QotW: What’s the worst car buying experience you’ve ever had?

A few years ago a friend of JNC finally bought his dream car, a machine that he’d been  talking about and saving up for for years. It had a Toyota engine, but the rest was a bit more British. After a long search he finally found one in the proper color and condition. It appeared to have been well cared for and the seller seemed honest, so he made the deal in a private party sale on the most expensive car he’d ever bought, happy to have finally achieved his long-awaited goal. Within 24 hours of taking possession, the motor exploded due to oil starvation. What should have been a beautiful ownership experience was marred by a $10,000 repair bill.

What’s the worst car buying experience you’ve ever had?

The best comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s your most memorable rainy day car story?“.

A mid-engined car can be a handful even when it’s dry. We can’t imagine wrestling with snap oversteer in the rain and with oil on the road. The tragedy that befell Ian G. and his AW11 was the most tragic story this week. The most practical advice came from MWC70, who learned the hard way that water spray coming off the tires can dislodge an accessory belt. Getting stuck on a winding mountain road in a torrential storm is a scenario that go from fun to dangerous real quick, as Keith learned on Tail of the Dragon and that Yuri learned on the Usui Touge. While those who grew up in Seattle might get accustomed to the rain like f31roger, those who grew up in SoCal might just want to avoid the flooding that we have ever few years, like Curtis.

The funniest story we got this week was from BroettoNavarro, who tells the tale of a car-obsessed kid that is old enough to appreciate automotive physics but not quite old enough yet to realize that mortal danger is not funny:

I have my share of experiences as a driver, and wet conditions. But none is so intense as that one day I was seating at the passenger seat.

I can’t really recall how old I was. Probably 10 years old…
One day, my family and friends decided to spend a weekend at the ranch. The adults decided that yeah, let the kids (me included) go all in the same car, let them have fun together.

The car was a deep-green Honda Accord Sedan, year/model 1997 (yeah, that info I still recall), I always found these pretty sleek. By the time, it was a rather new ride.

So the driver takes the Accord to the highway. The road soaked wet after an afternoon summer shower. The sunlight reflected beautifully on the asfault, the sky was colored in those pretty shades of dusk. I was seated up front, simply because I demanded so.
I already loved cars and the co-pilot seat was mine, period.

Then, Mr. Driver drove by some water in the middle of a corner.
The rear end of the Honda swung to one side, the driver tried to counter-steer.
I thought “It’s gonna spin just like in Gran Turismo!”

The Accord suddenly pointed to where the driver intended, but that would take us to the wrong side of the road. Mr. Driver tries to negotiate the pendulum effect, but overreacts and the car loses control. It spins on the highway.

I was there up front, and couldn’t be closer to the action! I had the best seat possible at the moment (for a kid, that is).

The Accord gets out of the road, goes up in a grassy hill, and rests next to a lamp post. The car stopped. No one is injured. The car was ok.

I could sense Mr. Driver was a mixture of terror and shame.
At the backseat, my brother wasn’t happy, and my other two friends had mixed feelings.
… and I had the biggest grin in the entire car!

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9 Responses to QotW: What’s the worst car buying experience you’ve ever had?

  1. CycoPablo says:

    Feb 1997, ED9 CRX stolen, never to be seen again*
    Mid-1997, with insurance cheque in hand, I promised myself a less-attractive-to-thieves car for us, and something decent for mum and sis to share. Theirs had to be automatic.

    Sister had just sold her 76 Corona, the old tank, and quite liked the Gen3 Accord. Pop-up headlights, y’see.

    Found a white one for sale with low mileage for age, but price was inflated. I figured a contributing factor was it was located in a well-to-do suburb. Nonetheless, we arranged a viewing.

    Driving toward the house, it was parked on the driveway and looked really nice from a short distance away. Parked up, got out for a quick 360 look before knocking. Front-end looked slightly tweaked, just the levels of headlight casings and bonnet shut lines.

    Rear tyres were also low in tread, and there was slight corrosion affecting the rear muffler. Already I had a few cudgels with which to beat seller down.

    Long story short, sister was too darn enthusiastic about it, no doubt because it was a limo compared to her old Corona. So plush and smooth. It drove well, the unstressed 2.0l quiet and the auto trans was buttery smooth.

    She weakened my bargaining position somewhat, and was keen to buy, so I ended up paying maybe $1000 more than I wanted to. But then again, it was the best car my mum or sister had driven at that point in their lives, and they were happy with it for 5 years.

    My cousin, a panel beater, showed me evidence of a front hit and average repair some months into ownership. Oh well!

    *Until 2002, where it showed up at a used car dealer, rebirthed!

