A USED CAR? DON'T ASK ME!
so often, I am asked by a friend or
acquaintance for help in buying a
used car. I guess because my
used car buying-to-selling ratio is
so high, they think I'm an expert.
I AM an expert, of course, but they
never find this out because they never
seem to take my advice.
latest friend to fill my email in
box with questions is someone who
is very bright, just not about certain
things. She is a highly skilled
technician in her field, and has a
heart of gold. Neither of these
attributes make her any good at a
used car purchase. In fact,
she is downright pathetic when it
comes to spending money on automobiles.
In the past few years she has bought
an Olds Delta 88 (I can't recall what
year but suffice it to say that it
had so many problems it was not worth
the cost of registration), a 1980
300 D-class Mercedes turbo diesel
(broken a/c, and a shift problem),
a 1984 Ford Escort wagon (of all the
cars she's had this is proving to
be the only one worthy of repair)
and a couple others I can't remember
now. All the cars needed big
repairs to make them roadworthy. This
is a woman who runs her own business
and takes great pride in helping our
troops overseas. She is not
feeble-minded. I would say that, rather,
she has a distorted view of machinery.
friend is what I call cash-deprived.
She spent no more than $1000 for any
of these gems, and most times she
spent less. We all know you don't
have to spend a lot to get a nice
car but most of the time you do get
what you pay for. And, I counsel
my friends to have someone who knows
cars go along with them (not me, please
lord) when they look at one.
Usually, once she buys something without
consulting me about the particulars,
I'll get a string of emails asking
why something broke. After losing
her trusty old Volvo sedan (a worthy
car, but elderly with all the associated
ailments), she is now fixated on a
used Mercedes, because she has the
nearly-non-functional 300D sitting
next to her driveway. The poor
Volvo was the victim of a hit-and-run
hood, that flew off the car in front
of her and smashed the Volvo to bits.
My advice regarding the upcoming used
car purchase consisted of telling
her she would be best off spending
her thousand bucks (by now I think
she may have saved a little more)
on something ugly and dumb, like maybe
a Nissan Sentra, that runs fairly
well and will cost little to repair.
Used Nissans and Escorts have a reputation
of running nearly forever and don't
cost a fortune to fix. I am
sure there are other cars in this
category also. Now mind you,
I have nothing against Mercedes and
I'd own one myself if I had unlimited
funds to repair and/or maintain it.
But as a former Saab owner, I have
no desire to jump right back into
that particular well at the moment.
I'd like to dry out a little more
friend called me again tonight begging
my help with yet another - you guessed
it - Mercedes. No matter how
many times I tell her to forget about
the high-priced luxury cars, she seems
to find one more she's GOTTA have.
At least I have trained her to check
them out before she buys them.
She now will take the latest candidate
to the local gas station to have them
look it over before she decides. I
have ranted and raved at her so many
times about lowering her expectations
to fit her budget, that I can't believe
she is still speaking to me.
With every phone call or email that
arrives I get progressively more and
more agitated until I finally blow,
and just blurt out the first thing
that comes to mind, like Are you out
of your mind? Have you been
listening to me at all? Cuz
if you have, you'd know you have no
business buying anything right now,
much less a Mercedes! The only
thing she can tell me is But it's
PRETTY, it has a sunroof and the a/c
works. And it's BLUE.
Gee, that'll be really handy when
you are sitting alongside the road
somewhere in the dark.
may be sensitized to this issue because
I have had personal experience with
her kind before. SHHH, don't tell
anyone but my sister is like this.
She will fall in love with a car the
moment she sees it and it suddenly
becomes the one. My friend and
my sister both lack an essential part
of the equipment required for successful
used car purchasing: the car-buying
gene that normal people have.
If they want a red car, they will
ignore every other qualified candidate
that comes along until the worst possible
one shows up, which, of course, will
be red. And, they will buy it
on that basis alone. And pay way too
much for it. I guess I have this gene
(I thank my dad for passing it along
to me), because after buying 4 used
cars (3 of which I still own) I haven't
been burned once. They were
ALL good, honest used cars and haven't
think I have pretty much decided that,
in the future, I will not be helping
anyone buy a used car. So, if
you're in the market for a used car,
do us both a favor and don't ask me
for advice. Seriously.