By on January 8, 2016

auction1

I buy a lot of cars, which means I often find myself thinking about car sellers and buyers. These are two interesting groups of human beings. In many cases, they’re openly trying to screw you. In other cases, they have no idea they’re screwing you, and you don’t discover they have until four days later when you go to put your briefcase in the trunk and it’s full of rain water.

This got me thinking: What is the least trustworthy group of automotive sellers in existence?

I’ve bought cars from all of them. New car dealers. Used car dealers. Family members, friends, auctions, and strangers on the Internet, from Craigslist to Cars.com to Autotrader to web forums. Every transaction is a little different. And every time, I’m wonder to myself: Is this person going to screw me?

That’s why I’m soliciting your opinion on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart (and wallet). Which car seller can you count on to be the very worst?

It isn’t the new car dealers, I’ll tell you that.

Oh, sure, the occasional new car dealer gets caught up in some stupid fraud, and some of the ratty dealers that should’ve been closed long ago still apply absurd sales tactics that are laughable and idiotic. But the vast majority of new car dealers realize they have a reputation to uphold — and they do just that. I recently bought a car from a new car dealer and they were tremendously professional the entire time, bending over backwards to make sure I received everything outlined as we were making the sale. Okay, so it took a little leg work on my part, but car dealers never promised they’d make it easy.

That experience is a lot better than used car dealers, I’ll tell you that. Used car dealers seem to be a little more on the iffy side; the “say whatever it takes” salespeople you see on television who make big promises only to take them away on a whim. Then again, we can’t say this of all used car dealers. Our own Steve Lang is clearly a pretty trustworthy guy. Some used car dealers make an effort to ensure their inventory is top quality, or at least they stand buy their product if it fails soon after a sale.

Which is why I’ve never quite understood the bad rap that car dealerships get. I, personally, have always felt that the worst person to buy a car from is a private seller. Private sellers are intimately acquainted with the vehicle they’re selling. They know the ins and outs of how a vehicle runs, how it drives, and how to use its features — and yet they always seem to know how to disguise its laundry list of issues.

I think private sellers don’t get a bad rap because dealing with private sellers is sort of a general issue of dealing with human beings, and we all know that dealing with human beings can be a horrible experience. So people just sort of assume you know what you’re getting into with private sellers. They may be great, or they may stab you.

I admit, some private sellers are indeed pretty great; the guy who keeps all his service records, and detailed log books, and fixes the car every time something breaks. And, by God, he doesn’t start revving the engine until the needle moves off the “C” and into the middle of the temperature gauge. This is the guy who tells you the trunk leaks rainwater before you toss your briefcase inside.

But how often do you find this guy? The answer: never. You’re much more likely to find the guy who says he “can’t find” his oil change receipts when he knows he hasn’t actually changed the oil since his kids had PlayStation 2 games on their Christmas lists.

This is especially true if you find your car seller on Craigslist. I’ve found that Autotrader and Cars.com people are generally slightly better sellers, largely because they’re paying for the ad. But Craigslist people? They are so cheap they couldn’t even be bothered to pay money to offer their car for sale. You think this person is going to have service records from his 2004 tire rotation at Jiffy Lube?

But maybe nothing is as bad as a car auction, which is where the real crazies come out. Not only are the cars that go through a public auto auction usually pretty rough, but when you win a car at auction, you’re by definition the biggest loser. You’re the guy who was willing to pay more than anyone else for that particular vehicle. It doesn’t help that you usually only get a few minutes to look over each car before deciding to make a purchase.

So what say you? Are private sellers as bad as I say? Would you rather buy from a private seller than from a dealership? Has anyone ever actually bought a decent car from a car auction? With issues like these, you start to understand why people buy new cars. Almost. You almost understand.

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119 Comments on “And the Worst Car Seller Is …...”


  • avatar
    wristtwist

    I’ve had a reasonable run of luck with family friends. And one purchase at Carmax that made me understand why that model is so great for so many people (who dont really care what they drive). Family has had bad new stealership experiences (thanks NJ) and a number of iffy private sales.

    Doug, I really enjoyed your new car, especially the license plate. Looking forward to your year with this one.

  • avatar
    ajla

    In my opinion, car dealer (new and used) transactions are WAY worse than dealing with private sellers (aside from curbstoners, who are their own scum category and are likely criminals).

    With a private seller, I pay for the inspection and if I still want the car, I say one number, they say another one, I say a final number, then I either own the car or I don’t. And if I buy the car, I handle everything from there. The whole thing takes like 15 minutes.

    There’s no dealer fee, no incentive labyrinth, no extended warranty you have to decline 4 times, no F&I spiel to suffer through, no “Let me talk to my manager”, no $400 pinstripes and $500 mudflaps, no title/transfer/tag hassles, no satisfaction survey, no writing 90 emails, and no sitting around.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I’ve never really had any of that with any of my new car purchases – well, every dealer here charges some kind of BS doc fee, but never anything egregious, $299 on my latest car. You need to find a better dealer. Or stop buying Toyotas down south. Or something. It should be easy and fun.

      I think Doug is off by a bit, though I agree new car dealers are the best. I think the WORST are used car dealers who sell on eBay. They care much less about their reputations (feedback scores are largely BS), and the car is less likely to be as good as it looks in pictures. And since there is more likely to be distance involved, and that nominal idea that an auction is binding (it isn’t on cars on eBay), people are less likely to walk away.

      Private sellers and local used car dealers are in the middle somewhere.

      Ultimately, in the past 30 years I have bought something like 35 cars. 6 new, the rest used. Very, very few bad experiences. No bad experiences buying new cars.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Every dealer here in FL is really bad compared to what I experienced in MI.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Too many industry people and their friends/family for Detroit area dealers to [email protected] around with ridiculous things. I have five Ford dealerships within 5-10 miles of me. Every one will sell you a vehicle well under MSRP and won’t beat you up in the F&I office. Pretty much the same goes for FCA and GM.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          There are hundreds of thousands of employees of auto manufacturers or Tier I or Tier II automotive parts suppliers in Michigan, all whom receive genuine employee or slightly less better genuine OEM supplier pricing, haggle free, in Michigan.

          In fact, all told, in Michigan, between the manufacturers & suppliers, their could be as many as 1 out of every 9 such people entitled to such hassle free discounts (in a state of 11 million people), which would approximately equal 1 million persons.

          And the salespeople who handle those transactions get either a flat $50 to $100 per sale or lease handled for doing those deals.

          This tends to create business pressure that favors larger, more efficiently run dealerships in Michigan, on average, than in other states.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It’s all about volume. The guy that I have order me new vehicles averages 40+ vehicle sales a month. Most are A/X/Z plan deals.

          • 0 avatar
            johnny_5.0

            Makes mental note to look at some MI dealerships for my next Big 3 purchase…

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            You should. Find a dealership that will order you a car. At worst, you should be able to pay X-plan at most (unless it is a special performance vehicle).

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          So don’t buy cars in FL if it is that bad. Vacation!

        • 0 avatar
          Garagezone

          That is what I’ve experienced in FL as well.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        If you don’t think $299 is egregious, they’ve already brainwashed you beyond hope. How much do you think the file clerk makes there? Let’s be generous and assume she gets $15 an hour and she gets benefits equivalent to another 15. So, the labor cost to handle the documents, which basically means gathering all those forms and records together and sticking them in a folder, is at most $30. [If it takes the clerk an entire hour to process one sale she’ll likely be out the door in no time.]

        Somehow they’ve managed to convince you that the dealer cannot survive in business if he isn’t compensated 300 bucks for this laborious process which in another time would have been called “the cost of doing business”. When the girl at MickyD’s stuffs your food in the bag, what do they get as a “packaging charge”?

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          My comment above references TRUE employee or Tier I/II supplier pricing sales/leases, where the salesperson makes a nominal flat fee for handling the paperwork, and the vehicle is actually brownfield at factory invoice, or often, less than that (due to volume incentives and holdback cash from the manufacturer).

          In general, new car dealerships (selling new or used vehicles) are absolute scumbag operations, where everything from parts to labor is marked up 300% to 1200% over cost, and the average consumer is raped at every step along the way whether its the sale/lease, service or otherwise.

