Sunday, July 11, 2010

How To Write A Bad Craigslist Ad

So, you've been driving your beater for a few months and you've noticed that you aren't as in love with it as you were when you plunked down the $1000 or less to buy it.  Maybe it's time for a new beater?  But you need to sell the one you have to get the money, right?  Well, there's nothing like using free services to sell your almost free car, so you pop over to your local Craigslist and pump out a quick ad for your car.  And your ad sucks.  I'm serious, really, your ad is crap and no one is going to take you seriously.  Here's your ad:

99 Chevy Cavalier - $1000 (North Garland)

Date: 2010-03-12, 8:10PM CDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

Fair condition, working AC, automatic transmission, call (214) 555-0164

  • Location: North Garland
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Wow.  That's craptacular.  In fact, the only thing you did right was put in a price.  You're missing out on thousands of possible buyers when you post on Craigslist and do something short and sweet like this.  Craigslist, AutoTrader,, Backpage, and all the other classifieds online are NOT THE NEWSPAPER.  YOU DO NOT PAY BY THE WORD.  So why don't you add a little bit of description about your beater?  C'mon, don't be shy, we all want to hear how much your car sucks versus the other sub-$1000 cars available so we can pick the least suckiest one!  Let's try that again, shall we?  Here's your ad with diarrhea of the keyboard added:

99 Chevy Cavalier - $1000 (North Garland)

Date: 2010-03-12, 8:10PM CDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

Fair condition inside and out, has some hail dents here and there, but it has cold working AC, an automatic transmission, and a radio that works most of the time.  This is a 4-door Cavalier with the 2.2 liter engine and it is bright blue with a dark gray cloth interior.  The seats are kinda beat up but they don't fall back or anything unsafe.  The inspection sticker is still good until November and the tags just went out, but you'll be getting new ones anyway because that's what you're supposed to do when you buy a car.  $1000 or best cash offer, will consider trades.  Call Bitsy at (214) 555-0164, texts ok.

  • Location: North Garland
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Now that you've gone ahead and told us how much your car sucked, your ad sucks less.  You even added a few things I wasn't going to tell you about yet, like the texting thing and when your tags and inspection sticker expire.  That's great!

But it still sucks.  You need to add pictures.  You only get four 300x225 pictures with a standard Craigslist listing when you upload your pictures to them.  That's no fun, but it's better than nothing, so use them if you're too lazy to put up bigger better pictures.  If you want bigger pictures, you can use PhotoBucket, Flickr, or any other of the dozens of free photo hosting providers out there.  Let's try this again, and hey, put in the FULL year of the car, not just "99".  Spell out CHEVROLET.  If you can't spell it, walk outside and copy it off the dashboard or the steering wheel or the trunk lid or wherever your car has its badge.  Also, add something describing how reliable the car has been for you but don't say how long you've owned it.  Mention a clear title (if you have one, of course). Split it into two paragraphs while you're at it.  OK, go:

1999 Chevrolet Cavalier - $1000 (North Garland)

Date: 2010-03-12, 8:10PM CDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

Fair condition inside and out, 152K miles, has some hail dents here and there, but it has cold working AC, an automatic transmission, and a radio that works most of the time.  This is a 4-door Cavalier with the 2.2 liter engine and it is bright blue with a dark gray cloth interior.  The seats are kinda beat up but they don't fall back or anything unsafe.  I've been driving this car back and forth to work, the gym where my hot boyfriend works, the red light district, and it's never let me down yet.

This car has a clear clean title and is ready to sell.  The inspection sticker is still good until November and the tags just went out, but you'll be getting new ones anyway because that's what you're supposed to do when you buy a car.  $1000 or best cash offer, will consider trades.  Call Bitsy at (214) 555-0164, texts ok.

  • Location: North Garland
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests


OK, now you're saying too much.  Leave out the part about your hot boyfriend.  But now you have a DECENT Craigslist ad.  If you want to go all out, you can use bigger pictures, add some color to your text, or you can have a program do all that for you.  There are plenty out there, and I don't have any favorites, but tops in a Google search for "CL ad templates" is a website called Slozzle.  I can't argue with that.  Here's the ad after Slozzling it:

1999 Chevrolet Cavalier
1999 Chevrolet Cavalier
Being Sold By:Bitsy
Contact Email:bitsyboop@madhatter.ish
Contact Number:(214) 555-0164
Web Address:Visit Website
Listing Details:Fair condition inside and out, 152K miles, has some hail dents here and there, but it has cold working AC, an automatic transmission, and a radio that works most of the time.  This is a 4-door Cavalier with the 2.2 liter engine and it is bright blue with a dark gray cloth interior.  The seats are kinda beat up but they don't fall back or anything unsafe.  I've been driving this car back and forth to work, the gym where my hot boyfriend works, the red light district, and it's never let me down yet.

