Hey folks, and welcome to the first addition to my Money Flop series. As you all know, I practice couponing, parsimony, and financial efficiency. But I’m definitely no stranger to major money flops. Every blogger under the sun has tips on what to do with your money. But here are some candid stories of what you shouldn’t be doing with your money. And my most recent money flop comes in the form of a 2010 Dodge Caravan mini-van. Here’s the dirt on what I had hoped would happen vs. what actually happened.
The Loss: $7,000 – I bought a mini van for $8000. Spent $2000 in repair costs, and $1000 in interest on a car loan (I paid off the loan in 4 months). Sold it for $4000.
The Hard Lesson: ALWAYS do a vehicle history report before buying any car. Looking back, $10 for the report doesn’t sound so bad.
In September 2015, my wife had been driving our 2 girls around in a 1996 Ford Taurus station wagon.
It was the summer from hell, and the car had no air conditioning, faulty electronics, and uncomfortable seats that set off the disgruntled howls of a 1 and 3 year old from the back seat. So, it was time to buy my wife a new car. Her friends had mini-vans, and I occasionally drove a company mini-van at work. So I was inclined to get a mini-van. I always search for 3rd party car sales, so I jumped on Craig’s List for a hot deal. And I found one: a 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan that claimed to have 67,000 miles. The ad was new, and asking for $8500. So I made some quick phone calls, and exchanged in pushy negotiations, to secure the mini-van for $8000.
I thought I made a fantastic purchase. I thought the purchase was so good that I even considered flipping it for a profit. So just out of curiosity, I took it to a Dodge car dealership. I rode in on my high horse, expecting a fat, highly-profitable offer to brag about. But to my dismay, the salesman returned with dismounting information. He told me that the car had a Branded Title. I asked what that meant, and the salesman informed me that my high-flying, sexy family mobile, was in-fact a case of odometer fraud. Foolishly unphased, I still wanted to know what he would give me for the car. But he said they wouldn’t buy a car with a branded title. So my ego limped out of the parking lot, feeling betrayed, as I stared at the deceptive odometer as I traveled home.
And when I returned home, that’s when I finally bought the vehicle history report.
I was in disbelief. I didn’t want to think it was anything terrible. I shrugged it off, and figured it was just a clerical error. Or worst, if the miles were actually rolled back, then the roll-back wasn’t too drastic, and that this mini-van was still young enough to have tons of life and miles left in her tank. But reality began to reveal its ugly head, and I quickly learned that I made a terrible mistake.
After the first week of owning the car, the check engine light popped on. I thought it was bad timing, and I could just ride it out. But a few days later, the mini-van was over heating. After some towing and maintenance bills, I finally get the problem fixed. But the problems didn’t stop there. The sliding passenger door wouldn’t shut properly, and the radio would blow out after about 20 minutes. The electronics weren’t always working, the AC smelled like radiator fluid, the computer crapped out, and the radiator hose cracked, spilling radiator fluid onto the engine block, which billowed into smoke. And all of this occurred in a span of 3 months!
And that was all I could take. After 3 months of unreliability, $2000 in maintenance repairs, and disappointment from my wife and daughters for being stranded so many times, I finally tried to sell it. But how could I sell a car with a branded title? Who would possible be as stupid as I was, and not look into the vehicle’s history report? But mot importantly, how could I sell this mini-van to anyone, without fully disclosing the rolled back odometer?
So I went commercial. The first place I tried was CarMax. Maybe they wouldn’t think the rolled back odometer or branded title were big deals. Maybe this was so common that they would just take the car based on its looks, like I did! But of course they weren’t that naive.
This was a harsh reality. Only $1200 for a vehicle I just bought for $8000, with an additional $2000 in repairs?! And not only did they make an insulting offer, they undug some startling mileage information in their vehicle history research.
The mini-van which I thought had only 66,000 miles, had actually surpassed 300,000 miles in its short life. Suddenly, all the repairs and maintenance were starting to make sense. What car wouldn’t start falling apart after 300,000 miles? So it became evident I was going to have to sell this car for a huge loss. I posted it on Craig’s List for $5,000, fully disclosing the rolled back odometer and branded title. About a month later, a guy showed up and talked me down to $4000. I happily took the offer, since I wasn’t getting any action on the ad, and since I wasn’t sure how else to get rid of it.
The hard lesson here is that if I would have spent $10 on a vehicle history report, I would have seen the branded title, and I wouldn’t have dumped $7000 down the toilet.
If your Money Flop has buried you into a pit of financial doom, here’s some clever ways to boost your monthly income:
Handsome, debonair, and charismatic. These are words never used to describe Jason. But one commonly used word is cheapass. Jason's parsimonious ways have carried him through failed business ventures, side hustles, and strategic frugal decisions from car shopping to couponing. Read about Jason or email him to say hi!