Buying a Vehicle in Oz

Buying a Vehicle in Oz

 

I did my research, some anyway, before leaving the States. My plan was to buy a vehicle in Sydney. I was moving to Batemans Bay, a town of 17,500. There are little towns scattered along the coast, but otherwise it is rather isolated. Canberra is two hours away, with a population of about 400,000, and Sydney is about four hours away, with a population of about 5 million people. I had read in a couple places that the Sydney suburb of Parramatta head a relatively high concentration of used car lots, so I decided to stay around there. It would have been nice to see the sights of Sydney, but, hotel rooms would cost much more, without parking or internet, generally, except for the very expensive places, $300 a night or more. I also knew I would be spending my time looking for a truck. After many hours of searching while still in the States, I found an Ibis that offered, at least theoretically, free internet (see Religion of Misinformation…..stating “free,”  in one place, “fee-based” in another, on same website), free parking, and a room during the weekdays of $79.00 night, close by in Wentworthville. Side Note: I went to downtown Wentworthville. It seemed to be about 90% East Indian. It had already been my impression that Ozzies rarely look you in the eyes when passing by in public, but I had more stares there than I knew what to do with. I went into the grocery store. It was 99.9% East Indian.

When I signed in for the free internet, all I saw was the one hour listed for free, and the whole day or by the hour, for a fee. After about 30 minutes, I signed off to go eat dinner, hoping to utilize the other 30 minutes afterwards. Of course I could not utilize those 30 minutes, as the time ticked away despite my not being on the internet (___for more on the 20th C internet and phone usage n Oz, see “internet.”) I tried using my code to sign in again, all to no avail. Staff had already left for the night. The next day the manager told me I could get internet free for the day, which is there, in the small print, behind the big buttons offering paid internet access, but at that point, I needed to transfer money in my bank account, so I paid the $15 to use what I thought was a more secure sign-in. I am not sure if paying is more secure, but I had heard it was and went that route. A little research shows me that I am probably wrong on this matter. The most important thing is to try only using pages that have https, with the “s” not just http whenever you can, especially anything financial or otherwise sensitive.  Here’s one link that discusses it a little, with links from there to other sites discussing the issue.

http://ask-leo.com/can_hotels_sniff_my_internet_traffic.html

 

I did get a couple channels on the TV, and settled in for some reruns of the Partridge Family. My first day was spent setting up a bank account, visiting our dog Smorse in quarantine, in Eastern Creek, about 20 minutes from Parramatta, then getting the motel room in Wentworthville. For those unfamiliar with Ibis, it’s an international chain of hotels that offer very scaled down rooms at a low cost. Typically they are quite minimalist, a bed, maybe a TV with very limited channels, a very small bathroom, and that’s it. Likely no refrigerator, coffee maker, iron, and the rooms are rather small. These rooms are definitely meant for sleeping and little else, but they are also usually quite clean, for instance no carpet, and other materials in the room hard surfaces, easy to clean.

TIP: Unless you move immediately into a home with a phone line for internet access, get yourself a 3G or 4G computer stick as soon as you can. Go to Telstra, buy the cheapest stick available ($60 as I write this, with 2GB of data).  (See_____ internet,  still to come).

 

 

Day 2 I began my search. Primarily, initially, I only went to places where I found an ad for a used 4WD online, rather than just walk random lots. My favorite was one at Heartland Motors in Parramata on Church Street. I liked the truck, but didn’t drive it saying I wanted to look at other trucks on other lots and not drive until I narrowed my search down some more. I am not sure about this strategy. Although this might give an impression of having mixed interest, when you come back, it may be a sign of having more interest than you want to let on. Also, it is just easier logistically to go for a drive then and there, assuming you don’t need to leave your keys or credit card with them, which they don’t return to you until you’ve spent two hours getting the run around, a technique common in the States. I went to a few places in Oz, and no one played those games with me. Take a drive, drive away. You rarely run into the higher pressure salesman anywhere, be it walking through the mall, or going into a store. If anything you are bound to hear a “no worries” when you walk out without purchasing anything.  That could imply there could have been something to have worries about, the not buying something, but in this case, it does not feel that way.

