By on April 25, 2018

For most people, not having a brand new car sort of budget can mean scrounging around on AutoTrader, Cars.com, eBay, or even the ever-professional Craigslist for used vehicles. The resulting experiences end up shaping the future of our car ownership, our finances, and perhaps our legal situations in some cases.

Today we want you to know about your sketchiest used car buying experience.

I’ve always bought used cars; it’s a fun little (expensive) game to play. Use your skills and knowledge, and you might not get burned. Let someone else take that depreciation hit! Totaling up the cars I’ve owned thus far, my count is 11. All were used and at least five years old at the time of purchase, and only two came from dealers. My sketchiest car purchase story comes from one of those dealer vehicles, and it’s the silver Giugiaro-designed blob you’ve been jealously eyeing.

The year was 2009. After parting ways with my Infiniti I30 and sampling the excellent public transport in Busan, South Korea, I obtained my Korean license (story for a different day) and decided I wanted a car. Given everything from the newspaper classified ads to the websites were fully in Korean, I muddled through with my rudimentary understanding and leaned on my Korean coworkers for assistance where necessary. The process itself was different than the U.S.: Koreans don’t keep old cars around like Americans do, and the idea of calling someone who listed their car in the classifieds was uncomfortable for my coworkers. Those ads weren’t leading anywhere — every Daewoo Prince I called about was already gone.

My boss decided to lend a hand, and said she knew of a dealership which had some older cars. Making a telephone call, she wrote down a few for me to consider, and a Daewoo Lanos sounded appealing. Off we went before work the next day in her Samsung SM7. The dealership was all the way across town and we were limited on time.

Arriving at the dealer, the ’97 Lanos was packed in a grouping of cars and needed extraction for a test drive. A short five minute drive around the block later, and it seemed everything was in order mechanically. The car was not especially clean inside or out, and the translated-to-me negotiations were iffy. Starting price was either 1.3 million or 1.5 million Korean won — about $1,300 to $1,500 at the time.

“How about a million?”
“He says no. He will take 1.3.”
“How about 1.1, but I want them to clean it first. This is filthy.”
“They are not going to clean it. They will take 1.1 though.”

Sold, $1,100. Paperwork was hastily filled in with information I couldn’t read. In fact, I think the car might’ve been in my boss’s name to save some complications with the paperwork. Not once did I have actual possession of the title on that car. That means I was on her insurance as well, I suppose. To the best of my recollection, I paid the insurance at the dealer.

Transaction completed, we hurried back to the school building in the mid-afternoon, nearly running over a pedestrian in the process. I’d go back a day or two later when the paperwork was ready to pick up the car on my own. Daewoo Lanos adventures commenced!

A few months later in late August or early September of ’09, it was time for me to head back to my native land. A cheap car in the hands of a willing and English-speaking person was rare, and meant I had a fairly quick sale to another teacher from a couple of hours away who commuted to a rural school.

The exact sale price escapes me, but I do remember I just about broke even when all was said and done. My boss came with me to do the title transfer to the new teacher, and I’m sure she was relieved not to have a foreigner on her insurance anymore. Overall, the entire buying experience was sketchy and uncomfortable. But I did enjoy being the only foreigner in the general vicinity who had a car, and all the freedom and road trips it brought me.

I was able to dig up these lovely pictures (taken right here) from when I listed the Lanos for sale. The non-matching paint and eagle hood badge I completely forgot about, but I remembered the single powered mirror on the passenger side, power windows up front, and manual ones in the rear. The rad door panel fabric is a nice touch as well.

Time for your sketchy stories!

[Images © Corey Lewis]

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89 Comments on “QOTD: What’s Your Sketchiest Used Car Buying Experience?...”


  • avatar
    MrGrieves

    I was looking at a slightly used Mazda 6 sedan at the local Carmax store. It was a stripper with a 6-speed manual which appealed to me (at the time.) The salesperson was probably 18 years old, couldn’t drive a manual transmission, and barely could demonstrate anything on the car or answer any questions. He was required to drive it off the lot to a location where I would take over. It took us about 20 minutes to go 300 yards… we bucked and heaved the whole way. After my test drive he had to drive it back into the lot himself. The whole experience had me so rattled I just got out of the car and said “You know what – I’m not interested.” He kept spewing out Carmax salesperson catch phrases to me as I walked away. To this day when I see the Carmax store my neck starts to hurt.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I *thought* I knew what I was doing at my first car auction. 25 years ago got an 1981 Horizon for a run-around 4-door car for when family visited. Only 60k miles but a strippo utility company car. Paid $800, and the car went on to serve a good 5 years of occasional service, but not knowing all the mechanisms of an auction and the use of ‘marks’, I’m sure I paid an extra $200 or so more than I should have.

    My new car purchases have been far sketchier. But I only got screwed once, the first time, and now I play the game for many others. Even with internet access to realistic pricing, car salesman have a thousand pratfalls set up for you.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Ah, yes…the auction experience! Went to a local auction in SC on my own one Saturday evening while the wife was out of town. There was a forlorn-looking 1982 BMW 320i sitting in the “buy here now” section, and me being the “sucker for a 70s/80s” Bimmer (at least) called the wife and told her I was buying a BMW! $500 later, I was the proud owner of a very faded 320i. Of course, being at an auction, there was no test-drive. Slipping behind the wheel, I was excited to have another BMW and had visions of restoring it to its former glory and gifting it to my son as his first car. A BMW Son! Well, I got about a mile down the road and it cut out. Shut it down, let it sit, start it back up, drive about another mile or so, repeat cycle until I drive the 10 or so miles home. Next day, took it to the local German auto repair and wound up replacing both fuel pumps. Drove it as-is for about a year and finally the daily grind of driving 25 miles each way to work in an unsorted old BMW wore me down. I had no place to park it and give it the attention it needed to be brought back to life, so I did what any self-respecting person would do, I slapped a “For Sale” sign on it for $1000 and parked it along the back lot of the local Wal-Mart. It sold within two days and I wound up selling it for pretty much what I had all-in for it. While my son didn’t get a BMW (we wound up getting him a 1997 Tercel with 120k on it, and this was in 2007, that he just this year had to stop driving after a semi collided with it, so I guess it worked out for the best), I did basically drive a BMW for free for a year.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      I bought an ’84 944 at auction. I was a young man and owned a Pontiac wagon – this Porsche thing was a shining beacon. I ended up bidding against one other guy who I’m sure was the owner or a ringer for same.
      I bough it for $7000 and sold it a year and some later for $7000. Other than gas and oil all I put into it was an alternator that had to be shipped from Atlanta and was CDN$700.00. The huge ( for the time ) rear tires were shot but I managed to sell it as was. My trusty ole’ wagon fired-up minutes after getting rid of the financial sinkhole. I can’t believe I drove that thing in the Winter when my wagon was parked out on the street. Young and dumb, I guess.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Oh boy, stand back fellas, I’ve got some real dusies. All three occured within the space of a few days from each other while helping my sister in law’s now-ex bf shop for an Uber-able cheap-ish sedan on craigslist.

