...2 missing pages from a Carfax came back to bite me in the ass.
On December 9, 2015, I became the proud driver of a 2000 BMW 528i. My parents had taken over the whole process of purchasing the car to surprise me with an early Christmas present, and now sitting in front of me was this Titanium Silver masterpiece with a slightly misaligned right grille.
The bimmer (which was the only name I ever gave it) became my ultimate possession, and I can remember the excitement of finally sitting in that black leather driver’s seat and gripping the steering wheel with an unparalleled confidence. There were a few cosmetic issues along with the grille which I eventually replaced, most notably some tears in the door sills and the letter ‘i’ missing from the badging on the back of the car. It always read ‘528,’ which irked me even to the last day of ownership. Nevertheless, it was a 15-year-old BMW, and I expected it to be imperfect. That’s what made it so unique to me to begin with. It was my source for straight-6 bragging rights, and I appreciated finally having comfortable means for personal transport.
The first few months of driving were pure bliss. I was always excited to read that the odometer was below 100,000 miles, and because of that, compared to the state of the few other E39s I saw on the road, I felt like that gave me some sort of status. Little did I know that things were slowly heading south.
It started when the brake light came on intermittently and my driveway became peppered in dark wet spots. I surmised that maybe I was leaking fluid, but what did I know? I was a new driver.
A few days later I figured I should bring it in to a local shop that specializes in servicing European cars. The analysis? There was an indeterminable problem with one of the brake sensors and I needed to replace the oil pan gasket and valve cover. The bimmer was leaking. Everywhere.
Of course, it was a dated BMW. The repair and labor costs were brutal, but the sensor never got repaired. The orange glow that read ‘BRAKE ABS’ still haunts me to this day. I have chills just thinking about it.
Then, several more months later, I got sideswiped a few times by the dreaded EML light and felt the bimmer struggle to make it to the end of my block. I knew, as I jostled around in the wood-paneled cabin, that this couldn’t be expected from such a low-mileage E39, at least for the amount of time it had been around on the road.
Following nearly two years of these problems and about 7,000 miles of travel under my belt (I didn’t get out much except for school), I persuaded my parents to consider helping me lease a newer car. I test drove a Civic, an Accord, and even a C-Class before I ended up on the doorstep of my local Ford dealership.
The ease of the process leading me to the 2017 Mustang V6 I drive today was fantastic, and when I realized I might actually end up with a pony by my side, one of the sales representatives dealt me a mighty blow.
“Everything checks out for the trade-in,” said the woman regarding the bimmer, looking concerned, “but have you ever taken a good look at the Carfax?”
I looked at my parents with the most peculiar face, and we all nodded our heads. We did in fact look at the Carfax back in 2015, and we saved all the documentation. It turned out that the people who sold my parents the bimmer left out a couple of pages detailing extra service records in Georgia, and the fact that the odometer had been set back from nearly 157,000 miles to 91,000.
We were all taken aback, sitting in these comfy chairs within this polished dealership with the deer-in-the-headlights look on our smug faces.
“Well that explains it,” I whispered. At least they gave us $1500 towards the overall trade-in, probably out of pity for my parents’ poor purchasing decision.
But screw the bimmer now. She’ll barely make $400 at auction if she hasn’t been sent to the scrapyard in tatters already. At least I fixed the grilles, right?
The moral of the story? Never misjudge a Carfax, and always question the dealer. Also, for the love of all that is good and holy, do yourself a favor and get yourself behind the wheel of a Mustang someday.