By on December 16, 2010

I’ve got three kids, so no M Coupe or other common object of pistonhead lust for me. Since 2003 I’ve been stuffing the brood into the back of a Mazda Protege5 while casually looking, off and on (mostly off) for a suitable three-row people hauler. Most people don’t spend six years looking for a car, but I’ve never found the right one at the right price. The right one being quite nice, since I’m picky (about cars at least). And the right price being low, because I’m cheap.

The search grew more active recently. My wife quit her “real job” to help improve our site, TrueDelta.com. With both of us now working at home, we didn’t need as many cars. And none of those we owned really fit our needs. With our parents aging, we’ve started visiting each set at least twice a year—a 700-plus-mile drive each way. The cars have also been aging, such that driving 700 miles had begun to push our luck. Oh, and the kids also seem to be growing.

The “inca gold” (impossible to lose in a crowded parking lot, even if you want to) PT Cruiser was the first to go, sold it to a grandmother from Detroit who shares my wife’s taste in cars. The Lexus GS 400 acquired from my father three years ago is also on the block, but I haven’t been trying too hard to sell it before having another car to replace it.

So, at least eight years after the typical parent I finally got serious about getting something into which the family could comfortably fit. I’ve always liked the size and interior packaging of the Ford Freestyle, and it has been reasonably reliable based on responses to TrueDelta’s survey. So I limited my search to this model and the less tastefully styled but more powerful Taurus X that replaced it.

Both were offered with either a bench or two captains in the second row. In case I wanted to carry all three kids with the third row folded or in conjunction with two grandparents, I wanted the bench. All-wheel-drive would be nice for the snow in Michigan, but front-wheel-drive maintains traction pretty well in these vehicles, so either would do. The wife strongly desires leather, with heat. After watching the kids bake in the back of the Mazda, I felt we should find one with the optional rear HVAC. Finally, I don’t like how these vehicles look with the two-tone paint standard on the lower trim levels. Only the Limited was available with monotone paint, so I hoped to find one attractively priced.

Usually you can pay less buying a car from an owner rather than a dealer. For reasons that escape me, there doesn’t appear to be a good FSBO site for cars. There haven’t been many FSBOs on AutoTrader since they eliminated the free ad option years ago. Even most of the cars on Craigslist are posted by dealers. Despite the Internet’s potential for connecting buyers and sellers, have people given up on selling cars themselves?

I found a car that met my criteria early on, a 2006 Freestyle Limited AWD with nearly all options and 42,000 miles, for $13,900. But it was already sold. Another for eight-and-change had 96,000 miles. My wife vetoed that one—she didn’t want to have to repeat this process in just a couple of years.

Methodical person that I am, I put the key variables into a spreadsheet (8 cents a mile, $1,000 for all-wheel-drive, $650 for rear HVAC, and so forth). A couple cars came close to the one I had missed, but tended to have fewer features—and were also already sold. Reasonably priced Taurus Xs have been in especially short supply. They’re also much less likely to have a bench in the second row.

Lesson learned: if you spot a great deal, jump on it right away, or someone else will.

Tuesday afternoon I decided to take a quick look at AutoTrader, and there it was: a dealer only 70 miles away had just listed a loaded 2008 Taurus X AWD with 30k miles, certified with an extended warranty, totally clean Autocheck report, for $17,900. More than I’ve ever spent on a car before, but a quick entry into the spreadsheet confirmed the steal. Even with no adjustments for being certified, a sunroof, or the nav system, the Taurus X was better than the best deals I’d found thus far. Which were all Freestyles. No other Taurus X Limited had come close.

I called Scott Seiler, Internet sales manager for Brondes Ford in Maumee, Ohio—and was told there was already a deal on the car. Too late, again? Not this time. Scott called back a few minutes later to report that the other deal had fallen through. After making a weak attempt to negotiate the price—Scott was well aware that $17,900 was a “stupid price” (his own words)—I gave him my credit card info to hold the car. Minutes later I was on my way to Ohio, with snow still on the roads and, if I could nevertheless maintain the speed limit, an estimated time of arrival minutes before closing time.

This being my lucky day, the highways were free of snow, ice, and traffic. I called en route to give Scott the rest of my info, so he could get the paperwork together. During this call Scott overheard someone offering to buy the car from the salesman at a neighboring desk. He informed them it was sold.

I arrived still fully expecting a catch. They’d washed the car and put it into the brightly lit service lane—so much for the dangers of buying a car after sunset. The Taurus X could hardly have been cleaner. I found a broken release for the left side second-row seat, but the warranty will take care of that. Also found nearly new tires—they’d been replaced recently at a cost of over $600.

The paperwork was ready when I arrived, lacking only my signature. It included no unexpected fees. The business manager made no attempt to “rust and dust” me. Apparently there are some outstanding dealers. One reliable tell-tale: Scott has been with this dealership for 27 years, and attested that their employee turnover is very low.

