Logic Failures

I had a weird conversation last night. The First Reader and I are shopping for a beater pick-up truck. His vehicle needs to go in the shop, we’re planning to move, and we’ve been wanting a truck for hauling what-not for some time. So it’s time to get it done… I’m taking my usual route of shopping craigslist (owner only, which I’ll explain more in a minute) and our friend has been hitting facebook marketplace and sending us links to trucks he thinks are suitable. It’s… amusing, at times, to see what’s out there. I have a thing for vintage and antique trucks, so I’m having to step hard on the ‘ooh, pretty!’ reaction. For one thing, to all of our annoyance, car manufacturers have stopped making the kind of light truck we want. A lil’ Ford Ranger is about what we need, since we have a small trailer and no plans to shift anything massive around (notwithstanding the family joke about my inheriting this massive freight trailer… I have no idea where the started, but it makes us all start laughing every time it comes up and I point at my mom-mobile and ask ‘how the heck am I supposed to haul that!?). The First Reader would like a four-banger. I’m looking at 6s too, but I pulled up an 8 and he muttered at me last night, so that’s right out. He’s exhausted from working long hours and in no mood to shop, so I’m doing it.

Which leads me to yesterday. I never know, when I try to contact sellers on craigslist, what I’m going to get. For one thing, despite my specifically only wanting to buy from owners in a private sale, a lot of small fly-by-night dealers list their wares in the owner-only section knowing that people like me will skip them otherwise. I despise this, and will look carefully at the photos of the car to be sure I’m not looking at one that’s on a lot, or has been photographed in such a way to deliberately hide that it’s on a lot. I’ve driven up to an address in the past, gotten out, and dressed the guy down for false advertising before getting back in my car and leaving. If I wanted to buy a vehicle from a dealer, I’d shop the dealer listings. And I don’t. We’re paying cash for this, just like we do for all our vehicles, and we don’t fancy paying the ridiculous mark-up dealers put on their cars to make it seem like people are getting value for their trade-in. We’re not trading in, we’re not financing, and I’m willing to pay a fair price but I’m not playing the debt game.

So I try to call this dude. He answers, and it’s like we’re connected through tin cans and a string. The call drops, and I get a text apologizing that his phone wasn’t working right. I ask him if we can come look at the truck – it’s in the next town over from us – that night. Now, mind you, he has it listed for $1200 obo on the site. He texts me back that the truck is going to be $750 without a title, or $1500 with title, because he’d taken out a title loan on it that day. Uh. Dude. I want the title? I want to drive it, I text back. We have to have the title, or no sale. Yeah, no title, he texts back. So when are you coming to look at it?

I’m not. I finally texted him saying ‘if you don’t have the title, we’re not going to buy it. How did you think this was going to work?”

Logic? He has none. I’m going with drunk, desperate, and stupid in this case. We have several other leads we’re following up on today. One that the First Reader will be going to look at is owned by a nice older man with a slow manner of speaking that I took to over the phone. I try to trust my gut in these cases. There was an incident a couple of years ago, when I was shopping for a car, and the title thing came up. Only they had the title. What made me suspicious is that they weren’t willing to drive the three miles to meet me at the BMV or my bank to transfer the title (needed a notary, hence bank). They wanted me to come back in an hour, when a friend of theirs who was a notary would meet us at their house and do it. I took the title in my hand and looked at it, then looked back up at the two men in front of me. “so… who’s Margaret?” I asked, reading the name off the title. “um, oh, she’s my aunt. I’m selling the car for her.” One of them shifted his eyes to look at the other guy. I handed the title back. “I need to talk to my husband…” Such a useful out, for a female alone. The First Reader didn’t give a flying flip what I bought. But it was a graceful exit for me from a suddenly shady situation. What were they thinking was going to happen when two dudes were trying to sell a car titled to an obvious female name?

