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Column: What’s wrong with that used car? You don’t really want to know

There’s a new law proposed for, unless I’m mistaken, us Minnesotans. My information on this is pretty vague, because I was reading all this first thing in the morning, with only one eye open and half a brain functioning.

Anyway. As you know, new car dealers have to put information stickers in the window, with stuff on them that says what the car comes equipped with, and what all that stuff costs, which is a lot. Last time I looked at a sticker in the window of a new car, I saw it as I was walking out of a fast-food restaurant with a two-for-one, order-one-get-one-free, half-price-today-only order of fries and a burger. Cars are really, really expensive.

After the fries and burger, I had three dollars in my pocket. You can tell how important new car window stickers are to me.

Now it is being proposed that all used cars must have something like those new-car information stickers, and that anyone who sells a used car, in much the way anyone who sells a house, must disclose what’s wrong with this sucker.

Most information about the shortcomings of a house revolve around the septic system, the heating, and that obnoxious-but-chronic leak over the buffet. But cars? Lots of things can go wrong with a car.

This should be interesting, people having to tell you what’s wrong with a used car.

I once sold a 1981 Chevy Surburban (You know, those big bulky wagon-y things. Love’em.) that seemed intent on self-destructing even when it was parked in the shed. Going out there in the mornings to start it was my form of casino gambling. Would it catch fire? Would it spray the contents of its cooling system six feet sideways? Would that screeching generator belt finally break and fly around in the engine compartment like a flock of giant bats? That tire looks low? Let’s celebrate. Yesterday it was completely flat. That violent shake when you turn to the left? A cause to celebrate, because at least that means it starts and runs.

In other words, if, when I listed this thing for sale, I had to list on the disclosure sticker in the windows what was wrong (I say the plural “windows” because one window wouldn’t have been enough room to disclose even part of what was wrong with this vehicle), what would I say?

Maybe I could be brief, and just say everything in this car is shot? Go for the reverse psychology bit and degrade it so violently that they the buyer begins to defend it.

“You don’t want this,” I might say to the buyer, and hope he was naturally disagreeable, and hence would disagree with me, and then buy it.

Maybe I could make them think that I’m of the end-of-the-world school, go all rant-manic about the apocalypse, and how this car was sent by the devil to remind me that the end is near. That’s why I’m selling this hunk of junk — “You won’t need cars where I’m going, you know?” — convince them that they’re dealing with a crazy man that they can take advantage of. Yes, the devil told me to sell this car, did I mention that? (Matter of fact, even the devil wouldn’t want this car.)

Oh, and that puddle of colored liquid beneath it, with the dead squirrels and mice surrounding it? That’s nothing. (Just don’t taste it, please.) And do I think that might be antifreeze? Naaahhh! It can’t be antifreeze. I would have to disclose that in my opinion, that it cannot be antifreeze. (I would be right, because all that leaked out last week.)

In fact, all the above is true, and I sold that car to a woman who wanted it to carry her dogs, which she had brought with her. It appeared to me that, if the dogs were harnessed up, she’d be alright. The dogs could tow this wreck home when it quit on her.

Disclosure statements for used cars. What’ll they think of next to take the fun out of negotiating mano-a-mano over the rusted wrecks most of us are driving?

You don’t want this.

It’s more fun not knowing.