One surprise once in the business office: the dealer had had the car for 400 days. The original asking price: $24,900. The general manager had been driving it, and they had depreciated the car in their tax return. Which might explain the low, low selling price. Or not. But I have yet to find another explanation.

In my earlier rush I hadn’t bothered to perform a nationwide search on AutoTrader, to see how the car truly stacked up. Back home, I discovered that it had been the cheapest Taurus X Limited AWD with under 45,000 miles in the entire country. The next closest was $2,100 more, had another 14,000 miles, had fewer options—and had buckets in the second row.

So I’m feeling quite lucky. The right car, at the right price, in the right place. What are the odds?

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive reliability and pricing data

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99 Comments on “TrueDelta Crosses Over...”


  • avatar
    86er

    You bought a station wagon.  Deal with it. 

    :)

    Nice find.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      No, diesel, no turbo, no RWD; the ‘enthusiasts’ are going to rip you a new one.

    • 0 avatar
      theringwan

      Michael,

      You inspired me! This car seemed like a great fit for my family as well. I just spent 4 months watching Autotrader and Craigslist, and all of a sudden I found a 2008 Taurus X Limited 500 miles away from me, 33k miles, and priced at $16,850. I jumped on it, since it was at least $6k cheaper than any other Limited advertised, and cheaper than most of the SELs. So far (after only 4 days) we’re very happy with the vehicle.

      It was a great dealership experience as well. I worked with Jake Moore, an internet sales manager at Baxter Ford in Omaha. He was understated, low key, and picked us up at the airport when we flew in to get the car. The whole thing was very enjoyable.

      Thanks for the great site! I’ve learned a great deal from you and your collaborators!

  • avatar
    jaybird124

    It’s refreshing hearing a good dealer experience. I’ve been fortunate to work with a similar dealer. Solid people all the way around. Enjoy!

    • 0 avatar

      I, too, recently had a great experience with a small, local dealer. I found a 2007 Pontiac Vibe in great shape (former fleeter with lots of miles) for lots less than I could find elsewhere on the market.

      My BIL sold used cars for 35 years, mainly at established new car dealers. For a few years, he tried to make it on his own at a small lot. It’s a tough business, he didn’t have a great location, and he had to shut down. If you approach these local independents with the right attitude and find a good one, you can have an excellent experience. If they’ve been in business a while, they have a local reputation to maintain. Once they sell a few cars and have a few repeat customers, they get it. The one I visited turns over about 20 cars a month, on average. He has sold multiple cars to the same families in his community.

      I know I bargained as low as I could get with my Vibe, and I know the dealer still made about $800 on the deal. I’m fine with that. Gotta keep the lights on, so I can come back.

      Now, the Freestyle/Taurus X is a great choice. I tried to convince my in-laws that they should check it out to truck around the 3 grandkids. It’s a tight queeze in the back seat of the 2010 Subaru Forester they eventually chose…

  • avatar
    Colinpolyps

    What are the odds of a blog writer, or web site auto dude getting the best deal in the country on the car that he really wants that will suit his needs.

    I always leave a dealership feeling a) They really screewed me over on that one but it’s what I want or B) It’s not what I want but it’s a good deal.

    • 0 avatar

      This was the advertised price, so it mattered not a bit what I do for a living. Actually, it wouldn’t have mattered regardless.
      We got what I wanted. My wife would have preferred a more vibrant color.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      If thats the case, then you shouldnt have made those deals.  When I was young, I got screwed over once, thats all it took to learn my lesson and not do it again.  Learn to walk away when you dont feel 100% confident you are being treated fairly and happy.  Thats how you avoid buyers remorse.  Every car I have bought from a dealer or private seller has been a good experience since that first new car deal.  Sure, I have had my dealership horror stories, but I would never have signed papers from them.  Thats cause to walk.

  • avatar

    I hope you have some luck left, for the long-term reliablity. This is not CVT, is it?

    • 0 avatar

      The Freestyle had a CVT. This has a six-speed automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I don’t think the Freestyle’s CVT is proving unreliable, but I do know that certain dealers are not following maintenance guidelines in keeping them up.
       
      You can’t just fill them the the gills with Panther juice and expect them to work, as I watched one Ford dealer’s service department do.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      A Ford transmission engineer I know confirmed what a turd that CVT was. It was supposed to save money by being simpler (a lot fewer parts) to build, but ended up being more expensive, even before counting warranty costs, so it was replaced with a more conventional unit.

    • 0 avatar

      According to a good friend inside Ford powertrain, the CVT wasn’t replaced because it was unreliable. It was replaced because it lacked sufficient torque capacity for the 3.5 V6.

  • avatar
    imag

    Nice work!  Keep us posted with how it wears.   Long term testing, TTAC style.