I know logic isn’t taught in schools any more. Five minutes on pretty much any social media site will tell you that. But really. Take five seconds and consider the immediate consequences of your actions. If you’re trying to raise money, maybe don’t list your truck and immediately hock your title within hours of doing so? It’s a good deal, he texted me an hour after my final text to him. No. No it is not. Were you thinking I was going to walk into the scumbag’s store with you and pay off your loan? Because that’s not happening. And I know for a fact that scrappers around here aren’t going to pay you $750. In fact, when I had the accident and we scrapped the Honda, I got nothing for it. And when we had the minivan hauled off after it had been sitting for a couple of years, the scrapper insisted on having the title even though no money was changing hands. Which wasn’t a problem. We wanted that hunk of junk out of the driveway.

Ah, well. I shall continue to be amused by the amount of stupid around me, and cherish the bright lights of intelligence I occasionally encounter. I have the privilege of working with several bright folks, which really helps. Although it makes it a bit shocking when I have to encounter the general population again and facepalm my way through those interactions. Logic? It’s a rare and elusive beast some days.

28 thoughts on “Logic Failures

    1. Possibly. I know that in years past my shopping for cheap cars I could pay cash for was hampered by that, but at this point I think we’re back to having clunkers available cheap again. I’ve started to see little sedans running under a grand, which was almost unheard of for three-four years there. We’re finally able to buy cars that are a step or two above clunker, which is nice, savings and picking up more income! But this truck is just a back-up vehicle and to help with moving.

  1. Beware of older Dodge pickups. I have a 2001, the brake lines were all replaced and the air conditioner core has been replaced four times. That’s not a problem for me, as I have newer things to drive, but for you it’d be an issue I’m sure. If mine needed the brake lines done in 2011, anything you get now is definitely due.

    Also, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, but don’t go on these shopping trips by yourself. Craigslist Phoenix has warnings about meeting people to see cars, there have bee numerous robberies. The number of violent untrustworthy assholes in the world seems to have increased a great deal.

    Sometimes I car-shop in Phoenix for classics when I’m on holidays. I never go alone, and I never “meet” people at a location to see a car. I go to their house, or I don’t go. I never EVER take cash with me. Cash deals get done at the title store, after the title clears. Otherwise no deal. So far, so good. ~:D

    1. We have newer things to drive, too. This is just a work vehicle for hauling stuff and the trailer.

      I try not to go by myself, but sometimes I have to. I’ve met people in the BMV lot, in the past, which worked. I do carry an, ah, force-multiplier in case of emergency. And I make it clear I’m not carrying cash, I look first and then they get the money at the BMV when the title is changing hands. Craigslist is, yes, vulnerable to scammers and thieves. That’s part of why I like to talk to them on the phone, to get a feel for their voices and personality before I meet them. Someone who only wants to communicate via text is a red flag.

          1. I’ve actually had good luck with the used Ford I bought for camping vacations and sometimes hauling stuff. It was a 12 year old van with over a hundred thousand miles and I’ve had it eight years and put another hundred thousand miles on it, and aside from the usual wear-and-tear items (tires, brakes, etc.) the only thing I’ve ever had go bad was the starter. They seem rather robust, though Cash for Clunkers did reduce the supply of them.

            1. Years ago I bought a used Ford Explorer with 150K on it. I had an issue with the fuel pump/filter going out on it, but other than that it ran great. The body gave out on it before the engine/drive train did. I traded it in with over 250K on it.

          2. Have you considered the Nissan? Our Nissan 2001 pickup still runs well. Not selling it. It’s just an example.

          3. My Ford truck has actually done pretty well — a few minor issues in the eleven years I’ve been driving it, but so far nothing major (unless changing out the catalytic converter is major?). And if you are just after a work truck for occasional driving, you might see if you can talk Sanford into considering the eight-cylinder trucks. They will haul more, cost less up front (and be more available), and if you aren’t driving it much, it won’t really make much difference that it doesn’t get great mpg.

      1. I’ve gotten good service out of mine, 2001 4×4 Ram 1500, 318 with a stick, and I do like the suspension in it. 4-link front end, solid front axle. Handles well, still fires on the first turn of the key, original clutch even.

        Having said that, I’ve done a lot of work to that truck myself. Front universal joints have to be replaced about every 2 years. Brake job about every 2 years. Previously mentioned brake lines, those were a huge pain in the butt. I did the front axle bearings~2012, and the ball joints ~2 years ago. It has rust in the doors, they all do at this age. The AC I had done at a shop every time. There are some things that I know are beyond me, and a job that takes a trained guy 12 hours to do is one of them.

