Searching for a Fiat 500 manual/stick 'Plague' car

Francois Caron

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I'm no expert and never driven one, but haven't heard flattering things where their reliability is concerned.
They're definitely not rumours, I can confirm that. I've been specifically avoiding Fiats with between 70,000 and 90,000 km because that's the window when they need a lot of fixing up. The yellow one only had 27,100 km which would have given me time to enjoy it for a couple of years and sell it off at 50,000 before it started approaching the failure zone.

The Veloster might already be out of the running. Everything at 2017 and below has that horrible looking V shaped console. Hyundai only replaced it with something decent at the 2019 model year. Those cars will be pretty expensive for a while until the depreciation finally kicks in.
 

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The Scion you talked about- not having SiriusXM as standard equipment- that would be a deal breaker for me. I rent cars from Enterprise quite often, and the Toyotas in their fleet doesn’t come with satellite radio (it cost $6/day to have the satellite radio turned on when I rent), so I don’t rent Toyotas.
 

Francois Caron

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I'm really surprised that Toyota doesn't include SiriusXM in their radios. As you've mentioned, it can be a deal breaker, just like no air as I've discovered in a nearly new Fiat 500 being sold for under $9,000 CAD.

In more than one occasion with Enterprise, the SiriusXM reception was left active by mistake. I often listen to the 80s channel. Luckily, there's a radio station in Ottawa, CHEZ 106, that plays music from the 70s and 80s. So locally, I don't have to choose between the two decades.

You can get SiriusXM in pretty much any car that doesn't have it, but it does require a bit of work. Possibly the easiest and cleanest hardware path would be to get a Commander Touch module and splice it into the radio's AUX port if you have one. The only question is where to put the touchscreen and antenna.

Another option is to use the SiriusXM app on your phone and send the audio signal to the radio via AUX or Bluetooth. But that could result in sound degradation and an unexpected massive mobile data bill.

The last option is to get a new car stereo that's SiriusXM Ready, but you'll lose some in-car functionality that's part of the stock radio, and it could easily cost you over a grand for the equipment, the adapter cables and the installation.

On another note, I think the "best deal" evaluator in AutoTrader is pretty screwy. CarGurus reports the blue tC as being a fair deal at $142 CAD above the average market price. AutoTrader was reporting the same car as being close to $2,845 CAD below market price. Further research in other available tCs within 500 km showed that CarGurus' evaluator may be the more accurate of the two sites.

I'll test drive the Scion tC next week if I can. Just like the yellow Fiat, it's been sitting at the dealer for the last eight months. I need to make sure the battery and the oil are up to date if I decide to buy the car, and I need to check the tires for any flat spots.
 

Francois Caron

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An update.

There's still a faint hope for me to get a Fiat 500 Turbo, but it's a bit risky, but not so risky that I'd be losing a significant amount of cash if this fails.

This car's being sold at a dealer in Quebec close to Ottawa. They were initially rejected a few weeks ago because they failed to respond to my emails. I'm willing to try again in case they simply had trouble with their email system.

The Carfax report indicates the odometer might have been rolled back some 36,000 km, and then rolled forward by some 4,000 km while the car was in the possession of the dealer. They're asking $6,444 CAD ($4,800 USD) for it. My best estimate is that the car has approximately 80,000 km (50,000 miles) on it, well above its 48,000 km reported odometer reading.

rtc-inv-47019280-Fiat-500-6-2-1024x768.jpg

Because of the car's legally questionable history, I'll be offering $3,000 CAD ($2,234 USD) to purchase the car on the condition that it passes both the mechanical and MTO safety inspections. If the sale's fully concluded, even if the car only lasts for two years, it would have served its purpose.

rtc-inv-47019280-Fiat-500-9-2-1024x768.jpg

Once I'm done with the car in two or three years, I can part it out or junk it. For the $3,000 I would have paid for it without the need for a loan, that's less than the cost of depreciation on a +$10,000 used car. Heck, I wouldn't even need to swap out the winter tires currently installed on this car because of the low mileage I'll be accumulating during that time. (Read up on this, not a good idea.)

rtc-inv-47019280-Fiat-500-3-2-1024x768.jpg

This car's as close to a pre-2016 model match as I would have hoped to find, even better than the yellow Fiat.

rtc-inv-47019280-Fiat-500-24-2-1024x768.jpg

Wish me luck on this one!
 
