Why Cartalk rocks:

Hi all,

I have been bringing up a few cars for you to tell me about and advise me about before I buy.

Thank you all so much, especially Common Sense Answer; McParadise, OK4420, DOCKnick, and a host of other people, whos names are being missed but their contributions not forgotten.

I had posted a message, and in the replies, again, were reiterated the advice to buy something other than a Japanese econobox, with lower miles at the same price. Today, thankfully, I was able to do just that. After I posted on Cartalk, Docknick strongly advised me to go for a low miles small brand car rather than a high mile Jap. As I had been doing for the past month, I put ?Chevrolet Cobalt Manual? into craigslist and got a few hits. There was one which sounded pretty good. This was exactly as a poster on Cartalk had described; a senior lady, selling her rarely used car. I immediately called her and asked her about it. She said its for sale still. I asked her the VIN; she gave it to me shakily belying an inexperienced seller. I then ran an Autocheck report, score was higher than the range for similar vehicles of that year. She said its still available, and quoted me a cash price which was pretty low. I asked her what the deal was, and she said that she got divorced last year, and did not need a stick shift.

Immediately I called my friend up. There was no time to lose, especially at this price. ?In two years of me knowing you, I have never mentioned an emergency, if ever there is one, its now.? He said, fine, ?I’ll take you to her house,immediately?. I got on the bus, got off without paying the fare, and went to the nearest Chase bank. Got the cash out. Eyeballed 3 different immigrant types whom I thought were going to take my cash away. My friend was waiting from me in the car lot. I kept trying to call the lady to ensure that she allows me to see the car first. The repeated calling worked, and I arrived in a rough part of town at 630 pm. I was scared of keeping so much cash with me, especially since we had driven to a rough neighborhood.

A short diminutive lady came out of the house, barking dogs kept up a din. Hi, I’m from Rice University, I spoke to you over the phone etc etc. She said, yes here is the car. She got the keys from inside the house, and then she gave them to me. I said we are leaving our car here; and we took it for a test drive. The interior was in poor shape, it had been abused by her grandson. Cigarette ashes in a ash tray etc. I was a little disappointed. There was a ding in the side of the car, which seemed like it had come in recently. A piece of plastic from the side panel had broken and was hanging loose. I was disappointed. But, the months of looking up good deals on craigslist, and discussing them with a lot of people, that Samurai training kicked in and I thought: if this little guy is mechanically sound, I think I have a good deal for the money. I asked her if I could take the car for 15 minutes for a longer drive. She hesitated. Said ? my neighbors offered me the same price that you did, and there is one more person who is offering 500$ more; but you called me first. Now if you don’t like the car, it might not be the car for you, no problems? . I allowed for the fact that she was pretty senior, and a little eccentric. ?Ok ma’am, its a small request. 15 minutes of a drive? I and my friend took it to one place for a mechanic, didnt find it, another place; sorry Sir we’re closed. It was 615pm . A third Autozone mechanic was just coming out of his car. ?Can you please take a look?? ?Sorry Sir we’re closed. I need to do this immediately

because the deal is going go away?. ?Monday Sir?. ?Okay, why dont you just see the engine a little bit and see if everything looks alright?. ?What year?? ; ?2007?; ?what model??; ?Chevy Cobalt.? ?Is the check engine light on??. ?No, not at all?. ?Okay then?. The mechanic peered over the open engine bay. ?Its a new car, it doesn’t have any leaks, you wont have any problems. Chevys last till around 75000 miles without any trouble.?

?Brilliant? I thought to myself. Thank you so much, we had to get going to the old lady’s house.

Drove back. I saw the lady speaking on the phone with someone, telling them the vehicle number of my friends car. She was talking to the police since we had taken so long!

Well. We’re here ma’am. You shouldn’t have called the police etc…you had my number, you should have called me first. I lost it in my answering machine, she said. I was still befuddled by her sensibilities.

?Okay ma’am, I think I’ll buy the car?. ?Okay then? . She signed the title over, the registration was out, she gave me her registration mailer. A piece of paper served as the receipt. I paid her the cash, and she counted it out. I still have to go get her signature on form I 130 U and get the spare tyre, set of keys, and remaining receipts of maintenance.

