By on February 24, 2012

 

 

Art writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

5 months ago I bought myself something of a quarter-life crisis gift – a CPO 2008 Honda S2000. I love this car to death, which is why I was left heartbroken when it was rear-ended quite badly as part of a 5 car accident on the wonderful roads of Los Angeles. Thankfully I’m OK and insurance is picking up the $5300 tab to fix the car, but the whole incident has put the fear of the traffic gods in me. Now, with the car in the shop for the next 2 weeks, I can’t help but think it would be better to keep the future miles off of it and get a daily driver I’m less passionate about instead.

The car would be used for a ~50mi daily round-trip commute, and on weekends would be asked to support an active lifestyle by hauling a bike or two on a roof-mount or hitch-mount bike rack. I’m aiming for something of a comfortable cruiser and would of course like to spend as little as possible, up to 8 or 10k.

The W202 C-Class Mercedes has always been interesting to me – it has what I think is a classic luxo-sedan look, and it looks like a ’99 C230 Kompressor can be had for well under $10k around these parts, albeit with around 100k-120k on the odo. My limited research shows that these cars aren’t too unreliable, However I feel like I’m asking for trouble with such a well-used late 90′s German luxury sedan.

What do you think? Are my reliability fears well founded? Would a similar vintage Lexus GS be a better value proposition? They’re a bit pricier and a whole lot more, well, beige. What would you do with a $8k-$10k budget in my shoes? I’m open to suggestion, so please feel free to suggest something else. It doesn’t necessarily have to be as aspirational as the luxo-sedans I’ve considered so far.

Sajeev Answers:

The W202 is a lovely automobile from just about every metric.

Problem is, this Benz is more of a museum piece and less of a commuter vehicle. You’ll need a trusty mechanic to keep the repair costs down, and being a whiz with wrenches is also a good idea. Proactively buying parts on-line is mandatory. Anything over 10 years old is gonna be a problem child, but German problem children are just too much for most people.

More importantly, a Lexus GS is only a little nicer on your wallet. With a ton of unique (i.e. not Camry) parts I suspect the repair bills will also be significantly worse on this vehicle. Not that you can’t stomach it, and not that I don’t recommend it. You need a cheap sedan that’s also kinda nice. I get it. But rear-wheel drive motivation given your needs for a cheap second car are…well…loved only by those of a Panther nature.

Get the Lexus, but be ready to blow your budget on getting an old luxury car sorted. Or get something far more mundane, like a depreciation friendly Mazda sedan. Or a Mercury Milan sprinkled with Mazda suspension bits. Or a Camry SE. It’s the classic “save money for less car” deal. You can’t avoid it.

Steve Answers:

For ten thousand dollars, you could buy a million pennies! And God knows how many drachmas a few years from now.

Seriously… I think you need to take some time from ‘the accident’ and weigh it all in. Very few smart financial decisions are made when you recently get out of a fearful experience. A car accident. Death of a loved one. Ownership of any Mercedes made in the late-90′s. Traumatic experiences of these types will always make you a bit more impulsive than usual.

We all need a bit of escapism in our lives. That’s true. But not with money damn it! So my advice is to do nothing.

Yeah, I could recommend seventeen different versions of modern day Eurotrash vehicles. But there is a small problem with that. The prior owner. A lot of folks who are trying to sell these types of vehicles in my world are either trying to kick the maintenance bucket before it’s full. Or just got drenched with a big repair and don’t want it to happen yet again.

These vehicles can get more expensive than a Marion Barry crackfest. If it were my call, I would just save my money for a while. Sell the Honda once the bloom is off that rose and then get a new(er) vehicle that you truly love.

Good luck!

 

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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64 Comments on “New or Used: for Ten Thousand Dollars, You could buy a Million Pennies!...”


  • avatar
    tallnikita

    Huyndai Elantra Touring. Lock it.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Geozinger is gonna hate me that I beat him to it, but there’s only one reasonable choice, given what you’re using it for – commuting. I hereby offer this suggestion: A “Cockroach of the Road”© Chevy Cobalt! Enjoy and save your money.