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Francois Caron

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The car's been sold last weekend. :D

Funny story, though. I told them about the anomalous odometer readings. They looked over the Carfax report with me, and they apparently never noticed that! Good luck explaining that anomaly to the buyer! :laugh:

Anyway, faint hope gone! I'll keep searching. There are still candidates popping up out there, including a fake Abarth which is just a rebadged Sport Turbo model! I'm seeing all kinds of shenanigans out there!

I checked out the prices of used Honda Civics. Man, are they expensive! I'll have much better luck with the Scion tC! If I decide to buy this instead of the 500, I need to find one that already includes a set of winter tires and rims. Decent ones are expensive here.
 

Francois Caron

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Interesting. The dealer said the car's sold, but the ads are still up everywhere. If they're still up next week, I'll give them another call in case the buyer balked. I already know how much mileage the car really has. If they bring down the price and add a disclaimer, this could still work out.

In the meantime, I'll be test driving the blue Scion tC tomorrow. I'll let you all know how that goes. I'm afraid it'll feel like an ordinary car. I even found the Dodge Charger GT I've once rented to be a bit underwhelming (rental from points, no compacts available, got this instead, only paid insurance and gas).

P_20180722_091811.jpg

As for the Fiat 500, it's not over yet. I'm still seeing 2013 Sport Turbo models show up from time to time, with many of them having between 60,000 and 80,000 kilometers for about $6,000. If I continue to be patient, eventually one of them will show up somewhere and will definitely be worth buying. I can even forgo the turbo if necessary and just stick with the sport trim which I already find to be most comfortable of all of the Fiat trims. Best of all, I won't need to take out a loan; the car will be fully paid off right out of the gate.
 

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Interesting. The dealer said the car's sold, but the ads are still up everywhere. If they're still up next week, I'll give them another call in case the buyer balked. I already know how much mileage the car really has. If they bring down the price and add a disclaimer, this could still work out.

In the meantime, I'll be test driving the blue Scion tC tomorrow. I'll let you all know how that goes. I'm afraid it'll feel like an ordinary car. I even found the Dodge Charger GT I've once rented to be a bit underwhelming (rental from points, no compacts available, got this instead, only paid insurance and gas).

View attachment 73895

As for the Fiat 500, it's not over yet. I'm still seeing 2013 Sport Turbo models show up from time to time, with many of them having between 60,000 and 80,000 kilometers for about $6,000. If I continue to be patient, eventually one of them will show up somewhere and will definitely be worth buying. I can even forgo the turbo if necessary and just stick with the sport trim which I already find to be most comfortable of all of the Fiat trims. Best of all, I won't need to take out a loan; the car will be fully paid off right out of the gate.
I bought a 2015 Charger SXT 4 years ago. Still love the car (I don’t put many miles on it- it’s my
secondary car and pleasure ride).
 

Francois Caron

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As long as you don't try to kill it, it should last a while. That's why muscle cars can be troublesome as used cars (same goes for rental cars): the drivers can be real maniacs having all that "muscle" under their power.

I test drove the 2016 Scion tC today. The blue one.

67724488.jpeg

Very decent ride. It definitely felt the way you'd expect a car made in Japan would feel: comfortable, safe and dependable. Engine purring like a kitten, decent acceleration, brakes were a bit soft, sound system worked perfectly including the AM radio, comfy leather seats...

Despite its sporty/trashy exterior and cheap plastic interior, it felt like nearly every dependable rental car I've ever driven during my many business trips. And that's the problem with this car. I want something that feels exciting to drive. This thing made me feel as if I was going to a client site!

