More on buying a used car, for cheap

Didn’t really get any pictures for this particular week’s blog, but will next week.Okay, this searching for the perfect used car for my son has taken on epic proportions of lies, fraud, scams, more lies, more scams, exaggeration, poor judgment, and time wasted. Well, maybe not time wasted because I have learned a lot about buying a good used car.

With new car prices approaching the price of homes, and sometime exceeding them, a good used car can be a good way to save money on transportation. Us 50 year-olds and up have to consider ways to reduce our expenses, unless you’re rich. I’m not and wish I were. But that’s a whole different subject.

I have generally had a good experience buying a used car. In past posts of this blog I have explained my last purchase that I flew to Florida to get; an ’05 Lincoln Aviator with 43,000 miles. I can drive this gorgeous SUV AWD V8 that is fully loaded, to include a DVD player for the back rows, for years and go well over 200,000 miles. The best part is it only cost $12,000 and is a great luxurious ride.

The search for my son’s car is trickier because there is a smaller budget (he has to pay half) that has been busted several times. The first was a $1000 piece of junk from a relative that we luckily got out of. The second budget moved to $2000 and was an incredible deal on Craigslist.com that turned out to be a scam. There are used cars that looked okay for under $2000, but not for an SUV that would last my son next year through his senior year of high school and last at least a year or two of his dream job since he was 5 years-old; The US Marines. Yes, he goes in right after graduation in June, 2015.

So, the budget moved up to $2500. Most were high mileage (150,000+) and most had rust. I saw a ’98 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer Edition that had only 64,000 miles. But it had rust. How does a car with only 64,000 miles on it get rust? I had numerous Ford Explorers and drove each over 225k miles; none had rust when I sold it or traded it in. My thoughts are that I received more lies; no way does a designer SUV get rust at 64,000 miles, even in the snowy salty, pot-holed roads of North East Ohio. I’ve become too savvy a buyer to fall for lies.

So now what do I do? I’m taking the advise of a friend in Florida. In Florida, retirees sell well-maintained cars and SUV’s with low miles that have absolutely no rust. So, I’m cashing in some American Airlines miles and I’m heading to Florida this Thursday. I have done a lot of research on used cars down there, that are available right now, and there are about ten cars that I’m going to look at. Then I’ll buy one of them, cash right on the spot, then head north. I will drive the car back to Cleveland and hopefully I will have made a good used car decision so I don’t break down getting home. Next week; what I bought and my final conclusions on buying a used car.

 

 

 

 

Buying a used car

Trying to find a used car under $2500 is easy. Trying to find a decent reliable used car under $2500 is not easy. Almost impossible.  My search for a good used car for my son has revealed a few things about buying a used car. One fact, is that any car under $2500 is under suspicion. I have searched through thousands of cars listed on online websites and have some conclusions about the cars and the people that are selling them.

I have been lied to so many times by these used car sellers, that I’m getting very skeptical about anything these people tell me. Even the pictures can be very misleading. Descriptions that say, “good running, starts well and awesome,” are not necessarily true. In fact, they could be wild exaggerations. Go figure. I will try to give you my honest opinion on searching for and buying a used car.

I will start with my experience a few years ago when I wanted a Lincoln Aviator with low miles. Aviators were only built for a few years, 2003-2006, and looks just like a Lincoln Navigator, only it’s the size of a Ford Explorer, with a lot of improvements and with even more ‘bells and whistles.’ I drive on business sometimes as much as 3000-4000 miles in a month on Interstates through every kind of weather condition and road conditions there are. I had a ’03 Aviator that I put 225,000 tough miles on and liked it so well, that I bought another one. But it took a long time to find one that fit my finicky requirements.

I went to several Lincoln dealers to look, but most didn’t have any used Aviators on the lot and the ones that did had a very large price tag or a lot more miles on it than I was willing to accept. This Aviator I was looking for needed to have under 50,000 miles for me to be interested. I figured this car would last me the same 225,000 miles and if I bought it right, I wouldn’t have to spend over $14,000.

