Buying a Used Hummer Site Unseen
or Bend over and get Screwed.
Updated December 3, 2012
If you're going to buy a Hummer it's going to be from a private party or a used car dealer since Hummer no longer exists.
I received an email from young guy in the area, we'll call him Ed asking me to to consult with him on the purchase of a Hummer. While he did find a number of trucks, some on-line and some local this is a story about one of the local trucks because it gave me the opportunity to actually compare the ad with the actual truck.
The truck is an 02 black wagon with 38k miles for sale for 59,800 from an independent dealer located in a suburb of a large city. This is a class of dealers that are not connected to a manufacturer but have nice showrooms and facilities similar to a new car dealer. They're pretty much upscale used car lots. Most if not all of them have an extensive web presence and advertise on ebay and autotrader. These dealers sell a lot of cars over the INTERNET to buyers site unseen. All I can say is Thank goodness we were local. Ed called the dealer and they said the would sell the truck for 55,000.
Check out the INTERNET ad. The pictures, the description and the "About Us" in the ad look great.
Ed was looking for a black wagon so this was a great find since it was local and I could check it out. At first I looked over the pictures and I emailed Ed and told him the truck had 'real' hummer wheels, in fact it has the 2 piece 17" aluminum wheels and the tires are the Goodyear MTR's that came with the truck which are good tires (Look at the 2nd photo). Looking at the pictures the tires look to have a lot of tread. The last picture showed a broken mirror. I told Ed not to worry about it because it's normal when you pull these into the garage the mirrors get scraped up. These new style mirrors are even wider than the older vertical style. They do fold in.
Later that evening I decided to look over the ad again. As I was going through the pictures I read the ad and looked at picture 3 and saw that I must have been wrong and the tires are the Toyo open country MT's. I thought I was really losing it. I emailed Ed and told him I screwed up and the truck has Toyos which I like even better. Ed went out and looked at the truck the next day. He liked it and wanted me to go over it before he bought it. The salesman drove the truck over to my place where I met Ed .
The weather was kind of nasty so I pulled the truck into my heated garage. First thing I noticed was the shifter was really stiff. Pulling it in I had to bend the side mirrors in. My garage was fine when I had my 98 but these new mirrors are considerably wider. I checked the trans fluid while the engine was running and it was fine. I checked the rest of the fluids and they looked fine.
I went underneath with my crawler and checked out the brakes. Turned out that the brakes were shot. In fact one pad in front and one in back were as thin as a business card. These were out right dangerous. I rolled out from under the truck to get a hex key to check the transfer case oil. As I was getting up my eye caught the front tire. It said Wrangler. I thought what the hell. Then I went around and looked at all the tires. The truck had Goodyear MT/R's in front and Toyo Open Country Mt's in the back. Then I took a close look at the treads. All the tires were near worn out. When they took the pictures the tires were all cleaned up and Armoralled so they shined giving the illusion that the treads look contrasty and deep. It's really hard to tell tread depth looking at the pictures. The big problem with these 2 piece wheels is the high price it costs to have new tires mounted. I had a customer that was quoted 250.00 each to have new tires mounted on the 2 piece wheels with run-flats. I sold them a set of Cepek 17" aluminum wheels instead. Four new MT/R's cost 1600 bucks plus tax. All of a sudden you are looking at a 2600.00 expense right off the bat.
I threw a drain pan under the truck and started to unscrew the transfer case fill plug. It was overtightened so I had to put a piece of pipe on the hex key. As I backed out the plug thin gray watery burnt fluid started to trickle out. That's all I needed to see. I noticed that the suspension parts had been greased but none of the drive shaft zirks looked to have been touched. Rolling under the power steering box I noticed it was covered in oil. Probably a leak from the power steering pump hose. The front end looked fine and the steering wheel didn't have any free-play.
The truck did have the jack and the winch controller. The winch did work. We were missing the 2nd key-fob and the glove box and rear door keys. I went to open the rear barn doors and couldn't get them to open, even after I made sure they were unlocked with the electric door lock. They were some how sprung and wouldn't move. I wasn't going to force them. I figured whoever painted the flat black on the rear doors probably put them back wrong.
The next thing I went to check out is how to turn on the 6 work lights above the windshield on the lightbar and the 2 in the rear above the doors. Take a look at the pictures and see if you notice anything missing on all those lights. They're all just bolted on and not wired in at all. There isn't one wire going to any of these lights.