In spite of this, it'll serve as the backup car in case the 2015 Abarth I'll be trying out this weekend fails to deliver. It's a bit of a ghastly thing, with a few extra mods that likely lowered its resale value. It's now for sale at $11,198 CAD ($8,346 USD) with 83,830 km (52,090 mi).

And yet, if I buy the Fiat, I've already planned to add an aftermarket exhaust to help tame this beast's raspy throat so as not to wake up my neighbours. :D

I'm gonna need some patience removing the extra badges on this thing.

75928906.jpeg 75928945.jpeg
75928923.jpeg 75928939.jpeg
 

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My Charger isn’t the “muscle car” version- mine has the 3.6L V6. It’s a great dual purpose car-
290 HP that gets over 30 mpg on the highway. I took it for a 2700 mile trip not long after buying it, and I didn’t feel beat up sitting in the car for hours at a time.

I think that big yellow badge on that Fiat should be removed- it sticks out like a sore thumb.
 

Francois Caron

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I think that big yellow badge on that Fiat should be removed- it sticks out like a sore thumb.
The heat gun and fishing line are standing by! :D

I'm hoping the Abarth works out. After some much careful thought overnight, I might not go for the Scion after all. It just feels too much like a normal car.

I don't want something normal. I want something a bit loony under the bonnet!
 

Francois Caron

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The heat gun and fishing line might not be necessary. I found another Abarth in Laval, Quebec, same year, also one owner, 15,000 fewer kilometers, with sunroof and without modifications for an extra $750.

The car has been in a couple of fender benders, but everything looks okay in the pictures. I'll confirm this once I'm there next Saturday.

I might still add a muffler to the thing. I do like the Abarth's growl, just not so loud.
 
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Francois Caron

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Is this what you’re buying?
No, that's what I BOUGHT! :D

2015 Fiat 500 Abarth with 69,340 km (43,086 mi), leather seats, AC, Beats sound system with SiriusXM, sunroof and digital dash. $11,950 CAD ($8,794 USD).

Here are some pictures from the dealer's ads before they were pulled on Wednesday to prevent someone else from buying the car. This was being sold by a Toyota used car dealership in Laval, Quebec linked with the Toyota new car dealership located in the building next door on the same car lot.

2015_fiat_500-pic-5000391125715480768-1024x768.jpeg 2015_fiat_500-pic-5082231914350520629-1024x768.jpeg
2015_fiat_500-pic-1591380291124333723-1024x768.jpeg 2015_fiat_500-pic-8901583102648296732-1024x768.jpeg

I couldn't do all of the tests I wanted to do because the salesman had another appointment within two hours of mine, and the hoist wasn't available because the garage is closed and only the unionised mechanics are allowed to operate them. I used my phone as a wireless Webcam streaming to my laptop to get a close look at every part of the car that I couldn't reach. Only the linkages showed any significant signs of rust, but appeared to be primarily surface rust with only a couple of spots that might need to be investigated a little closer. All my tapping with a rubber mallet produced reassuring steel pings and no rust thuds.

The undercarriage looked like the paint was slowly being sandblasted away by road dust, but there were no signs of rust or perforations. This will all be confirmed during the safety inspection in Ontario, which is a condition of the sale. The dealer will be responsible for fixing any items that had failed during the safety inspection. But I'm not really worried about this because the Quebec dealer had to perform a very similar safety inspection to pass the Quebec requirements.

There's also the fact that Abarth parts can be expensive, and I'd doubt they'd want to be stuck with a massive repair bill even if it's done in house!

If anything needs replacing, I'll get the parts at junkyards once other Abarth owners total their cars. :D

The front brakes appeared to be in good shape while the rear brakes appeared to need some work. The salesman confirmed the pad thickness was 6mm in the front and 4 mm in the back. But the dealer also indicated that the rear brakes needed to have some of the rust removed from the rotors, so they'll be redoing those before delivery of the vehicle.

