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Old 09-19-2016, 05:12 PM   #1
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Opinions on a '96 Dodge Sportsmobile

Hi all,
longtime lurker, first time poster. last night my bf placed a winning eBay bid ($8,925) on a '96 Dodge 3500 with Sportsmobile interior mods (note: no pop-top, as the van is already a high top). Link to the ebay Motors posting: Sportsmobile | eBay

He's really excited about it, but I have serious doubts because of a noted inconsistency in the odometer reading. According to the CarFax, the vehicle was recorded as having 89,155 miles on 1/6/00. Then, when the vehicle change hands in 2001, it was recorded as having 46,882 miles on 7/12/01. The odometer today shows just over 109k miles.

My bf called the seller last night to inquire. The seller said he purchased the vehicle, sight unseen, from the 2nd owner (a widower in Kansas) a few months ago and had it delivered to his residence in Texas via Uship. He has the original paperwork that the previous owner inherited, but no maintenance records. Said he's selling it because it's too small for his purposes. Showed us a video inside the van that confirms all the electrical stuff is working. Can't verify the temp of the heat or ac, but seller claims they both work well. No generator on this rig. Toilet is just a porta-potty, so one less thing to worry about.

The seller sounded like a real character - he owns a surf and bike rental shop in Galveston, TX that is well reviewed- and while I don't get the sense he's being outright deceitful, the lack of service records raises suspicion about the mechanical condition. Of course this is all further complicated by the fact that we live in Northern California and won't be able to inspect the vehicle in-person until we go to TX to buy it.
My boyfriend is not without his concerns, but has confidence (perhaps too much so in his mechanical ability and believes that this van is still a good purchase. I'm not so sure, but as a woman with little mechanical knowledge I'd very much appreciate the advice of this forum.

Thanks!
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Old 09-20-2016, 02:01 PM   #2
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*bump* to get this thread some attention today.

HEY -- I wrote a solid answer to your questions, and then the browser logged me out and it all got lost. Here's the Cliff-Notes version of that note:

Don't fret! Take it one thing it a time.

1) Odometer Discretion -
Contact the Kansas and Texas DMV's / Secretary of State Offices. Figure out what the real deal is there. Don't put yourself in a situation where you have to plead ignorance later. Cool. NEXT:

2) The Dodge Van's Condition -
Not having the service records is indeed a bummer, but not the end of the world. But don't trust the seller about the van's "road trip readiness" and just hop in it and go. INSTEAD --- find a local-to-the-van's-current-location, reputable/well-reviewed "Mobile Vehicle Inspection Mechanic" of your choice and that YOU find (probably on Yelp) and have them go and look the van over / drive it, top-to-bottom, then report back directly to YOU (not the seller) as to what its true condition is.

This is 100% a good idea for an older van, no matter how nice it looks, how low the miles, or how much the seller swears it's "good to go."

*** Don't do what I did -- I flew up to pick up a low-miles van that the seller claimed was totally mechanically perfect/maintained.....and found I was suddenly on a 1,000 mile road trip with my girlfriend in a van that had 11-year-old, dry-rotted tires....bad brakes (they made banging noises when you used them).....and scary, sloppy/worn-out steering parts.

3) The RV Equipment -
My possibly-will-get-disagreed-with advice:Wait until you get home to use any of it. (apart from perhaps the refrigerator, if it's a basic 12-volt electric model.) Don't use the propane equipment. No heater....no stove....(at least I wouldn't)....until you can get back home and find a mobile RV Tech (I found an awesome one on Yelp that came to my house) -- and have him/her do a top-to-bottom safety inspection on all the RV stuff.

The guy I found showed me not only how everything worked and verified its safe-to-operate condition, but also clued me in to the correct safety procedures (this IS propane....) and a ton of tips on how to maintain and repair stuff on my own in the future. If this is your first RV, especially with gas/electric in it...this is time/money well spent just to get a proper education and not have to wonder about how all the things (that don't have their instruction manuals any more) operate.

-------------------------------------------------------

Okay, maybe that's still too long an answer to qualify as a "Cliff Notes" reply, hehe....

By the way, congrats on the Sportsmobile purchase!!!
And good luck. Ask as many questions here as ya want. And post some "on the way home with the new van" trip pictures if ya get a chance. Welcome to the van life!

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Old 09-21-2016, 10:00 AM   #3
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Every 1996 Dodge I've owned has ended up needing a new fuel pump. Try and find out if it's been done. Not difficult just getting harder to find.


