Last week after visiting the osprey nest I hiked back to my van, started it up, and within seconds realized that I virtually had no brakes at all. The 15-minute drive home was nerve-wracking, to say the least.
I'd been looking for a "new" (used) van for months but there aren't many choices available here on the Sunshine Coast because we don't have a very big population. But now my hand was forced: I needed a van right away.
When I got home I looked in the weekly paper which had just come out that day. Miracle of miracles, there was a van in my price range. It was the same model as I already had (a Dodge Caravan) but it was four years newer and it was a sweet deal! I called the guy up right away and went to look at it the next day.
The van looked fantastic...very clean, no rust, and under the hood looked really good. I'd brought my husband with me so we took it for a test drive. The owner told us that all it needed was to have the bushings replaced and he had the part right there. Everything else seemed perfect so I bought the van.
Notice I said that everything "seemed" perfect. Well, it wasn't.
Five days later the "service engine" light came on. My heart sank. I called our local mechanic and made an appointment to bring the van in. Then I called the former owner of the van and told him about it. He swore this had never happened before (and I believed him), and to just disconnect the battery for 15 minutes so that the light could re-set. So that's what I did. It didn't dawn on me that by doing this, the mechanic would be unable to do a proper diagnostic on the van because the codes would be wiped out. I just wanted that damn light to go out!
When I took the van into the shop later that day, the mechanic got it up on the hoist to have a quick look at it while I waited in the office. Before too long he came into the office and asked me, "Did you have a pre-purchase inspection done on the van?" Gulp!
He gave me the bad news: the van was leaking oil badly and the gaskets needed to be replaced. The rad hoses were shot and possibly the whole coolant system needed to be replaced. And the tie rods needed replacing as well. The only good news was that the bushings were just fine! Total estimated cost for repairs was over $1,000.
Well, I guess the former owner of the van saw me coming. He had fixed the links on the van just before I bought it, claiming to be a former mechanic. He must've known about all the problems. I have a really hard time believing somebody would do this to another person but there you go...it happened. Again. Yes, it isn't even the first time that I've been ripped off when it came to buying a secondhand vehicle.
I'm wondering how many people actually go to the trouble of having a pre-purchase inspection done. It could get really costly if you have to look at a lot of cars, not to mention time-consuming. What a hassle. But still, if it saves you from buying a lemon, I guess it's worth it.
Anyway, the van's going into the shop next week to have all the repairs done. My only other choice was to sell the thing but I couldn't do that, knowing the shape it's in. I wonder how many people are honest when they're selling a used car, or anything else used, for that matter. Unfortunately honesty is a virtue that seems to be hard to come by these days.