It’s unthinkable how many things can go wrong when selling used cars, but for some reason, these are risks that almost all of us are or have been willing to take. Here are ten of your worst experiences selling cars.
This story was originally published on June 11, 2015
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10.) “Family is family”
10.) “Family is family”
It always surprises me to see how ignorant people can be when it comes to money and or goods. Unfortunately, reader MTY19855 found out just how bad some people could be. Some people, as in, half his family.
I was selling a CRV due to a death in the immediate family. Had a bunch of family members offer to “take it off my hands” or give me some ridiculous lowball offer on what was a $15,000 vehicle, because “family is family.” When I sold it to a Craigslist punter at a fair price, the entire side of the family basically stopped talking to me because I wasn’t “looking out for family.” Basically lost my dad’s side of the family over a Honda.
Reader BeltwayAussie might not have sold the car, but at least he got something else out of it.
Not sure if this is ‘worst’ or just ‘weirdest’ but in college I had a girl come and look at a car I was selling, then text me incessantly using the number from the ad. We knew some acquaintances in common, and she would sext late into the night. Long story short, we ended up having the weirdest sex of my life and she didn’t even buy the car. Guess sex doesn’t always sell.
You might think that receiving payment with certified loan check and verifying the check on the spot might be one of the most secure and reliable methods of payment for selling used cars in a private party transaction, right? Apparently not forreader Jeebus:
My worst experience was when I sold my 96 Nissan Maxima. Like any cheap-ish used car, I put it up on Craigslist. A marine called me up VERY interested, because he was in love with this gen Maxima. We met up in a Best Buy parking lot and he decided it was the car for him. The next day we met at my bank, and he brought with him a loan check from Navy Federal...all very official looking, everything looked A-OK. I made copies of his license and I walked into the bank to verify and deposit the check. They verified it, I signed it in my teller’s presence, and that $4k went straight into my account.
Because it was verified the funds were available immediately, but I waited over a week to move those funds...just in case. When I felt comfortable, I moved those funds to payoff some debt we had. A few days later I got an email from my bank notifying me that I was a few thousand dollars overdrawn. This was at a time in my life where we were not exactly rolling in the dough, so this was quite concerning. I looked online that instant and sure enough the $4k car check was reversed!!!!
What? I was furious. What the hell was going on? I called the buyer freaking out and he sounded confused as well. He had no idea what this could be about. I didn’t want to call him a scammer just yet, but I felt scammed...however why would he answer his phone? Then I called my bank. They told me that Navy Federal had reversed the check. I was in shock...”why?” All my bank could tell me was that it was reversed due to a signature issue. MY signature.
Yes, somehow Navy Federal determined that MY signature...from a man that doesn’t bank with them or have any previous dealings with them, was not MY signature. I had signed it in my teller’s presence for fuck’s sake! Sure my signature is scribbly, but so are most...and how would they know what it’s supposed to look like??
I tried to calm down and figure out what to do next. There was a Navy Federal branch near me so I went there. I brought this up to them and they looked it all up, then told me “sorry, there’s nothing we can do. The loan has been canceled due to this.” Now I was furious...”cancelled!!! how can it be cancelled??? Your customer has MY car! And now he doesn’t even have to pay you for it!”
I wasn’t satisfied with that answer and demanded to speak to the manager. She wasn’t very apologetic...she basically said, “there’s nothing we can do. you have to go to the ORIGINAL branch office with the buyer and he has to get a new loan” I argued and argued, until they escorted me out by security.
Thankfully, the buyer felt REALLY bad about this. He agreed to meet me at the branch the next day and we’d get this straightened out. We met at the branch and got the process rolling. Unfortunately it wasn’t super smooth. Because the old loan was still on his credit, he wasn’t qualified for a new one...so this whole process took a lot longer than it should have. Hours went by. I made it clear to Navy Federal that I would leave with nothing less than a wad of cash. I would NOT accept another check from them. They kind of poo pooed that request and handed me a check.
So naturally, I had to argue some more. It took another hour before they finally caved and just gave me the cash. I rushed to my bank and deposited that cash minutes before they closed for the day. I was relieved. I was tired. And I sure as fuck wasn’t going to do business with Navy Federal EVER again.
