Tuesday, October 28, 2008

the car purchase

I found the car on craigslist one particularly stressful Saturday morning. The ad read like this:
For sale: 2-door 5 speed [stickshift] BMW runs strong and is operable. This car has 2004 tags and has 169,000 miles.

The fine print: It has been hit in front and has one broken right side window rear. To make it look right, it needs a new fender, hood, bumper, 1 grill half. You may want to replace the cracked windshield. Underneath the dash it’s a little tore up—someone stole the radio--otherwise interior is nice [black in color].

$500.00 great for parts or for project lover.

Please call John 408-xxx-xxxx

I called John, and after some back and forth I agreed to meet him at a self storage facility to look at the car that afternoon. I was running a little late, so I called John to say I was on my way. "No problem" he said "I'll pull the car around front for you." It didn't click at the time, but I was dumb not to stop him from starting the car til I got there. Rookie mistake.

I showed up to find John and his father with the car idling in the front lot. The car was idling smoothly, almost too good to be true. There were many things that quickly drew my attention. The frontend hit didn't look too bad. The tires were crap. 2 were almost flat, and 1 of those was dry rotting AND bald. The brakes were caked with dust, it had been sitting a long time. The bottom of the car was covered in grime. Looks like the oil leaks. Oh, and the hood doesn't open and John broke the handle trying.

When I asked about the car John immediately shared with me that he bought it for $1. That's right, just $1. The story goes that the storage facility was holding an auction for stuff they took possession of when tenants don't pay their bills. Apparently nobody wanted this fine automobile, so John bought it for $1 and was going to either dump it on craigslist or sell it for scrap. He got the car to run, so he decided craigslist was the way to go. He said the car had sat for 4 years, which is believable. He also said it was running fine on 4yr old gas. Insanity.

I went to take the car for a "test drive" and was informed that the seat back doesn't sit up. So it was like sitting on a stool leaning backwards to drive the car. Gotta hold the wheel tight or you fall backwards. I took the car for a spin in the little corridors between storage buildings. The tire rubbed the body on the side that was hit. 2 tires were borderline flat so it rode pretty poorly. The good news was the motor pulled pretty strong, and the car didn't blow up when I bounced it off the rev limiter.

On the way to park the car in the front lot, I noticed the temp guage was climbing rapidly upward. I pushed the AC on, turned the heater on, and I parked the car in the front lot as quickly as I could.

I negotiated with John, cited all the busted characteristics of the car, and got him down to $200. This was in spite of his father standing there spouting off half truths "it's overheating? just put water in it!" and telling John not to take the deal. I think the phrase "cash right now" worked, but later John told me that selling a car for scrap requires that you drain the gas and oil out of it, and that was too much of a pain in the ass for him to consider. We went to a shady warehouse full of junk dealer stuff and put together the paperwork. The paperwork consists of a couple of pages from the self storage place about selling the car to cover a debt, the $1 receipt from John, and then a handwritten bill of sale. We don't have a pink slip.

Posession is 9/10ths of the law, right?

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