    ©geozinger

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      1 year and 20,000 miles later the lustre of a new Cobalt is wearing off. Sure, it goes and it stops and it’s been back to GM for a new steering column (the recalled steering column failed), but I’m just plain BORED of this car. It’s not particularly fast and I don’t like the handling (electric power steering). As much as I’d be loath to admit it, he should get himself a vehicle which can provide a bit more fun. Y’know, V8 powered, RWD and rugged… hang on, where I am I going with this…

  • avatar

    FWIW I know a guy who had a half century and a dime life crisis. To answer to that he got a lightly used 97 or 98 Class E. Beautiful car…when it ran. Long story short, he kept it about a year (during which he actually had the car for little over 6 months). Not to put to fine a pooint on it, he got over his life crisis pretty fast.

    YMMV of course, but old Mercedes (especially late 90s early 00s ones) seem to be for those who can stomach the bills and have another car laying around. If you ask me, I’d do either what Sajeev or Steve said. Fix the Honda and drive it (how often wil you get into such serious accidents anyways?) or buy something domestic that’ll be lighter on repair bills. That way you could focus on the other important things in the life of a 25year old. Job, house, relationships, travelling.

    Again since you asked my two cents would be: Keep the dream, but realize it later in life when you’re more ready. Like you I dream of an old car, but for me such car would be a hobby. I also don’t have those German lux car aspiration, an old Escort XR3 (like I had in my wasted youth)would do it for me.

  • avatar
    dts187

    I think Zackman has the right idea. If it’s just a commuter keep it basic. Cobalt/G5, Vibe/Matrix, 4th gen Elantra, etc. There’s no prestige or cachet but you get affordable, low-mile vehicles with gobs of parts available new and used. Use the money you save to upgrade your S2000.

    I especially like the idea of a Vibe/Matrix. You can even get one in AWD to help get to those tricky trailheads. Plus, the hatch gives you more versatility for hauling gear.

  • avatar
    Maxb49

    You might as well look at a Crown Victoria. Most durable vehicle around.

  • avatar
    micvog

    I had a ’98 C230 and I loved that car. I leased it new (NationsBanc had a killer 2-year lease one weekend with a 78% residual) and my biggest automotive regret to this day is not buying that car at the end of the lease.

    The gas gauge usually didn’t work (it would get stuck, according to the dealer, due to the high-sulfur fuels on the west coast), the brakes squealed constantly (the service manager actually insisted on teaching me how to brake which, for a Mercedes, appparently means going full-speed towards a red light and slamming on the brakes at the last minute) and a number of other non-critical maladies.

    It doesn’t matter. Get the W202.

  • avatar
    mzr

    Anything over 10 years old is a problem child? What? You must be talking about Mercedes specifically.

    • 0 avatar

      Judging on how much time,and the “time value of money” I’ve spent on my 10+ year old cars, I stand by my statement.

      Unless we’re talking about some zero-option compact with no A/C, power steering, or any other option that might have a rubber part in it, etc…

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Used Honda Fit. Easy on gas, great cargo capacity, and reasonably enjoyable to drive.

  • avatar
    Dan

    What’s the point of owning a nice newish car just to leave it in the garage to actually drive an old POS (or for the Hyundai/Fit/etc, a newish POS) instead?

    Garage queening won’t make a 4 year old car into a profitable investment. It will just make it a slightly less rapidly depreciating asset which you don’t get to enjoy and require you to purchase a second rapidly depreciating asset which isn’t enjoyable by definition.

    Life is too short not to drive your best car.

    • 0 avatar
      PeteK

      I’m onboard with Dan. If you love the S2000, why park it and drive something that makes you less happy while your joymobile continues to depreciate sitting there in the garage? Use that money to put toward your next car, after you’re done with the Honda.

      • 0 avatar
        Dingleberrypiez

        I dunno, unless the 50 mile commute is through windy roads with no traffic, it’d probably be more enjoyable to commute in something else. 8-9k doesn’t have to be a POS. Any loaded, automatic, used camcord variant would fit the bill. I like the lexus idea too. Keeping the miles down on the S2000 might have the added benefit of qualifying him for lower insurance too, which could be significant for a young person in this type of car.

        What about a volvo sedan or wagon? Comfortable commuter, has that euro appeal, a little less $ to maintain than a merc/bmw, and cheaper to buy.

