One reason I’m unable to post articles here as often as I’d prefer is that my job as a nurse makes me far too tired to pursue much in the way of hobbies. After working twelve to sixteen hour shifts, I am fully content to do nothing on my days off. This doesn’t mean, however, that my car lust has died and despite working an entry-level job, I finally have the money to pursue it. The job market for nurses in Southern Indiana is not the best in terms of wages or union representation, and the used car market is just as bad. My choices are usually rusty and the sort of cars I seek are better represented on the coasts. So what’s a boy in my orthopedic shoes to do?
Naturally, the answer is to go online and search. SearchTempest is a grand search engine which automatically scans all of Craigslist and other similar sites. Just type in a model name and go–given the nature of classifieds, I like to limit the search to the most recent five days. I do this quite regularly, and among the cars I found today was this ’89 MR2 in dry, sunny, import-happy Los Angeles.
A base, naturally aspirated model, I think it looks great with steel wheels and black plastic mirrors and door handles (I have always preferred the way most cars look in base-spec). It’s been driven 89k miles over the course of its 27 years and suffers from no rust or cracked plastic trim. And since MR2s don’t have the same cachet as, say, Miatas or GTIs, one is actually able to find a decent example without paying through the nose. The owner is asking $5999; given how much people ask for, say, CRXs, I think it’s fair.
Of course, my purchasing this car is not going to happen. Buying a car over the internet, with bizarre faceless interactions over email and phone just gives me a bad feeling. I tried a few times to do this over the winter. I found a very well kept 1987 325i sedan in New Jersey and went through the initial steps of contacting the seller and asking questions, etc. when the car was sold to a more certain, more local buyer before I could make a final decision. I also found an interesting, very cheap five-speed Mercedes 190E with a 3.0 swap; the seller was unwilling to provide the very basic information one expects to have when forking over $2500 to some one 800 miles away (he wanted to conduct the transaction 100% under the table, did not accept PayPal, wanted no “paper trail” as he put it), and I’ve encountered more than a few similarly flaky, shady sellers.
On the other hand, there are a lot of much happier stories. Paul helped CC reader Chris Green in his purchase of this pristine 2nd-gen Prelude, helping him recruit a car inspection service to scope out the car which he’d found online.
Enthusiasts in Europe get big American boats imported regularly, while Canadians get very interesting bubble-economy era Japanese metal sent over. The practice continues, so buyers must be happy. Persistence is key, but can you ever be 95 percent sure you’re making the right choice? What if you get that dream car of yours delivered to you only to find the brake pedal sinks to the floor when you first turn the key? What if it reeks of air freshener? Such minor issues are only the tip of the iceberg–there are so many variables involved and ample opportunities for details to be botched. I can’t speak for everyone else, but as someone who works damn hard for every penny, the potential sense of defeat stemming from a bad purchase is terrifying.
I can find something to love about virtually any car, on the other hand, and I know the chances for satisfaction and joy are just as high. I would by happy in anything from an ’84-’88 Audi 5000, to a Miata, to a turbocharged first-gen Legacy, to an ’80s Buick Estate Wagon, to a ’70s Plymouth Fury, to an RX7, to a VW Quantum, to an Mk2 Jetta… You get the point; unless I’m pulling a code blue, the day dreaming is non-stop. When I get the chance, writing for CC functions as a nice blow-off valve, but it’s not just myself I’m worried about.
My partner’s Mini Cooper S, as brilliant a machine as it is, is now 11 years old and is extremely expensive to repair. After a $3000 repair for a blown brake line (the complex sculpture which is that car’s muffler needed to be removed to access the brake line and was too rusty to stay in one piece when put back in place) and various other ultra-expensive repairs (window regulators and interior door releases, both broken at the same time, well after the warranty expired), I’d really love to surprise my partner with a Volvo 240 or Saab 900 which is neither beat to hell by a hipster nor overpriced like so many of the decent examples are (go look on eBay to see what I mean). I’m in a race against his father, who’ll replace it with god knows what tacky machine. I found this cool one in NJ on eBay; no rust by the A-arms, no rust at the bottoms of the doors, and a headliner which is intact. At $5,500, it’s actually quite worth it.
So what do you all think? Is buying a car from hundreds or thousands of miles away wise if done correctly? And how can a person so consumed by his job conduct such a transaction with intelligence and savvy? Does an enthusiast operate under the assumption that most any thirty year old model in good condition is rare or does one embrace a “plenty of fish” protocol? Chat amongst yourselves and advise: we’re all ears.
