The Executive Summary
I located a van in Seattle that sounded promising. I made one mistake, however, I booked a flight out to go see it before I had secured the VIN number and history report from the seller. It turned out that the odometer on the van was incorrect and so it had far more miles on it than the seller had advertised. With the flight already booked, I went out to take a look at it anyways, but the seller and I couldn’t come to an agreement. Still vanless, I rented a car and drove down to Portland to figure out what I was going to do next.
After suffering a staggering defeat the previous week, it took me a few days to dive back in and begin my search anew. It didn’t take long, however, to locate a good looking candidate in Seattle. And once I did, I was reinvigorated with energy.
As before, I contacted the seller and ran through my usual list of questions. Satisfied enough with the answers, I requested more photos. I was feeling good about this one, but Seattle was a long ways away from Ohio. If I was going to travel all that distance, it made sense to line up a few candidates. So over the course of the week, I continued corresponding with the seller in Seattle, but also lined up a van to look at in Drain, OR and Bend, OR. There was even one in Gresham, OR that I wasn’t terribly interested in because it had a rebuilt engine, but hey, at least it was another option. Having family in Portland, it wasn’t a stretch to drive down from Seattle and check out these other candidates if my initial candidate fell through.
I’d been in communication with this seller in Seattle for a few days. The van sounded great, the pictures looked great, and it was still within my price range. Despite the distance to Seattle, I’d been digging into the world of travel hacking recently and so I could use the airline miles that I had accumulated to book a flight for little out of pocket cost. So on Thursday, I put together a plan in my head for flying out and buying the van and then driving it back. I arranged with my employer to work remotely for a week and a half and then spend the final half week driving the van back across the country to Ohio. This was a very last minute trip and so I was extremely grateful that they obliged (Thank you, Tom! This really meant a lot to me!). With approval from my supervisor, I booked an early Saturday morning flight as soon as I got to the office on Friday; only 24 hours before takeoff! Wow! I’d never done anything like that before. I couldn’t have done it without a stockpile of rewards miles either.
So I booked the flight on Friday morning and shortly after, the seller sent me the final pictures I had asked for. Pictures of the VIN numbers for each of the vans he was selling. Through our correspondence throughout the week, he let me know that he actually had a pair of identical vans for sale. I sent the VINs over to a car salesman friend and asked if he could pull a history report for the vehicles. A few hours later he sent back the reports and it wasn’t great. Uh, oh! The first van, the one that I was most interested in, had a mileage discrepancy on the odometer. The seller had the vehicle listed with 193k miles on it, but it had been serviced in the past with almost 400k miles on it.
The first van, the one that I was most interested in, had a mileage discrepancy on the odometer. The seller had the vehicle listed with 193k miles on it, but it had been serviced in the past with almost 400k miles on it. According to the report, this change in mileage occurred prior to the current seller taking ownership of the vehicle and so I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that the seller might not have been aware of this discrepancy. Nefarious intent or not, that didn’t change the fact that this van had way more miles on it than I was looking for. This one just dropped out of running.
The second van had a much more reasonable 180k miles. However, this van too had a mileage discrepancy in the history report. The discrepancy in this vehicle was much more tolerable, however, and the discrepancy occurred at the very end of the history report. The mileage was only a couple digits off and so the Car Fax history report suggested that this discrepancy could have just been the result of someone mistyping the mileage into the computer. While this was certainly plausible, I was a little uneasy given that the first van also had a discrepancy in the report. Nevertheless, I had already booked the flight and secured the time away from the office. It seemed that I should at least go take a look, and so I did.
I arrived in Seattle in the middle of the afternoon the following day. I took a cab down to a suburb gas station where the seller and I had arranged to meet ($50 for a short cab ride! No wonder Uber is killing you). It was here that I informed the seller of my findings in the mileage discrepancy and told him that I was willing to look at the second van he was selling, but I was no longer interested in the first.
Both vans were in great shape! Far better than the two I’d looked at in Ohio. After inspecting the van and taking it for a test drive, I decided I would make him an offer. He was asking more for this second van than he was for the first one that I had originally flown out there to see. This one was more than I wanted to spend. With my confidence shaken from the history reports on both vehicles, I told the seller that I would still be willing to purchase the second one if he was willing to sell it for the price that we had discussed on the first van. Unfortunately, he wasn’t keen on this idea and so even though not buying the van meant that I was now stranded in a rainy Seattle parking lot, I chose to walk away from yet another van.
I caught an Uber back to the airport (only $20 for Uber; stupid cabs!), rented a car and headed down to Portland to see my dad. I could stay with him for a few days while I figured out my next move.