    Candidate 1: 2003 Camry XLE V6, 117k miles, list price of $3200. Seller gave us a suburban white working class south-side address , we show up, don’t spend a whole lot of time looking over the exterior and hop in for a test drive. Things are already cropping up. Airbag light is on, and the car is holding 2nd gear way too long even once things have warmed up a bit. Get back to the seller’s house, start looking the car over. Horrible amateur-hour respray on most of the front end, I pop the hood and see the unpainted newly installed core support, and red overspray all over the belts and radiator. Ask the guy the story on it and why he’s selling it “oh I just wanted to get a truck.” Then I start looking around and realize he’s got a Civic in the driveway that’s mid-body work repair, and catch a glimpse of the garage and see paint and body work supplies. We thank the seller for his time and leave.

    Candidate #2: ’04 Accord LX Sedan 5spd, 100k miles, $3200 asking price. Show up to the seller’s side on the East side of Indy (red flag #1 lol). Hispanic guy with sort of a messy big driveway with a bunch of cars in various states of disrepair. With the Camry experience fresh in my mind I start looking over the body work top to bottom, looking in door jams, lifting the trunk liner, etc. But it all looks good, original paint. Interior has some broken HVAC/missing vents but the rest of it doesn’t look excessively worn. Seller mentions a fresh clutch. We start it up and start the test drive. The car drives remarkably smoothly, as it should considering it has… exactly 100001 miles on the odometer (red flag #2). While we’re driving I open up the glove box and find a receipt for the clutch job being done… at 264k miles! Another piece of paper has a previous owner’s records of oil changes every 5k miles going back to 60k miles or so, the last entry being likewise in the 265k range. We get back and I innocently ask the seller what he thinks of the much higher than stated mileage. He acts like he’s the one that was duped and pretends to call the guy who sold him the car angrily. I later post a counter-ad with a pic from my phone of the 264k mile receipt and reminding the seller of the felony he is committing. Sister in law’s ex later gets an angry threatening phone call from the seller after the seller apparently saw my ad lol.

    Candidate #3: ’09 Altima 2.5S 180k miles, $3600 asking price. This was NOT my suggestion to even look at this thing as 180k miles+CVT is a non-starter for me. But at my acquaintance’s request I take a look at it, he and the seller swing by while I’m out shopping with the wife and I hop out to take a look at the car in the parking lot. Easily spotted horrible quality respray on the front bumper with paint drips, but also obvious signs of body work on just about all of the doors on the car and the rocker panels, this thing had been through the wringer. Seller is a younger Middle Eastern fellow who seems eager to deal and says he’s driven it for about 6 months and his boss sold it to him(?). I recommend that under no circumstances should this car be purchased. Later that evening I get a text from sister in law’s ex: he bought the car, negotiated down to $3k, seemed rather pleased with himself lol. I say “good luck.” Apparently it’s still running okay so far.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      How does an odo rollback like that work… new gauge cluster?

      Sounds like you escaped some rough ones!

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        No idea on the specifics but man the seller was a goon. I wouldn’t say we fully escaped since the idiot kid ended up buying that Altima! We actually had a very decent/honest ’04 Accord LX slip away from us (auto,150k miles, $3900 asking, drove well). It wasn’t a screaming deal but it was a perfectly good car, and not some sketchy rebuilt mess. He just seemed in a rush to plunk cash down on something, which is the wrong approach. My mentality with these cheap used car purchases is to be choosy, but be ready to act quickly when the right one does pop up. I’ve frankly been burned myself for impatience and just settling for “this one is good enough and i’m tired of looking,” and would like to think that I now know better. My own favorite buy was definitely my ’96 ES300 that I bought from a long term owner (bought in ’98 off lease, owned until ’16). It wasn’t 100% impeccably maintained but the guy did the important stuff (engine oil and ATF) and for $1600 it was a hell of a car, felt like a million bucks after my beater $1600 Maxima which had indeed been bought with a lack of patience.

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          gtem, I have purchased many cheap hoopties over the years. I think for many people who end up with the wrong car is they go in with incorrect assumptions.

          You have to be choosy, but about the correct things to be choosy about. Color/Make/Model are not items to be choosy about, when you are frustration sets in and you buy the last pile you look at after hearing a good story.

          You are also correct that you need to be ready to act, as quality cheap cars do not last on the market very long, typically a matter of hours. A well sorted Camry/Accord for $3500 will sell to the first intelligent person that looks at it. The hard part and the fun part at the same time is being able to discern which is the well sorted unit.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Yeah, I think the guy I was helping was really hung up on model year (as new as possible) and mileage (as low as possible) or some combination of the two. I was trying to impress on him the previous owner’s upkeep and the car’s provenance like buying from original owner vs some random auction flip from a curbstoner was the most important thing, and only from there to look at mileage, year, and some consideration of make/model and their historic reputations for durability. The constraint here was needing an ’03 or ’04+ to qualify as an uber or Lyft (since revised to ’06+ in Indy), and $4500 or less was the budget. Otherwise I would have pointed him to something older but much cleaner (older Avalon or Camry, something domestic possibly).

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “You are also correct that you need to be ready to act, as quality cheap cars do not last on the market very long, typically a matter of hours. ”

            This. Dirt lot owners and curbsiders comb online classifieds constantly and pepper anything in demand with usually lowball offers right away. Sometimes they’ll offer good money if they need in the inventory for a quick flip.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The odo is stored in the ECU (and other places now) to discouraged odometer fraud. However like everything else, anything can be hacked given physical access, time, and intelligence.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          The total odometer is usually stored in the ECU which could be read with the right scan tool. However the odometer displayed in the cluster is typically stored in the cluster itself (the reading isn’t bussed from the ECU to the cluster). So this kind of roll back is typically achieved with a clsuter swap.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            The fact that it was 100,001 miles was inherently fishy to me, some kind of workaround display tampering where it got reset to such a nice round number? I honestly am not well versed in that side of cars. My brother’s friend that specializes in mobile diagnostics and various security systems, immobilizers, etc on rebuilt cars out in Staten Island would probably know.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            That one was likely reprogrammed, there are tools readily available that can do it.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      It sounds like all three of those were products of curbstoner/flipper shenanigans.

