My wife and I met through an internet dating site in 2001. Love AOL was where I first saw her. In her picture, she was wearing a ridiculous afro wig and had stuffed an over sized bra with melons. I remember thinking “This chick looks crazy” so, naturally, I wrote an email asking her to meet. We decided to meet at a popular restaurant on a busy weekend night downtown where there is no parking. I eventually found a parking lot up the street to park. I was driving a 1998 White Corvette Convertible that night from the car lot. As I was getting out of the car I noticed a very attractive woman getting out of an Acura Integra across the parking lot. As I was locking the car, I heard her voice say. “Corvette Dan is that you?” My email address was CorvetteDan@aol.com. There was my future wife parking in the same lot far away from the restaurant. It was a special night that ended with a drive in the Corvette and a walk on the beach before we went on our separate ways. We never drove that car again because I sold it later that week.
16 years later, my wife and I still talk about that night. When people ask how we met, the white Corvette is always part of the story. She loves busting my chops about my silly car guy email address when she tells the story to friends. We have joked about getting a white corvette convertible like our first date car one of these days.
One of these days has finally arrived. I have decided to buy a car just like the one we met in. Why not? It’ll be fun. So, off I go on my search. Looking at only 1998-2004 white corvette convertibles with under 50k miles on them. None around nearby, but I found a nice looking one about 7 hours away. I speak to the owner of the car and am seriously thinking of getting the car, asking all the right questions and getting all the right answers. Just when it seems like it might be a good idea to make a deal on the car, the skeptic in my brain interrupts with all the reasons not to get it. I’ve never seen the car and its a long way away. It’ll take a lot of time and money to get there and even if it seems like the seller is a good guy, the car may have been in an accident… it might be a clam needing thousands of dollars of work with leaking seals and gaskets, thin brake pads, a worn out roof that looks ok in pictures. Oh my, what about the tires? HANG UP…NOW!….and within seconds, buyers remorse! I make an excuse that I have to speak to my wife and get of the phone. Now, I am in the car business and hear this excuse on a daily basis. Is it true that I have to speak with my wife? Well I’m sure she’d like to hear the news but really, I know she would love the idea of getting it. Especially as a surprise.
The fear of the unknown is a deal killer. I’ll have the hassle of driving all day or flying one way with the possibility of being disappointed by an edgy old Corvette. What about registration? Is the title clear? Will I have a problem registering the car? So many chances for problems.What a shame so many great car deals are squandered by the fear of the unknown.
Of course I know the problem, a simple lack of information. The solution is to get the missing info so I can relax as I pull the trigger. After all, I supply my customers who buy sight unseen very sound advice how they can get comfortable making a “sight unseen” purchase from me. But when it comes to making a big decision like this even for someone who like me who does this for a living, emotions can get the best of me. Let me take a dose of my own medicine. I’m going to follow the punch list that I suggest my customers use who are nervous about buying.
1. Get a car fax
2. Get a copy of the title.
3. Get info regarding what the current owner knows about the car’s history.
4. Get a list of the service performed on the car from the previous owner if from a private party or, if from a dealer, a copy of the dealership pre-sale inspection from their service dept.
5. Get the seller to agree to bring the car over to the nearest brand name dealership as part of the agreement and if a deposit is required to hold the car, make it refundable if a major issue is found.
6. Call around to find the local brand dealer and ask if they can perform the inspection and how much it costs.
7. If no dealers nearby, hire an inspection service like lemon squad to drive to the car and check the car over.
8. Once the results arrive, If any issues exist, either cancel the deal or renegotiate the price considering what service is needed.
Yes this sounds like a lot but, if the car is what the seller is saying it is, he will be happy to go along. If he doesn’t, steer clear.
If the seller is willing to play along, if there are unannounced issues the seller knows about, he usually comes clean at this point. Most times, people know exactly what they are selling.
So when I call back and present my plan in a very nice and polite tone, I find an unwilling seller. I explained that I intended to buy the car as long as it as advertised. He may have been offended or may have been selling something less than advertised. If he comes around I will buy the car. If not I will find someone who is willing to help me make a comfortable decision.