I searched on Craig’slist.com, cars.com, autotrader.com, and a few others I found on the Internet. I looked through at least 3500 cars because I widened my search to over 1500 miles away. Now the choices expanded a lot. I pretty much drew the line at the Mississippi River, but if I had the extra time, it wouldn’t be a bad deal to drive all the way across the country. Yet, if the car didn’t match up to what was advertised, it would have been hard to get a cheap flight home, not to mention the potential of a broken down car in the middle of nowhere.

IMG_0087

On autotrader.com, I found an ’05 Aviator with only 43,000 miles in Florida. Not only that, but there was another ’05 Aviator just 30 miles away with 58,000 miles, just in case the other deal went bad. I made the deal with the dealer for $12,000, $2000 under my max price, crossed my fingers and got a cheap three-leg flight and flew down. It turned out perfect because the car was beautiful, other than the tires looked to have maybe another 5000 miles on them. I bought the car, spent some time visiting with friends in Florida, then drove it home. All in all, it was a good experience.

If you read my blog last week, I was in the middle of a search for a car for my son, and had three terrible attempts; One was a relatives car that was about to blow a head gasket, a scam deal on Craigslist.com that tried to pry my money away by posing as eBay motors, and then there was a bid on eBay for a “good running condition Acura” that turned into a trip to Jacksonville, Florida to buy a that turned out to be a beaten up piece of crap.

So now what do I do? Well, I went back over all the steps I had learned, and started at the beginning. First I went to relatives and friends asking one more time if anybody had a good car to sell. Nothing, but one guy told me it’s a bad idea buying a car from a relative. I told my story and he just laughed.

My search this time had some differences because now I was looking for a $2500 or less car. New car dealers don’t typically handle these cars because they have high mileage, so they usually wholesale these cars and wholesale dealers need to make a profit on a small sale. That’s why I thought first of buying from an individual seller instead. Somebody’s ‘cream puff.’

So, the next step was searching through the ‘owner/seller’ list on Craigslist.com and it came up with a lot of cars, but I needed to see even more. So I expanded my search on Craigslist.com to bigger towns that were only a few hours drive, and would have a good selection. I found a number of cars and have emailed many of them. Nobody has emailed back today, but sometime I don’t check my emails everyday. Well, that’s not true either because I do check it everyday.

So, during the wait to hear back, I went on cars.com and autotrader.com as well as checked the classified section of our local newspaper. I searched through thousands more cars. Interesting tactic, because I got a good feeling for the car my son should get and the price we would pay for a dependable one. I emailed to a lot of potential sellers asking for more information, but it’s Sunday night and no response so far.

It’s now Monday afternoon, way past my posting deadline, and I have only received two responses thus far, and one of them is a three hour drive. So the tedious search goes on for a reliable used car, only now I have raised the spending limit to around $2200 in order to get a reliable used car, despite my son only contributing $750. Hopefully, next week he will have his first, ‘Dream Machine.’ Tune in, because it will happen soon.

The search for a good $1500 used car

I’ve been trying to find a good dependable used car for my 17 year-old son. I have failed miserably. He has to pay half and the maximum he can afford is about $750. My half is $750 so that pretty much makes it an under $1500 car. I tried to buy a dependable car for him three ways and failed at each.

IMG_0055

The first attempt was a natural; call all your relatives and see if they have a well cared for, older car for sale. Only one relative responded with a ’98 Jeep for $1000 dollars. I didn’t mind the high mileage because it was only $1000 dollars, until we saw it. I didn’t look bad, but it had an engine light on. He told it was just a couple of small things. We brought it to an automotive repair business and for $59 they would look at it. They told me they wouldn’t even want to work on it because the head gasket could blow at any moment. Hmmmm. We returned the car.