I and my friend drove back along US 59 to Rice U. The sun was just setting. Orange hues pierced my eyes in congratulation. My first car was with me, and all was well with the world.

Gentlemen, I would not have been able to do this without your extensive, excellent, exhaustive support, and fantastic advice. I bow, say Namaste (I’m Indian) to you all. Thank you so much, for your help.

I bought the 2007 Chevy Cobalt with 23,000 miles on it, no accidents, one owner for a price well below kbb value.



Get a job…

Oh My Aching Eyes…paragraph it…geez I gave up after the 5th line

Some success stories don’t read perfectly. Good luck and change the oil immediately, if it isn’t too late already.

I read the first sentence and last sentence. Congrats.

If you want to me long winded make a summary paragraph(short version) in two - three sentences and if you feel typing put the long version after.

You’re Welcome And Congratulations! Good Job!

I can tell by the details how excited you are. It reads like my description of my first solo airplane flight, every detail etched in my brain.

You know, that’s how these deals almost always seem to go. You look and look and it’s a lot of work. (Finding a good, cheap car is much more difficult than finding an expensive, good car. Expensive ones often have warranty protection and a shorter history.)

When you are just about to give up (or “give in” to the wrong car), . . Wham! . . . a good deal jumps out of nowhere! You know it’s a good deal because you’ve looked at so many cheap cars! That’s all part of the difficult process. I always advise people to look for a while and learn the market.

When you get all set with this car and you’re driving it, let us know how everything is and maybe you’ll have more questions we can take shots at for you.

Good Luck,
Go Chevrolet!

Jees louise! Brevity is the soul of wit. Glad things worked out for you. Rocketman

Or better yet “excellence is the absence of excess” (someone else said it first).

Andrew, I had an adventure buying an in demand car that a lady sold to me for a low price. It was exciting to buy a car very quickly. I could not have done it , if I had not the experience of all the people who helped me on cartalk, for which I am very grateful. Thank you so much.

Whatever you do, don’t get a GOVERNMENT job…They are over-stocked with P.H.D’s now…

Thank you for taking the time to update us on how this board’s feedback helped you. One of the big complaints many contributors express in this forum is how the opening poster rarely provides feedback for how the advice given here helped (or hurt) them.

Even though I wasn’t one of the ones who helped you, it was refreshing to see your update.

Joe, I Concur. Also, I Would Like Continuing Updates From This Admittedly Novice Car Buyer. I’d Like To See How The Whole Experience Plays Out For Houstonrice.


I think the frequent posting of questions and the patient answers of experts here on Cartalk is very helpful for all and sundry. I shall be keeping people updated about my experience with the car that I bought.
I got the car for a low price, that gives me some money to put into it . It has not been kept in fine condition and the interior had a cigarette ash tray in it. That made the interior smell like cigarettes. Another defect was a broken plastic panel. When you open the passenger side door, just below the door, there is a plastic panel that keeps the carpet fixed. If you are sitting in the passenger seat, then this long piece of plastic is near your right foot in the door wall. This was broken and someone had tried to take it out. When I looked , I saw that someone had tried to get to the carpet area, and then when I tried to remove the carpet, I saw a little water below it. The carpet also had a few leaves on it, which did make me think that the car had been under water, but my feeling was otherwise.
I have removed the water from below the carpet; there are a few wires there also, and I do know what happens when that mixes; trouble that lasts for years. And the Cobalt electricals do leave much to be desired too, as I have heard. My car does not seem to have issues right now though.
I don’t think that its been flooded. Houston has been raining for a few days now with wild and torrential downpours that would have gotten rain and leaves inside the car if it was left open.
My UPDATED to do list looks like this:

1.Pass inspections. My handbrake is not locking. This is to be fixed un der warranty at Allen Samuels Chevy in Houston. I am going to buy two white light headlamps, and an Air Filter from Autozone and get Allen Samuels to replace the headlamps too. Tomorrow/Saturday, I shall leave the car there for several hours and have them do the above. I got the 21,000 miles service done today, changed the lube, Oil and Oil filter.