 

TIP: One thing about Gumtree.com and carsales.com. Many listings are categorized as “private,” but after you call the number, you find out it is a dealer. I didn’t like that bit of deception, as they can easily check the “dealer” category box. You will see many of the same vehicles for sale on both sites, but it is probably worth going to both to make sure you don’t miss something. The truck I eventually bought was listed on Gumtree, from a private sale. I’ve read tips that suggested it is better to buy a vehicle from a dealer as you get a three month warranty with it, the “Used Car Statutory Warranty.” Believe me, you want to know the specific words. Australians are known for their wordplay, giving everyone nicknames, rhyming new words, such as yank, rhymes with Septic tank, so Americans are “Seppies,” but, there is the dark side, as you will see. You don’t get that warranty buying privately, nor buying a  “commercial vehicle” from a dealer, and they call trucks, even relatively small pick-up trucks, commercial vehicles. I had to find that out myself by searching NRMA and Fair Trading websites. (_____TIP____). Heartland conflated that issue with a warranty program called AWN which I will get to, but they did not offer that tidbit of information that trucks are commercial vehicles and not automatically guaranteed. My questions were met with answers such as “Look, we want to sell a vehicle that runs, the government makes us warranty vehicles for three months,” not advising me once that the truck I was looking at would not be covered by the government required warranty, but saying it would be covered for “three years” with the AWN. Also, at first, they told me the price was 18K. When I pointed out that the listed price in the ad was for 16K, he said it was, but it was 18 with the warranty. Side Note: I’m using the word “truck,” but in Oz such trucks would be called “Utes,” for utility vehicle. This is used to denote, basically, anything with a bed. I actually do like the term when applied to trucks with an open, larger, flat bed, and even when applied to the “El Camino” type cars that are still very popular here. I really dislike having my awesome Rodeo truck (not the one in this story, but you already saw that coming…) in the same category as a Ute. You want to talk 20th Century, that’s it in a nut-shell, they still drive El Camino’s!

 

So I left to look at other 4WDs. One place only had 4WDs, but the ones in my price range, under 20K, were far in the back literally behind about 20 other trucks, most of which would have to be driven out onto the street to get to them in order to test drive. Space in this wide, open country is truly at a premium   (___see Space____). Instead, I just had him run them there, and checked for smoke in the exhaust, the sound while revving it, putting on the AC, etc…One had all flat tires, another lots of rust. Possibilities still, but it made the one at Heartland look very good. I went to another place, and no, that 4WD was already sold, but they had some 2WD trucks. No thanks. I went to another lot, they had one priced over 20K. I knew what I wanted, and I wanted to move fast, so I went back to Heartland. Albert was busy, so a younger guy, Jason, took me out in the truck. Jason was a good salesman for his age. He found out I was a psychiatrist, and asked for advice on being a better salesman, a somewhat discreet form of flattery. I told him about “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and unless a consummate actor, I think he had never heard of it. In any case, I did not trust him about the 4WD. The truck ran very well, handled well. I was pleased, until I tried to put it into 4WD. I had never driven a 4WD, so didn’t fully know what to expect. Two things stood out: One, a figure of 4 wheels lit up on the dash. It blinked, rather than staying lit, and then it would disappear while the truck was supposedly still in 4WD. It gave me the impression that it blinked to indicate the change into 4WD, and turned off since its job of indicating this was done. Secondly, I did not feel the truck engage any differently, or drive any differently. I had assumed one would feel a certain pull or so. I asked Jason about it, and he said most definitely the 4WD had engaged, he had 4WD himself and could tell this; implying I was too much of an idiot to tell that it had gone into 4WD. Of course we were in the middle of a concrete jungle and unable to test it on dirt or sand, or even go uphill. Australia not having space for shoulders apparently, there was no place to even test it out by making U-turns or so. (see____about the lack of space in Australia____). If I were to buy a car from a private individual I would get a mechanic to inspect it. I was assured that because they were a dealership, they were required to have an inspection, and showed me the sticker on the car revealing an independent company had done an inspection. So then, I did something really stupid. I put down a $500 deposit. It was after 5PM by this time, they were closing, and I wanted to start my life in Batemans Bay as soon as possible. Little did I know how long it would take for EVERYTHING, and that this was a mistake. I asked about an inspection report, “sure, will get that to you mate.” And my concern about the 4WD, “Look mate, we aren’t gonna sell you a 4WD that doesn’t work. We are required to provide a warranty (not on this vehicle conveniently left out).” He then proceeded to hand me the AWN brochure, the Australian Warranty Network, saying, look, this warranty is not just the three months, but for three years. Anything breaks down, you are covered.” The lies were just getting started, but, I was stupid (it occurs to me, as a suggestion, that it may be a good idea not to make a deposit when you are still jet-lagged… not that that would help my decisions…). However, I was aware of the three month warranty the government mandated, and thought my truck would be covered, that’s why I was at a dealership and not going privately to begin with, knowing I would likely spend more money for better assurances. They did nothing to clarify that issue for me, and in fact, muddied it by saying “who wants only three months, get this one for three years.” Don’t fall for it! Hindsight is not always 20/20, sometimes it’s a sledgehammer upside the head!