  • avatar
    moneyandwheels

    Well done Mr. Karesh, those Freestyles and Taurs Xs do sell like hotcakes, especially limiteds with DVD and or NAV around 60,000 km!!

    • 0 avatar

      It is odd. Ford couldn’t sell them as new cars, but dealers can’t hold onto them as used cars.
      It likely helps that the prices tend to be much lower than those for used Lambdas. I personally don’t like the seats or interior packaging of the Lambdas.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      At 400 days on lot, it seems this dealer held onto one for a while.

    • 0 avatar
      JKC

      My wife has had an 05 Freestyle from new. Gets around 23mpg in mixed driving, and except for needing an ECU reflash early on (covered under warranty) has been dead-nuts reliable. It’s creeping up on 100Kmi, and I expect to get at least another couple years out of it. Pity Ford didn’t have more luck selling them new.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Michael,
    Congrats on the new ride.  I’ll be curious to see how you update the fleet.  Do you sell the PT?  Is there still room for an RX-8?
     
    Pete brings up a good point.  I like the Freestyle/T-reX, but what about the CVT — is that a concern of yours, and do you plan extra maintenance procedures to keep the transmission working?
     
    Thanks,
     

    • 0 avatar

      I cut a paragraph discussing the fleet. Meant to to also the PT photo. But have asked Ed to add that paragraph back in. The PT is gone, and now that I have the Taurus X (wish they had kept the Freestyle name) the Lexus is on the block as well.
      More about the RX-8 later…
      The transmission is a six-speed automatic co-developed with GM. The Freestyle used a CVT. I have zero or nearly zero reports of CVT failures, but the powertrain swap is one reason I was willing to pay more for a Taurus X.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Dealer probably used it a lot and rolled back some miles. Deal or no deal?

    • 0 avatar

      Seems unlikely. I’ve been in a lot of dealerships, and have never come across one that seemed less shady.

    • 0 avatar
      moneyandwheels

      Highly unlikely, not worth the risk, liability, loss of dealer license, etc to make an extra couple thousand on 1 deal..

    • 0 avatar

      A friend who used to work for a Ford dealer says they’d be especially stupid to pull a quick one with a certified car.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      I knew a couple of specific instances in the mid-60′s in which the odometers were rolled back on cars. One was a car I had owned, the other had belonged to a good friend. Also, each car had passed through at least two dealers after he and I had sold the cars.
      My suspicion is that that probably doesn’t happen much any more. Just a suspicion though, there does seem to be something to lose if a dealer gets a reputation for that in these days of Carfax reports etc.
      We just got a 2009 Accord that had been a sales manager’s driver and had just under 7000 miles showing. Condition-wise, we couldn’t see any difference between it and a new car, anywhere. Plus, we know a mechanic who works there; he and everyone else we dealt with at the dealership seemed to be stand-up people.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      There was a Chrysler dealer near where I used to live. I needed a car after I sold my avatar and when I returned home from the USAF. This was August, 1973, just in time for the second oil crisis – the big one. The one earlier in March was just practice.

      Well, I was looking for a Nova but the only thing I found was a 1970 Duster. White w/blue interior. This car was one step removed from a Model T – it had those vent doors under the dash that worked quite well, an after-market radio that was so cheap it had the speaker built in on the bottom, a slant-six 225 automatic. Nothing else. I foolishly bought it and discovered it was wrecked and cheaply repainted, plus the front torsion bar mount on the passenger side was cracked.

      Needless to say, I took it to the family mechanic (I got no satisfaction from the “stealer” and was too young and dumb at the time) and it took him weeks to find the parts to properly repair it.

      As for that dealer, after more nonsense like this plus various illegal business practices, they were put out of business for good. I absolutely rejoiced at the news. I really wanted to do something disgusting on the front door of that place! I believe the site is a U-Haul, now.

      The Duster I bought? A month later on the day my dad retired, I passed by a Chevy dealer and saw a beautiful 1972 Nova for sale. My parent’s 1966 Impala was done for, so I gave them the Duster, took the Imp and traded it in on the Nova and drove it home. My parents had that Duster until 1979 when, after my dad’s death, mom needed a better car as that one was pretty rusted-out by then.

      I hate (most) car dealerships. Fortunately, we seem to have some good ones where I live, now.

  • avatar

    Full retail value in Canada: Just about what you paid. Dollar is at parity right now. Maybe Americans will start importing cars from Canada. Wouldn’t THAT be a turn up for the books?

    • 0 avatar

      Back in the late 1990s people were importing used cars from Canada.
      I am surprised to hear that full retail is so much lower there. KBB.com claims that trade-in here is $21k, that private party is $24k, and that full retail is $26k.
      To check into this I visited autotrader.ca. which proved to be a pain to use. The cheapest Taurus X AWD Limited with under 80,000 km is listed for $23,811:
      http://www.autotrader.ca/result/addetailinfo.aspx?srcID=5&frnID=9598490&ms=trucks_vans&mp=0
      So $17,900 for such a vehicle would appear to be even more of a steal in Canada–if you can truly find it.
       