All being well with my job security / finances I will start looking for a US-made fun car later this year or next. Situated as I am in Austria, I may have to take the plunge and import a car from the US – but it wouldn’t be my first choice, only if I cannot find something here or in another (near) European country, and even then I would rely on my contacts in NY or Las Vegas. There are just too many pitfalls.
That MR2 is in Berkeley (NorCal, not SoCal). I used to live right around the corner from the dealership where it was originally sold (Putnam) in Burlingame so it appears to be local. It looks to be in great shape and was featured on Bringatrailer this morning.
In any case I’ve done it the remote purchase thing at least twice -95.5 Audi S6 Avant that I bought in Oregon from a dealer while living in CA and my Porsche that I bought from a private individual in NJ while I lived in CO.
The Audi was an easy decision since there were less than 400 imported total, hence the chance of finding one locally was slim, and since I belonged to an Audi S-car specific forum at the time it was a matter of someone local willing to look at it. The car was a one-owner sold and serviced at the same dealership that was selling it. My “correspondent” looked at it and said it was flawless, if he had the money he would buy it out from under me 🙂 And it worked out great, I bought it and drove up with a friend to get it and drove it home. That story is here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/uncategorized/coal-1995-5-audi-s6-avant-i-found-my-unicorn-but-let-it-go-free/
The Porsche was a matter of the right car at the right price at the right time. This one just spoke to me and after speaking with the seller at length and establishing his bona fides (Doctor that used to be a lawyer) and that of the car (three-owner under CPO warranty, always sold by same dealership) we agreed on a price, I sent a deposit (against the seller’s objections, he was happy to just hold it, I was paranoid) and flew out a few days later with the understanding that if not as advertised I would walk away. I had the car checked out by a local Porsche dealership first which showed a clean bill of health. Almost four years later I am still very happy with the purchase. Story here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/cars-of-a-lifetime/coal-2002-porsche-carrera-my-daily-driver-is-a-keeper/
I’d certainly do it again. But research is key and having someone trustworthy/knowledgable that can lay eyes on it is a huge plus. I wouldn’t bother buying a 2010 Nissan Altima from afar since there is no shortage locally but anything rare, exotic, old etc it could be the only way to do it if there was something specific you;re looking for as opposed to being more open to finding something/anything more local..
Well, I bought my 63 Beetle off Ebay out of Austin Texas. However I did have my brother in law go check it out. He is not a car guy per se but he was living in San Antonio at the time, he went and made sure the car actually existed, the paperwork checked out and it ran and drove. He also assisted with shipping, I was very lucky to have him involved.
I know several people who had bad experiences buying long distance with nobody seeing the car.
If I was going to do it again (and didn’t have a local contact) I’d take a week of vacation and fly out to do the legwork. Or, I’d contract a local inspection / shipping contact. Or just pay the premium for a car that is local and has had the legwork done.
Have to agree with Doug – yes, buy long-distance provided you can get someone you know and has knowledge to look it over. I have bought cars from afar twice here in Australia. I live in Brisbane, but the better classic selections are often to be found in Sydney and Melbourne. Two years ago we (my brother/business partner and I) were looking for a Mercedes W111 3.5 coupe. Only 58 were sold new in Australia and at the time we were looking, six were for sale: 4 in Sydney (3 at the one dealership!) and 2 in Melbourne. I go to Sydney on business quite often, so I made enquiries with the dealer who had 3 of them and arranged to visit. I was interested in two of them as they had desirable colour and option combinations. All of these were priced 75K to 85K. I nearly bought one, in metallic red, there and then but thought I had better get a mechanical inspection. Lucky I did!! We flew our mechanic down from Brisbane and the list of issues he found was overwhelming! I gave up, but a few weeks later our mechanic said he found another, again in Sydney, which was silver, had all the desired options and in his view was in sound condition – same price. We bought it sight unseen then flew down the next week and drove it 600 miles back to Brisbane – no trouble and a great drive along our Pacific Highway. We now get constant offers, for that car, of over $130k – seems like, for once, we bought at the right time!
Next we were looking for a MAercedes R107 roadster. Always a few of them around, but in Brisbane they were either in bad condition, over priced or not what we wanted. We saw a nice 380 SL in Melbourne – this time I went there on a business trip and met the owner and drove the car. Loved it, bought it, my brother and I flew to Melbourne week later and drove it 1100 miles back to Brisbane. Again, no dramas, a great drive and well worthwhile. Plus during the week after I bought it the seller had it thoroughly detailed and serviced – then took us to lunch when we came to collect the car. A nice deal all round.
I now like buying cars interstate and driving them home, as you really get to understand the car on a long drive straight away.
So buy interstate or even internationally but make sure either someone you trust gets to look it over first!
