NEVER HAS A vehicle purchase caused me so much anxiety: this is part of a larger challenge that has the potential to make me to look pretty silly, if I stuff it up.
In Part 1, I went shopping for a good tow tug for less than $5000. I have now found what I think might be the ideal vehicle: a 1999 WH Holden Caprice. It has all the luxury and safety gear, a powerful 5.7L V8 engine and a towing capacity of 2100kg – just enough for my purposes.
WHERE TO LOOK
I looked at the regular suspects: Trading Post, Gumtree, eBay, Carsales, all online. My summation of the advertising sites is this:
Carsales has the highest asking prices, with the occaisional bargain buys (which don’t last long). In the main, advertisters pay once and sit for months waiting for an unrealistic price. You might get lucky, and grab a seller just as they realise that if they don’t reduce the price they’ll keep their car forever. Sometimes, a seller just wants a little more than the dealer has offered them on a trade-in price. Trading Post is a similar.
Gumtree is perhaps the first even-handed, realistic-price selling point. And eBay is where it's really at. The trouble with eBay is that it can be a bit random; just as you think it is an accurate barometer of a vehicle’s worth, one sells for far, far more than you expect. Or way, way, less.
INSPECTING THE CAR
The Caprice was advertised on eBay just before Christmas by a car wholesaler just 20 minutes away from me here in Sydney. I rang the dealer and arranged to see the car straight away.
When I arrived, it was clear that this was the real deal: an actual wholesaler with a dealer’s licence, so it was all legit. I inspected the Caprice, looking at a few key areas: did it have books, and how up to date were they? Did it have both sets of keys? How was the tyre wear? How were the fluids – oil, coolant and transmission fluid?
I soon discovered that the air-conditioning compressor belt had been taken off, so a likely bearing failure there. There were a few oil leaks, the front tyres were worn at the edges and the front passenger seat had splits on two seams. Everything else was in order: it had two owners from new, it had a relatively well-documented service history, and it went well.
I paid $4350 for it, registered for four months and 202,000km on the clock. No warranty, of course, but buying from a licenced dealer meant that title was guaranteed.
The next step was to take it home and give it a proper looking over.
NEXT, read Part 3: Tow vehicle blowout...
On the road for under $10K: Phil Lord's challenge
Part 1: Choosing a tow vehicle
WORDS AND PICS Philip Lord
Written exclusively for Caravan World Online