I got to know my local car rental agent during my recent quest for a new bike.
Rather than pestering friends or my wife for rides, I rented cars on a one-way basis with plans to drop them off in the seller’s hometown. A drive-and-ride, if you will.
I did it four times, traveling as far away as 150 miles to see bikes I spotted on Northern California Craigslist sites. It was about three times more than I hoped. And guess what? I didn’t buy any of the bikes. In the end, I picked up a nice sport-tourer from a guy living practically around the corner.
But it was a method with some promise, especially for those who live in sprawling regions. Or for people like me who just want to limit the number of friends and family members who witness our tortured decision making process.
Here’s the way it went for me. I’d spot a bike I liked, call the owner and have a nice long talk. If it sounded good, I’d reveal my plan to rent a car and ask if the seller could provide a short ride if necessary.
I’d pick up the car the next morning and make the drive. The first trip was the longest — nearly three hours one way. It was a gamble — and I threw craps. The bike wasn’t as described.
It was too bad because I had just driven across the top of the state and the seller seemed nice. Within minutes of arriving I turned to him and said no thanks.
It had to be done.
Of course, I tried to salvage the day by seeing bikes on the way home but I couldn’t reach anyone. They were all at work. The rental agent was surprised to see me when I pulled onto the lot just before closing. It was a long day.
Less than a week later, I went for it again. This time I was positive it was going to work out. It was a one-owner bike with low miles and slightly underpriced. I’d always dreamed of having one. And it came with tons of extras that I envisioned selling on eBay.
But after making the drive and test-riding the bike, I began to have doubts. The seating position was too hunched over for a touring bike and it had that noisy dry clutch. I knew I was walking away from it when the guy produced maintenance records that showed the every-6K service was more than $1,500.
My mind raced to come up with an excuse for not buying a bike that was actually a pretty nice bike.
“It’s just too fast for me,” I lied. “I’m going to have to think about it over the weekend.”
I marched out to my rental car and drove home.
It was scene that played out two more times, at great expense, before I happened upon the perfect bike, virtually down the street.