Last fall a friend of mine, Lilly, had a 1992 Honda Civic that was slowly falling apart. She had the typical concerns of safety and reliability, and not knowing what to do when it came to cars. So ignoring things and hoping problems would either not arise or would go away on their own was her strategy. Hope is not a strategy. Yet it’s a pretty common way people deal with their cars.
The one saving grace in Lilly’s case is that she doesn’t drive very much because she lives close to where she works. I offered to help her find a “new” car and unload the old one.
First we established a budget for the new car: $4,000. Then the time frame. She needed it soon but there were no immediate problems so it wasn’t an emergency. Finally, she had to decide on the kind of car she wanted. She wanted a similar car, just better (newer, safer, more reliable). And it had to be a stickshift.
Over the course of a few days she went through a dozen ads for various models on Craigslist and emailed me for my opinion. From just the ads and the photos I said no to all of them for differing reasons. Finally, I combed through some listings and found a promising lead on a 1998 Honda Civic.
I called the seller to inquire about the car. He was a straight arrow, had records for the car, was a stickler for details and the Carfax checked out. His reason for selling was also good – he bought a new car (a brand new VW GTI) because he wanted to.
We came to see the Honda that afternoon, checked it over and test drove it. All the maintenance was up to date, including the timing belt. Lilly and I talked a little bit after the test drive, and then we negotiated a price of $3,400 (a couple of hundred under book value). Then she paid the seller a $200 deposit, he signed a note that said Lilly would buy the car a couple of days later by paying the balance of the amount.
Two days later we came back, paid the seller the remaining amount and he signed the title over. It was as simple as that.