How To Buy Your Dream Car Sight Unseen From The Internet

by Ur-Turn

Let’s give a hearty “Welcome back!” to our friend Rebecca, who previously wrote about her Tacoma on these pages. She just picked up this beautiful Z4 from a dealership hundreds of miles away from her home. This is her story on how she did it.

This journey started in October of 2007 when the lease on my 2005 Z4 3.0 matured, and I had to give the car that I dreamed of, and built on BMW NA’s site for two years, back to the dealership.

Since then I’ve had the recurring dream that I still had that car — it’s just been in storage all this time. I have serious commitment issues with cars, so it dawned on me three years ago that this was the one that got away. Fast forward to April 2016, I’ve saved for this car for a couple of years, and casually checking out the market with the plans to purchase before the end of the year. I happened upon a couple of white ones just outside my price range, and decided it was worth the stretch.

So what was my process?

I started with two cars that I really wanted, and a handful of backup options from across the country. I found cars using,, Craigslist, and then used CarGurus to check for time on lot and pricing history. After a month of phone calls and emails, I worked out a deal with a dealership on one of my original two (the other had sold). To protect the innocent, we shall just say that this dealership had a very Select inventory of Cars in Cleveland. Anyhow, after negotiating the deal, I left a deposit over the phone, and arranged to have the car brought to a BMW shop in the area for a pre-sale inspection.

Tip #1 Use Your Resources:

A good friend of mine has a Z4M and he gave me the rundown of the common issues. I also checked the forums for other common issues. Before the shop performed an inspection, I gave it my list of what I wanted them to check on the car. Once I got word that the car had passed and received the list of little fixes, I reworked the terms with the dealership and booked my flight to Cleveland.

Tip #2 Book Round-trip Tickets:

This could blow up in your face and you need to find a way home. I happened to have a work meeting scheduled for two days after delivery, family not far away, and a ton of rental car points, so my backup plan was to do a one-way rental.

The day finally came, and I flew out of Boston at 7 a.m. A salesman picked me up from the airport and took me to see my baby for the first time. I had it in my head that it was going to go one of two ways: the car was going to be immaculate, or it was going to be a turd.

Tip #3 Don’t Compromise:

After this many years of planning and waiting, I was going to get exactly what I wanted. I had every intention of walking away if I got any bad vibes from the car. At this point, I had asked three different people if there was “evidence of paint work” on the car. I choose my words carefully here when I buy a car, because asking if the car was involved in an accident or has a clean CarFax leaves much room for interpretation and excuses.

Tip #4 Be Familiar With How To Check For Paint Work

First thing I do when I look at a car is check the body panels for tape lines. I always start with hood, door jambs, fenders, and make my way around the car. I was running my finger along the top of the front bumper when I felt some overspray. I asked the salesman to pop the hood and sure enough, the front bumper had been re-sprayed on the car (for those of you who are less familiar with body work, this means that there was virtually no prep, and the front bumper wasn’t removed prior to paint). Upon closer inspection, I could see that the paint was pulling away at the edges revealing factory paint and clear coat underneath. I made a call to my body guy (always a good idea to have one handy), and sent him a couple of photos. He said the body gaps on the rest of the car look great, didn’t think it had been hit, and gave me a quote for the cost to fix the bumper. I told the only manager on duty that I wanted that cost to be deducted from the price of the car, and in not so many words he told me to go screw myself. I was then informed that I couldn’t get my deposit back until the owner was back in a few hours. After he said “Did I stutter?” I called for my rental ASAP before I caused a scene.

After renting a beautiful Hyundai Accent to get me home, and grabbing a bite to eat, I went back to the dealership to see the owner and get my money back. He was much calmer, and asked what it would take to make me happy. Let’s examine the facts. The car had been there for 130 days, most convertible buyers finish their shopping early spring, and the car isn’t as cherry as I had hoped. All I wanted was to be compensated for what it’ll cost me to fix the bumper. We went back and forth a bit, he showed me how much he was losing (irrelevant to me), and we finally agreed on a new sales price. I did my paperwork and went to New York.

A couple of more pieces of advice:

  • Plan a fun route home. In my instance, I had family vacationing at Lake Chautauqua, NY, and then had to get to a work meeting in Burlington, VT. I took the NYS Thruway then went up through the Adirondacks to Vermont. I made a ton of stops along the way, took lots of pictures, and my favorite parts were areas with no cell service.
  • Don’t pack more than what you can fit in your new car. Fortunately, this is my second Z4, so I was familiar with the trunk size. I carried on and still managed to use almost all the cargo space.
  • Bring sunscreen (if you’re bringing a convertible home). I made the promise to myself that I’d do the entire 800 mile journey topless. I encountered a couple of rain storms (not a problem if you keep your speed up), and was within 30 miles of home when I got stuck in rush hour plus a rain storm. But yeah, bring the good stuff. I was recently asked if I was Southeast Asian.
  • Bring a friend. I’m fiercely independent to a fault, but there were times on this trip I wished I wasn’t alone. When things went sideways at the dealership, I felt really overwhelmed and could have used a third-party that wasn’t emotionally or financially committed. It also would have been nice to share the journey home with someone.
  • Budget for unplanned expenses. In my case, I was prepared for the fact that I might be coming home without the car. I also put some money aside for maintenance items the car may need. Since it wasn’t clear if the car’s valves had ever been serviced, I provisioned for having Turner Motorsports give the car another good once over, adjust the valves, change the spark plugs, and send off for an oil analysis.
  • Download SnapChat. I SnapChatted the journey to my friends across the country as I went, hollerrrr (that’s what the kids are saying these days right?).

Article and images by Rebecca Turrell.


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  • Mia Hey there!I recently stumbled upon the Crack Eraser DIY Windshield Repair Kit (check it out here: and decided to give it a shot on a small chip in my windshield. I have to say, it worked like a charm! Super easy to use, and it saved me a trip to the professionals. If you're dealing with a similar issue, this kit is definitely worth considering. 😊
  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.