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Posts Tagged ‘test drive’

That night I called on a car I’d had my eye on for a while, but which I knew had been through several showings earlier in the week.  He told me the car had not been sold, and agreed to schedule a test drive for the next afternoon.  I got my mom to join me on this test drive, male members of the family being at work.  We met a colorful Indian man who showed us his gold Nissan Altima, the same age as my car, but with less miles and much better maintenance history.  He was asking right at market value.  Except for some very minor hail damage, the car was in great shape.  I’d checked the VIN to make sure everything was clear.  The story went that the car had been owned by only one elderly gentleman since it was made, until a couple months ago when the Indian man bought it.  But the Indian found another car he liked better and was now interested in selling this one.

 

The Altima tends to have trouble with the CV joints, something to do with the wheels and axels.  But the owner had just paid to have that fixed.  Plus there was a new alternator, front tires, and air filter.  Altima’s use timing chains instead of timing belts.  They are much more durable, fairly easy to replace, and thus, inexpensive.  Really the cars have a reputation for being very reliable mechanically.  When we test drove it there was a bit of a squeak when we went over bumps, nothing too annoying or worrisome.  I left the test drive fairly certain I would buy that car.

 

That night I called to schedule a pre-purchase inspection of the car with my mechanic.  It was quite stressful, as I felt like I was putting the owner out, and trying to coordinate between my mom and I and the owner and the mechanic.  Plus Mom was babysitting, and I needed to talk to someone interested in buying my old car.  But I straightened my back and marched forward.  Took the car and the owner to my mechanic (a recommendation from a friend, but a shop very close to my house), who told me the car checked out.  So we drove back to the owner’s apartment, and completed the transaction.

 

To buy a car privately in Colorado, you have to sign the Title, put the new owners address on the back of the title, and record the Odometer Reading at the date of purchase.  Plus you need a bill of sale with the date, seller’s name, buyer’s name, signatures from both, amount of sale, and VIN # for the car as well as the year, make, and model.  While I wrote out those things, the owner counted the cash.  We shook hands.  He got his plates.  And I drove my new car home, with proof of insurance and the bill of sale on hand, while my mom drove my old car back home.

 

The day I bought my car was Veteran’s Day, a government holiday, so I couldn’t apply for temporary tags right away.  Instead I parked my new car in the garage and began the transfer of items from my old car to the new.  (In my car I keep coats and blankets and a Bible, pro-life literature, tracts, grape juice, a footstool, hats, gloves, cleaning supplies, a spare pair of clothes, maps, mall directories, a camera, and batteries as well as a cell phone charger and garage door opener.)  The new car just barely fits in the garage, as it is longer and wider than my old one.  However, it is set up much the same inside so that driving it is still rather intuitive.  The Altima does not have a sunroof, which makes me sad and inspires all sorts of improvisations like taping a picture of the sky onto the inside of the roof.  Yeah.  I’m that weird.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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On a Tuesday morning, I nervously picked up my phone to schedule a test drive of a 2003 Dodge Neon.  It just so happens that our first snowstorm of the season blew in that day.  We agreed to meet at a gas station between our two houses, since it would be after sundown and they have good lights.  I got my dad and my brother to go with me.  (I’m the research end, and the transaction I handle on my own, but I really don’t know much about cars or what to look for on a test drive.  Plus, with a big decision like this, I want at least another opinion on whether the car is good or not.)

 

We had an adventure.  First, I had the wrong intersection for the gas station.  Next, the gas station had changed brands, but we were pretty sure we were in the right place.  We parked and got out, looking for the car.  But he wasn’t there yet.  The snow was falling hard.  Also in the gas station parking lot were three police cars and one police SUV.  While we were waiting, a fire truck and ambulance arrived, lights flashing.  The police then put a man, hands cuffed behind his back, into the back seat of one of the cars.  A woman a few pumps over stood clapping her hands.  I huddled against the front of the quick stop.  Then the EMT’s put another man in a neck collar, and laid him on a stretcher to put him in their ambulance.  We can only speculate a fight broke out and one man assaulted another.  I don’t know why.