 

So then back to the motel. I had been told at both ends, (Chase, and Westpac) that an online wire transfer would be immediate. This is not at all true. I know the people telling me this meant well, but one must wait for approval from their international wire transfer department. I eventually spoke to them on the phone, so now I know. Also, the exchange rate for Chase is not provided when you are making this transfer online, something I did not at all like. I started digging, and it looked like there were other ways to do it online, possibly saving some money, going through a third party, eg., “www.ex.com.”

http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/convert/?Amount=1&From=AUD&To=USD

 

Ultimately, it didn’t look like a very huge savings, and going with a third party made me nervous, however with more time to investigate this, it may be something worthwhile. So I wrote some emails to the Chase international department, and then spoke to someone. I was told that they provide “The going Foreign Exchange Rate” and a $40 transaction fee, but no transaction percentage fee, say like you might have on a balance transfer between credit cards or so which is why I went with Chase in the first place. I don’t know enough about this topic to even know if there is such a thing as an internationally recognized exchange rate determination authority. At least, I could not find anything online in my modest attempt to figure this out that helped.  However, the fed does publish exchange rates, possibly once a week, here is a link

 

http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h10/current/default.htm

 

The emails from Chase gave me the rate they were using that day, and this rate was higher than the fed rate. So no fee, but they use a higher exchange rate, seemingly getting their profit that way. Their advertising, emails, and conversations are therefore, apparently, misleading. I was worried that in making the transfer you could not see the actual dollar comparison, US to AUS, but you do, after you put in the amounts but before you submit it, and you can calculate the rate going backwards then before you submit. However, there was another problem I was not aware of, in fact, unintentionally, I am sure, told there was no limit ( at least per the money in my account). You can only exchange 20K.  Therefore, I would soon be spending another $40 to transfer more money later. That may be something else to factor in when looking at another transfer company, like, possibly ex.com. In any case, this would be enough to cover the truck. That was Wednesday night. Thursday, I checked, no exchange yet. I went back and forth, slipping my U.S. SIM card in, then my Oz SIM card in to make calls to different countries. It’s a pain but works. I called my bank in Prescott to see if they could do anything to speed up the process, but they couldn’t I just had to wait. Friday morning, still no exchange.

Now, I also spent quite a bit of time researching 4WDs, Holden Rodeos, the AWN, Fair Trading laws, insurance, registration, and inspections. I was glad not to have bought the truck, glad for the delay in the transaction, because I was having more questions. On Thursday when I spoke to Heartland about my money not having transferred yet, I again voiced my concern about the 4WD, saying I had read up on it, and that the indicator light should only blink for a second or so during the transition, and then should stay on without blinking when the 4WD was engaged. One had to make the change in neutral, and it would engage when putting it in gear. They gave me Albert who swore he just drove it the other day and that the 4WD was fine. I told him it didn’t seem to be fine now, could he drive it again and let me know what was going on with the 4WD.