This car has a clear clean title and is ready to sell.  The inspection sticker is still good until November and the tags just went out, but you'll be getting new ones anyway because that's what you're supposed to do when you buy a car.  $1000 or best cash offer, will consider trades.  Call Bitsy at (214) 555-0164, texts ok.
1999 Chevrolet Cavalier 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier  
Car For Sale!
Listing Created At

I still think the hot boyfriend part needs to be left out.  But there you go.  Much better looking.  You want to get crazy with it, copy the code and then change out the header and footer to something more appealing, like a banana popsicle.  Anyhow, what you want to take from all this is that no short and sweet ads on CL are going to pay off for you.  People browsing online classifieds are lazy.  They want to see and know everything about your car before they think about coming to buy it.  The more information you give them, the more likely they'll come back to your ad to buy something.  Don't write a novelette, but make sure you get your point across and give enough information to spark an interest.  The pictures will do that, but also include basic information about the car.

The Year, Make, Model, Trim Level, and Body Style
The Engine (if the car could have different engines) and Transmission (stick or auto or CVT)
How many miles are on it and what condition the car is in
If your state has an inspection, if it can pass, or if it has time left on the sticker
If the AC works, if it has a radio and if it works, and other equipment like power windows or cruise
Whether it runs or not, and if it doesn't, why
How much you want for the car and how to get in contact with you

If you can't at least put that and a couple of pictures, you might as well park and sit with it at a Wal-Mart, because people will ignore you just as nicely there as they will here on the internets.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Is no news ever good news?

Pertaining to a blog on the internet, no posts is a Very Bad Thing.  Pertaining to saving up the money and finding the property needed to start a car lot, it is simply stagnant.  At this point, I am seeking other avenues of revenue such as reselling car parts I've pulled from junkyard cars or reselling computers I found cheaply.  Starting up a car lot requires quite a bit of capital.  It's not like a lemonade stand where some groceries and a folding table are all you need.  Here's a list of things necessary to start up a car lot in Texas:

A minimum 2-year lease on, or ownership of, a property suitable for selling motor vehicles
An office building of at least 100 square feet
A desk
Two chairs
A computer with internet access
A printer
A fax machine
Either a filing cabinet that locks, or a server in a locked enclosure (for customer record-keeping)
Room to park five for-sale vehicles on an improved (paved or gravel) portion of the parking lot
A sign with the car lot's name in lettering at least six inches high, with the phone number as well
A landline phone in the business's name
The business's name registered with the county clerk
Operating/Occupancy/Sales Tax Permits
$500 license application fee for a General Distinguishing Number
$200 annual licensing fee for a GDN
A surety bond in the amount of $50,000
Liability insurance (typically a garagekeeper's policy modified for dealer use)

This is NOT a complete list.  You also need to be open regularly at least four hours on Mondays through Fridays between 8am and 5pm, have your hours posted somewhere conspicuous, display your dealer license in the office in a conspicuous place, have enough paper and supplies to print out temporary tags and all the appropriate car-selling-transferring paperwork, and much more.  There are also rules regarding the acquisition, usage, storage, and access to private customer information.

The state and the dealer's association regulate advertising and where a car can be sold (if not sold on the actual car lot).  The state does NOT however, regulate the things that can help a business succeed or fail.  Advertising is key to having a successful car lot.  This goes doubly true for car lots out in the middle of nowhere.  Since Beater World will be out here in BFE, I will need to find ways to advertise without encroaching on the territory of other dealers.  Deciding which market to use as my home market will make a big difference.  If I choose Hillsboro, then I may not advertise in Waco or Dallas.  If I choose Waco, I have to have a sufficient sales pitch as needed to draw customers up a half hour away.  If I choose Dallas, well, I don't think they'll allow me to choose Dallas as I am more than 50 miles out of that market.  In fact I may not be able to choose Waco, either.

If you want to learn more about how to open a used car lot in Texas, or a boat lot, or a trailer lot, or a powersports lot, there is a wonderful PDF file you can download from the Texas DOT website.  Download the "full manual" from this page and enjoy lots of legalese jargon but pay attention to the finer points:

I have also been informed that these documents will no longer be on the DOT website but on the new DMV website.  Here is the link to the same page on the new site where the 2010 Dealer Manual can be downloaded:

Then click on the Motor Vehicle Publications link to find more useful documents pertaining to exactly what I'm dealing with right now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

One small step for me, one giant leap for cheap ass cars...

As the semester draws nearer to a close, I have made a startling advancement in the state of cheap ass cars in my area. I have started a website.

None of the buttons work yet. There's only one page. It has NO relevant content whatsoever. But it's a start. I got the template from FreezeMint and it looks awesome. I can't wait to tweak it for inventory purposes, start up learning MySQL, and have some awesome web presence once I have a GDN and am ready to go.

