The Best Beater Cars: Craigslist's Top Used Cars

October 20, 2016

best beater cars

You might have bought a used lawnmower on Craigslist. Maybe even a jogging stroller or bed frame for your California King mattress. But have you purchased a Craigslist car? Or even considered it? Many people call these beater cars (or hoopdie, depending on your vernacular preference).

It’s a car that’s seen some stuff. Maybe it’s got some Duct tape holding it together. Perhaps it’s got a four-tone paint job – with none of the original colors. But when you’re looking to spend a few thousand or even a few hundred dollars on a car, it’s reliability that matters, right?

None of these cars are going to impress on a first date – well, maybe a first date you land on Craigslist – but they have the potential to pack a surprising amount of value despite their dinged and dented exteriors.

Craigslist Used Beater Cars: The Setup

To keep things simple, we limited our search to a single city. We chose Detroit because, well, it’s the Motor City – the home of The Slightly Smaller But Still Big Three: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. . And don’t forget Kid Rock! Call it synergy. Additionally, Detroit does feature a broad swath of socioeconomic diversity, creating a more eclectic mix of available vehicles.

So we scanned Craigslist for used cars in Detroit and tried to filter out the illegitimate offers (a used Mercedes Benz with a photo ripped from the manufacturer’s website for $400 sounds more like a strong-arm robbery attempt that a legit car sale.)

2003 Chrysler Sebring Convertible LXi

beater carMy freshman year roommate drove one of these around campus and it’s a decent “fake-it-til-you-make-it” ride. Hey, the top comes down at least. The 124K odometer reading is about what you can expect for the asking price of $1,450. While the seller says she is a 64-year-old mom who solely used the car to commute from work and kept it in “excellent condition” – and it’s the only owner – there aren’t any photos. We don’t think this is too good to be true, but you definitely want to pounce on the ad and kindly request some images. Don’t be surprised if they’re sent from an AOL email address.

beater cars2000 Buick Century

The owner says there are “no issues” in the ad for this beater car three times. No need to be so defensive… They claim it’s well maintained, still gets 30+ mpg and runs like new. Yes, there are a lot of used car clichés stuffed into this Craigslist posting, but for $1,400, you can’t be too picky, or too quick to email this seller back. Plus, a Buick Century has a trunk bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

1998 Pontiac Grand Prix

craigslist carHonesty is a good thing when it comes to Craigslist used car postings. But is there such a thing as being too honest? The seller of this Grand Prix readily admits that it’s “not in excellent condition,” has “messed up” rack-and-pinion steering, a driver’s side window that won’t go up, and a driver’s seatbelt that’s busted. Oh, and the check engine light is lit up like a Christmas tree. You could do much worse for $800, and none of these defects sounds like they will break the bank on they own, but passing an inspection likely won’t be a breeze.

2003 Chevy Impala

craigslist carsThe seller makes a big deal about the clean title – something that’s more of a “must have” than “nice to have” – but $1,700 for a solid model with just 132K is worth a look. The Impala is a roomy Sedan with solid handling and 27 highway / 17 city mpg. And there are comparable models from the same year for sale on other sites for 2X – 3X the asking price here.

Diamonds in the Rough…

Our Craigslist used beater cars search turned up some real gems. For example, we found this car… a 2004 Land Rover Discovery SE7. New tires and new brakes? Brush guard, leather interior and running boards? Plus a clean Car Fax report? Yes, yes and yes! This luxury SUV may have ticked through 160K on the odometer, but it’s clear that the upkeep justifies a price tag of $3,495. No one said getting a Craigslist car meant you always had to park in the back of the lot for fear of your friends seeing you.

The Appeal of Driving a Beater Car

Some of us drive beater cars because we have to. Some of us don’t have the cash in pocket or the credit to drive what we really want. When you drive a beater car everything is just a little bit easier and a whole lot cheaper (assuming you know well enough not to buy a total lemon). A beater car will cost less when it comes to both property taxes and auto insurance coverage. If you’re into saving money, a quick search for Craigslist used cars can be a great first step.

If beater cars don’t sound like a safe enough way to save money when buying yourself a car, compare car insurance rates on to at least make sure you can save some cash on your new car.

Car Comparison Guide

Buying a new car isn’t easy. Make sure to get all the facts before you make a decision. Our Car Comparison Guide will lay it all out for you – best trucks, best cars, best SUVs, all at a price you can afford.

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