Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Craigslist car adventures....

The truth be told? Nobody will EVER accuse me of being kind to my cars.

Even though my dad was a motorcycle and sports-car nut, as a kid and later as a teen-ager, I never got the "car bug". My other friends were always tinkering and tuning-up and fixing-up their cars...for me - a car was something necessary to get around Southern California in - - I never worried about door-dings or spilled french fries.

For me, a car is a just a tool...and, frankly, MY tools have only received the most basic of "care"...you know..."gas and oil" Oh. And of course the occasional peek under the hood to make sure that nothing had caught on fire. I've only bought one car NEW...I geneally am willing to inherit somebody else's problems for a discounted purchase-price.

I was "between cars" (after I drove Amy's mom's car, literally into the ground!!) a couple of years ago, when our Diocesan Bishop sold me his 1991 BMW 318is sports coupe. It was actually a cute little car, black, with a few mechanical problems (it always leaked oil!) - and from day-one, I began my period of wearing this poor car down to its last thread!

One thing at a time began to break...first was the front spoiler that I smashed off parking too close to a cement lot divider. The thing finally dropped off on the freeway one day and got smashed to 1,000 pieces by an 18-wheeler. Then, a short time later, the passenger door broke a hinge, but since I was in the car all by my lonesome 99% of the time, I just kept the door closed and locked. The parking brake handle wasn't right from the start...no button, you had to put your right pinky-finger up inside the hole and pull up with your left hand to get it to release. I drove it off the curb at the bank one day, and the car developed a noticeable pull to the right and - at speed, a bit of a "shimmy". When the air-conditioning is on, the car won't idle correctly and the motor labors. When it's really HOT and you need the A/C - - it stops blowing cold air and the engine begins to overheat. The muffler makes quite a racket (so I found out - I never noticed, to be honrst!), and the glove compartment door latch had broken off - I carried a screwdriver with me to get it open. The trunk leaks like a sieve in the rain, and, earlier today, I had to take a plastic tumbler outside to bail-out the well where the jack and lug wrench are stored. I had a local mechanic named "Vinny" (no lie!) replace the brake pads last year...but the "brake lining" light remained on all of the time. Vinny said it was a "bad sensor" and he didn't know how to make the light go out.

Amy and I had struck a deal...she said "do all you can to make the BMW last until we leave for India." The more I drove it, the more I knew that I was probably NOT going to make it!! I must admit that there were some long drives out to Inland Empire golf courses that were a wee bit dodgy, at best!!

Yesterday, we filally decided to sell the car - and be done with it... and we agreed to get whatever we could for it...and put the money toward me renting a car when I need it. I need to rent a car to go to Hollister to celebrate Mass on Easter anyway...so - I got right on it.

From early morning on, I called a bunch of the "WE WILL BUY YOUR CAR, RUNNING OR NOT!! DAMAGE? O.K.! BEST PRICES PAID!!" 800-numbers I got on-line. The best offer I got was $200.00, they pay for towing. I guess there's not that great of a market for 20-year-old junkers. What a waste of time those guys were!! I said to myself..."$200.00 won't rent a car for very long...I think I'll see what I can get for it on "Craigslist".

So - - I took her to the car wash (amazingly, she cleans-up pretty well!), got her home, and parked her right in the Southern California sunshine, and took four nice photos (she looked pretty good in pictures - you know - kind of like on-line dating pics!!)...and then I listed the BMW on the L.A./SGV Craigslist page.

The ad said "$400.00 OBO...and I honestly said it had a laundy-list of all of the problems one would expect a 19-year-old car to have" - that she leaked oil...take it AS IS..."make me an offer".

I no-sooner clicked "O.K." than my e-mail box began to fill up!! "Are you kidding me???" I got 25 e-mails in ten minutes!!! I called the first guy and he said he wanted it for $400.00 and he could come right over. I said O.K. and e-mailed all of the other potential buyers and said "sorry, it was sold - better luck next time. I'll e-mall you if the guy doesn't show up" This set off a firestorm of e-mails - "How much is he paying...I'll give you $500.00 right now I have the cash!" sounded pretty enticing, but - - a deal is a deal.

