Buying cars — online

Naysayers insist that the Internet is like a wild western town, fraught with dangers for the unwary. For me, the Internet is pure gold, bestowing its gifts upon drivers as the gentle rains bestow precious moisture on a parched Earth.

I suspect that the few people critical of the Internet are fortune’s poor fools who have never received a taste of fantastic offers or free gifts.

You need proof?

Each week, the gravy train makes several stops at my house when I receive offers for a $500 gift card (carte cadeau) from Canadian Tire, Sears or any other retailer of automotive products of my choice. There’s a lot of tiny print that asks me to do a bunch of other stuff — submit some personal information, enroll others in the plan and apply for a credit card. They need you to give them your opinion on some tires and motor oil, but only people with important opinions are contacted.

You haven’t been contacted? Learn to develop better opinions! Where else can you earn $500 for an hour’s work?

Rather than apply immediately, I’ve been saving these offers up over the past year. I now have more than 40 of them, which I will cash in all at once and buy a heap of high-performance parts and accessories for my vehicle. You do the math.

Once my car is all decked out, I’ll take it for a spin and cash in another free gift: $50 off my next meal at Burger King. How did I receive this offer? Apparently, I filled out some sort of survey and then “opted in” — which I guess I did at some point. There are no rewards for the timid.

Free sales sites such as craigslist or kijiji also make it easy to buy and sell vehicles. While most people are content to sell their cars to people in their immediate vicinity, I generally find these “local buyers” to be difficult prospects. They want to see the car before they buy it. They want to drive the car. They even want to haggle on the price and talk me down, pointing out faults in the vehicle.

Many people with automobiles for sale appear unaware there’s a great lack of used economy vehicles in the overseas market. When a friend put his 1998 Windstar up for sale on a free Internet site, he received four offers to purchase the car at the asking price. The cost of shipping the vehicle to Scotland, Dubai or Ivory Coast would be covered by the purchaser. All the buyer wanted to see was a photo of the van (that’s fair!) and he or she would make the payment by money order or cashier’s cheque drawn on a UK bank.

When my friend informed each of the respondents that an offer had already been made, they commenced an international bidding war, driving up the price to almost twice what he was asking!

Incredibly, great deals are also available for the Internet purchaser of vehicles from overseas, where high-performance rides such as Jaguars, BMWs and Lexuses are in over-supply and not at all valued. I recently found an ad for a vintage Porsche parked in England by a missionary currently stationed in Africa. When I asked if the car happened to be a 1970 Porsche Tapiro, I was delighted to find I had hit pay dirt! As I already had four luxury cars arriving by ship that month, I had to decline, due to a lack of available driveway space. I had considered cancelling the delivery of the $750 Maserati, but I didn’t want to develop an international reputation as a welcher. A deal’s a deal!

As a recipient of such online bounty, I also feel obliged to extend occasional Internet charity. I recently received a letter from a widow whose husband had been an officer of the Bank of the North International, Abuja. She asked me if she could transfer the sum of “$12M.USD (TWELVE MILLION US DOLLARS)” from a dormant account into my own, then help her to establish herself in my country. I was assured all modalities were in place and was offered 35% of the total for my trouble. I offered to do the work for half that price.

When the bank widow arrives in my country, I’ll have already purchased a house on her behalf. And won’t she be surprised to find a 1970 Porsche Tapiro waiting for her in the driveway!

Photograph by: Peter Kenter, For National Post