Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Car excitement! Part 2: Selling the old car.

My previous car was a 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier which I had bought in October 2007. It had a rebuilt salvage title from having been in a front end crash, and part of the reason I had decided to get a new car is that the air conditioning was going. Quoth the guy at Midas, either the compressor or the fan on the compressor was going, or both, which would have cost multiple hundreds to fix. After the poor decision making of the transmission incident (I stupidly paid $1700 to have its transmission fixed, on a car that was not worth $1700 at the time) I had resolved that the next major thing that went wrong, I would not fix it and I would replace it. Well, this was the next major thing and so I started looking for a new car.

With all the car's body problems (I sideswiped a parked bus, swiped some ATM poles, backed it into the telephone pole behind the garage multiple times, hit the garage with the front bumper, etc etc etc etc. Let no one say I am a good driver) and with the A/C going and its transmission issues, I didn't think I could get much for the car. When I was at the dealership doing the paperwork for the new car, I jokingly asked if they were interested in a piece of shit Cavalier that drove well but looked like it'd been through a fence. (Because I think it had - it had many spots where the guy I bought it from appeared to have touched it up, but all those touchups came off the first time I took it through a high-powered car wash.) The dealer became very interested and asked a number of questions about it, and asked how much I wanted for it. I said I didn't know, probably $650 or $750, and the dealer said that I should put it up on Craigslist for $1900 and I'd probably get much more, but if I couldn't he'd buy it off me for $650. Apparently his daughter who was about to turn 16 had taken a shine to the car I bought, and was trying to get her father to give it to her instead of selling it, so I wonder if he thought that my Cavalier would be a better starting car! When I called to tell them to deposit the check, I thanked him for the advice and told him I'd sold it for much more than I thought and I appreciated that he was willing to tell me what he thought it was worth. (i.e., most car dealers would have told me it was worthless and that they would buy it for $500, then turn around and sell it for more than what I sold it for.)

After I had bought the new car (see part 1) I got the car cleaned (not a full detail, but washed outside and vacuumed and wiped down inside) and took some pictures. I put it up on Craigslist for $1500 at about 8PM on Monday and had 2 calls that night. I met with one man on Tuesday evening, who was looking at the car for his daughter. No calls or emails Wednesday so I reposted it. (Well, no useful calls - I had one person offer to trade me his $2500 motorcycle for the car, to which I wondered, if it was worth $2500, you should easily be able to get $1500 cash and buy the car that way! I declined to trade.) Thursday I got a few calls and set up an appointment with someone. I also got a call from someone who wanted to know if I could hold it for a few weeks till the middle of August, since she only had half the money at the moment. I was a little flabbergasted because it's not like there won't be other $1500 cars in three weeks! Maybe she thought that the paint on the sides from the ATM poles just matched her outfit or something. I don't know.

Anyway, so I met up with the second guy on Thursday evening - rather late, as the appointment was for 5:45 and he said that if he wasn't there by 6 to call him and remind him. Lo and behind he was not there at 6 so I called him and he eventually got there about 6:25. He did not say too much but poked around the car a lot, apparently he is a mechanic and buys cruddy cars like mine and fixes them up. This week he was looking for a car for his "girl", whom he told my boyfriend while I was walking home to get the title that he had bought and fixed up an Acura for her, but that she didn't want to learn stick and wanted an automatic. As Boyfriend told me later, he said "She bitching all the time!" So I hope this car passed muster. After the test drive he offered $1000 cash and I negotiated up to $1200. I tried to negotiate a little higher and he looked concerned, I found out later that he had only brought $1200 so it seemed he was afraid I wouldn't take it. But I took it, since I had decided early on that that was what I was trying to get for the car, and cash on the spot is always nice!

Since I had the title, I went home and got it and signed it over to him, and then promptly went and deposited the cash at an ATM since I really don't feel comfortable walking around with a huge wad of cash. When we bought Boyfriend's car, I had literally $5,000 in my purse in 20s and 100s and I felt like everyone knew it and was going to choose that day to steal my purse. Sheesh. We also forgot to take the plates off the car, and had to call the guy back and drive to his house to take the plates off once he got it home. So that's saving me another fifty bucks by not having to get brand new plates for the car, since I can transfer the old ones onto the new car.

My parents had lent me $2000 for the car, so now I can send back the proceeds from selling the old car and be able to pay that off pretty quickly. I felt a little bad about doing this since my parents have been helping me out from time to time during the past year of financial badness, but then it occurred to me that my grandparents had financed my family's cars up until I was in middle school, so I shouldn't feel too bad about the loan. =) I think my grandmother thought it was a better use than sticking it in a CD and I think she is right. After we sold the Cavalier, Boyfriend remarked that he was very glad that I had a nice reliable car now because he was constantly dreading getting a teary phone call from me that my car had died in the middle of the highway. He hadn't mentioned this fear to me before, probably to keep me from also getting paranoid about it, but I had already considered that possibility. So I am quite glad that it didn't take long to either find a new car or sell the old, and I am pleased that both transactions went relatively smoothly and with nary a ding to my credit! I feel like I should put a bumper sticker on the back of the Grand Am, "This car brought to you by working for the U.S. Census Bureau", since that is where I got the money to save up for the car. I am down to about $500 in savings now, but since I have been doing a ton of mystery shopping and other work (more details later) I should have a lot coming in this month to replenish it. Hooray!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Car excitement! Part 1: Buying the new car.

