In true American fashion, Joseba and I decided that we should buy a car while living here. Although we picked Portland for its great public transportation system, if we want to go out of town or drive up to Kelso to see the fam, a car was going to be neccessary, so the search began.
We started almost as soon as we arrived. We started off with a low budget of like $1500 and hoping for a decent car but then after searching online and seeing what kind of selection we had for that price range we beefed it up to about $3000. Hoping for a reliable car that would run for many more miles we started the search with Hondas, which although they are not so popular in Europe are amazingly ubiquitous here.
We searched and searched but it seemed a $3000 budget for Honda was only going to get a car that was atleast 15 years old, which is not exactly what we were hoping for. We ventured off into the Toyota and Nissan worlds hoping to find a steal but just couldn't find anything that checked all of our boxes - clean title, good miles, car in good shape, etc.
We mostly used Craigslist.com to find our cars - which is basically an online classified ad site that has everything from cooking class and cars to jobs and artwork. Anyone who has a car can post on it, and some of the ads that we saw were so bad that we just knew they didn't even deserve a call. Here are a few of our favorite lines from the ads for cars we looked at:
- I selling my Honda Civic 2001 (DX Model) Clean Title with 145xxxml,- Automatic tranny, Its very nice comunity car very nice for gas, Its have good tires, brikes., Strong body, clean inerior -Never been smoked, Its very maintance car. This one I love because I love a nice community car, don't you? And forget brakes, who doesn't want a nice set of brikes?! The part that concerns me is that the car has never been smoked. Cigarettes I have tried but smoking a Honda...is that commonplace now?
- CD PLAYER PLUS SEX CD EXCHANGER. Does anyone else see the error in this? I know that some R&B tunes really get you in the mood, but is it possible to have a SEX CD changer? Is that why this car was so expensive? Six...that's more like it.
- Please excuse the pine needles inside of the car in picture. This one I love because the guy didn't take the 5 minutes to vaccuum out his car before taking the photos for the ad and instead put this disclaimer. Classy.
- Engine is in a very good shape, doesn't burn oil. It doesn't burn oil?! Is that a regular thing to note?
- just little dimp at the back door. What's a dimp?!
- we can meet up at Seven Eleven store on SE Foster and SE 97th anytime. Hahahah, it had to be 7-11! This sounds more like it is in the personal ads than the car ads.
- only problems are you have to disconnect the battery every time your done driving it and it won't go into 5th gear. Oh, those are the only problems?! Those seem a bit serious to me.
Anyways, you get the drift of what we had to look through. The biggest problem we came up against was the 'rebuilt', 'reconstructed' or 'salvage' titles. According to CarFax (a website where you can check the history of your car online with the VIN number) they mean the following:
- Salvage: A Salvage Title is issued on a vehicle damaged to the extent that the
cost of repairing the vehicle exceeds ~ 75% of its pre-damage value.
This damage threshold may vary by state. Some states treat Junk titles
the same as Salvage but the majority use this title to indicate that a
vehicle is not road worthy and cannot be titled again in that state. The
following eleven states also use Salvage titles to identify stolen
vehicles - AZ, FL, GA, IL, MD, MN, NJ, NM, NY, OK and OR.
- Rebuilt and Reconstructed: A Rebuilt/Reconstructed vehicle is a salvage vehicle that has been
repaired and restored to operation. These vehicles are often severely
damaged before they are rebuilt and refurbished parts are typically used
during reconstruction. In most states, an inspection of the vehicle is
required before the vehicle is allowed to return to the road.
Every time we thought we found an amazing deal on a car, the deal-breaker would be that it was one of those three types of titles. Because the cars can be repaired enough to get them back on the roads, sometimes massive problems remain and you can buy a car with one of these titles and then a few months into it it just goes bad and you're out of luck. There are a lot of crooks who buy damaged cars, fix them up enough that you can buy them, sell you them and then soon down the road it breaks down and you have a broken car and a bad title on your hands. The resale value of the car is said to be atleast 60% less than the regular resale value if it has one of these titles. Since we are planning on eventually selling it, as soon as we saw those words we just closed it and moved.
The search widened even more and finally we added import cars to the list. We had been driving my Grammy's Buick around and since it had been almost a month since she loaned it to us, really wanted to get it back to her so were really searching around for cars! Finally, we found a nice Volvo that we liked and met the owner at a park just near our house.
After having met with many people who weren't from here and barely spoke English, we were happy to meet a couple (the boy from here and the girl from Florida) selling the car. The 2002 Volvo S40 had been a family car until they gave it to the girl, their daughter, for her vehicle. Now that she moved up to live with the boyfriend, they didn't need her car and were looking to sell it, which is where we come in.
When we met them they had a massive folder of all the maitenence records since the car had been bought new showing everything - oil changes, new tire purchases, belt changes, etc. The car was gorgeous - leather seats, sun roof, gorgeous interior, cruise control (not as common as you think) and an automatic (my main wish). We loved it as soon as we saw it but of course had to bargain down a bit.
When we finally shook hands it felt good to have finally found our car and was a HUGE thing to cross off our to-do list. In the end, it was almost like looking for a house and I for one will not be sad to not look on Craigslist for a long time for another car.
here we are - living in Oregon, riding vintage bikes, eating organic
food, drinking local wines, driving reliable cars - who are we?!