        Hideous gas mileage. Disgraceful, really. ~10 mpg.

        I keep it because its the first new truck I ever bought, and apart from these little problems it really still goes just fine. For running around, plowing snow, pulling out stumps and such, still fine.

        But I would never buy another one. ~;D

    “You have been selected for a RATE REDUCTION on your credit card!”
    “To which card does this call refer?”
    * DIALTONE *

    Seems the most obvious question, whether one has no card, but one card, or many cards.

    1. Yeah, a while back I was getting tons of calls about my credit card being behind, or something. I kept pointing out I have NO credit cards, and as a matter of fact, never have had. I do, on the other hand, have identity theft insurance on the whole family, due to an unfortunate even involving my kids’ identity papers being stolen.

  3. I’m glad you are smart about Craig’s List. Char frequently watches Judge Judy and many of them are Craig’s List sales gone wrong.People on Judge Judy are dumb.

      1. Having bought several synthesizers on CL I can attest to this. a guitarist friend makes extra money buying ‘broken’ very expensive synths and doing simple repairs then flipping them.

  4. Beater truck that will do the job without spending all its spare time (and all your spare cash) in the shop?

    Ford, F-series, pre-1997. No contest. Pretty much any one you find that already has a tow package and is otherwise the desired configuration.

    They’re common because they’re the most durable and the cheapest for upkeep. And for a couple grand you can get one that still has 20 years left in it. You’ll probably have to spend at least $1500; below that, you get into parts-only territory, or needs-four-new-tires and might as well have paid more and skipped that.

    You rarely see a Dodge more than about 15 years old because they’ve all died, either from the numerous inadequacies (Dodge put a car’s drive train on a truck’s engine, fer ghu’s sakes) or from financial ruin (Chrysler doesn’t make parts any longer than the mandated 7 years, after which you pay 3x as much for aftermarket parts, IF you can find them. Ford makes parts for 20+ years, plus older parts are common and easy to find at need.) Also, if it hasn’t already had the transmission rebuilt…. it’s a rare Dodge that doesn’t need it done relatively early in life.

    Chevys don’t have the pricey-parts issue, but overall just aren’t made as tough as Fords. Pick any two well-used farm trucks of the same age, one Chevy, one Ford, and notice which one still has a straight tailgate and hasn’t become a complete rustbucket, and probably still has its original engine and other running gear, too. Hint: it ain’t the Chevy.

    Do NOT skimp on a truck meant for towing — the truck’s mass controls the trailer, and that little 4-banger may do fine with a garden trailer but with any real weight, first time it fishtails a little, into the ditch you go.

    If you’re dead-set on a mini truck, well, if it’s a beater, it’s probably at death’s door; they’re not made to take the kind of use and abuse that you can put on a fullsize truck. Spend a little more and get one in good shape (and have your regular mechanic once-over it before plunking down the cash). They’re all basically a Datsun/Nissan or Toyota under the hood. And when you test drive it… do it with your loaded trailer. Seriously.

    For your uses, an F100 (original, not mini) or F150 would probably be just right.

    My current truck is a 1991 F350 with the 460 engine… got it used in 2012 for $3000 specifically as a heavy tow vehicle, has 255,000 miles on it (mostly as a commercial hauler, I’m its 7th owner) and is still like a new truck. 0 to 60 in 7 seconds, 14mpg empty and 8-10mpg towing 15,000 pounds. Absolutely love it. And it’s a handsome fellow too. πŸ˜€

    The downside is that “I need 40 acres to turn this rig around” is not just a catchy tune… and no, I will not attempt your puny parking lot. Unless I can use the whole thing. πŸ™‚

    Previous truck was a 1978 F100 with the 302V8… got it new and put 250,000 miles on it, mostly working harder than it was designed for… good highway vehicle (20mpg), fair for towing tho not enough power for heavy loads. Basically zero maintenance other than the usual consumables.

    Side thoughts:

    With private parties, avoid the vehicle flippers, which are legion on Craigslist. If they haven’t owned the truck in their own name for at least a couple years (and truck owners usually keep ’em a *lot* longer than that; short-term owner is a red flag), they’re flipping auction vehicles, which are usually mechanically-crap that even the bottom-feeder dealers couldn’t sell. And if the Check Engine light is on — pass, no matter what they tell you; it may run for a while, but the fix will probably exceed the price of the truck.

