I had bought the car from my uncle for $1250, so I was hoping to sell it for that much or more, since I'd had to replace the fuel pump, which had cost me $500 or so. Kelley Blue Book value for a car in "Good" condition was $1310. I thought I should set a higher asking price, though, to leave room for negotiation and make the buyer feel like they'd gotten a deal. So I threw out $1950, which didn't look like $2000. danea bawked at the price, saying that even she, who had borrowed my car on many occasions, wouldn't pay more than $1000! That hurt my car's feelings. But I lowered my asking price to $1500, which left a few hundred dollars of negotiating room. As I put together my ad, I saw an ad for Vehix.com on TV, so I decided to post there as well. I crafted a car ad that sounded more like a personals ad in an attempt to make it stand out from all the others that just spit information out. So my quest to sell my car began at 10:27 PM on Wednesday, February 18.
I've reluctantly upgraded to a new car and must now say goodbye to the lovable car that's ably gotten me around the Bay Area for over two years. The previous owner was my uncle, who had it for a long time and put in a lot of new parts. It's got 160k+ miles on it. I put a small dent in the rear bumper (pic available upon request), but otherwise, the exterior is in good condition. It may not be sexy, but it runs great and gets very good gas mileage: you can fill up for under $20 and drive for nearly 300 miles before having to fill up. Which makes it the perfect commuter car for the economically minded. Plus, it's easy to park and easy to find in a parking lot because of the orange ball on the antenna. It was my first car, and it served me well, and I know it will make someone else happy for many years hence. All I ask is $1500 or your best offer. E-mail or call me at [number redacted] if you're interested.I GOT A PHONE CALL WITHIN TEN MINUTES.
And then another phone call and three e-mails within an hour (two of the e-mails were from the people who called me). The first guy sounded sketchy, as he wanted me to meet him in San Francisco at his place, and he would pay all the money, that was no problem. The second phone call was a woman who really needed a car because hers had just broken down. Both her e-mail and the first guy's were horribly spelled and scary. The third e-mailer used proper capitalization and seemed like a good guy. To my surprise, he was in Oakland. I had listed my car in Belmont because that's where it physically was (at my uncle's, since I couldn't drive both my cars at once). He asked me for some information, and I replied.
The next day, I got three more e-mails and a bunch more phone calls. I couldn't believe how much interest there was, even from a guy in Hayward. But the two people from Wednesday night seemed like serious buyers, so I set up appointments with them to see the car on Saturday morning. I didn't want to make a bunch of appointments because I assumed one of them would buy it. I started collecting back-up phone numbers, though. Someone offered me $1100 and I was all, WHATEVS, since I had two people willing to pay $1500 already. Some girl from Concord called and wanted to know how low I'd go since it was her first car as well. I told people to call me back on Saturday morning to see if it was still available.
Things were going pretty good! Until my uncle told me to look closely at the DMV requirements...and I discovered that in order to sell my car, it had to pass the smog check. My car had failed the smog check back in August, and I had gone to a place to get it fixed, but I had been very suspicious at the time that they had merely "fixed" it and the hundred-something dollars I'd paid them was a bribe.
My uncle had the car, so it wasn't easy for me to get it smog checked before Saturday. He could do it for me, though. He didn't have time on Thursday, so he would do it on Friday. On Friday, I learned that the guy I was meeting on Saturday morning had just bought another car instead. He had told me he was looking at other cars, so it was not out of the blue, but goddammit. Now I only had this desperate woman who was not very good with e-mail and asked me for the address a thousand times.
And then I found out my car failed the smog check. FOR THE EXACT FUCKING THING IT FAILED FOR IN AUGUST. THOSE FUCKERS DID NOT FIX IT AT ALL. And it was going to cost me about $400 to fix it for real. And they had to order a special Nissan part so it wouldn't be ready until next week.
Yeah, the woman wasn't really interested anymore since she needed a car right away.
Nobody called me back on Saturday morning to see if the car was available.
I was fucked.
