A used car scam I once almost fell for

I saw someone I know selling their old car on craigslist and it reminded me of the time I sold my last car using similar means. I almost fell for a couple guys that showed up, test drove the car, then tried to buy it at a vastly discounted price. They were quite persistent and almost wore me down after a couple hours but dropped a few clues that they had done it before. It really felt like I was being conned, and I’ve been meaning to write it up since it happened years and years ago, so I might as well now.

I listed my car at $3,000, about 10-20% below what bluebook was telling me, but I knew the car had a ton of miles on it (120k) and I just wanted the thing sold (I probably would have taken anything $2500 and over). The first person to respond to the ad went like this:

  1. A guy called within an hour of posting the for sale notice.
  2. He had a sob story about his sister that needed a car very badly to get to school, and how he’s ready to buy one for his sister asap.
  3. He showed up with a friend who he said knew a lot about cars. They both rode along for the test drive.
  4. We stopped at a supermarket parking lot after driving a bit, and the mechanic friend gave the car a once over, looking under the hood and looking around the entire car
  5. Mechanic friend comes up from the tailpipe with oil all over his fingers, says the engine block must be cracked, sending oil through the system.
  6. Guy sounds kind of bummed about the “cracked engine block” and we drive back to my place where I drop them off.
  7. Before he leaves, guy offers $1,000 for the car, since his sister still really needs to get to school and his mechanic friend promises to fix the engine at a later date for a higher price.
  8. I refuse, saying it’s a ridiculous price. He offers $1200. I say no thanks, and leave.
  9. The guys hang out in front of my building, calling 15 minutes later with an offer of $1300, and waits another 15 minutes to call again with an offer of $1400. I say no both times.
  10. Three days later I sell the car for the list price, from someone paying cash and looking to refurbish the car top to bottom.
  11. Original guy calls after one week from the same number, using a different name, asking if the car is still for sale.

I remember feeling weird about this guy and with enough red flags going off I walked away from it as soon as I could, but looking back on it, it was pretty obvious this was a common con-man style approach. I bet you could run a pretty decent business lowballing people and reselling their cars immediately after for market prices.

  • He called soon after listing, trying to nab underpriced cars before anyone else has a chance to consider them
  • The sob story was supposed to prey on my emotions, to help out another person in need
  • Even though I don’t work on cars, I now know that if there really was oil being sent through the exhaust, the car would spew blue smoke when driven, which it didn’t. The oil was smeared on his fingers from another part of the car, for this bit of theater. At the time I didn’t call them on this move but I did say it sounded highly unlikely to me.
  • Friend said he could fix the engine himself for $1200 so the guy could offer less and say “well this car will do for now for my sister, but it’ll cost me so much more to fix, can you discount your price a bit more?” This is also a bit of theater.
  • The lowball offer and slightly higher offers backfired on the guy, pissing me off. I knew the car was already discounted about $500 what it should have listed for, why on earth would I take 1/2 of that still?
  • Calling me back a week later under a new name was hilarious. I don’t know if that was a mistake but it made me think he called a lot of people selling cars.

McCain: about as exciting as a mid-80s K-car

I saw my first McCain bumper sticker yesterday and two things struck me. One, I’m surprised it took this long to find a single supporter in the republican-heavy area I live in, and two, the logo looked familiar. Thanks to 30 seconds of google image search, I think I figured it out:


Cycling/diet update, one month later

Worst day ride thru pdx As a bit of public shaming, I’m going to do a monthly update on my progress of riding my bikes more and losing some weight. February is all good news because I’ve put in a lot of miles and I’ve lost 5 pounds.

I rode about 280 miles in just under 20 hours of riding for the month (thanks to it being the cold winter, I also won my first monthly challenge over at the We Endure MetaFilter group). I didn’t watch what I ate too much, but I did pay attention to how much and when I ate. I am no longer eating anything after 6-7pm or so (I used to occasionally have a bowl of cereal, cheese and crackers, or dessert late at night) and I’m no longer eating heaping helpings of seconds and thirds at dinner until my stomach hurts (I used to do this several times a week).

So far, it feels like a pretty easy transition as it is minimal dieting but the biggest surprise is that the tons of riding I’m doing (on pace to do over 3,000 miles of riding this year if I keep it up) boils down to just five hours of riding a week. Last summer, I probably rode my bike an average of once or twice a week for an hour or so each time, and I didn’t ride much more because it always seemed too difficult to schedule into my day. In the last few months I realized I made excuses or put off riding until it was too late in the day to go out, so instead I came up with a new system: schedule your exercise.

My day starts around 8-9am and I process through my email to figure out what my day is looking like. I’ll check my calendar as well to see what’s on tap for that day and after 30 minutes or so of work I can figure out if I should take a bike ride before lunch or a couple hours after lunch. Anything that comes up after I make the plans is fit around that (“I can’t call you back as I’ll be out before lunch, I’ll call you later in the afternoon“). I try to ride every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and if I can squeak out a long ride on a weekend I’ll do that as well.

That’s my biggest surprise in taking on this new lifestyle endeavor — doing regular exercise is not nearly as invasive to my schedule as I previously thought. It’s just setting aside an hour or two 3 or 4 days a week and I’m seeing weight loss and increased endurance immediately. I also realized five hours a week isn’t that much to give as even though I consider myself a casual gamer, my playstation still probably sees more than 5 hours a week of use.

So far, so good, and I think I’ll be able to keep this up for a very long time.