      I’ve always had a good buying experience when dealing with someone that actually owned the vehicle for at least 6 months. But, with curbstoners or short-term owners it is always sketchy.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Oh yeah, curb stoners are probably like 75%+ of Craigslist “by-owner” listings. I can generally tell just from the ads now (and flag accordingly), but if I go so far as to inquire about the car, I always ask whose name the title is in and how long they’ve had it. Those two simple questions quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. These days I think facebook marketplace has a higher proportion of actual real owners selling used cars, that and NextDoor are my preferred venues to both buy and sell. NextDoor has hands down the best quality buyers, since they have to be in your neighborhood to even be on the app. A lovely older couple bought my Pilot this spring, and the whole interaction couldn’t have been easier or more pleasant for either party.

        • 0 avatar
          MoDo

          Good buyers and sellers are a dying breed. When I was a teenager I restored a Plymouth Duster and was spoiled by dealing with older Mopar guys. Every transaction was professional. I later got into Eagle Talons and was now dealing with dreamers, low ballers, losers and liars. Complete 180.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I like story time. This is just like another day at the Thur as-is sale.

      Btw who looks at high mileage Nissans for 36 bucks? Really? These are not the 4DSC of old.

      Aside from Toyota love, why no Panthers/Ws gtem? Do they not fit into Uber’s standards?

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Panthers = thirsty in real world driving outside of steady state cruise at 65mph. And IIRC either lyft or Uber might specifically exclude them because they look to much like regular cabs.

        W bodies were under (my) consideration and I did send a few Impalas and Grand Prix ads the guy’s way but he wasn’t hearing it. Ford Five Hundreds (non-CVT) and the last of the DN101 Tauri with Vulcans likewise fell on deaf ears. Heck I’d have pointed him to a Galant if there were such a thing as an un-abused Galant in that price range. A few NF Sonatas were under consideration but we never did go look at them.

        The “ideal” candidate in my mind would have been a V6 V30 Camry (avoid first few years of the 2.4L) or XX20 Avalon that just made the ’04 cutoff with a service history and 150k-ish miles. That would have been right near the upper limit of the budget for a decent one, and the 1MZ is frankly not exactly a fuel sipper for uber duty, but that is in my opinion the sturdiest built vehicle with fewest pattern failures in that age and price category bar none. A W body’s engine will last as long as the 1MZ, the rest of the vehicle will need more attention at this age/mileage going forward (suspension, ancillary things in engine compartment, transmission, etc).

        The whole premise of buying a car to do uber work was flawed from the get-go but I went along with it. I’d say forget working uber altogether, that would free up the car search to look at better condition older cars. Or just keep driving what he was driving (rebuilt 7th gen Civic 2dr 5spd with 180k miles). The Civic sipped fuel and had been running just fine. Invest a fraction of that $4500 car budget into the Civic and just keep it going.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Here’s a way to avoid any CVT trouble:

          https://seattle.craigslist.org/skc/cto/d/2005-nissan-altima-35-se/6556728948.html

          (I’ve been missing a manual lately and idly browsing through a local Craigslist search for “manual, $3000-$10000” every day or two to see what comes up.)

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            dal funny you mention that as I’ve been scheming on the next winter season beater already and have been eyeballing rust-free 5spd Maximas (’95-’99 and ’00-’03 cars) out West, so similar vein to the rare stick shift V6 Altimas of that generation (I find the low quality of that gen Altima a bridge too far). I think I’ve discovered that when I switch to an automatic for a daily driver, I end up longing for a stick shift and mechanical engagement with my ride which is part of the reason why I’ve ended up with old stick shift Rangers twice now. Then the Rangers end up wearing me out trying to commute in them every day for months on end and the pendulum swings back towards a cushy drive which ended up being an automatic the lat few go-arounds (’96 ES, ’03 Pilot).

            Perhaps a melding of the two into a comfy/powerful AND stick shift is the way forward? That and I’m envisioning an epic road trip of blasting back home across desert and prairie in an old school mile-eater.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            That balance is exactly why I’m sometimes attracted to F10 550is. Until I remember that maintenance costs money.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Haha sounds like a similar basic problem, with very different budgets involved. I’m assuming this coming winter might be my last beater for a while as we’ll be clearing space for a roomy and safe kid/dog hauler. We can easily afford to pony up and plunk down cash on a lightly used Sienna or Pacificas (that I’ve become enamored with since renting), but the old Toyota-stalwart in me wants to hunt down a decent condition gen 2 Sienna AWD, back when they had nice interiors and the old school full(ish) time AWD system.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Those Gen 2 Siennas are nice vans if you can find one that hasn’t been turned into biohazard. Would wholeheartedly approve.

            On the other hand, with your plans to have more kids, I could easily imagine wanting to plunk down some money for something with the latest safety advances.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Ahhhh, so that’s the story on the CVT Altima. How long ago was this?

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Must have been late fall of 2016ish(?) or very early spring 2017 since I remember I was still driving my ES, and I remember it being cold. Car was still on the road at least as of last Thanksgiving which is when I last saw it (and the ne’er-do-well owner). Hard to believe the ES was 4(!) cars ago for me, I really gotta cool my beater streak here. Since then there’s been a ’97 Ranger->’03 Pilot->current ’94 Ranger. The only automotive constant in my life is my 4Runner lol.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Paging JohnTaurus:
          indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/d/1995-ford-taurus-only-80k/6570716974.html

          Looks really slick on those DN101 alloys actually.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Looks good, if it has a 3L, its a winner. Those wheels came off a 1996 or 1997. The ones currently on my 1995 came from a 2004, so are 16″ instead of 15s like those. But, I have purchased some 17″ wheels from a 2017 Focus SEL and ordered brand new tires from tirerack.com. Those will go on after both front hubs/bearings are replaced (one is getting a little noisy) and a front end alignment.

            Mine has a pile of miles compared to that one, but its not getting replaced, even by another Taurus, unless of course something drastic happens like its damaged beyond repair. Mechanical failure isn’t a good enough reason to end my relationship with it, I’ve grown far too fond of this particular car. If something fails, I’ll rebuild/replace it. One day I will put a cam in the engine out of a 2004-7 Vulcan for a bit more power. That would be if/when the engine requires a rebuild. So far, it shows no sign of giving up. Uses about a half a quart every 3k miles, and some of that is seeping from the valve cover gaskets and oil pan gasket. Nothing unusual for its age and mileage.

            I’m driving it daily to work now, no more riding with others. It was costing me too much to ride with them, lol not for gas, for food. They want to stop at nice places to eat every night. They make a lot more than I do so if I want to put any money back, I can’t spend $20-50 every night on food. Much cheaper to spend $100/week for groceries and $30-35 for gas.

            The 1995 just rolled over 239k the day before yesterday. Just keeps going. I have ordered SO much stuff for it, including an OEM keyless entry system (the fob, not gonna bother with the number pad on the door), and of course the hubs and bearings. I’m going to spend a lot of time installing all the stuff I got for it, I can’t wait.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            I miss not seeing those Tauruses around, they’re good-looking cars. Another example of a clean no-grille design.

            Lazy Craigslist seller, only 2 pictures.