Then, on Saturday night, to my great surprise, I got a call from some kid who'd found my car on Vehix! I told him the situation, and he was ACTUALLY COOL WITH IT BECAUSE HE DIDN'T NEED THE CAR RIGHT AWAY. I said it would be a couple weeks, the beginning of March, when I'd be ready to sell the car, and he just wanted to have something secure. He said he could come see the car the next day. The next day, he called and said he forgot about his work schedule and couldn't come down. But we worked out the details. I said that I'd planned on raising the price to $1950 to cover the cost of the smog repairs. He wanted me to hold it for him and not repost the ad. I said that if he could offer me $1900, then I would not repost the ad since I wasn't likely to get a better offer than that. I slid down to $1800, and he seemed more amenable to that. Then I got greedy and tried to push back to $1900, but he liked $1800. I told him to call me back in one week and if he could offer me $1800 at the beginning of March, I would not repost the ad and the car would be his. He wanted to get the car checked out by a mechanic first, and I said that was fine. He was up in Novato; I said I could meet him in Oakland, which was closer than Belmont.
So I felt good again. I was going to get $1800 for the damn thing!
The beginning of March came and went. My car was now fixed and smog checked and ready to sell, and this kid had not called to confirm. I finally called him. He couldn't find my number...to tell me that he had bought an old Cadillac for $1000.
I was fucked again.
Near the end of the week, I started getting phone call after phone call from the same unfamiliar number. I finally picked it up, and the guy asked me about my Nissan Sentra. Which was confusing because the ad had been deleted for almost two weeks. His English wasn't very good, and I couldn't really communicate well with him, so I gave up. But then I realized I was desperate enough to give anyone a chance if they had money, so I called the guy back and said he could meet me in Oakland on Sunday. Then I decided that since he was in Palo Alto and my car was currently in Belmont, it made more sense for me to meet him there, although he had work and/or golf to work around. He said he would call in the morning to get directions and confirm the time.
He didn't call. I called multiple times and he never answered.
I was still fucked.
I got the Nissan back that weekend, leaving Caprica in Belmont. I redid my ad, trying to make the car sound even more appealing. I anthropomorphized her to play on buyers' sentimentality.
I've reluctantly upgraded to a new car and must now say goodbye to the lovable car that's ably gotten me around the Bay Area for over two-and-a-half years (and I do mean around—one night, I drove from Oakland to Belmont to Petaluma and back with no problems). The previous owner was my uncle, who had her for a couple years and put in a lot of new parts (including an alternator, various small parts under the hood, and tires). She's got 160k+ miles on her. I put a small dent in the rear bumper (pic available upon request), but otherwise, her exterior is in good condition. I've put in a new fuel pump and had her pass the smog check (good through Feb '11). Key features include power steering, A/C, automatic seat belts, and steering wheel-mounted cruise control. And comfy sheepskin seat covers! She may not be sexy, but she runs great and gets very good gas mileage (and even better since I had the timing belt adjusted): you can fill up for under $20 and drive for nearly 300 miles on one tank. Which makes her the perfect commuter car for the economically minded. Plus, she's easy to park and easy to find in a parking lot because of the red ball on the antenna. She was my first car, and she served me well, and I know she will make someone else happy for many years hence. All I ask is $1950 or your best offer (cash only, please). E-mail or call me at [number redacted] if you're interested.On Monday, I got one whole phone call. The guy offered me $1500, and I said that was fine; at this point, the first person to hand me any amount of cash was going to get the car. He said he wanted to get his mom a nice car to get around in. I asked if he could stop by and see the car that evening. He said sure. And then he called back and said that he couldn't come tonight, and he'd call me to let me know when he could come.
(He did not. I called the next day and asked when he wanted to reschedule our appointment, and he said that, you know, he would call me back. Which was of course code for "I will never call you back.")
Tuesday, when I realized no one was biting at $1950, I edited my post to lower the asking price to $1800. Minutes later, I got an e-mail from a man who wanted to see the car. I called and we talked; he happened to live very close by me. We arranged to meet that evening after work. And then he e-mailed to say that he'd forgotten that his son had football practice in Fremont at 5:30, so I called and said that we could meet either before or after. He said that he would stop by around 7 or 8; he'd give me a call.
I'll bet you're not surprised at all at this point in the story to discover that he did not, in fact, call. Nor did he respond to my e-mail that night or phone call the next day.
