RE: EBAY experiences -- want to talk about it?
I recently bought a 1987 300TD off eBay, and the experience was bittersweet. The guy lived too far away for me to inspect the car beforehand. He sounded honest, and answered my questions truthfully. He did not, however, reveal anything I did not ask him about. I used "Buy It Now" at $4500 to close the deal. It is white, Palamino interior with 270,000 miles. It looked real sharp in the photos, and several negative things were mentioned in the listing that did not seem like more than I could manage. I had my parents pick it up, and drive it to their favorite MB mechanic.
The mechanic drove it for a couple of weeks, did the brakes, rotors, transmission shifting, other mickey mouse issues, etc. Fixed an overheating problem in the Aux Fan relay, but it still smoked quite a bit. A couple of days before I was to fly in and drive it home, it blew a head gasket. (I gave them permission to drive the car to run errands and pick up customers, etc)
They quoted me $1000 in labor to replace the head gasket (plus parts). It took me a week to decide. He got the head back and the shop would not mill it -- it had been milled down too far already -- it was useless. I poked around the net for a used one, but in the end, decided to drop a low mileage salvaged engine into it. I found a 70K mile engine from a 1987 300D for $2500 (complete with turbo, injector pump, etc). The mechanic said he'd only charge me $600 to drop another motor in.
By the time I had paid all the bills and drove it home, I had spent $9000 and four months had passed. The car spent its whole life in Huntington Beach, California. A coastal beach town. There are tiny spots of rust dotting the whole car here and there - which makes sense resulting from the salty climate. It will need a paint job before I can say its really nice.
It drives like a dream. I have been enjoying cleaning window switches, fixing the sunroof, and making minor repairs to the vehicle. After much apprehension, my wife is finally coming around and enjoys driving our new "family car."
I have two kids, 3 and 5 years old. We were looking at a minivan before deciding on a W124 wagon. Boy are these hard to find. It seems like only once a month, or so, one pops up on eBay. And I wanted one within driving distance of my home. This one took me 10 hours to drive home, but I enjoyed it, bittersweet as the experience has been.
If I had to do it over? I wouldn't. Not unless I can inspect the car beforehand. I must admit, though... I now have a LENGTHY list of questions I would ask the NEXT buyer about a car. Last time I counted, the list was up to 75 questions. This is a white car. The entire inside of the engine compartment is black with a greasy film. A film, I have come to understand, that comes from vaporized oil (oil steam) resulting from a head gasket blowing. I inspected the old engine that was pulled. The entire engine was black and dirty as one would expect from an engine with 270,000 miles on it. Except, the cylinder head was clean and shiny. If I had seen this when inspecting the car, I would have known it blew a head gaket at least once. And with a shiny head and still smoking, that would be a real indicator of a problem.
The owner I purchased from (owner #2) only owned the car for a year, and put 2000 miles on it (via Carfax). It is unclear if he had anything to do with its history. But with this newer motor in it, I am not sure it matters anymore (not to the car, anyway) [:)]
The power of judgement when inspecting a car firsthand is not to be underestimated. I can now see all kinds of things wrong with this car that would have factored in to my decision to buy, and for which amount.
Before this experience, my opinion about buying a car over the Internet was that it was a risky and foolish thing to do. I am kind of embarassed when I share this story with my friends. I lowered my standards because I really wanted one of these cars, and now I am paying for it.
This mechanic, Hans himself, Hans Imports of Huntington Beach, taught me an interesting thing. He said "Have them [the prospective eBay seller] bring the car to me [for inspection]. An honest man will welcome the confirmation that the Mercedes he is selling is well maintained and honestly represented."
I have since called this mechanic on several occasions, and he has taken the time to explain various DIY repair procedures to me, expecting little in return. My wife, however, has baked him cookies... And sent him Apricot preserves on another occasion.
At least I made a friend along the way.