Jacobs happened to be in the Bay Area, so he went to see the car. He thought it was too dark — virtually black. His gut told him it wasn't the right car, so he walked away from the deal.
Finally, Jacobs was surfing AutoTrader and found a 2008 Porsche Carrera 4S in the Los Angeles area with 17,000 miles and an asking price of $70,000. It was the Cobalt Blue he'd been looking for. He began communicating with the owner and made a deal for $68,000, contingent on verifying the condition of the car. While the financing was a bit complicated (the owner had to pay off a $51,000 loan before the title could be released), Jacobs did the deal, and is now the happy owner of a car that two years earlier had cost $109,000.
"I saved over $40,000 and have a car that even smells brand new," Jacobs says. "The best part is I didn't have to compromise."
While he was searching, Jacobs says, it sometimes seemed as if he was not making any progress. But then, in no time, "it can go from 'there is no such car out there' to writing a check," he says. Even weeks after purchasing the car, the thrill has not worn off. "It's smooth as glass," he says. "I don't know what it is, but that car is solid as a rock."
A Cool Mercedes Convertible Is His for $11,800
Frank Risalvato, the 51-year-old owner of the recruiting firm Iresinc.com, lives in a classic car mecca. Charlotte, North Carolina, is thick with automotive museums, exhibits and classic car companies, making it tough to settle on just one knock-out car. He test-drove an old Pontiac Trans Am and said it made him feel as if he was 19 again. But he decided a muscle car wasn't appropriate for someone who would frequently have to drive the car to business meetings. Still, he loved the horsepower and wanted a convertible. Gradually, he homed in on the Mercedes-Benz SL500 V8, the R129 model, manufactured between 1990 and 2002.
For Risalvato, the search was a big part of the fun. He frequently worked late into the evening, chatting online with gearheads he'd met during his virtual car searches. His wife joked that the search was so much fun for him that actually buying the car might be a letdown.
After combing Web classifieds, Yahoo Autos, Craigslist and eBay Motors, Risalvato found and bought a 1991 SL for $10,300. So far, he has made only $1,500 in repairs.
"So for $11,800, I have a car that cost $91,000 when it was new in 1990," he says. Luckily, his wife's prediction didn't come true. Ownership has been as much a source of pleasure as the buying process. "I love popping the top on my Mercedes convertible and driving to a restaurant in the Carolina autumn," he says. "There's nothing like it."