Singing the 'Used Car Salesman' blues
After a few weeks of searching for Charlie a car with the $2,000 I had, I was pretty frustrated. Every car we called on was either sold, or seriously misrepresented. Cars from Auto Trader and Craig's List that said they were in great shape were missing a couple of tires, had warning lights lit up or the hood wired shut. I know $2,000 doesn't buy much, but it would be nice to think it bought a little bit of honesty. This was a frustrating experience for both Charlie and myself. Kid is 18 and it's his first car. It's been so difficult for him to find a job without a car and trust me, he has tried. I owed this money to Charlie. When Mark left and I didn't have a job, we used the bonds my dad had left Charlie to live on and I've been paying him back since. This was the last $2,000 I owed him. Casey had cashed his in for his car repairs (engine and brakes) and to help some with college. So, I didn't buy Charlie this car. Just to make it clear. I owed Charlie this car. Actually, I look at it as Mark should owe it to him...but I'm living in reality here, because since he's not covering what he owes in child support, well, his view of right and wrong tends to get a little mixed up. I feel bad enough that I've had to turn him over to the state for being so far behind in support and dropping the kid's health insurance...silly me.
Anyway, back to Charlie and the car. Finally I saw a great looking deal at an on-line site for one of our large, local car dealerships, Rodeo Ford Plano. Of course, when I called them, that car had 'just' been sold but they had many others for that price that were just about as nice. I've since learned this as the bait and switch trick...over a week later, it's still on their ad. But anyway, I went to look at them on my lunch hour and well...none of them compared but I've learned that $2,000 just doesn't buy much. I emphasised that I had $2,000, that was all I had. That I was a single mom and I could not afford to buy a car that was going to need any repair. They completely understood (don't laugh). Mark took Charlie up to look at them while I went back to work and I met them there after I got off. They'd sold Charlie on a 1998 Ford Explorer with 165,000 miles on it. Mark said they'd driven it, that it drove good and that Charlie had fallen in love with it. Of course. So, Charlie and I sat there for the next 3 hours while we did all the paper work (which, when I'm paying cash, I don't get why it takes so long) and they cleaned and prepared the car. They had said that the passenger side door handle on the inside was off track and they were going to repair it. They showed us before we left that it worked. Well...Charlie being an 18 year old boy...young man...man, whatever, he headed off to pick up his girlfriend. The first time she used the door handle to get out of the car, it broke. When Charlie got home, we found out that when you lock the car, the passenger side doesn't lock. Even if you manually pushed down the lock, it didn't lock. Which, as it turned out, was a good thing because when you locked the car, the drivers side door did not unlock. Not with the remote. Not with the key. Nothing. Charlie drove it back up the next day after school and I met him there on my lunch hour. They looked at it and told me it would cost $1,000 to repair. Charlie knew I didn't have this money, and we asked if they'd refund us our money and they did. Which, I'm thankful to them because we did sign an 'as is' form. We did have it for less than 24 hours, but checking into Texas law, that was our problem and not theirs. So, thanks Rodeo for at least doing the right thing in refunding our money.
Next we were on our way to Bonham Chrysler. Now, I'd called on a car in their ad on Autotrader.com. Of course, it had been sold but one of their salesman, Erik, called me back and tells me about a 1993 Nissan they'd just got in that was in really great shape. I explained to him that, again, I only had $2,000 to spend and could not afford a car that was going to need any repair. I know I must seem really naive, but this is the truth, I don't have any extra to spend for repairs or to replace a bald tire. Erik told me this car was in great shape and he said 'I'd feel comfortable putting my grandmother in this car'. Seriously, maybe I am naive. I mean, I recognized that as a line, but there was a bit of hope in me, too. So, Charlie and I headed out to Bonham. From Plano, where we were, it took us over an hour to get there, and we did try not to get our hopes up, but we'd became very tired of looking and getting disappointed. When we got to Bonham Chrysler, we found our car that Erik had told us about in a lot that they call the Cash Corral. It's a Nissan Maxima and has 171,000 miles on it. I told them the mileage set off warning alarms in my head but they told me that Nissans ran forever if taken care of and this one was in great shape. Erik showed us the engine (as if we'd know anything) and Charlie and I took it for a ride. Charlie said it ran good and he liked it. It's a good looking car, not a dent or scratch on it. Inside it's in really good condition, looks like it'd been well cared for. I asked if it'd been checked, all the fluids good and the oil clean (that's the most I know to do, besides seeing the tires are all in really good shape) and Erik said yes and the oil had been changed.
Well...go figure. After driving it home the hour or so, you could smell some oil burning. I took it this weekend to Midas to have a maintenance check done and they showed us that the engine had a lot of oil splatter. They said the oil and filter were both filthy and showed them to me. I told them we'd had the car only a couple of days and I'd been told by the dealership that it had just had an oil change. They told me I was lied to. They said that it desperately needs an oil pan gasket and both oil valve cover gaskets. I'm fairly certain of those terms, as I said, all greek to me. What isn't greek is the $800+ it's going to cost to repair it. I asked if it was something that could have just happened and they actually laughed. No, they said, it'd been like this for awhile and they said there wasn't any way the dealership could not have not been aware of it.
So, I'm guessing maybe Erik doesn't have the fondest of feelings for his grandmother.
Regardless, I've emailed Bonham Chrysler and hopefully they'll either help Charlie get into something that doesn't need repair or they'll fix it for Charlie at a discounted price. I had checked Bonham Chrysler out on-line with the BBB and they had an A+ rating. Goes to show that you can't always count on BBB's ratings. The slogan on Bonham Chrysler's website is 'family values, country prices'. I don't know anything about country prices, but I can tell you without a doubt that their family values are different from my family's values.
I'm not going to hold these experiences against all used car sales or salesmen. My experience with CarMax was exceptional and far outweighs the negatives we've experienced the last few weeks. I'm just saying that some people should really be ashamed of themselves. If I had to lie for a living, I'd be dead broke...in spirit and pocket.
** I'm updating this on 08/30/09. Bonham never offered us any help. They never returned my calls or my emails. A month after we had the car, Charlie went to have it inspected and it failed. We called and spoke with Erik and he told Charlie to bring the car to Bonham and it would pass inspection there because they don't have the same requirements as Collin County, where we live. (As a side note, I had talked not only to Erik, but to the gentleman who processed us when we bought the car, and had discussed where we lived and how far we had driven to get there. They knew exactly where we lived.) Charlie drove the hour it takes to get to Bonham and attempted to have it inspected, only to be told that since he didn't live in that county, they could not inspect it. Charlie drove the car to Bonham Chrysler and spoke to Erik in person. He said he couldn't help Charlie, but told him that his mother (that would be me) had emailed a letter to Bonham Chrysler complaining about him. So, he got Charlie to drive a 2 hour round trip, knowing that he wasn't going to help him and why? For revenge because his mother complained, rightfully so, to his employer?
We put a new catalytic converter on the car, new spark plugs and wires, a new muffler, and still the car would not pass inspection. Charlie would have this car inspected every two weeks so it would be legal to drive and we'd fix whatever we could afford as they told us why it was failing inspection. Finally, we were able to sell the car for $500, and trust me, it wasn't worth that much. But I promise you this, the people who bought the car did so knowing exactly what they were getting and we gave them full disclosure of what we knew was wrong with it. It's just too bad that Bonham Chrysler wasn't as honest.