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At the end of April, 2003, Mark Willett from Boston wrote and asked if I had any information on the "free car" websites. I didn't realize free car sites were around still, but he motivated me to do some poking around. 

Immediately I checked google, and sure enough, in their adwords section on the right side of the results screen, there were eight ads for websites offering free cars.

The free car sites want to sell you the easy road to free car ownership. They tell the story of companies anxious to pay you $500-$3,200 a month to wrap your car in advertising, or offering a free car to good drivers. 

They sell their directory for $19 to $29:

My favorite name above is "instant free cars".

"free car directory" was introduced to me through spam email.

A free car. With advertising. I doubt it.


It struck me as a scam, but without paying the fee, I couldn't figure out exactly how it worked. There didn't seem to be any information revealing the "free car" secrets. I figured that there would be some unanticipated surprise, like you have to drive one of their salesmen around, or you have to wear a chicken costume or something.

I decided the best way to figure out and expose the scam was to pay the fee. I posted an auction, asking for financial help from the readers. The auction was a success, raising more than enough money to fund the project. The winner was Jim Carson from Seattle, Washington. Without his contribution, this story would not have been written. 

He paid immediately, and I got to work.

It was very strange to contribute to a scam.

In my investigation of the herbalife company, I had been able to find all kinds of information without spending a dime simply using google, ebay, and phone calls. But in the case of the free cars, I was actually giving money to the organization I was fighting against.


Each free-car site uses Paypal or Clickbank for payment. Only two had business addresses listed (post office boxes), and none had a phone number.

I chose a free car site with strong promises:

They have step-by-step instructions:

  1. Sign Up Now!
  2. Apply Online Instantly! 
  3. Drive A Free Car!

I paid my $25 and was directed to a new page that tempered my non-existent expectations. It warned "Getting a company to sponsor you isn't easy" and "If you are going to park the car in your garage most of the time then don't even bother applying".

The next page was not a list of companies that needed drivers, but a list of 22 websites for car-wrapping companies.

Here they are! Act excited, because this list costs 25 bucks:

These sites each allow you to register as someone who is ready to drive a wrapped car.

I chose seven sites that seemed the most legitimate and completed the forms honestly.

Each site had a 2-6 page application process with up to 50 questions. I gave my personal details such as address,  hobbies, how far I drive each day, where I park my car, what freeways I use and whether I would be willing to attend special events. They didn't ask about my driving record.

The whole experience had a feeling of absurd futility to it. It was like filling out an application to be a movie star.









Please continue reading page three.

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Copyright 2003