          • 0 avatar
            FloorIt

            Yeah, every time I buy a new car no matter how prepared and on my toes I think I am, I always afterwards feel I’d rather have gotten my wisdom teeth pulled out w/o anesthetic than buy a new car.

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            True that. The service department is the REAL profit center at most dealerships. I won’t mention the parts markup because it is obscene.

      • 0 avatar
        DeeDub

        I agree, eBay sellers are the worst. Reasonable people can disagree about the ordering of other seller types, but ebayers are inarguably the bottom of the barrel.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          So true ! .

          I’ve bought two off E-Bay and was shamelessly lied to about the rust both times .

          Being honest I was able to re sell one after I’d repaired all the funky mechanicals so it ran well and drove nicely .

          -Nate

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Like your auction picture above I’d go with Auctions. With used car dealers or even private party sales you can look over the car pretty well, test drive it or perhaps have it inspected by a mechanic as a condition of purchase.

    A lot of times at an auction you may have about 1 minute while it’s in line to look it over (can’t drive it or get under it) to make a decision.

    I’ve been to auction one time and I’ll never do it again. Well maybe never is too much but if I did do it again I’d go with a bodyshop guy and I’d want at least 20 minutes to go over the cars I’m interested in before they are in line.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Most auctions there is a preview where you can go through the cars plenty before you bid. You can’t drive them, but I would always pull forward and back. Look under the car. The problem with auctions today is that prices have become too unrealistic. At public auctions, cars can go for more than dealer retail. I think you need to be saving at least 25% to make it worth it.

  • avatar
    morbo

    I think you’re conflating two ‘worsts’. There’s the worst physical vehicle you’re going to buy. Then there’s the worst sales experience.

    By large, New Car Dealers will have the worst experience, outside of a AutoNation/CarMax/Scion/Old Saturn/ one price fits all experience. Lord knows I’ve kvetched about Old Man Kerbeck et al and the shady, screamy, slimy, fee add-on-ny tactics they use. But at least a new car comes with a factory warranty or a CPO type setup. Plus by nature of it being a new car dealer, you’re generally getting a higher quality car.

    Flipside, the Auctions probably have the worst physical cars, and best experience is either Auctions or Private depending on your tolerance for the filthy human meatbags you deal with.

    But it all sucks compared to buying other consumer goods.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Experiences vary.

      I’ve purchased three used cars in the last 2.5 years (one for a relative). All three from different dealerships. All three positive experiences. Prices were fair.

      A key is that we didn’t use dealership financing for any of them. Never even considered “extras” from any of them. Those are the areas that are trouble (and areas that make the dealers a lot of money).

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        Dealership financing varies too.

        On a new vehicle it’s almost always the best way to go, since a litany of incentives are almost always tied to it.

        Outside of a new vehicle though, I always recommend you secure your own financing through a bank/CU and when you’re at the dealer with the F&I guy, tell him that but give him the opportunity to try and get you better terms.

        Finally, always know what you can afford and shop and negotiate on price. Shopping payment (unless someone else is paying for your lease) is a good way to get yourself into a bad situation.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    From what I’ve seen, the scummiest car seller is the one dealing with a naive buyer.

    The internet is chock full of data on value, reputation and reliability for those people who choose to take responsibility for their transactions.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Spot on. I don’t get the kvetching about new car dealers. New cars are a commodity, if Shady Dave isn’t treating you right, go to Righteous Rick and buy the EXACT SAME CAR. And in the internet era there is simply no excuse for not knowing who Shady Dave is. All the dealers for a brand Shady Daves? There is a plethora of other brands to choose from. If you live in that crazy area with the regional Toyota distributor down south, and you simply MUST have a Toyota, buy a plane ticket. It’s probably cheaper than the add-ons and fees.

      We have SO much information at our fingertips. When I bought my latest BMW, I had a *40+* page forum thread on exactly what deals people got on the model I was interested in, with every possible detail from European Delivery Invoice price to fees to negotiating tactics, to a couple dealers out West who will simply do Euro Delivery deals for $500 over Euro invoice all day every day (but relatively high fees). And I saved about $8000 off US MSRP, from my local dealer that is 2 miles from my house. Which took one 10 minute sit down at the dealer and three e-mails to the sales person to negotiate. For a car in relatively short supply due to BMW’s dealer allocation system (Euro delivery sales don’t count, you see). I didn’t get the BEST deal in that 40 pages, but I got pretty darned close. My time arguing or traveling long distance for delivery is not worth $500 on a $50K car. But a couple hours of enjoyable research paid off quite nicely, I think.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        If I need to FLY TO MAINE all the way across the country to avoid the “Shady Dave” types then doesn’t that just support that new car dealers are the worst?

        You can say I’m stupid for grinding it out with a jackhole Southeast dealer (and maybe I am), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still jackholes.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          You can play the hand you are dealt, or you can leave the game. Your choice.

          And Maine is MUCH nicer than Florida in the summer – come on up for a visit.

        • 0 avatar
          Tim_Turbo

          I sell new cars in Maine. While your experience may vary, I think in general the dealership experience here is less pushy and gamey than in other places-especially where there is a large population. Here chances are that the person buying the car has some connection to me, my family, or my friends, or a friend of a friend. You tend to treat people a little different when they are not just “an up”.

          • 0 avatar
            brn

            I wanna give a nod to small town Wisconsin.

            A previous employer of mine owned a car dealer (three, with the same GM) in the middle of Wisconsin. The GM was constantly arguing with corporate about how to run the business. His key argument was that he needed to not only treat the community well, but that he needed to be involved (sponsor softball teams, have a parade float, etc). If he couldn’t maintain community trust, he couldn’t sell cars.

            Kudos to Wisconsin.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @krhodes1:

        Agreed. When the local Scion dealer tried a bait-and switch on me, I simply drove a couple hours away to get the car I wanted.

        Actually, I’ve purchased three vehicles quite a distance from home; the other two were some 5 hours’ drive. The distance can serve as a negotiating tool. I’ve told them “I’m only in town today, so this is my offer.”

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Buying a commodity car? This advice is good and easy to follow.

        Buying a rare car (which can be something as simple as one with a manual transmission or an uncommon option combo)? Sometimes you’re stuck dealing with the jackhole. There are ways of helping yourself. You can pretend to be more interested than you are in other somewhat-similar cars, and of course you can be armed to the teeth with research and information. But in the end dealing with a jackhole is always a lousy experience.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        krhodes, I disagree.

        Case in point: I recently was advising a very intelligent, conscientious young woman who is not a car person about car buying. She did all that online due diligence, and as a result, discovered to her chagrin that she’d walked into a trap of a dealership that had posted over 250 fraudulent consumer reviews. She fled after hours of ick, but it wasn’t her fault she had to endure that in the first place. This business is still broken. When other business models inevitably exterminate it someday, it will have only itself to blame.

        As for traveling hundreds of miles to find a business that isn’t shady, some of us don’t have the time for that. What’s more, in principle it simply shouldn’t be necessary. It reminds me of Ronald Reagan’s blithely writing off whole sections of America by telling those who live in economically depressed regions that they should “vote with their feet” and move somewhere that had jobs. Today, I guess he’d advise we all buy cars from far-flung dealerships and learn to speak Mandarin.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Scummy dealerships are somewhat geographic dependent. Good like buying a car from dealer stock in Tucson that doesn’t have the Desert Protection Package or something stupid.

  • avatar

    New Car Dealers: With the increasing popularity of CPO, most dealers will have a selected choice of their own make cars that have been inspected to some degree. As you say they have a reputation to uphold.

    Used Car Dealers: The nature of the used car business, for any dealer to earn a living, they have to close an eye on some deficiencies to uphold a “market price” to attract customers. The buyer in many instances does not realize that they are buying a vehicle at a market price that will require additional reconditioning.

    Auctions: The highest bidder wins, which implies that if you own a vehicle you paid the highest price at that moment and time. Between disclosures, accident reports, inspections, cosmetic detailing (camouflaging) done at the auction. Still have to spend money to recondition the vehicle.