The second attempt was from an ad in Craig’s list, a popular website for selling all kinds of stuff over the Internet, like automobiles. I looked quite a few cars and found a great deal, but it was over our budget at $2000. But, it was a really great deal; a 2004 GMC Tahoe Denali, loaded, 124000 miles, which is nothing for his fine SUV. I contacted the owner and she, Erica, was in the military stationed in NJ and was being shipped out to Japan the next week, so she really had to sell it. Wow! What a deal.

Oops. The car was in NJ too. But, for that deal, yeah. I figured we could drive the 8 hours, buy it, and my son could drive his car back. So, in an email, I asked Erica if she could call us to make the arrangements. She said that it was hard to find a phone on the military base and we’d have to do it by email. She told me that she wanted to do the deal using eBay, which I’ve used in the past and have an account. I said sure and she wrote back that eBay would send me the paperwork necessary.

Sure enough, an email from Y-R eBay Motors comes in and explained how it works. First I’d have to get cash converted to MoneyPaks, which are cards you can buy and load them with a cash amount. They told me where to buy it too. It looked pretty legit, but I had a nagging red flag go up in my mind; everyone has a cell phone and if you don’t, you can borrow one from a friend or associate, especially at a military base. I’m a vet and I would know.

I decided to check out this deal with a phone number I looked up on the official eBay website. When I called, the eBay rep told me that there was no listing for the seller on eBay and the whole thing was a scam and that eBay deals are legit. That made me so pissed. If I hadn’t of called and actually went through with this scam artist’s ploy, my son and I would be without the money for his car. I get even more pissed every time I think of it.

Would I love to get a hold of this little (expletive deleted) and wring his (expletive deleted) neck? Oh, yeah. I can’t stand lazy people that don’t want to work and find ways to steal it from others, just like the (expletive deleted) (expletive deleted) (expletive deleted) jerks that stole my Mustang, a few years back. So… no car.

The third attempt is a real doozy. I decided to find a car on eBay, because the eBay rep said that eBay deals are legit. I scrolled through about 2500 cars on the site and found a couple that I thought, were perfect. One was an Acura. Acuras are great cars and known for their dependability. Acura owners take care of their cars and it was described as a “good running car with a few blemishes and ice cold air.” The bid was only at $1100 and the picture didn’t look bad. I jumped on it like a hungry dog. I won the bid at $1500!

Woops! Did I read the fine print? Apparently, I didn’t. The car was in Jacksonville, Florida! That’s even more miles away than NJ. Only now, I already bought the car and the nice thing about eBay is that you have 7 days to cancel the deal, if it’s not what was advertised and you want your money back. That works for me, but this time I needed another accomplice to help; my 17 year-old daughter. Yes, my son and her are twins. This could be fun. Besides, I know a few people on the way down and some around the Jacksonville area.

ROAD TRIP!

IMG_2329

We left on an early morning on Friday and had to be back on Sunday night. We took shifts driving, with me driving through the mountains and big cities, and them driving the long fairly straight parts of the Interstates. We took I-77 south out of Cleveland. Major traffic jams in Charlotte, NC, but pretty clear through Columbia except for a weird incident (cue strange music).

IMG_0062

We drove through an area entering I-26, where many cars were at the side of the road with flat tires. Some of the cars had all four tires flat because of something on the road. I think I heard a collective (expletive deleted) in the form of a scream. I stayed in the middle of the lanes hoping all the unlucky cars picked up all the ‘whatevers’ in the road already. There were dozens of cars on the side of the road. We made it through unscathed and stretched our day of driving to Savanna, Georgia, stopping for dinner at a real nice Carolina style BBQ restaurant that had delicious ‘Apple Cider Vinegar Mustard BBQ sauce.’ Delicious.