The car's exterior had a couple of blemishes at the corners of the front wheel wells, but that's not unusual for a five year old car. I didn't notice anything wrong with the paintwork, but I didn't pay too much attention to that. I was mainly checking the seams for any significant deviations. Only the hood indicated a slightly wider gap on the left side, but the fender gaps appeared okay. This could have been a result of the front end fender bender.

The interior was in a surprisingly good condition! The only significant scuff marks were at the bottom of the driver's side door, again not surprising for a five year old daily drive. AC, radio, windows and sunroof were all okay. The SiriusXM band picked up the barker channel after a five second delay, which seemed normal for a buffering data stream.

The engine bay was as expected for an old car. The oil and battery had been changed, and possibly the spark plugs. I forgot to check the belts (I was running out of time), but I wouldn't be surprised if they were inspected and replaced if necessary. The only unusual thing was some electrical tape wrapped around a hose, but that looked like it was purposely put there.

I told them about my experience with manuals. Needless to say they didn't want to let me drive the car. "Deux ans?" ("Two year?") "Non, deux HEURES!" ("No, two HOURS!") :D

But that turned into a blessing! I was able to test a few things and confirm that they were working properly. We even did a shortened highway drive at a higher rev than usual while the AC was running full blast. No overheating issues here. And this salesman was driving stick ever since he was very young. I noticed his shifting was very smooth with no slippage or jerkiness in any of the gear changes. He made it look so easy.

As for the engine, man is this thing loud on the outside! I'm definitely installing the muffler! I don't want people to hate me that much! But the biggest surprise is how the engine sounded during the test drive. It was as if each cylinder was finely tuned by a master piano tuner. They were all pitch perfect with no misfires.

The handling and suspension were superb. The salesman had to evade someone cutting him off. It was just a quick jerk to the right, but it was done so quickly that my buttcrack ended up on the left edge of the seat! This car was glued to the road with absolutely no bouncing, wavering or jerkiness! And while I did feel the bumps on Quebec roads (yes, they're that bad), it was nothing I couldn't live with. In fact, this car was much more comfortable than the Fiat 500 Pop I had reviewed nine years ago.

I was really glad he drove. I got a lot more info from his normal driving than I would ever had gotten if I had driven the car myself and tried to evaluate it while desperately hunting for the right gear. It would have been a disaster.

The car came equipped with very sticky Firehawk Indy 500 performance tires with 9/32 inch of thread left. Considering how little I'll be driving this car, they should last me a reasonably long time. I may need to buy winter tires however. I didn't check with the salesman if the previous owner had left his old set with the car, but I was already running on the assumption that they weren't included.

Seriously, the previous (and first) owner took very good care of this car. I don't think he even put any significant strain on the engine, preferring to be very careful with it. The Carfax report includes a long list of regularly scheduled maintenance visits, and it shows. I suspect the car was sold because the driver's insurance rates may have skyrocketed following the second fender bender within fourteen months of the first. But at least they still put in a lot of effort in keeping this car running properly.

It's true that I'm taking a bit of a risk at buying this car without a full picture of the undercarriage and a few incomplete tests, but all of the evidence I managed to dig up indicated this Abarth was being sold at the right price for its history and its current state. It's not a mint condition car, but it's definitely a fully functional one, and a bit of a demon at that!

Purchased for $11,950 CAD ($8,794 USD) as advertised following this week's big price drop, plus sales tax and possibly a $10 transit ticket for registration (will be done in Ontario). Financing fees will only include a $100-$150 fee for a deep liens search. The down payment needs to be adjusted just below the point at which the interest rates will skyrocket (high down payments actually harm you). They'll also have insurance brokers find me a good deal on the necessary coverage in Ontario.

Not only did they not try to sell me an extended warranty package, they did inform me of Quebec's legal warranty of 1 month or 1,700 km for any car sold after the expiration of its manufacturer's warranty, which is this July.