    Private Seller: If the individual is asking a strong price, disclose maintenance, and shortcomings if any, will also have a challenge to attract buyers. Most sellers will have “instant amnesia”, what you see is what you get, and be prepared to spend additional money.

    Technology has turned the used car market into a “market price” with “market price” vehicles reconditioned to “market price standards” one of the reason CPO is gaining increasing popularity.

    Back in the day, reconditioning, was putting value back in a vehicle to make it unique and have an advantage. Today with technology the market price rules in most cases. Why would anyone put value, in a vehicle to raise it above the market price.

    • 0 avatar
      andyinatl

      Re: private seller. I have sold cars before for more than what their value/comparables were, based on strong service history. They usually sold quickly too, as people were too tired of misrepresented vehicles on Craigslist, spending 30 minutes to drive somewhere only to find that car was held together by crazy glue and staples. I gave many high quality pictures, ALWAYS pointed out shortcomings, even if they were tiny door dings, and provided full service history. Sold my wife’s V70 for $1500 more than comparable models were selling with similar mileage this way. I overpriced it on purpose because i really wanted to hold on to it, but my wife wanted the money, and it sold within a week.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Used cars are used cars. By definition they aren’t perfect, with rare exceptions. Caveat Emptor. I always figured any $5K car I bought would immediately need a minimum of $1500 in parts put into it, and I was rarely wrong. Only idiots like me sell near perfect, completely documented used cars (but I usually have a line when I am ready to sell a car). Automotive ADD is a terrible disease. But a fun hobby!

      Auctions are their own special thing. “Auction fever” is quite real, and has made many people pay way too much for all sorts of things.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        You have to set a limit and stick too it. I have left many auctions afterwards realizing I should have gone up a couple hundred more, but I never left paying more than I wanted too. You just don’t have thinking time at an auction, so you have to think before hand and stay strict to your limit.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    There may be trends involved in which experience is the worst, but they all have the potential to be miserable. They can all even be great, for what it is worth. There are even people on craigslist who represent their cars honestly and price reasonably to reflect their thrift. Of course those people will probably trade in their next car to the dealer in exchange for floormats after they’ve met typical craigslist buyers…

    • 0 avatar
      frozenman

      This is so true! I have tried to sell two cars privately and now suffer with a phobia about answering the phone, also require expensive counselling for my misanthropy.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      I can understand the sentiment, your faith in humanity gets tested.

      But when I add up my time to sell a car myself, it comes out to about a thousand dollars an hour vs what a dealership would give me.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The man I bought my Legend from is one of those sellers. He had a lot of choice words about the “bottomfeeders and lowballers” he had dealt with until I called him. I doubt he’ll do it again anytime soon.

      There is a dealer out there who will buy any car I want to sell for close enough to the private-party price to make avoiding the hassle worth it. Sometimes it takes awhile to find that dealer, but getting quotes from dealers is FAR less painful than dealing with the general public.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      My least favorite thing in the world is selling a used car. I look at what the private sales are going for (not the outrageous prices people are asking). My cars are clean and well maintained. I still ask notably below market value, so I can get it overwith quickly.

      I may as well stamp “sucker” on my forehead. The vermin come out. They waste a ton of my time, abusing my car during test drives, and try to get the car for near free. On top of that, they claim non-existent issues with the vehicle and expect a bumper to bumper warranty (on 10 to 15 year old cars that are creampuffs). Yes, I walk away from the deal, but it’s a huge waste of time (they always want to test drive during business hours) to deal with one after another.

      There are good buyers, but there are so many more bad buyers. Car buying brings out the worst in people. It makes me feel sorry for dealers.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Tell buyers when you can meet with them. If they won’t work with you on a mutually agreeable time, then they’re playing a power game and you’ve just saved yourself the time of dealing with them.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Back in Jan 2011, I sold off all the vehicles I had parked on my property, after I bought my 2011 Tundra.

          It was the deal I had made with my wife to do that – if I bought the Tundra I had to get rid of everything else I had hoarded.

          I didn’t go high tech but just placed an ad in the Thrifty Nickel, the Sentinel and a few other local rags along with some 3×5 cards on the Bulletin Boards at Allsup’s, 7/11, Wal-Mart and K-Mart.

          The response was overwhelming but in my area cheap used cars are in great demand with illegal aliens. They need something to leave the state with, once they get their New Mexico drivers license.

          After I sold all of the vehicles, I went to the local Convenience Center, essentially the local Dump, and invited the Mexican nationals hauling off the metal and scrap iron to Mexico to come to my place to see if they could use anything I had left that needed to be hauled off.

          So, in short, I had a great and profitable experience. Within one week, everything I wanted gone, cars, trucks, scrap metal, oil drums, everything was gone and I had extra money in my pocket. The trucks brought enormous sums of money for their vintage.

          I believe that being there all the time, not by appointment only, contributed greatly to the expedience of completing my cleanup project.

          When I sold my wife’s 1992 Towncar in 2008, my 2006 F150 and my 1988 Silverado in 2011, I didn’t care about playing a power game. I was only interested in selling the vehicles.

          And I did. I was there when the buyers could make it. And everybody was a happy camper.

          Then again, I live in the wide open spaces where a man’s word is his bond and people don’t play private-seller power games.

  • avatar
    Rusty Brinkley

    I just purchased my car via a car auction…but it was a “one in a million” find.

    First, I’m friends with the general manager of a dealership who has access to Ford auctions. He was able to get me a 2015 Ford Focus that had been damaged in its initial transit from the factory. The vehicle was repaired to factory spec and sold via the auction…where it was purchased for me. Most hassle-free car-buying experience I’ve ever had. Again, lots of trust here since I have an established relationship with a dealer who had my best interests in mind.

    Fortunately, the vehicle arrived in factory-fresh condition. I was under no obligation to buy the vehicle but I had seen the auction report and had been informed of the damage the car received.

    So, in the end, I got a car that I enjoy for $7000 below MSRP…and I don’t have to worry about being “upside down” on the loan.

  • avatar
    rba86

    I’ve had a variety of experiences at new car dealerships that cover the spectrum.

    There’s Acton Toyota — which I consider the bizarro dealership. They don’t try to screw you or upsell you on stuff they know you don’t want. Massachusetts dealers charge a “documentation fee” that can vary. Theirs was relatively low, but when discussing sale prices they would always say “plus the doc. fee of $x”. They never tried to hide it like other dealers. We purchased a CPO vehicle that had it’s front brakes recently changed, but not the rear ones. They made it very clear that they would need to be replaced in a few months and gave us a quote and made sure we wouldn’t be surprized.

    Dealerships owned by Herb Chambers seem to fit the stereotype. Salesmen flat-out lied about the number of previous owners, mileage, service records, etc while quickly leafing through the Car Fax. He didn’t expect me to ask to see report and seemed genuinely surprised when I pointed out his lies. It seems that many people fall for these tactics.

    And finally — somewhere in the middle — a Toyota dealer that I don’t want to name. When I bought my FR-S they were they only ones who would sell me what I wanted: a white manual without any add-ons. Everything went well until the paperwork. He forgot to have me sign some papers, twice. I lived 50 miles away so he offered to drive to me, which I thought was a good recognition of his mistakes. There was also some trouble registering and insuring the car, because “Scion” is not a manufacturer so everything kept being rejected. It took a few days for the car to actually be registered and insured after it arrived in their lot. They had the right attitude, but just weren’t well-organized.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Oh god. I had a miserable experience at Herb Chambers Honda in 2006. I didn’t handle it particularly well — it taught me some lessons about buying cars — but those guys were scum.

    • 0 avatar
      mchan1

      Dealt with Herb Chambers Honda dealerships in the past and the sales reps were terrible… Many were young and and seemed to cater to the European crowd, IMO… Not very polite or friendly.

      VW Wellesley had some nice sales people but I felt sorry for them. Once you start a deal, the sales manager and finance manager were the biggest jerks, esp. the latter. Sold my new VW Golf and asked for refunds on most options that I bought which took about 3-4 months later and had to get the MA Atty General’s Consumer Affairs involved. Never again will I deal with VW!