I may get a small speed boost here pretty soon. Some guy wants to trade me a Phenom 9500 quad-core desktop box with a 8500GT graphics card for my little Acer laptop. If he trades me even, I'll get upgraded from XP Home to XP Pro, have more hard drive space, and TONS more speed. Wish me luck if/when he calls back.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Truth About Government Auctions

Yes, folks, it's a surplus auction. Uncle Sam has decided this pile of junk is wasted space and needs to go away. The government buys up billions of dollars of STUFF every year. Much of this stuff is bought to replace older stuff. Or in the case of motor vehicles, it's bought to keep the car companies in business. When is the last time you saw a Toyota Camry cop car? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

I have quite a bit of experience with these auctions and I know where to find the good deals online. And I'm not going to charge you for it, either. You want to buy a cheapass car for $125 from the Clinton administration era? Sure, got plenty of those. You want a 2 1/2 ton truck in running condition for under $1,000? Got those as well. Do you want to buy a Playstation for a buck sixty? Piece of cake. That's $1.60, not $160. I'm not kidding, either.

Here is a simple list of the websites I check every week or so. Some of them are pretty specific to Texas, but even those have stuff in Florida and California and New York every now and then.

My wife and I have bought pallets and pallets of shelf pulls, returns, and salvage merchandise from this site. One of our best buys was a set of four large metal cabinets. Retail price about $400 each. We got all four for $100. Each one was dented, three in the back, one on the side. You see, you kick it back from the inside, surprise, no more dents! You can find all sorts of goodies here. Want a GPS or an iPod? They got em. Want a truckload of Xbox equipment? It's right there. Want a lot of 18 household items ranging from a microwave and a wine cooler to a portable 12000 BTU air conditioner? Just sold for about $450 last week. They have warehouses all over the country including Dallas, Las Vegas, and Washington DC. You can find SOME cars on there, too, mostly from DC and Florida. Abandoneds and impounds, too. I came real close to buying a '95 Aerostar with a leaky power steering rack but I wasn't home when the auction ended and got outbid. $225 for a driveable van with ArmStrong steering!

You name it, they've got it. Military trucks, six figures of scrap metal, computers, heavy equipment, and more. From every government and military agency you can imagine. This is where I find 2 1/2 ton trucks, CUCV's, 5 ton trucks, semi tractors, utility trailers, buses, vans, and even regular old pickup trucks. Have you ever seen a 90's Dodge pickup with a Cummins diesel cut real short and used as an airplane tug? Well they sell them there every month. No, you can't buy a tank. But you can buy PARTS for them like tracks and axles and engines and such!

School districts and small towns and even larger towns love the quality auctioneering services by Rene Bates. All over Texas, online and in person, this guy and his crew liquidate all sorts of goodies to get money flowing back into the budget. They also serve a number of smaller towns and small and large towing services to dispose of abandoned and impounded cars. I purchased a 1989 Plymouth Voyager minivan from one of their auctions back in 2000. Cost me $275. I drove it for a few months until the tags ran out, and then the motor mounts broke and I scrapped it for the same $275! Free miles are always nice! and

Same thing as Rene Bates and they even branch out to the US Marshalls service to dispose of seized jewelery and such things. Lone Star Online does not require a deposit for most bidding. They also do the impound auctions for the cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, Irving, and Lewisville. Dallas is every Monday, Fort Worth is every other Tuesday, and the others are less often (think monthly). They even sold off the contents of Texas Stadium, seats, scoreboards, hot dog carts, and all!

Free registration here, too, and they have items from all over the country. Vehicles, computers, electronics, household items, clothing, jewelry, and much more! Their search function is very detailed and I can narrow it down to what I want to see. Want to buy a metro bus from Falls Church, Virginia? They got em. Want to get a pallet of Panasonic Toughbooks previously installed in Vegas cop cars? Right here! Do you want to buy ten identical 1999 Ford Taurus sedans in white? Look no further than!

This is Gaston & Sheehan's auction site for primarily the Austin and San Antonio markets. They do sell items nationwide but the best auctions they have are for some towing services in the Austin and San Antonio areas. If you sign up for their e-mail list, they will send you a link to the PDF file for everything that will be sold at the next auction. This includes VIN numbers. I Googled one VIN number once for a 2004 Dakota pickup and found police reports from a prior wreck, the impound auction it was previously sold at, and a car dealer's listing of the truck for sale initially. I also got to read the CarFax report from before the wreck and impound and subsequent sales. It was a lot of fun to check all that out!

This is a site where vehicles are donated to the Texas CAN! Academy. They go through a couple hundred vehicles a week and it is primarily an in-person auction in Arlington TX on Saturday mornings. They also sell non-running vehicles in Dallas on Wednesdays, sealed bid. It's a very nice setup they have and they do drive the running vehicles through the lanes like a car dealer auction! I haven't bought a car here yet but I was in attendance when I took a friend there to get something and he picked up a running '86 Pontiac for $200 plus TT&L and the buyer's fee. The buyer's fee on cars under $2000 is somewhere from $31 to $211 depending on the final bid price. They do collect tax, title, and license plate fees right there at the auction so you don't have to go to the tax office to do all that. It's like buying from a car dealer, really, but the negotiation is on the auction floor and you don't pay anything more than you're willing to. Someone else bids higher, they want it more than you. The auctioneer will mention major problems with the car and you'll be able to see it drive through anyway. If it won't start, they sell it as is where it sits and those go the cheapest! Most of the non-running vehicles sell for $300 or less!