On Wednesday, I deleted and reposted my ad to put it back at the top. I lowered the asking price to $1700. No hits. I scoured the Oakland car listings to see what make my car stand out. I stuck "$1700 OBO" in the headline to make it clear that, for God's sake, I would take less than my asking price if you would JUST FUCKING TALK TO ME.
On Friday, out of desperation, I called my back-up numbers from a couple weeks ago. The ones I reached had already found cars, and I left messages for a couple others, who never called back. I searched the Internet for hints on posting on Craigslist and found lots of complicated spamming techniques that I was not prepared to engage in because I didn't want to be an asshole. I did, however, take a couple things to heart. I edited my post down to remove information, which would force people to actually contact me to learn more about it. And I lost a little bit of my soul by succumbing to the asstastic practice of adding special characters to the headline to make it stand out:
~~1991 Nissan Sentra - **Great commuter car!** - $1700 OBO~~I left it at $1700 since I wasn't actually expecting anyone to respond, and I was planning on lowering it to $1500 on Monday. I reposted a little before 4, since one of the times people might be surfing Craigslist instead of working is right at the end of a workday, especially a Friday.
I got a call as I was leaving the office. The woman asked me some questions about the car, and I answered. She said she wanted a mechanic to check it out. Could we meet at 9 on Saturday morning? Sure, that worked. Well, she would call me at 8 to get my address.
I woke up at 7:30 on a goddamn Saturday.
She did not call.
I called and left a voicemail.
She never responded.
I was completely fed up with the entire fucking world at this point. WHAT HAPPENED IN THE LAST SIXTEEN HOURS? What was wrong with people? You can't just make appointments and NOT SHOW UP AT ALL. I was being stood up again and again.
Hilariously, that very day, I got a call from the guy who'd never shown up in Belmont. "Nissan Sentra?" he asked. I said the car was in Oakland, and hadn't I talked to him before? Yeah. No apology, no explanation. He asked why the car wasn't in Belmont. I was confused because that listing was still deleted. From weeks ago. I told him the car was in Oakland, not in Belmont, and if he wanted to come to Oakland, fine. But he did not.
Then on Sunday, to my complete and utter shock, I got an e-mail from someone who had just moved here from Boston and needed a car and she understood the reluctance to selling a car and she wanted to buy "her" for $1500 if I would be able to part with her for that much and mechanic et cetera et cetera. I replied to her e-mail in the affirmative and mentioned that I had been to Boston and had amazing crab cakes at Legal. She, too, loved those crab cakes, and also, she could possibly come and see the car that day but wouldn't be able to buy it until Tuesday or Wednesday since she needed to get her insurance set up. I said that would work as long as she gave me a $300 deposit.
She called me, and we talked about the car, and she was going to come see it! For reals! For...reals? I didn't want to get too excited. She was staying with family friends in San Leandro who could drive her up. She called and said she was leaving! SOMEONE WAS ACTUALLY GOING TO COME AND SEE MY CAR.
I made myself look more presentable. I put on my Kings shirt to play on her love of Boston. I got a call, and she was here! SHE ACTUALLY SHOWED UP.
I went down to meet Boston Girl, and aaah, she's pretty! She reminds me of Someone. Build, face, hair, a little in the voice too; it's almost uncanny. I shook her hand and the hand of her driver, and then I showed off my car! Look at her, in all her glory!
It turned out Boston Girl had had a 1991 Nissan Sentra before, which explained her interest in my car. They both looked the car over and found nothing horrible. "The good thing about wear-and-tear," said the man, "is that you can't hide it!" I agreed, pointing out that if the car had been in a major collision, it would show.
After the man looked all around the car, he came to me and said, "I don't know if you want this." He handed me a dirty, crumpled dollar he had found in the vicinity.
"This car is made of money!" I exclaimed.
It would make it all back for her, said Boston Girl. "Only $1499 to go!" she said.
Boston Girl asked if she could start the car to listen to it, and I handed her my keys. It started fine, as it does. She asked about various components, and I told her the truth, even when things weren't completely up to snuff. It was clear she was interested enough not to care about minor flaws. She was all, "I remember this!" about little things.