      Colonial Nissan was relatively friendly and took their time with me. The sales person was relatively patient and friendly. The finance manager disclosed many items and didn’t argue when I declined many options. Bought the car in a few hours on the same day and drove home with it though needed a few things to be properly corrected later but needed it for work. I would refer people to them.

      You’d think that dealers would treat customers as real ‘people’ considering the ‘word’ that people can spread about them. Some dealerships are relatively good, others… not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      ” It seems that many people fall for these tactics.”

      Yes, those tactics are deplorable! But the name of the game in this business is to SELL, not jaw away the face time. The salesperson can’t make money jaw jacking – they’ve got to close the deal.

      The salesmanager usually signals the salesperson when a person has been identified as a serious potential buyer, and not just a lookey-loo. When that happens, the salesperson listens more to what you have to say, instead of trying to dazzle you with brilliance.

      If a salesperson tries to baffle you with BS, you didn’t make the grade – you were not identified as a serious potential buyer. Time to move on.

      You ALWAYS have the option to disengage and take your business elsewhere. Plenty of dealers nationwide that will accommodate your automotive wants, needs, lusts and desires.

    • 0 avatar
      whynotaztec

      I have had a very good experience at Honda Village in Newton, twice actually. Also quirk chev in Braintree.

      Craigslist is brutal as a seller

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    I would say used car dealers are the worst when it comes to inventory. They don’t usually have repeat customers and small if any amount of trade ins. So they have to get all the franchise dealer/carmax rejects that trickle down at the dealer auctions. If any car is worthwhile, it’ll be sold at franchise dealer’s used car lot or at Carmax.

    With regards to service, i’ve dealt mostly with new car dealers, even when it came to used car purchases, and domestic brand dealers (and Toyota) are worst in my opinion. I’ve dealt with small Mazda dealer, hometown Lexus and Honda dealers, and transactions were usually pretty quick. But whenever domestic/Toyota dealer was involved, oh boy…. Why does it take 15 minutes each time salesperson goes to talk to the manager, and this never ending shpiel at F&I office. I can not wait until this dealer model goes out of business and we order our cars online like we can all the rest of products. If someone wants to do a sale, you enter a promo code and get that car cheaper… maybe it’s just a pipe dream.

    I’ve owned 52 cars since 1996 (i tend to get bored fairly fast), but i’ve been holding on to my last two cars for 2 years already, and hopefully for lot longer. I’m not looking forward to dealing with blasted dealers again…

  • avatar
    threeer

    Funny, I just sold my last car via an ad on Craigslist. I had posted it on Autotrader, but got nada. Three days on Craigslist, and I had three solid offers. Granted, this was for a 2011 Scion tC, with service records from the day we drove it off the lot. I guess I was one of those “rare” sellers mentioned. But I find that doing a bit of research to properly price a car makes a ton of difference (I look at several sources, then take an average of the averages, so to speak, to come up with an asking price).

    On the buying side, used car buying from a used car dealership usually is the worst, relatively speaking. I’ve also had some stressful deals at new car dealerships. I’ve bought one car from CarMax and can see the appeal, despite the typically higher transaction price when compared to other dealers or even private party. Oh, and I did buy one car at auction, a 1982 BMW 320i that was fairly ratty, but for what I paid for it, I drove it for a year and then sold it privately for exactly what I had in it, so a virtually free car for a year. That transaction was pretty smooth.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    I prefer private sellers. Yeah, much of what’s on Craigslist is crap, but when you find a legit, trustworthy seller (not so hard to discern) it can’t be beat.

    Used dealers I find terrifying. Taking unknown auction material and marking it up $5K? Tell me how that benefits me as the buyer. There are some good ones out there, but the extra cost is mainly a benefit to the low information buyer.

    New dealers add no value to me, but at least they are selling a well-defined product.

  • avatar
    PeterKK

    I’ve had good luck with private sellers. I have mostly bought from friends, though. People who just happened to be selling a car I was interested in at the time.

    The last two cars I have bought were:

    1. Guy lied through his teeth, and I was an absolute IDIOT for buying the car. So mutual fault, I guess.

    2. Guy was pretty up front. Car started falling apart a little, but this was as likely me as him. So it’s all good. I still haven’t done all the work it needs, sigh…

    There was that one guy I didn’t buy from. He started getting a little neurotic on me and I just didn’t feel into doing business with him anymore. I don’t regret it. Love my current car. Just worried I may have been a little two-faced on his end.

    I had a good experience at the used car lot with our van. They said they’d give us a new battery if ours died. It did, and they followed through.

    It’ll be a while yet before we are financially flush enough for a new car, but I don’t expect that to go horribly, though I have had at least one neighbor who had a bad time at a hyundai dealership of all places.

  • avatar
    matador

    The worst private sellers are the ones who are “mechanics”. Not real mechanics mind you, but the guy who knows just enough to never take a car in. The car will be running, but held together with countless bandages, many not a sound repair.

    Auctions are two-faces- fleet/government auctions are completely different than the public ones. I bought my old Dodge truck through a municipal auction. Even though there were no records, it was easy to tell that the truck was cared-for.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Amen brother!
      I bought a five year old 2000 Taurus through a private seller who happened to be a part time farmer. He talked up the service on the car and how he replaced the fuel injectors. After I had the car a few months, I noticed the smell of gasoline. Turned out there was a small leak from the injector manifold hidden under the upper intake air manifold.
      I removed the manifold and was aghast to find that the FI manifold had been broken and glued back together. I ended up replacing the whole manifold with a a used manifold with all six injectors from a local junk yard for $60.
      He also broke the EGR tube and cobbled it back together with a muffler bandage and cement. I replaced it with a new one for $40.
      Thankfully, that was the only “repair” he did.
      After I fixed his botched job, I remembered a conversation I had with a co-worker who grew up in the Texas panhandle. He told me never to buy anything your couldn’t eat from a farmer. They have too much time on their hands in the winter and get in over their heads with projects they are not equipped for or capable of. His case was a house he bought from a farmer who did a lot of “wiring”, none of it to code and some downright unsafe.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Homeowner done electrical wiring is terrifying! Junction boxes everywhere! Different gauges of wire sliced together! Who needs to ground that box?!??! What a nightmare.

        • 0 avatar
          tresmonos

          I sold a house during a divorce in 2009. New homeowners didn’t like the 1/2 bath / new bedroom remodel wiring job the previous owner did – lots of stuff my inspector didn’t catch. Spliced wires, you name it. I had only owned the house for 7 months.

          So they asked for a junction box every 10′ or so in the attic. I rewired the SOB while chain smoking / drinking Jack Daniels and putting out my cigarettes in the old 1950’s insulation hoping that house would burn down and my ex wife wouldn’t get half of my 40% downpayment I fronted. New owners got a lot of value added Camel Light butts in the attic along with inside each ‘meticulously wired’ new junction box. I’m pretty sure I relieved myself up there too when I blacked out and didn’t want to climb down to use the restroom.

          Your fear of home owner DIY wiring is justified. Never torque off a seller if he or she is selling in the midst of a divorce.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            This post is why we come to TTAC.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            You still probably did a better job than some contractors. I fired a GC and didn’t pay him because he refinished my wood floors before doing demo in other parts of the house. He was told not to touch the floors until I gave him the go ahead.

            I just replaced the wiring from my breaker box to my garage. Dug up and replaced the buried line and everything. There were five junction boxes between the breaker and the garage. Not one had the same gauge wire.

          • 0 avatar
            jdowmiller

            There are some great posts in this thread. tresmonos wins, though

            edit: I’ve rewired a significant portion of my house myself. The original 1963 wiring job was really solid. However, the various “updates” done throughout the years though were garbage. I even had to re-do a job I hired an electrician to do just a couple years prior. I found arc-burns at the end of his cable run.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        Never buy trucks from farmers! Trust me- we own a farm!

        Seriously, we have two 1980s pickups that we use to pick up straw bales. Neither one was purchased with a farmer. When there are quick fixes done, I want to at least know that I did them, and to what.

        You don’t want to see some of the trucks that I’ve seen at farm auctions!

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I’ve definitely had FAR better experiences with private sellers than dealers. I’ve never had my keys “lost” by a private seller.