I have purchased 11 different vehicles from eBay auctions since 1998. A Dodge Shadow for $100. A Toyota Tercel for $300. A Ford pickup for $406. A Dodge Durango for $1775. And my beloved Torino was a mere $355. Many more and excluding the Durango they were all $406 or less. Fees are higher these days and cars generally don't sell for much less than $300 anymore, but you can get some incredible deals (like our Durango and my Torino) if you know what to look for!

There are literally hundreds or thousands more across the country. Call up some wrecker services in your area. Call the police department. Call your local school districts. Ask them when they dispose of their vehicles or equipment and they'll likely give you a date and time, a website, or a phone number for an auctioneer and then you can go get whatever you want!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Hey, I bought a cheap ass car and it what?"

I'll assume you did your homework on this one. When you bought that car, you checked it over top to bottom for the important stuff. If the check engine light was on, you opened the hood to make sure the engine was still there. If it wouldn't go in reverse, you checked the angle of your leg and foot to the ground so you could Flintstone out of spots in Wal-Mart when you were too stupid to pull through. If the body was rusty you made sure you had enough duct tape to cover the rockers so your thighs wouldn't get wet when you splashed through foot-deep puddles at 45mph. You checked ALL that out.

But now your car is broken.

The good news, you paid a small amount of money for that car. You paid so little for it that the repair, if done at a mechanic shop, is going to cost more than the whole car did.

Which means you have a decision to make.

Emotion will play strongly into this. You might have developed an addiction to your cheap ass beater sled. Maybe it has oxidation on the roof in the same shape as that birthmark on Mikhail Gorbachev's forehead. Maybe you got laid in it. Either way, you might consider the car worth enough to have it fixed and fixed right. So do it.

But what if you have no emotional attachment to the car? Hey, it's an applicance, right? It gets you from point A to point B and if it can't do that you get another one, right? So do it. Take the skills you used to find your current cheap ass car and go find another one for dirt cheap. If you're REALLY smart you'll buy the same make and model or at least something that parts interchange on. Your '96 Grand Am may be toast if the tranny's out, but the '94 Skylark for sale for $500 at the other end of your apartment complex can exchange a lot of functional parts with it! And the '97 Acheiva with a blown head gasket but a REBUILT transmission for $200 on Craigslist? Hey, you can put that known good transmission in your Grand Am and be GOOD TO GO!!!

Then there's option D. Or C. Or 3. I don't know. It depends on how badly you want to tackle the problem. You blew the head gasket in your '95 Taurus wagon. It's the 3.8, they all do it sometime, right? So many of these cars have broken down that there is a science to fixing them. You can go on a Ford Taurus message board and find a how-to to change out that head gasket and suddenly you find it's not going to cost you $800-$1200 to fix it. No, heck no, even after machine shop fees on two heads and some coolant and oil and all the gaskets and other parts and even some tools you have to buy, you'll spend about $300 and be roadworthy again!

Fixing your beater is where you REALLY save money. You paid $500 for the '94 Intrepid. It's served you well for six months now and you LOVE not having a car payment. Liability insurance is cheap. Registration fees on a 15-year-old car are next to nothing. Why not fix that water pump and keep it going? Even if you only get another month or two out of it, you're WAY ahead of even buying another beater! Think $500 for the next beater, $100-$150 in tags and title, $50-$100 to get it cleaned up and the oil changed and all that so it's ready to go, you're up around $700ish now. $230 for a water pump looks cheap. Unless you can get $470 for the broken car (and you won't unless you find someone who needs, say, the transmission for their Intrepid), it's cheaper to fix what you got.

Monday, June 22, 2009

How Do YOU Keep Your Beater Running?

So you've settled into the comfort of knowing your Beater Car is going to last you a long time and you're going to keep it, not have a car payment, not worry about depreciation, and not bother yourself with flashy gadgets and technology (that will just break or give you a BSOD later). Now how are you going to keep it running?

If your car is older than dirt, you're probably going to spend a lot of time at junkyards. Maybe a swap meet or ten. There's other options available to you. You can become a member of a car club that has members who only own your make and model of car! These guys don't want to see any of their cherished kind of car crushed. They'll help you find parts, help you fix something that isn't made anymore, and get you back on track with getting your car in the best shape possible. You would be surprised at the kind of cars that have cult followings on the internet. I will add a feature post to this blog periodically showcasing some of these message boards, car clubs, and groups of people who cherish otherwise unexceptional vehicles.

If you have a reasonably newer car, there are skads of places to find parts and service. Some people are pretty picky and only want dealership service. But even the luxury cars like Lexus, Mercedes, and Volvo have mechanic shops who specialize in one or only a few makes. They can be found all over the country even in smaller towns. You might find a German mechanic shop that only works on Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen. You might find a Toyota shop that also does Lexus and some of the captive imports like Geo Prizms who are made primarily of Toyota parts. You might even find a guy who will only work on older cars or cars with carburetors or cars that have 3-cylinder engines or smaller!

