Recalling the many resurrected ("used" or "pre-owned") cars that I have had. Some important tips re: what to look for in such a car like car-faxes, one-time owners, etc.
Pic: Keith in Tulare (1982), California with his ~ 1976 Ford Pinto
As I was perusing the Advocate today, I chanced upon a gigantic full-page ad on the back of the Supplement to Section A about Used Vehicles – otherwise now affectionately known as “pre-owned” cars. Anyway, this Advocate notice brought back a flood of memories – not the least of which is about my current used car, a 2002 Echo, which I bought in December 2005 only because of a “Wheels” Section ad that I had seen. Getting a good and functional used car can truly be a tricky affair, but I have found that buying one from a private individual who was the sole owner can make a difference.
With the price of gas going through our vehicle's roof tops with no end in sight – and not even including the annual steep increases we all usually expect to face when summer arrives – and many folks being stuck with gas guzzling SUVs, it may well pay for people to finally consider getting more fuel efficient means of transportation. I don't think there will be many takers for electric cars like the Volt until they are less costly.
Buying a good used car is a lot harder these days as many good ones were taken off the market a few years ago when the “Cash For Clunkers” program forced that. I had a mechanic contact that worked at a local car dealership where I couldn't believe the great traded-in and still fully functional used cars that I was shown which were headed for “auto burial.” My contact told me how he had to put some type of destructive liquid into those cars' engines to ensure that no one would be able to “ride off” with them!
My second used car was bought in 1982 out in California. A friend's dad, Jack, was a car dealer, who, like many others in that field, would have access to car auctions. Since he needed drivers to bring back his car purchases, he let me go beforehand with him to size up some in my price range that I was interested in and that he would, on my behalf, make bids.
Since I'd had a Ford Pinto previously in high school with my siblings, I kind-of liked them, so I found one that looked affordable and told Jack to try and get that one for me. Hearing the auctioneer verbalize the bidding was a first for me – I almost couldn't understand what he was saying and wondered if Jack would be able to discern the process accurately. From the paperwork, it appeared to have had only one previous owner who had kept good records of the vehicle's routine maintenance.
So when the bidding began, Jack put in the first proposal and went back and forth with a few other participants' bids until thankfully, Jack got the final one in – and just for $ 100 more than I would have liked but had given that as a ceiling range should the bidding go on. I had to restrain my excitement as I jumped up and down in the joy of the moment! And while I did have to eventually get the Pinto taken in for a repair of the “blow-up” recall that it infamously had, it served me well. I wound up selling it to a friend in 1986 for $ 600.
My first used car that I got was a 1976 Capri which I bought in 1977, my senior year at De La Salle High School in New Orleans. I had a Honda CB 125 Motorcycle for my junior year, but decided to sell it after a near accident on St. Charles Avenue – it is never safe to try to turn quickly in front of a 22 ton streetcar.
Sam, a neighbor sold me the car, long before “Car-faxes,” but he was reportedly the sole owner of the vehicle. It was a nice sporty vehicle that had “headers” on it to give a great roaring sound. The only problem was when I went to get a “brake tag,” a vehicle inspection as us 'Yats call them, I had to get the headers extended – due to the concern with carbon monoxide getting into the car. That adjustment didn't cost too much, but I missed the sound effect! When I didn't really need the car in college, since I could bike to classes at Loyola, I was able to sell the Capri very easily and not lose much.
About 20 years ago, I did “buy” a family used car from my parents for a very low price, and it lasted me quite awhile. It was a Ford Fairmont that eventually developed a problem with the air compressor that I couldn't afford to fix. Even with that difficulty I still used it for about 3 years even when I had started to commute to jobs from New Orleans to Covington and Baton Rouge for about six months.
I donated the Fairmont to St. Vincent de Paul before getting what would be my only “Lemon,” a Dodge Shadow, which I got about 10 years ago. A local friend's dad was a used car dealer who did the auction thing like I had done in California. It appeared that there were many previous owners without any service history provided like I'd gotten on all my other purchases. The Shadow, while looking flashy and getting decent mileage, blew a rod not long after I got it even though I'd just taken it in for an oil change.
Next, around 2001, I got a nice used Crown Victoria that an elderly lady let me purchase even though she could have traded it in for a little more than I paid for it. It happened that we both used to frequent Billy's Texaco repair station, and I had found out from Billy about the car when I told him what had happened to the Shadow. That car was great although not very good on mileage. I sold it for next to nothing to a friend of ours when I had started a management home care job in January 2005, which included the usage of a company car, a nice Nissan Altima.
What would a “Used Car” story be without a “Dahlin” reference. We just got a nice one-owner used 2006 Toyota Camry last July from Price Leblanc by trading in another used car that I had forgotten to mention about. After Katrina, we bought a used 1997 Escort from my sister for a real good price and used it sparingly at first expecting to save it for one of our kids. It actually got used a lot till last July, when the transmission gave out – but I was able to drive it for the trade in. It was neat to drive away in the Camry and to discover some lagniappe sausage on the floor of the passenger side!
So how did it work out that I got my current Echo, which gets around 33 mpg in the city and about 39 for highway driving? After Katrina came in August 2005, which entailed my care giving for my displaced parents, I was unable to continue the management position, so I had to look for a good used car. I called Mike, the owner noted in the Advocate ad, and made plans to meet him at the CC's on Siegen Lane.
After my test ride in the neat Toyota Echo with a Standard transmission, I told Mike I was very interested. He told me he had some other prospects but that he would get back with me. It only had 59,000 miles, one owner and had mainly been used for highway transportation, as he was a medical sales person. About 5 days later, he told me the vehicle was mine – even though someone else would pay him a few hundred more than I had offered. Why? Mike said he had just read a copy of my then published article in the Platinum Record (East Baton Rouge Council on Aging) about my work with seniors.
Like the Advocate Human Condition column, you never know who's reading or what impact it may have – or what good used car deals may result from them! The pen (or now, computer) is truly mightier than the sword!
Keith John Paul Horcasitas, LCSW, MHA, 1133 Knollhaven Drive, BRLA, 70810, khorcasitas.yahoo.com, March 25, 2012.