She asked if a lot of people had come and seen the car. I said there had been a lot of interest, but they never came by. "Thank you for being a decent person and actually showing up," I said. "Because they seem to be in short supply these days." I'd had to explain to her earlier why I wouldn't accept a check. "Wouldn't the check clear the next day?" she asked. Yes, I said, but if it doesn't, then you still have my car. Then she understood.
She definitely wanted the car. (!!!!!1111) She did want to get it checked out by a mechanic so she knew the engine wasn't about to fall out or something. I said the smog check guy had done a full diagnostic and hadn't found anything, so the car was probably fine. I had been driving it with no problems.
She asked about the deposit. I needed it to ensure that she was actually interested and would buy the car, which meant I didn't need to take any other offers. My uncle wanted me to make it a non-refundable deposit, but I would feel like a dick if the mechanic found something wrong with the car that caused her not to want to buy it anymore. What right had I to keep her money then, huh? That just seemed mean. The money was really to make sure she came back, and if she wanted her money back, she'd have to come and get it anyway. If I said it was non-refundable, she might back out completely.
I had said there was a Bank of America around the corner that she could withdraw the money from. "We could walk there," I said.
Her eyes lit up. "Actually, could I...?" I knew what she was thinking, and it was adorable! I was more than happy to let her drive what I hoped would be her new car around the block to get a feel for it. I was surprised she hadn't actually asked to test drive it earlier.
We got in, and she drove us out. Pretty soon, she asked about the brakes, because she heard them squeak. I had never heard them squeak, but I said I hadn't had any issues with the brakes. They took some pressure, but it was an old car, so. We parked at the BoA, and I told her about the locks on the front doors. I wanted to make sure she knew about the various quirks. She withdrew $300 from the ATM and handed it to me. MONEY!
As we left the parking lot, she puzzled over how to get back and declared that she would "bang a U-ie." I cracked up at the Bostonian turn-of-phrase.
Back at my apartment, Boston Girl appreciated the power steering that didn't require her to have biceps; her old Sentra had been a manual with no power steering. We tried to work out how best to do the whole mechanic thing. She was going up to Sacramento for two days to get certified in California for nursing, but maybe her family friends could meet me on Monday? Maybe I could bring it in the afternoon? She would call me that evening.
She did not call.
Until almost 10! Whew, because I was all set to call her, I was getting so paranoid. But the mechanic was closed on Sunday, so she would try to schedule me for Monday afternoon so I wouldn't have to deal with getting to work and getting back and whatnot.
(Amusingly enough, a couple hours after she'd left, I'd gotten a request for more information about my car from Vehix. I didn't respond to the guy since it wasn't a done deal yet, but, really, today? Of all days? "When it rains, it pours," said Boston Girl.)
Monday morning, she called, and the afternoon was not really good. So where did I work? Maybe he could drop me off if it wasn't too far. I told her I worked maybe four miles away; it was not too far. The body shop I'd gone to had dropped me off with no problem.
Yeah, it was too far.
So she said that she could come up and drop me off at work on her way to Sacramento as long as I could find a way back to the mechanic. I said I could get a ride from a co-worker. The other option, she said, was to wait until she got back on Wednesday, but she knew I'd rather not wait that long. I could repost the ad, and if someone bought it before she got back, she'd come pick up her deposit. I told her that, no, her first idea would work (because it meant I got to see her again!), and, honestly, I'd rather sell the car to her. "You want someone who'll love the car as much as you do," she said. Exactly! I had really wanted my car to find a good home, for it to help someone. And who better to help than someone who had just moved to the Bay Area, just as I had?
Also, you guys, she asked me where my uncle lived. Because I'd said my new car was there. And she was going to offer to drop me off there after she bought the car. How sweet is that?! I like girls that are pretty and nice. I could see where she was going, though, and told her that, no, it was too far, and I'd work that out myself, thanks for the offer.
She said she'd be by in however long it took to get to Oakland. And then, a bit later, she called to let me know she was in traffic! Aw, she was so considerate! She was like the EXACT OPPOSITE of everyone else in this story. And then she was here, and I followed her to the mechanic. We dropped off my car.
