Getting My Subaru
It has been just about a year
since I brought home my Subaru Outback. It turned out to be more of an adventure
than I planned on. It's about time I wrote down the story before I begin
to forget the details. I have needed a new trailhead car since my 1985 Plymouth
Horizon finally died. I had it for nearly 16 years. It was dependable and
worth so little I did not worry when I left it at a trailhead. I needed
a replacement and an all wheel drive Subaru Outback was my first choice.
The problem was that used Subarus are treated like they are gold plated
in the northwest. Six year old Outbacks with 90,000 miles were selling for
more than $10,000. That was too much for a trailhead car. New ones were going
for $23,000+ after tax and license. I leave a car at a trailhead fifty or
more times per year and I couldn't stomach the thought of a nice new car
being busted up or stolen. With this situation I did nothing at all for a
year after losing the Horizon. Then I came to an interesting realization.
First a little background is in order.
I am on the Internet all day long for work. I have
been since 1995 when the Internet was just starting to take off. I have become
a bit of an expert on getting ridiculously good deals online. I have purchased
hundreds of items through the Internet. I was not real early to use EBay
but I caught on to its amazing ability to find almost anything. During the
summer of 2002 I discovered that EBay Motors was beginning to take off. The
first thing I discovered is that east of the Mississippi River Subarus are
treated like any other used car. The price difference between east and west
was from 25-40% on the same car. With this in mind I began to follow the
auctions of Subarus. I bid on a few but was always aced out at the last second.
I did not "need" to get a car. I just wanted to get one if I could snag a
great deal. The worst case was a Subie in Fort Worth, Texas. I bid several
times and it was still cheap going into the final minutes. I had the high
bid and was scanning cheap airfares and planning the best route to drive
home. Long distance shipping to Seattle runs over $1,000 and with cheap airfares
I was determined to drive it home. Well, back to the Fort Worth car again.
I had my highest bid set to enter as the minutes counted down. With 50 seconds
left someone beat my bid. With 10 seconds left I entered my last bid. Success!
I was the high bidder. Then.... with 3 seconds left my bid was beaten by
$50. I went from very high to very low in 7 long seconds. What I discovered
is that dealers will come in at the end to pick up dramatically undervalued
I continued to bid and to lose through August, September,
October, and early November. It was getting so late in the year that I was
about to stop bidding until spring as I did not want to cross the country
in the middle of winter. At that point all the stars came into alignment.
I had missed out on a car outside of Philadelphia a few weeks earlier and
had done my homework on how to get there and get home. A listing came up
that met all my requirements. It was a 1997 red Outback with a manual transmission.
It had 101,000 mostly highway miles and one owner. CarFax confirmed one owner
and no accidents. The wholsaler who was selling had excellent feedback. The
final key was that the car came with a 6 month 9000 mile warranty. The final
oddity was that the auction was posted at 12:05 am pacific time or 3:05
eastern time. Auctions end at the same time that they are started. The dealers
would all be asleep when the auction ended. Looking on the Internet I found
the twin of this car on a nearby used car lot. It was the same year, same
color, also a manual, and was within 500 miles on the odometer. In Seattle
it was priced at $11,995. At the start of the final day it was still at
only $5,000. A brief morning flurry ran it up to $5,800 and it stayed there
all day. At 9:00 pm a few more bids came in and it stood at $6,050. I was
hoping that most bidders had gone to bed by now. What I did not know was
how high the highest bidder had gone. At 11:30 the bid was unchanged and
I had one final internal arguement. Did I really want to drive across the
country in an unknown car at the end of November? My crazy side won out
over my rational side and I was prepared to make a final bid. With 20 seconds
left I placed a maximum bid of $6,700. I was the high bidder! The next 20
seconds took forever and low and behold there were no more bids. I now took
a second to see how much I paid and was pleasantly surprised to see that
it was only $6,195. One final point is that most sellers set a reserve price
below which they will not sell. This car was unusual in that it had no reserve.
On several occasions I thought I had won only to see the seller stop the
auction with only seconds left rather than sell the car at a price they felt
was too low. This deal went through cleanly and I was the proud owner of
a used Subaru Outback, located only 3,000 miles away.