    About the only bad experience(s) I’ve had with a private seller is when they overstate the cosmetic condition of the car, like saying it’s in “showroom condition” and when you get there you’re greeted with yellow foam oozing out of the leather seat cushion.

    When you deal with a car selling business, the entire transaction from start to finish you have to be on guard, but usually the underlying product is not the issue, just the sales terms.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    In Europe, the worst sellers are the “bottomfishers”, the grey-area, semi-professionals. They buy cars that didn’t pass tech inspection (MOT, TÜV, EU-Kontroll) and got ditched for a song by their owners. They then proceed to fix these cars with the least possible effort, often in unsafe ways. With access to “buddies” in authorised shops, they might even arrange a tech seal of approval for cars that are just as rusted out as before/have bad brakes and clutches etc. They then undercut similar cars in the market by 30% and sell to just the poor chaps who can’t afford to keep that POS running for another two years…

  • avatar
    dal20402

    You’re barking up the wrong tree with your categories. The answer is “bad people.” There are good people at new car dealerships, used car dealerships, and in the private world. There are also bad people in all of those categories. Buying from a good person is usually a good experience, and the inverse is also true.

    The only vehicle I’ve ever bought from a private seller is the twenty-year-old Acura Legend that I just bought two months ago. The experience was fantastic. The seller had a nearly full service history over 185,000 miles, was totally upfront with me about the car’s few issues, charged a totally reasonable price, and — get this — even had a flaky wheel bearing fixed AFTER I had already put the check in the mail. He was so confidence-inspiring that I bought his twenty-year-old, high-mileage car sight unseen.

    But I’ve also failed to buy a number of vehicles from private sellers because I didn’t trust the seller. Had I disregarded my instincts I expect I’d have some private-seller horror stories.

  • avatar

    Auctions suck, the cars look as if they could tell you horrible stories of woe, you can’t start them, too much competition, clueless bidders, no thanks unless it’s ex government vehicles.
    Online classifieds ads are dodgy if you don’t do proper due diligence.
    I was looking for a cheap Ford Ranger, found a 97 on Kijiji that has been great for almost two years, reliable to a fault, but looked at a lot of junk – at least 10-15 other Rangers / B series – and dealt with a few scam artists before finding it.
    Filthy, stained interiors (shows they don’t care), no plates (so you can’t test drive),mismatched or overly worn out tires, bearing noise, idling before my arrival (hiding the death rattle), sludgy oil, obvious signs it was (or is) a work truck etc.
    Avoid anything with crappy photos, parked in a field, no maintenance records, younger sellers (they drive cars hard & don’t care about maintenance), curbers (obviously), people with no clue how to negotiate, and anything under $1000 is (usually) used up junk.
    Used car dealers may be better but the added cost is too much, I’ll take my chances online.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I worked wholesale, we sent our junk to “public” auctions and I have a few choice tales. They could be made to work, along with impound or insurance auctions, but know what you’re getting yourself into and check out Bozi’s excellent salvage article on the subject.

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/01/auction-flip-salvage-car-makes-craigslist/

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    As people with an interest in cars, I would argue that our worst experiences may be different.

    I disagree with the reasoning for places like Craiglist being the worst because sellers are too cheap. The reason I don’t like free sites like CL or Autotrader Canada is that scammers can set up shop without investing any money. So it is the biggest target. Due to the way I make my searches, it is sometimes easy to spot when the same picture shows up in multiple listings. Or there are palm trees in the background in Ontario. At one point I just gave up and filtered out any private ad with no phone #. When I would report scam ads, the lack of response by the various sites is frustrating as well.

    The point is to a novice buyer, it can be frustrating when you think you have a found a great deal only to have the response to your email come back with something like “I am currently stationed overseas with the military so right now the car is in storage…”

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I’ve had good experiences with new car dealers… for new cars and CPO cars. These are commodities and they have the inventory. The one time I bought an older used car from a franchised dealer (a Mercedes) I bought their BS about inspections and quality and the car left my wife stranded a week later when a coolant hose and overflow tank leaked. Yeah, one bad example, but they do tend to ask a lot for their used cars. I have family members who have had great luck with CPO cars, though.

    If I’m buying a USED car, however, I prefer private party sellers every time. Why? Because in my mind, I’m buying the former ownership history of the car as much as the vehicle I can see. Some sellers on CL or eBay don’t have maintenance records but NO used car dealers will ever have them. They destroy any paperwork with the previous owner’s name on it. I don’t blame them, either, if I wholesaled my car or traded it in to a dealer I want to be done with it, not get calls from a new owner asking questions. As for inspections, I’ve never had a private party seller refuse to let me take the car for a PPI. If they had, I would have walked away.

    I also don’t see the point in paying a huge markup to a used car dealer for the benefit of buying a car I could buy for less directly from an owner. Once I drive over the curb I’m unlikely to get any help from them, anyway. Yeah, there’s the financing issue, but unless you’re desperate due to credit, you can usually get a loan arranged with a bank or credit union directly. I don’t think all used car dealers are bad, I think they work hard in an exhausting and cutthroat business. I just think my money goes a lot further buying private party. I’ve also met some really nice and interesting people over the years shopping for and selling cars and motorcycles.

    • 0 avatar
      myheadhertz

      I drove a ’96 Bronco that was part of our company’s fleet of about 20 leased Broncos. All our Broncos went off lease at the same time. Before turning in my Bronco, I wrote my first name and office phone number in the owners manual on the page that showed how to do the clock and radio settings. I also wrote “If you just bought this Bronco give me a call.” About a month later, I got a call from the new owner of the Bronco. He sounded worried and ask why I had written that message in the manual. I told him that I just wanted to congratulate him on purchasing the best Bronco out of our fleet of 20 Broncos. Told him his Bronco had gone 97,000 trouble free miles and all maintenance had been done on schedule. The guy was ecstatic! Never heard from him again.

      Another time, I traded in a pre-safety bumper ’74 MG at a VW dealership. I only had the MG a short time. The previous owner must have been a sadistic idiot. Shortly after trading in the car, I received a call from a young lady that had just purchased the MG. She explained that the dealer told her and her boyfriend that the engine just needed a valve adjustment. The ‘clanking noise’ would go away with just simple adjustment. She went ahead and bought the MG as-is. Her mechanic informed her that the valve clearances were perfect. Well of course they were! I did the valve adjustments. She wanted to know what was ‘really wrong‘ with her car. I told her the rod bearings and crankshaft were toast. I had removed the oil pan, a couple rod caps, and rod bearings. Looked too nasty in there, so I slapped everything back together and traded the pos. I asked how she got my name but she wouldn’t tell me. She seemed very understanding and didn’t blame me for her predicament. We talked on the phone for quite awhile and she even invited me over to her place. I declined. If she hadn’t mentioned her boyfriend, I may have taken her up on that offer. Never heard from her again.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    I agree with the “bad people” comment made above. It’s not the categories, it’s the individuals that make the difference; in some cases the individual that sets the tone of a dealership.

    My approach is that I don’t care too much about the person and what they tell me — business or private, it does not matter too much. I focus on the car, I take my time, I look it over carefully. Since OBD-II, it’s gotten easier. Make sure all the warning lights light up when you turn the key, then make sure they go off when you start the car. Wah-lah, you’re at the 90% confidence level. If the engine lets you see the valve train by removing the oil filler cap, and said valve train is clean, we’re ready to test drive.

    As far as ‘sleazy’ delaers and the hours of negotiation… just don’t talk too much. I’m polite, all please and thank you. Let’s write it up.. let me please have the buyer’s order.. i write on it, “5,500 + TTL” & initial and ask it be taken to the manager. Then it’s time to wait the canonical 15 minutes why the salesperson has a cup of coffee. Depending on the counteroffer, if any, we should be done with one more back-and-forth.

    If not, I get up and leave, thanking them for their time. Either I get a good deal at that point, or they’re into the car for too much, or I’m wrong on the value of the car.

    If this takes more than 45 minutes from the time I write my offer, I’m doing it wrong.

    People get into the negotiation until it’s all personal, and they get mad when they catch the salesperson in a lie — whatever that means — and they want “justice” or they want to “win.” That’s the wrong approach. Here the car, there the money, we have a deal or we don’t.