"Talk is cheap. Whiskey costs money."
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Old 09-21-2016, 12:50 PM   #4
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@MountainBikeRoamer and Pntyrmvr-

Thanks for the very helpful advice. The sale fell through, although that may be a good thing. Per MountainBikeRoamer's suggestion, we found a nearby mechanic who was willing to make the short trip to the seller's residence to inspect the vehicle. Seller initially seemed receptive, but called us yesterday to tell us he had found a local buyer who was willing to immediately pay a higher amount for the van. I suppose we'll never know if we -pardon the pun- dodged a bullet. At least we feel better prepared to handle an out-of-state Sportsmobile purchase should one arise in the future. Preference would of course be to find something nearby in NorCal.

Thanks again.
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Old 09-21-2016, 01:17 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by picturemerolling View Post
@MountainBikeRoamer and Pntyrmvr-

Thanks for the very helpful advice. The sale fell through, although that may be a good thing. Per MountainBikeRoamer's suggestion, we found a nearby mechanic who was willing to make the short trip to the seller's residence to inspect the vehicle. Seller initially seemed receptive, but called us yesterday to tell us he had found a local buyer who was willing to immediately pay a higher amount for the van. I suppose we'll never know if we -pardon the pun- dodged a bullet. At least we feel better prepared to handle an out-of-state Sportsmobile purchase should one arise in the future. Preference would of course be to find something nearby in NorCal.

Thanks again.

Bummer!!!!

But like you said, (and LOVE YOUR PUN...) maybe ya dodged something....that was.....indeed.....a bit......Dodgy*.

Anyway --- don't give up!
NorCal is a hotbed of camper-vans and SMB's, something will appear. This is probably a good time of year to be looking.....the traditional summer camping season is winding down (well, not for a lot of us here on the SMB forum, lol) and that's when a lot of people are considering the whole "Sell the camper, or store it again for the winter" question.

I think most of us on here had a good number of SMB's "get away from us" before finally landing one. (Pretty sure there were at least 8 or 9 that I called the sellers about (when I was hunting two years ago) that sold within hours of being listed, or that I couldn't get to in time....) You'll find one. Your boyfriend has the enthusiasm and determination, it sounds like.....you'll make it happen.

Keep us posted if you find another and want the forum's opinion/assistance....and hey.....happy camper-van hunting to you!!!

(*Let it be known that I love Dodges, by the way...! I've lost count how many Mopars I've owned (and still own....). Really dig those B-vans, even though the forum seems to be almost 99.9% Ford/Sprinter stuff.)
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Old 09-21-2016, 01:23 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by picturemerolling View Post
Preference would of course be to find something nearby in NorCal.
I think this price is too high, but maybe they're willing to negotiate.

https://sfbay.craigslist.org/nby/rvs/5771471870.html
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Old 09-22-2016, 09:17 AM   #7
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Ok....hey picturemerolling....this is kind of a double-bummer, but it seems like more confirmation that the guy selling that 1996 SMB isn't the most forthright seller, as you'd been suspecting a bit already.

Found this just now:
**That same 1996 SMB** that you guys won at eBay auction for $8900.....
...is now back up for sale on Craigslist for $10k.

Looks like it just listed in the last 12 hours. So much for the seller's claims to you that he had someone lined up to immediately give him more money than what you guys won the vehicle at auction for.

It sure seems like at least a *little* sketchy behavior on the seller's part (after he got quirmy on you guys, once you wanted a mechanic to do a quick check-over of the van) and then claiming he had a local buyer that was offering more money. (I'm no eBay expert....but one you've won an auction (once the auction is "closed"), I thought there was a contractual obligation on both buyer AND seller's part to conclude the deal? Perhaps not, but it sure doesn't seem like ideal seller behavior.)

This all looks like he wasn't happy with you guys winning the van for only $8900, so he took any excuse he could find and backed out of the deal with you guys to go fishing for more money. Check out his ad listing below. (Be sure of course to read the last line in his ad, in particular.....he sure doesn't seem happy with having had you guys win that van for $8900......)

No idea if this would have proven to be a headache-free transaction experience for you guys, but the seller does seem like a piece of work.