        Obviously this is all a matter of personal preference.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      I’m with Dan too.
      A second car just increases your insurance, maintenance and depreciation costs. If you’ve got a car you like to drive, use it up! Better that than to baby it for a few more bucks when you inevitably sell it to someone else down the road.
      If it’s art, hang it on the wall and look at it. If it’s a car, drive the wheels off of it, then move on.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I disagree. You are looking at the car as a disposable item, and the smart money, especially on a car like the S2K, is in keeping it for a long time… decades even. They do not make them anymore, and while not rare, they are also not ultra-common. It is the last of a breed, a pure Honda sports car. Keeping it in mint condition, with low miles, will allow him to enjoy it for a long time, and will make it worth a lot of money in 10-15 yrs.

      And as was already pointed out, he doesnt have to drive a POS, he can have a nice quiet comfortable used car to commute in that he doesnt have to worry about parking it somewhere, dings, fender benders etc.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Keeping it in mint condition”

        Too late. It’s already been hit.

        If he’s serious about owning it as a sort of collectible, then he should dump this one and buy a different one that hasn’t been wrecked.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        There will be other sports cars. You can either spend your weekends polishing a diminishing investment, or wear it out and buy an FR-S. If you even have a use for a sports car at that time in your life.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Not a “collectible”, just a nice older car. In 15-20 yrs, no one will care that its been hit, as long as its repaired properly. And its not about resale value, its about being able to hold onto a nice car that is unique, and very reliable to boot. Sort of the equivilent to finding a low milage excellent condition 1999 Prelude or 1998 Nissan 300ZX today.

    • 0 avatar
      B.C.

      I disagree.

      I have an S2000. It has short gearing which means high crusing RPMs, and lacks balance shafts, sound deadening, and interior space. It’s nice to hop into the daily-driver beater and feel normal when you need to. Even then I drive the S2000 about half the time, but I only have a 20 mile round trip commute.

      I vote for cheapo daily beater if you have the space for it (Fit, Yaris, Rio, Civic, Cobalt, etc). Insurance for it should be cheap, and you can claim lower miles on the S2000 as well to lower the premium on that as well.

    • 0 avatar
      majormojo

      “Life is too short not to drive your best car.”

      This.

      Next accident might be next week and it might be the one that kills you. Who wants to die in a boring car with a shiny S2K back home in the garage? S2K is nice, but it isn’t so special that it needs to be “preserved”.

      Also, there are basically two kinds of courage:

      1) Answering honestly to the question “Do I look fat in this?”.

      2) Owning a German car out of warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      I’m with Dan on this.
      When it came to replacing my commuter bucket last year, I looked at spending a little more and buying a more interesting/sporty vehicle, but my Scottish ancestry forced me to buy the cheapest new runabout that I could – hence I ended up with a Cobalt.
      1 year later I can’t really complain about the car other than it’s boring. Really, truly boring. If I had my choice again I’d opt for something which was a tad more interesting to drive.

  • avatar
    Hogun

    If you’re set on a luxo-sedan, look into the Buick Roadmaster. There are few highway cruisers as good and they’re much more reliable than a 90′s Benz.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Get the much unloved and poorly conceived Honda Civic Si hatchback from the early to mid naughties. These cars underperformed from the factory and came with terrible suspension and tires killing Honda’s once stellar hot hatchback image (Honda never gave the hatchback a fighting chance always giving us a rental car version of its hatches from overseas). Honda thought people wanted the coupes b/c well the were coupes but that was wrong b/c only in the Coupe Si versions did they put in their best engines. These cars are cheap, give good utility, get good mileage and are quite reliable. If you want to wrench on it its easy and you can easily swap in the engine it always deserved (rsx type s 200hp motor). As always get a pre purchase inspection from a trusted shop that’ll do compression test at a minimum.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      +1 on this, they are rare, but if you can find one, definitely a bargain compared to most Civics. And a few well chosen mods will wake it up. Not all that comfortable though…

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    If I were you, I’d get a 2009 Hyundai Sonata with a manual transmission. You might have to travel a bit to get one, but they are listing now at $10,500 or so depending on miles. You’d have the remainder of a factory warranty. You’d get 30-plus mpg highway. With the manual transmission, the fun-to-drive factor is higher and 0-60 is in the 8s with a 4-cylinder. Plus, they even look a little bit like a Mercedes.