            “Only had two owners, myself and my grandmother”. Uh-oh. How bad did this kid thrash granny’s pride and joy before deciding to sell it for a Civic Si?

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          So the Altima hasn’t self-destructed. Miracles do happen!

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Speaking of Craigslist tales, I just found my old ’97 Ranger (the one I bought for $1700, dumped about as much into between parts and labor, and sold for $2500 last fall with 129k miles on it):

            indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/d/ford-ranger/6565686564.html

            Beneath that lovely polished up paint (courtesy of my labors) lies a very crusty and rusty frame. Man that kid is shooting for the moon asking $4300.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Sketchy for the dealer or sketchy for me? I once test drove a well worn mid-eighties Hyundai Excel (so, about five or six years old) from buy-here-pay-here lot. The dealer had attached several little flags to the antenna on every car in the inventory (the flagpole was a plastic tube holding a row of small, triangular pennants). Just standard stuff for that market segment…

    I forgot to take the flags off before the test drive. When I pulled back into the lot, the flags were gone.

    I didn’t tell the dealer.

    I didn’t even buy the car.

    I still feel bad.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I have never had a really sketchy buying experience, however, I have made several bad car buys because I tend to fall in love with what I see and that’s where I go wrong.

    That I like to buy new, but that’s probably no longer in my future, so it’s used or pre-owned from here on out. I’ll just be sure to have Wifey with me, because she tends to be a bit more logical in that area!

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    1991 Honda Civic. Auto transmission was not right during the purchase. I figured it was such a good deal I’d just replace the trans. But I did a flush and fill at the Honda dealer and it was like new afterwards.
    1983 VW Jetta GLI. Had the 1.8 Scirocco 8 valve engine. Bought it for $800 from some rich guy in Isleworth that kept from High School, just sat in the garage for years. Guess his wife begged him to get rid of it. Sat next to a new 911. Was not sure it would make it back the 30 miles Home. Car made it back, I put about $1200 into into it including tires. Never died, felt like it would a few times. Sold it for $5000 two years later to a VW auto mechanic.

  • avatar
    Garak

    “Hold on, this car hasn’t been serviced in 2013. That means the factory warranty’s over.” “Oh but these are good cars, there’s no need for a warranty!”

    Didn’t buy the Hyundai. Generally a 3-year-old car with incomplete service history seems pretty sketchy.

  • avatar
    arach

    I have so many sketchy deals that I’m planning on writing a book someday, “The Ups and Downs of Buying and Selling”.

    Here’s some of the crazy as heck things that I’ve actually dealt with:

    -Guy who couldnt meet at my house because he had a felony and an tracker. I told him I wouldn’t meet him, so he sent his “guys” to my house at 2 AM in the suburbs. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get shot that night. They test drove the car and pulled off the coolant hose so it was spraying smoke when they returned. they tried to tell me my car was crap and they lowballed me. I told them they can give me what we agreed to in advance or they could leave. They paid up and left. Got a call from the criminal the next day… I was still worried but he thanked me and said it was in better condition than he expected and he was pleased, and he apologized for the late night. classy.

    -I literally sold a car to an african “scam artist”. I picked him up at the airport from africa. He bought the car end all ended up fine, but if you take a moment to really think about it you realize how insane that actually is.

    -I bought my truck at a BHPH lot. There was a CEL and I actually found weed in the car on the test drive. The craziest part? I actually bought the truck.

    -I bought a Mercedes SLK. it had a CEL, and I was out in the middle of nowhere. I was foolish and accepted the sellers suggestion that its “for an 02 sensor we already fixed but didn’t reset the CEL”. Bought that car for nothing. Drive home and it starts overheating. I had to get it towed. After diagnosing, I discovered it was literally a FAN FUSE. $2 later and life was good. I lucked out.

    -I bought a Jeep. thats all I should have to say. The window fell out while I was driving it home from the seller, and then when I was getting towards my neighborhood the water pump blew coolant all over the place. I had to get it towed home.

    -My first car I bought myself was a datsun 280zx. You could SEE the road when you were driving it was so rusted out. The seller said he had to move it quick because he was getting fined from the city for having a bunch of cars parked outside. I forked over $400 of my hard earned cash, and tried to drive it home. Smoke was pouring out of the engine and I had to stop several times to let it cool down. I miss that POS.

    then there’s the $400 Jeep Cj…

    thats enough for today.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    When I was looking at VW Bug Convertibles, I went looking at a ’67 about 200 km away. The ad said it was in good condition, recently inspected, with valuation, and ready to drive. I honestly walked past it looking for the promised vehicle, because it had a truly horrible paint job and no interior except for strange non-original front seats. But it actually was the offered car (this was before Internet sale ads — the tiny picture in the magazine ad hadn’t shown any of this). I reluctantly agreed to inspect the Bug more closely, and found anything you can imagine: cracked brake lines, badly welded frame head, smoke belching non-original (too small and too new) engine, the lot. I declined a test drive out of safety concerns.

    When I told the seller that there was no way I would pay anywhere near the asking price of 7,500 Deutschmarks, they whipped out a valuation on that amount. Only that it was six years old, when the car was freshly “restored”, and mentioned that despite poor quality of the work, the car was valued at that amount because of its rareness. I actually laughed out loud on reading that.

    So, what’s your maximum, the seller asked. My answer: “I am not looking for a project, so I won’t buy it at any price. But if I were … 2,000 at the very most, because the hood (convertible top) looks okay.”

    The expression on his face was priceless.

    Many years later, I bought a Citroën BX Break sight unseen for 50 Euros firm, but had to bring my own wheels to drive it back because the ones mounted were not included in the sale. I received the title in the mail three months later. And yet, that was not half as sketchy an experience as with that Bug.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    Ok, I wasn’t the buyer, and not really a car, but still sketch..
    Around 1987 a had my my uncle volunteered to sell my worn out 240Z at his lot that I had no luck selling in the classifieds. He must have had trouble selling it, too, since he took some cash and a used Suzuki motorcycle on trade. He didn’t know anything about motorcycles, so he told me to pick up the bike from his lot. I don’t not a thing about motorcycles either, much less how to ride one, so I got a friend to drive it home. Put it in the classifieds. I guy offers me a little cash and a “company check”. My father (who sold used cars in the 50s says it probably was not the brightest thing to take a check, offers to try and cash it. He takes it to the buyer’s bank—they tell him there is no cash in the account, but my dad keeps the check. Try to contact buyer, who does not take my call. 3 days later my father try’s the bank again—still nothing. He tries 3 days after that—-there is money in the account! the check goes through! The next day, the buyer calls me—furious—says the bike is junk and he wants his money back. I try not to laugh. He says he is going to sue. I tell him his lawyers can talk to my lawyers, and work it out. I don’t hear from him after that.

