Hello good people of Jalopnik, and welcome to an extra special version of Letters to Doug, your favorite weekly column wherein you provide the letters and I provide the Doug.
If you’d like to participate in Letters to Doug, you’re more than welcome! Just send me an e-mail at Letters2Doug@gmail.com, and I will happily consider it for publication, even if you’ve done something stupid like you bought a 2004 Touareg from a Craigslist seller who said the only problem is that the A/C needs a charge.
Today’s letter is an extra special one from a reader I’ve named Herb. WARNING: It is long. But if you’re like me, you will enthusiastically read it to the very end, because it’s very interesting, and then you will skip all of my opinions in order to go down into the comments section and post your own. So here goes:
I just wanted to get your input on something that I recently just did a couple days ago. I own a 2005 Subaru STi in Aspen White…bought it from a 67 year old lady in Texas with 88K on it. She was the original owner and took OK care of it.
For some reason, I woke up super early (5am) before work one morning and jumped onto Autotrader.com. What I found was an 2005 Subaru STi in Obsidian Black Pearl with Gold Wheels for sale at a Subaru Dealership in New York. I looked at the miles in the ad and it said “149”. Usually I would think the they made a mistake and meant 149000 miles. Well I looked at the pictures and noticed that this was ridiculously new looking. Looked more at the pictures and saw on the odometer “000149”. Scrolled down some more and I see that the plastic covers from the factory are still on it.
What in the world…so I kept looking at the ad for about 30 minutes. I decided to be even more curious and sent the dealership an email asking if it was still available. Turns out it was and they had JUST put the listing up for the car. Throughout the day I got phone calls from the dealership returning my inquiry and lo and behold the car was real. It REALLY had ONLY 149 miles on it. I asked them why and how in the world does this car have this low of miles and how was this car found? Was it sitting in the basement of your dealership for 10 years or what?
Turns out it was a two car trade in (other car was an 09 Nissan 370Z with only 314 miles on it) to the dealership. The cars were from a private collector in New York and had traded both of these cars in for that new Hyper Blue STi Edition. So I ran a carfax and looked at documents they had forwarded to me of the original sale document of the car. The gentlemen who had these cars has a large estate and only drove these on his private land and kept in a climate cooled garage for 10 years. I thought REAL hard and was like wow I can own quite possibly the lowest and newest 2005 STi ever in existence (I would assume).
So during lunch that day, I bought the car. They had jacked up the price by a nice 4-5K because they got about 40 calls that morning about the car. Now its official that I own a brand new STi with only 149 miles on it. I am having them check over the vehicle in their shop with their I would guess STI specific mechanic and having any recalls on the car done before I take delivery of it next week.
The reason I wanted to ask you was this: With a car like this…what would you do? Would you store it and preserve it? Should I keep my original STi or should I sell it to drive this new one? (I spent quite a bit to get back to its pristine condition) Should I keep my original STI and have two of these things? What would you do Doug? And what would be the PROPER way of handling this?
Looking forward to your response!
This is one of the most interesting e-mails I’ve ever gotten here on Letters to Doug, and I thought about it a lot since I received it yesterday. The main reason is that I’ve always wondered about sales like this: every so often, some cool-but-not-insanely-cool car will pop up with something like 59 original miles on it, and you have to wonder… What the hell was going on? Did the person forget they owned this vehicle?
After I spent yesterday thinking about Herb’s e-mail, I’m still perplexed by the situation with Herb’s car. Some old guy bought these cars new, drove them around his property for a decade – presumably about four times in total– and now he’s trading both of them in for another car?
This leaves so many questions unanswered, namely:
1. If you’re going to buy cars and obsessively keep miles off them, why get a Subaru and a Nissan?
2. And then, why the hell would you obsessively keep miles off them?
3. And why 149? That equates to something like 15 miles a year.
4. How do you only drive 15 miles a year?
5. Have you had your head checked?
6. Was there some day every year where you’d tell your wife: “Honey! I’m going to go take the Nissan for its annual drive to CVS!”?
7. And why are you TRADING THEM IN????
8. Isn’t the whole point of keeping miles off cars to get a high retail value later?
9. Have you had your head checked?
10. Are you going to keep the miles off your new Subaru as well?
12. Do you have OTHER zero-mile cars we don’t know about? Like maybe a Malibu or a Jeep Compass?
13. Have you had your head checked?
Unfortunately, I fear that we will never have these questions answered, so we must move on to Herb’s issue. Namely: what the hell does he do now?
I’ve always wondered about this aspect of low-mileage cars, too, because the simple truth is that cars are meant to be driven. Gears are supposed to turn, seats are supposed to recline, cylinders are supposed to box, hoses are supposed to hose, etc. So how does a car stand up to ten years of sitting with very little use?
With this in mind, the first thing I’d do would be to get a serious mechanical appraisal done by someone who knows exactly what they’re doing. For instance: Subaru says you should replace the timing belt on an STI every 9 years or 100,000 miles. Well, what about nine years and 149 miles? And how are the rest of the systems holding up? All those rubber, and plastic, and metal parts that never got to do their job? Are they better off sitting for a decade? Or worse?
Once any mechanical needs are addressed, I would figure out exactly what to do with the car. Personally, I could never own a car like this, because I’d be too stressed out about it. Presumably, an enormous amount of its higher value compared to a regular STI is wrapped up in the incredibly low mileage – and that means you probably shouldn’t drive it. I’d feel a pang of anxiety every time I crossed over a milestone: 200 miles. 500 miles. 1,000 miles. Is the car suddenly worth thousands less once you hit 2,500 miles, because it’s no longer a museum piece show car?
Your other option, of course, is not to drive it at all. You already have one STI, and now you have the zero-miler. You could drive the one you have, then save the other one for special occasions like museums, shows, car meets, special dining events on the rear spoiler, etc.
Of course, these are just my suggestions. You also now have the collective brainpower of Jalopnik to help you determine different courses of action, and I suspect there will be many, many suggestions, some of which will be excellent. Perhaps the original owner will even chime in, and we can ask him for more details. I would start with the obvious: Have you had your head checked?