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, looks like this one is AWD, $21,900 with 75k km (a $1,600 deduct in my spreadsheet):
      http://www.autotrader.ca/result/addetailinfo.aspx?srcID=5&frnID=9245463&ms=trucks_vans&mp=0
      If you can find one advertised for under $20k in Canada, much less under $18k, Canadians interested in this sort of vehicle would certainly appreciate a link.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    So how does that hot deal compare to paying about $21K for a say 2009 Grand Cherokee at around 10K miles?  Or a Honda Pilot with about 30K miles for about 21K?  My dad been aiming at $20K mark trying to fish out something roomy and bullet proof.

  • avatar

    Congrats!  I had the Taurus X pretty high on our list, but they were exceedingly hard to find (over the course of very long research cycle).  Then our other car died and we didn’t have the time to wait.  (We keep our cars forever.  I’ve never sold a car that didn’t need work worth more than the car itself.)  Instead, my wife got her first choice – Highlander.  Nice space, boring but predictable ride, average interior.  As long as it lasts 10+ years, I’ll be fine with the purchase.  I did check TrueDelta for reliability and mileage before I allowed it on my list.  I do look forward to getting another booster seat for the 5 year-old so I can go back to our other car more often as the Highlander is more of an appliance than a car.

  • avatar

    Aw, Karesh! After all we’ve been through, you did NOT buy a Mercury Marauder?

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    <i>”but a quick entry into the spreadsheet “</i>

    I don’t always make quick entries, when when I do… they aren’t into a spreadsheet!

    Nice pickup. My search for a Taurus X two years ago ended up with me buying a Flex.

    • 0 avatar

      I like the Flex as well, but they’re well out of my price range. The extra luggage space you get with the Flex would be useful, but the Taurus X is plenty roomy otherwise. And, as much as I tried, I cannot get my wife to like the styling of the Flex.
      Before buying this one I’d only driven a Taurus X once, and three years ago. Oddly enough, for a car guy who likes to thoroughly check things out, I signed the paperwork without even driving the car. I ended up pleasantly suprised–the Taurus X rides and handles better than I remembered, with considerably more refinement than the Freestyle.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Well , hopefully it is as comfortable as you will need for those drives, especially the mind blowing flat lands of middle Illinois!
    It should have enough grunt for the Ozarks of AR with the 3.5.

    Do yourself a favor…get the kids a rear seat DVD! Only a farmer can love the flat lands of Illinois longer than a few miles…and it’s worse in winter.
    Me, I keep all my cars so the depreciation never bothered me.
    As such, purchasing a Flex w/ecoboost would be my long term choice.
    My wife, however, will never allow it because she HATES the shape.

    • 0 avatar

      Same here on the Flex.
      We have a portable DVD we never use. My wife prefers that the kids read books, and they do, pretty much the entire trip unless they’re asleep. Unlike me, none of them get motion sickness from reading in a car.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      You poor bastards. 

      My wife loves the Flex.  Poor poor bastards… 

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      BOOKS!?

      Michael, we have a TV in every room of our house.
      The bathrooms would have one if my wife liked baths.
      Sometimes I think my furnace runs less because we have so many TVs on.

      I had the MKS DVD navigation unit fixed so it works in drive.
      Just took a ride up from the Ozarks to Chicago and back.
      Finished the entire THE WAR Ken Burn’s set.

      …so tell your wife you can learn AND drive!

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I miss the Taurus X in Ford’s lineup, though most Americans prefer to go with the Edge or Flex or Escape. It’s handsome, clean, and has more power and style than the Freestyle it replaced. I’d recommend it to anyone for whom a Legacy wagon isn’t big enough. Nice find, best of luck with it, and let us know if any problems crop up!

    • 0 avatar

      It’s coming back, but they’re now going to call it “Explorer.”
      The new Explorer is similar in length, but taller and wider. I really want to find out how it compares. No week-long loan scheduled, so I’ll drop by a dealer.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    “…or $17,900. More than I’ve ever spent on a car before…”
    That’s interesting. For some reason I find that surprising.

    • 0 avatar

      Runner-up is a loaded 1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue I paid $16,750 for back in 1999.
      The 2003 Mazda Protege5 was $13,400–only new car I’ve bought in the last 25 years, and that because used ones were going for $2k more (Mazda piled on the incentives at the very end of the run).
      The PT Cruiser was $12,500.
      The Lexus was $10,000 (what my father was offered by CarMax).
      A 1996 Ford Contour SE was around $13,000.
      A 1985 Ford Escort with 26k for use in Chicago bought in 1995 or so was $2,600.
      My car budget is much lower than Jack’s :)

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      You practically steal the X from the World’s Last Honest Car Dealer, and you got a 10 year old Escort with only 26K for a song?  Can I borrow your lucky rabbits foot next time I’m car shopping?

