Yesterday I saw the following headline on Twitter – Audi RS4 Stolen from Private Vendor at Gunpoint: How to avoid the huge risk of selling a high-performance car to…

This reminded me of an incident that I was indirectly involved in with a private seller, it doesn’t have to be at Gunpoint, and it doesn’t have to be a high-performance car that you’re selling, you just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At heart, I am a bit of a hippy and when I was a kid I always daydreamed that I would one day move to California where I would become a professional surfer, In the 60’s the Volkswagen Campervan was the chosen mode of transport for any self-respecting surfer/beachbum and I was going to buy one and park it right next to Jim Rockford’s trailer in Paradise Cove Malibu, I was going to ‘drop-out’ and live in it, I wasn’t stupid and I knew that the money I had saved up from my paper round would not last forever in California, and I still had to learn how to surf, until such times as I could I would have to finance my lifestyle by helping Jimbo solve his trickier cases.

Even with such meticulous planning it never came to fruition and had now faded into a distant lottery win ‘Plan B’ however a couple of years ago I was asked by a dealer to underwrite a vehicle which would enable me to fulfill my childhood dream, albeit in Walton-Le-Dale and not Bever-Le-Hills, the VW Campervan that I was now valuing was even the same colour as the one I had envisaged in my mind’s eye when I was a kid.

The owner of the Campervan had given quite a detailed description of the vehicle and its history, apparently, it needed a little work to make it into a very nice example, I had no idea how much it was really worth, and neither had my dealer friend so as a good salesman will do he asked the customer how much he wanted to do a deal there and then, the answer was £4000. My dealer friend said he could afford to give £500 away from the price of his sales car (it was a high-value BMW) so I would need to give him £3500 for the Campervan and he could deal, I knew these vehicles could be money pits so I was a bit wary but I decided to take a chance “OK at three and a half put my name on it”, I couldn’t remember being this excited buying a car for ages and I was already planning my Holiday cruising down Route 66 with a surfboard tied to the roof and the Beach Boys “Surfin USA ” blasting out over the cracklemaster radio.

Again my life didn’t turn out quite as planned and that night the customer had second thoughts he decided that he could get more money selling the Camper privately, I really wanted it so when I heard that the vehicle would no longer be coming to me I increased my bid to £4000 now it wouldn’t be worth the aggravation of selling it himself unfortunately eager to pick up his new BMW he had already placed the advert, that’s when my dream turned into his nightmare.

I would like to point out that I heard this story second hand and am repeating it exactly as I heard it, unlike my other blogs I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the events that were to unfold, but even so let it be a warning to those of you who take it upon yourselves to sell your own vehicles from home, there are a lot of nasty people out there who want what you have but don’t want to pay you for it or to work hard to get it!

Two guys turned up to see the Campervan, having owned it for a long time the seller related everything that had been done to the vehicle and everything that to his knowledge would possibly need doing, a deal was struck he was paid cash and the vehicle was driven away, now just taking the money is risky enough outside banking hours he had no means of checking that the cash wasn’t counterfeit, he would also have it in the house overnight and would be an easy target for anyone who knew he had the money and had the mind to follow him to the bank the next morning clout him over the head and snatch it.

Luckily for him, none of the above happened and he didn’t lose the lot, but he was about to learn a very expensive lesson, the new buyer phoned him before he’d had the chance to go to the bank, and complained that the campervan needed a lot more work than he had let on, they wanted a refund of £2000 to pay for rectification, the seller told them that it was no problem if they’d changed their mind as he knew of a trader who was very eager to buy it (that would be Me, thanks for that) and would give them back what they paid for it.

But the buyers were the problem they had an ulterior motive and here’s where the story takes a turn for the worst they didn’t want their money back they wanted to keep the Campervan but they insisted that the seller give them £2000 back, the seller was a gentleman and never having been exposed to the seedier side of car dealing was rather slow to catch on, but he soon caught on very quickly when the buyer became rather menacing and said, “you’re buying a new BMW aren’t you? I bet it would be expensive to repair if anything were to happen to it”

The seller contacted the Police and was told there wasn’t really a lot that they could do, as he hadn’t actually been directly threatened, and there were no witnesses, so fearing for his families safety and what would happen to his new car if he didn’t submit to the buyer’s demands, he arranged to meet them on a car park and handed over the cash, in the end, he let his vehicle go for £2000 less than I or probably any other trader would have given him.

I can only speculate who the buyers were, it’s possible that they could have wanted to launder some money, or perhaps they were unscrupulous car dealers (there are some) who were now the proud new owners of the worlds cheapest campervan, they also had the original purchase invoice for £4500 to put through their books and £2000 of untraceable, untaxable un vat able cash they also had a vehicle that if marketed correctly could go on to net them another couple of grand legitimate profit.

What I can say for sure is that the previous owner of the Campervan will never ever sell another car privately.

But what about you? In the immortal words of Clint Eastwood “Do you feel lucky?” or are you going to be the next one to make some criminals day!