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When a GREAT Deal on Craigslist Turns out to Be Only a Good Deal

Last week I posted about my newly bought Craigslist beater truck. I thought it was a steal for $700. Turns out the money I saved has to go into the truck after all...

For the past week, I’ve been carefully going over my new purchase in my spare time. I started with simple things. I filled the fuel tank on the way home. I replaced the FILTHY air filter. The inside of the coolant tank was cruddy, so I removed and cleaned it, rendering the fluid level visible once again. I also changed the engine oil and greased the front end components. Monday, the extended holiday weekend was finally over, allowing me to transfer the title and register the truck for road use.


Unfortunately, the cheap Valucrap battery failed to start the truck after just one weekend of sitting. So I removed it, checked the water level (good), and let it trickle-charge overnight. The next morning, the charged battery fired the truck right up, but failed to pass a load test. So it gets replaced, along with the rusty battery tray underneath it:

High on the priority list is tires and an alignment. Upon closer inspection, it became clear that trying to get away with just two tires for now would be a bad idea. So I took it in and bought four. During mounting/balancing, I asked the shop to give the truck a basic inspection while it was on the lift. I have a laundry list of things to do to it, but it seemed wise to put another set of eyes on it to see if there’s anything I missed.

The front end was found to be loose in several spots. Before an alignment can be performed, new tie-rods and pitman/idler arms must be installed. That’s nearly $300 for quality parts, but that’s not all they found. The fuel tank has a slow leak, periodically dripping that precious petrol. Now I’ll be damned if I’m putting an old pump in a new tank, so there goes another couple hundred bucks in parts alone. Good thing I’ll be doing the wrenching myself to avoid labor costs.


So it’s looking more and more like $700 may have been a fair price after all, rather than a fantastic bargain. I’ve already spent more on fixing up the truck than I did on the purchase price, and I’m not done yet.


So what do you do when a great deal becomes merely a good deal... or worse? You can give up on it, and put it back on Craigslist until it becomes someone else’s problem. Or, you can see it through.

When you intend to keep a vehicle for a long time, you can ease the pain of expensive parts by reminding yourself how much trouble-free mileage you stand to get out of them. Buying tires? Compare the up-front cost to the tire’s treadlife expectancy. Buying a battery? Pay attention to the number of months it claims to last.


When you invest in a vehicle, it’s not always about resale value. Let yourself enjoy it. Appreciate the difference your repairs make. Remember how crappy it was before you touched it. You may just find yourself saying, “this car’s getting better all the time!”

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