What To Double Check When Buying A Used Car Under $3,000 Bucks (so you don’t get taken for a ride like I did!)

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First off, everyone always says how much most cheap used cars are a piece of shit… And more often than not, they’d be right. Sure there’s the occasional diamond in the rough, meticulously maintained from a single owner with perfect auto history, but those are few and far between and you can’t count on it all the time. Pictured above, is the exact car I bought… looks decent right? Sure from the top, but wait till you look underneath!  (…that’s what she said!)

Maybe I should’ve titled this post….


Why Am I Writing This Post?

To help you avoid the misfortune I’m in right now. (i.e. – I’m out over $3k because I hastily purchased a pile of shit, and it just keeps getting worse and worse the more I dig into it)

So, I’m going to do the only positive thing I can think of right now… use this misfortune to help educate others avoid the same mishaps. Who knows, maybe something good will come out of it!

But let’s get one thing straight: a used car is a used car. Ultimately it’s your responsibility to learn what to look for, have it inspected, and live with the consequences if you do end up buying it and it’s a dud like mine. Fact is, I knew better, and made a hasty decision because I’m out of time to make my next move. (I’m supposed to be going on a snowmobiling trip next week in Maine that has been planned for months… However, I was also planning on packing up my equipment, and staying in the woods for a couple weeks after and do another work stint to take this blog to the next level. This is something I’ve been REALLY wanting to do, and I exercised poor judgement because I didn’t want to spend more money and was under a time crunch to leave.)

Ever heard the saying…

Sometimes you spend more, trying to save?

The Mistakes I Made Prior To Purchase (pay attention, you can learn from this)

Paid For A Mechanical Inspection – technically, this is the right thing to do. I paid for inspection a mechanic shop with excellent Yelp reviews, but unfortunately they missed a couple things that ended up being very expensive fixes that would have stopped me from looking at the car any further had I known about them at the time. Normally you always want to go to a shop that you trust, or a mainstream shop that abides by corporate guidelines. Typically I don’t like those type of repair places, but in this case, they have to follow strict procedures for inspecting because of post purchase liability on their part should they make a mistake. The mistake I made, was using an independent shop I didn’t know, because my seller was located far away. They missed a leaking rack and pinion, front strut mounts, and some other various front end work like ball joints. I didn’t find out about this until I took it to Firestone for an alignment before my trip. A $1,600 bill wasn’t pleasant, to say the least. (half the fucking value of the car!!!)

Underestimated Repairs – I will admit I knew it had a valve cover leak, and possibly a front seal drip when I bought it. Trouble is, I thought I could let it ride for a while, since I only wanted to used this a a cabin/woods truck anyway. But once one thing leads to another, it’s no longer just one drip here and one drip there anymore… Before long, it’s another grand just to patch that up, and you’re still dealing with a car that’s 15 years old, so who knows how long it’s going to last after that repair has been made.

Didn’t Budget For Professional Mistakes – It never occurred to me that perhaps there would be even more unforeseen problems that I had anticipated. I had been looking for weeks, and probably had seeing what I wanted to see, not what actually was. Fact is, I paid over $100 for a professional inspection before buying this car, but one simple oversight on their part meant over an extra thousand dollars out of my wallet to get this thing road worthy for a 1500 mile road trip from Florida to Maine. Sure, I probably have some legal recourse there with them, but in the end it’ll be even more wasted time and energy that I’m supposed to be focusing into this blog.

Made Emotional Decision – I let the pressure of impending deadlines to leave get the best of me. I am fairly mechanically inclined, and know better than to overlook some of this stuff. But my mind was elsewhere, and I was feeling the pressure of trying to make all my deadlines and get up north before my upcoming dates. Instead of being patient, or just getting a flight and renting a car again (I’ve been doing this for years, and finally wanted to save money on rental cars), I decided to settle with the best option I could find, and part with my hard earned cash to a private seller. I’ll never know if he knowingly took me for a ride or not, but I can say that harboring anger about it won’t help 😉

Poorly Calculated The Value Of Time – This, I would say, is my biggest mistake in this whole debacle. I want to value my time at $100/hour, so technically all of the time and energy I spent hunting for these fucking used trucks, far exceeds the price I was willing to pay. Meaning, I would have been better off going and buying something for quadruple the money, financing it, and only spending a couple hours on the whole deal… Because I can make more money if I just stay dedicated to my priority goal and action steps. So, not only did I lose over $3k in cash, I lost a lot more than that in potential incoming revenue from assets I would’ve produced had I been working instead. Not to mention, this purchase is a one time occurrence… some of my work, I get paid on over and over again. Yikes when you think about it!!!

What I Hope To Help You Avoid

Being Stuck With A Pile Of Shit You Can’t Ethically Resell – once you’re in it, you better be strapped in pal. So you buy something less than stellar, and the nightmare just keeps getting worse and worse right? Well, it’s only just begun… Because how the hell are you going to dump something once you’ve uncovered more things wrong with it, lowering the value even more? You can’t. You’ve got to be willing to take a loss on it, and hope you can recoup as much money as possible. Good ways to do this are: put it up for sale, and vet the interested parties based on mechanical skill and intended use. For instance, I would never sell this thing to a family that didn’t have much money, and risk them being stuck somewhere on the side of the road in a bad part of town with kids in the car. Whereas, I got a call from a guy yesterday, who said his son is here for school, and he needs a beater for the 6 or 7 months he has left to get around town. In that case, it’s not such a bad idea, considering he has access to repair shops near campus, and it’s very likely the truck will far outlast his needs for it without any repairs at all.

Losing Your Ass And Selling For A Loss – So this is where I’m at now, and the reality is I’m going to have to take a hit on this thing in order to sell it. It needs more repairs than I’m willing to put into it, and I paid more than it’s worth in it’s current state. In order for someone else to have a decent shot at it, I’m going to have to bend over a little… The saying is true, you make (or lose) your money when you buy.

Most Importantly – Added Stress And Time Wasted That Should Be Spent On Your Priority #1 Goal – This is self explanatory really, and I kind of touched on it above. I’d be better off overall by spending more on a better quality car that I can acquire with the least time investment and headache possible. I’ll actually end up with more money still in my pocket, and quite likely more income earned for the time invested in the comparable activities. (working for earned income VS spending time frivolously trying to penny pinch a used car… finding all sorts of creative ways to justify it — “wasting money on rental cars, only going to use it two months a year, blah blah fucking blah!  At the end of the day, my energy and pocket book are zapped because I was trying to be a cheap fuck acquiring a used 4×4)

Here’s EXACTLY What You Should Inspect
If You’re Looking At Buying A Cheap Used Car
(even if you’re paying a mechanic to inspect it!!!)
hint- they do NOT always catch everything!

*I’m going to get someone else to chime in and help finish this out for the most common overlooked mechanical issue when buying a used car

Transmission Shift Smooth?

Drive It Down A Brick Road – Windows Down – Radio Off

Slam On The Brakes And Rapidly Accelerate A Few Times

Triple Check All Power Window Regulators & Locks

Take Cardboard To Crawl Underneath And Look For Wet Fluid On Anything On Undercarriage

Check Back Of Oil Cap

Of Course The Standard Stuff Like Check All The Fluids

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