There are many different kinds of places you can find parts. We've covered junkyards and swap meets, but you can also find goodies at garage sales, flea markets, small used car dealerships, thrift stores, newspaper classifieds, ads on Craigslist and the like, eBay, and thousands of websites devoted to parts. Even the individual car forums for general or specific cars have classified sections.

If you have the space, and the kind of neighbors who don't care, you can do like I did in the post below and buy a whole parts car. Parts cars can range from empty shells to cars with broken engines to whole perfectly good cars that may or may not be titled. You can make a fortune selling off the parts off that car that you DON'T use, or you can pack it all away in your garage to use later. Then you can get most of your money back selling the shell of the car for scrap metal. Cut it up and put it in the bed of your pickup and get paid more because they don't have to go through and remove all the plastics and glass and upholstery. And when it's in a million pieces, you don't need a title to scrap the metal. Sawzalls are worth their weight in platinum for this sort of thing.

Go out, search, keep your eyes open, and you'll find a ton of ways to find the parts and service you need for your beater, so you don't have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to buy a new one!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Beater World BiMonthly Update

One of these days I'll actually edit this daily. Really. Pinky swear!

The fleet of beaters here at Occupant Ilied Industries, a wholly owned subsdiary of Amyco, has dwindled to three recently. The giant Suburban is gone. The Buick wagon is gone. The Taurus is gone. The Torino, on the other hand, has spawned a parts car. I picked up a wagon with the same motor, transmission, axle, brakes, and basic equipment as my sedan. The interior isn't the same color, but Ford blue has good coverage and I'll dye the seats and armrest and other goodies. Wanna see pics? Of course you do...

That's the wagon, it has a nicer grille, rocker moldings, bodyside narrow moldings with vinyl inserts, rub strips for my bumper guards, some interior bits, great brake bits for swapping, and lots of wagon/Ranchero specific bits to resell. And the fenders are PERFECT so I'll get those swapped when I'm ready to paint the sedan.

That's the sedan, it's not gorgeous, it's not a Sport, it's not even a 2-door. But it's exactly what I want less the Silver Blue Glow paint.

Anyhow, I'm as always on the lookout for good beaters and I get to tour the country driving OTR for the next two months. If I see anything I can tuck in my back pocket I'll pick it up. Otherwise, it'll be another couple of months before I post, as I don't own a laptop and I am NOT flying to pick my truck up with a desktop and LCD in my duffel bag. Maybe if I get frugal with my per diems I'll be able to pick up a netbook somewhere along the way and stay connected. Wish me luck. And please, don't spend a bazillion dollars on your next car. That's what I'm about. Save your money for the repairs. Even a new car runs out of warranty eventually.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Time For a General Rant About The Auto Industry

I already posted a reply to yet another news story about what brands of GM will be killed off next. Let's do a quick review of what brands GM has killed off in the US since...THE DAWN OF TIME!

Elmore (low price car bought by GM in 1909 and killed by 1912)
Oakland (produced through 1931, created Pontiac in 1926 which survived to today)
La Salle (similar to Cadillac, sold from 1927 to 1940)
Marquette (sub-model of Buick in 1929 and 1930)
Viking (sub-model of Oldsmobile in 1929 and 1930)
Opel (European compacts sold in Buick dealerships in the 1960s and 1970s)
Geo (Japanese subcompacts sold in Chevrolet dealerships from 1989 to 1997)
Oldsmobile (GM bought it in 1910 and killed it in 2004)
Reliance and Rapid truck companies (combined to create GMC)
Daewoo (the designs live on as the Chevy Aveo, Suzuki Forenza, and Suzuki Verona)

That's probably not a complete list, either. Opel still sells in other countries and Opel models such as the Astra sell as other brands like Saturn. Holden is GM in Australia and they produced the Pontiac GTO (VT Commodore aka Monaro) and G8 (VE Commodore). Vauxhall is just another name for Opels sold in the UK. And then there is the Ranger (sold in South Africa) and countless other badge-engineered messes around the world. Ever seen a Toyota Cavalier? Take a 2000-2002 Cavalier and put amber turn signals out back. PRESTO CHANGE-OOOO!!!

GM pretty much invented badge-engineering with the "Parent Make" mess back in the late 20s. Pontiac is the only survivor from that, but for how long? Pontiac stopped making their own cars a few decades ago. They rebadge Chevys and put amber-backlit gauge panels in them. How cool is that? It isn't. And it's not profitable to make four different bumpers/grilles/light housings/interiors/wheels and more bits, just to put on one chassis or platform. A car is a car. A truck is a truck. Stop trying to make us believe you sell four different SUV's in a certain size range when they are the same truck with the same motor and some cosmetic changes. The Buick Rainier IS a Chevrolet Trailblazer which IS a GMC Envoy which IS an Oldsmobile Bravada which IS a Saab 9-7. Aren't you glad they didn't come out with Pontiac, Saturn, and Hummers in that same model? They almost did that with the minivans. Didn't they learn back from the J-cars that badge engineering brings the fail? You had the Cadillac Cimarron (sold 82-88), the Buick Skyhawk (sold 82-89) and the Oldsmobile Firenza (sold 82-88). They all died. The Cavalier lived on until 2005 as did the Pontiac J2000, I mean the 2000, I mean the 2000 Sunbird, I mean the Sunbird, errrr, I mean the Sunfire.

