How not to sell a truck

Yesterday Miss D. and I drove to a nearby town to look at a 1989 Ford F150 that was being advertised for private sale at what seemed like a very reasonable price.  The pictures posted with the advertisement showed a truck in fair condition for its age, but (in hindsight) it was clear that none showed any details in close-up, where defects might have been detected.

We arrived to find the owner and his son working on the truck in his driveway, putting a new wheel on the driver’s side in front.  The wheel was leaning at a cockeyed angle that immediately gave me pause for thought.  The load bed of the truck, when viewed from the rear, showed a definite list to port, and there was a large crack across more than two-thirds of the windscreen (something the advertisement had carefully failed to mention).  As far as I’m aware, that made the truck unroadworthy in terms of local regulations.

Those problems were bad enough, but as we stood there, the owner’s son was struggling to lower the jack holding up the front of the truck.  Eventually his father lost patience, got into the truck, started the engine and ordered his son to stand clear:  then he reversed the truck off the jack!  There was an almighty thump from the front suspension, a grating sound as the jack scraped on the lower body, and a smile from the owner as he said, “Now she’s off!”

He seemed surprised when I immediately informed him that I didn’t think his truck was what I wanted.  Miss D. and I climbed back into our car without further ado, and went on our merry way.

All I can say is, if there’s a better way to lose a sale, I haven’t yet come across it . . .



  1. Wow.

    Perhaps not the brightest bulb in the box.

    At least there was no danger you would get suckered into buying it.

  2. No kidding, You will find other F150's that have been taken better care of than that clunker. I know that Ford Trucks are build Ford tough…but not from that kind of abuse and neglect. I have been able to tell how a vehicles is maintained by the little things…like lights. If the person has taken the time to do the little things like lights on the truck from the exterior to the interior, than they have taken the time to do the other maintenance so a high mileage truck won't scare me if the little things have been handled.

  3. I made the mistake of buying a truck off Craigslist… it wasn't just that I found it there, but that I drove a fair distance to see the thing at night. Which meant I didn't get a good look at it nor did I have a mechanic check it out.

    Bad call.

    It wasn't that I got completely taken, but that the thing required a fair amount of steering and brake work. It ate up 150% of its purchase price in repairs over the next 3-4 months, but it's at least reliable now.

  4. You can't make this stuff up, can you.

    MrGarabaldi… regarding lights. I like to think I take good care of my cars including replacing bulbs when they burn out. That said, the little bulb of whatever sort that used to light the area that allowed me to see my heater/AC/fan settings in the dark is part of a "module" that must be replaces as an entire unit. The module costs $600. I can live without that light.

  5. Been there, done that! :0)

    First one was a boat. Initial inspection showed up several small issues, but no major deal breakers. So we followed the owner over to the nearby boat launch where he whipped his truck around the uneven gravel parking lot like the Duke boys and proceeded to back down to the ramp while digging a nice trench in the gravel with the prop and skeg of the outboard. That little show helped us spot the two large cracks in the transom that had been recently patched with bondo and painted over.

    Second was an old Land Cruiser FJ55. Drove two hours on the promise of "good drivable condition." Arrived to find a pitiful rust bucket that "was running great this morning, but now it won't start!" Springs completely shot and on the bump stops all the way around. The two front seats were marine pedestal captain's chairs that had been bolted to the already rusted and cracked floor. And no brakes at all.

    Good luck on the truck hunt!


  6. A few more quick and dirty car checking tricks:
    -is the oil dipstick 'varnished'?
    -does the transmission fluid smell really bad?
    -pull a spark plug and inspect. Check the gap.
    -does the spare tire have air in it?
    -do the brakes squeal or 'dubstep' (wub-wub-wub) when you step on them

  7. And on a different note: Son found a 1976 Ford Elite. Like a Torino. It was listed for 3000 and we bought it. Got it home and verified the following: 2900 dollar Edlebrook fuel injection professionally installed, Griffin 4 row aluminum radiator, Accel ignition, double fan setup. Knew that it had been overhauled 50K miles before. Basically bought an Edelbrock fuel injection unit and the car came with it!

    As always, let the buyer beware. But there are good deals out there to be found. Don't give up!

  8. Never buy a vehicle at night, in the rain. My dad had a story about how he got screwed that way. Car had suffered major body damage, and had not been fixed properly. And he was an autobody man!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *