Now… the two most important words when buying a car… repeat after me…. “Mechanics Check”!
ohh dear… you can see where this is going, can’t you.
Last week, a friend found a car online she wanted. Seemed like the perfect car. The type of car she wanted, looked in good condition, GREAT price… but it was interstate. She asked my opinion (because her husband was against the idea) and I said a few things would worry me – why they are selling them cheap (the caryard was selling off all their cars at cost because they were closing down), and the fact it’s interstate – so issues if something went wrong. She was told the caryard owner wanted to retire and wanted to just sell everything off…. and that they would include a 12 month warranty that would work in Victoria…. so all seemed alright. I told her that another way to think of it was that she’s currently driving a deathtrap of a car, and for the safety of her kids, a new car was in order, and you never know even with a car you buy from the same town, if it’s going to be any good….
So plans were made that I’d fly up to Sydney with her, and we would drive the car back together. After a bit of an argument over bringing knitting and needing to have checked baggage, or not bringing knitting and having only carry-on…. the knitting issue was solved (I won! no checked baggage) and plans were made.
We should have organised NRMA to check the car…. we didn’t
(This was our first mistake)
So up at 5am (after a night of waking up wondering if it was 5am yet, no… 1:30….. sleep, wake up… no…. 2am… and so on)…. I don’t do mornings!
So… we get to the airport, on the plane and off we go to Sydney. We get a taxi and head off to the car yard. So far so good.
Everything started out ok…. The car is there, looks great, Friend is pleased. The guy she’d spoken to on the phone (Merv) was there… he seemed nice enough…
We don’t do a test drive… Friend was determined the car was hers, stupidly we trusted him that it was a car that “drives well” according to him…. I figured it was a proper caryard and that the car would actually work, so test driving is just testing you like the actual car, which she was already convinced of (and that we’d flown to Sydney to get it, so the decision to buy it was already made) – so I didn’t think to suggest a test drive – and in hindsight the fact he didn’t suggest it could have been our first early warning of problems…
(On to our second mistake)
Instead we just go sign the papers – we’ve got a LONG drive ahead of us and time is wasting…. He made sure we had the jack, and when the booklet and a bit of the jack was missing, he went and got the bits from another car to make sure we had them.
He says something about getting petrol, because he “put $10 in it yesterday” but it will need petrol… and explains how you have to take the key out at the marked point, because if you let it go all the way, the accessories stay on and it drains the battery. He gets the car to the entrance to the caryard, we hop in and prepare to go on our way. The gear selector was electronic, and was not displaying that the car was in drive, which concerned us, but since it was in drive, we think it’s just one of those things cars sometimes have little dodgy bits, and that it’s ok…. I also noticed 2 lights on the console flashing – seemingly front and rear demisters, but didn’t think anything of it (so demister lights are flashing – that’s got nothing to do with anything…..)
(3rd mistake )
We needed to turn right to get to the road to take us home… and turning right into that street was impossible (not only traffic-wise but also because of the concrete median strip)…. So we turn left and drive about 10-15 metres down the road to the next intersection so we can turn right into a side street and do a U turn so we can come around to get back onto that main rd…..It’s a bit scary getting onto that road, in a car you are unfamiliar with – in HELLISH traffic, but we are on the road – Yipee!
As we are doing the U turn, the car just conks out – I assume it’s stalled…. not good I think, but every car I’ve ever had has a tendency to stall at inopportune times….. it gets going… we move forward about a foot, it stalls again. We look at eachother and I try a feeble “well perhaps it’s something with the timing… I’m sure it can be fixed” – and she tries to get it going – it refuses….. it finally gets going and we get about the 3 metres or so to the lights, and it stalls again. We have people honking and stuff behind us, because clearly we’re choosing to sit there in the middle of the road not moving in a car we just bought…. *fume*
We sit there trying to get it going, and a car pulls up beside us and yells out to try revving it more – that works… we are thankful….we have a bit of a chat over the car – yes it’s a bargain, they suggest getting a mechanic to check it out – there is one just up the road a bit…. they move off, and we go to…. but then it conks out again… We finally get it going again and turn back onto that main Rd, we travel back so that we are right outside the caryard, and the car completely dies and no attempt to restart it will work. So we are now in the right hand lane (of 3) on a VERY busy road…. and the car now refuses to start at all. Cars are roaring past and honking… and we are panicking (as you do)….. and all of a sudden the caryard guy appears at the window – he has obviously heard the commotion. He tells my friend to hop out and he’ll try to start it, tries unsuccessfully and goes “ahh, you’ve run out of petrol.”