  • avatar
    hirostates12

    I bought an 89 Mercedes 300se that was a little ratty but without rust or dents. 86000 “miles” on the odometer. $3500.

    These words literally left my mouth:

    “Hey, for $3500 how could I go wrong?”

    The tranny burned up on the second day of ownership and it went downhill from there.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Before the Interwebs (especially in the past 5 years), all used car buying was sketchy unless you really knew what you were looking at or had someone who did. My folks bought mostly used cars growing up and there was never a pre-purchase inspection or anything like that. I remember a beige 82 or 83 Escort wagon(with a stick) that was especially troublesome. My Dad rigged some sort of “auxiliary” fuel pump to keep the car running and I don’t know why. It was traded on a new 87 Plymouth Horizon.

    Personally, my 88 Acura Legend (in 1999-2000) was probably my sketchiest. Local BHPH lot, guy had a thing for Acura/Honda because he always had at least one 1st or 2nd gen Acura Legend or Integra or early 90’s Honda until they all disappeared to the tinworm.

    Base model, no leather. Dark blue with blue interior. Just under 110k, good shape, clean and little to no rust when I bought it. No service history either. 5-speed with that V6 was more sprightly than the 160hp rating suggested, much more than my 89 L with the automatic had been a few years prior (wrecked that one being stupid. It had 55k on the clock and was immaculate). Needed a clutch which the dealer had done by a local import shop.

    The car itself was fine. I had paid a bit extra for a short warranty, which was fine because about 4 months into owning it, I was driving home and the car just stopped running. The dark side of 90’s Japanese car ownership, timing belts every 60k, had come up. I don’t know if it was the factory belt or if it had ever been replaced, but 112k was it. The 2.7 V6 was an interference engine.

    I wanted to take it to a well-regarded Honda/Acura independent shop. The warranty company said no, take it to this place. It was a machine shop/repair shop in an area adjacent to a huge shopping mall, but the area was also seeing a spike in crime. I left my car there and it took them 2 months to fix it, with constant calling.

    I picked the car up and it didn’t run right. It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed that my CD’s, portable CD player, radar detector were all gone. so were my snazzy “sport” pedal covers.

    Seems the morons in the shop A: Screwed the timing up so bad that the car shouldn’t have run. B: Didn’t realize that pushing the power lock button on that Legend didn’t lock the drivers side door, you had to lock it with the key once you were out ( or push the lock manually). An early anti-lockout feature, but effective. So, someone “broke” into my car because it was unlocked.

    Warranty company, apologetically, allowed me to take the car to the indie Honda/Acura shop. Fixed in days, ran beautifully and continued to do so. I went to trade it on a Hyundai and they were like “You know you’re the 7th owner of this car?” Well, my Dad was the 8th, because I “sold” it to him and he ran it for another 2 years. 160k or so, it developed weird electrical issues (all lights and gauges would go dark at night) and he traded it on a car for my sister. I loved that car though, it was a strong runner, with a great gearbox in the Honda manner.

    About a year after he traded it, his insurance company called. It was impounded in a really ugly part of town and the only paper they found was an old insurance card of my Dad’s under the seats. I’m sure it was crusher fodder by that point.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    One time I bought this white Cadillac off of a guy named Corey. Man, was he creepy :D

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Pretty much everything I’ve bought has been straightforward sign-the-title-and-hand-over-the-money. The one exception was a car which turned out to have been sold to Carmax by somebody who had power-of-attorney for the previous owner; Carmax passed it on to another Carmax; who transferred it to a curbstoner who had an out-of-state dealer license. I turned in that convoluted wad of paperwork at the county courthouse which does some DMV work and it processed just fine, to everyone’s surprise.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    Where do I start?
    My brother being a part time flipper has a somewhat racist elitist rule. Never buy a car from Milwaukee esp. from people that originate in Africa or south of border.

    The sketchiest one was the day I sold my W220 S-Class I saw an ad for 07 E350 wagon in Milwaukee with 100k miles for $4800. Guy on the phone did not have an accent and reluctantly agreed to my low ball of $3800. Now by 07 Mercedes had figured out the $4k timing chain issue and for me that was the model to get. Driving after work 1.5hrs from Madison with wife (second driver) and kids we ended up in not a nice part of milwaukee with about 4k in cash later than what I would have liked to. Too invested in terms of time, wary of carrying 4k cash and on a rebound from selling my beautiful white W220 AMG I was relieved to find a suave African American selling the car. Bought it that night for 3400. Check engine light popped up next morning and yep the timing code was about camshaft position sensor. Checked the title and it showed 06 vs 07. I still ended up selling it for 3200 to a flipper kid from rural WI, so all in lost a couple hundred bucks and a few hours of time but learned a whole lot I hope.

    Second experience where I walked away was from some East European guy from Northwest Indiana. I was in Chicago one weekend and called this guy selling a clean 03 Montero Limited. Drove an hour to see the car and found the car to be nice but seller to be extremely unfriendly and unwilling to let me drive the SUV even after showing him his total asking price in cash. Needless to say left in a hurry.

    A developing story is buying a non running 87 560Sel with 73k miles for $500 from widow of original owner. The story behind the car is that it has been sitting for 15 years. We will see how that plays out.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      It’s not a “nice” attitude but there’s a lot of precedent that lead to him thinking that way in this used car business, things are inherently ugly in this space. My (Russian) father’s only bit of used car shopping advice he ever gave me was “Never buy a car from a Russian/Eastern European.” So I guess I’ll be a bit self-discriminatory :p

      More generically taking any sort of race/nationality thing out of it, I’d more so correlate it directly to financial standing and peoples’ motivations in selling cars. Is this person selling this car for profit? If that is the case they have a lot of incentive to maximize that profit by way of cutting corners since it’s a car they themselves won’t be driving, they just want the money and to be done with it. Or if the seller really is a private party that’s just getting rid of an older car, I go by the neighborhood and upkeep of their house and overall demeanor: A person who’s whole life is chaos and their house maintenance is getting away from them is highly likely to have likewise neglected maintenance on their car in some way. My best buys for cars and motorcycles were definitely from older well to do guys who just don’t have time or space for whatever vehicle it is they’re selling. Those who I met at their house always had immaculate yards, etc.

  • avatar
    Vaporboy

    A real sketchy past coming up here – UK native -first car was a Trojan 200 cabine scooter (bubblecar basically) that had a gaudy purple respray. Connecting rod snapped, wrecking yard replacement motor clutch broke through the housing and only single rear wheel very nearly fell off when the jesus nut came off. Second car a Fiat 500 (1968) that apparently had no floor and front and rear ends held together by the transmission tunnel. Played in a band and bought a Transit van (1969/70) with the most evil V4 engine that blew a head gasket and eventually seized when the oil pump decided to go on strike. Decided to buy an American car and fairly clean 1968 Barracuda that burned serious amounts of oil, a set of Cords oil control rings sorted that out. Then a 3 wheeled Reliant Robin that worked out a lot better than you’d think, actually made money when I finally sold it. Then a really sketchy 1980 Honda Accord that had a very odd smell, when I took the back seat out someone had puked and it had stripped all the paint off the floor – horrible !! Stateside is another story for another day !!