    It’s well worthwhile to pay for a Carfax history BEFORE you buy the vehicle. Get the VIN off the truck yourself, don’t count on them to read it off. If you’re friendly with an auto dealer, they may run the VIN for you for free (as they should already have an account).

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I knew to avoid anything with a check engine light on. The First Reader also swears by checking if the engine is ‘too clean’ and ditto the oil ‘too clean’ when we’re looking at a car.

      1. Engine or oil too clean means nothing much. My old truck leaked from every seam (it was a standing joke that those older Fords leaked, not seriously but constantly) and consequently collected a crust of dirt that was probably sufficient to hold the whole truck together all by itself. My new truck doesn’t leak at all and consequently the engine looks like no one ever drives it, it stays so clean you could eat off it. Clean oil mostly means no dirt or water is getting into it, no rust in the system, and someone changed it in living memory. Changing the oil every 3000 miles should be your religion, it’ll preserve lifespan like nothing else, but won’t yet look like it needs changing. If the oil is visibly dirty, I wonder if anything got maintained, and consider that dirt/deterioration in the oil means wear and tear on the engine.

        Put more stock in the antifreeze (should be completely free of rust and oil; oil in the water system means blown head gasket) and transmission fluid (should look reasonably pristine).

        And of course, on when the title was issued — as noted, truck owners usually keep ’em a long time. No one flips tools that they actually use.

        Now, if the thermostat is stuck open, so the engine runs on the cold side… I prefer that, because that means it’ll NEVER overheat under a heavy load. Once it sticks, I don’t let my mechanic replace it. Makes ’em think the dashboard meter has failed in the new truck… no, it’ll come up if I’m towing, but it really does run that cool otherwise.

        If the trailer-and-load might ever exceed say 400 pounds, you want a FRAME HITCH (receiver is bolted to the truck frame), not just a bumper hitch. Do you really want all that weight secured only by the bumper bolts and a chunk of sheet metal? No way, especially not with a standard bumper. (With a heavy step bumper, you can get away with a bit more, but it’s still not a good idea for any real weight.)

        Tow package on a pickup normally includes not only the frame hitch and the plug and wiring for the trailer lights (including the correct blink module), but also a trailer-brake controller, and usually an auxiliary transmission cooler, which you’ll see as a small second radiator probably dangling in front of the main radiator. (If you’re really lucky, on a light half-ton it also includes overload springs in the rear, which doubles the load capacity and greatly improves stability.) When the truck is already so equipped, that’s a few hundred bucks you won’t need to spend.

        Aside from highway safety issues, the other advantage of a frame hitch is that you can get a “stinger” (the removable piece) to fit any trailer, regardless of trailer-to-truck height mismatches or different ball sizes. Or if you wind up with a whole collection of trailers (like, ahem, some people you know) you can get an adjustable model.

        You probably don’t need 4×4 unless you might be towing under winter conditions, then you’ll be happy to have it. Older 2×4 are common and get better fuel economy, and it’s that much less mechanical stuff.

        Once you’ve got a competent tow vehicle, you may find it’s a lot more useful than you planned on. πŸ™‚

        1. Well, this truck was just supposed to be a disposable truck, until Fall when we’ll upgrade the First Reader’s ride. So we picked up a 1990 Nissan truck, with a cap, for $1300. Brought it home this morning πŸ™‚

          1. The Nissan/Datsun D21 is the immediate ancestor of the Pathfinder….


            Should be a decently reliable vehicle, and that’s a pretty good price. When you dispose of it, you can drop it in my driveway. πŸ˜€

            Been looking for a smaller 4×4 myself, since the big truck is 2WD (good on ice, not so good in deep snow, and an absolute bitch to chain up) but so far nothing has leapt off the curb and come home with me.

  5. I want a Subaru Outback… ijs… (it is the most recent station wagon made, my roomate might just be able to get in and out of the wagon version- unfortunately, 2015 and later they switched to a crossover SUV. … thaaaaanksss obama.)

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