lower than someone else would pay years from now. That person can be our buyer later on.
To find the car, I prefer using Craigslist and eBay. Other decent options are Cars.com and Autotrader.com.
The reason I like Craigslist and eBay is because that’s where the best deals are found. It’s probably because it’s free to list cars on each site. This means sellers who are short on cash tend to list their vehicles there. When sellers are short on cash, you can get a good deal and help them out quickly.
What should you pay? Less than market value, obviously. To determine market value, you can use the Kelly Blue Book at KBB.com, or NADA at NADAGuides.com. I prefer to do more hard hitting research, though, as I’ve found that you can get an even more accurate price that way.
To do your own research will take weeks at least. Search for cars every few days and get a feel for the asking prices. See how quickly the cars sell. Pretty soon, you’ll begin to understand what a vehicle is worth in your particular market. Once you spot a good deal, it’s time to pounce.
Paying the Right Price
The best tip I can give you is to tell you that the final price is never about what the seller is asking. Instead, it’s about what you’re willing to pay. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you naturally hate the idea of bartering, take along a friend who will help. Remember, to get a free car, you must get a good price. Paying in cash usually means you’ll get a better deal as well.
Once You Own the Car
Obviously, the less you drive, the better. That means fewer miles are racked up. I’ve never driven too much so this is good. But also consider that cars depreciate with or without you driving them. They depreciate the most in the first four years and then the fall in price tends to slow. So if you’re wanting a free car to drive, buy an older car. Cars depreciate until they reach about 20 years old, then depreciation plateaus and desirable cars actually go up in value.
The Selling Process Once You Are Ready to Move On
Do your best when it comes to selling the car. This means taking good pictures, posting accurate information and being patient. I know it’s tempting to accept the first offer, but I would have lost money on my car if I had done that. Be patient. It’s okay if it doesn’t sell right away.
One tip — if it’s not getting interest, maybe you’re selling during the wrong time of the year. Convertibles and rear-wheel drive sports cars are most popular in spring/early summer. 4wd vehicles rise in popularity and price during the fall and winter. Depending on your vehicle, there is an optimal time to sell.
Other tips for selling include keeping all repair history on the car, being able to show the car often, and fixing any small faults that really let the car down ie: yellowing headlamps, an obvious scratch, etc.
Things to Remember
Remember that you will be responsible for running costs during your time of ownership. These include fuel, insurance, registration, maintenance and repairs. The car itself may be free but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get everything for free. Possible. Just unlikely.
Also, cars depreciate at different rates. Find a car that depreciates slowly. According to Consumer Reports, Subaru’s depreciate the slowest. Using the tactics in this post would work well for snagging a Scoobie.
See, none of these details are too tricky. It’s mostly a matter of having patience and doing your due diligence.
Which car will you go after?
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