After buying Grandpa Kent’s car we had three vehicles and only two drivers. Time to sell the Saturn. Nancy and I bought the Saturn in 1996 just after Emily was born. At the time, Nancy was pregnant with Annie. Nancy had been driving a little Ford Colt that she brought to the marriage. It was so small that I couldn’t even fit in behind the wheel and thus had never driven it a single time. Nancy’s pregnant belly forced her to put the seat all the way back and Emily’s baby carrier on the passenger side in the rear. In that configuration there wasn’t even enough room left to carry a load of groceries. My Honda, inherited from Aunt Lori and Grandpa Kent, didn’t have any air conditioning so there was no way that pregnant Nancy would even consider driving it. The solution? Buy a new car.
I think a friend had recommended a Saturn to us and Nancy and I headed to that dealership first. We liked the cars, like our salesman, and liked the fact that Consumer Reports rated that particular model year as a “recommended” car. That was good enough for us. I don’t recall that we even looked at any other car models. We ended up getting the deluxe model – leather seats, sunroof, CD stereo, fog lamps – the works! It was the first car I had ever bought on my own and was the first car I had ever driven with leather seats. The leather proved its worth and has survived countless kids with their accompanying spills and barfs. To this day I don’t regret the decision to get leather seats and will never own a car without leather. Nancy drove the new Saturn while I suffered with the no-air- conditioning Honda until the birth of our third baby after which we couldn’t fit two car seats and a baby carrier in the back and were forced to buy a minivan. I then drove the Saturn for another 7 years up until last week.
I hate buying and selling cars. The act of trying to figure out what your old car is worth is such an ordeal. Back when we sold Nancy’s little Ford Colt, you couldn’t just get online and look at Edmunds.com or KellyBlueBook.com. You couldn’t go to a website that specialized in local car sales like KSL Classifieds or Craigslist. Nope, you had to call up the bank or go find a Thrifty Nickel to figure out what cars were worth. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since those days. Selling a car is much easier with the Internet but it’s still a pain in the rear.
First we had to decide whether to get the problems fixed or to sell the car with all its warts. The radiator was leaking, the windshield had a huge crack that would never pass inspection, the sunroof was broken, the front fender was cracked, the CD player didn’t work, and the back passenger window would just slide down and not roll back up. I agonized about whether or not we would be able to recoup our repair expenses. A Saturn of similar age and miles sells for scrap/parts for about $450. Saturns without major problems were selling for about $2300 online. I was facing about $1000 worth of repairs. In the end I just did the math and figured it was worth the cost of repairs. Nancy did the leg work in getting the radiator fixed, the windshield replaced, and a new emission/inspection certificate. I decided not to repair the fender, window, or sunroof and just list those problems in the ad. Nancy also did the hard work of cleaning and vacuuming the inside of the car until it was spic and span. Thanks Nancy! I wanted to get rid of the car quickly so I priced it a couple hundred dollars below what similar cars were selling for (even though it had amazingly low miles – only 108,000 for a 12 year old car). Our asking price was $2100. I figured that I would let someone negotiate down to $1800 but I wouldn’t go below that; otherwise, I would have been better off just scrapping it without the repair hassles.
I placed the ad on Saturday night and had my first bite on Sunday afternoon. The guy came out to look at the car and do a test drive. He was pleased with it and said he wanted to buy it but needed to get the money. He wasn’t much of a negotiator on the price. He said “That cracked bumper will cost me some money to get fixed – could you knock off a hundred dollars?” “Sure thing”, I said. $2000 it was. I don’t think he has any intention of repairing the cracked bumper (Saturns have a fiberglass body so they don’t dent – they crack) because you can’t really tell it’s cracked unless you get right up close and look at it. We shook on the deal and he spent the next several days coming up with the dough. He finally coughed up the cash on Wednesday night and I signed over the title and handed him the keys. In retrospect I probably could have listed it for $200 – $300 more and still gotten a few bites on it but I’m just too impatient and nervous and would rather drop the price and be assured of a quick sale than sit on it for several weeks and wonder whether or not it will sell at all.
The only problem was that when he tried to register the car the next day, the DMV told him that the title was messed up and still showed a lien by the bank. Of course we had paid that Saturn off years ago and had a letter from the bank releasing the lien and even had a new title that showed no lien holder but the DMV computers still showed a lien. As far as the DMV lady was concerned, if it was in the DMV computers it was Gospel truth. We had to submit an application for a reissue of title and fax it to the bank and mail it back to the guy and blah blah blah. Fortunately, Nancy is managing that part of the transaction and we should have the title issue cleared up sometime next week.
In the end the car selling experience wasn’t nearly as painful as I thought it would be. That’s probably mainly due to the fact that Nancy did all the leg work and cleaning and hassling with the red tape. I probably never would have gotten the car sold if it hadn’t of been for Nancy.
So, to the 1996 green Saturn SL2 I say:
“You served us well through five kids, a trip to Houston, Texas, a trip to San Jose, CA, and innumerable daily commutes. Although you drank oil like a sand dune, your clutch never failed and most importantly your AC never failed. No hard feelings about the time your alternator died and stranded me on the Bangerter Highway. After 12 years and 108,000 miles I believe I got my money’s worth. So long, old friend.”