  2. Scotty G says:

    My wife’s 2011 Mini Cooper that she bought brand new, without question. It had $15,000 in repairs in the first three years, which we thankfully only had to pay $150 for due to buying the extended warranty. A couple of months after buying it, she came out from work and both windows were down 6″, it turned out to be rusty door actuators, on a brand new car?! After the third towtruck ride to the dealer, we traded it in on a new Crosstrek and haven’t looked back.

  3. Land Ark says:

    Engine failure due to oil starvation? What kind of Subaru was it?

    The worst car buying experiences I have had always involve me “helping” someone else buy a car. When I am not emotionally invested in buying something I treat the situation much differently. Twice I’ve gone to look at cars at dealerships with friends and we’ve been asked to leave. I will get my friend’s desired price point and then when they are discussing it with the dealer I will interject and poke holes in every excuse as to why the dealer can’t lower the price. I never get nasty, aggressive, or personal, but eventually the sales people get tired of it and suggest we go look elsewhere.
    The other side of that is when I go “help” and the person completely ignores my advice – like when my wife twice paid asking for her cars. This was in the before time when people used to negotiate.
    So I have pretty much gotten out of the business of helping people buy cars. And after selling my wife’s car for way less than I should have and laying awake at night thinking about it, I’m also getting out of the business of helping other people sell their car.

  4. Mike P. says:

    Worst for the actual car-buying experience… in 1987 I looked at a used Chevy Cavalier at a dealership in Chicago. I should have turned around the moment I walked into the dealership when all the sales guys– all wearing shiny suits– turned to look at me and my wife like we were wounded fish amongst a school of sharks. One of them showed us the car then we sat down to talk details and when we couldn’t make a deal we were comfortable with the supposed sales manager come out and started scolding us, in front of the whole showroom, for wasting his guy’s time, for coming in not really prepared to buy a car, blah blah blah. Needless to say we did not buy that car nor ever went near that dealership again!
    Ended up buying a 1980 Celica ST coupe at a neighboring dealership. Much better car, much better experience.

  5. Ryan A. says:

    When the FR-S and BRZ were released, the buying experience was not great. I pretty quickly eliminated the BRZ because most Subaru dealers had significant dealer markup, whereas Scion dealers had their no haggle pricing.

    Several dealerships wouldn’t adjust allocation or swap for what I was looking for (white and manual). There were a few who insisted that I needed to buy the upgraded navigation, wheel locks, etc. because they claimed that is how they were shipped from the factory. The dealership I ended up buying from informed me that was the opposite of the truth; the cars where shipped without radios so that dealerships could equip as specified by the customer!

    There was one dealer in particular who didn’t seem to want my business. The salesman asked me to bring my parents when he found out I was 24 years old – even after they did a soft pull on my credit.

    The dealership that I was buying from was honest and direct. The salesman was new – it was the first car he sold. There were a few errors on the paperwork, so the salesman had to dive about 50 miles three times, to correct mistakes! It all worked out in the end.

  6. Matt H says:

    Back in 2003 or so, I was interested in the then relatively new Scion xB, so I went to the nearest Toyota / Scion dealer, and I have never seen a dealer try so hard NOT to sell a car. They had 5 or 6 in their lot, but they said they didn’t have any I could test drive, and I wouldn’t like it anyway because it wasn’t powerful enough and it felt slow on the highway (probably some truth to that, but a Scion salesman shouldn’t be saying that to customers!). He kept trying to steer me towards a used Corolla that was around the same price range. I just left.

  7. ra21benj says:

    I really wanted a used Nissan 240SX. First 240SX I saw for sale was a kouki hatchback in pretty good condition. I had to test drive it with the owner’s wife and wife’s father riding along in the car. Took it on the freeway to see how much power it had. I ended up not buying it because I thought since it was the first one I test drove, maybe there are better ones for sale. After looking at a few more, which were in worse shape, I decided I’d buy the first one I saw if it was still available. I called the owner and let him know I test drove it before and he remembered me. Owner than got mad at me for not buying it the first time I saw it and how I wasted his gas and his wife’s time. I was ready to buy, but since the owner was upset at me, he didn’t want to sell it to me. I looked at a few more 240SXs in poor condition, so I thought why not also look for AE86s?. The handling on the first AE86 I test drove was so light, nimble, and balanced compared to the 240SX that I ended up buying the second AE86 I test drove. So my worst car buying experience resulted in me discovering why the AE86 is such a fun car.

  8. MikeRL411 says:

    Reverse. Worst buying experience I ever gave a dealer. After several negation sessions with the local Chevy dealer [Great Falls MT] I went into the showroom, pulled out my checkbook and put a check face down on the counter/ I repeated our previous price points and told the sales rep that when he said the right number I would turn the check over and sign it. Already filled out I must add. End of cat and mouse, I signed the check and drove my 1965 Nova wagon home at my price.

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