By on May 15, 2012

Michael writes:

Love the website. Here is my conundrum:

My wife and I have two cars. A 2007 CR-V that I use mostly for a 75 mile round trip commute several days a week to San Francisco and a 2004 Infiniti FX35 with 52,000 miles. While the CR-V has a ton of utility, I am tired of driving it. It has quite a bit of road noise, the sound system sucks and frankly it’s kind of a female car. The plan is to keep the CR-V and let my wife drive it, and use it as our family car while we sell the Infiniti and I get something for that daily commute. The Infiniti was purchased from a friend and is in great condition, but I feel like it is a ticking time bomb and want to sell it now to take advantage of high used car prices. Plus the mpg is horrific, it doesn’t have satellite radio and the tires are still original and will need expensive replacing shortly.

We have two young boys that I will occasionally be called upon to pick up/drop off, so I need something with a decent sized back seat. I am an attorney and occasionally clients will see my car so image is somewhat important. At the same time, I can’t go overboard because my clients are not wealthy.  I definitely want a car (or wagon), and something that gets good mpg. I need it to have the latest tech offerings so that my commute is tolerable.  I looked at used but almost seems cheaper to buy at this point so I am looking to buy.  While I would love to say that fun to drive is high on the list, my commute offers little opportunity for fun driving and my busy life prevents much recreational driving, so an all around car would suit us best. We will finance the car and probably pay off in five or less years and then sell shortly thereafter. Probably will average 15k miles a year.

Audi is high on the list. We had a 2004 Audi A4 years back that we loved, although there seems to be a short supply of new A4′s in the configuration I would want due to popularity and they are not the best deal. Also concerned about reliability.  I like the looks of the Volvo S60 T5 and love the free maintenance but the backseat is just a bit small and it’s not very exciting. I test drove a TL and it has all the creature comforts and holds its value well, but my wife thinks it is hideous. 3 series is too small while 5 series more than I want to spend. New C-Class is interesting but probably too small inside. Hyundai Genesis is intriguing but it’s a Hyundai and I can’t get past the Hyundais of old. I have not driven one so can’t speak to how the car drives. I love the Jaguar XF but reliability and mpg turns me off. Lexus CT200h would be an interesting choice but the thing is tiny inside.  Budget is 30-45k.

Steve Answers:

This is the classic case of trying to kick the bucket before the bucket is full.

The Infiniti FX35 is perfectly capable of handling your needs as it stands. It has been given great reviews by an awful lot of owners. The styling is still contemporary for our time and, as ol’ Leonard McCoy would say if he dealt with Yuppies instead of Vulcans, “Good God man! You’ve only driven this thing for 52,000 miles and you want to sell it! Get a hold of yourself and buy some tires!”

That’s my advice. Your clients will not appreciate a new upscale luxury car. The commute you have is a fairly miserable one as far as enthusiast driving goes. You seem to always be pedaling on the debt treadmill… and use fuel economy as the excuse du jour to get into debt some more.

Just stop it. Really.

Don’t spend money. Don’t buy anything. Except top quality tires and perhaps a Sirius/XM upgrade if you don’t have one already.  Those two moves alone should make your commute far better than it is at the moment.

Sajeev answers:

While I agree with Steve, I also have a friend who tends to get new cars for the most trivial of reasons, including needing new tires.  No really, he has no problem with his current ride other than the fact that it needs tires. So it’s time for a new car!

I get it, even if I don’t.

My advice?  Stop buying and start leasing. Aside from the very likely (cough) tire replacements on 2-3 year leases, everything else is covered. You can buy whatever looks right for you, projects the right image to your clients, and when the “ticking time bomb” sound turns into the Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell Tale Heart…well, the lease should probably be up before that time.

My gut feeling? I’d lease something Volkswagen.  Maybe the CC, or one of their crossovers…fully loaded!  It doesn’t really matter, they all have the right image and I’m fairly certain you’ll love it for 24 months.

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43 Comments on “New or Used: The Beating of His Hideous Heart!!!...”


  • avatar
    Toad

    Steve, great advice. Upgrade the stereo, go to Costco and put a set of Michelin or Bridgestone tires on it, then spring for a very good interior and exterior detail. Bingo, car will feel like almost new with no payments.

    Every car is an old car after 6 months. Fall back in love with the FX you already have.

    • 0 avatar
      sabast20

      -1 on the Bridgestone Tires. Some of the noisiest tires I’ve ever owned after about 5,000 miles.

    • 0 avatar
      play3rtwo

      “every car is an old car after 6 months”

      my Ranger is 2 years old and it still looks and drives “new”

      maybe i’m just lucky, but I still get that “man, this is awesome” look on my face when i walk to the parking lot after work and see my truck.

      This guy should lease because if he’s not happy with it, no matter how many parts you put into it, he’s still not going to like it.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “Stop buying and start leasing.”

    Based upon his post, he’s driving about 20,000 miles per year. That makes him a bad candidate for leasing.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    My brother has leased a CC as he needed an “upscale looking car” to be a salesmen but didn’t want something richy-rich. He couldn’t find anything he really liked that he wanted to spend $$ on so he kicked the bucket down the road and did a lease. In 3 years hopefully he can find something that will fit his situation better & that he likes. He DOES like the cc but doesn’t think he’ll like it 3 years from now.

    Oh well..it’s his money, right? I think there is some tax writeoff he can take as well on a lease since he uses it for business purposes (not sure though if he does that or not but I’ve heard it mentioned before).