HEY GM!!! RENAMING YOUR BADGE-ENGINEERED CAR EVERY YEAR DOES NOT MAKE IT NEW CAR!!! PONTIAC, WHAT THE &#$% WERE YOU THINKING? It was awful, and now we have the Pontiac G5, which is a 2-door Cobalt with the tail lights of a 4-door Cobalt, amber-backlit gauges, colored piping on the interior fabrics, and a few different hubcap or wheel choices. Oh, THEY CHANGED THE GRILLE? IT'S SPLIT DOWN THE MIDDLE??? WOW, IT MUST BE A PONTIAC THEN!!!

*earth shaking groan sound*

OK, so now you killed off Oldsmobile, you're getting rid of Hummer, Saab, and probably Saturn. Pontiac and GMC might go, too. Wait. Why GMC? Keep them building trucks. Tell Chevy to STOP building trucks. Then you keep the GOOD LOOKING truck!!! Cadillac needs to die. Buick can live on, they sell to the golfing set, and lots of guys play golf. Girls play golf, too, but they don't buy Buicks, so screw them. Tiger will sell you a Buick but it can't be pink. Unless you're a Mary Kay consultant. And even then the latest MK cars have been white, red, or silver. I haven't seen a pink Mary Kay car since a handful of pale pink 1990 Buick Centurys showed up in a junkyard near me last summer.

I'm getting off topic again. Here's the deal. I have new rules for GM. Rules that make SENSE and should be followed to the letter.

GMC gets all the true trucks. Colorado/Canyon, Silverado/Sierra, Medium Duties, and Semis. If it is a cab/chassis, has a pickup bed, or has a cargo box of ANY KIND, it is a GMC truck. That's it. No Acadia. No SUV's. Nothing with carpet behind the second row of seats. No third row seating. If you can't hose down the cargo area and avoid getting carpet, vinyl, cloth, or leather wet, IT IS NOT A TRUCK AND SHOULD NOT BE A GMC.

Chevy gets all the other trucks. SUV's, Crossovers, Truck Hybrids, whatever you want to call them. The HHR, Equinox, Traverse, Trailblazer, Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche, minivans, whatever. If a soccer mom would drive it, brand it Chevrolet. If you offer Navigation systems and DVD players in it, brand it Chevrolet.

Chevy also gets the small cars. Sell the Aveo (if you HAVE to, I'd rather see it go away), the Cobalt, the Malibu, the Impala, the Camaro, the Corvette, whatever. Those are Chevrolet cars. They stay Chevrolet cars. Get rid of Pontiac and make the Impala and Monte Carlo rear drive. Then take the Pontiac G6 lineup and make them Buick Skylarks (or whatever you want to call them). Or expand the Malibu lineup. Call them Chevelles. Whatever. Pontiac is done.

Buick has several good vehicles. The trucks need to go. The Rainier is redundant and could be replace by the Trailblazer in a "Limited" package or something equally gaudy. The Enclave is a Traverse with leather. Gone. The Terrazza minivan is already gone, but I just want to say it needs to be gone again. I mean, please, a Buick minivan? That's sick, dude, what were you smoking when you thought that would be a good idea? The Lacrosse and Lucerne are terrific. Please bring the 3800 back in the Lacrosse, that was a great motor for damn near 50 years and could keep Buicks going for 50 more. What else do you sell, Buick? Nothing? How about coming up with a good sporty name for a small roadster and steal the Solstice from Pontiac? I just don't think it would be a good Chevy. But a Buick sports roadster, I can see that. If you have to make it a Chevy, fine. Chevy Solstice. That doesn't sound too bad, does it?

And now we come to Saturn. I just want to go on record as saying that Saturn was already dead in 2003 when they dropped the S-Series in favor of the ION. You had a car that lived for 13 years, providing no less than 25mpg city, up to 40mpg highway, was comfortable, reliable (if you don't mind checking your oil often), kept its value (if artificially through Saturn dealer networks), and had plastic polymer body panels that never rusted or looked ugly. Genius design, fair-to-middlin execution, and it would have been better to introduce the Cobalt as the 2003 Saturn S-Series and leave center dash pods to Toyota and Scion. NO ONE LIKES IT! STOP FORCING CENTER DASH PODS DOWN OUR THROATS! I'm better now. The L-Series didn't help your reliability concerns from the oil burners of the early 90s, and although the VUE was a great addition, it didn't do well enough, did it? Then you bring in the Aura which SHOULD have been the 2008 Malibu. The 2008 Malibu should have been the Aura. You take a conservatively styled sedan and sell it as a Saturn why? To make up for the abomination of the ION? Then you bring over the Astra and limit body styles and options to a select few things no one wanted brought over from the UK? And a Saturn minivan? Dude, that's sick, what wer....wait, I said that about the Buick, didn't I? I don't have anything else to say, it was a piss poor idea from the start. Chevy can have a minivan for all I care, but the other divisions don't need one. You want a premium minivan, make it a Cadillac.