We arrived at the car dealership around 11 am. Well, car dealership would be overly descriptive. This was a fenced in parking lot for an odd assortment of used cars and had a small building for a sales office. In the back was a Jeep, at least, the parts that we recognized was a Jeep. The Acura was right out front and right away we had doubts. Kind of like Clark Griswald, in the movie, ‘National Lampoon’s ‘Vacation.’’ Remember when he trades in his car for a new car, but they had to substitute it for a clunky weird station wagon? Yeah, that feeling.

We immediately took it for a drive, hoping the scrapes, dings, scratches, ripped seats and hanging running board completely hid a well running car. It started, but didn’t sound like any Acura I’ve ever heard. A little jumpy, but a friend of mine said those models eventually need a timing belt. We took off and we didn’t get a hundred feet down the road before we noticed a bumpy ride with a grinding sound coming from beneath our feet. It wasn’t the bumping from the almost gone tires because it had a grinding noise that sounded like it came from the transmission.

We stopped and came to a unanimous decision; no way we were going to attempt driving any further down the street let alone back to Cleveland. That piece of (expletive deleted) wouldn’t make it across Jacksonville. We returned the car, called off the deal and made some rude remarks to the guy who ran this circus, and demanded that he rescind the deal through eBay and his bank would return our money. We left there with our heads low, our tail between our legs and feeling really taken advantage of. Not only that, but my friend in Gainesville couldn’t make it over that day and another friend in South Carolina must not have gotten my message.

IMG_2351

We headed north on I-95 and made a wrong turn and ending up having to go over a large suspension bridge at the Port of Jacksonville when we saw a long line of motorcycles, led by motorcycle cops as part of a national safety program on motorcycles. Cool. We got turned around a went and started going up the coast on I-95. After a while, I thought a good lunch might cheer us up and I had just spotted a highway billboard advertising a seafood oyster bar that was on the waterfront in the little coastal town of Darien, Georgia. Skipper’s Restaurant was picture perfect on the waterfront next to a bridge with a shrimp boat moored at the dock. My daughter had Gator Bites, which she loved. My son had a broiled Mahi-Mahi sandwich, which he devoured and wanted more. I had fresh large Georgia shrimp, blackened and nestled in a bowl of grits with cheese and bacon bits. I couldn’t believe how good it was and we were now in a much better mood.

IMG_0081

 

I decided to call my friend, Herb, who is an old Army buddy of mine and lives in the Columbia, South Carolina area. He said to stop by and stay the night in his apartment over the garage. Turns out it was pretty nice and he lives on a small cove on a large lake that in the 1930s was created out from a damn. It reminded me of the lakes I’ve been on near Nashville, Tennessee, with beautiful homes and cottages lining a lot of the shoreline. We went out on the lake with Herb’s family and watched an early Fourth of July fireworks display. That was enough to get rid of our blues and gave us new energy to get home and continue the search for a good, dependable $1500 used car.

IMG_0065

Number ‘four’ used car will be found this week because I’m tired of my son borrowing my car. The car that we will hopefully find this week, whatever it will be, will be my son’s first car, and his first ‘Dream Machine.’ I’ll let you know how it all works out…next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream Machines that blew me away this week

When I was in my teens, I went every year to the Detroit Auto Show, which is now called the, ‘North American International Auto Show.’ The one thing I looked forward to the most was the concept cars. That’s where automakers looked forward a few years ahead and tried to come up with the most modern looking machine with the not-even-a-product yet type accessories.

Future Car

One design that I thought for sure was coming was flying cars. Flying cars are still coming, but it really is just a plane with the body of a car. If you Google ‘flying cars,’ you will get a bunch of responses like this one: http://www.terrafugia.com/ or check out this one: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/flying-car.htm

Then there was a car/boat like the Amphicar, built in the 1960s. They made them years ago then stopped. But it’s such a cool idea, another company is now making car/boats again, only it’s also like a very cool dune-buggy. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/embed/2150iFXF5Vc?rel=0

Untitled attachment 00068

In a previous blog, I wrote about the concept car, Dia, that singer Bobby Darin bought in 1960. Bobby drove the car, with his wife Sandra Dee, to the 1960 Oscar awards in Hollywood. It looked like something out of the old TV show, ‘The Jetsons,’ only it didn’t fly, but it looks like it could.