In my experience the overall body/ interior condition is more important than minor mechanical shortcomings. And be prepared, all of them will have some mechanical issues, current or pending. It’s not really practical to try to bring a beat up example back to mint status. Try to buy something that is is currently registered and in current use. Non running, non used vehicles develop all kinds of problems from sitting, and their owners, honestly (or not) aren’t going to be aware of impending problems minor or otherwise “since it ran fine when I parked it!” Also be sure that he car has a clean Ca. smog test. I know that requirements vary in different states, but usually a car that passes this test is in pretty good running shape. I would not buy a car without seeing it in person unless I was buying a very simple vehicle like an old pick up truck, as a very cheap restoration project. Everything looks better in pictures. I have bought two cars that I saw on Craig’s List in So. Cal. They were 350-400 miles away. I trailered one back, and drove the other home. My suggestion is to plan a vacation in the LA area. Check CL listings, E bay whatever in the greater LA area. Have a plan before you arrive, contact sellers, arrange appointments to take advantage of your time here. You can always rent a moving van and a car trailer one way, to bring it home. Plan on paying cash, although used car lot’s will often accept credit cards as full or partial payments. Be careful, if the seller, car, or neighborhood feels hinky, skip it and move on. Good luck and have fun.
I would never buy any car I could not touch and drive before the purchase. I grant that might limit my choices to a relatively constrained geographic area but better that than forking over thousands of dollars for something that might or (more likely might not) live up to the seller’s description. Last summer my wife and I decided that since we were now both retired it was time for another convertible. We actually found and drove several within a 50 mile radius of our home, a couple from private sellers and some more from dealers. In the end we bought a 2014 Mustang because we were reluctant to spend big money on a 50 year old car. The car you want is out there, you just have to be willing to keep looking.
It might also be fun just to browse Vancouver BC craigslist, to check out (likely rust-free) west coast cars but priced in 77 cent Canadian dollars.
I’m not sure what the import issues back to the States are, but the prevailing conventional wisdom is that used cars in Canada are a relatively good deal for Americans. Other CC’ers may have more knowledge in this area?
Similar to MARC & his Crown Vic adventure, you could fly out and enjoy a cross country drive home.
I’d be careful about assuming a Vancouver car is rust free, BC uses plenty of salt, liquid chloride products and 12.5mm spec winter abrasive on our highways. You don’t need to venture far out of Vancouver to encounter real winter driving conditions. It’s also very wet, so water damage and mould are real hazards as well.
It’s certainly possible to import one though, right now there’s a steady parade of car carriers heading south loaded with late model pickups and premium SUVs for the US market. Any reputable customs broker should be able to handle it without much drama, provided the title is clear.
I’ve been involved with a few long distance transactions buying vehicles and equipment sight unseen, and I’ve evolved a few rules. Bid low, expect a few surprises and if you can’t afford a mistake, don’t take the risk.
Good luck whatever you do.
A friend of mine who lives a bit north of Seattle bought a car in Abbotsford, BC (Vancouver suburb, literally on the U.S.-Canada border, an easy half-day drive from here). I don’t know exactly what transpired in the run-up to the sale, but he drove up with a trailer to collect it. It was something unusual that doesn’t come up every day: a ’69 Tatra T603. Only T603 I ever saw up close!
I’m no MR2 expert, but I’m surprised to learn they have no cachet. If I wanted a mid-engine 2-seater, that would be it. I see it as a surrogate Fiat X1/9 without the “Feeble Italian attempt at technology” stigma.
Since it sounds like (to me) that you’d be buying a car that is currently registered and (theoretically) driveable, I think the best bet would be to come to an agreement sight unseen with the stipulation that if it’s not as advertised you can walk away without laying out any more cash. Maybe a small deposit of a benjamin or two for the seller’s trouble. Then fly out to make the transaction in person. If it checks out, drive it back. If it doesn’t, fly or train back home. The cost of a plane/train ticket if things go sideways is likely to be less than shipping anyway, and much less stressful in any event. But if you do your homework and are supplied with ample photographic evidence, I don’t think it’s a bad idea.
*This is, of course, the advice of someone who has never bought a car long-distance before, so it’s my uninformed opinion.
Sorry to be a downer, but I agree with just plain joe.
Among the many characteristics and traits that help people get what they are aiming for, persistence and patience must be in the top tier.
Look locally. Put out the word, keep checking in, and you will eventually – but probably not immediately – find a right car at a fair price that you can touch, smell, feel, drive, and work the deal for, locally.
