Jim Anchower Is One Smart Used-Car ShopperCommentary • shopping • transportation • ISSUE 35•34 • Sep 22, 1999 By Jim Anchower – The Cruise Hola, amigos. S'up? I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I've had a lot of stuff goin' down. First off, I finally found my car that got stolen. The cops called me and said they had it. So I went down to the impound yard and showed them my papers, and they told me I could pick it up as soon as I paid $175. "The hell!" I said. They told me that when they found the car, it had been parked illegally, so they had to tow it. Well, I sure the fuck wasn't going to give them $175 for a car I only laid down $150 for. I asked the impound guys if I could get some valuables out of the trunk. They said no problem. I popped the trunk, only to discover that the assholes who swiped the car had taken my tape deck, my spare tire and my Led Zeppelin tapes. Man, if I ever find out who stole that car, I'm gonna tear them a new one! I grabbed a Song Remains The Same tape they must have missed and told the impound guys they could keep that shitheap for all I cared. I was planning on picking up some new wheels, anyway. Since I wasn't driving much in the weeks before my car was recovered, I wasn't spending any money on gas, bondo or oil. Plus, since Ron couldn't mooch rides off me anymore, he stopped coming by my place as much. That took a huge strain off the Anchower pocketbook. So, by the time I got the call about my car being found, I had almost $550 saved up for another vehicle. That wouldn't get me a cherry, but it would get me something decent. Now, some people will tell you that the best place to find a car is in the want ads. Other people always go to used-car lots. Others go through friends. I say they're all wrong. The best place to find a car is in someone's yard with a for-sale sign slapped on it. They don't have the money for a want ad, so they'll take whatever they can get. I've gotten some of my best deals that way. Sure, some of them need a bit of work, but what car doesn't? The only problem was, I didn't have a car to drive around in looking for sweet deals. Since Ron was the one who'd gotten my car stolen in the first place, he was the one I decided to tap for a cruise. After I put the lean on him for a bit, he agreed to drive me. He made me promise I'd get him high and give him some gas money, but I figured I could get out of that somehow. I did need Ron for the ride, but I also needed him for the back-up. When you're going out to look for cars, it's very important to have another person along for trash talk. You know, someone who can say, "I dunno, the tread on these tires is pretty worn down," or, "Pretty nice, I think... Hey! Look at this oil leak!" If I'd gone with someone smarter than Ron, that would have made it easier, but you gotta take what you can get. We cruised around for about an hour, looking for something that struck my fancy. After seeing two old VW Beetles, a Ford Festiva, a Subaru on blocks and a Vega that was way out of my price range, Ron was starting to get all lippy, talking about how I owed him big-time and how I was lucky to have a friend like him. This, in turn, was starting to put me in a bad way. Before long, my priority shifted from finding the best car possible to finding any car fast so I could be done with Ron. This, my friends, was not good. Ron was still going on about how much I owed him when he went the wrong way down a one-way street. I was about to let him have it with both barrels when I saw an old station wagon in this one yard. It was a pile of junk, sure, but it didn't look too rusted out. We pulled over and took a look. First off, it was mint-green with fake wood panels on the sides. Definitely not a cruising machine of the highest caliber. I was about to walk away when Ron started making all these groaning noises and said, "Here we go again!" As soon as he said that, I decided I was going to drive off with that wagon just so I wouldn't have to take Ron's shit anymore. I kicked the tires, and they seemed fine. At that point, the owner came out onto the front porch in his bathrobe. He must not have been wearing anything underneath, because his dork was sticking out a bit. I just about shit. I mean, if you're gonna sell a car, at least have the dignity to throw on a pair of undies before you try to make the deal. This brings me to another point: Size up your opponent. I've bought plenty of cars in my lifetime, and over the years, I've developed a sense as to whether or not the sellers were going to deal or not. With this guy, I was a bit scrambled. Either he was too stupid to put on some clothes, which could mean a good deal, or he just didn't care who saw his dick, which could mean a tough deal. He asked if I was interested in the car. I told him I was, sure. He said it was a sweet machine that could go through a minefield without slowing down. I said if it's such a great car, how come he was selling it? He pointed at a '93 Dodge Ram parked on the street. That was another head-scratcher: Was this guy loaded and, therefore, unwilling to haggle over the price of the wagon? Or was he desperate to make a deal after spending more than he could afford on a brand-new used truck? I poked around the wagon, looking under the hood and checking to make sure there were no fluids leaking, and all that. He told me he wanted $700 for it. I looked inside and saw that it had over 100,000 miles on it. I told him $450. He said he'd just replaced all the belts and said $625. I said all that was in there was an AM radio, and I'd go $500 for it. He said he had some other people express interest, but if I could pay him $575 in cash right there, I could drive away in it, and that was firm. Ya gotta know when they're done with the deals, and this guy was definitely done. I looked over at Ron, and he was standing there trying to catch a fly with his bare hands. I couldn't take another minute with him. The only problem was, I was $50 light. I swallowed hard and broke my cardinal rule about dealing with Ron. I asked him how much money he had on him. He said he had $60, and I told him I needed $55 to get the car. Ron started making a big deal about it, how it wasn't enough that he'd driven me over, but now I was asking him for money. I bit my tongue as he went on with that crap for about five minutes, and it was all I could do to keep from socking him. Finally, he dug into his wallet and pulled out the money, telling me I really owed him for this one. I took the money and thanked Ron as much as I could. Fifteen minutes later, I was on the road in my new car. Like I said, it's not the sweetest ride, but it'll get you where you wanna go. I gotta do something about the radio, though. All I can get is some religious station and the farm-market report. If I was the one selling, I woulda taken $500 for it, no question. No way should a man have to be subjected to nothing but hog futures and Jesus for $575. That's just cruel.