A new (or new-to-you) car is the second-biggest purchase most people will ever make. Somehow, though, that doesn’t stop the transaction from being a minefield of scams, frauds and overall sketchiness. You’ve all had some interesting experiences buying and selling cars, and we’ve picked our ten favorites from your submissions. Enjoy!
2 / 12
A High-Mileage Hero
A High-Mileage Hero
About 18 years ago when I sold my first car, a 1990 Mitsubishi Colt, I had great difficulty selling it. I already bought my second car and I couldn’t pay for both cars at the same time as insurance was killing me back then. So I was getting desperate to get rid of it. I put ads for the car on about every online marketplace and hoped it would be gone soon. It looked awfully similar to this car including the dent:
The car was mechanically sound, but it had a visible repair (I didn’t know what I was doing back then: just lot’s of filler) where the dent is on the car above and that threw most of the potential buyers off. Another small issue was the absence of a right hand mirror. This wasn’t obligatory for 1990 cars and never installed on mine. Last small issue was the mileage: 190,000 kilometers, so basically any other Colt of the same generation had less than mine.
So then on a Sunday I got a phone call from someone who was willing to pay the asking price (600 euros) if I could sell it the same day. I told him it wasn’t possible to transfer the title the same day as, back then, it had to be done at the post office and it was closed. Regardsless of this the guy turned up at the meeting point that I had in mind and he took it for a test drive with me sitting next to him. He drove straight to the post office to see for himself that it was closed (a Sunday, duh!) and then was disappointed he couldn’t transfer the title the same day. So we arranged to meet up the next day and transfer the title.
Next day he showed up at the same meeting point, we drove to the post office and while standing in queue he started haggling down the price. I was like, wtf: that’s what you’re supposed to do before transferring the title. As pressure was building up (the queue got shorter and shorter) I went along and agree to take 550 euros. While transferring the title I noticed his photo on the driving license didn’t look much like him at all, but who cares. We transferred the title and I was basically rid of the burden of owning two cars.
The next day I received a call from an unknown number. The person on the phone had the same name as the person I sold the car to, but he definitely had a different voice. He complained I took off the right hand mirror and there was a dent right under the rear bumper. He demanded I refunded 100 euros. I told him there never was a right hand mirror and the dent under the rear bumper was already there. If he was doubting my word he should look up the original online ad and compare. Then the voice on the other side uttered that his cousin got him a lousy deal on this car, so if I please could take it back. I simply said no and hung up. If you have the nerve ask your cousin to buy cars for you in your name, and do identity fraud, you also have to deal with the consequences of that.
I’ve certainly called dealers or messaged sellers to set up appointments for other people, but I’ve always had the interested party actually go look at the car. Doing a full inspection and purchase without the buyer there is a new one, but what’s a little identity fraud between cousins? I wonder if the original car budget was a bit higher, and the “buyer” banpei dealt with pocketed the difference.
Submitted by: banpei
3 / 12
The Eyes Have It
The Eyes Have It
I like to get a different daily driver every few years so I have some great ones. This is my favorite: In 2008, I had an NA Miata that I decided to sell. It was worth maybe $3,000 at the time. I posted it on Craiglist and got an email from a local eye doctor who specialized in LASIK surgery offering me LASIK in exchange for the car.
Yeah, I was a touch skeptical, but intrigued. In my reply I let him know my wife and I were considering LASIK. His reply? “I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse. I’ll give you both LASIK in exchange for the car.”
I did a little homework, talked it over with my wife, and we decided that surgery that (at the time) retailed for $8,000 total for two of us was worth handing over a $3,000 car.
It turned out to be totally legit. One of the top LASIK doctor’s in town was married to someone who loved cars and would make him offer LASIK in exchange for a fun car to fix up and drive.
...and my wife and I ended up with 20/20 vision.
I literally traded a car for eyes.
Trading consumer goods for bodily organs is quite possible the most cyberpunk thing I’ve ever seen. I’m picturing this eye doctor as the guy in the ice room from Blade Runner, and I will refuse to acknowledge any facts that contradict this mental image.