In her (borrowed) car, we joked about how "far" 3.3 miles was. She punched my work address into her GPS, which she had named Sybil. "Many personalities, many voices." Ha! She liked the British woman best. I said I hadn't named my Nissan, but I had named my new car. And what had I named her. Caprica. Did she watch Battlestar Galactica? She did not, but she thought she ought to.
On the way, we chatted about our histories and where we'd lived and gone to school and such. "Scheisse!" she exclaimed at one car. OMG I SAY THAT ALL THE TIME TOO. She had picked it up from a German roommate, and I had picked it up from Run Lola Run, which, sadly, she had never heard of. We defied Sybil—"Recalculating route"—and pulled in front of my office building. I wished her luck up in Sacramento.
Then all day I waited to go pick up my car and hope for the best.
I did not get the best.
The mechanic had suggested an extensive list of repairs. I didn't even know what an axleshaft was, but apparently the outer boots were broken? And something about a distributor assembly that was leaking oil? There was no leaking oil! If oil were leaking, it would be all over the ground, right? Some hoses here leaking fluid, this fluid was dirty, these lights needed to be replaced, whatever. THE CAR RAN FINE. WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT.
The suggested repairs totaled nearly $1600.
I was fucked yet again.
I drove away dead inside. I had never noticed my squeaky brakes before, but now I couldn't not notice them. I cringed each time. I had planned on grocery shopping afterward, but I couldn't think about food when I was stressed. I just wanted to go back to my apartment and wait for Boston Girl's call.
She had talked it over with the mechanic, asking what were the most critical repairs to be done in the next couple months and what the value of the car was. Since the most major and important repairs to be done would be about $1000, she wanted to knock half that off the price.
I countered with $1250, saying I was meeting her halfway. She did the math and didn't think that was the greatest price when factoring in the cost of the work to be done.
She offered $1100, and I took it. I was glad she still wanted the damn car. I really would have preferred $1250 on principle, and my uncle thought I could have gotten it from her if I'd stuck it out, but I just wanted this whole ordeal to be over. I was not prepared for her to just walk away because hell if I would get another serious offer, especially now that I knew what was apparently wrong with the stupid thing. I'd feel disingenuous not being upfront about that to another potential buyer, and I did not want to have to deal with any other potential buyers! I liked Boston Girl. I wanted her to have my car. If $1100 was what she would give me, then I guess that's what I would get. Bye bye, hypothetical hundreds of dollars. Le fucking sigh.
She was returning from Sacramento Tuesday evening, so she'd give me a call as to when we could meet and take care of the rest.
My uncle, predictably, thought I had gotten screwed. It was an old car, and we had both driven it for years without those problems, and so on and so forth. Boston Girl had agreed, though! She knew that if she had taken her beloved Honda Accord into a mechanic, he would have found all sorts of shit too; old cars are like that. But she was going to be driving it a lot, so she wanted to feel confident in it. My uncle didn't think she'd actually get the repairs done, and I should have just stuck with my $1500 or $1250. The mechanic was lying, he cried. (He believes everyone will try to screw me over. When I told him about the deposit, he asked if I'd checked to make sure the bills weren't counterfeit. I said they were all twenties, since he'd only told me to check hundreds before. Yeah, but did I check to see? I watched her get the money out of an ATM, I said, which shut him up.) I wasn't particularly happy I had to settle for $1100 either, but I was vaguely satisfied. At least it was four digits. Before I subtracted the cost of the smog repair. At least I got her to go up from $1000? A small victory?
It bugged me till the next morning, though, so I decided to be uncharacteristically assertive. This morning, I called Boston Girl and said I wanted to make another push for $1250. Because she could negotiate the cost of her repairs, but once I sold the car, that was it. I reiterated that the car was in fine working condition and had never broken down, and I didn't think it was leaking oil, and I had three spare hubcaps for her, and it was just below KBB value, and come on. I wanted us both to be happy, and I was a little dissatisfied with $1100, and I thought $1250 was a fair value for both of us. She was on her way out at the moment, not really able to process everything, so she said she would think about it and call me back.
I hoped she didn't hate me. I felt like an asshole for trying to get more after I'd already agreed to a price. But I didn't think she'd pull out completely, so I didn't have anything to lose, really.
