The 5 Worst People You Meet When Buying a Used Car
I was recently in the market for a used car. "But why, Gladstone? Don't you have a car?" you ask. Wait, you didn't ask? You didn't even realize this column was by me? Oh, OK, bylines and banners are for losers, I guess. Anyway, yes, I was looking for a used car even though I already have a very sexy and hip Honda Odyssey that brings all the supermodels to my yard.
Comes with cocaine cutting board and a glove compartment full of MDMA for all the crazy-ass sex-raves that pop up when you drive by.
But that's for my family. I needed a station car, mostly for getting me to the train and local stuff. My goal was to buy a Honda or Toyota off Craigslist for $2,000 to $3,000. Is it fair that one man should have two such sexy cars? No, not really, but I'm a rock star.
In my search, I met five distinct kinds of people, and here they are!
The Can't Read, Write, or Speak So Well Guy
Did you know Craigslist has no requirement for being able to write or speak in full sentences? It's true! Anyone can post an ad. Even if English is not your first language and you don't know anyone who speaks English. Even if English is your first language, but the notion of using nouns and verbs correctly is offensive to you. None of these things can legally stop you from posting your car on Craigslist and then attempting to communicate with people who want to buy it.
One of my favorite ads was for a car no longer needed because its owner was "going off to collage." Now, while the practice of using media in a collective fashion to create art can certainly be so rewarding and time-consuming that some are left with no time to drive, I had a feeling he meant "college." Hopefully, once he gets there, he'll learn how to spell "college" and also how to leave vital information. See, this was early in my search, before I instituted my one-strike policy of dealing with people, so I actually contacted him. (In fairness, he took several hours to reply to my email, so perhaps his fingers were sticky with glue and covered in bits of construction paper.)
"Sorry, no time to drive, must finish my masterpiece!"
I asked where I could see the car, and he said he'd "be at the location all day." I replied that the location wasn't provided, to which he responded, "I'LL BE AT THE LOCATION ALL DAY." Five minutes later, someone impressed with his collage must have taken pity on him and explained the communication problem because I finally got an address, which, of course, I did not go to.
Before I leave this topic, I'd also like to mention the guy selling a car with a "swapped motor." When I inquired as to what that was, he explained: "My girl posted it. She a idiot. Original motor. I swapped out the cluster." Yeah, I didn't see that guy's car either, but I'm super glad he has my contact info.
Although initially infuriating, I've come to love the omitter. The omitter is the guy who doesn't list things in the ad that you definitely need when buying a car. Specifically, pictures, model, and mileage. The omitter is not to be confused with some schemer who fails to disclose latent defects -- that's our next entry. You expect shady shit like that when you're buying a used car. The omitter is somehow almost worse because he's not playing the game right.
"I'm very rich and good in bed. (Also, I technically have a 'vagina,' but I'm not telling you that.)"
But ultimately I came to love the omitter because he made my decisions so much easier as I scrolled through a barrage of new listings. No pics? It's a piece of crap. No miles? It has over 200,000. No make? OK, I'll text you and ask because maybe you're a grandma who didn't think to include it.
The Big Liar
Everyone expects a certain amount of puffery when buying a used car. People say a car in good condition is in great condition, they don't mention the occasional overheating episode or the woggy tape deck. We're all grown-ups here and we get it. I'm talking about the big liars. The people with brass balls who just don't care.
"Brass? These balls are gold!!!"
There are used car dealers who list their cars as private parties on Craigslist. They do this so they can get away with not offering dealer warranties, they do this so they don't appear to be running a lemon mill, they do it so they can do a bait and switch, and they do it because they're big liars.
The biggest liar I met was a dude posting a Toyota that he described as being in "MINT" condition. All caps and everything. For kids at home, "mint" means perfect. If it were a baseball card, it would have no creases or damage of any kind. So I clicked on the pictures and I could have sworn I saw a slight dent over the front driver's side tire. Then I clicked another one and saw a fist-sized dent in the back rear bumper.
When I called this private party, I learned it was actually a dealer, and I continued talking: "Are we even talking about the same car? Unless I'm crazy, this car has dents."
"Yeah, well, you see the pictures," he said. "It has some dents. Do you really care about that?"
"I actually don't care about minor dents," I said. "But I do care very much about buying a car from a guy who describes something with dents as 'mint'."
The Guy Who Doesn't Want to Sell His Car
Did you know there are people selling cars on Craigslist who really don't want to sell their car on Craigslist? Case in point happened to me the other week. I found a 2000 Honda with 95,000 miles on it for about $3,000. It looked like it was in good shape, and the best part is, it was being sold in my hometown. How wonderful, I thought. He'll be relieved to know it's not some freak from the World Wide Web, but just a local Semitically handsome man he might bump into at the post office.
He posted on a Saturday afternoon and I contacted him within two hours, asking to see it right then. Late Saturday night, he advised he'd call me Sunday. I explained I was seeing a car at 11 a.m. on Sunday, but would gladly come see his before or after. No reply.
On Sunday, after seeing the other car (in the entry below), I contacted him again asking to see the car. It was sold.
Let's pretend I made this face, because I need a picture here.
Let's recap. I contacted him within two hours of posting and asked to see it right away. He ignored or put me off for 36 hours until he said it was sold. My guess is that he was selling a lemon and didn't want to do that to someone he might see again in his hometown. The other option is that he wanted the thrill of posting his car to Craigslist without selling it. Kind of like guys who like it when other men leer at their wife. Incidentally, his wife was also on Craigslist and totally put out.
The Decent Guy
It's hard to believe, but it's true: You can meet some decent people selling used cars. One gentleman was selling his elderly mother's 1997 Honda Civic for about $2,500. The car was driven infrequently for years and only had about 100,000 miles on it. According to him, it was a "cream puff!"
I'd never heard that term before, so I looked it up, and it turns out a "cream puff" is not just an antiquated gay slur (which was my first guess, this being Craigslist and all) but also a term for an old car in excellent condition. He answered my inquiry promptly. He used full sentences, and everything was smooth sailing.
Man, this boat is a cream puff.
We met at an agreed location, and I looked over the car. It was in very good condition, but not excellent. Still, it was an acceptable embellishment. His asking price was based on trade-in value rather than Blue Book's suggested third-party sale rate. Again, acceptable. The AC worked and the car drove well. If he would bring the price down to about $2,000, we had a sale.
Then this gentleman disclosed to me that when there was heavy rain, the driver's side occasionally got damp. I researched that. It's a Civic thing. If it's wet with rainwater and not a coolant, then it's probably rust damage to the underneath, allowing water to come in. I quickly imagined myself having a mold-induced allergy attack and passed on the purchase. He divulged something that cost him the sale because it was the right thing to do. He was an honest man. A decent fellow. And I found him on the Internet, no less.
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