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Old 02-04-08, 01:23 PM   #1
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An Embarrassing Confession



"There's no fool like an old fool" as the saying goes. I "accidently" bought a van on eBay. It had been described as "runs and drives good" and "clear title in hand". From the looks, it appears very straight. I had been watching it, mostly to see what it would sell for and get an idea of the market value. I entered a $10 bid above the current bid, assuming that the current bidder had a little in reserve and that there would be others. I don't need any Monday morning quarterbacking on the stupidity of that move, thereís plenty other things to chew on here. A client had just called with an emergency so I wasn't properly focused. Should have done my vehicle check before bidding at all.

If I had, I would have found out that... It went through a coastal hurricane in 2003, it was not registered in 2004 and failed its smog test in 2005. And I wonder if because it was unregistered in 2005 that it went through hurricane Rita without that being noted. I wrote the owner expressing my concerns and he answered incompletely, noting that" We have had it here for awhile just running it around occasionally and it does run and drive good". He also noted that it had been repossessed.(Though I didnít see a Christmas tree air freshener in any of the pics.)

So really, I now have a van that has not passed its smog test and has been out of registration for 3 years. This has not exactly given me confidence in it.

For the past three years I have been living pretty much "car-free". Itís been working pretty well. The only places where that life-style has chaffed was that there were a few times where I wanted to go to professional meetings downtown and where rain interfered or the time needed to get there seemed inconvenient. And perhaps it would be nice to use to take my chopper-bicycle downtown so I could ride it in a parade. I'm just barely getting back into dating, so that hasn't been a problem.

I actually have a station wagon already parked in the parking lot. I hadn't driven it in three years to recover my finances from the divorce. I just hadn't thought it was a good use of money yet.

So I guess the question comes down to a trio of choices.

A Refuse it.

I don't think it was quite up to its description really. From "runs and drives good" and "clear title in hand" I would expect it to pass a smog test and be registered. I've already paid a 50% deposit, and suspect that I might not get that back. Iím not sure if I have enough of a complaint to refuse to complete the deal. In any case it wouldn't be worth my time to try to take him to court in Houston.

B. Keep it.

If I keep it, I have to assume that I will be looking at some significant engine work in the next little while. Fortunately, the Van is in Texas now and I live in Arkansas. Arkansas does not have a smog testing program, and I'm hoping that because I am bringing it into the state, I will not have to deal with settling up old unpaid registration fees. Also, I prefer my dates on the large side and from that respect, a station wagon is much better than a van. Beyond that it seemed like a pretty good bike hauler.

C Dump it.

Doing this, then I want to recover as much of what I have paid as possible. Part of me thinks that the easiest thing to do is just to give it to a charity in Houston. That would be the cheapest. I lose the thousand I paid for the van. But it's easy. Just an expensive lesson. Or I could see if the local sustainability network wants it, and drive it back, but that would cost me more. But any appreciation would be more palpable.

Or I could sell it. Either have the original seller sell it on consignment for me or bring it home to Arkansas and sell it myself. I'm not expecting to get as much back as I paid for it, because I'd have to be a little more honest about the condition. However, in Arkansas, the smog question might not a problem, and I could photograph it better.

That's about the point that I've gotten things too. What are your thoughts?
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Old 02-04-08, 01:28 PM   #2
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Is the 50% held by a third party or was it a payment?
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Old 02-04-08, 02:06 PM   #3
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In many states there are laws requiring full disclosure of issues and if that's not done, they can be used to terminate a sale. You'd have to do some research to see if those apply here.

On the smog test side, I have an experience with a van that might help. In the mid-90s I bought a used conversion van. It failed the emissions test. The garage did some diagnostics, guessed that the engine needed to be rebuilt, and suggested a leak down test of the compression. So, I took it to a place that specialized in rebuilds to have them look it over. They quickly discovered that several vacuum lines were connected to the wrong places. They corrected these and the engine passed the emissions test with flying colors. Total repairs was less than $100.
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Old 02-04-08, 02:16 PM   #4
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In many states there are laws requiring full disclosure of issues and if that's not done, they can be used to terminate a sale. You'd have to do some research to see if those apply here.