Submitted by: Sid Bridge
4 / 12
My Ghost, Where’d You Go?
My Ghost, Where’d You Go?
Nothing too sketchy - as I don’t allow things to typically escalate to a point where that was an option.
A year ago, when I was selling my 335i, I had a guy that was very interested, Tons of FB Messages, a good hour phone call about the car, tons of information I shared with him. He was 4 hours away and made plans to meet on a Saturday to test drive/buy.
FB messages me saying he left. Then silence. Once it was past the time he should be here, I texted him. He said he made it an hour into the drive and changed his mind because he was worried about the miles, and turned around. At that point, he blocked me before I could respond. Since I had his number, I called with no answer, so I texted him and let him know what kind of weak POS he was, as a simple I changed my mind would have sufficed instead of trying to ghost me when he said he was enroute as I prepped everything for the sale.
Ended up selling it a couple months later for similar money to someone that flew in and drove it home. I was nice and let the kid (plus grandfather) drive it on my nearly expired plates. 8 months later I get a call from a Kansas police officer, saying my car got broken into, at which point I informed him the car sold, the kid was to destroy the plate, and I had a notarized bill of sale. I dimed the kid out with every piece of info I had on him and is the last I ever heard of it,
I’ll admit, I’ve actually been that buyer. I was young, dumb, and interested in a Legacy GT that was listed about two and a half hours from my house. The difference was that I was planning to meet the seller at his own property, and only turned around when he informed me en route that he wouldn’t negotiate the price down by even a penny. Legend says that car is still on Craigslist to this day.
Submitted by: Nitrousbird
5 / 12
A DIY Chop Shop
A DIY Chop Shop
240sx buyers are a whole other breed... I should know lol.
My sketchiest story isn’t a car buying story, it’s a story about buying an engine. It was an LS1 out of a C5 Vette. My buddy needed the engine for his 240sx (lol) and found a guy with a Corvette in Palmdale that was supposedly parting it out. We set a date with the owner for the next Saturday to come pull the motor. Despite Palmdale being a 2 hour drive from us, the price was too good to pass up. It’s been quite a few years, but it was something like $1000 for the harness and engine, as long as we did the work to pull the engine.
Things started to get sketchy about halfway to the car. The owner told us he wasn’t in town, and his nephew would be at the home to let us into the garage. It wasn’t a huge red flag, but it was the first. We continued on our way, arriving at the house after another hour of driving.
This is where the sketchiness really starts. The car was in a completely empty garage. Empty. No shelves, no washer or dryer, no tools, no posters, unpainted drywall in most spots. It was just the complete car in a back corner of a 2.5 car garage up against the wall on flat tires. We were suspicious, and that was compounded by the fact that the nephew barely said a word to us, he couldn’t answer any of our questions, nor did he have the key to the car like the owner had told us.
We started working on it. Unfortunately, as many of you know, it’s easier to lift the chassis off the engine, but we didn’t have room to do that, as the car was against the wall. We ended up making an attempt at pulling it in the traditional sense, but the flat tires made getting under the car a hassle.
After about 6-7 hours, we left, letting the nephew know we’d come back the next day to finish the job.
After arriving the next day, we started discussing how weird our situation felt. A few hours later, we decided to cut our losses, and leave. The whole situation was off. The house felt abandoned, aside from a TV in the living room and a recliner the nephew was sitting on.
On the way home, we found another seller with an engine ready to go that we bought instead for a few hundred more.
I’m under the impression the car may have been stolen. It had clearly been sitting in this garage for months, untouched, the house was mostly empty, and may have been a grow house or something else related to that.
Installing sketchy, probably-stolen parts into a 240SX is a time-honored tradition, like reattaching your rear bumper with zip ties after your perfect slide meets an inconveniently placed barrier. Having to pull those parts yourself, while someone’s relative watches TV in an empty house, is certainly sketchier.
Submitted by: Yes I drive a 240... Sort of
6 / 12
The Ol’ Sketch Fake-Out
The Ol’ Sketch Fake-Out
It started off well enough. I was selling my lifted 92 XJ Cherokee and I had a number of people interested. One guy was pretty insistent that he see it “today”. Wanting to move on to my next project, I cleared my schedule and agreed to meet him in the parking lot of my neighborhood school. In the pouring rain. We took a quick test drive and he (with noticeable booze-breath) said he wanted to buy it right then and there, but of course there was a catch.
