We’re entering into another week of shopping for a new car for our oldest son, and by “new” I mean “What can we afford if we try to sell his old car that gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago and then combine that sale price with the change in the cup holder of said car plus a booklet of coupons for free Frostys at Wendy’s” and by “we” I mean “my wife finds semi-questionable possibilities on craigslist and Jacob and I roam the countryside looking at said purchases.”
I know. I know. I know the first thing that just came to your mind: “Why would you shop craigslist when there are so many reputable used car dealerships in the Raleigh-Durham metroplex?” I will answer your question with a question: Do you know the difference between an individual seller on craigslist and a used car salesman? One is a scammer and a serial killer who will make your spleen into a hood ornament, and the other is an individual seller on craigslist.
Yes, I recognize the danger of buying anything off of craiglist. I’m pretty sure on Saturday I walked into a Honduran chop shop of ill repute. I looked at a vehicle yesterday which could possibly have been featured on CSI RDU (“Hey, do those blood stains come standard?”). I have thought about the very real possibility that I may not come back from one of these car shopping excursions, in which case we won’t need that extra car, in which case win win.
But y’all, craigslist transactions are so much fun. Here’s how it generally works: my wife finds “one that might actually work” on craigslist. She forwards me said item to my email inbox, which currently consists of about eight real emails and about 4,212 “ones that might actually work.” Some of those listings are from cars that currently reside in Oregon, but that’s not important right now. What’s important is that my wife and I are bonding with each other through the beautiful world of online vehicle commerce and l love getting the “ding” that notifies me of another “one that might actually work” from the love of my life.
(At least until last night, when Craig sent her a very terse notice that she had exceeded her allowable forwards and would have to cease and desist. Craig, if you’re reading this, your fifty bucks is on the way. Nudge nudge. Wink wink.)
So anyway, the emails come to me, and Jacob and I begin reading through the cars to weed out the ones that are simply not a good fit for him. Some of them have NEW OXY SNSRs! Some are in VRY GoOD COND! Some need to have a REBILT TRANNIE! Of course, those are the ones I delete immediately, because I have no idea what those things mean. My typical qualifications for a car: Does is have tires? Is there an engine somewhere in the general vicinity? Will the windows roll down when I go through the drive through at Chick-fil-A, or do I need to perform the maneuver where I pull just past the drive through, then crack my door open and bang it against the side of the building while I reach my arm and my money through the very small crack to get my #7 combo with extra pickles?
But then there are those that might actually be a “one that might actually work.” Usually these are all sold by one guy named Vince that DON’T WANT YOU TO WASTE HIS TIME. (i.e., CALL VINCE at (9)one9INE five5FIve [f0ur]t33n62% DON’T WASTE MY TIME KEEP YOUR LO-BALL OFFERS) So I spend roughly 67 minutes deciphering Vinnie’s secret CIA codes and call him, just to find out that he might have sold it B/C ANOTHER GUY IS BRINGING ME THE MONEY TUESDAY BUT I HAVE OTHER OFFERS ON MY LOT COME SEE ME AND CHECK OUT MY INVENTORY.
(Spoiler alert: some people on craigslist are unsavory characters that pretend to be an individual seller, when in reality they have cheated the system and actually run their own unlicensed car dealership in the back yard of a friend of a cousin. “I ALSO DO TAXES HIT ME UP.”)
Approximately one out of every 154 phone calls / text messages / emails translates into an actual on-site visit to check out a car. And by “on site” I mean “every Food Lion anywhere in the Triangle.” Apparently the contractual agreement for selling a car on craigslist has a stipulation that you have to meet in a Food Lion parking lot or no deal. So Jacob and I drive to Food Lion to meet up with someone who is equally afraid we’re going to kill them and drive off in their 2003 Toyota Corolla with mp3 player (dont wrk but u cld take it 2 a mechanical shop n they can fix it). And I run through my checklist: tires? Engine in general vicinity? (“Yeah man. It’s here in the trunk.”) Working windows?
And then Jacob and I look at each other, making that slight and subtle eye contact, communicating statements from our soul that only a father and son understand: “We have no idea what we’re doing.” So we thank the seller, tell him or her that we’ll be in touch / keep it in mind / have others that we’re looking at today / thank you for not murdering us and storing us in your basement freezer, and get in the car and squeal out of the Food Lion lot.
So the search continues. Week three of the craigslist car search carries on. And the tension / drama / very real possibility of death by exhaustion mounts. But even in this dark cloud, there is a silver lining: Vinnie said he could get me more money on last year’s tax return.