As a car enthusiast, I live on Craigslist. I’m always looking out for great deals on cool cars. I’m an addict. But in spite of what we recently decided on Answers of the Day, I think Michigan might be the single worst place to buy a used car on Craigslist. Here’s why.
Before moving to Michigan to take a job as an auto engineer, I was in college in Virginia. And let me just say: thank goodness I didn’t have any money back then, because damn. Talk about interesting, well-maintained, inexpensive rust-free cars.
Heck, I still somehow managed to collect three cars in college. If I had had a few more coins in the trouser pocket, I’d have filled up the whole Emmet-Ivy Parking Garage at UVa.
Then I moved to Michigan, and now all that Craigslisting goodness is gone. And I’m sad. Here are the three main reasons why buying cars in Michigan is so frustrating.
We’ll keep this point short, because we’ve been through this. Michigan is where cars go to die. I sometimes run into people from New Jersey or Massachusetts who claim their cars rust as badly as Michigan cars. I’ve been to those two states, and I’ve seen quite a few in-tact rocker panels, so I’m not sure I agree.
Michigan salts its roads as sport. What’s that, state employee? You’re bored? Hop on a truck and salt the roads! But it’s July? Salt the roads. But you’re out of salt? Gather all the salt from the roads, put it back in your truck, and salt all the damn roads!
You get the idea. They go over the top here.
Rust is a car’s death. I would know: The only car I’ve ever purchased from Michigan is 90 percent dead.
Of course, in the off-chance that you do come across a clean, rust-free car here, you’ll have to pay a huge premium.
Most people just think Michigan is a bad place to Craigslist because of the salt they put on the roads. But I think what’s equally bad is the way winter affects how people maintain their cars.
Take me, for example. For the longest time, I did all my repairs in the Chrysler employee parking lot. It was nothing huge: I did my fluid changes, installed some new brake calipers, a new belt, a new distributor, and a few other things.
But I can tell you that as soon as November came around, my wrenching slowed down dramatically. And it’s not like my cars needed any less help. I just dreaded sitting down on that ice-cold parking garage floor and grabbing tools that were so cold, they’d stick to my hands.
I blew a cylinder head on one of my Jeeps last winter. Yes, there was coolant running into my oil, compromising its lubricity and causing amplified bearing wear.
I was destroying my engine with each mile I drove. But what did I do? I kept driving it. I didn’t have anything else that ran at the time, and swapping a cylinder head in 0 degrees Fahrenheit would be hellish.
After having overtaken my friend’s garage for the entire previous winter while installing a lift kit, I felt too guilty to bum a garage again. These people don’t need me banging away on my Jeep while they tuck their babies into bed (real babies, not prized cars. They have real, non-car families). I couldn’t take the guilt.
So my solution: move. Yup, my blown cylinder head caused me to move from my apartment in Detroit to a garage in Troy. Okay, I don’t live in a garage, but my house is basically small living quarters for the attached two-car garage.
Even though I have a garage, my wrench-rate goes down dramatically when it’s cold. And I’m not the only one who lets service intervals fly by when it gets chilly. Lots of cars on the Detroit area Craigslist have some easily-avoidable problems likely spawned by cold-weather laziness.
Look at all the Detroit ruin porn photos you want, but Detroit is still Motor City. It’s filled with some of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic car lovers on this here green and blue planet. And that can make Craigslisting a bit difficult.
You see, Michigan isn’t just a terrible place to buy cars because of rust. Or because cold weather causes people to take shortcuts maintaining their vehicles. No, Michigan is filled with the most avid and seasoned Craigslisters, making finding a good deal feel downright impossible.
What’s that? You see a five-speed Jeep Comanche with no rust for only two grand? The post went up 12 seconds ago? Too late! “Oh, but surely nobody’s seen this post where the the seller misspelled Chevrolet.” Sold.
Come on now, Detroit-area Craigslisters know all the tricks. They’ll sniff out a good deal faster than you can blink.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Dave, if there are so many car enthusiasts, there must be some cool garage-kept cars.” And on that point, you’re right.
But there’s no little old lady who will sell you her one-owner Volvo 145 for a song. No, you’ll probably arrive at her house and she’ll tell you about how she rebuilt the motor twice with her own bare hands, making you feel like a total wuss.
See, that’s how it is in Michigan. Even soccer moms wrench on cars, so usually people who have well-kept gems stashed away know what they’ve got.
Most of my friends go out of state to buy their cars. I can’t say I blame them. But I do feel bad when I see their beautiful classics whither away in what I call “getting Michigan’d.”
Top photo credit Jeremy/Flickr