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The Used Car Saga

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  • The Used Car Saga

    I needed a solid car to run the interstates with for my job as (cue Real Men of Genius music) 'Mr. Steel & Aluminum Mill Repair Man'. I worked in auto salvage for many years and I’ve grown to hate cars and car repair and sales related things in general. I'm not you're typical uneducated buyer, not by a long shot. I’ve cut up and crushed thousands of vehicles over the years, all makes all models. I know every B.S. trick the dealerships, car lots, and repair shops try to pull on unsuspecting consumers.

    My search started like this:

    $6500 and down, cash
    No more than 10yrs old.
    Under 100k miles

    Here’s how it worked out...

    The friend’s car;

    A friend told me he has this "cream puff grandpa's car" 2012 Escape V6 AWD w/65,000 miles for $6500 so I looked at it on Friday. His "cream puff" is a pile of shit. I fired it up, it runs rough and rattles like a mofo, it sounds like it has 165,000 not 65,000. It's an ex fleet vehicle, it's been repainted and the quarter lips are bubbling, the interior is dirty, and the door sills are beat up from moving stuff in/out of it. It's got a commercial power inverter mounted under the passengers seat for mobile servicing so the noisy motor is probably from idling it's whole life. Honestly I don't know how he can't hear how noisy and rough that motor is, I'm partially deaf and I can hear it! After thoroughly berating my friend for buying such junk I was back on the hunt.

    After that waste of time I changed my game plan. I wanted a small SUV with AWD but good ones are pricey and everything else is worn out junk. A midsize FWD car would be fine too, but again pricey - worn out junk so I started looking at small cars. I drove a '20 Hyundai Elantra rental car a few months ago for a trip to Lewisport Kentucky and I really liked that car. It had good standard options without being an overly complicated black hole of technology plus a fat guy like me fits in it comfortably. It has an actual ignition key too which I really liked, I guess I'm old school. I went on the hunt for something with similar options to the ‘20 Elantra but 'Murican or close to it. I'm not a fan of the Chebby Cruise, Dodge Farts suck, and most small cars and econoboxes are throw aways after 100k. Back in 2011 a friend asked me what car he should buy. He narrowed his search down to a Cruise and a Focus. The Cruise was in it's first year of production and Focus' were proven solid runners by then so I told him to go with the Focus. He still has it, and he's driven it to multiple states on numerous occasions with no issues. He likes the car a lot, and he says it's probably been the best car he's ever owned. I'm not a Ford guy and I never have been, I've always bought Genital Motors and Jeep products, no foreign cars either. I took my own advice and started looking for an 08-11 Focus. I picked that era because of the crap transmissions Ford put in 2012-2016 Focus' and other Ford products (you know the ones with self learning that never seem to learn anything except failure) so those weren't an option. My search yielded a fair amount of lower mileage 08-11's that were within my price range.

    The first dealership, Fred Martin Superstore Norton Ohio;

    This was an online only deal meaning I contacted them online inquiring about a price on a vehicle they advertised with no price. I chose the “Contact dealer for price” option on KBB and simply asked them “What is the asking price?” You’d think this was a simple question with a simple answer but any molehill can be made into a mountain if you try hard enough. I got a reply yesterday morning without a price. They asked if this was a good email address and phone number to reach me at etc etc. Well of course it is. So I asked again, “What is the asking price?” The next response was ‘one of our reps would like to call you can discuss the vehicle in detail.. blardy blardy’. My response was “I’m going ask one more time then I’m moving on, what is the asking price?” No reply. Meanwhile I was keeping an eye on the ad and at some point early Saturday morning someone put a price of $7000 on the listing. Thoroughly disgusted by being blown off and not having my simple question answered I left them a 1 star review. After that they blew up my phone and email inbox with replies while I was out looking at cars yesterday. They did finally give me a price of $7950. I emailed them back with a screenshot of the car being listed for $7000 and thanked them for letting me know not to deal with them so it wasn’t all bad I guess..

    The second dealership Ganley Ford Barberton Ohio;

    I drove about 50 miles to this dealership in Barberton (STINEY knows where it is) which is literally down the street from Fred Martin Superstore! They have an ‘09 Focus ‘grandma’s car’ with 59k for $6300+T&T. The car looked nice, the motor sounded fine, everything was hunky dory until I test drove it. I hammered on it pulling off the lot and it left a cloud of black smoke so thick it rivaled a coal rollin' Cummins. Apparently grandma only drove this car 3 miles to church, to the store, and then back home it’s whole life at neck breaking 25mph. When I got it out on the freeway it rolled more coal, had a horrendous front end vibration, it felt like you were riding on stop signs, and it pulled hard to the left. The salesman knew the terrible ride quality was a deal breaker, and he asked what he could do to save the deal (I'm a cash buyer and he wants to make the sale). I told him unless you can make this car run and drive perfect in the next 30 minutes there's nothing you can do and I'm going elsewhere to look at another car. He goes inside and brings out the 'tough guy' salesman (I told the wife that’s what he’d do and he didn’t disappoint). This guy was a joke like most of them are. He starts telling me the car went through their service dept 11 teen point quality check blardy blardy blardy and it got a clean bill of health.

    Me: Well, did they drive it afterwards?

    Tough Guy Salesman: Of course they did.