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      I’m similarly cheap. The most Ive ever spent was only $1000 more, $18,900 for a new, but prior model year, 4×4 Tundra that stickered for $26k.

  • avatar
    zznalg

    Take care of your emotional needs too Michael!
    I recall your original review of the RX-8: Best… Drive… Ever!!
    You need one.
    Friendly advice from the local psychologist.
     

  • avatar
    ixim

    Best 3-row people hauler ever? Look for a 2006-2007 Buick Rendezvous CXL. Low mileage certfied off-lease/tradeins go for around $20,000 or less. You get 7 seats OR 108 cu.Ft. [just like a new Tahoe] cargo space in a Camry-sized footprint. 25+ mpg on the road, too. Lotsa goodies inside – leather, heated power seats, etc. Those last 2 years’ were pretty trouble-free, although I don’t think TrueDelta has many of them, does it?.

    • 0 avatar

      The 2003 Rendezvous is in the survey, though not enough data for results yet. The 2006 is three cars short of getting started.
      I personally like the Taurus X much better than the Rendezvous, in just about every way. The thing that has attracted me to the car from the start is that you can quickly and easily fold every seat but the driver’s to create a totally flat load floor. So I can carry the kayak I don’t own entirely inside the car!

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I always thought that the Freestyle/Taurus X was a fairly handsome big wagon, and it sounds like you got a terrific deal. For some mysterious reason, buyers just didn’t seem to want them new. The 500/Taurus had the same problem – here was a very roomy and capable big sedan that turned out to be poison in the showrooms. Granted, the early 3.0 V6 was short on power and the CVT was to be avoided (just like the Freestyle), but the car was better than most people would think. They can also be had for surprisingly cheap nowadays.

    • 0 avatar
      nova73

      Michael, congrats on your new vehicle.  The 500/Freestyle/Taurus/X is a great lineup.  I just purchased an ’07 Five Hundred SEL with 28K miles for $12.7K from the local Ford dealer.  It has a clean history and is in excellent mechanical and cosmetic shape.  Several TTAC members recommended this car in response to my new vs. used question last February.  If you need a vehicle with plenty of space but don’t need the 3rd row seating, the sedan versions of Ford’s D platform is a great solution.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    So did you trade the Mazda in???

    • 0 avatar

      Traded nothing in, and plan on keeping the Mazda for the time being. You might notice it next to the Taurus X in the photo. Just put $600 into rust repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      supremebrougham

      You’re right, I do see it! BTW, the new car looks nice. I’m discovering that I enjoy having a wagon-type vehicle as it’s easy for me to get in and out of (messed up leg) and the low lift over height is great. So far the HHR has served me well in this regard, but I know that I can’t keep it. I did notice that these can be had for less than $10k, and while they kind of appeal to me, I’m not so sure I need such a large car, when it’s just me (no wife or kids).
       
      Thinking I might be happy with an Escape one day, but I don’t care for the pre-’08′s, and the ’08′s and up are way out of my price range.
       
      What to do, what to do….

  • avatar
    Monty

    Congratulations on a phenomenal deal. I’m very jealous – it’s what I wanted to buy. Instead we bought a Focus. There is no comparison between the two that the Focus doesn’t lose, with the exception of a 5 speed stick and better gas mileage.

    The Freestyle was good, but the Taurus X (stupidest name ever?) is one of the best products ever out of Detroit. Period.

    Just wait until you’ve driven an hour or two on the highway – it’s quiet, smooth, unruffled by the wind or passing semi-trailers, sticks to the road, and the 3.5 has tons of grunt when required.

    It’s what I want when I replace my daily driver.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe I can replace the Taurus X badges with Freestyle badges? I similarly wish they hadn’t changed the name.
      I spent 1.5 hours on the highway getting it home, and found that it drove better than I expected it to. Except for the fuel economy, which was only 20.5. I’m hoping that the ultra-cold temps played a role.
      Next Wednesday I’ll be driving it 12-13 hours. We’ll see how it does then.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      speaking of poor(er) mpg…I noticed my MKS has one again dropped by approx 2 mpg ave since the winter cold set in.
      I didn’t realize the turbos were that sensitive….

    • 0 avatar

      Part of it can be winter gas–they add chemicals that reduce its energy content. Engines are also less efficient in extreme cold. I don’t think the turbos have an impact.