  • avatar
    Downtown Dan

    Lots of possibilities here, my good man.

    Lincoln LS 5-speed
    Jaguar X-type (avoid the early years!)
    Pontiac Bonneville SSEi Supercharged
    Lexus IS300 (1st gen)
    Lexus SC300 Coupe (God’s own automobile– I’d buy one in a heartbeat if I was in the market)
    Nissan Maxima 5-speed SE
    Acura 3.2TL, 3.2CL and 3.5RL

    Not to mention a smattering of Infinitis (the I30/I35 Series, early G35s, the underrated first-gen M45, the equally underrated last-gen Q45).

    If you want something fünky and German from the 1990′s, nothing does the trick like a Dakar Yellow E36 M3 Sedan. Just make sure it’s equipped with a CD changer!

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    He loves his s2000, but wants something safe and reliable. Why not a 6-9 year old Honda Accord?

  • avatar

    Sajeev makes a good point about luxury marques requiring more expensive parts even if they have a reasonable sale price. But with this in mind, what about entry level luxury cars that are based on cheaper counterparts? Specifically, I’m thinking about a Lexus ES (Camry based) or Lincoln MKZ (Fusion based). Slightly more equipment and quieter interior, but cheaper mechanical parts.

  • avatar
    graham

    I’m with Dan…buy and use the car that you’re passionate about. Leaving it in the garage for those “Sunday drives” that never seem to happen is foolish. You could be dead tomorrow–at least enjoy the drive to work every day in the car you really like. And unless you’re talking about some very rare exotic or very old collector car, there’s thousands more of whatever you’re driving to pick from if you need to replace it. So don’t sweat it, just drive it!

  • avatar
    Joshua Johnson

    Facing a similar dilemma in regards to lengthy commute, I too toyed with the ideal of purchasing a second vehicle that would serve as daily driver. Not wanting to confine myself to a penalty box with crappy interiors nor spend too much on another really nice car, I eventually settled on a Buick Park Avenue Ultra.

    Sure the interior of that car is dated to say the least, but it does have heated leather seats, power everything, and many other options that less expensive vehicles are just now receiving. The car is super quiet, the seats are fantastically comfortable, and the ride is not the least bit fatiguing. Though performance is lackluster compared to my other RWD car, it performs its job admirably in the dreary existence that is commuting and has more than enough power to move out of its own way.

    Now the best part about this car is the cost. Initial purchase price can range from $4k – $8k for a car with 75k-125k miles. That may seem like high miles, but life expectancy is typically well over 200k, if not bordering on 300k. Parts are super cheap relative to other autos since GM’s 3800 motor has been around for ages, which in turn makes insurance cheap as well. Gas has been my biggest expenditure so far, but compared to my other car, the 24.5 mpg average in the Buick is still better than the 17.9 mpg in my other car.

    Overall, I think a Park Avenue is an excellent commuter car. It doesn’t have the prestige of a Merc-Benz or Lexus, but the Buick makes up for that with its invisibility to cops, vandals, and gold-diggers. On top of that, it will make you appreciate every drive with your more powerful RWD that much more.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Acura TL or RL. My 98 3.2TL (shortened Legend) has been rather steller at 140k miles, needing only a few replaced parts (trans. mount, hoses, bearings) but nothing major. The later TL had some transaxle issues but most of those have been replaced by now, the 3.5RL has the same engine and transmission as the older TL and the Legends and are a really nice ride. Especially the last year, 2004.

    In fact, I found one here in Boise in perfect condition with 90k miles for $9k. Tempting but all I get is a little more room and noise isolation.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    No Cadillac love? You can buy a Northstar with the head bolt inserts (permanent fix) for very cheap. And pre-Art & Science Cadillacs are… muy bueno.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Get another low mileage S2000 someone has babied since new. Your current S2000 is a good daily driver now that it’s had major damage (history) so now you don’t have to feel bad about… beating on it every day, leaving the top down while shopping or at work, jumping in it (or stepping the on the seats), driving it in the rain/snow, throwing bikes in the back or parking it in closest parking space if you want.