A year or two back there were many “Sandy Soaked” cars here in the northeast still being sold without the right information being attached to it. A good smell of the interior and a review by a mechanic you know and trust would tell the tale. Over the net, that’s less likely.
And the USA seems to have serious flooding every year, so there will be no shortage of flood damaged cars.
But, an ’80s Buick Estate Wagon or a ’70s Plymouth Fury would really be nice and the maintenance would likely be more reasonable than most of the other cars you mentioned.
So many enthusiasts online brag about their distance purchases, which often leads me to wonder if I’m overly cynical for thinking it’s too good to be true. So I wouldn’t say you’re being a downer; you’re affirming many of the suspicions that I have.
I wouldn’t buy a high dollar car without having it inspected, but the two I’ve bought from eBay, sight unseen, were relatively cheap: $1500 and $4000. In other words, if they ended up being total garbage I wouldn’t lose my shirt. I also had low expectations.
I used PayPal for both. I would never send any kind of check to a person from a Craigslist ad. So if you’re buying cheap enough and your credit card company is involved and you have low expectations, go for it. 🙂
Hells naw. See it in person, drive it, have a mechanic look over it.
My stepson sold his Mustang online and it went all right, but he was 100% honest about it and disclosed every last fault of which he was aware. But as the buyer, how can you know? It’s hard enough with a car you see in person, drive, and have a mechanic look over.
Agree completely. For one thing, rust never sleeps.
And like your stepson, several years ago I sold my hadn’t-been-started-in-two-years Corvair to a buyer 1,500 miles away on eBay, and I was not only brutally honest – if I didn’t know, I said I didn’t know.
Ironically, I actually think a couple of prospective bidders thought I was running a scam because I actively discouraged them from bidding when they asked if they could just throw in a battery and gas and drive away. Then there are the ones who claim to live in Italy, but I know better because of my experience from decades in banking and the method in which they wanted to (not) pay me.
So in defense of flaky sellers, some of them are dealing with a barrage of dreamers and scammers. I’d do a long-distance transaction, but only with a trusted local inspector, or a late model CPO from a new car dealer. And even then I’d lose sleep over it… 🙂
Yes, that’s the flip side of this coin. Selling stuff online is even more annoying than trying to buy stuff online. Usually when I’m done with something I try to find a way to give it to someone who can use it…
A used car should be looked at before deciding and then needs to have a mechanic look it over. This means that something far away is difficult. How to find a distant mechanic to trust for starters.
I’m thinking business opportunity here. Many of us have fantasies of buying our dream car on-line from someplace warm and sunny but would never go through with it for the reasons outlined above. Enter the new business that for say $200 goes to look at the car for you and sends you an informed report, maybe not trained mechanic level but at least the basics. No pressure to buy so no reason for the evaluator to not give you the straight facts. Sure the business would have to build some level of trust but that’s true of any business. Hey, I’d like to work at that place, I love to look at old cars.
I’d guess that 400 miles really isn’t much, but that was the distance between me and my ’78 Fairmont. Bought it sight unseen via CL, took Amtrak from Cleveland to Harrisburg and then a cab to York and drove her home. Only issue was my leaving the majority of the exhaust system on U.S. 22 in Ebensburg 🙂 . I look at it as an adventure, and I LOVE adventures 😀 !
You are overworked and tired. Are you sure you want to purchase a problem?
My neighbor said something noteworthy. As empty-nesters they consider gong to one car only. They can fill in additional ride requirements with Uber, Lyft, and car sharing services. So, if your everyday driving needs are fully met in a cheap way, then a curbside classic with it’s pitfalls could be feasible. And if you choose a CC you could do worse than choosing a low spec Toyota from the (arguably) best Toyota era.
People get burnt on a regular basis here buying cars over the net especially ex JDM the car arrives and due to some undisclosed fault it cant be complied for NZ roads then its only good for wrecking/parts and is valued thus.
Poorly repaired accident damage is the usual issue it must be redone to NZ standards and rust, it must be correctly repaired and certified, expensive and often more than the car is worth.
I would do it if the car is not tremendously expensive. I would certainly want to have someone look at it, whether a friend/relative or someone who has experience with a given sort of car. Jim Klein had a good idea of going through an enthusiast forum. Also, if there is a club with a chapter where the car is, that would be a good place to go. I would not be a stickler for an actual mechanic so long as someone who is really familiar with a model can look at it and drive it and tell you whether it is right or not.
I agree that everything looks better in pictures. Local is ideal, but those of us in saltopia know that there are climates and markets where you are much more likely to find something of quality.
The vacation to California or Oregon is always another good idea if you are intent on checking a car out for yourself. However, unless it is something that you know well to start with (which most of my purchases have not been), you are still ahead to have access to someone who is really into a particular model.