  • avatar
    dculberson

    Cut me a deal on the Lexus!  (Although I am happy with my dented up old ’95 LS400, so unless it was a steal…)

  • avatar
    hp12c

    Congrats Michael, you’ll love the Taurus X.  We bought our 25,000-mile CPO ’07 Freestyle SEL three years ago now and it just rolled over 60,000 miles with nary an issue to report.  It really is a great kid hauler and would be just about perfect if it had the engine/tranny your car has.  I would have liked to get into the ’08 Taurus X but at the time that model had just come out and the price difference was almost double, used vs. new.
    My wife really wants the new Explorer coming out but I’m hoping to put off that conversation until our CPO warranty runs out in another 18 months.  Heck do you think it would be cheaper to get her in to a Taurus X Limited for another 3 years and then get the Explorer once the new model excitement finally settles down?

    • 0 avatar

      I’d probably go the latter route, if you can find a suitable Taurus X. The Explorer won’t be in my price range until 2013 at the earliest…

    • 0 avatar
      hp12c

      Yeah same here re: 2013, my enthusiasm for buying a capable-but-unexciting kid hauler goes way down once the price exceeds about $20K.  Amazing how easy it is to spend $40K+ on a new CUV these days – either some folks are well-heeled or else high car payments don’t make them cringe.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    What’s the difference in weight between the Freestyle, the Taurus X and the (new) Explorer?

    • 0 avatar

      Now that you ask, I’m curious myself. With AWD:
      Freestyle: 4,112 (I hadn’t remembered they were so light)
      Taurus X: 4,203 (so why isn’t the fuel economy better)
      Explorer: 4.752 (ouch!)

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      What’s equally heartbreaking is that the Sienna weighs about that much.  Have a look at the interior space of the Sienna versus the Freestyle/Taurus/Flex/Explorer.
       
      For the record, I wanted to get the Freestyle, but I couldn’t ignore the call of the sliding doors or the ability to walk through to the rear without exiting the vehicle.

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    Welcome to the club Michael. We have an 06 FS Limited AWD that we bought used in May 09. It now has 83k on it and has been solid as a rock…we like the 6 pax set up as it minimizes the “He’s touching me” The only problem we have had is with the DVD player that only works intermitantly…oh well kids could always look out the window

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Great hunt, Michael – I’ve got car envy.  You’re right, very rarely does the X come up on Auto Trader, and only then it is usually the lower level “welcome to 1995!’ two-tone version.

    Personally I liked the Freestyle—>X upgrade across the board.  The style was fresher, and the drivetrain upgrade a quantum leap.  If Ford had released said upgrades as part of the original issue, the Five Hundred and Freestyle would have done much better in the market I believe.

  • avatar
    Caffiend

    Nice deal.  But you sir are far more knowledgeable than the average car buyer.  Congrats.

  • avatar

    as long as people are bragging about what they’ve paid for cars… I’ve bought three in my life
    1. a ’77 Toyota Corolla in ’85, with 91k, purchased from David Albright, who subsequently became one of the Iraq weapons inspectors: $450. I sold that car 8 years and 70k later for $200
    2. A ’93 Saturn, new, for $14.5k with ABS and aluminum wheels
    3. A ’99 Accord 5 speed in Nov. 04 with 67k, $5500. Car now has 183.7 k runs as well as it did when I bought it.
    I acquired two cars free in my youth: my father’s aged ’62 Falcon, which he had bought used fall of ’69 for $250 (probably about 850 in today’s $). I had that thing about a year, drove it x the country twice. At the end of that year, the trans had about had it from too much clutchless shifting, and it threw a piston rod.
    2. A ’63 Impala, which was given to me by a colleague of my father’s, fall of ’72. It had a bad differential. I had it until I left Boston that December to go to Berkeley.

  • avatar
    mxfive4

    If you haven’t driven the Freestyle (and I assume the Taurus X is similar enough) this was the Volvo platform from the S80, it is a remarkably well mannered hulk of a car. One of the best under the radar cars around.
    Congrats on the find.

  • avatar

    Is that white thing the Taurus X? If so, good looking car. But in my book, that thing is not a xover, it’s a wagon. (I’m responding to the title.) I hate that stupid marketing bullshit.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s actually “sage green” (a milky silver) with a black leather interior.
      I couldn’t come up with a good title, so Ed had to wing it. This said, the Taurus X is quite a bit taller than the Taurus sedan.
      Then again, TrueDelta classifies it as a wagon.

  • avatar
    Syke

    How about naming the dealership? When you run into an honest one, it’s always good to pass the word around.  If nothing else, it’s good reinforcement to keep the current business policy.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    2008 Ford Taurus X AWD Limited – 30000 Miles
    Clean Wholesale – $22,000
    Average Wholesale – $19,550
    Rough Wholesale – $17,050
    This does not include the auction fee of about $500, the reconditioning costs ($800 – $1200), or the fact that a rough Taurus X Limited would likely not be certifiable.
     
    In otherwords, you stole it. Great job!

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    A surprisingly good deal for a completely ignored diamond.