So I finally got a new car! (Well, a new to me car.) I am super psyched as I am quite pleased with myself with both the deal I got on buying it, and what I was able to get for my old car. But one thing at a time.

1. The New Car

New car is a 2003 Pontiac Grand Am. It's bigger than the Chevy Cavalier I had but gets the same mileage, and has remote start and cruise control, which were 2 things I was dying for. It is also in much better shape than the Cavalier was (since I haven't run it into anything yet) and doesn't have any body damage or any other major problem. However, the reason I was able to afford it is that it has a rebuilt salvage title. I bought it from a small town dealer who did some detective work and found out that the reason it has this title is because it went in to a dealership in Lima, OH for an oil change, and somebody forgot to tighten something, and all the oil leaked out. Well, the engine seized, and since that is an expensive repair job, whoever owned the car opted to just get the cash for it from the insurance company and turned it over to insurance. Any time that happens, it automatically gets a salvage title. It seems that someone at the dealership, probably one of the mechanics, then bought the car back from the insurance company and replaced the engine. They then sold it to someone else three weeks later, and that person drove it for two years before selling it to a dealer near the one I bought it from, who sold it to my dealer. Somewhere along the line the remote start and cruise control were added aftermarket.

So that's the Grand Am's story. Having a rebuilt salvage title means that I got a great deal on it, but it will also sell for less when I want to sell it down the line. I'm hoping that I can get many years out of this car before that happens, and also hoping that I don't make the stupid mistakes I made with the Cavalier. (I put $1700 into the Cavalier in November to fix its transmission. I just sold it for $1200. Dumb.)

Overall I am very pleased with the car. I had wanted a bigger car that was easier to drive on the highway because Boyfriend and I frequently drive the three hours home to see our families, and this month will be driving both home and to Michigan to see some friends who recently moved there, so lots of highway driving. Boyfriend doesn't want me to drive his car (and if you'd seen the Cavalier's body damage, you wouldn't want me to drive your car either) however since I am perfectly happy to drive long distances, it makes more sense for me to do the driving, and so we used to rent a car whenever we'd be driving a long enough distance that we needed to trade off. I'm over 25 now so it doesn't cost as much as it used to, but still a good $40 a day for a nice car after all the taxes and what not.

This was actually the first car we saw - I tried to make an appointment to see a 2004 Malibu off Craigslist but the guy balked when I said that I would like to take it to a mechanic. Well, more accurately, he said it was fine, and then when I called him back to make a specific appointment, he said that "my wife and I" had thought it over and thought it wasn't a good idea, but I could bring the mechanic there. Nuh uh. If someone won't let you take the car to a mechanic, they know there's something wrong with it. The guy also claimed that he had multiple others interested in it with just a test drive and were willing to pay cash (what was I willing to pay with, fresh live lobsters?) so he was taking a pass on showing it to me. I took great satisfaction in seeing this car appear on Craigslist day after day - the last listing was for $600 less than it was originally listed for (at $3600) so I guess those multiple others didn't exactly pan out.

I also found this car on Craigslist, but it was listed by a small dealership literally called Just 2 Guys Selling Cars. I am not kidding, and I wrote that on the check. They said they had had a number of people out to see it but that everyone was scared by the rebuilt title. I was a little nervous, because many of the Cavalier's problems were directly related to having been in a crash (one time, the frame had to be tightened, and we had to replace items you should never have to replace, such as the circuit board that runs the turn signals) but they exhaustively went over what they had found out about the car and they were very certain it had never actually been in a crash. They took it to apparently every car place in town to get its electronics checked, the body checked at a body shop, oil changed, etc. So I felt pretty confident.

It was listed at $3500 but I asked if they would be willing to take $3200, and they did some numbers and said they could do $3600 total including tax, title, etc. That works out to about $3300 for the car itself so I was pleased with that. What really floored me though is that I said that I was transferring money out of savings and my parents were sending me a check, so would it be possible to put down a deposit and I'd bring them cash on Friday and pick up the car? And they said, Nah, just write us a check now and call us when we can deposit it. I was totally floored as I have never had anyone take a check in a situation like that. They also said that if I wanted to take it to a mechanic and I found something I didn't like, that I could just bring it back and they would tear up the check. I was very impressed by their not acting like I am a scam artist out to get them and that they were willing to stand behind the car if something was wrong. So they will definitely be getting my business in the future when we need another car. If you're in the central Ohio area, the dealer is in Groveport, OH and their website is http://www.just2guyssellingcars.com/.

Numerous times over the next few days, Boyfriend would drive the car and say how pleased he was and that he thought we got a good deal. I am also very pleased with myself and feel that my obsessive-shopping approach saved us both time and money. I had been looking at cars on Craigslist for the past month, so it is not by accident that we saw this particular car. I looked up KBB values and Edmunds reviews on all the models I was interested in so I knew it was a good deal. I am willing to accept the risk inherent with a rebuilt salvage title, and with a replaced engine in general, and feel that for the price I got, I will be happy even if the car only lasts a few years.

To keep this post from being 9 million words long, tune in next time for exciting tales of meeting strange men in church parking lots! (To show them the Cavalier.)