Buyer Beware

San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

Because of border crossings, buying a used car has taken on added risks for the new owner. Not only does he or she inherit the mechanical problems, better known as the reason the owner is selling the damn thing, but there could be another hidden agenda to the sale, especially if the car seems in very good condition for the price. It just might be the case you are buying a mule, or more accurately, the conveyance of a mule.

A mule, in the parlance of the drug industry, is someone who carries drugs. When they are driving across the border, the drugs are often hidden in the door panels of the car. If the car is a particular model of Ford, you could say in all honesty that the driver, with little or no skills in animal husbandry, has managed to make a mule out of a mustang.

Opened door panel.So buying a used car can make crossing the border an unpleasant experience. I know because it just happened to me.

I was on Vancouver Island, first in line to board the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles. I gave my ticket to someone in a uniform and a few minutes later saw two men being lead by a black dog, walking to the front of the line. I presumed, because of the NWD (New World Disorder), this was a recent anti-terrorist procedure. When the dog reached my car, it circumnavigated it three times, tugging one of the border guards with it. There was a knock on my side window and I rolled it part way down, thinking of the nuisance of having to roll it back up again as it did not align properly with the side tracks. Neither did the passenger window. What does THAT tell you?

"Is this your car?" said the guard.


"How long have you owned it?"

"Three months."

"Where did you get it?"

I told him I bought it at a tow yard and I showed him the papers. He asked me to open the trunk and unlock the passenger door. Meanwhile the dog was straining his leash, rubbing his nose against the passenger door in a rather licentious manner.

I watched the two men meticulously search the car and trunk. They opened every bag and box, whereupon the dog stuck his head inside and inhaled deeply, like a 17th century British aristocrat snorting a snuff box.

I was barraged with a series of questions, which I answered honestly. They pulled my notebooks from my pack and read them. They looked at the titles of the books I was reading. Finally the two men decided I wasn't a Columbian cartel kingpin. I was just a dimwit.

"The car probably has a previous history," one of them told me.

I had no problem getting the car into Mexico. But because it has 'a history', which apparently a drug dog can read like the morning funnies, I know it would be foolish to try and drive it back out of Mexico. Within three hours of attempting this, I'd be staring at a heap of sheet metal, bolts and upholstery lying on the ground in Secondary.

When I told this story to a friend yesterday, he said that some months back someone had bought a used car here in Mexico and tried to drive it into the US. Not only did his car have 'a history', it was apparently still pioneering its career. A hyper kinetic dog convinced the border guards to remove the side panels. Inside there were several ladrillos of dope taped against the doors. The man spent several months in jail before lawyers were able to free him.

So next time you're kicking the wheels of a possible good deal, think about what the clean engine, no dents, good rubber and clear oil aren't going to tell you. Make it a point to meet the owner in person and talk with him or her. Use your inbuilt tuning fork to detect any deception or dishonesty on their part. Just because the car's going cheap doesn't mean you're going to come out on top. You could be inheriting the history of a mule and win the race to jail by a dog's nose.


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