(where’s the raised eyebrow smiley when you need it)
The dial said it still had 1/4 tank (and he claims he “put $10 in it yesterday“) but the way the car had been stalling makes me think that was the case. The engine was just cutting out, so the lack of petrol seemed likely to cause that….(petrol needed to make cars go and all that) So he’s gone back to get a jerry can, and I’m sitting there fuming at the fact he sells us a car with what? 2 tablespoons worth of petrol in it – how ridiculous is that…”$10 in it yesterday” my ass – maybe if he then went driving around for a while in it…..
And ironically – on the left hand side of the road, about 4 metres up, is a petrol station!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In the meantime some guy comes over (who had just come out of the building next to the caryard) and asks what’s wrong. I tell him we’ve just run out of petrol, and he goes (angrily) “well you can’t just park here” – so I, in a less than impressed mood, tell him we aren’t PARKED – we “conked out” here, and that we had just bought the car from there (pointing to the caryard)….. and just before I start on the continuation of my tirade, the caryard guy comes back with his little jerry can, and the stupid “you can’t park here” guy goes back to what he is doing.
(because yes… I quite often PARK in the right hand lane of what is essentially a highway – just for fun….. fuckwit)
Caryard guy has a dribble of petrol in the jerry can and ever so graciously uses it all – saying he hopes it’s enough to get us across the road to the petrol station. I ask how we are going to manage to get it across the road in such a small amount of time, on that rd… (turning to my friend and saying we should get him to drive it over …..”$10 in it yesterday” … grumble grumble) so he stands in the middle of the road to clear a path… and we get going and make it to the petrol station!
He joins us (refilling the jerry can) and comments to me “yeah, they go better with petrol in“…. to which he is lucky I didn’t thump him – had he been physically close enough, I might have (and I’m not a violent person),….. and then when my friend is filling it up, he apparently calls her a “silly girl” for letting it run out of petrol…. WTF!?! How about you sell a car with enough petrol in it to actually get to a petrol station – GRRRRRRRRRRRRR (He’s lucky I didn’t hear that at the time or I would have thumped him)
Car full of petrol, we drive out of the petrol station, and literally *just past the driveway of the petrol station*… it stalls again….and the electric gear selector thing is kinda flashing and refuses to stay in any gear but reverse. The car is now running ok…. but it won’t go into gear (well, only in reverse, but that’s less than helpful when you need to go forward) So we are sitting there for about a minute, cars NARROWLY missing us…..frantically trying to get it into a gear – any forward gear would do…. (I’d have got out to push if it wasn’t a ginormous bus-like car and on a hill) but it won’t stay in anything but reverse. While more cars are roaring past hoking (we’re now blocking the left lane at least). I suggest we have no other option but to wait for a break in traffic and reverse back into the petrol station…. which we do. The carpark section was back down where we entered the petrol station, but luckily it was on a bit of a hill, so we reversed into one part and let it roll down to get to the carpark part. Stopped the car and just sat there…. not knowing what to do. We tried it again, but the same thing – gears not working…. only reverse.
