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AutoTempest – All Your Craigslist Are Belong to Us

Robert Emslie January 18, 2012 For Sale, Reviews 25 Comments

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.

Auto Tempest Just Gives You The Ads, You Still Have to Deal With the Wacko Sellers.

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.

  • PowerTryp

    Oh man, I've been using autotempest for almost a year now to get my automotive search on. It is simultaneously the greatest and worst thing on the internet right now. Unfortunately time to time it gets swapped with atomic toasters and I'm sucked in there for an hour or so.

    • Court AutoTempest

      Glad you like it! If you don't mind me asking, what makes AutoTempest "simultaneously the greatest and worst thing on the internet right now?"

      • PowerTryp

        It's great cause it brings all the major websites together and makes craigslist easy to search. It's the worst cause it makes me want to separate all the cash from my bank account.

        Don't worry the site itself is fluid and I loved it when you changed to the current lay out. I have been wondering though since there arn't many adds on the site if you shouldn't put a donate button down on the bottom somewhere.

        • Court AutoTempest

          Haha well maybe we should put a notice after making a search that warns the user that it may induce them to drop a bit of cash, and that they should seek advice from a financial advisor before proceeding.

          Thanks for the thought, but we do well enough off our ads. We also get paid by some of the listing sites we feature for the referral traffic, so we're doing alright.

          If you do have the undying urge to donate though, we've listed some of our favourite good causes and charities on this page:

          • PowerTryp

            Surgeon General Warning: Use of this product has been known to cause violent separation of cash from bank accounts, wallet lightening and other financial hardships. Use at your own risk.

            Thanks, Keep up the good work and I'll click a few more adds for you.

            • Scandinavian Flick

              If you maintain a deficit for longer than 4 pay cycles, please consult an accountant.

      • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

        I think he may dislike toast…

      • jeepjeff

        Alright, I did a bunch of research on CL a while back (I sent them a resume, they ignored it). In the past, they've taken a hard line against third party aggregators (up to and including regularly altering their site to foil third party screen scrapers). How much time do you guys spend on an arms race with CL over aggregation? Or does their RSS feature make it easy to aggregate all their listings these days?

        (Professional curiosity here. I'm a sysadmin for a tech startup that has nothing to do with classified ads.)

        EDIT: This is what I get for actually doing work and not refreshing before posting. You at least half answered my posting for me. You aren't screen scraping, you are robo-searching and embedding. Nice.

        • Court AutoTempest

          Glad I could help! Yep, we take advantage of the ever helpful but rarely appreciated iframe.

        • Court AutoTempest

          In the Craigslist tab, we also have the "All Cities Together" option that Rob has in the screen cap above. That one uses a Google custom search to find the links, so again, no scraping. If you want to access that feature, just click the "All Cities Together" tab above the individual Craigslist results.

  • m4ff3w

    I miss Jaxed Mash.

  • Court AutoTempest

    Thanks so much for the words of praise Rob! Love the review 🙂

    Just wanted to address a couple of the points you made:

    1. Ya, no aggregated search yet 🙁 Property rights of some of the other sites says we can't use their data, but we can just show their site within ours, which is what we've done. We've thrown around the idea of having an aggregated search that scraped all the sites we can, and left the others in tabs, but as of now, that's just a thought we've kicked around.

    2. Wish we could do more about those funky craigslist results, like the 1999 Saabs coming up when you search for 99s. Since Craigslist doesn't actually let users search by model, we're left having to search for make and model by keywords, which is obviously less than optimal. But if you want to target your search more, you can open the options pane in the Craigslist tab, and select the exact keywords you want to search for. Handy, no?

    Thanks again for the awesome review Rob! And thanks to all you hoons out there for all the love you've given us over the years!

    • Irishzombieman

      Regarding Point #2, I have the same annoyance with old BMW 2002s. I would love to find a search site that could weed out the model year 2002 Beemers and leave me with just the awesome old stuff. I've been using http://www.themccumbers.com/states for forever because I sorta like that it mirrors CL's low-tech, garage sale feel, but limitations like this have been constantly frustrating. Will check yours out when I get some time this week.

      • AutoTempest

        When you do give it a shot, you could always try putting a price limit on it, to get a more exact range. You could also try editing the Craigslist keywords to "BMW 2002" (with quotes), though that may miss a few ads. Let me know if you have any luck!

  • Sadly, no Z3 M Coupes in my neck of the woods.

  • Scandinavian Flick

    Great… just when I had somewhat cured my CL addiction… Just tried it out now, and the browsing on that site is really fluid and easy to use. [MeGusta.jpg]

    "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."

    While I LOLed, I have to contest that 11 year old Land/Range Rovers are heavily depreciated (for obvious reasons) and great for use as semi-luxury off-road floggers.

    Also this: http://www.autotrader.com/fyc/vdp.jsp?ct=p&ca

    • Court AutoTempest

      Haha there was totally one of those beasts sitting outside my apartment building this morning!

      Really glad you like the site! But we do seem to bring out the worst of those from the "Craigslisters Anonymous" camp. Sorry about that.

  • FЯeeMan

    This should come in handy. The son's recently purchased ride just threw a rod, and now we're looking at a replacement. 🙁

    A rebuild may be in the cards over the summer if we can get a decent replacement that can get passed on to the sister who's on her learner's permit/supervised driving for 18 months…

    • B72

      Throwing of rods is pretty rare for civilian duty cycles these days. What kind if vehicle was it? Do you think hoonage was a factor?

      • FЯeeMan

        Maybe "threw a rod" was the wrong choice of words, but a rod is broken – that was the immediate analysis of the severe clunking noise made by the mechanic when we cranked it over outside the shop.

        '98 Subaru Legacy Outback wagon, EJ25 with 211k on the clock. I wouldn't be surprised if there were multiple visits to the red line during his short time with the car, but in general, I think he's been pretty good with it. We bought it expecting to do some work as a good learning example and father/son bonding time, but I wasn't expecting to put more into an engine rebuild/replace 3 months down the road than I paid for it in the first place.

        Anyone know where I can get a low-mileage, running EJ25 for cheap?

  • craigsu

    I used to use Claz.org until CL apparently pounded them over the head about aggregation. It's nice to see such an all-encompassing option available again. Bookmarked!

    • AutoTempest

      Thanks! We take extra precautions so that we don't tip toe outside the lines and get "pounded over the head," so we'll be around for a while to come 🙂

  • adam martin

    Autotempest is a great idea but maybe it's designed only for IE. I've tried it with safari, FF, & chrome and found it to be really clunky with a cluttered appearance. And if I go back and change a search parameter it returns basically garbage. You have to close the browser and start over. Maybe it's because I don't have my browser settings wide open but I'm not going to allow all manner of cookies and tracking just so Autotempest can sell ads, etc.

    • AutoTempest

      Sorry to hear you're having a problem with our site. Your browser setting may have something to do with it, but I can't see it affecting it too adversely. The few cookies that we do use are specifically for remembering your past searches, and your personal preferences. None of them are related to ads. Give a quick check through the Troubleshooting section of our FAQ page, and see if any of that helps.

      If that doesn't help, feel free to email me at court@autotempest.com with more information about your problem.

  • Daniel

    this is not working for me, I found wipzz.comthat works much better. Is not so popular but I believe that will be in the future