[thechat] Longish reply -- RE: Calling Houstonians (is that a word :))

Luther, Ron Ron.Luther at hp.com
Tue Apr 4 10:03:06 CDT 2006

Hi Elfur,

No sweat.  I found THE car for your brother ... roomy enough for
camping, elegant, 
tasteful, sedate enough to be 'invisible' to the police while still
possessing that 
ineffable 'chick magnet' charm.  I see it as the essence of that
brooding, cyber-cool, 
Icelandic 'aqua-punk-vit' vibe.  I really think this is 'the one':

** Cash Cars **
You can pick up 'cash cars', (sometimes known as POS cars), from
individuals or from 
those very small (sometimes fly by night) used car lots.  You can find a
number of 
resources to locate the "FSBO" [2] vehicles.  

Auto Trader is a good resource for that in many parts of the world:

For individual sales (in any US city), you might also try Craig's List:

Or the local newspaper (in this case the Houston Chronicle):

(If you use the search, my home zip code is 77095. Running that zip and
'15 miles' 
produced a list of 22 dealerships - but these were the bigger
dealerships and not 
the traditional 'cash car'/POS car lots.)

Finding those little bitty POS car lots, from a distance, seems pretty
These folks don't have websites and, if they did, they probably wouldn't
up to date.  The also seem to not have ad budgets; relying instead on
traffic and word-of-mouth.  I know where a number of these _are_ in
and yet I can't find them on the web. [Okay - in a few cases I found
some - but all 
you get is a business name, an address, and a telephone number.  Not
much help 
if you want to browse inventory from a distance and see it they are
worth a 
trip or not!]

The best resource I managed to find for locating 'the little guys' is
using the 
Auto Trader dealer search function:

[The results are a mix of large and small dealers.  Sometimes you can
tell which 
is which by name, but a better clue is the 'quality' of the cars they
are selling.]

While I can go look at some of these things, I have pretty much negative
ability.  I can count the number of tires the vehicle has, but I can't
tell you if 
that funny noise is (a) an expensive repair, (b) a serious safety issue,
or (c) just 
an odd little 'quirk' that you need to get over.

If your brother is mechanically inclined, it may help to know that some
of the national 
chains of auto part stores in the US include Autozone, Pep Boys, and
O'Reilly Auto Parts.  
TireAmerica, NTB [National Tire & Battery], Midas Muffler, Sears Auto,
and Wall*Mart Auto 
may be other national options for selected parts and service.

** More Traditional Dealers: **
I'm gonna mention some more 'traditional' car dealerships for a couple
of reasons; (1) 
they will most likely have [fairly current] inventories on-line where
you can browse 
through them. (2) They may be [slightly] more likely to have had a
mechanic go over 
the vehicle and make sure it won't fall apart - at least until you are
too far away 
to walk back and hurt them.

On the down side, the price will probably be higher.

One tip: An out-of-fashion vehicle can be a great buy.  A couple years
back my wife 
bought a used Dodge minivan from a Volvo dealership.  With SUVs being
the 'hot' item, 
minivans were (and probably still are) out of favor.  Buying at a Volvo
dealer they 
may have also just wanted to get that 'eyesore' off the lot.  She saved
over what that same vehicle would have cost her at a large dealership
in used cars. {We had a buddy who was working at one of those at the
time - and even 
with the employee discount he couldn't have bought that car from himself
at that 

** Close to House: **
Close to my house we have New Ford, Chevy, GMC, Dodge, VW, Nissan,
Mazda, Lincoln, 
Honda, and other dealers ... all with used car lots attached.

Joe Myers Ford:

Lone Star Chevy:

Baker Jackson Nissan:

John Eagle Honda:

Mancuso Harley-Davidson (Crossroads location):

A mapquest against any of these addresses would keep stuff pretty close.

** Closer to Office **
There are also a number of 'tonier' dealerships up closer to my office.
I can take a 
longer lunch and head up to new BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Range Rover,
Jaguar dealerships:


Jag (They may also claim Maybach - but that's probably only their Dallas

Hey - they all have used car lots too.  They may be more likely to have
later model 
vehicles and vehicles in better condition than the POS lots - and that
will cost 
more - but I dunno what the budget here is either.

** Just for Fun **
A bit out of my way ... but if this place likes your brother's credit
I'll make a 
'sacrifice' and go test drive some of their vehicles:
No need to thank me.