I agree with the vacation idea as well, with the major exception that you might wind up having wasted time if you turn up with nothing worth purchasing.
You have to make it a double purpose. Vacation, site seeing and stuff with the car purchase a second purpose. A dud car shouldn’t be spoiling your vacation. If it’s a good car it would be the cherry on top.
I did this last year.
Went to the Olympic Peninsula in WA State camping with the family (beautiful country, I’d move there if I could) and brought back a Matador sedan that by chance just happened to be there, or so I told my wife.
I bought my (06) GTO off a guy in Florida on eBay without seeing it a few years ago. I definitely had some misgivings and I was extremely nervous until I saw it in person. The key for long distance transactions is to not pay until you see it (obviously). I gave him a good faith deposit basically ensuring I would show up, but I did it through Paypal and they LOVE to give people back their money for eBay transactions so I wasn’t too worried.
Anyway, I flew down from my home in Northern Virginia to Venice FL. He picked me up from the airport and drove me to his bank (still had a loan) and then to the DMV. They still had to mail him the title before he could give it to me, so there was still a chance for disaster.
I drove it back home 1000 miles and it’s been great to me. But, again, there were soooo many ways for it to all fall apart. I was lucky.
Right now I am on the lookout for a low mile IS300, and I’ll be willing to travel when the time comes.
All that said, I would never buy a car from New Jersey or New York. Sorry if that offends anyone, I just wouldn’t do it.
I don’t think you’re offending anyone but the sharks in NY/NJ. I feel sorry for the upstate small, honest dealers, but I (or family/friends) have had plenty of interactions with NYC/LI/NJ shysters.
Everyone’s got a gimmick….
I have purchased two cars on eBay that were in Denver, CO (I live in the San Francisco Bay Area), site unseen. Asked lots of questions via email, then spoke on the phone a couple of times before making bids. Flew out and drove each one home. Upon first inspection, each one was better in some areas and worse in others, but there were no huge surprises — each seller was a genuinely honest person who just wasn’t as picky as I am. I had a good vibe from each, or I wouldn’t even have bid.
One of them was a yellow ’80 Pinto Pony sedan, 2.3L/4-speed with 62K miles (in 2005). Drove that car from Denver to Las Vegas in January and it never missed a beat, regardless of the temperature or altitude. Got about 27 MPG to boot while I drove it like I stole it. (That engine sounds like a rock crusher, even if it is pretty willing.) It then made the trip to San Francisco in one day, again never missing a beat.
I’d be hesitant to buy a car online unless it happened to be a very specific car I had my heart set on, and then only after a *lot* of vetting. Obviously, if you want something special that’s also rare, then it may be necessary to go further afield. I’d have to ask myself, is an ’89 MR2 a car I’ve lusted over? If so, might be worth it. If not, I think I’d settle for something closer.
When my wife decided that she wanted a Z3 (and would put her own money into getting one), we considered cars from San Diego to Santa Barbara (we lived in Pasadena at the time) before finding a 78,000-mile roadster in good shape, locally. I might have gone up or down the coast for that car, but not across the country. It worked out, though we did have to put some additional work into the car (we knew we would), and we still have and enjoy it.
When you’re in an overworked entry level position, the most important thing is to get out of debt and start saving. After you get firmly onto the other side of that line, you’ll find you can live on less and thus work less. An old car is going to create more debt, especially if you don’t have the time or energy to work on it yourself. You’ll have to pay specialist mechanics to fix it.
This is a valid point. Having owned old cars – to the point of considerable wear or generally obsolete parts, I came to a point in my working career where a reliable, affordable vehicle became a higher priority than the whims of my car interests. This transition came at about age 25, and the start of my first “real job.”
Good advice in theory…until you factor in $1800 price tags for a new headlamps, and the routine four figure repairs that come with anything newer out of warranty.
Considering it costs me $40 for a water pump, $30 for a fuel pump, $20 bucks for a headlamp, $160 for a full set of brand name tires, and all of a sudden owning a domestic oldtimer doesn’t sound quite as ruinous. Sure I get 10mpg and 40 year old malaise technology can be temperamental, but that’s all part of the charm!
True owning an old car is a cost sucker, but so is a new car, but in the process you gain skill, friends, knowledge, life experience, and as pure bonus you save your soul from the life sucking banality that is a Camry under warranty.
“Charm” is really cool if you have time to be charming. There is no way I can ever risk a car not starting and having to deal with it. It would cost me a fortune and really annoy my clients.
My generic under warranty car cost me $4500 to drive in 2015. It is NOT cheaper to drive an old car with a V-8.