----------------------------------------------

Sportsmobile Camper Van Class B - $10000 (Galveston)

Sportsmobile Camper Van Class B

1996 Dodge Sportsmobile in EXCEPTIONAL condition and everything works as it supposed to!! Both AC units blow cold (dash and camper), both heaters blow hot (dash and camper). The pictures pretty much speak for themselves. Super clean, and both runs and drives truly amazing. Nice little refrigerator/freezer. This camper van does not have a generator or a shower, although does have a portable commode. It has a power cord that plugs into an electrical plug, plus also runs on propane gas. The rear two couches both fold out to a big soft comfortable bed, as the fronts seats swivel to the rear of the camper as well. There is PLENTY of storage places (cabinets), and also has a small tv with VHS and DVD. It has both an engine battery plus a house battery for all the lights and water pump, both which are relatively new and work great. It has a rear oscillating fan, day and night shades, cb radio, two burner stove top, power windows, locks, and mirrors. There are no check engine lights on the dash, no water stains (doesn't leak nor never has). All in all, this little camper van is beautiful, and in no way does it either look nor drive like a 1996!! It has been in Kansas most all it's life and no rust that I can see. It has 109,987 miles and truly drives amazing as it has been meticulously maintained from day one!! Tires, shocks, ball joints, suspension and everything else is very good, and I wouldn't hesitate driving this little camper anywhere!! This was one I was hoping to keep, but just need a camper/motorhome with more room, therefore would be open to a possible trade?! I'm not exactly sure what gas mileage it gets (as I've never figured it - didn't matter to me), although I suggest "google" it whereas to save us both time, as I'm sure the question will arise. If you have any questions please text me (4o9) 6oo-5555
$10,000 FIRM!! Let's don't waste each other's time with any offers less than 10k


----------------------------------------------
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Old 09-22-2016, 09:26 AM   #8
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Well, the time to get an inspection is not *after* you win an Ebay auction, but before you bid. Once you bid, and win, technically you are obligated to purchase the vehicle. Of course, if you get there to buy it and it is grossly misrepresented, then you have some options...

But I do agree that it sounds like it was for the best that it didn't work out. Usually your gut-instinct is right with these things.
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Old 09-22-2016, 10:08 AM   #9
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Well, the time to get an inspection is not *after* you win an Ebay auction, but before you bid. Once you bid, and win, technically you are obligated to purchase the vehicle. Of course, if you get there to buy it and it is grossly misrepresented, then you have some options...

But I do agree that it sounds like it was for the best that it didn't work out. Usually your gut-instinct is right with these things.

Yeah, I was going to mention that bit about "get the inspection *before you bid, not after you win the auction*" too.

If you win an auction, and then insist that you need an inspection before you'll agree to pay for the van, then that's a problem. Not cool to the seller. Ask for those things up front if you are the kind of buyer who would back out of a deal later.

But --- if you've won an auction, and you fully intend to take possession/drive the vehicle home, no matter what......and you want a qualified mechanic to simply look a vehicle over (just for your own awareness and knowledge/safety) before you pick it up to drive it 1000+ miles back home -- just so you know its good to go, and what might need attention along the way....and the seller knows you have no intentions of "backing out of the deal"..... (a lot of qualifications to this, I know, but it seemed this was their situation.....) --- then that seems totally fair (and prudent, especially with zero maintenance/repair history on the vehicle.) If the seller backed out of the deal when they made this kind of reasonable request, then the seller has (I'm pretty sure) violated some kind of eBay policy.

These guys asked advice based on their point in the experience, since they were suddenly having some worries/reservations (reasonably founded, just based on the questionable CarFax entries and also their gut instincts...)

(*** We have no idea how the phone conversations went with the seller, perhaps he (the seller) somehow got the mistaken idea that the buyers (picturemerolling) were the ones getting squirmy, and he sensed that his deal might slip away from him based on what their mechanic found/didn't find. It's all kind of speculation around a still-seems-weird selling situation. Who knows what truly goes on the brains of other humans? (Who knows what truly goes on in our own brain, for that matter?) ***)

At the bottom of all of it here, I gotta solidly echo BrianW on this - the time to ask all questions (and get inspections done) is ALWAYS *up front.*
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Old 09-22-2016, 02:29 PM   #10
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A few years back I won an auction for a Volvo Cross-Country station wagon, at a somewhat-local dealer. I only saw the auction at the last minute, but bid on and won it anyway based on his positive feedback and that he was local. When I got there to buy and take possession, the car was not what I expected based on his description. But it was a bit of a gray area, based on how he and I defined "excellent condition." In the end I cancelled the sale, paid his listing fee (under $100) and he relisted it with no hard feelings. But I learned my lesson!
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