I pulled the ad off of Craigslist exactly 20-minutes after I placed it...I couldn't keep up with the response!

The buyer calls me from the freeway about an hour after I placed the ad. He announced that "I'm getting off the freeway now..." - and I talked him in, turn-by-turn, down Lake to Oak Knoll to Huntington Garden. He calls me and says "O.K., we're here!"

A nice-looking kid, and his friend, are waiting outside for me looking at the car, still parked on the street in the sun. I tell them it's an "as is" sale...and then (gasp!!) I asked if they wanted to take it around the block. I gave the kid the key.

The buyer motioned to his friend to get in the passenger side. I said to myself, "Uh, oh!" I stopped him and said, "Uhhhh...the door sticks - I'll have to close it for you." I slammed it HARD (that's what it takes!) and the glove-box door comes flying open and dumps the owners manual onto the floorboard!!!

Now, wouldn't you know it...even though I had purposefully left the parking brake disengaged, now the poor driver couldn't figure out how to get the parking brake off...so, I gave him the "combo" - - "O.K., now, take your left pinky-finger and put it in the hole...now reach over with your other hand and pull up. Yeah. There you go!" Heck, I've been doing it like that for two years...seemed reasonable to me...but the boys were...uh...let's say they were *not* impressed!

I think I may have forgotten to mention that the gear-shift knob was loose...he got it into first gear with a hearty grind...and took off with a peel of rubber.

My neighbors were standing across the street watching all of this...they asked me "Do you think you'll ever see them again?" I looked at the Honda Prelude they drove up in and said with a laugh: "I hope not...this is a much better car right here!!"

The neighbors and I talked about our house being up for sale and our move to India - just killing time....and about five minutes later, here come the boys, pulling up to the curb. They got out, and left the engine running.

The friend jumped into the drivers side (after unsucsessfully trying to close the passenger-side door...he din't know my patented "lift, tug and slam" methodology...and he gunned the engine. Ugh! "Now what?" This horrible racket came from the exhaust-pipe area. "I think the muffler is broken", the buyer kid said. I looked under there as the friend rev'ed the motor...and sure enough, the noise was deafening and there was a big rusty hole in the muffler.

"I never noticed that!" I said, truthfully. I guess I should have mentioned that Amy swears I'm going deaf!!

The friend turned off the engine and asked..."Hey, can you take a little off for the muffler, he's gotta get that fixed, ya know!"

I said..."O.K. - I'll take $50.00 off - - but that's it...take it or leave it!"

I drive such a hard bargain!

We came in the house, and of course, Beloved the Lhasa Apso is going balistic...and we sat down and filled out the paperwork. I signed the pink slip and they grabbed it, shook my hand and took off. I watched through our dining-room window with my fingers crossed and prayed that they would get home safely

As soon as I heard the sound of the rusty muffler die off in the distance...I quickly ran to my downstairs computer and filled-out the online "Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability" DMV form ... and I clicked "send" just as fast as I could!

They haven't come back and it's been over an hour.

Thanks be to God!


  1. I'm reading this late, but I wanted to advise (with my experiences so far as a sometimes-seller on Craigslist) to never remove your ad until the item is gone with the buyer. Otherwise, you often get a lot of flakey people who either never follow up after an initial email (they change their mind and never tell you) or they come over and decide not to buy. At least our ads here in CO Springs get to stay up for 30-40 days. Back in West Covina they can only be on for a week! Good luck with all future sales.

  2. I hear what you are saying, Becky...but - - in this case, I was overwhelmed...there were 25 people having an online virtual fist-fight - - I just needed the car to be gone. There was an avalanche of "follow-up" e-mails...there was no need to keep the listing up any longer than I did!!