Trying to dodge a bad buy
On our budget, being a cheapskate helps.
Six weeks ago, Linda bought a new front door for the house, but last week she returned it. “I got $430 back,” she crowed.
Linda’s been talking about buying a horse and a Baldwin grand piano for ten years. We could afford both. We really could. But when it comes down to it, Linda won’t pony up.
This summer I’ll sharecrop 400 honeybee hives up by Steamboat. This is a huge expansion of my beekeeping operation, and I’ll need a truck. I started shopping for a 1995-99 one-ton Dodge diesel long-bed with a stick. I knew what I wanted. I initially budgeted $15,000, but Linda immediately put up a squawk.
“Ed,” she exhorted, “You don’t know how this summer is going to work out for you. Fifteen thousand dollars! Trucks don’t appreciate in value, you know.”
Normally we drive beaters, but I wanted a reliable truck. I’ll haul bees with it, and the last thing I need is a breakdown on the road with bees on board.
I don’t like to kick tires, so we use Jeff Weiss, a car buyer in Boulder. He visits two auctions a week and comes up with some good deals. You tell him what you want, and he’ll buy it for you wholesale, plus his fees. He knows the market, and he’ll buy a vehicle on your word alone, over the phone. I trust the guy, and this is the way I like to do business.
After I told Jeff I could go $13,500, plus fees and taxes, Linda went ballistic. I called Jeff back and told him to drop it to $10,400, which would bring my bottom line to around $12,000. Silt beekeeper Paul Limbach said he’d build me a custom flatbed for under $1,000, but I decided to leave this off budget, in order to buy as much truck as I could get away with.
At first I thought I had Linda convinced, but the problem was, Jeff couldn’t find any Dodges in my price range, and time was running out. Paul said that after March he wouldn’t have time to build me a flatbed. I expanded the search to Fords, but still no luck.
When I mentioned to Linda that Paul was unloading his old bee truck fleet, she said, “Well, why don’t you buy one of those?”
I said, “He’s selling them because he’s tired of spending money to repair them. That’s exactly what I don’t want.”
Linda said, “Well, just because you spend $12,000 for a truck doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay to fix it, too.”
Paul’s 1983 4WD flatbed Ford has a new automatic transmission, new tires, and 40,000 miles on a rebuilt 460 engine. The sign in the window read “$2,500.” The cab on the driver’s side is creased like the truck’s been tipped over. Paul had thoughtfully removed all of the empty pop cans, hunting regulation books, fishing gear, bee veils, coveralls, and leftover lunches from the cab. When we got out of the car for a closer inspection, I groaned, but Linda said, “That’s a good looking truck. And hey, the price is right.”
I’ve been married long enough to know what my real options are. Paul agreed to come down $200, and we sealed the deal over the phone.
As Linda, Paul and I walked down Paul’s driveway to get the title, I said, “How’s your new ’97 Dodge working out?”
Paul said, “The transmission went out two weeks after I bought it, and it cost $3,700 to fix.”
Linda looked at me knowingly. “See?” she said, “You were smart not to buy a Dodge.”
Peach Valley beekeeper Ed Colby likes the country between Meeker and Steamboat Springs. Ed’s e-mail: email@example.com.
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