Once all of the paperwork is finalised and I'm satisfied with everything, I'll head back to sign the sales agreement and pay the balance of the down payment. They currently have a $500 deposit that was suppose to be left with them last Wednesday to secure the car for my visit, but the payment never went through their machine due to a bad number. We completed the deposit transaction today. And despite the non-payment, they still pulled all of their ads on this car within hours after I agreed to leave a deposit back on Wednesday.

Overall, I feel confident with this dealer. They didn't try to stack a bunch of bogus fees on me, and they didn't try to sell me useless stuff I didn't need. In fact, I think my lengthy "inspection" (with high visibility coveralls so I don't dirty my clothes) scared them a bit, The salesman had never encountered anyone who wanted to be so thorough at checking out a used car, and I might have caught them completely off guard.

Only time will tell if I made the right decision, but I already feel very confident with this purchase, and I can still get out of it if the poop hits the fan. This car was well within the sweet spot of what I wanted (and then some -- an Abarth!), and it only cost me $50 more than the yellow Fiat's lowest price when it was sold less than a week after my lowballed $10,000 offer.

In fact, the dealer who was selling the yellow Fiat will be the one doing the inspection and the exhaust mods. They treated me very well even if there was no car sale, and their quotes were well within reason. My discussions with the head mechanic indicated he clearly understood how to work on exhaust systems and will very likely do an excellent job. They even offered to help me out if I had any trouble driving a manual.

The reason for choosing the yellow Fiat dealer is that it's less expensive for shipping the car there, they're located in a farming village within easy reach of Ottawa by train, and they have an abundance of deserted country roads suitable for many hours of reasonably safe stick practice! :D

I'll provide further updates as they come along. My mission will only be accomplished after I take final possession of the car, a process which may still take a couple of weeks if there are no SNAFUs.
 
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Francois Caron

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Almost forgot two things,

First, the OBD2 scanner found no error codes after the test drive. It did have an open code, but that was caused by putting the car at "ON" without starting the engine. I also heard the fuel pump whine. It was so steady, I thought it was an electrical hum.

Second, eat your heart out Doug DeMuro! I've got automatic climate controls, a digital dash and wheels that can be washed properly! :D

 

Jeffrey D

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Good luck with your purchase, and enjoy the car- nothing better than to have something fun to drive.
 

Francois Caron

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Good luck with your purchase, and enjoy the car- nothing better than to have something fun to drive.
Thanks! Buying a car is a nerve wracking experience. I keep asking myself if I made the right decision or did I miss something important and made a horrible mistake. This is worse than when I bought my loft condo back in 1999! And yet, the car isn't anywhere near as expensive and won't bankrupt me if things go wrong.

The loan's been approved. Now waiting for insurance quotes and the final sales contract with the requested mods. Also shopping around for shipping options.
 

Jeffrey D

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Thanks! Buying a car is a nerve wracking experience. I keep asking myself if I made the right decision or did I miss something important and made a horrible mistake. This is worse than when I bought my loft condo back in 1999! And yet, the car isn't anywhere near as expensive and won't bankrupt me if things go wrong.

The loan's been approved. Now waiting for insurance quotes and the final sales contract with the requested mods. Also shopping around for shipping options.
Yes having second thoughts or regrets is normal for a big purchase, like a car or house.

I was fortunate enough to be able to write a check for my Charger- no payments, and the original warranty had some life left (at
36,200 miles- 2 wheel speed sensors needed replacing- funny how things can go bad immediately after the bumper to bumper mileage has been reached).
 

Francois Caron

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(at
36,200 miles- 2 wheel speed sensors needed replacing- funny how things can go bad immediately after the bumper to bumper mileage has been reached).
That's how it works! :D

- Financing OK,
- Insurance OK,
- Final contract reading tomorrow,
- Signing this weekend,
- Shipping to inspection station in Ontario to be scheduled,
- Safety inspection pending,
- Exhaust up/downgrade pending (depends on your point of view),
- Registration and front license plate bracket installation pending,
- Parking...

- Parking???

Uh oh! :D
 

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