And for weekends, I have my lovely Acura TL.
Very good advice. I learned (and at times, am still learning) this the hard way…as my COAL series can attest.
Which is exactly why I am leasing an econobox for $155 a month. A brand new car with a warranty. I will only drive it 48,000 km, so I will never have to replace brakes or even tires. That is $5580 for three years. The insurance is almost that much.
No unscheduled breakdowns and on the off chance there is, roadside assistance and free loaners.
In life, a known expense is much better than an unexpected one.
Many (many) years ago I used to regularly travel 350 miles from my home (which was salt country) (occasionally as much as 1500 miles) just carrying my tool kit, tune-up info and a change of clothes, and then hitching around until I found a car (I looked for 10 year old compacts or pickups, bare bones vehicles). I bought many (many) cars this way over the years. I only bought a bad one once (although it got me home). At that time (perhaps still) all you needed was a bill of sale and title (if needed) to get an in-transit permit that gave you 30 days to drive it home. Once, however, I bought a car 1500 miles from home on a Sunday and the promised permit office was not open the next day. I drove it all the way home, without a permit, without incident. I met many interesting people. Often they would tell you their life stories. I was the inadvertent stranger they could open up to.
Yes, we are told things are different these days. But from my experience, generally you are pleasantly surprised. It is the function of the media to report what goes wrong, not what goes right. Make it an adventure. And smile a lot.
No blind buys for me. Must see it in person, must look underneath, must test drive. But it’s no problem, I will travel out of state just because a junkyard there has something I want. So I would certainly hop on a plane if there’s a car that I feel might be a good buy and, if it comes to that, I would drive it home. Or, if it’s a disappointment, then… just… rent a Hertz to get back home.
Theses responders certainly give you a range of opinion to consider, Perry. I’ve done it and it’s worked sometimes and not others. I actually try to engage the seller by email, and get them into a dialog so I can assess their enthusiasm for the car. If they rattle off a list of upgrades they’ve done and a story of how they got the it, shows they have attended and interesting breakdowns, it often happens that they will tell you what’s wrong with it as well, trading on the attraction they feel they’ve built up for the car with the qualities. I once flew to California from New York to look at a car, bought it (although I am not wealthy, neither have I partner or children), and had it shipped back for free by a friend in the auto business who had some markers to collect (That was one reason I considered crossing the country to buy). Trouble was, the shipping company dropped another car on the windshield header. It took another month to get the car, and the header leaked profusely. So, even if you see the car yourself, you haven’t had success until it’s back in your garage!
If you know exactly what you’re looking for, and know exactly what to look out for, then buying ‘unseen’ seems a way to go.
But if your list is broad (as it seems to be), I’d agree with some above that you’re better off looking for a local example from a defined range of choices.
Plymouth fusey wagon for me.
I bought a three year old Chrysler T&C from a guy in NC (I’m in SC) and a forty five year old pickup from a guy in California. Both were eBay auctions and both turned out to be good buys. The Chrysler was a pretty good bet as the seller had a good rep and the car was fairly new.
Although the old truck was in an arid part of the state (all I wanted was a rust-free truck) and it was only $2,900, it was still a gamble. I had to do a fair bit of work (@ $1,000) to get it running well, but I’m very happy with it now.
Both purchases were made after a LOT of looking. If you do it, take your time and find the car you want, just remember it will be a gamble.
Also, I agree with Barko. Ask plenty of questions. You can learn a good deal about someone by how he answers questions.
And shipping was a HUGE pain. If you can fetch it yourself you should.
You want to buy my SAAB 900? I’m a trustworthy guy and love the car, but can’t afford to keep two cars any longer and maintain the 900 the way I like. I’ve put a lot of money into sorting it out ($7,500 in receipts). No rust. Northern Michigan. Been following this site since its inception. It’s not listed and I’d only sell it to a person like you who would cherish it. 1993, 5 speed with good gearbox, 150k miles. Includes Thule rack. $6k.
Nice 900 bowman! I’m excited – a buddy and me have a little corner of Cars and Coffee carved out for this Saturday. We’re both bringing our 9-3 Aero convertibles. We’re trying to convince two other friends with Saabs (sounds like a support group…) to bring theirs as well. Not many of us around anymore, especially here in Texas….
This MR2 was on Bring-a-Trailer this morning. An MR2 is way more fun to drive than a Miata and this one looks really clean. The wheels and door handles bug me but those can get swapped out/painted.
I would have been very tempted by that 190E 5-speed with the 3.0L swap. Probably had an auto -> 5-speed transmission swap first, then the engine. If done right you should be able to pass a visual inspection at Smog Check because the 3.0 and 2.6L look externally similar.
