Saturday, June 18, 2016

Today I went by my favorite consignment car lot, Wheels and Deals in Santa Clara. This is a pretty big lot and turnaround is pretty good. The staff there is nice and helpful but the best thing is that you are pretty much left alone. Since there are no salespeople there is no pressure. You can roam around and see a diverse selection of different years and models, and price points. For the most part the cars are in pretty good condition. I think that the sellers were about to trade them in and were surprised at how little they were going to receive as a trade in. The truth is most car dealers like to structure the deal so that the trade is given for free. The asking price is usually higher than the car's actual value which gives the dealer room to negotiate a "value" for the trade in. Most of the times the seller needs a new car and doesn't want to try to sell their car on Craig's List so the deal is made. Many of the cars here are really clean, with good tires, and have received proper maintenance. They are much better that some of the junk that you would find listed on CL. They are generally priced a bit higher but consider that the seller has to pay a fee for the lot space. You can have the car unlocked and you can start it up, try the accessories, especially the a/c and look for smoke or strange noises. If you  are still interested you can take it for a short supervised test drive. A lot employee will accompany you, which is only fair.

Good cars sometimes sell very quickly. Overpriced or unusual cars can stay on the lot for a long time. There are manager's cars which belong to the lot. Some of these old turkeys sit on the lot for well over a year. There is a pathetic looking wide body Porsche 928 that has been there probably two years. There a couple of MBZ 450 SLC coupes that have been there well over a year. I actually considered one, but they would have had to cut the price drastically. If you go regularly you will see the price drop as the seller gets tired of paying the monthly fee. Nothing like a motivated seller with a cash ready buyer. You will initially deal with the seller over the phone. So you can make any offer that you want. If he is not amenable to the price you can tell him to call you back if he reconsiders. He might call you back with a lower price that he is prepared to accept.

The actual transaction takes place at the lot office and the staff will help you to fill out the paper work. This is a good opportunity to check the status of the registration, the actual ownership of the vehicle and to look for a salvage title. It is the lot's policy to clearly post a notice that the car has a salvage title. Be aware that if the car is not currently registered that the buyer will be responsible to pay late fees or incomplete transfer fees. The seller is legally obligated to provide a clean smog check, unless the buyer agrees to buy the car without it. Don't do that! Most later models cars with over 1000,000 miles should still pass the test. If there is a mechanical problem don't even consider buying the car. Longtime CL scanners will often read that the seller is 'too busy" to bother getting a smog check done. Sure they are! Obviously they are concerned that their car might not pass and they would have to disclose that to the buyer. Of course everything is negotiable, you can get a car pretty cheap but you can end up with a real headache. So only consider a smog checked car, you'll have two years with the car before the test will be an issue again. Lower priced cars that can be paid in cash are the easiest to buy. If a cashier's check is used the seller may wish to go to the buyers bank to verify the check. Warranty? What's that? It might be possible to get one for a later model car, but check that out first if that is important to you.

As I said I like to look at the different cars at my leisure, from different angles and viewpoints. If you have questions you can call the seller. Just don't be the kind of guy that bothers the seller when he has no real intent to buy. I had one bad experience with that; I had my '94 Cadillac STS on the lot. Some punk hip hop kid saw the car online, and pestered me with repeated calls asking for a lowered price. I told him to go look at the car first then we could deal. He kept calling back asking for a lower price. I am sure glad that that guy wasn't going to my house to see the car. Just remember that your address will be on your title papers. I haven't had a bad experience that followed me home, but be aware. If there are attractive things about your home, your family members, or other possessions, a consignment sales lot can be a very good idea. I told the manager that they should keep the seller's contact info off the internet. They can post it on the car or better yet have it available in the office.

I have bought a couple of cars from Wheels and Deals and sold one. I used to go there almost every week. Where else can you see two nice 2007 MBZ CLS sedans, a C5 Corvette, a 2004 Jaguar XJ8 and a bunch of BMW and Mercedes cars without being bothered by a salesperson? You can peruse the inventory online first and see if the trip is worth it. I like to be pleasantly surprised.

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