    Heck, hold off on getting the garage queen S2000 for a few more years and let its current owner keep polishing, storing & caring for it. They’re not going anywhere. Prices aren’t going thru the roof either.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      +1 the wreck has killed the cars long term value, might as well drive it like you stole it from here on out. Semi-similar situation: My Z was a garage queen in its former life… and that fact didn’t help its value that much in the grand scheme of things, I paid maybe $2k more then similar Zs with nearly double the mileage. At first I felt guilty about using it as my daily driver (30 mile commute) but it brings a smile to my face every time I fire up the throaty V6, so why let it collect dust in the garage and suffer with some econobox 90% of the time?

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    The second gen Lexus GS300 is a slow old bore. You’ll get mileage in the teens thanks to that ancient iron block motor, with nothing to show for it. The GS400 was pretty quick in its day, but still boring and by now I’m sure VERY rare.

    I’d find a nice Maxima GLE.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Comfortable cruiser for commuting? May I suggest a low mile senior owned Buick? You could probably even find a Lucerne for that kind of money, just avoid the Northstar. Great gas mileage, too.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Used luxury brands are not going to get you the best bang for the buck, and they are going to have more features and toys that will just break, especially when you look at the higher mileage versions you are targeting.

    Keep it in the Honda family, go for a used Accord or CRV, depending on your preferences. The CRV will make an excellent “lifestyle” vehicle, it can haul stuff, is very roomy inside, and they are everywhere. Gas mileage isnt great, so if thats a big thing, then the Accord would be better, just stick with a 4cyl.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    A W202 can be a very nice used commuter. I’ve driven many – they still have a nice solid feel with excellent visibility.

    Like most used luxury cars, it all depends on the prevoius owner. Being a status machine (on the lower end), W202s and other German makes often suffer from neglect and abuse during their 3rd or 4th generation of ownership. Many fell into the wrong hands of status seekers and the big chrome wheel crowd. These make good parts cars.

    Some basic rules for finding a nice one:
    1. Owner history. Keep number of POs down as much as you can.
    2. Service history. The more the better.
    3. Consistant use. Make sure the car was driven regularly without any long periods of inactivity.
    4. Make sure the emblem on the trunk says ‘C43′

    • 0 avatar
      Numbers_Matching

      - Even better:
      look for one owner from a well-heeled fuddy-duddy located in CA’s middle kingdom.
      - Even better yet:
      same as above with the ubiquitous straw sun hat placed on the rear seat shelf.
      This would almost guarantee a near perfect used W202.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Crown Victoria LX SPORT or 2005-2009 Buick LaCrosse CXL so you get heated seats and all the niceties.

  • avatar
    glwillia

    I have a 1994 E420. Bought with full maintenance records, always garaged, etc. It’s too expensive to use as a DD. Expect at least one 4-figure repair bill a year. That being said, there’s really nothing like a Benz for being an all-around pleasant car.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Get a second generation GS. Two years ago I bought a 2000 GS400. Great car, very reliable so far. It’s surprising how many “go-fast” parts there are for this car, and an incredibly knowledgeable community on Club Lexus. If you think the GS is too beige, it’s easy to modify the suspension, brakes, etc. to suit your style.

    • 0 avatar
      4LiterLexus

      I also own a ’00 GS400 bought in 2010, and I’m amazed at the fundamental soundness of the major stuff: engine, transmission, and interior. Disassembling the interior is also easy: I was able to remove and replace 3 door lock motors without prior experience. I can see myself driving this vehicle for the next decade. That said, there are annoying-and somewhat common-problems that can occur with the 2nd-gen GS.

      The suspension and steering are known weak points, as evidenced by the aftermarket companies that sell polyurethane steering rack and caster arm bushings. When suspension components wear out, aligning the car will be difficult, tire wear will be severe, and the steering wheel may develop a vibration around 60mph.

      Take it to a Lexus specialist–preferably one recommended by ClubLexus–if you notice suspension issues; most independent mechanics have no idea what to replace.

  • avatar
    BrewCity

    Not sure what you should do, Art. But I drive a late 90s German car and can offer my experience… maybe that will help?

    I considered owning a separate fun car and one for commuting, but it didn’t make sense for me at the time. Around 5 years ago I bought a 1997 BMW 328i (“e36″ in BMW parlance) for the best of both worlds.