On the smog test side, I have an experience with a van that might help. In the mid-90s I bought a used conversion van. It failed the emissions test. The garage did some diagnostics, guessed that the engine needed to be rebuilt, and suggested a leak down test of the compression. So, I took it to a place that specialized in rebuilds to have them look it over. They quickly discovered that several vacuum lines were connected to the wrong places. They corrected these and the engine passed the emissions test with flying colors. Total repairs was less than $100.
In the motor trade and I presume a Smog test is to do with Exhaust emissions. We have an Engine flush that is put into the oil and run for a while. This Cleans the inside of the engine and De-Gums the piston rings. The rings getting a better seal will get engines that are a bit high on the emisions-Pass comfortably. If the engine is way high- Then further investigation is necessary.
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Old 02-04-08, 02:23 PM   #5
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You could live in it, and recover the costs from not paying rent!
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Old 02-04-08, 04:19 PM   #6
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A dishonest ebay seller, oh my.
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Old 02-04-08, 07:17 PM   #7
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If it's been under water, don't touch it.
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Old 02-05-08, 12:20 AM   #8
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A dishonest ebay seller, oh my.
Well, he's got a long and perfect record. And I don't think I can say he lied. But much was left out. Lying by omission I guess. I will check piper-chuck. But it's Texas, no telling.

I can't help but wonder if the smog problems are related to the first hurricane. Though where it was should have been about 95 feet above sea level. It's just that problems seemed to start about then.

I think DG has a good idea, though I had considered converting it into a puppet theater.

I paid the deposit. I will be an upright eBayer even if he isn't.

As of now, my gut is telling me to just take the loss and send it off to a Houston charity if I cannot stop the sale. Too many red flags. Though I suppose I should fly down to Houston and really see it to be sure.

It's been good advice so far, keep it up.
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Old 02-05-08, 05:38 AM   #9
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You could possibly drive it to a salvage yard and get a couple of hundred dollars out of it. The price of scrap metal is pretty high at this time.

Just another option.
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Old 02-05-08, 08:05 AM   #10
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You've got a bike shed on wheels. Too bad it has all those windows though.
HEY! What am I missing here? Windows on only one side and panel Van on the
other?!? Is this a new concept or have I been away for too long?
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Old 02-05-08, 08:12 AM   #11
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You've got a bike shed on wheels. Too bad it has all those windows though.
HEY! What am I missing here? Windows on only one side and panel Van on the
other?!? Is this a new concept or have I been away for too long?
You could be on to something here!
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Old 02-05-08, 08:21 AM   #12
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The old Bell System and AT&T vans had the one side windows. Supposed to help with driver visability, so they say.

Bill
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Old 02-05-08, 08:40 AM   #13
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Try emailing him and see if he'll let you out of the deal on a no-hard-feelings agreement due to non-disclosure items about the van. I sold a kitcar on ebay and in the ad I said I'd accept a non-refundable deposit to cover the listing fees and then if the winning bidder didn't like the car when they saw it they could get out of the deal for the price of the listing fees. The guy drove up 800 miles to see it and bought it.

So, see if the seller of the van will work out a no-negative feedback deal with you.

There probably isn't any real need to resort to saying you have lowly friends in high places and high friends in lowly places if he doesn't want to play nice.

edit to add: he probably doesn't want any negative feedback that could discredit any future auctions of his such as you posting that it appeared to be a flood damaged vehicle, that could taint any vehicle he later tries to sell.
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Old 02-05-08, 08:42 AM   #14
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You could ride your bike down to get it! Save airfare. I have been a smog check technician in California since 1983, and a vehicle could fail a California smog test for many reasons, some of which could be very minor expenses. It doesn't mean the engine is bad, but it's a possibility. There's no real way to know much about it without being there. If the engine has a smooth, quiet idle, doesn't smoke, and has normal power, it could be fine. Pull the dipstick on the engine, is it clean, or is it black tar? Transmission stick, red or burnt brown? Open the radiator cap, (cold), is it green in there, or muddy rust?
I have seen some flood cars, we find mud under the dashboard. I have seen people drive these things around without too much trouble, though the electronics on newer cars doesn't like the water intrusion.
If you have any questions, I'll be happy to help if I can. My ex-business partner is a mechanic in Hope, Arkansas, if you're near there.
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Old 02-05-08, 09:37 AM   #15
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If it has carpet (or even rubber floor mats), pull 'em up and look under. Also take a good flashlight and look up under and behind the dashboard. If it's clean under the carpet and clean under the dashboard, then it's not been under water. If these areas look like they've been submerged, then dump it any way you can, even if you have to park it on the street in a bad neighborhood with the keys left hanging in the door lock!
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Old 02-05-08, 09:53 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by oilman_15106 View Post
A dishonest ebay seller, oh my.
Ebay buyers remorse ... oh my

You didn't do all the research to see why it was selling cheap. Maybe there were some errors of omission, but of course we are only hearing one side of the story. If you are buying a $1000 vehicle you have to know there are going to be issues and check it out accordingly.

