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Flip the TV to a Mecum or Barret-Jackson auto auction these days, and you’ve got about a 50 percent chance of seeing a Corvette, Mustang, or Camaro crossing the block. That’s because baby boomers, now in their prime earning years – or comfortably enjoying the benefits of them – can afford the toys they grew up pining for.

Not every classic muscle car is a numbers-matching Fire Engine Red L88 ‘Vette though, and if you’re simply looking for a starter car to turn into a weekend project, it’s more likely you’ll spend your time on Craigslist than at an auction in Scottsdale or Kissimmee. So is it safe to trust what you see on Craigslist, given the site’s at-times-shady rep?

Knowing Where to Look

We’ve all heard the story of the classic car that was found in a barn. Don’t hold your breath for a barn find, but when these things do happen, it’s because people don’t know what they have. Throw some misspellings into the search engine and see what comes up. Also, if you know you’re looking for a specific year, color, etc., use the filters and search without entering the model name. You might be surprised with the results.

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When you do find something, be proactive. Call the owner and make sure they’ve still got the car. It’s also reasonable to ask for more pictures if they’re available. Be sensible about arranging a time to meet up and see the car. Don’t bring cash, but do have a friend ride along with you just to be safe. Lastly, if you suspect a car might be stolen, always report it to the authorities.

Be Smart and Don’t Get Caught Up In The Car

As with any Craigslist sales experience, you’ve got to have your wits about you. Red flags include listings that don’t have pictures or sellers who can’t provide a pink slip for the car. Be sure you know the value of the car. Price on older models is always subject to negotiation, so do some research so you know which items have an impact on value of a given model and year.

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Cars that sound too good to be true probably are. Use caution arranging a place and time to meet someone to view a vehicle. Don’t invest too much faith in their claims about suspect old mechanicals. If they’re quick to tell you there’s no rust, be suspect that there might possibly be some rust. Double-check things and as with any purchase, have a mechanic perform a full inspection before you buy.  Don’t overlook warning signs just because you’re finally seeing the car you’ve always wanted.

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If all signs point to a quality car at a good price, have at it! Don’t let the fact that a car is available through Craigslist keep you from owning the ride you’ve always wanted.

Now you’ve just got to get down to the business of cleaning out a spot in the garage and freeing up some time on the weekends to wrench.

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