Life in the Triangle

In 1999, my wife Kathy and I moved to The Triangle Area of North Carolina from California. Interesting area, the Triangle. Here are some of our experiences.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Selling a Used Car

I had an interesting experience recently while trying to sell a car on a particular free on-line classified ads facility that rhymes with dregslist. I got a response from a guy, let's call him Jerry, that said, "would like to see your car, please call jerry at xxx-xxxx or page at xxx-xxxx thanks"

So I called the guy and he stated he's retired from the automotive industry but he helps his brother who is currently still working with cars here in the Triangle Area. He and his brother occasionally help customers who are looking for good cars by searching ads and pre-inspecting well-maintained candidates on behalf of those customers.

I asked him if he was a dealer, and he said, No, he was just helping a customer who wanted to buy her daughter her very first car.

So he came to my house to see the car. He was very personable and easy going. While he went over my car, (with a fine toothed comb, I might add,) he was telling me about how he had retired after having had three heart attacks, and other related maladies he and his loved ones had suffered.

He told me he provides this service because many cars he and his brother had seen advertised privately are somewhat "less than" what the sellers are representing. I said I believe my car is a good one and is adequately represented by the wording in my ad and by my asking price.

At one point in the inspection he had asked me if I had had the timing belt replaced. As that job is usually recommended at about 90K miles for my car and mine only had 76K, I had told him it had not yet had that part replaced.

After a bit more careful inspection and a test drive, he stated that this car was a fine example, and that I did a great job of caring for it and presenting it as such. He told me he's prepared to pay cash for the car, and whipped out two wads of hundred dollar bills to prove his point. So began the process of negotiation.

As we discussed price, I noticed he kept bringing up the timing belt issue. He said that he would feel bad about having sold a car to this woman only to have her daughter need to spend another $500 on a timing belt soon after. Also, she has to pay for the three Ts, (taxes, title, and transfer.) I presume he wanted me to lower my asking price to account for these costs.

I'm thinking, first of all there's no way I'm paying in advance for a future repair on a car I will no longer own, specially a repair that's 14,000 miles into the future. And how is it my problem she has to pay the three Ts? Everybody who buys a car has to pay the three Ts. But I figured this is just part of the negotiation process. Every buyer wants to chew you down by giving their sob story. I had a price range in mind and I stood by that range. Eventually we shook hands on a deal that was within that range.

In North Carolina, you need to have the title signatures notarized, and that's usually when the transfers of the payment and the keys take place. He said my wife and I could come to his brother's shop where we could complete the sale using their notary. I said, I hope you're not going to change your mind once we get there. He said, "No, my handshake is my word. You'll get what we agreed upon for your car."

After a horrendous drive in two cars through several agonizing detours after a major truck accident in the city, we finally arrived at the shop. Jerry invited us to sit and wait a short time for the notary to arrive.

In the mean time, and this is where it gets interesting, he told me his brother, let's call him John, (the proprietor,) wanted to put my car up on the lift to check it out.

I'm thinking, Check it out? For what?? We had already agreed upon a price after a careful inspection; there should be nothing additional to check out. I asked Jerry, You're not going to change your mind, are you? He assured me, No, John just wants to determine what he will need to do before turning it over to the woman for her daughter.

So there we sat. Soon after, the notary showed up, and she sat with us and waited. And waited. I kept getting up to see what was taking so long with the car. The notary's here, so Let's Go! Jerry was nowhere to be found.

It Needs What?!?

After several more minutes, a very big man storms into the room and declares, in an equally big voice, "Your car will need brakes all around so there's three hundred dollars right there and there's also a leak in the power steering hose so that will have to be replaced as well for another hundred or so." At this point, Jerry joined us.

I'm thinking, So?? How's that my problem? You buy a car, you fix it up for YOUR buyer. Let's get this paperwork signed and give me my agreed upon cash so we can get out of here.

I said, "And you are ..."

He said, "I'm John, the manager. I realize no car is perfect, but I wouldn't feel right selling this car to this woman for her daughter needing brakes and a timing belt at the price you are asking."

I looked over at Jerry, and he was looking down with a sullen, downtrodden look as if to say, Well, what can I tell you? My brother makes a good point.

I said to Jerry, "So. You've changed your mind." He said nothing. I asked, "Where is my car?" He said, Right out front. I asked, "And my keys?" He held them up into my view.

I took the keys, SHOOK HIS HAND and said, "Thank you," and my wife and I walked out, got into our two cars, and drove back home through that horrendous series of detours due to that accident in the city.


I took the car to Sears the next day to have the brakes checked out. The brakes were fine. I guess that "woman" will have to find another car for her "daughter."