So my friend runs across the road to go get Caryard guy again…. he tells us he’ll take us for a drive – in that “you’re obviously too stupid to work it” tone of voice… and unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work for him either…. So he then tries to rev the everloving snot out of the car, while trying to get it into drive…. which is only succeeding to inch the car back out the driveway and dangerously close to the road… I sit there watching us inch closer, thinking this is not going to end well, then turn around to the front to suggest he stops because we are close to the road, and see smoke pouring out the bonnet! So I call out in alarm, and he turns off the engine and jumps out – and I notice he hasn’t put the handbrake on as we roll back a bit – so I scream out “HANDBRAKE!” and my friend pulls it on! We hop out, and I see there is smoke coming out of a dipstick thing marked “Automatic Transmition”… and I don’t know anything about cars, but I know that’s not good…
The petrol station just happened to have a mechanic around the side, so the caryard guy went to get him and then went inside to buy transmission fluid. The mechanic said to us straight away “The gearbox is burnt out”. Caryard Guy comes back and says to leave it for a few minutes to cool down.. and start giving some excuse about the electrics needing to be reset and that’s why it’s not going into gear…. and he gets some guys to come push the car back into the carspot – I help too after being annoyed that one of the guys suggested the “one of the girls” sits in the car to steer while the “blokes” push – I can push a car too thankyouverymuch! Of course useless “Merv the caryard guy” leaves the handbrake off AGAIN and the car starts to roll back into us.
We stand around waiting for a while, he puts the transmission fluid in. I go into the petrol station to ask if they have a phone book so I can call the Office of Fair Trading to work out what our rights are (they don’t)… and when I come back my friend tells me that the caryard guy said he didn’t check the transmission fluid level when he checked the oil & water before we left. So he tells us that the mechanic will come check it out and reset the electrics… and if the gearbox is stuffed then he will give us a refund…. and he goes back to the caryard.
So then we wait around, because the mechanic wasn’t able to come out to look at the car until someone else arrived to take over there…. and I try to tactfully tell my friend that I would be getting a refund because this car seems like a piece of shit…. and that I wouldn’t be happy driving this back to Melbourne (it’s like 12 hours non-stop driving)
We go through the fact that we’ve wasted the plane fares up here, and would have to then fly back at more expense, and that the car is really cheap and she can’t get a car like that (8 seater!) in Melbourne…. And I try arguing that we know of the gearbox and electrics problems, what else do we not know about,…. and if we can’t drive it back we’re in trouble, and we can’t afford to stay in Sydney while it’s fixed (money wise but also because she has 5 kids and her hubby can’t cope looking after them all for numerous days away)
She eventually starts coming around, and is then concerned about the fact that she just put $70 worth of petrol in the car. I suggest she goes over to the mechanic and asks if there is anything he can do, since clearly we can’t take it back with us because we will be flying…. she comes back after having talked to him about the car, and she’s more resolved that it’s not a good buy – he wasn’t happy with it (gearbox is expensive to fix plus several days)… so it’s decided that we’ll seek a refund.
I suggest she takes photos to show just how far we managed to get from the caryard (which is where the red sign is!)
So we lock up the car and grab all our stuff and head across the road…. We had coats, handbags, carry on luggage and a sleeping bag! (2 sleeping bags actually, but mine was in my luggage)… go say thanks to the mechanic for his advice (and he again says that brand of car is not good when older) and we had to cross a 6 lane “highway” with it all….. ok…. we were a bit lazy and didn’t want to walk down to the lights when we were pretty much just across the road from the caryard.
So, we get there, and he says “did the mechanic look at it”, and my friend goes “no, I just want a refund” … and he starts to say something, so I tell him that the mechanic couldn’t come around to look at it because nobody else arrived to take over. So he calls up someone and asks if they have an 8 seater car for around $5,000 – they obviously don’t, and he then says something like “yeah, not so well” or something, that makes me wonder if the person he spoke to knew of this car situation.. and he goes “I have to go, there are people here – I’ll call you later“.
They had a $11,000 version of the same car on the lot, and my friend asks if she can have that but he says no, that he wouldn’t be allowed to do that (the first time it’s stated that he isn’t the owner of the lot, as I thought he was)
Then we go into the office and he pulls out the cheque book, and my friend and I both say in unison that we’re not accepting a cheque so then he goes and calls out to the guy in the next lot (it’s like a 2-3 caryard combination thing) if he has an 8 seater for around $5,000 – and I couldn’t hear the guy’s response, but he was saying something and laughing… and the caryard guy comes back and we asked him what he said, and he’s gone (very annoyed) “he was joking around, and we are not in the mood for jokes” or something to that affect – obviously really angry with whatever was said by the other guy…. which makes me wonder what was said….