A couple hours later, she called back. To my relief, she completely understood where I was coming from. I understood where she was coming from as well. Which was what made this so annoying. We both felt the other person was being reasonable, but reason doesn't translate directly into dollars. She'd budgeted $2000 for a car, and the repairs would be $1000, but maybe she could go to $2100...
She was going to hold firm at $1100.
I asked if she could do $1150.
SHE SAID YES. I MADE FIFTY DOLLARS BY BEING ASSERTIVE WOOOOO. It was no $1250, but I felt happy that I'd fought for more and gotten it.
Boston Girl would call me when she got back from Sacramento.
Meanwhile, I tried to come to terms with the fact that this was the last day I would have my car. Appropriately enough, as I began my very last drive home from work,"Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?" came on. I drove to Trader Joe's to get groceries. I was terrified that someone would hit me at some point. There was still time for things to go horribly wrong. Since it was close to empty, I filled up the tank. I considered giving her just half a tank or so, but that seemed sort of lame. People like full tanks of things, whether it be cars or fish.
I parked at my apartment and looked at the odometer to see what I'd report on the title. I looked, and then I looked again.
I HAD STOPPED ON A FUCKING PALINDROME HOLY SHIT.
Boston Girl still hadn't called, which worried me. There was still time, always time for this whole thing to fall apart! And then, thank God, she called and said she'd be right over. With cash!
I waited impatiently for her to show up. Then she called! She sounded excited. I came down to meet her; this time, her driver was a woman (the previous man's wife). Since Boston Girl had asked about the smog certification she'd need, I opened the glove compartment and showed it to her. She had an envelope with cash in her hand; she asked if there was anything she needed to sign. There was indeed! I invited them up to my apartment. I asked if they wanted anything to drink; they did not.
First, she counted out the rest of the cash, $850. It was in a bank envelope, so I trusted it, but I did an obligatory counterfeit check anyway. We looked for the little Ben Franklin watermark and the metal strip.
That taken care of, I pulled out the title and began filling out and signing my portion. As I filled out the date of sale, I realized something and laughed.
"I bought my car on Valentine's Day and sold my car on St. Patrick's Day."
I flipped it over so Boston Girl could fill out her information and sign.
The final piece of the transaction was filling out the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form online. I filled out the information, including the odometer reading. It didn't include the tenths place, though.
"You know what's weird?" I asked.
"That you know that number?" she said.
"That it's point one," I said. And I think she had noticed how close it was before, because she seemed to realize what I was saying. In case she hadn't, I exclaimed, "It's a palindrome!"
"It is!" she said. I like girls who are excited by palindromes. Also girls who appear to be Garbage fans, if her humming along to "Right Between the Eyes" was any indication.
Once I hit submit, it was done! I was no longer liable.
My uncle had advised me to make a copy of the buyer's license for some reason. Just in case forms didn't go through right and the DMV came after me or something? But Boston Girl's ID was for Boston, and she didn't have a real address yet anyway, so...I had her e-mail and phone number if I needed to contact her.
There was nothing left to do, really, but give her the keys now! "Are you a Firefly fan?" I asked. Again, she was not, but she had thought about it. The woman said that her daughter had watched the episodes many times. "She has good taste," I said. So I put the keys on the Serenity keychain I'd gotten at the Browncoats booth at WonderCon. "Here, have a free keychain."
Lastly, I gave her the mechanic's list of repairs. And then it was time for her to go down and get in her new car! She thanked me many times, and I thanked her back. The woman went to her own vehicle; Boston Girl would follow.
"It was very nice to meet you," she said as she got in.
"It was lovely to meet you," I said. "Do you know many people in the Bay Area?"
"I don't know many people in the Bay Area," she said. She had a friend in Vacaville, but that was it.
"Well, now you know me!" I said.
"I do know you!" she said. "I'll let you know how she's doing."
"Take good care of her," I said as she began to drive off.
As she moved, she rolled her window down. "Good tunes, too!" she said, referring to the fact that my radio was tuned to Live105. "See you later!"
And then she drove away. In my car. IT WAS SO WEIRD, YOU GUYS. It was such an odd feeling to watch somebody else driving my car except it was now her car and it was not coming back to me! Bye bye, car. Bye bye, Boston Girl! I hope we meet again!