long distance car buying -- slightly paranoid and overeager buyer
October 4, 2008 11:47 PM   Subscribe

After months and months of looking, I've finally found my dream car. The problem is, it's a few hundred miles away from me... and my trusted mechanic. Help me make this happen!

I'm in Orange County. My dream car is in San Francisco. I really don't mind having an excuse to fly up there; in fact, I'm looking forward to making a weekend of it. The prospect of finally ending my search for a new car and getting a little vacation out of it to boot is proving irresistible. However, I want to make sure that in my excitement I don't end up buying a lemon.

I've talked to the seller (a private seller, not a dealer) and received satisfying answers to all my concerns. I've checked the carfax report, and it's clean. It's been smogged and is registered until next year. If it was in Southern CA, the next step would be to have my mechanic check it out. Since it isn't, is it ridiculous to imagine I'll be able to find a trustworthy mechanic in San Francisco who'll be able to check it out on a weekend on short notice? (Unfortunately, the weekend is the only time I'd be able to get away from work.) Is it better to try to inspect it myself? I'm no expert on cars, but would it be possible to learn enough in a week to be able to determine for myself whether it's fundamentally sound? If it is, I'd appreciate any books or websites you could recommend.

To those who've bought a car long distance-- are there any particular pitfalls you can think of? Am I crazy to go to all this trouble for this car, or should I wait (probably a few months, at least) until one pops up closer to where I live? The car itself isn't rare, but the particular combination of options the SF car has is.

This is my first time buying a car without a parent's help, so I apologize for being so naive / overeager / particular / paranoid, etc. Thank you, Ask MeFi.
posted by TayBridge to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ted and Al's on 624 Stanyan is a great all-singing, all-dancing mechanic's shop that is usually open on the weekend. I'd trust them to check out a car.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:58 PM on October 4, 2008

First: ask your trusted mechanic for a reference to a mechanic he trusts up there.

Second: it may be your dream car, but it's a car; if it's really your dream car, it should be worth it for you to go through the trouble of getting it inspected properly (to the point of flying your mechanic up and paying for his time/expenses), and if it's not really all that rare, it's always nice to make a purchase like this on home turf when you won't be feeling pressured to make up your mind before you fly back.

Third: if this isn't a particularly rare car, then I assume it isn't a particularly old car, either, and unless they've already stopped making them, I assume you're buying used to save money. Perhaps you'll be better off buying a new one, if you really think it's a car you're not going to want to get rid of for ten years or more.

obviously if my assumptions are wrong, you should ignore those bits of advice...but some details on age/type of car would help folks provide more useful advice -- for instance, I've got different advice if we're talking about an '07 C30 vs an '05 MR2 Spyder vs a '96 911 (996) vs a '67 GTO.
posted by davejay at 11:59 PM on October 4, 2008

I'll check out Ted and Al's, ikkyu2. Thanks.

davejay-- It's a not-too old (i.e. 2000s) sports car that is no longer in production. I see myself keeping it for at least 5 years, which is why I'm allowing myself to be so fussy about the options, the condition, the mileage, etc. now. (Also, it's the biggest purchase of my adult life so far.) Also, you're exactly right-- if it's my dream car, it should be worth the trouble of getting it inspected.

I've spent so much time on this search for a new car that I'm losing all perspective, so I really appreciate the advice. This has already been useful.
posted by TayBridge at 12:28 AM on October 5, 2008

No, you're not going to quickly teach yourself enough about cars to effectively inspect it yourself. Neither is flying your own mechanic up there a great option, because many parts of the car are difficult to inspect unless the car is on a lift. Sports cars are too low to the ground to crawl under.

The website for NPR's Car Talk show has a mechanic finder, complete with reviews. Start dialing.
posted by jon1270 at 4:02 AM on October 5, 2008

Fly up to SF for less than a hundred. Get it checked out. Most likely you're going to buy it. Enjoy the glorious drive down the Pacific Coast Highway on a glorious fall day in your glorious new dream car.
posted by ruwan at 7:31 AM on October 5, 2008

Yamato auto on Pine between Franklin and Gough is probably the best garage I've ever used. If you don't believe me, check the reviews on yelp. http://www.yelp.com/biz/yamato-auto-repair-san-francisco
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 7:53 PM on October 5, 2008

« Older If parent transfers house to me, how can I get...   |   IS there a way to password protect one app from... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.