    When purchased, it had around 60K and it now has around 100K (I don’t commute as far as you). The car has never left me stranded, and still feels really solid. It has not always been the easiest to live with, but it always puts a smile on my face.

    The previous comment by Numbers_Matching is spot on regarding the purchase of any older German car — especially the bit about owner history and regular maintenance.

    My car was well maintained by the previous owner, but still costs me an average of $1500-$2000 per year in repairs and maintenance to keep it running in top condition — and I go to an independent shop and DIY some of it too. Many of those repairs will be age-related things (like replacing the suspension bushings, which are made out of rubber).

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    W202′s are some of the less problematic “modern” Benzes, the last leftover from the Era of real Merc engineering. I wouldn’t be as scared of one as a late-90′s E-class, by far – they’re much better cars long-term. Of course, the rounded C-class that replaced it in the early 00′s was junk, just like the rest of the Benzes from that time period.

    My suggestion: skip the C230. The supercharged motor is tractor-like, not very pleasant, and well known for reliability issues. Find a C280, with the 24-valve 2.8L I6. Make sure it has a stack of maintenance receipts. Enjoy the solidity, but at the same time expect to pay more in maintenance than something like an ES300.

    I’m only answering this way because I feel you’d value the driving experience of your beater. If you want something cheap and boring and problem-free: well 8-10 grand will buy you a LOT of Civic. Like 06+ EX manual Civic. Which would be the smart choice, because apparently they’re ok with doing 750,000 miles in 5 years.

    http://www.carthrottle.com/the-epic-mileage-question/

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    If you don’t mind commuting that money miles in an s2000, then I’m with Steve – do nothing. Any chance this car had of holding long-term value was smashed in that accident, so need to worry about miles or door dings.

    If you secretly think the car is too noisy, cramped, and uncomfortable for a 50 mile commute but don’t want risk your “enthusiast” cred by admitting you prefer something more comfortable, it sounds like you should sell the S2000 and get a commuter of some sort.

    If you were comfortable with the idea of insuring and maintaining two cars, I don’t think the expense of the Benz alone would be unbearable. It won’t be cheap though, and you need an employer who is flexible on when or even if you make it to the office.

    For whatever it’s worth, I’ve used an E39 540 for a similar commute the last 3.5 years, and I don’t think I would do it again. I mention it because it is a car with likely similar running costs, probably even a bit higher than a C-class. For most of the car’s life I had a talented and reasonably priced indy with loaner cars available, and that helped tremendously. There were still days that I had to work remotely because the car needed work. Unless you have a similar situation or a large tool box and some real DIY skill, I wouldn’t go for the Benz. You would have to really want the car for whatever joy it brings, not just looking for a comfortable commuter.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Ask me a year from now how this adventure is working out for me, but 3 months and over 3000 miles into our relationship, my 100k 2004 BMW that I bought for $12.5k has been a delight. A good history is critical. Mine came with maintenance receipts going back years, as well as its original and CPO window stickers.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      haha well I am glad you are so excited about your car, and you did pick one of the best BMWs made. But 3 months and 3000 miles into it really hasnt put you even close to any potential pain points you might fine yourself in with that car! Hope it works out over the real long haul…

      As an owner of an out of warranty German car myself, I would advise you to learn to wrench on it yourself. You will save tons of money and it adds to the satisfaction. Also, even if you cannot handle something yourself, you will be better equipped to not get ripped off by mechanics.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        I’m in good shape there. My best friend is a ph.d engineering student to help with DIY and I have a longtime trusted family mechanic who is knowledgeable about these cars and is very reasonable. Part of owning one of these cars is knowing what you’ve got to deal with going in. In the next 20k miles I know I’m gonna have potentially $2400 in repairs coming for the clutch and shocks (still actively working on making those DIY to save $). My 330 has the zhp performance package, so tire replacement will be painful. Buying stuff online and avoiding dealer service is critical. An oil change at the BMW dealer is what, $120-$150? I could have bought the BMW oil and filter at the dealer (about $70) and brought it to my mechanic and he would have charged $10 in labor, or just done it myself. Had I known about buying the oil online, I could have saved probably another $20 on the oil and filter. BMW has a lot of good online forums where you can get help for doing a lot of this. It’s a labor of love, but every time I drive the car it’s worth it.