Now it's time to take this truck for a ride. Ed's in the passenger seat and the salesman's in the back. I back the truck out of the garage and check out all the lights and turn signals. They all look good. The wiper, intermittent wiper and the squirter worked. I flipped on the windshield defroster and the lights dimmed which tells me that it's working because the windshields draw a lot of current. Next I tried the A/C. Of course it's probably 40 out so it's difficult to know if it's working. I also checked the aux unit. It was blowing cold and the 2 speeds worked. I tried out the heat and the aux was working fine. I set the heat to come out at the feet but nothing was coming out. I started to play around with all the controls. It turned out that the first 3 fan speeds didn't blow anything but hi worked. I knew right away that it was probably a blown resistor pack which controls the low speeds. I shifted the truck back and forth from R to D to see if there was free-play in the drive train. Aside from the shifter being a bitch to move the truck sounded normal.
I got on the road and the truck drove fine but something was rattling around in the roof rack. I took the truck up to 60 and there was no vibration. The truck swayed around turns so it probably needed new shocks. I drove to a gravel parking lot so I could check out the 4wd. I was able to get the truck in 4 lock and it drove fine. I stopped and had a lot of difficulty getting into 4 low lock. It did go in and drove fine. I stopped the truck, put the trans in N and attempted to shift out of 4 low. It wasn't going. Even though the transfer case shifter moved, the truck remained in 4 low and the in dash indicator light still showed I was in 4 L. I drove the truck a little forward and back and it still wouldn't go out of lock. After playing around with the shifter for awhile I was able to get it back to 4 high. I figured that the oil in the transfer case was so shot who knows what' wrong in there.
I drove back to my place to check out what was rattling. If you look at the 2nd to last picture there are 2 vertical tubes that go down behind the rear bumper. These supports are just sitting behind the bumper and not bolted to anything and they're just rattling. around.
The salesman said he never had anyone go over a car in this much detail. I told him to really be careful driving back because the brakes are dangerous, especially because this is an 8000 pound truck.
I told Ed to scratch this one off his list.
The moral of the story is never buy a car sight unseen unless you know the dealer and there is a return policy. There are services you can hire to have a car inspected. Under Vehicle Condition the Service History section states "No Known Mechanical Problems". I guess they never checked the truck they bought, because they didn't know about any of the many problems. If you read the ad it says things like "Our staff specializes in the vehicles we deal with", "Our buyers adhere to the most stringent criteria when purchasing the cars we sell to ensure that our customers are truly getting the best of the best", "Our company proudly presents another fine vehicle from our 'hand-picked' collection. Then they have a nicely worded disclaimer paragraph which says:
The condition of this vehicle is consistent with its age and mileage; it is in very nice shape inside and out and is fully detailed and stored in our indoor temperature sensitive facility. Keep in mind that our vehicles are pre-owned and are not brand new, and as such they may reflect wear and tear in consistence with age. We try our best to describe the vehicless and their options, but sometimes we may make an error, so if you have any questions or concerns please give us a call to verify any infrormation as far as options or condition of vehicle before placing your bid. We are very forthcoming in this regard because our customers deserve the highest level of quality!!!
Ask yourself if the buyers were really stringent with this truck since it has 2 different kinds of tires. I wonder what pile they 'hand picked' this one from. I guess in their estimation a truck with dangerously bad brakes and a non working heater blower represents the 'best of the best'. I guess it was fair representation to show 8 outside lights that weren't even wired in and not say a word about them. What their buyers did was look over the truck to see if the body was good. They sent it in for an oil change and did a really nice detail.
What if you had bought this truck and paid 500 bucks for it to be shipped to you and discovered all that was wrong with it after the car carrier was long gone. I'd say that there was a little misrepresentation going on here.
The 2nd chapter of this saga turned out well. Ed bought a 2001 wagon sight unseen from Lund in Phoenix AZ. They used to be one of the largest Hummer dealers. Their trucks are way overpriced but they do go over them and don't sell junk.
Ed's truck showed up on a Friday morning. He drove it over that afternoon. It had new tires and the brakes were all new including the rotors. The body was perfect, the truck rode fine. The transfer case oil was nice and red. The truck had a newer aftermarket exhaust system. The biggest problem was the rear passenger window. Ed rolled it down and it never went back up. The windows had a heavy tint that probably caused increased friction in the window track eventually burning out the regulator and motor. I took the door panel off and it was evident that someone had been playing around in there before so I suspect they had the problem back in AZ. Ed noticed a small crack in the windshield. These are heated windshields and I know they cost over 700.00 each 10 years ago. We also were missing the winch controller so we don't know if the winch works. Ed called Lund and they said to take it to a local dealer and they would pay to have it all fixed. So far the rear window was fixed and they look like they're going to be good for it.