    The hardest part is finding the right car in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “My approach is that I don’t care too much about the person and what they tell me — business or private, it does not matter too much. I focus on the car, I take my time, I look it over carefully.”

      This right here. I operate on the age old principle of “trust but verify” when dealing with private sellers. You can get some real good background info and a good feel from talking with the previous owner, but I still check over every inch of the car, especially underneath, and under the hood and under the trunk mat to check for any evidence of accident repair. The degree of wear in the interior might tip you off to a car’s true mileage.

      I don’t care for used cars lots, they’re just re-selling that private seller’s car with a mark up and cheap reconditioning. Unless it’s a car you really can’t find anywhere else or in similar condition, I don’t even bother.

      I LOVE craigslist, have bought and sold many a car/motorcycle. Just by the way I write my ads and price my cars, it weeds out much of the undesirable element. A short email exchange weeds out further dubious parties. Likewise I know what to look for in ads and know what to look for in the seller’s demeanor and language. I’ve gotten some real gems of motorcycles and cars, most recently my 4Runner in 2013. Guy selling it knew what he had, I showed up to his house and the truck was in even nicer shape than I expected. Negotiated a very fair price that I’m pretty sure was a win win (I suspect he scored it for cheap from the retired original owner that never drove it in the winter).

      Motorcycles are a fun and very affordable hobby for me, looking for the right deal in the fall, riding for a year or two then selling in the spring is a pretty sure bet.

      1978 Suzuki GS1000 (42k miles but mint) Bought $950->sold $1600
      1987 Honda Xl650R (title issues, sold not running) bought $750->sold $1000
      1999 Kawasaki KLR650 bought $1900 -> sold $2300
      2001 Triumph Bonneville (3k miles, pilot jet gummed) bought $2000->sold $4500
      1998 Suzuki Bandit 1200 bought $2100-> selling 2500ish hopefully?

      Not a huge profit mind you, but it pays for all the paperwork, insurance, maintenance/parts, etc while I own it. So consider it a net zero (or slight positive) to get to own and ride a variety of fun and unique motorcycles.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Focusing on the car and not the person is excellent advice. But it only goes so far. It can tell you whether or not the car is worth dealing with a lousy person. But it doesn’t make actually dealing with the lousy person, if you choose to, any easier.

      In some cases I’ve done it the other way around — I haven’t bothered even looking at the car because I can tell that dealing with the person isn’t worth it.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’ve bought a lot if winners at auctions, and also some real losers. It’s a crap shoot, but you play the odds and bid knowing that there’s a good chance you could be buying a major problem.

    Private sellers are a crap shoot too. They’re off loading something they don’t want not because they’re earning commission on it, but because the car itself is unwanted. Maybe they need the money, maybe they’re bored with it, maybe it’s got a ton of problems. It’s up to you to find out and hedge your bets.

    People bitch the most about car dealers, but for the most part they’re not trying to shift crap onto you. They’re just trying hard to get you to pay the most for what they have.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny_5.0

      The thing I don’t like about most dealerships is that even when I *know* I got a good deal, I somehow drive off the lot feeling dirty. You know going in exactly where they will try to maximize their profit, but that doesn’t make the process any more fun to endure.

      I always negotiate price online before going to the dealership (including any BS fees/add-ons). I know if I’m trading something in they will give me a little less than what I’ve already had appraised somewhere like CarMax, but I can deal with that as long as the net with tax credit toward the new car is in my favor. I literally sat through my last purchase with my laptop open to a spreadsheet containing all the relevant financial details. I know that sounds ridiculous, but part way through the process their financing cost and payment were waaaay off and I pointed to the screen showing them exactly what it should be.

      Buying a new Lexus was my favorite dealership experience. I felt like I needed a shower after most of the others (including other luxury brands).

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        You just summarized the success story of modern day Lexus branding. My mother lovers her overpriced Camry, not because it’s a great car (in the early nineties, overengineered sense), but because it’s well built, trouble free and the service dept waiting room is akin to a high end coffee joint that makes her feel special.

        That and Toyota must wet sand every square inch of their Lexi because that paint is so smooth.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          They made a big deal when the LS460 came out of the super-mega-buffing process for the leather on the steering wheel. Sounds like BS… but the wheel of my LS460, if kept very clean, is transcendent to touch. The OEM “premium” floormats are also the thickest, softest mats I’ve ever seen. Things like that get Lexus a lot of repeat business.

  • avatar
    Jay Lauer

    It really depends on the buyer. And it really depends on the seller.

    I buy a lot of fixer uppers, so I buy almost exclusively from private sellers. If they’re already taking a huge loss, a private seller generally doesn’t hide much else, but it does happen.

    For cars that aren’t fixer-uppers, its a scary world with private sellers. I’ve seen a lot of cases of odometer rollback and outright lies about service history. I fear for the uninformed customer.

    Auctions can be a bit sketchy sometime. A car when zero history can have additional problems that weren’t originally factored into the numbers.

    Conversely, dealers are really on a case-by-case basis. I understand their purpose in the world, but I’ve never been keen to the thought that the person selling you the car doesn’t give a single care in the world about the vehicle and is mostly likely just trying to get commission.

  • avatar
    April S

    It seems where I live (in the Bible Belt) the new car dealers who paint their showroom windows with ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ starting in December seem to be pretty sketchy. They have at least one of the following. Mandatory nitrogen filed tires (for the low low price of $99), tinted windows, pinstripes or undercoating not to mention excessive document fees.

    Not very Christ like if you ask me.

  • avatar
    nsk

    This is an interesting conversation. As a private party I’ve sold a bunch of cars but bought only one. As a seller, I’ve found that buyers have come with dramatic differences in expectations.

    I sold a MB E350 coupe to a plumber who found it on CL “because I was searching for an Econoline 350 and saw the photos of your car and decided I just had to have a Mercedes.” When he took a look at the car he asked “is that a six” under the hood. He paid for it without even a test drive.

    I sold a Cayenne Turbo S to an attorney who spent hours on the phone quizzing me about every imaginable issue, and then as a condition to the sale demanded that I sign a power-of-attorney allowing him to gather any service records applicable to the car. I declined that demand but the deal went through anyway.

    I bought a 991 Carrera S from a plumber (not the same one) who was the third or fourth owner. He had zero service records, the photos were average at best, but he seemed trustworthy enough based on his business length and reputation, as well as penchant for Porsches. Carfax was clean, but it was impractical for me to fly cross-country to look at the car. I bought it sight-unseen mostly because it had perfect options (for me), a very fair price, very low mileage and was well within the original warranty. Car has been totally as expected.

    It all depends on the individual seller. Personally I think buying a car is a sport, so I enjoy every part of it.

  • avatar
    C P

    “since his kids had PlayStation 2 games on their Christmas lists.”

    I’m guessing this is not good.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Two car purchases ago was incredibly painless. I did a ton of research, check out probably 20 different models. When I settled on what I wanted I called dealers within 100 miles, told them what I wanted, and asked to call me back with a price.

    That was it.

    My total time at the dealer was 90 minutes, about 45 minutes of that waiting for them to type up the paperwork. No haggle, no nothing.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      I am already 99% sure who I am buying my Accord from. Nobody else within a sane driving distance even comes close to the price I was quoted. When I got my 2011 from the same dealership, it was a truly fun experience, capped off with driving my brand new ride (and by new, I mean fresh off the truck that same day) back home.

      I just have to wait till summer to see if a MT coupe will be available in white for 2017 before I decide when to order.

  • avatar

    Public auctions are the worst. Unless its a compressed natural gas Taurus or seveteen Blue Bird buses, you’re likely buying from a sled dealer who is consigning known-problem junk to foist on some unsuspecting doofus who thinks he got himself a deal.

    I will say this – independent used car dealers get a bad rap (and much of it is deserved) – but private party folks who ‘flip’ cars are by far the worst and buyers are quite often the worst liars. I tell people when they walk by saying, “Well, I saw XXXXX on Craigslist from a private owner,” “Look, if you buy the same car from me as you buy from him, it has an equal chance to you of blowing up tomorrow. The difference is, I’m a business and I have a modicum of moral and corporate obligation to try and help you out. Joe Blow on Craigslist will just call/text-block you. At least you can come scream at me in my office.”

