Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Subaru Baja from Auto Maxima

I worried about this happening--I write cliffhanger blog posts! Since I never finished my story about our floor, I knew I really needed to wrap this car story up. Did we buy the Subaru Baja? Did our mechanics find anything? I'll finish the story in THIS post, ok?

[If you forgot what was happening, this story is continued from part one, part two, and part three.]

So remember, I had decided to keep quiet about my suspicions that Auto Maxima was doing some shady things. If there was really a problem, our mechanics would reveal it, anyway.

Not long after that, J texted me:

J: Turns out the subaru has been in a very minor accident, Gustavo just disclosed. Hmmmm. We'll see what the mechanic says about it (Wed Oct 27 12:11pm)

I replied:

E: I've been very curious. I think many of their reviews are fake. I think some are real. I think the mechanic will be able to let us know more. Can I call you? (12:14pm)

So I called J, and I explained why I was pretty convinced that some of the reviews were fake. J agreed that it was pretty likely. We decided that we would tell Action Auto Repair to especially watch for accident-related damage, because we suspected Milla and Gustavo were not being straight with us. J said Gustavo was delaying taking the Subaru in--he was supposed to take it at 10 or something that morning, but he was just now getting to it. He said Gustavo mentioned the accident pretending that he had already mentioned it before. (Uh...we would have remembered that.) It was just a minor accident, though, he said. The airbags were not deployed, or anything like that. Nothing serious. Gustavo was also going to e-mail J a copy of the CarFax report. J said he would forward it to me as soon as he got it. Great.

J texted me: Bill warns that subarus are unusually vulnerable to undetectable engine damage when hit from the front. (12:32pm)

He also forwarded the CarFax to my e-mail...

Except that it wasn't a CarFax report; it was actually a report that eBay does for all cars listed on the auto portion of their site. Still, it had useful information. The report indicated that the Subaru had never been in any accidents...BUT it was not driven between February and May of this year. And not driven much since May, either.

So the Subaru was listed on eBay Motors. The seller had 302 transactions and 100% positive feedback. Hmm. That's a lot. So maybe they were not as deceitful as they appeared? If they had sold 302 cars and everyone on eBay gave them positive feedback.

I pulled up the listing on eBay so that I could check out the feedback. Only about thirty of the transactions were from this year. AND, all of the feedback was from buying things, not selling. Last year they sold a lot--but still no cars. They sold face cream, and make up, lingerie, and just some really random things. I wondered whether they listed vehicles on eBay just to be able to give out copies of the vehicle report, since maybe the eBay one is less revealing than real CarFax? Not everyone has cars checked out by a mechanic before they purchase, so it would be a good plan for fooling a lot of people.

It was weird though...why would Gustavo tell us that it had been in a small accident if the vehicle report was clean? Didn't that indicate the report was not accurate? Also, I noticed the Subaru had actually been in Texas up until now. Hmm. And it was in an auction. What causes vehicles to be in an auction but not reported for something or another?

J and I e-mailed back and forth.

J's e-mail: I just checked out usedcars.com to see prices of Bajas around the nation. It's easy to see that the deal we have brokered is a very good price relatively speaking. So, there is a discount there for something undesirable like damage. How much that's worth to us or how bad the damage might be will hopefully become clearer to us today. (1:42pm)

My e-mail: Yeah, I'd say it's probably 50/50--it may still be worth it. What does the warranty do, if we were to insist upon the warranty based on new information? Do they replace/repair/refund/or what? Any idea?... This is great fun! If it turns out to still be worth getting, I will name the car Carmen, maybe, like Carmen Sandiego, since we're so interested in where she's been and what she's done. Ha! And I will like her all the more, because she's been on adventures. (1:51pm)

Soon after, J called because he was on his way to the shop. The mechanic told us what we had been waiting to hear:

The Subaru was in a major accident--it wasn't a small hit at all.
- The unibody frame was bent. This would mean that we would wear tires faster. Subarus require special tires, so we would have to buy a $600-$700 set of tires every 10,000 miles. (Ouch.) Plus, it would all just get worse, from being driven.
- The radiator was hit, and it was cracked. A new one would be $300 new.
- The right wheel axel shaft (?) was torn and leaking. It would cost $200-$300 to fix that.
- One of the lights was broken. It would be another $200-$300.
- The rear wheels fell off before. The body was scraped up from it. (Uhhh, that's a lot different from what Gustavo told Jeff originally. When they were first making the deal, Gustavo said the worst thing about the car was a missing hubcap. Hmmm.)

J told the guys at the shop that he was getting it for $4000 under Blue Book. They told him "this is why you brought the car in" and told him definitely, definitely don't buy it. Even way below Blue Book.

J and I agreed that we would not be buying my perfect, favorite Subaru Baja, which I loved so much.

J called Gustavo back. I didn't hear the call, but here is the part of the conversation that I remember from what J told me about it:

J: The mechanic advised me that this vehicle was in a major accident. The unibody is bent.
G: Take it to another mechanic. They each have their own opinion.
J: I am comfortable with their assessment.
G: It's not that big of a problem. It can be fixed.
J: They advised me not to purchase it at any price.

That night, J left a review on Google. He wrote:A couple days later, Milla posted another review:

It's kind of a funny review, because there are hints of the truth, but basically the review is totally false.
- The actual deal was not for $9000...it was for $11,700, with them also including some detail work on our car that we are about to sell.
- J didn't leave a bad review because he couldn't have the car for $9000... like... why would we pay $85 to take it to our mechanic if we hadn't even agreed on a price? (Also, he almost didn't want to leave a bad review at all, because it could be bad for their business. But we decided it was better to leave a review for future people thinking of buying a car from them. But he kept his review all just factual information. They may be very good at detailing cars, we decided...)
- Scott said "there is no frame damage even idiot can see it"? Hmmm. Is Scott a real person? Does Scott work for them? Frame damage isn't exactly something subjective. And Action definitely wouldn't tell us there was frame damage just for fun. Milla and Gustavo do collision repair...but they wanted one more opinion? Why would they want one more opinion? The car probably came to them crunched up to begin with. They know exactly what happened to the car.
- Why would we make up stuff about the wheels? What is our incentive for that?
- Also, they never did provide a CarFax.

They listed the Subaru on KSL as a Featured Ad, and then after a little while the ad went down. I suspect they've probably sold it. Too bad for whoever bought it.


Optimistic. said...

Good on you guys for taking the time to leave the review and writing this excellent description of what happened to prevent people from falling into the same trap, and double good on you for being so entertaining while you write it.

Anonymous said...

As an owner of an 03' Baja, it doesn't require special tires. It's just that I have to replace all four at the same time.

Got mine new. Been liking it ever since.

Think you ducked a bullet there. Odd there was no salvage title.