I didn’t like what I had read online, but thank God for the internet because I would not only be stupid, but ignorant too, and that would suck! The blinking indicator light seems to most likely indicate a malfunction somewhere along the 4WD engagement process, problems with the solenoid and differential being mentioned the most. I see that this differential was especially a problem in Rodeos year 2006 and before, but it doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem with the 2007 model. I did look for other 4WDs, but as for Rodeos, only those 2007 and above.   I also noticed some discrepancies in the reports I find. Like a “Carfacts” check in the States. You can run one in Oz.

 

I used carhistory.com.

 

They put down a different license plate, and 10,000 fewer kms, but maybe both were simple mistakes. The serial number matched and that was the important thing.

I looked more closely at the AWN brochure.

http://www.australianwarrantyproducts.com.au/vehicle.html

Click on the “Advantage” picture/program.

They break down repairs into about 18 categories, and within each category list about 6 or 7 things covered and not covered. This leaves A LOT of room for unknowns, basically addressed by a line about not every situation can be addressed, or something to that effect.  Oh, here it is, in very small print:

 

“AWN has an absolute discretion as to whether it will or will not pay a claim that falls within the Warranty Terms and Conditions and Limitations. Although the discretion is absolute, AWN will not exercise that discretion in a way that is unfair and unconscionable,”

 

They “only” cover what is listed in the brochure, so there is in truth no “more” to see, despite for instance seeing the big words, “Sample” and seeing elsewhere words such as “full…”, wait, why not their own words.. , here their own words, again,

 

This document is for information purposes only. For full Product Disclosure Statements and coverage details, please refer to the Terms, Conditions, Limitations and Exclusions of the Warranty, by contacting your local AWN Authorised Agent.

Such a load of crap! Read the fine print!

There are an overwhelming number of complaints online about AWN, with only a few good comments.

 

 

I show up at Heartland Thursday at 11AM, since no one ever calls me back, for instance to tell me what they found out about the 4WD. I find out they should have an inspection report, and ask to get a copy. I wait for over an hour, no report. They call the mechanic who runs the inspection business they use, and he can’t find it. (I had already called them, when I found out it was my right to do so. Typically these reports come with a report number too. They couldn’t find it, and the inspector couldn’t recall that one was done. I looked at the other cars on the lot, and most had the same sticker on it, that they had been inspected so I felt like this aspect was legit. I took pictures of the sticker on the other cars just in case I had to fight this thing legally, and a picture of the sticker on the truck I put a deposit on. If they were lying about this many inspections, I would think they would get into trouble, as opposed to falling back on an excuse of making a mistake just once on this truck. The phone calls go back and forth between Heartland and the inspection company. Well over an hour later, a report is “found.” Although suspicious, it does list that there was a leak of automatic transmission fluid. Still, no one on the lot has driven the truck to check out the failure of the 4WD, and Albert occasionally drops by, making statements, such as, yeah, I’ll give it a drive, weren’t no problem the other day.”

 

Over the next couple of days I would hear more lies and unfulfilled promises than I could count. Of course they play the worker merry-go-round; this one talks about the car on the lot, this one takes you for a drive, this one gets you to sign a contract, this one gets you to sign a check. That way they can all claim ignorance about things they don’t want to talk about. Rory tends to deal with me at this point more than the others. He must have said at least twenty times: “Look, no worries mate. You’ve got the three year warranty. It covers EVERYTHING.” I very politely point out that even in the brochure he handed to me, there were many things specifically excluded, including the differential, which might well be the problem here. “Oh, no, there is no problem with the differential,” he is sure it works just fine, never, ever, acknowledging that the warranty excludes things. After watching him evade this issue four or five times, I draw attention to his evasions. “Look, can’t you admit that even this brochure excludes things.” Even then, he evades, “What do you want? What is it you want? There is no way we would let you drive off the lot with a car that wasn’t running right.” “OK, but you still didn’t acknowledge that what you keep saying is blatantly untrue.”