The Cadillac of minivans. Oldsmobile. No, the Cadillac of minivans should be a CADILLAC. Duh!!! I saw you sneak that into my Elmore Leonard movie. Sick little twisted freaks.

Speaking of Cadillac, you know, I just can't say enough how I enjoyed Cadillac back when they made their own engines. The 390. The 429. The 472. The 500. Then you lost your sack. 425? 368? 4.1 liter? Where did my cubic inches go? 4.1 liter is about 249 cubic inches! That's one of the SMALLEST American V8's ever!!! Ford's flathead was 239, were you trying to relive Maybelline? Don't you remember the flathead in Maybelline was OVERHEATING trying to catch UP to a CADILLAC? It took RAINWATER to cool it off enough to basically COAST DOWN A HILL TO CATCH UP?!! And now we have Cadillac selling CTS's, DTS's, XLR's, ESV's, EXT's, STS's, and God knows what other 3-letter acronyms they are coming up with. I say go all the way. Forget 3 letters. Name them with the 4 letters they need to be called.

Oh wait, I have to interject here. Cimmarron!!!!!!!!!

Back to the drawing board. Or the wastebasket. I suppose GM could keep Cadillac but they better quit with trying to be everything to everyone or they're going to lose the few people still willing to buy GM vehicles by alienating their customer base.

The last real Cadillacs in my opinion were the 1979 models. 425 engine, big cushy interiors, wire wheel covers, and chrome tailfins. And they were even downsized and depowered from the massive 1975-1976 behemoths with the 500 engines. Cadillac was the Standard Of The World. That standard no longer applies. It's like DOS. No one uses DOS anymore. Cadillac is trying to be HIP and they want to play to the YOUNG people and have a BOLD statement. That's not a Cadillac. That's an Audi, or a BMW, or a small Mercedes. A Cadillac is a car you buy to say you've made it in this world. A Cadillac is fat, uses a lot of gas, and is a real bitch to park. Which is why God invented VALET PARKING. As a former valet attendant myself, parking a 1953 Eldorado convertible is one thing. Parking a 1970 Fleetwood Sixty Special is another. But parking a 2002 Seville SLS really isn't anything special. A CTS might as well be a Malibu. And the Escalades do nothing for me. OH PLAYA YOU GOT REAL WOOD ON YO STEERING WHEEL! Yeah, it burns my hands when I get in during summertime, so what's your point? Give me skinny plastic any day.

There is a reason I drive an old Buick station wagon. Because Buick, in 1988, still knew how to make a proper station wagon. The car seats eight people with seatbelts. It gets mid teens in town and up to 24 on the highway. It has a V8. It makes noise when you stand on it. The seats are comparable to overstuffed living room sofas. Everything is power operated except the glove box and the ashtray. The cigarette lighter.......IS. The seats fold down and you can fit 4x8 sheets of plywood with the tailgate closed. Outside, there is chrome and fake wood everywhere. Heck, INSIDE there's chrome and fake wood everywhere. It's just right. It's what I expect from a Buick. It delivers the pillowy soft ride and the mushy handling characteristics that let me NOT SPILL MY COFFEE BEFORE I LEAVE MY DRIVEWAY. That's what a car should be able to do.

If I left anything out, I'll be posting about this again when some more details are finalized. They have until what, June? I'll talk more by then.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How To NOT Avoid The Repo Man

At 4:00am Sunday morning, a guy in a 3/4 ton pickup truck with dark tinted glass idles his ride down the street. He stops at the end of the block and turns around. The truck pulls in front of a silver Taurus and you see a pair of beat-up arms snake under the front tires. Suddenly the Taurus lifts off the ground, a guy jumps out, straps it down, tosses a pair of red utility lights on the trunk, jumps back in, and stands on the gas, as another guy in a bathrobe starts yelling from an upstairs window.

As sneaky as that was, that was not grand theft auto. You just witnessed a repossession. Only some states license people in the business, but you'll find them anywhere. Sometimes they don't even use a tow truck, they cut their own keys with codes provided by the lender, and use little programmer's boxes to get around electronic key chips. Cars can be taken from ANYWHERE. From the street in front of your house. From your mama's house. From the bar or club you frequent. Even from work or school. Make your payments, or you don't drive!

So other than the small amount of repo agent experience I have, what does it have to do with Cheap Ass Cars?

That would be this:

2000 Dodge Durango. KBB Book Value $4550. We paid $1820 for it. You do the math.

When a car gets repossessed, the finance company or bank that had the loan on it doesn't want the vehicle. They want the MONEY. So they have to liquidate it somehow. Most end up going to dealer-only auctions, as this one did. The dealer who bought it listed it on eBay, and we bought it from him. Some end up for sale in classified ads, or sitting on the lot of the bank who loaned the money. Sometimes they sell them directly on eBay or other auction sites.