    Me: Well they would’ve noticed the car vibrates like a mofo and drives like it's riding on fuggin stops signs then right?! The techs are supposed to note stuff like that in the inspection report and fix it before the car hits the lot..

    That comment left him speechless momentarily, I mean what do you say to that? Sorry, our service department sucks? After that he tried to play some more hardball with me, you know the old..

    Tough Guy Salesman: We'll put it up on the lift it'll be fixed in 30 minutes, lets go inside and go over the paperwork.

    Me: Ok, lets say you don't fix the car to my liking. Now I've wasted time and I have less time to look at another car..

    Tough Guy Salesman: We’ll fix the car now, the tires just need balanced.

    Me: Well why didn’t your service dept balance the tires after the test drive when they realized it was vibrating and pulling? Balance jobs don’t go bad, tires do.. You guys got a new round of rubber for this thing if the tires are bad? Probably not... I’m going up the street to look at other cars, if I don’t like them I might stop back.

    Tough Guy Salesman: (Who is now visably pissed off because I keep calling him out on his bullshit) Can we call you when it’s fixed? Is the contact info you gave me good?

    Me: Sure, give me a call, if I’m interested I’ll stop back.

    I use Google Voice numbers for stuff like this so my cell phones never get spammed. They called about 5 times and left a few voicemails and texts after that like I knew they would…

    The third and final dealership, Ron Marhofer Chevrolet Stow Ohio;

    This dealership was 15 minutes away from the Ford dealership we had just left, and they had a Focus similar to the one we had just looked at. They were asking $5600, it was 1yr newer, it had 15k more miles on it (75k), and was in a minor accident according to carfax. We walked into the lobby, and a guy came out to help us and asked if we had an appointment. I showed him the car on my phone and he told us there was a 3pm appointment to look at the car (we got there just after 1pm). He put us with a salesman, a young guy who seemed overly nice at first. I told him about me, what I needed the car for, and what I could spend and that I was a cash buyer. He was really cool about it and got us in the car for a test drive within 5 minutes. We drove the car for about 20 minutes. I drove great, no noise, no rattles, nice and smooth. I took my hands off the wheel and it stayed planted in it’s lane on a pothole infested road. I looked the body over, there was a scuff on the hood where some paint chipped off, and the grill tabs were broken, but other than that the car looked great. We went over pricing and he came back with $6300 out the door. I sqawked about the hood crease and the busted grill. They ordered me a new grill from Ford and said they would have it shipped to my house. The salesman was genuine, not like your typical jaded I’ve been in the car biz for decades guy. They secured the grill for the ride home, I fixed it the rest of the way when I got it here, and it’s never coming off again.. All in all it was a good visit.

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    I love this little shitbox, it drives nice, gets good mileage and is plenty powerful for what I need it to do. I never thought I’d say that about anything with a blue oval but I really do like this car. And by this time next year I should be in the black with travel time and mileage reimbursements from work. It was a fun and interesting saga yesterday, but I got what I wanted and am happy it worked out the way it did.

  • #2
    Congrats, and the trip through sales to get there sounds just about normal. We bought a Focus of about that vintage, used rebuild from a minor front ender. I thought it was a good small car, but the wife didn’t like it’s winter manners. Turned out it was simply much lighter in weight than what she was used to. I scaled it at work and it was indeed very light. Keep that in mind on those snowy days.

    i just bought a 2000 Celica GT for our oldest to take to college next fall in Akron. Tried to find something that was not a theft magnet, and yet still somewhat fun and sporty. It’s a manual trans car that has been sitting inside for the last decade due to a “locked trans”, whatever that is. Not rusty, not damp inside, and not all beat either. For $800 we shall see.....

    Good luck and keep up the good fight!
    Of all the paths you take in life - make sure a few of them are dirt.


    • #3
      Good for you for grinding thru the system to get a decent sales person and a decent car. I started off in dealerships and have seen ALL the games though I was in the service department. When I was at the Buick dealer they didn't play those games and when I worked at other dealers I was initially shocked and amazed that they'd try to do business that way. But they do......

      May the Focus live long and prosper -they're great little cars.



      • #4
        Originally posted by DanStokes View Post

        May the Focus live long and prosper -they're great little cars.

        I've always heard they are. Sue Unit's dad, may he rest in peace, got his meds mixed up one day and got a wild hair impulse to go buy a used car - he didn't even need one. He brought home a Focus, a terribly abused and neglected Focus. That thing sounded like George Jetson's car when he left the lot with it. The fenders were falling off, it ran less often than an MG Midget. Yep, they saw a confused old man coming and diverted one from the crusher to the cash register. People like that oughta be shot.
        Charter member of the Turd Nuggets


        • #5
          great cars, rotate those tires EVERY oil change. itll kill the back ones first. Ford never seemed to get the tire wear issues under control with that platform.


          • #6
            Originally posted by SuperBuickGuy
            nice to see that you focused on the prize... do you have a name for it yet? I'm thinking "the grey condom".....
            I was thinking SHITBOX1..

            Anyway, I got my first check engine light today, code P1289 Cylinder Head Temp sensor.
            I called the dealer and they're coming out Wednesday to pick the car up..
            I'm going to Colorado for a week so hopefully they'll have it sorted and dropped off when I come back...
            Let the fun begin.
            Last edited by tardis454; November 9, 2020, 03:35 PM.