I read the report. Because of the fluid leak, I ask Rory if that has been fixed. “Of course it has mate, we wouldn’t…”

Rory had given me the number for the inspector before I showed up, because I asked what assurance could he give me this guy wasn’t just a friend of is splitting profits for selling lemons.  His name was Theo, and he promised to come out around noon to look at the car. He couldn’t find a report, and thought that probably it had not been inspected. “Huh,” I thought! I research Theo’s business while I am in Rory’s office, on my phone. (Get a 3G stick, with Telstra, and use your computer, or ipad…I had a smart phone, a Droid 2 Global, but used Optus, and got kicked off so many times, or it froze up…but, I liked what I saw. Vehicleinspections.net.au is their website. I looked at a few with very similar names. If you search without the “s” only vehicle inspection, you go to a .com site, which is different. More important though is that you can go to the MTA website

http://www.mtansw.com.au

Motor Traders’ Association of New South Wales

and see that this business, Automotive Vehicle Inspections, is a member. I am too unfamiliar with Australia to vouch for this organization, but they have been around for many years, since 1910. It seems more like a board, say like, a Board of Medical Practitioners for physicians.

I do also see his businesss is with IAME, but this looks more like a trade organization, say, like the American Medical Association, so I have less assurance that this membership means much.

http://www.iame.com.au

I see his ACN/ABN numbers, basically license numbers on the ABN site:

http://abr.business.gov.au

 

 

Theo is on his way over he tells Rory. I finally get Jason in the car, no one else would bother, and show him how to check for the 4WD engaging. I had actually read online of different ways to check for this: One, you should feel it, two, the wheels will slide if you turn, as the inner tires cover less ground than the outer tires, but they turn the same, and so must slip, although this may be difficult to notice if you aren’t driving on loose dirt. Fortunately I had driven in a couple Rodeos since with a very easy tell. Put in into the low gear 4WD, not the high 4WD. It makes a higher pitched sound easily discernible when you put it in gear. Also, the indicator light stays on, and doesn’t blink.

 

These things did not happen with this truck, so I was able to finally have them admit it was a problem.  The inspector, Theo, came out to take a look. I made sure to be there, showing up two hours early in case he was unethical, and pretended to take a look and give it a pass. In any case, more than any of my background checking, what was most important was my being there when he got there, and my trusting how candid he was about the problems with this truck. He saw that the transmission fluid was still leaking, and had me get under the truck to see it for myself. He checked the level and it was low. Later Albert would tell me that the truck was not running when he checked it, which would give a false low reading, and I don’t remember if it was running at that very moment, but I know it was running most of the time as they were trying to get it to engage 4WD. The inspector then said that Holden had built in a failsafe mechanism that blocked the 4WD from engaging when the transmission fluid was low to protect the engine. OK, so Albert drives it himself  to a Holden mechanic shop to fix it, acting all huffy something like this could happen on his watch, and he would stay there and watch them all night if he had to so that it would “be ready tomorrow to take it back with you.”

 

I had looked at more trucks, including going to “Car City.” This is a very interesting concept. It’s out a ways, but may be worth a look. There are a number of used car businesses, all sharing the same very large lot. I like the idea that they are literally jammed right up against one another, and are in competition with each other. I saw only one truck that I liked. The salesman was also the owner, somewhat young, setting up his own car lot there, and a mechanic himself. Therefore he did everything himself. He thought that any warranty program was a scam, not saying AWN, but I didn’t know what other ones were out there. He also said the three month warranty was useless. I think maybe he said that because the truck was a commercial vehicle, and therefore not covered. I said I would want to bring the car to an inspector, or have an inspector come out to take a look if I didn’t buy this other truck at Heartland. He didn’t outright say no, but thought that would be a waste of money, “they’re all a bunch of crooks, those inspectors, can’t trust them.”

 

 

So, Friday morning, my money had not yet been transferred. Apparently “they” process them at midnight, Pacific time, I think, so it should be ready at 6PM my time.  I check at 8PM, not there. I check at 11PM, not there. At this point I am really thinking it is an easy fix to the truck, then on my way to Batemans Bay to start my year long adventure. Ha!

(am, still no money. 11AM, finally, money. I call Heartland (hate even writing that name, should be Blackheart….If you read this again, that might be it’s name….), car’s not there, but Albert will run over and get it, sure it’s been fixed by now…

I get a cashier’s check: Do not do this unless you are absolutely sure you will use it. It is extremely difficult to stop, and cost, I forget exactly, but $20 something dollars. I had to do this TWICE! Second time not my fault (read, moving into an apartment_____).

I fortunately had the receipt of the transaction. Without that, you could truly be screwed. There is nothing on the check to show it originated with you, from your account. There is a number, on your receipt and the check, that a teller has to run through headquarters, and then talk with someone else, and do a few other things. It easily takes 30 to 45 minutes to get this done. ALWAYS GET A RECEIPT FOR ANYTHING COSTLY OR OTHERWSE IMPORTANT! I hated that when I put my deposit down on the truck, the receipt listed the cost of the truck as 18K, and had nothing about the $2000.00 warranty being included. One could very easily not get a warranty, or go with the less costly warranties, say for $1000 instead. So how do you know? You don’t. I complained about this to yet another person at Heartland, and he said, “no worries, we just give that to you.” I didn’t like that, and asked, how would anyone know that that is what I am purchasing. “We know, we’ll give it to you.” I asked to have it written in the receipt, but he just shrugged it of, “look, I know you new here, but don’t worry about it.” I should have insisted, for my own comfort. (enter 21st C_______), but I felt I had already made a few efforts at such, and meekly caved in. Don’t cave in! In my conversations later with an AWN rep, he agreed that there is no place to include that on the receipt, or bill of sale, whatever…There can be a clue to it though______

 

I get there a little after noon. No, the cars not there, go have lunch and come back, it will be ready to go. I am of course suspicious, but try to remain hopeful. I come back an hour later, no car. Many phone calls, discussions, and delays, and finally a little more clarity.

 

 

Finally about 4:30 they tell me the problem is with a solenoid. I ask what happened with the transmission gasket.  I hear conflicting reports, Rory telling me the repairs have been done, but never produces a report for me, and Albert, saying there never was a transmission problem, even when I show him that on the inspection report that there is or was one. “How about just telling the truth. If it was fixed, wouldn’t there be a report, as the mechanic said, and if so, why not let me see it?” “Look, the problem is the solenoid, and they are fixing it.” They did at least admit that the mechanics would not be able to fix it this weekend, which was better than stringing me along, and wasting a whole long weekend waiting. It’s Australia Day, and a long weekend. Nothing is going to happen until Tuesday.

 

Also, because of my concern about the transmission, I hear again how the AWN covers EVERYTHING, and again point out it doesn’t. I had in the meantime spoken with someone at AWN and asked for more information, especially a more thorough list of what things are included and excluded, since the limited list provided left a lot uncertain. She said there was a booklet with the “comprehensive” list. I later asked Rory to see that booklet. It takes awhile, but he eventually finds one. The list of things included and excluded is exactly the same very limited list as in the brochure. AWN is a private company. Australia has quite a few government offices and programs, and the name, Australian Warranty Network, might suggest some sort of government authority, but nothing is further from the truth. The salesmen like to throw the word “government” out a lot in the same breath as “AWN” but there is no connection. If you are buying a vehicle in Australia, the best thing you could do is to check out NRMA. This is an insurance company, but very much like a consumer protection agency too. They have great tips, and explain the laws and consumer protections, besides offering car insurance. They don’t come out and say AWN is fraudulent, but they do say there are unscrupulous programs out there, offering certain warranties and other things, and one needs to be very careful and do research. I spoke with a couple people with NRMA, and no one could say a good word about AWN, but they would not come out and condemn it either, again, suggesting one does research. AWN wants to make money. How do they do this, insuring used cars against needing repairs? From what I can tell, in general, they don’t cover normal, expected wear and tear, but unexpected defects, and then of only certain parts. That means they make their money denying claims. They do have to occasionally make repairs, else they would obviously be fraudulent, and they and do have a network of mechanics they send you too. That is another critical issue. You have to go to one of their mechanics, not any licensed mechanic. If you are not in a big city, and you do consider AWN, call them to see if there are mechanics where you will live. I would suggest then calling those mechanics to check on the accuracy of that information.

