My Van Search – Take: One
I now have the search engines on varying platforms looking for suitable van candidates and I get plenty – almost too many – results, mostly due to insufficient selection options. And often regarding the desired measurements.
So I get tipped off to an ad by a company called “Europoint Truck&Trailer Parts GmbH” (in spitting distance to the French border) for a 156 in. wheelbase 2014 Iveco Daily (so about 21 ft. long) with A/C and backup camera and further descriptions such as:
“One-owner German vehicle” and
This can has 225,000 miles on the clock and is advertised for € 7,999 (VAT incl.). So, realistically, one cannot expect this to be even close to a new vehicle. But with a traceable service record, this may not be a problem – at least on the technical side.
The Phone Call
I make the call (on a Saturday). I’d like to view the vehicle on Monday. Since I will travel 220 miles one way, I’d like to be assured, that the van will actually still be there. I am also told, that the accrued miles are “long distance” and this had not been a parcel delivery van. We set a date for Monday noonish.
Claudia is so nice to offer the use of her Toyota C-HR – it has cruise control and is, according to her very personal opinion, safer than my 2003 Yaris puddlejumper. She’s concerned. Well – o.k.
On Sunday night I send off a WhatsApp to the seller with the request to mount dealer plates prior to my arrival, so to be ready for a test drive. The reply: “Ok.”
Since Instant Teller Machines are not very cooperative at providing larger sums of cash, I will have to frequent my bank on Monday morning. The Corona line extends well beyond the entry out onto the curb, so I brought a warm jacket and a good deal of patience. I arrive at the counter to be told, that my residence permit (this Canadian has no German citizenship) is not “machine-readable” and I could therefore only withdraw € 2,500 max. My persistence pays off though, their IT did after all accept my ID and I ended up with the desired amount.
The clock was dangerously nearing the 10:00 a.m. mark, so I try to contact the seller. I get the answering machine and leave time and message, that I would arrive between 1 and 3 p.m. If this would cause a problem, I’d like to have a call back. I’m on my way.
The call gets returned a bit later whilst driving and inquiring about my arrival time. He tells me to take my time as he has another appointment and will be back by about 2:30 p.m. No problem – cruise control set to 60 mph.
The First Impression
I arrive around 2:15 p.m., overlooking the sign “Entrance” on the garage door I press the doorbell. There is no answer, windows are rather dark – but all the “whities” are in front of the fence, so I can inspect the candidate already – even the sliding door is unlocked.
- A hit on the upper right rear roof area, otherwise free of other bruises.
- The bonnet has edge rust (at closer inspection underneath later, this would turn out to be the consistency of puff pastry) and a view past the wheel arches shows major rust on the body joints.
- This continued in the cargo area, pretty worn and all panels (riveted to the body) played witness to a difficult life. Rust around the heavily cold-formed metal wheel covers and the floor edges behind the backdoors would most likely involve extensive welding. 225,000 miles and 6 years of mistreatment left their marks. O.K. I did expect most of that.
- A look at the brake rotors and touching the edges (this Iveco had mag wheels!) would estimate a wear of about 2-3 mm per side – these brakes were done for.
- The (cheapest) rubber was of 2019 vintage with 3-4 mm tread, the left rear being the exception with 2 mm and it did not belong to the rest of the set.
- Spare or repair kit: Obviously not.
Oh, someone approaches me without a word (and without a mask). At least I introduce myself, the guy passes me the keys “…take your time looking it over, come to the office (pointing at it) after.”
The remote causes a “Kaklunk” and I have access.
- The driver’s seat is worn out – no surprise here.
- I turn on the ignition and I am greeted with messages regarding a defect license plate light and brakes requiring service.
- The starter fights for a moment but gets the engine started. The idle is smooth.
- Wipers / washer o.k., horn makes noise.
- The air circulation switch is defect and
- dash screws are missing (loose).
A short lights check:
- One headlight without low-beam function,
- sidemarker on the sliding door with a contact problem.
- Lic.-plate light as mentioned earlier.
- Set complete,
- lock on rear door plugged with dirt – unusable.
I open the bonnet.
- I am faced with years of dirt, but nothing out of the ordinary.
- Oil leaks on the battery side of the engine somewhere towards the bottom.
- No tags as to cam belt replacement / oil changes or antifreeze levels.
So this is “shop maintained” nowadays.
Dealer plates were not mounted, so no chance to testdrive this thing at this time.
I enter the shop through the garage door. There are a few guys working on a number of vehicles, but it ain’t clear, whether they are repairing or dismantling. A nice Mercedes 107 SL off to the side. I turn right into the office. The “key guy” is busy with his PC.
I address the brake problem, which apparently is none. “The brakes are fine.” Right. And I immediately get to hear the 225,000 mile argument. Questions about the service records or receipts for repairs get commented as follows: “…they are probably with the prior owner.” Excuse me? Even considering all the discovered issues (and explicitly not considering the overall body rot) – there will be no discount on the asking price. It becomes apparent, that this guy does not even want to sell the van to me. I put the keys on the counter and leave the little shop of horrors, shaking my head.
This is a curber to avoid. Buy it, park it, sell it for a profit.
My trusted Toyota dealer and former customer put it in perfect context today:
If you do not even take care to fix the readily apparent issues (brakes, lighting) – especially with a potential customer coming to see the vehicle – then the customer is of no consequence. Someone will buy the thing. And that person better just keep their face shut and refrain from asking uncomfortable questions.
I am pissed, because the claim “regularly shop-maintained” can neither be proven nor is it apparent – judging by the brakes alone. These issues belong into the description or at least in the phone conversation, prior to someone making a 450 mile trip to view this vehicle.
At times like this I remember these words:
And for a pig in a poke with 225,000 miles, it ain’t worth € 7,999.
The search goes on.