Then he says he doesn’t know how to do a refund, and jokes that he doesn’t know his password – do we?…. my friend and I look at eachother – soooooo over jokes at this point, and I tell him to call the bank then… He calls someone, the owner’s son I believe (he went through some annoying story I didn’t care about, to do with the owner’s son ripping off the caryard with the eftpos machine), who says that refunds haven’t been set up on there. So my friend asks about cash – he says he doesn’t have that much there, so I tell him to go to a bank… he says it’s too far away. So I tell him to call the bank then and set up a refund thing, he says he doesn’t think he has the authority to do that.
I turn to my friend and say (in that pointed way you do when you are trying to get something across to someone – letting him know we weren’t leaving without the money) “Well, hey, we have the sleeping bags, we could always camp out here until we get the money”
So he does call the bank, and they seemingly talk him through how to do the refund, he tries it, and it comes back saying it’s declined – so my friend calls her bank and they say it’s not a problem at her end, so he calls the bank again and they say it’s because there is a $1000 limit on refunds…. So he asks them if they can waive that for this one transaction, and said something about the fact we were up from Melbourne (maybe they said they could but it would take time to set up?) and the bank eventually says they can manually do a bank transfer of the refund amount – but that it will take 3 days to go through. My friend takes the phone and talks to them… and finally it seems the refund is happening. We get him to sign the back of the car documents to say that we’ve retuned the car, and he wrote a bit of a receipt thing saying it’s been refunded and the transaction number the bank gave him, and tell my friend to keep the failed eftpos refund receipts as proof that he attempted to refund it (in case something happened and it didn’t go through – which is has, so that’s ok :)).
So that finally done, we head back across the gauntlet – baggage in tow… to the only bit of good luck for the day… the petrol station/mechanic yard thing is also a taxi changeover point, so the drivers bring in the cars and swap drivers there, so taxi was not a problem!
It’s about 3-3:30 by now, and we had arrived at the caryard at about 10:30… *sigh* We hadn’t even had lunch, except for a bag of chips and a coke from the petrol station.
We hop in a taxi that the guy who seem to be in charge suggests, that had been stationary for about 5 mins at least (because we had to wait for the drivers to come), and I swear to God….. as soon as our bums hit the seats, smoke starts coming out of the bonnet of that car! when the engine wasn’t even on! So I assume my friend is jinxed (couldn’t possibly be me!) we get out, and get into another taxi… (me hoping we don’t cause any more car-related problems) and without anything else going wrong, get to the airport…discussing our situation with the taxi driver, and me yelling at my friend every time she says something “couldn’t be worse” not to jinx us further.
We go to the Virgin counter and their flights are $170 each! So we try JetStar and theirs are about $60 or $80 each…. so we look around for an internet terminal to check Tiger (their booth was closed)… which means we have to go through the security station (which means I have to almost rip my hands off trying to remove bangles that are not removable)…. we find the Internet, and find that Tiger’s cheap flights aren’t on yet, so we book through Jetstar because their online prices were only about $50 each.
Then we had a sort of lunch/dinner thing – as it was about 4pm by then, and we sat around waiting until 6:30 for the flight home. Or not exactly sitting… I was zonked, so I’ve joked that I’ve got a sleeping bag and a cushion, I was going to set up a bed 🙂 which I didn’t do, but we used our coats and the sleeping bag as pillows and laid on the floor…..in a spot we thought was out of the way, until a flight landed and everyone walked almost ontop of us to get out of the lounge. The pilots walked past and said “not long now” and then on their way back (I assume they stopped for dinner or something) they said it again 🙂
So… it was a very…. “eventful” ….. day to say the least.
And now unfortunately between my friend and I, we’re down over $400 in airfares and taxi fares….. and she doesn’t have her beloved car 😦