 

My family and I looked awfully suspicious standing there watching the whole scene, outside, puffing warm breath on our cold hands.  We were still waiting for the Dodge owner to come when a tow-truck came in to take away the offender’s vehicle.

 

Finally, the Dodge Neon arrived and we began our inspection.  There were no bells or whistles, not even power locks.  But the car was clean, with only 79,000 miles on it.  He wanted $3800, which according to my research was pretty close to appraisal value.  There’s a fine balance to reach between new cars and old.  The newer ones have a lot of computerized things that cause weird problems mechanics don’t understand.  But they also have less parts likely to wear out soon.  (Even if I replaced the engine on my Saturn, it’s quite likely something else will go out and cost more expensive repairs.)  When I drove the Neon, it handled ok, in the snow, but actually seemed to weave a bit.  Plus my brother said the tires were wearing out.  So I mentally added the price of tires to the sale price.  I like power locks.  Power windows I don’t like all that much; Mom says manual windows are safer (and cause less problems if the motors or electrical system in the door go haywire).  Still, the car was clean and relatively new.

 

I asked the owner if I could take it to my mechanic the next morning.  He said as long as he was there, too, that would be fine.  I could text him with the address and he would meet me there.  But that night I asked my dad, who said that the car wasn’t that impressive.  Plus I did the appraisal again, knowing the car was only the base model, and found out the car is actually worth about $600 less than what the owner was asking.  So instead of texting him an address, I texted him that I declined.  He responded that I could have haggled, but offering someone $600 less than asking price is a little more confrontation than I was looking for.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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After I had learned to identify scams on Craigslist, I got to work researching real potential cars.  I grabbed a scribble pad from the dollar store, a gel pen, and started listing cars that at first glance looked good.  I put the Year, Make, and Model as a heading for each entry.  To the side I wrote the phone number of the owner, as listed on Craigslist.  Below the heading I put the cost, and then below that the mileage.  After that I went to my Edmunds.com appraisal site and listed the MPG and the Consumer Rating.  Then I did the appraisal and wrote that amount at the bottom.  A lot of people want hundreds of dollars more than their car is worth.  I feel sorry for them.

 

I searched mostly Nissan Maximas and Altimas, Toyota Camrys and Corollas, and VW Jettas (a friend has one).  Several friends told me they are happy with their Hondas, but that brand tended to be slightly above my price range.  Toyotas and Nissans are better deals.  One big thing to me is the gas mileage. I’m a good driver and can get the upper end of the range of fuel efficiency, but if a little Ford Taurus will get me 19 mpg while a similarly priced Nissan is nearer 29 mpg, I’m ruling out the Ford.  Different years of car get different mileage, so I have to pay attention.

 

I narrowed my list down to the best deals (runs well, new tires, maintenance records on hand, no accidents) and did a little more research on those models, reading through the Consumer Reviews on Edmunds.com, and editor reviews if there were any.  From the editor reviews I learned what to watch out for on a test drive (turn radius, blind spots).  And the Consumer Reviews let me know first, whether the higher ratings are for looks or for reliability and fuel efficiency; second, they told me what tends to go out, and at what mileage.  Were repairs frequent or expensive?  That way I could see if those repairs had been made recently to my potential cars.  You have to use a critical reading of the Reviews to get good information out of them.  Some vehicles reviewed were not well maintained, or the mechanics were not good.  Other people complain whenever a vehicle needs a repair.  A car at 100,000 miles is going to need a major fix or two.  My Saturn cost me about $700 in repairs every year, so if I can get better than that, I’ll be happy.  Finally, some people complain about performance (like they wanted a race car or a truck instead) and about little things breaking (having to slam the trunk lid, or rattles on the inside).  I’m not picky about those.

 

Next I took the initial steps of contacting the owners of the cars that survived my research.  I looked especially to get the VIN #’s, and for information about exact model (is it an LE, an SE, a GXE? – and what on earth do those mean anyway?) as well as to confirm that mechanical condition is good (especially, with the mileage I was looking at: near 100,000, for the engine and transmission).  Due to schedule constraints I was unable to set up test drives right away, so I contented myself with requests for more information, resigned to the possibility that a good deal might not be available by the time I was.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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