Untitled attachment 0004312

You can also see a bunch of pre-1955 cars that look like they are concept cars, only they are real cars off of an assembly line somewhere. Check them out on my Facebook Page for, Dream Machines, here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dream-Machines/560475744012570?sk=photos_stream

Untitled attachment 0009128

But this week, the ‘Dream Machines’ that really blew me away was at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, exhibit. I can’t make it in person, but you can look at the incredible pictures.

Just go to: https://www.high.org/Art/Exhibitions/Dream-Cars.aspx?gclid=CjgKEAjwt4-dBRCDnaTUn-mC_0oSJAC4Q6kGU8Qe3j4WkPy-92fonXsv0B-Ax4FuqTXjxzmh2bKhWfD_BwEk

Dream Machines come in many forms. All I know is that there is a reverence for Detroit Iron made before 1974. I’m sure there are a lot of foreign cars made at that time, but nothing like our ‘Dream Machines’ of the ‘50s, ‘60s and early ‘70s.

The search for a good classic car or hot rod

My '88 Mustang GT

Ever since my Mustang was stolen, I’ve been thinking about buying a classic car or a hot rod, or turning a classic car into a hot rod, to replace the Mustang. It’s a real dilemma for this former Motor City boy. I love cars. I’ve been in advertising for many years, advertising cars on TV and radio for local car dealers all over America. But I continue to think about it every time I go to a cruise-in, car collection, car museum, car show or watch a restoration project.

I really thought about it last Friday, the day before Flag Day. There was an American Flag retirement ceremony at a local American Legion Post and since I play Taps on trumpet, I attended and played. One of the Legion guys just bought a ’64 Ford Galaxy convertible off of an ad on ‘www.Craig’slist.com’ and drove it that night, with the top down. I tamped down my envy emotions and complemented his good fortune.

IMG_2273

The next day, I decided to really search for that classic car that I can own… at a budget price. So I went where everybody goes now-a-days; Google. I thought of what kind of car would I want, what year, and in what condition. I immediately thought of a ’68 GTO convertible. I don’t know why, but the GTO was a gutsy manly car, with a deep rumble and the looks alone demand people’s attention. I also thought about a ’58 Thunderbird a saw once.

IMG_2276

So I Google it and a bunch of websites came up with lots of links to classic car brokers. The first was www.classiccars.com. I went through the site and there were a lot of nice GTOs some with prices and a lot of cars that were listed as, “To be sold at auction.” http://www.Hemmings.com came up a number of times on Google with ’68 GTOs. On their site, they list over 160 GTOs of various years. Many had prices, but many were tagged, “Auction.”

Oldride.com showed up on Google with a lot of listing for all kinds of classic cars. I spent a lot of time there re-thinking what I want. A ’57 Chevy looked real good, but the price tags were huge. Although, when you compare it to new car prices versus classic cars that have been restored properly, it’s something to really consider for what will become a good-weather kind of car that you only drive occasionally. Now I’m thinking about the pitifully small size of my garage. This is an affliction of many classic car people; garage envy.

After that, http://www.autotraderclassics.com was the next big classic car source. Then I found a bunch of others like

www.carsforsale.com

www.ebay.com

http://gatewayclassiccars.com

http://www.haggleme.com/

There’s a lot of other sites I couldn’t get to because there are so-o-o-o many. It all depends on what kind of classic car you want. Do you want to drive it all the time? Keep in the garage only for parades? Lock it up in the garage and protect it until you sell it? The condition of the car has an enormous bearing on the sale price. The top quality conditioned cars are investments and based on what has happened to classic car prices by these collectors, TV auctions and investors, prices have been driven up sharply. The other day I watched a Mecum TV Auction where a ’68 Plymouth GTX in unbelievable condition, went for $3.5 million dollars. WTF??? My American Legion friend paid $4000 for his Dream Machine He went to to a local source like Craig’s list, or could have gone to your local classic car/hot rod magazine or website, or even to some cruise-ins. Whatever price and car you get, you will be buying your own personal ‘Dream Machine.’ Good Luck!