        Addressing what other people have said about a daily driver beater; I’m lucky living in Central Fl that hail is about the only natural threat my car may regularly have to face (I’m excluding hurricanes, tornadoes, and other major disasters). I’m quite particular about the car. The car gets washed and waxed regularly, I take my cover with me, and the car gets covered anytime I’m gonna be somewhere an extended period of time, and I try to park it safe in lots. That being said, its my daily driver, and so shit is gonna happen and I’m not gonna freak out over every single knick and scratch that happens. Its unavoidable.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I love the ZHP 330i, thats the car I was looking at before I got my GTI. If it is red I am going to be extremely jealous. The one I had found was red with the alcantara trim package, but it was an auto, and I insisted on a stick. Couldnt find any others close enough in a few months of looking, then ended up falling for the newer GTI.

        IIRC the ZHP rims use the same size tires as my GTI — 225/40ZR18? If so, tires are not too bad, I got a set of Hankook Ventus V12 tires, they are amazing, and only $120 each. If you insist on Michelins though, then you will pay a pretty penny.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        Mine is one of my favorite BMW colors, Orient Blue Metallic (which is their really really dark blue. At night almost looks black, in bright daylight when he’s waxed, looks like there’s a hint of purple). Honestly wasn’t a fan of the red on the car, but happy either way. On mine, the original and second owners were not fans of the Alcantara, so it was ordered with full leather seats from the factory, and the second owner haggled a full leather M steering wheel from BMW when he bought it as a CPO (don’t ask me how but I’d love to know) to replace the Alcantara. Finding a stick shift was a challenge, as I resolutely refused to even consider an automatic (and no regrets there, I couldn’t imagine this car with anything other than a stick). I had the luxury of having several months to shop around for the right car, and I didn’t restrict myself to local cars only (I was doing a 500 mile radius search on autotrader). I ended up finding this car in Miami, and while I had to make multiple trips down there (one for the test drive, and one to actually purchase the car), it was well worth the time, effort, and rental car bills to get the right car. Far as tires go, the ZHP package had staggered tires. I don’t recall my exact size, but I wanna say they’re like 225/45 or 225/50 on the fronts and like 255/35 or 255/40 on the back (they’re a narrower than the base M3 tire). I’m not a big Michelin fan; always liked the Japanese tires (Bridgestone, Yokohama, and Toyo) myself but I’ll definitely be consulting Tirerack as the time to buy gets closer.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        The blue is great too, I just had a thing for the Imola Red. I too shopped the 500 mile radius, anywhere in FL or GA basically, but I was admittedly being picky, I only wanted a red stick with alcantara and under 60k miles. I probably would have found something if I compromised a little, but I wanted what I wanted.

        I didnt realize they ran such a stagger on those cars, I thought one of the points of the M3 was that it needed the widened rear fenders to run that size tire, and the ZHP made due with narrower tires… 255 is WIDE. So yeah, I guess you might be paying a bit much for those. I think you said you are in FL, so if you dont mind a trip to Tampa, I am friends with a tire dealer here that outfits a lot of the weekend racers and track cars, his prices are waaaaay better than Tire Rack and of course he installs… Advanced Performance in Tampa, guys name is Mike.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        I wasn’t too picky on the mileage. Had just under 98k when I got it. While I could have gotten less mileage (there were two 2006 330ci zhps with stick shifts in your area for sale at the same time), I would have had a longer note out on the car, whereas I knew I could pay off this one in under a year. I just checked the car and it is 225/40 up front and 255/30 in the back. I will probably be needing tires in the next year, and yeah I’m in Orlando so a trip to Tampa isn’t a big deal, especially if it’ll save me $. My family have been getting our tires from firestone for over a decade now so they tend to also take good care of us pricewise, so I’ll see what they’re offering. Shopping around for parts and components is definitely critical, while at the same time maintaining long standing good relationships with these businesses. My check engine light came on and I was running lean. Our mechanic said it was oil on the MAF (likely from my K&N air filter) and cleaned it up, reset the code, no charge. I offered to pay some and he said “don’t worry, when you really make us work we’ll have you pay.” Between me, my sister, and our parents, we’ve got 4 cars over 100k miles, two of which are BMWs, and one car over 200k, and he works on all of them, so he knows that day will come.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Take it from somebody who recently went down this route: Don’t bother. Drive the heck out of the S2000 until you get bored with it or just get rid of it right now.

