What in purple hells is an “original mile?” As in “this clunker has 999,999×1099999k original miles,” a frequently seen phrase for various values of 999,999×1099999 in craigslist ads tho’ minus, alas, the “clunker” revelation, which comes only when you love it, e-mail about it, see it, drive it, and cry, cry, cry. Are there non-original miles? Perhaps there are replica miles, facsimile miles, knock-off miles produced without the authorization of the mile trademark holder? Miles that are really kilometers with bad stitching? Canadian miles? Limited edition numbered reprint miles? Inferior miles produced by Johnny-come-lately competitors? Is an original mile like original sin — does it pass to the descendants of the person who drove it? (And does a non-original mile then evaporate on sale, as I hope will the scorned, reviled, and long-overdue parking tickets attached to my last car?) Non-original miles would like to be original Miles but don’t have the chops? Original miles are first quintet Miles??

I finally got rid of my old car (the one that would have cost more to repair than it was worth), and am now in the market for a new one. And it’s driving me (as it were) round the bend. Some observations:

1. A deal that sounds too good from a dealer definitely is; you’ll find this out on the test drive. (Poor beautiful old convertible Mustang — how I wanted you until I found out how you run, how at any speed below 50 you vibrate like a sex toy for the nerve-damaged.)

2. Banks have totally unreasonable reserves for the really cool cars at the repo auction.

3. There are WAY THE FUCK TOO MANY transaction costs in the private party used car market — it’s just so hard to find cars and buyers that match on things like craigslist — surely this is an opportunity for some intermediary to make some money by introducing efficiencies of scale? (I actually have some ideas here: anyone rich reading wanna fund me to start a .com doing this, or anyone starting a .com wanna pay me for said brilliant ideas?)

4. Looking for a used car is a lot like looking for a mate. You can’t get the best ones, and the ones you can get have all kind of hidden flaws. If only there were a zipcar equivalent.

In other news, if anyone knows anyone who is selling a car in the SF bay area (or LA, what the hell), either reliable and cheap or flashy and cheap and will not fall apart until mid 2011, do talk to me. I want a set-up, that is.

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4 Responses to “What in purple hells is an “original mile?” As in “this clunker has 999,999×1099999k original miles,” a frequently seen phrase for various values of 999,999×1099999 in craigslist ads tho’ minus, alas, the “clunker” revelation, which comes only when you love it, e-mail about it, see it, drive it, and cry, cry, cry. Are there non-original miles? Perhaps there are replica miles, facsimile miles, knock-off miles produced without the authorization of the mile trademark holder? Miles that are really kilometers with bad stitching? Canadian miles? Limited edition numbered reprint miles? Inferior miles produced by Johnny-come-lately competitors? Is an original mile like original sin — does it pass to the descendants of the person who drove it? (And does a non-original mile then evaporate on sale, as I hope will the scorned, reviled, and long-overdue parking tickets attached to my last car?) Non-original miles would like to be original Miles but don’t have the chops? Original miles are first quintet Miles??”

  1. Matt Says:

    I bought a car after not having one for 10 years recently and found it fairly unpleasant, but was satisfied in the end. We bought from a person we found via craig’s list- try searching for some types of cars you like or the price range, if you haven’t been. Also, it’s worth getting an on-line subscription to consumer reports to get the quality rankings of cars and suggested price ranges. We avoided some problems because of this. The reviews by owners there and on the Kelly blue book page (especially the bad ones) were very useful for avoiding problems. Finally, get a carfax report for any car you consider buying. It’s not that expensive and can save you some serious trouble. As to the “original miles”, I think (but am not sure) that it has to do with whether the engine, transmission, etc. have been replaced, but I’m not 100% sure how it’s used. Best to ask closely if you have questions.

  2. JL Says:

    I bought a car for $300 off Craigslist and it’s running great. However, in NC you have to get every damn thing in the world notarized, which is a massive pain in the ass that almost makes it not worth buying from a private party.

    Anyways, I’m not sure what ‘original miles’ means, but it might mean miles on the chassis. So it might be different than miles on a rebuilt or replaced engine. That might be a better number for you, since an old worn engine would be more likely to require expensive repairs. I suppose you could ask the seller.

  3. Paul Gowder Says:

    Thanks guys.

    ($300? I’m so jealous — the cheapest cars that don’t seem they are about to fall apart in the bay area are ten times that.)

    You know what’s exhausting? Having to pretend that you know something about cars so people don’t try to fleece you. Over and over and over. I haven’t had to bluff this constantly since the practice of law days.

  4. Jacob T. Levy Says:

    I would think that the intermediaries making money with efficiencies of scale are precisely those that move the sale out of the category “private party used car market.” The low-hanging fruit has been plucked already, and the private-party market is the residuum in which there’s probably not a fortune to be made from intermediation– because the transactions are too small, or because the cars are of too low of quality (or too uncertain of quality) for there to be any real financial value to be captured by the party who collects and assesses information.

    “After three days of careful study I’ve determined that this car is a piece of crap worth $5 less than the $200 it was originally being sold for. Congratulations, Mr. Buyer, I’ve saved you $5. Now let’s build the cost of my evaluation time into the transaction…”

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