 

 

 

I complain that I am still renting a car, paying hotel fees. Rory offers the use of one of their other cars for the weekend, and in the same breath, asks me for the check for the full amount of the cost of the truck, which I had, assuming once the gasket on the transmission was fixed, transmission fluid added, that all would be well. I told him he would not get a check until I could drive a truck that worked. He goes off on a rant about how they would never let me drive off the lot with a car that might break down on me on the drive to Batemans Bay. He plays up the personal sacrifice Albert made bringing the truck to the mechanic. I tell him, “So even though I spend 18 thousand on a truck, I shouldn’t expect it to be reliable enough to make a four hour drive, that that would be expecting too much, but, Albert is such a generous and sacrificing individual that he will do me the favor, maybe because I am just so special, do me the favor of making sure it won’t break down in the next four hours.” “Look mate, we won’t let that happen, and if something does, you got the warranty.” You’ve got to be kidding, but I am not. I withhold the check, he goes to Albert’s office.  Albert starts yelling in his office, then he comes in and starts yelling at me. “Maybe we have to part ways” he says. “Yes maybe we do, maybe we need to call this whole thing off” I say, calling his bluff, but he ignores both statements, “What’s the problem, I guarantee they will fix the solenoid….” I point out I still haven’t seen a report of the transmission fluid leak being fixed, so even if they fix the solenoid what about that. He denies that it ever was a problem. I point out the inspection report that lists the leak. “They looked at it, the level is fine. The transmission is not the problem.” I point out I saw fresh fluid, not old, on the pan. He tells me that was just because they had filled it with fluid, and some leaked down from the outside. (This seemed a pretty obvious lie, as there was no dirt in the fluid. Even the little driving I did should have caused dust and dirt to have been trapped, and he was telling me they filled it before I drove it, or the fluid should have have fallen off, or dried up.) I ask edto see a report that it was fixed, and that I want to see the report that the solenoid gets fixed. He then yells again, some of it I can’t understand. He recounted his heroic actions to make sure I drive out of there with a car that won’t break down immediately, says if I can’t trust him, that it is now personal, swears on the faith of his father that his word is true, and if that isn’t enough, he can “back them up with these,” pointing at his huge biceps, then lurches toward me, grabs my chest, pushes against my sternum saying, “you have to listen here, do what your heart tells ya mate,”  then walks away. Rory states he will give me a piece of advice, like he would for a good friend, “If Albert swears on the faith of his father, you can believe it.” I point out I have heard many lies, and that I have already pointed out these lies. I lecture him that trust is earned, but with their lies, they have earned my distrust. I point out they are complete strangers to me, I know nothing of his faith. I am tempted to add, something like, “For all I know he goes home and knocks his woman around a bit.” I hold my tongue and think before saying that, Albert could come in and kick my ass, and I am sure Rory, and probably others not even there that day would swear in court I threatened him and he was defending himself. I decide to hold my tongue. “Look, what do you want mate?” I tell Rory, “You aren’t getting a check.” “OK, we’ll call you when it’s fixed.”

