The Super Great Car-Finding Saga Extravaganza – Part One

(The title of this blog is not pretentious at all.)

Since my arrival in the United States a month ago, I have been trying to procure a mode of reliable transportation. My host family has, until now, generously allowed me to use one of their cars, but I did not want to get used to using that and thus have been actively looking for a car over the past month. At first I thought about buying a motorcycle, but then thought about the cold, frigid, and also freezing climate of Pennsylvania during the winter months and decided against certain death brought upon by slick asphalt and two thin wheels. So, a car it is.

I had fairly simple criteria for finding a car. Seeing as I am not rich nor an extravagant spender, nor am I stupid, I had to set a budget, which I decided to be $1-3k. I figured $3000 would get me a good-enough car and, at the same time by only looking above $1000 I would weed out any really crappy cars. My initial criteria were a running car with four doors and less than 100,000 miles. It was pretty simple.

I started my search how any post-teenage boy equipped with a laptop would – by searching online. By making routine searches of four major used-car websites, Cars.com, Autotrader.com, Craigslist Philadelphia, and Ebay.com, I began to compile a list of possible cars to check out, as well as if my criteria were reasonable considering the current market conditions. Based on my research, the $3000-and-under car market seemed to be booming.

My first lead on a car lead me to Easy Buy Auto Sales of Coatesville, PA. They had a 1985 Jaguar XJ6 listed on Cars.com for $2995 with 83k on the odometer and a new alternator (new, direct from Jaguar – not exactly a cheap part to replace). My friend Joe graciously agreed to accompany me to the dealer, so we hopped in the car and drove the 10 miles or so to get there. Below is an actual transcription of our conversation in the house before leaving.

“Hey Joe. Playing Guitar Hero again, I see.”
“Indeed, as it is loads of fun.”
“So I found this 1989 Jaguar online, and it has 150,000 miles on it. Private seller. Two grand.”
“Yes, indeed. But oh, wait, here’s a cooler-looking Jag for $2995 and it’s ten miles away! Lets go!”
“Ok, sure.”

So, just like that, Joe dropped Guitar Hero and we drove to the dealer. We got there around 6:30 and walked around the tiny lot looking for the Jag. This wandering took much longer than it should have, seeing as lot had only one car of each major body style on it and was about as big as some living rooms I’ve had the pleasure of lounging in. We finally resorted to asking the salesman inside the barely-furnished office as to where exactly the car was.

“Oh,” he replied, “it’s up in the other lot we have. It’s right around the corner here. That’s a good car, man. Big strong engine with a smooth tranny in that car. Runs really well. They put airplane engines in those cars, man. It’s amazing!”

He was a little too enthusiastic. His sales pitch wasn't bad until he threw that bit in about the airplane engine. Then I felt like he was trying to sell me a collector’s novelty item instead of a car. Nonetheless, Joe and I decided to go up to the other lot and look at the car. We found it easily enough, and I was disappointed that it looked smaller in real life than in the pictures. No matter, though. Hmmm, cream paint with a red interior. Classy.

The exterior looked decent enough. A few rust spots here and there, and some fading paint. The tires looked under-inflated, but the car had been sitting on the lot for about six months. As Joe and I tried the doors we discovered that the rear passenger side door no longer locked, thus giving us free access to the inside of the car. We of course hopped in and had a look around. The inside was really clean, and, barring a really torn up leather driver’s seat, I was really pleased with what I saw. We couldn't really do any more than sit in it and admire how good we looked in it, so we did that before hopping back into Joe’s car and driving back to the dealer. We got back only to find that the salesman and skedaddled home, leaving us nothing to do but return home ourselves.

We would be back.