Tuesday, 16 June 2015 13:02

Buying a used vehicle from across the country

I recently read this article on CNBC about a company called Beepi.  It’s middleman company that helps you buy a used car from across the country.  It will inspect and take photos of the car you want to buy, and help with delivering it directly to your home.  We recently purchased a vehicle from Alabama (from Pennsylvania) without the use of a 3rd party service like Beepi, and I had a great experience with it, so I figured I would write an article to share my experience and provide some pointers.

These steps and ideas are relevant whether you’re buying from a dealer, or from a private party.  For our purchase, we were looking for a full-size pickup truck; our requirements were a diesel motor, no rust, manual transmission, extended cab, and 8 foot bed.  (Good luck finding a rust-free truck up north.)  We found one on AutoTrader or Cars.com but it was down in Alabama.  Not exactly close enough to go test drive it!

Step 1: Find out if they have anything to hide

We immediately sent a message to the salesperson asking for photos of the truck.  He quickly sent 5 or 10 photos of the interior & exterior.  Then, we emailed him and asked him for more photos, particularly of the underside.  Since the truck was 15 years old, we didn’t expect any response here.  We were gladly surprised when the salesperson pulled the truck into one of their service bays, lifted it up in the air, and sent us around 20 more photos of the underside.  We saw no rust and only a few leaks.  The thinking here is that if the salesperson knew that the truck was in rough shape, they would not have been so happy to provide the second round of photos.

Step 2: Get a second opinion

Once we determined that were were, in fact, interested in this vehicle, I called a few mechanics near the dealership that was selling our truck.  For one of the shops, I was able to speak to the owner… I told him what we were planning on doing and asked him how much he would charge to test drive and do a mechanical inspection on the truck we wanted.  He quoted $100.  I called the salesperson back at the dealer and asked him to bring the truck over to this 3rd party mechanic.  Again, this was no problem.  I figure if you ask this of a person trying to hide something, they will not comply with allowing a 3rd party mechanic inspect the vehicle.  I waited a day or two and the mechanic called me back and gave me a list of things the truck needed: brakes, tires, a leak fixed on the front axle, locking hubs, and a few other things.  They really went through it with a fine-tooth comb.  It sounded like quite a list of repairs, but then he also made a comment, like, “Overall it’s a really solid, nice truck.  If you don’t buy it, I will."

Step 3: Negotiate

Armed with this information, I called the salesperson back and sent him the list of repairs that the truck needed.  For a few items, like the tires and brakes, the dealership made these repairs without issue.  For the front axle leak, he said that they wouldn’t repair this, so I offered around $1,000 less than the vehicle was listed for.  Then, we got a price for shipping and asked the salesperson if the dealership would include the cost of shipping in the total price.  A quick talk with his manager and we had a deal.

Step 4: Payment & Delivery

The dealership sent all of our paperwork via FedEx overnight, and we took it with us to the bank.  We got a cashier’s check for the full amount of the vehicle, including shipping, and signed our paperwork.  We then FedEx overnighted it back to them.  They scheduled with their delivery driver and within 2 or 3 days, the truck was delivered directly to our driveway.  Then we took the truck with the title over to the auto tags place to get our plates and make everything official.  (Some folks prefer to get a one-way airline ticket and fly down to pick up their vehicle and drive it home.  For us, the cost was only a little more to have it delivered, so we went with that option.)


We wound up spending a little bit extra on the truck since we purchased it long-distance:

+ $100 for mechanical inspection
+ $50 for FedEx overnight delivery of check & paperwork
$150 total

I’m not sure how Beepi’s pricing structure works, but they only handle vehicles that are less than 6 years old and were never in an accident.  We were able to use the above method to buy a 15 year old truck with 150,000 miles.  Since we were looking for such a specific type and price range of vehicle, I feel the additional $150 was totally worth it.

Last modified on Tuesday, 16 June 2015 13:21
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