[many years later I caved and DID do business with them again. They fucked me over in a different way...and it took me another day of being at an office...I shit you not]
This one drives me insane. It’s personal. When someone does this, you have to file a claim through eBay so that they won’t charge your their ridiculous seller fees. It’s a complete hassle. Reader Slow in, slow out has experienced it:
Had some asshole click buy it now and end my auction about 10 minutes after it started. He had no intention of buying and EBay did nothing to help, other than taking my money for another listing. The relisted auction involved the usual private emails wanting to finance/trade for a bass boat, but it eventually sold...
6.) “It’s been perfect the whole time I’ve had it...”
6.) “It’s been perfect the whole time I’ve had it...”
There seems to be nothing more embarrassing than having your car break on you while you’re trying to sell it. Reader polka1 has been there:
Certainly not the most life changing, but a pretty classic one -
My first car. Crap box Cavalier that some old lady had owned and generally took care of except for running one side of it down something. I had it for about 2 years, fixed up the damage and it might have been the cleanest 4 door 10 year old basic Cavalier in existance. Nearly spotless and well maintained - plus low miles.
I put it up for sale because I had just spent my first job profits on something new. But I was in a tight spot - for a teenager - and needed the money asap. Plus, of all torture, my parents refused to let me pick up my new wheels until this one left and I had cash in hand.
After putting it up for sale its price point led me straight to the teenage buyer market. Dads with girls that ague with each other because it’s obviusly solid for the price - but maroon 4 doors aren’t really cool with the teens. Over and over. No bites, same back and forth. My nails biting, my mind knowing that there is something that is very much NOT a Cavalier with my name on it - only if I can sell this thing.
Finally, a couple comes looking. Looking for something cheap and reliable for his wife to use and super excited to see how clean the car is. Perfect.
This is even my first to go as far as a test drive. Go out with them, ~5 mile test. Husband is psyched - car is tight, running good, shifting well, about all you could ask for in the price range. Mile 4.5 something major cuts the engine back to sputtering and having about 3hp. WTF, I think. It’s been perfect the whole time I’ve had it....as perfect as a ‘88 Cav can be, I suppose - but couldn’t this have waited or even happened before? The wife looks like she outta there, but I think the husband wanted the car because it was a good deal and not beat to shit.
We return with me probably looking more disappointed than I possibly ever had been. Luckily, upon seeing this, my Dad jumped in with a bit of quick diagnosing to confirm that the coil for 2 cyls has dropped out. I tell them I will fix it as soon as the parts store is open (weekend). Wife looks concerned, husband says give a call anyway. I figure yeah right - that is never going to happen.
Anyhow, I get to sit out Sunday worried about a broken car - a new car in waiting - and possibly a missed sale after what seemed like years of trying to sell. Pure torture. But, two days later with a new coil and all is well. They actually pick up the phone and they actually came back to buy the car.
Plus, I made money over what I originally paid for it. But damn, I think I got some white hairs early.
It’s hard letting go of something you’ve tossed so much money at, when in the end, you know none of it was really worth it, and you’ll probably never see most of that money again. Reader smalleyxb122 has been that naive:
I was 17 and naive to think that the car was worth what I had into it. I wasn’t going to take less than the $3500 I had sunk into the thing. Potential buyers were kind enough not to laugh in my face, but I’m sure they all had a good chuckle when they got home.
I came home from work one day, and my father had found a buyer. He had sold it for $240. (I didn’t forget a zero, it was two hundred forty dollars)
It was upsetting at the time, but was a definite learning experience.
Don’t forget you can still be very much liable for a car, even after the paperwork has been signed and the money has been handed over. Until the buyer’s paperwork has been processed, there is still a large amount of possibly risk at hand. Reader Highball! has met this risk firsthand.