 

 

 

‘American Graffiti’ times a thousand

In the 1950s and ‘60s in Detroit, Michigan, Woodward Avenue was considered ‘the biggest illegal drag strip in the world.’ In the northern suburbs, above Nine Mile Road, on Friday and Saturday night, Woodward was like ‘American Graffiti’ times a thousand.

Totem Pole Poster

Four lanes north and four lanes south with a large grassy median, Woodward is like a grand boulevard. The large median has created what many call, the ‘Michigan left turn.’ The intersection of Woodward at the Mile Roads and the half-mile roads are so large with big volumes of traffic, if you want to turn left on Woodward, you have to turn right and quickly there is a U-turn turnaround to get on Woodward going in the opposite direction.

Ted's Drive-in out front

During the ‘50s and ‘60s, this 15 mile stretch of Woodward had dozens of drive-in restaurants and regular restaurants that served unique food. But on Friday and Saturday night, that’s when the magic began. This was Detroit, and Motor City people love their cars. All the big three auto manufacturers executives lived in the suburbs of Ferndale, Royal Oak, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Berkley, Huntington Woods and several other quaint villages. They all had the hottest and newest cars as exec demos and they, their sons and daughters, and just about everybody drag raced on Woodward. Everybody.

Maverick's on Woodward

The cops couldn’t keep up with all the drag races. Tens of thousands of people cruised Woodward and cruised all the drive-ins as well. There were two large drive-ins at either end of this 15 mile stretch, The Totem Pole and Ted’s Drive-in. In between were many drive-ins, some featuring roller-skating waitresses and they all had their special burger with their own special sauce.

IMG_1180

The most famous burger was the Totem Pole’s Big Chief. The sauce is incredible and like biting into history. The Big Chief can still be had now at Duggan’s Pub on Woodward, between 13 Mile Road and Normandy (13 ½ Mile Road). Duggan’s also has Ted’s 5 x 5 cheeseburger and a number of other ‘signature dishes’ from the old drive-ins, like the ‘Suzie Q fried fish.’ Larry Payne Sr. had the forethought to buy the recipes and serve them at Duggan’s.

teds-4

The favorite sport that guys loved was, ‘chasing skirt,’ and a nice car would act like a ‘babe magnet.’ Nice cars included old cars that were fixed up to be hot rods and the people who worked on these cars were called, ‘gear-heads.’ There were plenty of new hot rods too. Not just Corvettes, but Mustangs, GTOs, and so many that I’d have to have a whole blog to identify all of them, and still wouldn’t get all of them. However, there was one hot car that made them all look slow; The Silver Bullet. 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX, affectionately known on Woodward as, The Silver Bullet.

Silver Bullet of Woodward

The Silver Bullet was the baddest street machine on Woodward and won more than it’s fair share of glory between the lights. More can be found out about the Silver Bullet in this excellent article on Carcraft.com at: http://www.carcraft.com/featuredvehicles/906_1967_plymouth_belvedere_gtx/

Whether men and women want to admit it or not, they judge one another based upon the class and power of the car they drive. That’s been a part of America’s love affair with the auto since Henry Ford started mass-producing them at a cost that most people could afford. Costs have sky rocketed for cars, but people still love them, and they love Detroit muscle cars especially.

Duggan's Pub on Woodward

The annual Woodward Dream Cruise in August is getting closer. Soon over 1.3 million spectators will descend on Woodward and it will be time to cruise or just watch all the ‘Dream Machines’ cruise by. I can hardly wait.