Obviously there was somebody else willing to spend within $10 of your bid, have you tried to contact them to see if they are still interested? You can always relist it. Even if registering in TX there are no fees to catch up on, definitely not a problem if moving out of state. No question there are travel, taxes, title and registration fees you will have to deal with though.

Contact the seller and be up front with him that you don't want it but want to work it out. See if you can negotiate a penalty that compensates him for the costs and time he has into it, or see if he will resell it on consignment for you. You can check with some other Houston ebay consignment sellers. The suggestion to check on charity donation is worth checking out too.

edit: Does it have a salvage title that was disclosed? How did you find out about flood damage, or are you just assuming based on location and the registration lapse?

Last edited by Paniolo; 02-05-08 at 10:00 AM.
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Old 02-05-08, 01:37 PM   #17
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You bought it. Pay for it - then decide.
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Old 02-05-08, 03:20 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cranky old dude View Post
You've got a bike shed on wheels. Too bad it has all those windows though.
HEY! What am I missing here? Windows on only one side and panel Van on the
other?!? Is this a new concept or have I been away for too long?
Well, the van is a 1985. So it must not be a new concept. The windows on one side give you better vision when backing up. It's not needed on the driver's side as your mirror will give you more info than windows behind your head.
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Old 02-05-08, 03:28 PM   #19
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Do you have a relative in a nearby county that doesn't require smog tests? See if they'll be your registered owner for a while until you get a better handle on things.
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Old 02-05-08, 03:32 PM   #20
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Well, the van is a 1985. So it must not be a new concept. The windows on one side give you better vision when backing up. It's not needed on the driver's side as your mirror will give you more info than windows behind your head.
Cool!!!!

Looks relatively solid for an '85, at least up here by the rust belt standards.
It it moves under its own power, how can you go wrong? '85 is too old for
Smog Tests in many states so I'ld just iron out any wrinkles and then either
drive it or sell it.
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Old 02-05-08, 03:41 PM   #21
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You didn't do all the research to see why it was selling cheap. Maybe there were some errors of omission, but of course we are only hearing one side of the story. If you are buying a $1000 vehicle you have to know there are going to be issues and check it out accordingly.
I didn't need any Monday morning quarterbacking on that. Note the title of the thread. I know that a $1,000 dollar car will have issues. But finding out that there are more than the seller let on does not inspire confidence.

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Obviously there was somebody else willing to spend within $10 of your bid, have you tried to contact them to see if they are still interested? You can always relist it. Even if registering in TX there are no fees to catch up on, definitely not a problem if moving out of state. No question there are travel, taxes, title and registration fees you will have to deal with though.
Buyers are anonymous. It would be hard to find that person. Yes I can sell it. But it's looking like I would likely lose as much by selling it with all the attendant costs as it might to just give it away.

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Does it have a salvage title that was disclosed? How did you find out about flood damage, or are you just assuming based on location and the registration lapse?
No salvage title. It's not salvaged. Just information on AutoCheck that it was in a hurricane flood area during one hurricane. Since it was out of registration, I wonder if it just wasn't noted as being in a flood zone during the second one because it was not registered. It was last registered in Houston a month before Hurricane Claudette came through there. After that no attempt was made to register it in 2004, and it failed its smog test in 2005. Maybe coincidence, maybe not.

It's starting to look like if I want the car then I bite the bullet and accept what costs come. If I don't, then I try to minimize my losses.
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Old 02-05-08, 03:42 PM   #22
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Can you convert it to a fixie?
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Old 02-05-08, 03:44 PM   #23
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Do you have a relative in a nearby county that doesn't require smog tests? See if they'll be your registered owner for a while until you get a better handle on things.
That's not a problem. No smog tests in all of Arkansas. The worry was that they said it ran well and didn't smoke, yet obviously the exhaust is dirty enough to flunk inspection.
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I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.
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Old 02-05-08, 03:47 PM   #24
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If these areas look like they've been submerged, then dump it any way you can, even if you have to park it on the street in a bad neighborhood with the keys left hanging in the door lock!


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I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.
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Old 02-05-08, 06:00 PM   #25
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That's not a problem. No smog tests in all of Arkansas. The worry was that they said it ran well and didn't smoke, yet obviously the exhaust is dirty enough to flunk inspection.
Dude, it can fail a tailpipe test for any number of reasons. One bad plug wire, one leaking vacuum hose, a misadjusted carburetor, (I think it's carbureted), a bad, or gutted, catalytic converter, or engine problems.
Here in California a car can fail for the check engine light on, or for missing devices.

As for the CarFax type things, if you own a car and it gets damaged in a flood or crashed, it would not go to CarFax if there was no insurance claim. You could fish a car out of a lake and sell it with a clean title, if it wasn't reported.
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