We were stopped in traffic on the way to Sag Harbor a few weeks ago when a car pulled up alongside.
“Hey,” the driver shouted. “Do you want to sell that car?”
“I might,” I said, startled. Actually I’d been thinking on and off for a year or so of selling my much-loved little Recreational Action Vehicle (longspeak for the Toyota RAV4).
“What year is it?” he wanted to know.
“It’s a ’97. Listen, we’re late for a movie, and I really can’t . . .” He broke in. “What’s your phone number?”
I yelled it back at him as we started moving. “Hmmn,” said my husband. “He sounded really interested. I bet you’ll hear from him.”
First thing the next morning, he called. “Hi, you may not remember, but this is the guy who . . .”
“Wants to buy my car,” I said. “Look, I’m not actually sure I want to sell it. They only made the two-door model for three years, so it’s pretty rare now. And it runs great, and it only has 55,000 miles, and . . .” I heard myself sounding like a used-car salesman. “And I’ve never had any trouble with it,” I finished lamely.
He ignored me. “Does it have air-conditioning?”
I wasn’t sure. We’d never used it.
“What about a sunroof?”
“I’m not sure what that is. I know it has what they call a moon roof. Two moon roofs, actually. But they’re not electric; you have to climb up the back of the car and heave them off yourself. I did it once and that was enough.”
“I have a steep driveway,” he said next. “Does it have four-wheel drive? I need four-wheel drive in snow.”
I didn’t know that either. Well, he said, it had to be either four-wheel or all-wheel. “Can you find out?”
Having come this far, it was looking a lot like we were being serious. “I can tell you the date I bought it and where, and the VIN number. You can call them and ask.”
“Okay,” he said. “Just one more question for now. What are you asking?”
I was waiting for that one, but when it came I choked. “Uhhh — I don’t know, I need to look at a few used-car Web sites and see what they say.”
Silence on the other end. “Maybe $4,000?” I ventured.
“Would you take less?”
I didn’t answer, having said too much already. I really do like my car. “Aaah,” he said, “never mind. I’ll call you later.”
That was the end of it, I thought, more relieved than regretful. I’ll never hear from this guy again.
He called back a few hours later. “They didn’t have the records. It’s too long ago. Lemme ask you, have you had any really bad accidents?”
“Has the car been serviced regularly? Do you happen to have the service records?”
“I do, yes. Fifteen years’ worth from T&B in Amagansett.”
We made arrangements for him to come to The Star the next day and see the papers and the owner’s manual and whatever else was in the glove compartment. He seemed happy with everything. He wanted to drive the car, of course, but I said no; if I sold it, it wouldn’t be for a month, and I wasn’t ready to give a stranger the keys.
Then I went back in to work and told Kathy Kovach, our production manager, what was happening.
“How much you asking?”
“Four thousand? That’s ridiculous. You could get $9,000 for that car. Check out Kelley’s Blue Book.”
“I’d ask six grand,” advised Baylis Greene, an editor, who knows a lot about cars. “And be ready to come down to five or so. I just think people generally overvalue their cars. And no one ever gets Kelley Blue Book value. Four sounded pretty fair to me.”
Two days went by. Four. A week. After all those eager questions, the guy who’d been so keen to buy the car never called again. He’d given me his cell number, though — and every day that went by, I didn’t call him either.
On the eighth day I called somebody who had an ad in The Star and rented a spot in their garage for the winter.
Irene Silverman is editor-at-large for The Star. She is at large in Manhattan at the moment.