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Fun stories ! .

    Curbstoners (flippers) are always the worst and I’m trying to buy junk , they should be happy to unload it to me but insist on bullshit that kills the deal .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    RoysRoyce

    This column and half the comments are a joke.

    I only buy and sell my cars on craigslist. I’m 24, work full time and make about $15k a year; buying anything new is out of the option. I have little to no savings and a nonexistent credit history. I currently drive a 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis LS. I bought it for $2200 with receipts for $700 in suspension work and 130,000 miles. All it’s needed are footwell blubs and a good cleaning.

    I understand the commentariat here skews much older and financially stable. I understand it might be hard for some of you guys to imagine driving a car that cheap; but it’s the only choice I have. And it works. I get to work every single day, just fine. Just as I did in my $700 Integra, $1600 E36 or $1000 E46 before that. Baruth’s perpetually self-congratulatory column about the pitfalls of cheap car ownership were the lessons of working on a car with A MILLION MILES. There are SO many examples of solid, reliable cars for under $3000.

    Look, I get it, I made bad choices in life and now I make $900 a month, yeah, I get it. But Craigslist is hardly this barren wasteland of mongoloids, each trying to lowball you a bit further. There’s a big mix of people good and bad. You can tell a lot from the way the ad is written; the pictures they take, grammar, service history, and so on.

    I’m just tired of reading the frantic musings of old men who are forever convincing themselves anything less than $10k is one mile away from a seized engine and all the wheels falling off. Good day to you all.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “one mile away from a seized engine and all the wheels falling off”

      Maybe not, but it can be the difference between spending every weekend wrenching on something that broke and just having a car to drive.

      After a bit of work the Legend I bought off Craigslist for $2700 is ready to go another 100,000 miles or more. I looked at a very similar Legend, advertised for $2200, that ran and drove but had an unbelievable number of issues not disclosed in the ad. Craigslist has both types of cars and if you’re not careful you’re going to find more of the second than the first.

      Incidentally, you write too well to make $15k a year. There are plenty of jobs paying far more than that where the hiring manager would be ecstatic to pick up someone with the basic grammatical competence your comment displays. We have trouble getting writing that competent out of candidates for $50k+ clerical positions.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “We have trouble getting writing that competent out of candidates for $50k+ clerical positions.”

        We struggle to find candidates who write as well for clerical positions which pay fifty thousand dollars annually.

        ;)

        Me is write good, what bout yunz?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      This guy is in the right place despite any misgivings on old men and narrow opinions.

      Consider joining the Church of 3800 my son, we welcome our Panther brethren with open arms.

      Sent from a ’93 Volvo.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        Blasphemy! A Volvo!

        ———-

        Seriously, I own a 1995 LeSabre. It has 225k miles, almost no suspension response, and was $700 three years ago. There was a Piston Slap on her yesterday. I only had one person really question the financial feasibility of a sub-$5000 car. There are a lot of good choices (Panthers and Buick H-Bodies are always great choices!), but you can do alright.

        The local Chevrolet dealer had a 1999 LeSabre with 112k miles advertised for $2999. You can definitely get a nice car for $3000. I wish I was a little faster on that one, but I didn’t have the money at the time.

        Oh well….

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          $2999 is the blasphemy there.

          Friend at work picked up an MY01/125K Lesabre Custom which was overheating and failed inspection because of a broken windshield on CL for an Ipad (which model I’m not sure).

          Seriously.

          He said it needed a coolant hose, coolant, thermostat, brakes, windshield, a control arm, and some assorted odds and ends. I told him if he was in it $1,200 it was a steal. When we spoke he wasn’t sure of total out of pocket cost other than to say Safelite did the windshield for $250. I warned him on power window regulators and then said check the fuel pump which he replied is OUT of the tank in MY01 but yet GM puts it IN the tank on MY05+ Grand Prix. Bastards.

          Needless to say, the Church has gained another follower.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            Wyoming prices are terrible on everything. For that LeSabre though, that is a steal! Out here, the logic pretty much is anything that moves under it’s own power is worth $1000.

        • 0 avatar

          “Almost no suspension response” = DYNARIDE

          I always love how its en vogue for even weekly newspaper auto columnists and mommybloggers to talk about how a suspension ‘communicates’ with the road while knowing no such perspective. A base DYNARIDE H-body communicates a bump like that Western Union Doc Brown sent Marty at the end of Back to the Future.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            No, it’s not like stock. It drove a lot better when I first bought it.

            It’s like captaining a Navy destroyer on the rough seas. It’ll bounce a lot after bumps, and wallows side to side.

            It’s more like the gimble lock discussion in Apollo 13….

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      Ex con? That’s all I can figure for a 24 year old who can actually string real sentences together, though with a fair amount of attitude. $15k full time is the almost mythical minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Fast food joints around here are paying $9 an hour, and I’m not in a high cost area. I could burn my degree and forget my management experience and walk out my door and make $20k this year without even really having to do anything but show up somewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      My friend, I’ve been there! When I was 24 I was working in a gas station for 6 bucks an hour. It was my one true Hell Job. I STILL have nightmares about that place 2 decades later. I had no car at all either (was 26 before my first ride). For 3 years I pedaled a bike the 3 or 4 miles between my apartment and work. That is NO fun when it’s raining, snowing, or 100 degrees outside…

      If you persevere, your break will come. The trick is to keep scrapping and not turn to booze or drugs to make your problems “go away.” I have seen a lot of people forfeit what potential they had in life because of that.

      For what it’s worth, 4 of the 5 vehicles parked outside my house were bought off Craigslist for under $4000, and they run the gamut from “steal of a deal” (2005 T&C) to “I TOLD you not to buy that car!” (2003 Focus). It’s been a good experience for the kids to pay to keep their cars running. We have a great mechanic which makes all the difference in the world.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      RoysRoyce,
      Thanks for sharing your perspective. You make some great points.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    >> I’m just tired of reading the frantic musings of old men who are forever convincing themselves anything less than $10k …

    As an old man, I resent this. I don’t do frantic.
    For the record, my present car was $1700 and it’ll do me for a while.
    Sheesh. Kids these days.

    cheers -m

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Kids these days. They feel that they’re entitled without having to work for it or pay their dues in life.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Huh? That came out of the blue. Aren’t you the guy buying your grand children new cars left and right? Did they pay their dues in life? Our well spoken Grand Marquis driving friend doesn’t sound entitled in the least.

        • 0 avatar
          jdowmiller

          LOL. Almost every other post from highdesertcat revolves around what car/SUV/JGC he bought for or handed down to one of his grandkids.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          “I am a river to my people.”

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Oh yeah! My kids and grand kids paid their dues up front. They had to work. Hold down a job since they were 16. And this was in addition to their chores around the house. No slackers in my family.

          Yup, the ones that grew up in my household had to work their asses off. Then again, the grandkids who grew up in my house came out of failed marriages. The other ones, who grew up in stable marriages/homes, I had no hand in raising them. Their parents took care of them and they turned out alright.

          What I do or did with hand-me-downs is no different than what others do and have done for theirs, if they can. If they can’t, that’s the breaks.

          And buying a kid a cheap new car with a factory warranty for graduation ensures at least some financial peace of mind for the duration of the warranty period. Worked for me.

          I worked hard to be able to do that. All I worry about is giving me and mine a leg up on the competition. I don’t worry or care about anyone else.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Okay so the young people in your family are perfect angels and epitome of hard working future model citizens, but then in the same breath you imply every other young person doesn’t work hard and is entitled? Give me a break.

            For someone so rabidly anti-union and who loves tooting their own horn, the cognitive dissonance of having made your career in government work (paid for by tax payers) and then marrying into a real estate business is pretty rich.

            Sorry to get personal, but if you want to dish it out, prepare to get it thrown right back at you.

          • 0 avatar
            banker43

            Philanthropist Of The Year nominee right here!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            gtemnykh, I think you came to the wrong conclusion about my initial comment that followed the comment by Matthias.