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    These are all great stories! But I have a feeling that similar purchase/sales stories regarding BOATS would be even crazier.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      Probably most involve some degree of guns, booze, prostitutes, and depreciation.

      I’m a new car guy, but boats? The depreciation makes Range Rovers look like good assets.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’ve been fortunate enough not to have much car-related sketch in my life, but I have two stories, both involving hand-to-mouth dealers operating out of tiny lots on Seattle’s notorious Aurora Ave/Highway 99.

    I was young (21) and stupid when I bought my ’89 Taurus SHO. The car had many red flags in hindsight and, even after many repairs were done, ended up never being reliable at all. I just knew I wanted the pretty red “1 Owner” SHO at a reasonable price. I looked straight past the poorly done bodywork on one rear door and one front fender, the truly awful reupholstery job on the always-worn-out driver’s left bolster, the glass shards in the carpet, and, most importantly, the radio that didn’t work.

    The shady dealer told me “The head unit’s broken. Just get another one from a junkyard and it’ll be fine.” Turned out the shady dealer had ripped out and sold the entire factory JBL Audio system, clean down to the speakers and the harness that connected the head unit to the amp and DSP under the package shelf. To my great fortune, someone on a SHO mailing list (back in the days before forums) parted out a JBL-equipped car, took pity on my sob story, and sold me all the parts except speakers for a ridiculously cheap price.

    And that’s before we get into the identity of the first owner. Turns out he was a Very Important local public-relations guy of the sort who typically handles high-placed officials when they are going through scandal. And a psychotic and abusive driver. I learned this by finding his business card under the seat, emailing him, and asking about the history of the car. He casually mentioned that it was on its fourth clutch. At 68,000 miles.

    More recently, when I was looking around for Acura Legends, I saw a ’91 LS in a very unusual color combo (light blue on blue) that looked nice in low-res Craigslist pictures and was advertised as “2 owner! Mint condition!” When I showed up, the driver’s seat was falling apart, both power seats were nonfunctional, the trunk lid was misaligned, and the front bumper was falling off. Just for grins I took it for a drive anyway. It felt surprisingly solid until I noticed the temp gauge creeping up — the first sign of ubiquitous Legend seeping head gaskets. At that point the dealer started desperately throwing offers at me, which ended up in me telling him “I really don’t want a car with this many problems, even for $1000.”

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    So, Corey, what were you doing in Korea? We need details.

    • 0 avatar

      After I graduated college at the WORST EVER TIME in summer of 08, I couldn’t find a job. Seemed the easiest thing to do was to flee the country. Got a job teaching English to kids at a private school there for a year. So that was 9/08-9/09.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        A friend of mine did that in Japan a while back. These kids knew every single rule of grammar in the English language, and could diagram a sentence to a fare-thee-well, but when they were assigned to write something like “what I did on my last vacation,” they failed utterly. Their education system has some limitations.

        Must have been an interesting little adventure.

        • 0 avatar

          Japan was my first choice, but was eliminated for cost reasons. Much more expensive to live there, and higher competition for jobs because of anime and culture reasons means that the schools just pay less.

          Korea paid more, paid for my flight there and back, paid for my apartment, and my health insurance.

          There were definitely some issues with the way it worked. I got in -trouble- for failing a child on an exam which *she failed*.

          Got sat down in the office, “If you fail her, her mother may pull her out of the school.”

          “So you want me to change her grade to a C?”

          “Yes.”

          “Alright, I’ll do it – but to be clear this is no longer a school, it’s just a business.”

          They didn’t like hearing that.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Gangnam Style education.

          • 0 avatar

            It’s a beautiful country outside the cities, which the car helped me to realize. Just mountains everywhere. Friendly people who will go far out of their way to help you.

            Also saw some not so good things, like suicides (2).

          • 0 avatar
            genuineleather

            My college advisor was always promoting English teaching opportunities in Asia (a safe bet considering the job prospects of Poli Sci majors). Apparently, the opportunities in China paid the best, but you would get sent to the hinterlands, away from the major cities and anything resembling culture or entertainment. No, thanks.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    I was helping a family member that needed a car desperately. A Ford dealer not too far from where I was working at the time had a 1993 Ford Taurus 3.8l for like $2500.00 I think. It looked clean and nice and the dealer said it was recently serviced. It looked good and though I didn’t have time for a test drive, I pulled the trigger.

    Driving it home the next day with the A/C on, it drove nice. After about 30 mins on the highway, I exited and noticed some lifter noise. figuring it was low on oil, I checked and sure enough, it was about 1-2 quarts low. Odd, but ok…

    Drove home and noticed that the noise didn’t go away. Stopped at a auto parts store and checked the oil again. Down about a quart. Added some top end lubricant and it seemed to settle down for a bit.

    A few days later, the car wouldn’t start. Turns out the engine was junk and the “dealer” had put thicker oil, etc to get it by. And by putting it under the highway/AC load, it just brought the issue to the surface. I contacted the dealer and was told that the car was “AS-IS”.

    Don’t know if the dealer is in business anymore. And it is my fault for not test driving/checking the car out. But still, it was a bad can that they sold me and they knew it.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      An Essex-powered Taurus was never good news. Although with the bottomless low-end torque of that engine they were pretty good at turning front tires into smoke.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    Do wheels count? Just this past weekend I found a set of wheels for my saab, oem and cheap so perfect for winter as my Pontiac steel wheels were rusting.

    I drive out to Scarborough, a large suburban swathe of toronto that has a reputation but I’m a big boy. I get there and it’s fucking south central LA in the 80s. I’m in the hood, complete with baggy pants, head scarf, dodgy deals, long slow stares and full blown domestics on the street.

    In my wisdom I get out carrying a tire iron. Not my brightest moment and I had the attention of the crowd before the owner stepped forward to talk. Couldn’t get out of there fast enough, got my wheels and highlight tailed it.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    A long time ago I went to look at this sharp-looking gold 1966 Caddy 4-door hardtop; white leather and gold brocade interior. In spite of the bald tires I decided to test-drive it. It handled like an old worn-out taxi and smoked so much that I could see it in the rear-view mirror. When I returned to the dealer he claimed he was going to take it to the Portland Swap Meet (from Tacoma). I told him that this would probably work just fine provided he brought four spare tires and a case of oil.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    Before I switched to leasing new cars, I only bought old Mercedes (yes, the switch to new vehicles with warranties is related). However, when I was between cars, I decided to take a look at a late-80’s, Cartier-trim Town Car in silver/gray two over gray leather. The miles were low, and the pictures and listing showed it to be in mint condition. My parents, who I’d brought to see it with me, were ready to walk when they saw the rough neighborhood and heavily-accented Russian/Eastern European seller. The car, however, was sitting in a garage and looked perfect… until you walked around to the passenger side and saw the HUGE scrape/gouge running almost the full length of the car that definitely would’ve totaled it if you’d wanted it fixed. I told the owner I wasn’t interested and left.

