Craigslist, Cat Bites, and Neighborly Wisdom

A few months ago my ’99 Subaru gave out on me. Its headlights dimmed to nightlights, rust adorned its quarter panels, and finally, with dramatic flair, the entire exhaust system fell off. It was a jalopy, I know. But, it was my jalopy, and I loved it. With a tight budget and a heavy heart, I began looking for another vehicle. I asked neighbors, friends, and co-workers where they found their used cars. The resounding answer? Craigslist.

The more folks I talked to, the more intrigued I became. Young, not-so-young, affluent, less-affluent—a veritable rainbow of my New Hampshire neighbors bought their cars off of Craigslist. Did I have an especially thrifty social circle? Or was this a manifestation of New Hampshire’s Yankee Spirit? I wasn’t sure.

But, I needed a car. And people sell cars on Craigslist.

The author inspects a Craigslist find. The author inspects a Craigslist find.

I entered my Craigslist car search with trepidation and an active imagination. I envisioned serial killers, scam artists, and an assortment of other creeps lurking behind every seemingly innocuous listing.

As it turns out, New Hampshire’s Craigslist car-selling community is way more interesting (and far less criminal) than I’d imagined. Now, with a Craigslist car in my driveway and no creeps in sight, I’m here to share my observations.

Craigslist is a haven for recreational car salesmen in New Hampshire.

If you browse the NH Craigslist “Cars and Trucks” section, you’re bound to come across what I call recreational car salesmen. These guys buy cars from auctions or insurance companies and then sell them on Craigslist to make extra cash. From what I can tell, Craigslist is like Etsy for car lovers…It’s empowered average Joes to turn their hobbies into profitable endeavors.

Asking people why they’re selling their car can result in unexpected conversations.

When I called a guy in the Lakes Region about an AWD sedan, he ended up telling me about his concern for his daughter. She was away at college, and she wanted a Jeep. Weren’t Jeeps dangerous cars? An inquiry about a Subaru on the Seacoast led to a conversation with an aging adult about the frustrations of losing mobility and independence. One minute you’re talking about maintenance records, the next minute you’re in a deep discussion. Crazy, right?

For some Granite Staters, buying cars on Craigslist is a form of entertainment.

“It’s the thrill of the hunt,” my Dad’s friend explains. “You browse through listings for days and nothing pans out. You look at cars and they turn out to be duds. And then—boom. There’s the car you’ve been looking for.” He’s right. My Craigslist car search was a downright adventure. I measured tire treads in the pouring rain. I test drove a car with cheese holes on the sub-frame. I popped hoods, scrutinized seams, and verified VIN numbers. I was even bitten by a cat. And, I know I sound ridiculous, but every misadventure made the victory of finding a car that much sweeter.

I’m not saying that there aren’t bad people on Craigslist. There are. (If you’re thinking of buying a car off the site, start by reading Forbes’ list of safety tips and Car & Driver’s strategies for success.) This is just my story. And, it’s a good one. I met car-selling entrepreneurs, I talked to interesting people across New Hampshire, and I got a great car. I guess my neighbors knew what they were talking about after all.

One Response to “Craigslist, Cat Bites, and Neighborly Wisdom”

  1. Stephen ThomasJanuary 23, 2020 at 4:32 pm #

    I have had a great experience on Craig’s list buying and selling cars . Yes it can be a little annoying with so many Gypsy’s out their buying and selling cars . But all you need to is ask the right questions and if they seen honest then great . Just be certain you have a mechanic or a knowledgeable person with you . I was in the automobile business 35 years and have seen it all . But the bad ones do not last long . So just have someone in your corner . Thanks

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