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.


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.



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).


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.


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.



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.


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.








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