    I ended up buying a 500SL from an architect who lived in a gated community, had service records from day one, and parked it next to a brand new Mini in an immaculate, epoxy-floored garage. The car was still a maintenance hog, and my last old Mercedes.

  • avatar
    geo

    I saw an ad for a perfect 2007 Saturn Vue, fully-loaded, for $4000. The guy “just wanted it gone” and wanted cash. I took out the cash and headed over to the address in Northwest Calgary.

    The car wasn’t there, and it was getting dark. The guy called me and asked if I was there with the cash. I knew this was bad, but I was too curious to leave. I started to realize how suspicious the ad photos were, and how similar the guy sounded to a guy I spoke to the previous week about a different car. I parked down the street and waited.

    Five minutes later, a white Audi wagon full of young South Asians drove by and slowed down where I was supposed to be. When they saw nobody was there they took off. I kicked myself at how foolish I was. There had reportedly been a spate of phony “bring cash” ads at that time, and people were being mugged.

    I called the police with the ad number and phone number I was given and told them what happened. Of course, they couldn’t have cared less.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    Ive always bought used, one owner cars, private party. I don’t see that changing at all. My car buying experiences have all been uninteresting, which is a good thing. I’ve always ended up buying from someone older who seemed on the up and up. Retirees or “old people”, if you will.

    I had a tough time Ram shopping. Every 06-07 2500 Cummins I was after seemed thrashed and/or modded within an inch of its life, all sold by guys around my age (20-30). Brodozers they were, sold by bro dudes.

    After a couple of weeks of searching, I took a break and decided to give it a go after seeing an ad for an ’06 Laramie MegaCab with 55,000 miles. It was used for towing a fifth wheel.

    This sounds stereotypical, but imget the impression that most RVers are responsible retirees, and by the pictures it looked stock, so it was a good sign. No insane lifts, stacks in the bed and so on. Sure enough, they had a stack of receipts, the truck was beautiful and had no mods. Just the way I liked it. After the Carfax I came back and bought it.

    After about two weeks I approached them and asked if by some chance they still had their fifth wheel, a 2005 Keystone Laredo 29 footer. I wanted to buy a trailer which is the main reason why I bought the truck, but I figured I’d ask then first. They did and were thinking about selling it too but wasn’t sure yet or when (they already had a new truck). I offered $12k to start. The husband said $13.5 and it’s yours…the wife countered at $12.5. We all agreed and now I have a fifth wheel to go with it and it’s absolutely beautiful.

    My wife and I are taking a two week road trip through Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington this summer. It will be our first RV trip, besides the couple of weekends we spent at a state park to try it out.

  • avatar

    Not personally, but a client comes to the office (NJ, the 90s’s prior to internet car deals). Guy buys a clean Tercel, pays, I think $6k, which was fair at the time. Drives car.

    All is good, 3-6 months or so, until one day the State Police show up at his house. They check the VIN, then the confidential VIN. No match. Car is hooked and gone, seized as stolen property.

    My guy sues. We find out that the seller moved ten cars last year, and while no one knows exactly how those VIN numbers didn’t match, we successfully won Judgment, and my client, wonder of wonders, actually got his money back. Curbstoner had a smart attorney and we won based on a sharp question of evidence, the receipt the State Police gave. The Court decided it was a real State receipt, having seen others.

    My local actual Cadillac dealer tried to sell me a flood car once. Good price, but “can’t lease it out, and can’t finance with GMAC”. When I began flipping up insulation in the trunk area, and seeing water/rust/stains/still wet, the dealer acted surprised. They’ve since sold to AutoMallCarPenskeMax conglomerate, and fired all the nice folks who worked in the shop

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Pretty sure I bought a BMW from the Russian mob. Found a ’91 318is on eBay that looked WAAAY better than the rusty one I had. Bought it, sent along the deposit. Arranged for the seller to pick me up at the Philly airport. I flew down, called him, he was running late. OK, no big. Picks me up 1.5hrs later in a Porsche Cayenne and proceeds to scare the crap out of me on a high speed run across Philly out to one of the mainline suburbs. Russian dude with a thick accent yelling (in Russian) into a cell phone the whole time. We pull around the back of a Lincoln/Mercury dealership. Turns out, there are about 10 of these guys working out of the back of the car dealer selling used cars. Hmmm. Kept me waiting a couple MORE hours because they couldn’t find the title – but they did eventually and I was on my way. The car threw a belt on the Jersey Turnpike on the way home. I had it towed to an Autozone and fixed it in the parking lot – AAA to the rescue. But that was the ONLY issue I had with that car in the 2-3 years I had it. Really a great car, and now I really, really, really cry when I see what nice ’91 318is’s go for now, 10+ years later. But man, what a sketchy process buying it. I have actually bought nine cars on eBay and that is the only one I remotely had any issues with the process on.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Haha that’s not Russian mob khrodes1, that’s just a normal Russian emigre used car business. A disproportionate amount of those not in the academia/brain-drain camp (like my folks) that came over found work in the used car buying/selling/repairing/flipping business. Many over there have strong DIY inclinations as a consequence of the command economy environment and are used to dealing with a very poor used car supply. Coming to the States where cars get written of by ins cos for trivial (to them) reasons, wrecked and wholesale car auctions are like a true cornucopia to them. Some deal with exporting US cars back to Russia (primarily European and Japanese models) although customs tariffs have gotten painful in the last few years. Others have US facing operations, like the fellas you dealt with. My brother deals sort of tangentially with this community with his trips to Staten Island as well as a local ethnic-Russian community of Khazakh immigrants in PA (they converted to Baptism to be granted asylum status after Soviet collapse). I was visiting and tagged along on a service call to look at a ragged E70 X5 with a poor running condition. As we’re poking around the car the owner’s father and his friend drag something big wrapped in a garbage bag from the trunk of a Lexus ES. Lo and behold, it’s a whole lamb carcass that they proceed to start butchering on a birch stump right in the driveway. They then invited us in for tea and not so subtly asked if we had wives and if we wanted to come to the Baptist church service the following day LOL. If I wasn’t already engaged at the time I would have considered it, their daughter was cute.