Consider renting?  $1800 a day (plus mileage) will rent a nice little
red car in Houston:

I'm pretty sure I don't get a discount, but I believe this place is
owned by an HP exec:

Whoa!  I didn't know there were any of these for sale in Houston!  Kewl!
Hmmm ... It *IS* 
used ... so that keeps the price down, right? ... Hey, tell your brother
to lay off ... 
This one's mine!!  ;-)

** Suggestions/Misc ** 
I'm not sure what your brother's plans are, but he might want to be
aware of Carmax.  They 
have a number of dealerships around the US so he might be able to end
his travels in one 
of those areas.  I bring that up because they will 'buy back' his car
when he is done with 

They are not the cheapest place to buy a car, (and they don't 'dicker').
And you won't get 
every last dollar out of selling your car.  But they are convenient.  If
the paperwork is 
in order, it's possible he could get rid of the car in 2 or 3 hours.


Again, it comes back to budget and flexibility.  I'm not sure what his
plan is.  He could 
'roll the dice' on a $2500 vehicle, cross his fingers that it doesn't
break down on him and, 
at the end of the trip, throw it away selling to a salvage yard ... Or,
(if his wonderful 
sister lends him the money, heh), he could pick up a very nice $11,000
vehicle, drive it 
for six months, and maybe sell it to Carmax for $9,500 at the end of the
trip.   The point 
here is that it may actually be cheaper to spend more money ... But that
only works if 
you have that option available to you. N'est-ce pas.

** Other Tips **
It's probably been 3 years since I've tried it, but with a modicum of
talent you can 
walk into any public library in the US, sit at one of the computers they
have set up 
for searching for books and 'break out' of their menu system and onto
the web to 
check email or search google/mapquest/[name.]citysearch {e.g.
boston.citysearch} and have a lot of local resources at your fingertips.
Larger cities 
may have internet cafes - but even the smaller towns have public
libraries.  It's 
also free.  [I tend to be nice and 'reset' the machine back to the
internal library 
menu when I'm done.]

Houston specific -- It's not a good idea to buy a cheap used car from a
small lot 
in Houston anytime shortly after we've had a flood.  'Nuff said.

License plates. Buying from an individual you have an option to transfer
title on the 
plates.  Buying at a dealership here you generally get 30 day 'paper'
plates and the 
real license plates are ready at the dealership or mailed to you after
10 days.  So 
he may have to make arrangements to have them overnighted to wherever he
is staying 
after 2 or 3 weeks.

I have NFI what kinds of hurdles there are involving international
banking stuff, 
taking title/plates/inspection with no address in the country.  I dunno
if the .gov 
sites are any help in that regard.  If he runs into a few specific
questions I could 
make a few phone calls on his behalf.

I do have a buddy, [that guy that worked at Carmax], that was doing some
exporting containers of vehicles to Liberia and the Netherlands. {Cuz
they're so close to 
each other I guess.} <shrug />  Anyway, he might have some insights or
some marginally 
legal suggestions at any rate. {Besides, sis is in law school ... What
could go wrong?}

There is more paperwork to buying a car here.  Paying cash for a car
above a certain 
threshhold will trigger 'check with local law enforcement' flags
attempting to 
inconvenience laudering of drug money.  A more recent addition is the 'I
am not a 
terrorist' paperwork providing more db records to the feds for tracking
you. Anyway, 
as complicated as it all may seem at least it isn't Europe where you're
money to twelve middle-men and waiting months hoping your car will
eventually arrive. 
You can get everything done here in less than a day. ;-P



I'm about an hour away from Bush Intercontinental airport, so, if
schedules work out 
and I'm in town at the time (just made reservations last night for a
little trip to 
San Diego) I could pick him up, run him over to the dealership and throw
a steak on 
the grill afterwards to celebrate.

[1] Houston has a ... whutchamacallit? ... History? ... Legacy? ...
Whatever.  There are 
a bunch of looney folks here who 'do up' what they call 'Art Cars'.
Must be the proximity 
to the 'Nahwlins' and Galveston Mardi Gras festivities.  And Yes, I have
seen a few of 
these out driving around town.  We are _not_ a shy people.  ;-)

[2] Sometimes pronounced 'fizz-bow'.  F-or S-ale B-y O-wner.  Individual

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