Whether you are buying or selling a car, truck, or kidney, the traditional advertising channel of the newspaper classifieds is no longer of significant value. Use of the paper’s antiquated ink on greyed cellulose is fine if you’re selling an iron lung or medicine ball, but for a target audience not yelling at the damn kids on their lawn, there’s this thing called the Internet. And while some use it only for pørn and 140-character updates on the banality of their existence, the Internet’s really super handy should you want to buy or sell stuff, and should that stuff include a car, there’s an even handier tool to help you do so.
AutoTempest goes all the way back to 2006 when it debuted as Hank’s Helper and then evolved as a sister site to the more general, Search Tempest. Over time, more auto-related sites have been added to the engine, and in October of 2011, a new, revamped search tool was introduced. One of the cool things about the team behind AutoTempest has been their engagement with the tool’s users, and the fact that they’ve never been tools with their users. In addition to the search results, AutoTempest has along the way included surveys and questionnaires asking what other tools their users might like. It’s like, oh I don’t know, customer service for free!
But the main function of AutoTempest to this day is the broad-reach search of cars for sale across multiple online ad sites. That includes the traditional staples of classified ads- Craig’s List and Auto Trader, but also eBay, Cars.com, CarsDirect and Vehix. Not only does it offer you one stop access to the major general sales web sites, but more importantly, it lets you see them all regardless of geography.
If you’re a Craigslist stalker like I am, you know what a boon that is. In both the list that Craig provides as well as others, the geographic delineation offered by the site may not match yours, making searches a laborious multiple window effort. With AutoTempest, you plug in the make and model – and they offer most all the mainstream ones as well as a few off-the-wall ones – and then tell it how many miles from home you are willing to look. You can also select your search results by model year and price ranges as well as a wild card such as convertible or extra chewy.
As you can see in the above screen shot of Craigslist results for the valuable and desirable Geo Prism, they show up in descending order by date. you can also suppress ads without pictures if you happen to be from Missouri. eBay and the other sites work pretty much the same way, although none is quite as fast to load as is Craigslist. Also, you still have to go between the various sites as there’s no inra-site aggregator.
So, does it all work? Yup, pretty much as advertised. You throw in a set of criteria and AutoTempest will give you back a bunch of ads that meets them. It’s not all wine and roses however as sometimes the algorithms get a little wonky, such as when looking up Saab 99s and receiving instead a screen full of 1999 Saab 93s. I’ve also been looking for Rover 2000s and have been served whole bunch of eleven year old Range Rovers. That, of course was not my intent, nor should it be anyone’s.
Still, you’d be hard pressed to find a handier tool for either looking up car ads with the intent of purchase or just to determine ballpark values of something taking up space in your garage. AutoTempest also rolled out in their October update a bunch of car buying guides and aids, in case you don’t have a brother in law who is an expert in all things none of his business. Plus for you Canucks, AutoTrader.ca now represents. Looking to the future, the Auto Tempest team says their working on improved mobile support, simultaneous multiple vehicle search functionality, and saved searches so you can reminisce about that $300 Lambo that got away.
Full Disclosure: No animals were hurt in the creation of this review.