  • avatar

    The most sketchy one I had was with a private seller via the classifieds in a local “shopper” paper. It was a blue Ford Granada – don’t remember the year. My wife needed a car for occasional use and this would also be a fill in for me when my DD was in the shop. Asked what I thought were the right questions and got acceptable answers. The car wasn’t perfect, but the test drive seemed good. The sketchy part was the sale itself. At the time I was not up on the ins and outs of this kind of transaction – (I had only owned 2 vehicles in 20 years or so – both purchased from a dealer). Documents were signed by myself, but after driving away with the vehicle I noticed the owner hadn’t signed something I thought they were supposed to sign. Decided not to worry about it. We never had an issue with the legality of the sale, but we did with the car after a year or two of ownership. My wife had driven to an town close by and the car had stalled after pulling away from a stop. It would not start. I drove the 25 minutes it too to get where she was and could not get it to start either. By that time we were both kind of done with the car. It just hadn’t lived up to our expectations. It was left parked where it had quit, I called the local salvage folks to come get it and that was that. If I had been more knowledgeable and had been more diligent we would probably not have purchased the car. You live and, hopefully, learn.

  • avatar
    turf3

    I bought a ’62 Corvair van from an honest seller. The money/transaction part wasn’t the issue; it was getting the thing home. We took the tops off the carbs, and what was in there sure wasn’t gasoline any more. So to test drive it, he put a gallon or so of gas from a can in, and we got the thing started.

    Drove it (gingerly) around the block. When I pushed hard on the brakes they held and nothing blew out, so I figured that was OK, but when you used the brakes they pulled so hard to the right it damn near yanked the wheel out of my hands. We both concluded this was probably just rust on the drums. Money changed hands, and I started the long (20 miles) trip home, with the now former owner driving my car behind me. Of course the first place we stopped was a gas station to put a nearly full tank of new gas.

    I got the sucker home, but the transmission kept popping out of gear (now I’m thinking, damn, I guess I’ll have to rebuild this) and for those few of you who know anything about Corvair trucks, this was the infamous “magic wand” shifter where the position of any given gear might vary by a foot or so depending on the weather.

    So, being 22 years old and without any sense of self-preservation, I took the van, exactly as received, on a 150 mile round trip the very next day to a swap meet on the far side of the next city. As I went, running 55-70 mph on the interstate (oh, by the way, all I did to check the four mismatched tires was to confirm they looked inflated…) the engine kept missing, and every time it would misfire the transmission would pop back out of gear.

    As I kept driving, the missing kept getting better. The transmission seemed to be staying in gear better. By the time I finished up at the swap meet and got back home, the van was running quite smoothly. I never rebuilt the carbs, never did anything to the brakes (the pulling stopped after a few dozen applications, so I guess it was just rust on the drums). I drove that old van for four or five years and honestly the only trouble I ever had with it was having to replace the starter.

    But the relationship certainly started out a bit questionable. And for those of you who weren’t aware that Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings, this was long before cell phones even existed.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Since I had been in the repair business I had not had trouble buying cars. All the used ones I bought over the decades had known mechanical problems. After I fixed them they became daily drivers.
    Of course life changes so all of them eventually got sold. Over 30 years there were 3 VW aircooled bugs and 2 aircooled vans. Most of the buyers were happy, but one guy had the idea that there was an unlimited warranty on a 1964 bug that at the time was nearly 30 years old. I had overhauled everything; engine, transaxle, brakes, suspension, steering and electrical. It also had new paint and interior.
    The guy complained about the door locks and he did not like the way the accelerator pedal worked, even though it was new.
    Turned out that the guy had replaced the engine with a supposedly high performance one from some place 100 miles away. It had very low compression on 2 cylinders. Really top quality work on a new motor.
    That guy made my life miserable for a couple of years.
    That and the low-ballers and flippers, (now called curbsiders) that plagued me every time I put an ad in the local paper to sell something. This was in the days before the internet and even before auto-trader.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “That guy made my life miserable for a couple of years.”

      Jeez, after the second phone call from that guy I would have lost it. 2 years of him pestering you?! What about, exactly?

      • 0 avatar

        This guy is a prime candidate for number blocks on your phone.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I see the ad got flagged by someone, but Corey did you see my post above? My $2500 Ranger remarketed at $4300! A solid $2000 more than the going rate of a ’93-’97 RWD truck in these parts, that’s what I call a bold selling strategy lol.

          • 0 avatar

            I didn’t get a chance to check it! Maybe it will reappear.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I was 95% sure it was my truck in the photos, and when I texted the number in the ad and sure enough it it came back in my phone’s memory as my Ranger buyer. I just texted the guy a jokey “that’s a pretty penny for a $2500 truck, Good luck” and he got kind of defensive, claiming I should have asked for more, and that you have to mark it up really high to haggle down from. He is but a young grasshopper in the world of craigslist cheap cars :p

          • 0 avatar

            You are going to end up in a CL-generated altercation with your pestering ways, lol.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            It’s okay, I’m bigger :p I really didn’t mean the guy any serious ill will, I was just absolutely amused at this genius sales tactic. When every other Ranger of that year with similar miles (and probably less hidden rust) is in the $1700-2500 range, to go for broke with a $4300 asking. That’s a good way to not have anyone even look at your ad when scrolling. I was sad that it got flagged because I wanted to see how it’d play out. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

        • 0 avatar
          pwrwrench

          Corey I was running a business, not easy to change phone numbers and there was no blocking at that time.

      • 0 avatar
        pwrwrench

        gtem, most of it is in the post. Door locks, accel pedal, and the Crown Jewel the motor that ran poorly which, as I mentioned, turned out to be not the motor that was in the car when I sold it to him.
        When you run an auto repair business you find out how little responsibility most people take for themselves.
        I had dozens of ‘customers’ over the 20 years want me to warranty work or parts that were from somewhere else.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          My brother’s friend ran a brick and mortar indie shop (rather than mobile diagnostics like my bro) and he had stories for days. He had a middle eastern cabbie with some sort of Caravan or something come in for some work, and it was mentioned that he needed new rear brakes desperately and was quoted for it. He balked at the price and then came back after getting them done (pporly) elsewhere and complained that my brother’s friend had done a poor job (he hadn’t done the brakes at all). The guy was such a pest he just told him that he’d fix what was wrong with the brakes but the guy was never allowed again on shop premises. The freebee more than placated the guy, that’s all he was really gunning for, to get someone to do some free work for him, regardless of how big of a scumbag he had to be to get it. It’s not just shady shops ripping customers off folks!

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    gtem, YEP!

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    One of my all time favs was something you would see on the local evening TV news. I was silly enough to watch it in those days.
    They would show a NASCAR pit stop. Tires and wheels changed, gas topped up, and windshield cleaned in less than 15 seconds. Then the scene would cut back to the studio with the talking heads. “Wow, wish I could get service like that from my local garage!” Followed by laughter and head shaking.
    Never was it mentioned how much the crew got paid and that it was their only job to take care of that car.


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