            >> I’m just tired of reading the frantic musings of old men who are forever convincing themselves anything less than $10k …

            As an old man, I resent this. I don’t do frantic.
            For the record, my present car was $1700 and it’ll do me for a while.
            Sheesh. Kids these days.

            cheers -m”

            It was the “Sheesh. Kids these days.” that I responded to.

            I don’t mind if anyone gets personal. I’m not offended. I realize not everyone sees life the same way or has the same life experiences that I had to go through.

            Actually, I’m quite proud of my 20 years of military service which ended in 1985, after which I eked out a living building, restoring, refurbing and maintaining real estate properties. Made a damn good living from the money all the people who hired me paid me.

            I grew up in a union household where both my mom and dad belonged to different unions. They were much happier once they broke with the unions and got non-union jobs.

            Like I said, I only worry about me and mine. Don’t concern myself with others and certainly don’t want to contribute to the welfare of others.

            And for banker43, Philanthropy? You bet! I belong to Sertoma, VFW, Elks, Moose, American Legion, Lions and Catholic Church. I give freely of my time to support each when needed, but not my money.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            I actually don’t see anything wrong with how HDC raises a family, but remember, most of us aren’t even close to that financial position. I’ve never owned a vehicle that’s less than 10 years old, or with less than 100k miles. That’s where we were financially in the past. The fact that I’ll be buying my next vehicle in cash is a huge step forwards for us.

            If HDC has the money to where he can look at a $15k car as “cheap”, so be it. I can’t though. To me, a cheap car is $2000 or less. Standards vary.

            Even if I had the money, though, I wouldn’t give my children $15k cars. They’d do what I did- save up, and start on an older car that will involve some wrenching every now and then. They can move up when they’re financially ready.

            That made me the person that I am today. I wouldn’t change any of it….

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            matador, “That made me the person that I am today. I wouldn’t change any of it….”

            Exactly! My life experiences made me the person that I am today. And my experiences were not all good.

            Let me add, I started out my working life with only the clothes on my body when I took the oath of enlistment in the Air Force. No money. I was as poor as a church cat. (that’s f’n poor!)

            And my dad tried to do for me what I do/did for my kids and grandkids. He passed down his old cars to me, his first born, and when I was done with the car, I returned it so my brother next in line could use it. And so on. Worked out real well.

            And buying the grandkids a cheap new car is a collective effort. I helped. I didn’t fund it all. I went halfsies with their dad.

            The used cars I gave to my kids when they lived at home I bought from the Lemon Lot at the nearby military bases for cheap. I chose well. Toyota Camry. Honda Accord and Civic. Mazda 626. Mitsubishi Galant. They ran forever all through their High School and College years.

            I lived 26 miles from the nearest town back then. Multiple means of transportation were not a luxury, but a necessity.

            And we kept insurance expenses down by buying only mandatory liability coverage, a practice we continue today even on our own brand new cars and trucks.

            That’s like paying $69 every six months for minimum coverage versus $600 every six months for full coverage. Quite a savings.

            Prudent living.

          • 0 avatar
            kvndoom

            Saving 30-50 bucks a month on insurance for a vehicle worth 20 or 30 thousand or more? I will never ever understand that. If your ride gets totaled and is beyond repair you have effectively flushed 5 figures down the toilet. Double that amount since you will have to replace said vehicle.

            1) Buy $30,000 car with cash. Carry only liability.

            2) Idiot playing on his phone runs stop sign at 35 MPH. Destroys his car and yours. No witnesses, he swears it was your fault. Cops can’t prove fault, insurance company can’t prove fault.

            3) Sell your car’s remains for 700 dollars worth of scrap metal. Oh yeah, the kid texting had full coverage so he gets a check to buy another car with.

            4) Go back to step 1.

            But as the saying goes, it’s your money, not mine.

            And for my own personal experience in 2013, sometimes people who truly belong in the looney bin just walk right into the street in a 45MPH zone during rush hour. You have 2 choices… cause an accident or kill another human being. My Focus (paid off) was destroyed, but I got reimbursed for the car.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            kvndoom, traffic is light in the desert Southwest. The chance of being involved in an accident or car theft is small.

            Neither I nor my wife ever caused an accident. We had people run into us but their insurance covered our damages.

            It is a calculated risk of course, but for me it has worked since we bought my wife’s 1992 Towncar, new, without financing.

            I’m with USAA and they’re real good about adding full-coverage (for a fee) if we take a vehicle on a long trip to densely populated places like CA.

            And we have done that for the duration of the trip and then canceled the full-coverage when we got home again, with a refund.

            When a person has to finance, they don’t have the choice. The finance company will tell them how much and what type of coverage they will get. And it ain’t cheap.

            Since I never had a lot of money I had to be prudent about how I applied what little I had to get the most bang for my buck.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    I had a body shop and fixed used cars for dealers. In my experience, new car dealers wanted the job done right. And those jobs were usually minor, like painting a bumper or a couple panels.

    The used car guys wanted bondo stuffed in rotten quarters (think 2001 Dodge Ram rear wheel arches) and perfect paint matches with single stage paint. I refused all the rust jobs.

    Individuals always go one way if they are keeping the car and another if they are selling it.

  • avatar
    BWalker82

    I’ve been screwed by all of ’em; With one exception: The New Car Dealer (selling me a used car.)

    Auctions, eBay, Craigslist, even Autotrader have all left me up in arms with my “new” ride after a few days/weeks. A Mercedes from craigslist that mixed oil & coolant, A Porsche from eBay which chewed up its own timing chain after a month, An Audi from a Used Car Dealer that broke down at the gas station minutes after purchase. But then again, some have been quite peachy: Like the Jaguar XJR I ‘stole’ from a foreign dealer in College Park whom I thought was going to stab me.

    I’ve never had a problem with the New Car Dealers, however. Nalley Lexus really impressed me when I purchased a used car from them: Lexus IS350. Yum.

    Let us not forget some old Roman advice: Caveat emptor.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I am in the process of locating a $1000-1200 car for a down on his luck nephew…looking on CL I am amazed at how many cars either have temp tags on them, or Ohio plates that have G as a first letter (G is the plates they are issuing now…) either way means they bought the car really recently and are dumping it because it has issues.

    I enjoy the process of shopping for cheap cars on CL…nicer ones scare me a little. I figure there’s only so much I can lose on a cheap car, why worry about it. My $1800 Volvo V90 has been running like a top for almost a year, my cost per mile is miniscule.

    Used car lots are something I avoid…either new car dealer, or private seller via CL…when I see old Taurus and Sables on CL for $1500 and see similar ones on used car lots for $3995, the only reason to go to the lot is for financing…if you are a cash buyer, just find a private seller and be done with it.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    When I was in the repair biz I was constantly puzzled by people that bought cars, usually PP sales, without getting them inspected.
    Apparently they thought if the car started up and ran without making loud noises all was fine mechanically. They mostly looked for body dents, interior/seats falling apart, and does the sound system work.
    Maybe a glance at the tires.
    There is usually a reason that a car is for sale with no obvious visual faults for a low price. THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH IT. Or something is about to fail i.e. the 1980s BMW 4 speed auto trans that would become all neutral gears at some point.
    Even if it is regular maintenance items, brakes, tires, wheel bearings, belts and so on, that could amount to $ thousands to make the car roadworthy.
    I go with what others have stated.
    Figure a price to pay for a used car, e.g. $10,000. Buy a car for $8,000, AFTER HAVING IT INSPECTED AND FINDING NO BIG PROBLEMS UNLESS THE PRICE IS LOWERED TO REFLECT THAT. Save the $2,000 for things that will break and wear out over the next few years.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      I don’t know why people will say “I have xxxx”, and assume that’s what you should pay on a car. Factor in some for maintenance right out of the gate. If it doesn’t need it, you have money for the future when it will.

  • avatar

    I live in a large military town and can say without a doubt all local car dealers are about as scammy as all heck here. New car dealers are bad, used are worse. Customer turnover is near guaranteed after 2-3 years and there is a fresh supply of customers as new military folks either move in or return from deployment. It is shameful really.

    Best luck I have had is with friends and family or connections through church when buying used, or the traveling at least an hour away to an alternate dealer. I wont even go into buying a motorcycle locally.

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