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 cars.

     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.

Chapter 2