    I fell in love with the Freestyle when I had one as a rental back circa ’06. It was either an ’05 SEL FWD or a Corolla CE with crank windows and no cruise (gee…). Smooth, decently peppy, and extraordinarily comfortable.

    I always try to keep one in inventory. I’ve found here that they’re not super fast movers, but when they go, they command all the money and are exceptional buys for secondary/subprime customers because you can steal a loaded one with plenty of book, even in this topsy-turvy market. Right now I have a black ’05 Limited AWD with everything but DVD and rear buckets and 136k but straight as an arrow. People initally have little to no concept of what this big wagon is, but they love the looks and the interior functionality, especially the quick-folding seats.

    Good luck with it!

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    KBB is a joke… their retail values seem created out of thin air by a bunch of drunk car dealers fantasizing about huge profits and stupid customers.

    Even their wholesale/trade-in figures are way too high to be taken seriously if you’re looking for what you might be able to get if you trade in a car. 

    As for FSBO listings, I think it varies by area.  Here in Northern California, it’s all on Craigslist, but adoption may be considerably higher than in the midwest since the site started in San Francisco.

    eBay is still an interesting place to find FSBO cars… I like to filter my search to omit dealer listings.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’ve been by Brondes dozens of times on my way home to Youngstown, seems like a really nice dealership. Sounds like  you got a really good deal on the car, too. Crossovers have been crossing my mind as a replacement for my used and abused Sunfire when it dies. I think I’d probably spring for a CPO Torrent when the comes…
     
    Where in the world did you find a Waffle House in SE Michigan or NW Ohio? Not that I want to get some more of the worst heartburn I’ve ever had, but my BIL used to put up those buildings for the WH corporation. Ahh memories…

    • 0 avatar

      It was about a mile north of Brondes. Another paragraph cut from my initial draft:
      My kids were “starving,” so we hit a nearby Waffle House before returning to Michigan. Two orders of chocolate chip waffles with an extra waffle added to each fed four people for just over $10. Sharing my good fortune, I left a nearly $3 tip. Only later did I realize that it might have been possible to order a single waffle for $3.35, then add three extra waffles for $1.49 each. If so, that’s nearly two bucks I’ll never get back.

  • avatar
    pdq

    Got the perfect thing for ya.  Stylish, powerful, comfortable with lots of road-hugging weight and lots of space for the kiddies.  Even a luggage rack on the roof you can strap the kids to if they start to get out of hand on those long drives!
     
    http://s115271005.onlinehome.us/images/1959-Mercury-Colony-Park-station-wagon-le.jpg
     
    No need to thank me.  Happy to help!

  • avatar
    powermatic

    I was wondering why you didn’t try Autotrader earlier-you can opt for ‘private’ sellers only if that’s what you’re after (I agree with, in general staying away from dealers, by the way).

    Looks like you did great, but surely you’re suspicious of the ‘sorry, we’ve got a buyer (five minutes pass) ‘my god you wouldn’t believe your luck!’ stratagem. But then, maybe that’s just my suspicious nature-see above.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d been searching AutoTrader regularly for a month or so. But only a small percentage of their listings in recent years are FSBO. Back when the ads were free for owners they had a lot of owners ads.
      Normally I would have been suspicious, but Scott was obviously a straight shooter. He knew the price was ridiculously low, that it would sell quickly, and that I wasn’t trading a car, so there was no motivation to play games. There was absolutely no BS. I cannot overstate how pleasant he and the business manager were to work with.

  • avatar
    Windshield

    I have always enjoyed your reading Mr. Karesh here at TTAC.

    Good to see a nicef guy find aan excellent deal and a decent dealership.

    I will never understand why these didnt sell better. Maybe Ford had too many suvs/cuvs models and there was no differenation

  • avatar

    I always liked the Taurus X, even more than the Freestyle, but they never quite looked “right” The Front and sides were good, but the tires were just too small. But a great drive, as good as my MPV!

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    My experience with private sellers on Auto Trader has not been so hot. Probably 90% of the time, the cars that catch my eye that are FSBO are either owned by someone from the Middle East that bought it to flip, or the “owner” is actually a small dealer that doesn’t know or care how to properly list the car. So I tend to shy away from the By Owner stuff.
     
    And, when looking at it from a seller’s perspective, I have had my HHR listed on there for over six months, updated periodically for mileage, and have yet to get one single call or email on it. And yes, I have plenty of good pictures, and it’s priced right in the sweet spot.
     
    I’m thinking that I am not the only one that has discovered the shady ways individuals are trying to sell cars around here (Michigan), and it’s causing people to shy away from my listing.
     
    It’s frustrating, because even though I really like the car, I need to be out from under the payment…(bought when times were better)

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    I always thought the full-size GM and Ford wagons should have morphed into the Taurus X’s configuration rather than disappear.
     