    Two years ago, I bought my own quarter-life crisis car: A new Mustang GT. Within months, I decided that the gas mileage was too lousy for my commute and that the car was too nice to be abused by grocery store parking lots, etc. So I picked up a beater Honda for cheap from a family member. Great, right?

    Wrong. I ended up driving that crap Honda 60% of the time. The following year, I moved back to snow country and my commute time tripled. Suddenly I was driving the Honda 95% of the time and the Mustang sat wasted in the garage, while costing me hundreds in payments and insurance each month. After owning it only a year and a half, I dumped the car and drove the beater as my only transportation for about six months.

    The crazy part is that I have another twenty something friend who did essentially the same thing with a Camaro.

    Truth is the Mustang just wasn’t a good fit for me, and the Honda was just a crappy car. My new GLI is a much better balance of economy, practicality, sportiness and driving enjoyment.

    Don’t waste 10 grand on a money pit image car or a soul-sucking crapbox commuter. If the S2000 meets all your needs, forget about babying it and drive it into the ground. Otherwise, dump it and get a late model C-Class, if that’s the sort of car you want.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I’m surprised at how many of you would drive a car into the ground, and I’m really surprised at how many of you would so quickly look to turn this 2008 S2K into a beater?! One accident, the car isn’t totaled, doesn’t automatically mean it’s trash. If it’s fixed correctly then it’s fine. But even if it’s not perfect, I still wouldn’t treat it like trash. Stepping on the seats? Let it get dinged up? Why trash a car, any car?

    And many of you insist on only having one car. Why? As the old saying goes: use the right tool for the job. The Honda isn’t a good commuter car. It isn’t an active lifestyle car either. If he can afford it, why not get the right tool? I love our MR2 Spyder, such a fun car. But I don’t drive it every day. It sucks on the highway, sucks in a downpour, has no room for the dogs or groceries. I have a GTI for my daily car and a CRV for family duty. All of them have strengths. He doesn’t automatically have to pick a POS to go with his S. If I could afford it, I would have 5 or 6 different cars for different duty!

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I agree that in a perfect world I would have a fleet of at least 5 cars, with each one serving a different purpose: Roadster/convertible, pickup truck, highway cruiser, people mover, track toy, etc. Unfortunately, money and space issues make that unrealistic for many. These practical difficulties are why so many advise only having one car. While everyone has to decide for themselves what they are comfortable spending on cars, reliability concerns and sub $10k target budget make the boring, practical advice appropriate here.

      As far as driving the car into the ground, what is the point of having a nice car if you aren’t going to use it? I wouldn’t deliberately trash any car. If I had a 15 year old economy car, I’m sure I would still wash it and be mindful of who I park next to. That said, there are some things that you have to let go with a daily driver. If you live in an even a semi-congested area, avoiding dings is impossible and repairing them is a lost cause. It’s like a game of whack-a-mole.

      Keep the car clean and don’t be careless with it, but also don’t sweat small stuff or worry about piling on miles.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        The OP asked for advice about buying a daily driver to go with his sports car. He also pointed out that his car didn’t meet all his needs but he wanted to keep it because he loves driving it an d wants to keep it in nice condition for a long time. Sounds like he is the perfect candidate for owning multiple cars instead of running one into the ground.

        And I disagree with you saying that avoiding dings is a lost cause. I live in a congested area, all you need to do is park carefully and far away, which I do. Nothing pisses me off more than seeing how badly some of the idiot drivers park. And, that’s another reason to have a daily driver.

  • avatar

    AND enter SAAB, stage right.

    Cheap. Wagon (for bikes). Great turbo power, great highway car, great seats (in right trim). Go for a 9-5 wagon and it should be cheap, reliable, and efficient.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The trick with an older car is to find a car that comes with a stack of maintenance records. Not only for the documentation , but for the mindset of keeping them. You will save much money if you can DIY the maintenance. Find an on-line forum, a good one is invaluable. If not a DIYer, best to get a reliable appliance.


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