I’ve thought of buying a car sight-unseen twice, but couldn’t pull the trigger.
The first was for a Jeep Commando C101 and the second was a Jeep Wrangler in Sundowner trim – that one I did see while on vacation and staying in Pacific Grove – it was right up the street from our hotel!
The Commando was in SoCal.
If I had resources in the area I may have looked into things deeper, but no. Trouble was, even if I did buy something long-distance, there was the added cost of shipping the vehicle in the case of the C101 and perhaps the Wrangler. Over and above purchase price, a deal-breaker for me.
Buying sight-unseen: buyer REALLY beware!
Buying a car unseen gets down to risk versus reward.
One concern is the history of the car such as accidents and the environment (road salt) in which the car was used. Is the seller giving you a clear picture??
Also, a clear title is another consideration. This goes back to accidents, salvaged cars, unpaid liens, theft. Push back at the DMV is ‘so’ frustrating.
In addition, do you have the time and patience to work on the car and balance this with family and career.
For me, not worth the headache.
“In addition, do you have the time and patience to work on the car and balance this with family and career.”
That, my friend, is why I will only buy used cars locally. I can add to your comment: I’m getting older and don’t have the equipment or ability to do much on cars anymore.
Good article about title issues when buying a car from afar:
A friend of mine bought a 69 Charger over the internet. The inspector said it was a 7 and the price reflected that. The photos looked great. He paid to have it shipped from OR to FL. WHen he got it, it was barely useful as doner parts car, so buyer beware.
A Renault R8s bought north of Rome, Italy in a town called Acquapendente.
Caled the guy from my native Holland.
He did not understand me, I did not understand him.
Called a business friend in Milan, who also did not understand the dialect this guy talked.
So I drove down Merc van with trailor and on the way we had to visit a ship in Genoa so the trip was paid for.
I was very very nervous when we drove down to see the guy, the averige Renault R8 was more made out of recycled paper then metal.
The car was rock solid hard.
And to be honest, I stole it from the guy who was an Italian 2CV man.
Here you see us pulling away, the Renault on the trailer
I still have it, although it is for sale now,.
Never ever drove the darn thing, just Always wanted one.
so yes, I’ll travel any distance !
Anyway, if one of you is planning a trip to Italy, most people will choose for Tuscany (Toscane).
I can honestly vouch the Viterbo region, where Acquapendente is located, on a lake the place is more then stunning.
We travelled through Tuscany but the Viterbo region was really jaw dropping beautiful !
And not as touristic, only known by the peole from Rome
See here the panorama of mediëval Acquapendente
I found out about my ’57 Handyman from a Tri-Five message board.
The car was in Richmond, VA, and I live west of Pittsburgh; I had to rely on owner photos and came to the conclusion that the stainless trim and front seat (the ’57 210 2-door sedan I owned at the time had neither) were worth making an offer, which was accepted pending a thorough examination of the actual car.
No problem…except for the Richmond U-Haul, from which I reserved my tow bar/hitch. They’d accepted my phone reservation earlier in the week, confirmed they had the equipment that would work for my car, and took my plastic. And then when I physically arrived at that U-Haul, they refused to release the gear, claiming it would tear my bumper off. No refunds.
To this day when someone says U-Haul, I say “beware”…
Fortunately, the seller’s solution came in the form of his 25-year-old 3/4 ton Chevy pickup. But there was still the matter of the car itself…
Which, as it turned out, was better than my expectations. Plus he had a clear title.
I’d promised my wife that one of the Tri-Fives would go, after seeing the Handyman in the flesh there was no doubt I’d be keeping it, along with its parts, and the aforementioned 210 sedan would be sold.
The other promise was that the house would be finished before tearing into the dream car. That’s turned into a delay of over 15 years, but we’re about finished. We’ve collected many parts over the years anyway, including a Whirly Jig rotisserie. I’ll be ready to go.
Would I do it again? Let’s just say I haven’t done it since. But if the price and vehicle were right, and I could get away to see it, yeah, I would.
I would never buy a car that I couldn’t drive before I bought it. Period. There are just too may scam artists out there. If I were in southern Indiana (and it wouldn’t be long that’s for sure!) and a nice $6000 MR2 came up in California, I’d simply get on a plane and go look at it. What’s that going to cost, maybe $500? That’s a whole lot cheaper than being stuck with a clipped money-pit.
