The Joys and Pitfalls of Buying and Selling Our 1st Handicap Accessible Van
I would love to say I will never sell another vehicle again, but I know how life works. I’m sure life would feed me those same words in some massive display of humility pie ala’ mode.
My mom is not in good health and uses an electric scooter to get around. She had an illness 2 winters ago that sent her to the hospital and then a long care center. She was able to get an electric scooter to get around after this illness. We then started trying to figure out how we were going to transport the electric scooter when she wanted to go out.
We started looking at handicap accessible vans. First, we were in total sticker shock! Many new handicapped vans are above $40,000 which is way outside of our price range. We found this Dodge caravan in her price range, for $10,900, located fairly close to us. The 35 minutes drive seemed very reasonable since the last van we had considered was located in New York, 6 hours away.
It was still way more expensive then we wanted it to be but can you really put a price on independence?
So We Buy a Used Van
So the van was old and wasn’t much to look at. It sort of creaked and groaned when you drove it around but it had low mileage. We decided it was better than nothing and bought it. We figured we could re-sell it if it didn’t suit our needs well enough, or if she decided she didn’t want/need it anymore.
We brought it home and took it to our garage to have it inspected. It passed with no extra work! They said it just had a little soft spot in the floor in between the front seats that would need taken care of next inspection.
Se we brought the van home and it sat in the driveway for 2 weeks. At this point I told my mom we were taking it out on Friday and we were gonna see how it went.
She was nervous about going out and she wasn’t sure how to work everything in the new van. I told her we would figure it out, even if it took all day. She told me that I make her do things she doesn’t feel she is ready for. I said, “Isn’t that what daughters are for?”. Then we both had a good laugh.
Mom Is Loving Independence but Misses Her Sienna Van
Fast-forward a year and she was independent and loving it, but she did miss her toyota sienna that she had driven before she needed the ramp van. She started looking for a used converted sienna ramp van. I think she looked for about 4 – 5 months before she found one in the local area.
The vans she was looking at were almost double the price of the van she had now. That was OK because she could still sell the other van and recoup some of the money. The new sienna van had all of the amenities she was looking for and so she bought it.
We were now trying to sell the old van and it had just “ran out” of inspection. Instead of getting it inspected and putting more money into it, we decided to sell it “as is”. I had my kids paint a wheelchair sign, I made a sales poster, and I posted it on facebook marketplace.
I answered messages and showed the van for about 3 months. Many of the people looking at the van were in the market for a handicapped van for the first time. They looked at ramp width, size of the open area in the van, ground clearance, how much space between the front seats, and no one looked under the van.
Selling the Old Van Goes All Wrong
After we had dropped the price to $8,000 we got a woman who was interested who traveled from around Penn State area. Her brother did the negotiating and asked what our low price was. I told him if he bought it today it was $7000 and he agreed.
We went to the title transfer place and were transferring the title. They seemed like nice people. The woman’s husband had just lost both his legs and she was looking for a vehicle to transport him back and forth to physical therapy.
We finished the sale and we both wished each other luck. She seemed happy and mom and I were both happy too. We had space in our driveway again and money in our pocket (she had given me some money for selling the van). It all seemed good until I got a message from the woman’s brother.
We ended up calling him that evening and he told us that the garage had looked at the vehicle and it was so rusted out that the mechanic was afraid the tire was going to fall off. The man didn’t ask for anything specific but he was truly upset and asked for our help.
None of us could believe that that much damage had happened from when it had been inspected a year earlier. We asked that he send pictures of the damage and we would go from there.
We talked to a lot of people in the time being, asking what they would do. Apparently, Pennsylvania is an “as is” state and plenty of us have been burned by our vehicle purchases. No one has ever offered to pay us back when we found out “a bunch more” was wrong with a vehicle then what was stated at the sale. The sienna my mom had just purchased has a problem with air conditioning lines so she was driving it without AC while it was 95 degrees outside. The bottom line was, it was no longer our responsibility and it wasn’t our problem to fix but this didn’t sit right with me at all.
I was devastated to the point of depression. I had no responsibility as I had shown the van and disclosed what we knew. I had no decision making power as I had not bought or sold the van. I had only introduced buyer to seller. I still felt deeply responsible though and I was hurting for this woman. Mostly because I could imagine how devastating it would have been if this had happened to my mother.
The man sent us the photos of the van with all the rust and damage. I confirmed with an expert that it did, in fact, affect the frame of the vehicle and the tire. It was going to take extensive work to fix this vehicle and we knew these people did not have the funds to pay for it.
My mom, my significant other, and I talked about what we thought the right thing to do was. We considered if we were getting scammed. We discussed whether reversing the sale was a real option (it cost over $600 to do this). Mom wondered if it was best just to let as is but neither one of us felt right about that.
Making Things Right With the Buyer
Mom and I talked and we felt that if there was a family that needed help it was them. She prayed and slept on it and the number she landed on was $4,500. I had already given her all but $200 of the money she had given me. We both took a loss although my mom lost so much more. I think in all she drove the van for a year and lost $8,400.
I don’t know if what we gave the woman was enough to fix the frame or get a vehicle but I hope it was. I did offer to throw a fundraiser for her as well but they seemed happy enough to get what we had offered. I feel like I should have thrown a fundraiser for my mom but I’m sure someone would have complained that I was being self-serving.
I do wonder from time to time if we got scammed but I have learned to trust my gut. My instincts tell me we did the right thing and I hope it makes a difference for the family. I know that we appreciate any kindness when we struggle. I have faith karma will take care of us because we were kind. Our wallet may be empty but our hearts are full, and that is the path we decided to take. It would be nice to have a little more money but not at the expense of someone else. I would have lost sleep knowing there was someone out in the world that we could have helped and didn’t. Maybe that makes me stupid but it sure doesn’t feel that way to me.
To be honest it makes me feel bad to “rag on” the van that gave my mom back her independence. It gave her the confidence to go back out into the world on her own. From owning this van she knew that she knew that getting a better handicapped van was a good investment for her. The situation just ended so poorly. I will certainly be getting an inspection for any high-priced vehicle I sell in the future!
I’m curious to hear what other people think about the situation. Have you gotten “screwed over” on a vehicle purchase? How much money did it cost you? If you aren’t legally responsible does that mean you get to “wash your hands” of the problem? How would you have handled the situation? Would it have been different if you sold the vehicle to a family who was all “able-bodied”?