    Maybe these didn’t sell well when new because people were afraid their neighbors would wonder what sort of people would buy a new station wagon instead of the safe choice of a new suv.  Used car buyers may in general be far more practical and care less what others think.
     
    What a friend said about shopping for the best deal on a used car: “You don’t know what you can get until you lose out on one.”
     
    It’s great not to be in a hurry when shopping for a used car.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The last two used cars I was involved in the purchase of were both found at new car dealers thanks to Craigslist and Auto Trader. Most of the private sellers we came in contact with along the way misrepresented their vehicles and/or wanted too much money for them. I suspect that the kind of person who takes great care of their vehicle (and thus the person I want to buy from) also is a successful and busy person who isn’t interested in taking the time and risks involved with selling a vehicle themselves. Or, when said person does sell a vehicle, it goes to family and friends long before the wider market gets a chance at it. When I buy a new car I maintain it obsessively, and the few times I’ve been ready to sell one it has simply been a matter of putting the word out to my personal network and it’s gone in no time.
    I think that the real advantage the ‘net has brought to car buyers isn’t in enabling person-to-person sales as much as it has been the ability to reduce the information gap between the dealers and customers who care to do their homework.
     

  • avatar
    JJ

    “During this call Scott overheard someone offering to buy the car from the salesman at a neighboring desk. He informed them it was sold.”

    ORLY?

    Maybe the car was owned by someone who died…some intangibles like that sometimes lower the value of a used car, much like a house, yet don’t show up on a spreadsheet.

    On another note it seems to me like (although compared to other Tauri X apparently this is a good deal) it’s still a lot of money for a used car since new cars are so cheap in the US. I see for instance that an Escape starts at about $21K new and an Edge $27K. Here prices are much higher new (all these cars aren’t available btw), but cars depreciate a ton, especially over the first 2-3 years. I’d be interested to know how much this car would have been when new and or how a new car stacks up in your spread sheet (how much of a premium is there on the ‘newness’)

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve missed out on enough steals to realize that, with the Internet, people learn of them and grab them fast. So I don’t doubt someone else was interested in this particular car.

      New this car listed for $38,000. At one point I think there was a $4,000 rebate, so it might have been possible to pay as little as $32,000 new. A similarly equipped 2011 Ford Explorer (if you can do without the Limited and its memory seat) lists for just a little more, about $39,000, but dealer margins are now smaller and there’s no rebate at this point. So the Explorer will cost about $36,000 if you get a good deal.

      Used car values have firmed up a lot over the last two years in the U.S.–cars aren’t depreciating nearly as fast as they used to.

  • avatar
    CMK

    Ford has a decent CPO program, definitely worth an extra grand or two. Sounds to me like you got a crazy deal, Michael. Congratulations.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Invoice as a measure of dealer profit is about as much of an old-fashioned fantasy as KBB prices for used cars. These days, since consumers have such easy access to invoice pricing online, it seems that more manufacturers are creating invoices that show much lower dealer margin but make it up with back-end fees and dealer cash incentives to try to put them into a better negotiating position. 

    It doesn’t take too much effort online, however, to find deals far below invoice PLUS factory to consumer rebates and special offers.  I recently bought a new VW Golf for my wife.  The whole deal was essentially consumated online save for signing the docs at the dealership.  The MSRP for the car was about $19,800 and I paid $17,100 and got 1.9% for 60 months (not including tax).  This was below published invoice, plus some sort of $1,000 factory cash incentive that wasn’t being advertised (wink wink) and special financing rates. 

    Like someone else mentioned, I was originally looking at used cars, but the pricing and finance rates were so agressive on some new models that I just figured the warranty coverage was worth it this time. 

  • avatar
    rpn453

    For reasons that escape me, there doesn’t appear to be a good FSBO site for cars. There haven’t been many FSBOs on AutoTrader since they eliminated the free ad option years ago. Even most of the cars on Craigslist are posted by dealers. Despite the Internet’s potential for connecting buyers and sellers, have people given up on selling cars themselves?
     
    Kijiji is a great site for buying private sale vehicles in western Canada.  It’s very easy to search for the vehicle you want in the configuration you want, and there are very few dealer ads on there.  The vast number of vehicles available indicates that it is very popular here.  I spent a few minutes looking for vehicles on Craigslist once and determined I’ll never do that again.  It’s garbage compared to Kijiji.
     
    Congrats on the purchase.  It’s a great feeling to finally find the right used vehicle from the right seller for the right price.

  • avatar

    Great article as always.  I’ve been looking at the 500′s and taurus sedans, but I’m shocked to see that the taurus X is often *cheaper* than the sedan.  There also seems to be more of them on sale.  I’m guessing the extra supply might be pushing the prices down.  Maybe I should start looking into the Freestyle / Taurus X’s…


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