Indeed, it makes financial sense to do this. For a few years, I used to buy clean used cars on Vancouver Island and then drive them to Toronto. I could always pay for my entire trip doing so. One year, I think 1989, I bought a mint 1983 Olds 88 for $1200, drove it to Montreal and sold it for $3500. The point being here, if you were to want a good, not rusty low mile car, the LA area has a billion of them, and anything more than ten years old is cheap.
Perry, as for living in a place with low wages and low worker protection, well, you are an RN. You can go anywhere in the world and make very good money.
Nice, did you ever have any problems getting safety inspections in Ontario and Quebec? Or was that in the pre-inspection days? I’ve always thought it would be interesting to pick up dry, rust-free Montana project cars and tow them over to rusty Manitoba and make a buck, but the border crossing would be too much of a hassle.
I’ve been checking for non-destroyed MR2s for a while now and they’re getting pretty scarce. If conditions allowed, I’d pull the trigger, but that will have to remain a pipedream for now.
No, I would always make sure the cars were in tip top condition before the trip. My parents owned a large shop and a taxi business, so we could fix sleds in our sleep. All the parts were cheap, and I’d bolt them on myself. The only thing I couldn’t do was wheel alignments, so I used to give our guy a case of beer to do it for me, when the shop was closed.
There are loads of clean, low km and rust free cars on the coast here. However, finding an MR2 that hasn’t had to bark beat off it is a pretty tall order.
I must confess I was interested in this car too but don’t have the space. Below is a post from the previous owner on BaT. I’m surprised the car is still available and bet he’s had a ton of interest but no full offers yet. I think it’s worth the asking price. From the comments it’s not clear if it has A/C but I think it does. The more I look at it the more I like the base spec trim.
I bought my Brougham from AZ, flew in and met the owner at the airport. If I didn’t like it I was going to fly back, if I did I was going to hand him a Cashier’s Check and drive the car home, which is what I ended up doing.
It would have been a total waste of time and hundred of dollars to have passed on the car but I was prepared to do so. My advice buying from afar is that it’s worth it if you really want top condition (and that particular car) and are good at looking at pics. This MR2 passes the pics test and I’d check it out for you but am in LA, car is in Bay Area. If I could give it a home I’d gladly fly or drive up to take a look. I would never buy a car sight-unseen because poor paint repairs drive me nuts and can rarely be seen in pics.
Would never fly to any place that uses salt on the roads or look at a car with a bad Carfax for owners, locations owned, mileage or collision repair. Unless of course you don’t care about condition.
“I am not the current owner, but was the previous owner. This is a very original MR2, wears all original panels, paint, glass and interior. I bought it from the original owner’s estate executor with 68K and daily drove it for 3 years adding another 15K. Been in Cali its entire life and there is not a speck of rust underneath. The car never missed a beat and never failed to put a smile on my face. In my tenure it received brakes all around, VC gasket, distributor rebuild, oil cooler lines, rear wheel bearings, full tune up and regular maintenance. The original window sticker came with the car and the ONLY options were A/C and an upgraded stereo with a pathetic factory sub woofer under the drivers seat. Manual windows, manual seats, etc. – Loved it. I remember in the first week of ownership I needed to turn on the dome light, after fumbling around the dash pushing/pulling knobs and switches it dawned on me…. reach up and flip the switch on the lamp you moron. This car is super simple, reliable, clean and fun. What more could you want?? Best luck to the seller and congrats to the new owner.”
I bought several cars on eBay over the years. My take on it is that you “shop” for the owner first, rather than the car. No matter how tempting the car was, I only bought from sellers who answered questions to my satisfaction with minimum BS, and seemed to be the kind of people I’d like to buy from. Secondly, I always made the trip to pick up the car in person, even if it was a few states away. So far, I’ve had pretty good luck. I don’t know if I’d buy a car sight unseen and have it delivered, though.
When selling or buying on Craigslist, setting up a gmail account specifically for it and buying a burner flip phone at WallyMart where the minutes roll over is essential. The peace of mind and not dealing with nuisance calls and scam/spam e-mail filling your regular e-mail account afterwards is easily worth the $30 for a phone.
If I had $5999, I’d be on the road tomorrow. I’ve always liked the MR2.
I have helped a few people buying cars in Europe, and bought a nice Oldsmobile myself in the US. The trick is to have someone you can trust look the cars up before you pay. Being a relative or friend, or commercial service, but trust is the most important. Once I thought about starting a business, but the market just isn’t big enough to make a living I think.
One of the pitfalls of buying a car from a distance is that the title may not be correct. This can cause big headaches when you attempt to title the vehicle at the local DMV. Below is an article about the issues of long distance purchases.
As a practice, I always insist that we make a trip to the DMV in person when ever I sell a car. This assures that the car is taken out of my name.