The time I was 19 and sold my 1987 Cutlass Supreme to someone else who had a Cutlass (If you’re reading this John, you are a huge fucking asshole), who in turn sold it to a 15 year old, no one transferred ownership or registered it, proceeding to throw stolen license plates on it, tear up some lawns and high school field. I was filled in by these events the car was subjected to by the Yonkers Police who came looking for me after the car was abandoned on a side-street across from the violated field, looking to charge me with vandalism, possession of stolen property (the plates) and not having registration or insurance. The car was so beat on the wheel studs I had replaced supposedly broke as they were towing the car to impound. Luckily I had a bill of sale to cover my ass but still sucked having to turn myself into the cops to explain the situation.
As a buyer of cheap project cars, I am always looking for situations like this. Not looking to rip anyone off, but cheap cars with easy fixes, that’s the project car dream. Trust me they’re out there. Reader JackBerts has been the seller of one of these cars:
Had a 94 Celica that spun a rod bearing. After pulling everything apart looking for the issue, I found the bearing and put it all back together. It then started having all kinds of electrical issues, mostly surrounding an on-again-off-again ignition and spark. After weeks of troubleshooting the car would no longer start and I gave up.
Listed it on craigslist and was upfront about the issues. A guy made a cash offer well below the price of the car a few weeks later. He hadn’t driven it or really even so much as kicked the tires. Because I couldn’t find what was wrong and the thing had been sitting for weeks I took the offer. We exchanged cash and title. He walked over to the car, popped the hood, poked around for maybe 2 minutes, replaced a ground wire, jump started it up and drove it away.
I learned that if you’re stupid, you pay the stupid tax.
Yeah... I don’t know if I would’ve sold my car to this guy. I’m not that desperate for cash! Apparently, reader RealRoadNews was:
The buyer paid in dirty bills that looked like they’d logged a lot of miles in entertainer’s undergarments. And they had mustard on them. He had mustard on his face too. No other complaints about doing business with the Mustard Man (as we called him afterwards).
Isn’t it great when you agree to a price with a buyer, they show up, and they try to knock more off the price? And, their main tactic for doing this is by blatantly trying to break things to cause more issues with the car? Reader SeventhScorchedEarth was selling his Jeep CJ-7 on eBay. This is what happened when the winning bidder came to take delivery of the car and finish the transaction:
I once posted a fairly modified Jeep CJ-7 on eBay. The eventual winning bidder was from Boston (I was in NJ) and he contacted me several times by email. I gave him my phone number and spent maybe two hours with him discussing the condition of the Jeep, the work done to it, taking additional pictures, really trying to give him as much info as possible. I BEGGED him to take a day trip and come down and see the Jeep. Bidding was over $15k at that point, and seeing in person is not the same as pictures or phone calls.
So he wins the auction, comes down to pick-up the jeep, and immediately starts renegotiation talks about how his winning bid was too high, and really, only classic Broncos go that high. BEFORE HE EVEN SEES THE JEEP. I calmly tell him that if he wants to walk, the second bidder is already willing to pay the winning bid amount, and he actually came and saw the Jeep in person, so no worries. go ahead and walk.
So he drops that line and we go look at the jeep. He opens the hood. Says it looks kinda dirty in there, and I should have done a better job cleaning it before he came down and he slams the hood shut as hard as he could. Then he starts shaking wheels by hand, kicking the exhaust pipe, banging on the tail lights, HANGS off the roll bar and then, he grabs the steering wheel from the ground and VIOLENTLY starts shaking the whole jeep by it. He BENDS the bracket that holds the wheel the dashboard. and THEN, he has the gall to look at me and say “that’s broken, I’m not paying for this jeep”.
OK, get off my property. Do it now. Right now. You want out of the contract? You’re out of the contract. I want you standing in the street before you you hurt my Jeep or yourself, and I want it now. No harm, no foul. Get out. Keep the $1000 non-refundable deposit, just leave.
After that insanity, I went back inside to contact the second bidder and leave feedback for this clown. And wouldn’t you know it? The clown who won is already a leading bidder in a classic Bronco auction. I would have gladly excused his bid, but instead he came all the way down and broke my rig. So I left him bad feedback, and he went BALLISTIC.
Turns out the Bronco seller reserved the right to reject bidders with bad feedback, so he knocked the clown off the auction and he didn’t win that either, and he was PISSED. ;)
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