After the repair, I shall get the car inspected at Allen Samuels.

After that, they shall find the cause of that damned leak and fix it for me, such that the carpet does not get wet from the underside.

Check the levels of the transmission oil and brake fluid.

2.Get the Title transferred to my name: I have the receipt of purchase, and insurance (Geico; 170$ a month for full coverage {I don’t have a s Texas license yet, I have been driving in India since last 10 years (and that’s why I am used to, and like stick shifts) ; my plan is to buy 2-3 clubs and maybe a lojack; and then quit the full coverage}

4.Go do the tests for the License !

7.Get the registration when it runs out at the end of October.

8.Detail the interior of the car at a do it yourself car wash. The car smells like cigarettes from the inside. The service that the professional promised me cost 90$ and I believe I can do it myself.Allen Sam charges 120 for this.

At this low mileage you should only change the engine oil and filter and do the 24,000 mile checks (if indicated in the owner’s manual) and check all the fluid levels. You don’t need a dealer to do this. But keep all your receipts.

By all means dry out the car. A cheap hair dryer is very handy in helping this along. Also check the underside for any damage to the floor boards. The broken piece of plastic can be replaced with a piece from a wreck; cheap and no need to order one from a dealer.

I once bought a car from a smoker and it took about 6 months of driving to get all the smells out. Be patient.

P.S. The engine air filter probably needs replacing as well.

I read rather well, even in advanced age. I enjoyed your report, very interesting.

In fact, I at times also write like that.

Now the real learning comes. My joke is cars exist to take away the last bit of sanity our spouses don’t get. Heh, heh.

I doubt you will ever forget your first car.

Get books or take an adult ed course on car maintenance. A little maintenance goes a long way.

4.Go do the tests for the License !

Silly question based on observation: do you have a drivers license?

Good post irlandes; getting a sex education in North America is as important as becoming “car smart”. Some get the former, but woefully few get the latter! I advise every young person who gets his license to become car smart, and I often buy them an initial non-technical book on car ownership and care. Most appreciate the help.

Thanks all. I have a New Delhi License. In fact when I was in Albany, I was pulled over twice; once for making a perfectly safe, but illegal U turn. The other when I changed two lanes at once, again safely. Both times the officer did not ticket me because of the paperwork involved in ticketing someone from abroad.
I am not looking to experience that again, let it be clear too.

Thnkd Docnick, the air and fuel filter shall be changed. The dealer Allen Samuels is an inexpensive one, I have heard.

Still waiting for Common Sense to add some sense to my TO DO LIST.

Your car is relatively new, and if you read the owner’s manual you will very few real maintenance items at that mileage. The list you made up is too long already. North American cars need a lot less frequent maintenance than those in India, because of the very high labor cost in the US. The parts also tend to last longer.

I would not change the brake fluid or transmission fluid at this time yet. But have the LEVELS checked. Your mechanic will also check the brakes. Most likely they will be OK. And he will check th cooling system for both leaks and to make sure the coolant is the right strength. It gets very cold in Albany, NY at Chritmas time. Your coolant should be good to -30F at least.

Forget about getting more miles per gallon at this time. Those figures were arrived at in a laboratory, and do not resemble real world figures you and I may get. You may never achieve these figures. You also have to learn to properly measure your fuel consumption under different driving conditions. A manual shift Cobalt will not make you poor with its gasoline consumption.

I recently spent a few weeks in Delhi and had a super driver assigned to me. However, driving rules vary from counry to country and state to state. Please obey the Texas rules strictly, and don’t do anything illegal. It is illegal in most of Texas to have your cows wandering on a public road.

When you get your license and travel out of state you’ll find that in California you can actually make a U-Turn at a green traffic light, unless it says you can’t.

Docnick, glad to hear that you experienced the messy richness of India.

Thanks for the advice. I am pretty good with slow speed city driving; I need practise on the “continuous flow” type of highway traffic.

I updated my to do list and made it half of what it was. Should I get the title transfer done first or pass inspections first? I don’t trust the previous owner that much. I do trust the police to not ticket me because I just bought the car on Friday though, (I think)