 

 

I go back to Batemans Bay. I’m not really happy with anything I’ve seen in all of Sydney. I’m frustrated, and just plan to forget about vehicles for the weekend. The truck was to have been fixed by Tuesday. During the day Tuesday, no call. I don’t call either; I am test driving a Holden Rodeo with more features and fewer miles right there in Batemans Bay. Tuesday evening, I get a call from the Holden mechanic, “We found out the problem was the differential. What do you want us to do?” I am reminded of another conversation with Rory, his trying to convince me with another line of argument why I should trust them. “Look mate, I get a car that needs that much work, it isn’t worth it, I just get rid of it.” “Oh,” I say, “where do you get rid of it? Where does that kind of car go.” “What, I don’t know mate,” in an angry tone of voice, I think to myself, caught in yet another lie. I tell the mechanic it’s something he probably needs to talk to Albert about. What he does though, is give me Albert’s personal cell phone number so I can talk to him. I figure that was probably something he was not supposed to do. I call Albert, he seems a little surprised I have his number, but doesn’t make a big deal of it. “No worries mate, we’ll get it fixed for you tomorrow.” Wednesday comes and goes, no call, which suits me fine. I have now bought the truck right here in Batemans Bay. I worry about losing the five hundred dollar deposit, but even if I do, I more than made up for it buying this truck with 70 thousand fewer kms. I do plan on trying to get the deposit back though. The Fair Trading office lists some reasons for a contract to be broken, or other ways to get compensation for bad car deals. One is when the cost of waiting for the dealer to hold up their end of the bargain exceeds the deposit or other payments. I had a good case that hotel fees and car rental fees easily exceeded the deposit, and thought I would pursue that if necessary.

I get a call Thursday, the truck has been fixed. What do I want to do. I let them know I had to move on, that it was too long a wait, that I wanted my deposit back. “Alright, that’s too easy mate. We’ll send it right back.”

 

Briefly, the good news about the truck I bought. It was from a retired couple. I found the ad on Gumtree. I called his number, and within 30 minutes I was test driving the truck. Nice guy with a handlebar mustache. Somehow I think that means more than any amount of certification. I find out, after I buy it, that they had been trying to sell it for some months. I do a car check fact that night, it all checks out. I arrange an inspection, of sorts for the next morning. There are formal inspections, 180 point, 210 point inspections and the like, but I couldn’t get any of those done until Friday. This one mechanic said to bring it by, and he’d look at what he thought was important, for $35, and at 10AM. I show up at 9:45 AM, and he is finished. The seller brought it in an hour early. I did not like that at all. I specifically told the mechanic I wanted to be there when he did the inspection. He therefore showed me a few things, like wear on the suspension, but said he could not find anything of significance wrong with it. Definitely the 4WD works. I thought that was very weird to bring it in so early, but I do wonder if the seller had any clue how that might arouse my suspicions. In the bigger cities like Sydney, there are inspectors that will go out and look at a vehicle for you. The only thing I read in guidebooks was that it would probably be difficult to get an Australian to agree to your bringing a car in for an inspection, and no mention of the ones that go out, therefore suggesting more reliability at a used car dealer. In this case, that was not true, although going early was weird. Also, with what I have seen at many different used car lots (same slimy, icky bullshit you get in the States), and what I shared in detail here about Heartland, I would recommend in general going with a private individual as long as you get an inspection, and a better one than I did. There are independent inspectors, but the NRMA approves some shops to do inspections, and even though it is a few more dollars, all else equal, I would go that route. This truck is still running great over six weeks out. Also, if buying privately, absolutely check the car history. Get the VIN of the car itself, not just paperwork the seller might give you, although of course it should all add up. I went to http://www.carhistory.com.au and for $35 got all the relevant information. Otherwise, I won’t repeat what is excellent information on the NRMA site, and if necessary, the Fair Trading (not, Fair Trade) site.

 

 

 

 

_____get the car facts site_______

 

Three weeks go by, no check. I call the Heartland office. No answer, no voice mail or answering machine. Just that weird Australian thing of no sound for a long time, then cut off, nothing, no announcement, no new number, no annoying sound with a  message that the number no longer exists, nothing, as if aliens have taken over the world, cut off all communications, and you just haven’t found out yet. I pull out Albert’s personal cell phone and call. It sounded like he was just crying. He was in the hospital, with his father. He tells me they merged their car lot with the one in Castle Hill. I needed to call Castle Hill for the check. I wished him and his father well, and hang up. I recall his oath on his father’s faith. I call Castle Hill. Two weeks later a check arrives.

 

 

 

 

 

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