He didn’t want his wife to know until he could “soften the blow with some jewelry”. Umm ok. So he writes me a check for half the purchase price and says to please come down to his warehouse so he can hide it from his wife for a few days and he’ll write me a check for the other half. At this point, I probably should have just said no, but frankly, the guy was pretty friendly if a little sketchy and I wanted to be rid of the XJ.
I drive down to the address which was literally in an alley in Baltimore and as I approached, a garage door opens. This is where the main character usually ends up captured by the bad guys. Turns out he was a car collector. In the garage was a Detomasa Pantera, a Jaguar XJR and a Toyota Land Cruiser. But yeah, nothing sketchy about driving down to an alley in Baltimore city. We concluded our transaction and then he drove me home. Not weird at all.
I am of the firm belief that no Land Cruiser owner can be a villain. Sketchy, absolutely, but villain is out of the question. Pantera and XJR owners are often villains, though, so this one is still up for debate.
Submitted by: bfisch1629
7 / 12
I had a G body El Camino (with lambo doors) that I wanted to sell. I had gotten in over my head with repairs, and it barely ran. So I posted it on CL. I get an email from a dude named Pitbull.. who asks if I will take several guns in exchange for the car.
The car was at most worth 1500 bucks, and half of that was in the value of the flip up door hardware. So I say sure, guns never really lose value and I could sell them off later if I wanted the money. So I say sure.. this isnt really the kind of deal you go do in front of a police station.. so we did it at my house.
When they showed up and I mean THEY.. like 6 guys on motorcycles and a older Durango RT (remember those, they were pretty cool). I had my buddy with me who had a handgun on him, and me with the title.
Deal went perfect, i got 3 very cool guns, gave him the title. I really hope they fixed up the Elc, but i have a hunch the Elc got scrapped and the door kit is on something else G bodied now.
I understand that this is a real story that happened to a real commenter, but you can’t convince me that this didn’t happen off-screen during Breaking Bad’s run. The El Camino, the Durango product placement, the name Pitbull, it’s all too perfect.
Submitted by: the_AUGHT
8 / 12
Was 17 and selling my Daihatsu Charade back in ‘93. A Russian couple answered my classified ad and showed up to my parent’s house to look at the car. They wanted to take it on a test drive so I hopped in the car with them and they started driving around. We ended up at their house where they asked me to come inside so we could talk numbers. I get in there and this old Russian dude starts badgering me, demanding I sell them the car for much less than I was asking. This went on for about ten minutes when I decided I needed to get out of there. I told them I needed to call my parents and they surprisingly let me leave.
Another one involving Slavic peoples. I had an Eagle Talon that had the ECM die while I was driving up in the hills. I had to call a friend and leave it on the side of the road. I decided to put it up for sale because the cost to replace the ECM was almost more than the car was worth. I put an ad on Craigslist (mid-2000's now) and got a response right away. We agreed to meet where I’d abandoned the car. I show up and it’s this Russian kid smoking a cigarette and walking around the car. I asked him if he wanted to get in and check it out. He said “is good” and handed me a wad of cash. I gave him the keys and asked him if he wanted to go with me to transfer the title and he goes “is good”, then hops in his car and drives off. Never saw him or the car again.
The car? Is good. The price? Is good. To me, this is the ideal buyer — someone who walks up, drops a one-liner that makes for a good story, then hands you a wad of cash and leaves. Honestly, this might be my ideal interaction with any stranger.
Submitted by: B’dilliBay
9 / 12
Lou Glutz Motors
Lou Glutz Motors
Back in late 2008 I wanted to find a manual sports sedan to replace my 2005 Subaru Legacy GT which was fun but had an automatic. The Infiniti G37 Sport 6MT was on the top of my list but unfortunately due to low manual production numbers and the fact that it was the end of the model year, there was only one manual G37 available in the Eastern half of the USA. Instead of going to the same excellent local Infiniti dealer I had visited to look at a 2005 G35 before buying my Subaru, I stupidly decided to try another dealership since the sales manager could source the car for a thousand less.
