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So, I may or may not have an opinion on buying new cars (see here, here and here). But what I haven’t really admitted to is that I am a car enthusiast. Like, I love working on cars, researching cars, figuring out the details and figuring out how to make them better, faster, stronger! I am semi-obsessed with a few types of cars, namely the Toyota Supra MKIII Turbo, ’06 – ’07 Subaru WRX, and the Fifth Generation Honda Civic. Weird, I know. The main problem I have is that I can’t afford any of these cars, while I’m getting out of debt and on a very tight budget. But yesterday I found something I COULD afford. UH OH!
The Perfect Used Car
I have been looking for a 4-door, 5-speed, ’92 – ’95 Honda Civic EX for about a year or so now. Or, as forum goers like to call it, the “EH9”. It’s a rare combo, because most 4-door econo-cars are automatics. So to find the 5-speed, 4-door combo with all the options rarely happens. I have found a few in the past, but there were like $3,800, which is far too high a price for that car. But I check every few weeks to see what’s new on Craigslist, just in case I find the perfect car. I want to turbo-charge the car (about $1,800 with a tune) to get about 225HP (about 260 crank HP) at the wheels for a fun, fast and gas-sipping daily driver.
And yesterday it happened. I found the exact car I wanted, listed for only $1,750! Which means I could negotiate is down to $1,500 and have the car of my dreams on the cheap! Add that to the fact that I could sell my current car for like $2,300, I’d be up $800, and have the car I’ve always wanted! I called, asked a million questions (like, “smoker? Shape of interior? Clean title? And body damage? Etc.”) and decided to go check it out. I called my brother-in-law (the family mechanical expert) to go with me, and we set off down south!
Not So Much
Traffic sucked on the way there, but I was not to be deterred in getting to my gem. I had dreams of driving around my little rocket, taking it to the track, enjoying passing those slow Mustangs and BMW’s, and laughing as I overtake people with ease (legally, of course)! But I abruptly crash landed back to reality when we arrived at the car.
We parked and got out to meet the potential salesman, and he showed us his “great condition” vehicle. First, we’ll start with the good news. It was the EH9. 4-door, 5-speed and all the options. Now the bad. The motor didn’t look like the d16z6 that comes stock with the EH9. That’s a problem, because that’s the main reason to buy this car. The car also had 196,000 miles. Which wouldn’t be a problem, but I was told on the phone it had 160,000 miles. Most of the door jams had rust on the bottom of them that were spray painted over, or covered with some plastic. And the entire car was horribly spray painted, which was hard to tell from the pics I got on the ad. Also, this “non-smoking” car smelled strangely like someone had smoked a carton of cigarettes in the passenger seat, blown all the smoke into the vents and then put the fans on re-circulate for 5 hours straight.
Then my brother took it for a quick drive up the block and back, turned it off, and it wouldn’t restart. Of course, this had “never happened” to the guy before, it was “totally weird”. Sure. He eventually got it restarted, but we had seen enough. I told him we’d like to chat for a second, we both faked a conversation for a minute, and then I told him it was “not quite what I was looking for”.
I have bought a bunch of used cars, and have mostly had great experiences. I am VERY thorough when researching what I am looking for, and am usually pretty good about telling whether the poster is lying or not. But sometimes you just need to go look in person to find out the true details of what you are looking at. I could have walked away with a piece of crap car, but using some of my car buying experience, I was able to avoid losing a ton of cash on this heap of junk. But I did learn a few things after checking this car out:
- Don’t take people at their word. People lie to make money. They have since the beginning of time, and they will ALWAYS lie to make things swing in their favor. Luckily, most people are not like this, and give you a fair shake, but just always assume that people are not 100% telling the truth. Keep your “skeptical spectacles” on (HAHA, I CRACK MY SELF UP! GET IT?! SKEPTICAL SPEC…ah, nevermind) and always be on the lookout for misinformation.
- Check for rust, EVERYWHERE! I haven’t run into this much, be this person tried to cover up some REALLY bad rust on the car. Rust is an indication that the car sat out in bad weather for a while, or just was neglected for a long time. A rusty car is absolutely not worth the purchase, unless you have a body shop in your backyard and get the car for the prices of Reese’s Pieces.
- Look at pictures of other cars similar to what you are about to look at. I didn’t look at enough engine shots of the d16z6, and was not able to call him out on having the wrong motor in the car. If I really know what things were SUPPOSED to look like, I would have been quicker to pull out of the deal.
- If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. I have not seen this car for less than $2,800, and so seeing a lower mileage version for $1,000 less should have been a red flag. I got too excited for finding “the perfect car” and jumped on it too quickly instead of talking it over with some people first.
I Saved $1,700
I could have dropped $1,700 on a bad used car that would have cost AT LEAST that much more in repair down the road. Luckily, I had my brother with me and was able to see through the lies with my skeptical spectacles (SERIOUSLY, I AM DYING OVER HERE!!! AHAHAHAHA!). I wasted some gas, but got to hang with my brother, so it all worked out. In the future, I’ll probably ask a few more specific questions and get more detailed pictures before driving an hour away to check out a car. But even with some hassles of buying a used car, I still maintain it is worth the time so search and find a used car over a new car ANY DAY! I will never refute that point. Math doesn’t lie, and neither will I (IT RHYMES! AHAHAH!).
Comments: Have you had any Craigslist liars try to take your money? Can you believe the nerve of some people? Did it turn you off to making purchases on Craigslist? Also, if you don’t own a pair of skeptical spectacles, you should totally get some! $FREE-99