A few other examples of repos sold by some eBay sellers:

2003 Chevrolet Silverado 2500, front bumper damage but air bags good, runs and drives, $3650
2000 Ford Mustang GT, no damage, runs and drives, $2711
1996 Chrysler Sebring convertible, no damage, runs and drives, only had 55K on it, $1525

There are thousands more selling every week. Go look for them. Don't fall for scam artists like Repo Joe or other fake "repo auctions" as propagated by car dealerships trying to get rid of excess inventory. Some of those cars may be repos but you'll pay close to if not MORE than retail. Repo auctions are NEVER held at car lots. Maybe bankruptcy liquidation these days, but never repos.

Speaking of car lots going out of business, how many lots near you have closed? I'm looking at Forrest Chevy and Buick-Pontiac-GMC up in Cleburne, TX, they are having a liquidation and are down to maybe 60 cars on both lots. It's hard to sell these days, when people have no money, when cars cost so much money, but if you could buy a $38000 Tahoe for $24000, and it's still brand new and under warranty, would you?

I wouldn't, but I'm cheap. See $1820 Durango above. That truck would have been $5995 on a dealer lot, and financed with interest for thousands more. Even after replacing the engine we're a thousand under book. And I'm keeping the bad engine, rebuilding it, and I'll find a nice 70's Chrysler wagon to drop it in. That's just a fun personal project for me, though. I have my work cut out for me, couple of melted pistons, warped heads, etc...

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Joys of Special Finance




The ads are everywhere, and they seem to promise you a brand new car for a little bit of money down. Most people can probably walk in and buy one. But is it worth it? Let's take a look at what you get for $199 down...

2008, pretty much last year's model
Kia Spectra, a great car but horrible resale value
5-speed transmission, hope you can shift for yourself
Several hundred miles from tons of test drives because some people DON'T qualify after all

OK, so maybe it's not the best car in the world. I'm sure Hyundai has similar deals on Elantras, Toyota might sell you a Yaris for that, and Mitsubishi has some basic Lancers they could toss your way. But let's see what this deal ends up costing you in the long run.

$199 down payment
MSRP of $16,790, you pay full retail
72 month note, you get 6 years of high interest
Payment isn't very low either, try $400-$450 a month!

That's $30,000 or more for a $17,000 car. OUCH!!!

A better bet would be to find a ten-year old economy car for cash. 1998-2002 Chevrolet Prizms and Toyota Corollas come to mind, as well as 1996-2000 model Honda Civics. The 1996-2002 Mitsubishi Mirage is also an excellent deal for what they sell for these days. You can spend $1500-$3500 in cash and not have to think about car payments, interest, resale value, or full coverage insurance premiums. When you're done with the car, it'll still be worth most of what you paid.

I imagine at the end of that 6-year note, the Kia wouldn't even be worth $3500. That's a lot of depreciation, plus all the interest you pay.

Caveat Emptor!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Update for the sake of updating...:)

Not much new to report in the world of beater cars. Archived posts have a ton of information and I should have some more Sample Beaters, Beater Of The Week, and more bits. For now, it's Christmas, so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and I'll be back in January, hopefully with a fresh inspection sticker on my 1976 Ford Gran Torino sedan. Cheers!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique (Mistake?)

In the early 1990's, Ford decided to come up with a new "World Car". They introduced the Mondeo platform in Europe in 1993 and thought it would make a great replacement for the aging Tempo/Topaz models in the USA. The car was introduced in late 1994 as a 1995 model and sold well. Unfortunately by 1997 when the smaller Escort and Tracer were redesigned, the Contour/Mystique were about the same size as the new Escort range, and were pretty much obsolete. The front end was redesigned in 1998 along with the taillights and the cars continued through 1999 and 2000 with little to no changes.

An SVT Contour was produced but isn't what I would consider a beater. Catering to the same crowd as the Taurus SHO, it was a performance model and was very competent.

Standard (non-SVT) Contours and Mystiques are generally plagued with electrical problems and do not have what I would consider to be "reliable" powertrains. I often see used Contours in nice condition for well under $2000. Typically, the "for sale" Contour has some kind of no-start problem, a failed transmission, or electrical gremlins, and for $500 or significantly less. A recent Dallas Craigslist ad had two 1997 Contours for $600. That's not two cars priced at $600 each but both cars for the one price of $600. These are best left to ASE certified professionals with a lot of time on their hands.

My ex-wife drives a Mystique. I would say something about karma but that would be counterproductive as far as karma is concerned.

A coworker of mine at a courier service drove a 1999 Contour and generally was able to drive for two weeks before making some sort of repair (often for the same thing he fixed a few months prior). That's about 3000 miles, or one oil change interval, between repairs. I don't think he ever got his cruise control working the entire time I knew him.

For more details on the Contour and Mystique, visit the enthusiast site at The forums are an excellent place to read up on quick fixes, troubleshooting, how-tos, upgrades, and more. You can also visit the Contour wikipedia page. Ford Forums also has a Contour forum.