So I go to the new dealership and let them take my current car for a trade-in assessment and started to go through the paperwork so the dealer could ship the car from its current location. After reviewing my “driveoff price” I realized that there was an extra $2,5K or so in fees that were unaccounted for and made the car more expensive than the other dealership. After asking about these fees, the sales manager claimed that they were standard and at that point I started to get pissed because I knew that most other dealerships would charge a more reasonable fee of a few hundred dollars.
When I started to push back and tell the sales manager that if they were more up front about the fees, I would have negotiated a lower sale price or gone to the other dealership. Instead of either re-negotiating the fees or disagreeing with me so that we could part ways, the manager started badmouthing my current car and how much better the Infiniti was from a luxury (true) and performance (not true) perspective. I asked for the keys to my Subaru so I could leave and he then accused me of wasting my time and proceeded with insulting me and intimidating me into going through with the transaction.
At that point I went from angry to fuming, stood up, and then told the manager to get me my fucking keys immediately or I would call the cops to report property theft and make a scene at the dealeship. He had the assistant pull up my car and handed me back my keys without any comment. I thanked him for his time and told him that I would be reporting the whole incident to Infiniti Corporate.
The moral of the story is - if you find a decent dealership and/or salesperson, stick with them and don’t try anything new because there are plenty out there with shady-ass practices. Also, I learned the hard way that you should negotiate the “driveoff price” over the phone and not just the sale price to avoid agreeing to excessive fees. I haven’t made that same mistake since.
Generally, the expectation with a dealership sale is that the price will be higher than a private deal — but at least everything will be above-board. But after stories like this, where shady managers hide keys and slip unmentioned fees into the contract, suddenly the guy on Marketplace who knows what he has doesn’t seem so bad.
Submitted by: oddseth
10 / 12
No Words, Only Sales
No Words, Only Sales
Maybe not as wild as some, and I’ve had some nightmare part-outs, but as far as selling a whole running vehicle I had a 1988 Mitsubishi Mighty Max long bed that I had driven from 200k miles to 250k miles. After many, many flakes and crazy low-ball offers (which is impressive because I was willing to take $400). I was contacted early one Sunday morning by a guy that wanted to meet within the hour. The guy test drives the truck and hands me an envelope which at a quick glance has enough money in it to make me happy. Usually buying/selling sub-$1000 cars you end up bullshitting for up to an hour but the sale was completed in less than 10 minutes. The only words the man spoke to me were “Hi, nice to meet you. Can i test drive it? This will suit my needs”. He gave me $800.
Yet another ideal buyer here. A man of few words and many dollars is the perfect person to sell your old car to. At a three-digit price point, no one has any illusions about the car being some sort of incredible luxury. Does it get you from A to B? Sold.
Submitted by: Joshua Wright
11 / 12
The Sketchiest Deal Of Them All
The Sketchiest Deal Of Them All
Here’s my sketchiest.
My wife and I were looking for a different car. We owned a Miata - and were interested in something that was a bit more practical, but still fun to drive, efficient and had a little ‘character. We found one that fit the bill and got in touch with the seller.
He was very passionate, well informed and we had no reason not to trust him. The car we were shown was in like-new condition, and offered that exact combination of efficiency and fun that we were looking for. I asked him what he knew about the vehicle - and how it managed to combine such exceptional fuel economy while still providing exceptional torque and horsepower for the size of the engine. He knew his stuff - and talked about the engineering and design effort that had gone into the car. How in his own experience there were so few trade offs in real world driving that this was really the way of the foreseeable future.
Like a chump I simply didn’t do any more research, or listen to my own sense of disbelief or skepticism. And 40 minutes later I walked out of the dealership with a new Golf TDI.
Those knowledgeable sellers are always the trickiest, dazzling you with facts and figures and rich Corinthian leather. To con you out of a Miata, though, is an absolute travesty — worthy of the sketchiest spot on this list.
Submitted by: TheWalrus
12 / 12