    Personally I’d never lease…I drive my cars into the ground. If my (12-year old)neon’s tranny hadn’t died at 209k I’d still be driving it. In the meanwhile the wife got a “new” (1 year old) Sorrento & loves it. Not sure if you are anti-kia or not but both wife & I like it & it seats 7, has 3rd row fold-down/split seats & I think we paid 22.5 OTD. Mileage isn’t great (we average 22 on the AWD with the v6) but other than that is’ AOK. You could always do the 4 cyl with FWD & probably would get a lot better mileage. I’ve heard it’s a dog however…

    Would a Prius work for you? Do you care if it’s stick or auto? If you are concerned about reliability I’d definately not go the audi route.

    Overall spending 30k-45k on a car to get better gas mileage doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinkin...

      Totally agree on the Prius. Get a Prius Four with the Sunroof package and the Prius PLUS wheels and rear sway bar. It’ll be less than $35k, and will do everything you want and then some. The interior is nice, has all the gadgets you could want and the glass/solar roof looks impressive. The rear sway bar fixes most of the handling ills, and the 17″ forged wheels are optional, but radically improve the looks and curb appeal for clients. Depending on who your clients are, a well spec’d Prius will suggest that you have some money and taste, but also some restraint and responsibility. (Just don’t put any silly bumper stickers on it…) The only people who will be impressed by an Audi or BMW these days are teenage boys.

      The Prius is built to be a near-perfect commuter, and it does that remarkably well. It’s quiet, roomy, versatile, and when optioned up looks pretty good. The gas mileage is pretty good too, and the resale values, particularly when gas is on the rise, are remarkable.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    First, in that situation, I wouldn’t be making a trade (probably the most common advice on TTAC). Put the excess cash in the bank. The current Infiniti should impress clients enough, unless you have not been taking care of it and its age impresses them with your good sense. If you haven’t been taking care of it, get it detailed and polished up and keep it.

    However, if you’re determined to get new wheels, well, if I had a 75 mile commute my #1 and #2 priorities would be reliability and fuel economy. That spells “C-A-M-R-Y.” Right, utterly boring and 100% sensible. Is that a problem? Get a 4-cylinder XLE or even an SE with leather interior and drive it until the kids are old enough for licenses. Give it to them and then get your midlife crisis Deutsches Auto.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      By the way, leasing has always impressed me as risky because plans change. Today, you’re only going in to town 3 days per week but next week or next month you might find it’s necessary to go 5 days per week. Then you’ll be sweating over the mileage, watching the odometer and swapping off cars with your wife to control the mileage. Not worth it.

  • avatar
    Boff

    3 series too small? What does that mean? The wagon probably has more cargo space than that Infiniti and the E90 is much more spacious than the previous 3. Perhaps the question asker has a family of four 6+ footers +.

    • 0 avatar
      cwerdna

      3 series sedan per http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/sbs.htm is classified as a compact car (click on the specs tab). 3 series coupe is a SUBCOMPACT car.

  • avatar
    protomech

    75 miles/day * 3.5 days/week * 48 weeks/year = 12600 miles/year

    If “several” days a week is really 5 days a week, then he’s definitely over the mileage limit on a lease. But 12k could work, I suppose.

    The FX35 (and original tires!) is 9 years old now. It may indeed be a ticking time bomb but it’s survived well past the initial warranty period.

    I suggest driving a Genesis sedan (3.8) and then making the call on keeping the FX35 vs replacing.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    The only problem with leasing is his 15k a year mileage. That could get expensive especially if he goes over that mileage and has to pay for the extra miles.

    I understand wanting to get rid of a low mileage ride that you are no longer in love with as I am in the same boat. However, I would have to agree with Steve and just keep the FX35 and get quality tires and a satellite radio. Not sure why you think it is a ticking time bomb as CR shows pretty good reliability especially in the big dollar items like power train.

  • avatar
    SWComp

    CTS wagon – low mile CPO’s are good deals

  • avatar
    dejal1

    Considering how shallow the person come across, I’d say lease.

    Nothing says “dynamic individual” like Audi or BMW. Other than all the other dynamic individuals in Audis + BMWs who also aren’t shallow.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Wait a few months for the 2013 Ford Fusion. Get the hybrid if you want West Cost enviro-cred.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      It seems like it’s worth the wait just to see what it’ll be like. If not, the 2012 is a great deal and I think a rather decent looking car too. $5-7k off right now, before you even talk to a salesman.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      It looks good, but it is never good to be a first adopter of a new model. Wait a year or two.

  • avatar
    Libertyman03

    I don’t understand why image is important NOW, when he’s been driving a CR-V recently. If he was worried about image, he’d have taken the Infiniti right off the bat. I think Steve is right; this guy will use ANY excuse to spend some money.

  • avatar
    threeer

    52k on the odometer and it’s a ticking timebomb? Puhleeze…I’ve bought cars with more mileage on them than that (and then driven them for many, many more). Is the Infiniti paid for? If so, spending $30-45K on a replacement sure doesn’t sound as if you’re really in it to save money…quite the contrary. This is a matter of trying to justify a new car purchase when one really isn’t needed. Just be honest with yourself and admit that you simply WANT a new car. And if you are dead serious about anything European a lease would make more sense (if not for bumping up against mileage limits, which get pricey). As it is, your Infiniti says “attorney” enough as it is. Spend the small bucks for new shoes and upgrade the stereo.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Dude…I just leased an Accord LX for my wife, which is everything you say you want: big enough for kids. Fuel efficient (I’m getting 34 MPG on the highway.) Adequate sound system. Comfortable and safe. Honda reliability.

    Pleasant and sensible enough to take clients to dinner in, without screaming “I’m over-charging you to pay for this car.” Pleasant enough to have it washed and vacuumed and take your wife to the theater, or whatever.

    At $220 per month, it’s a value. Even with the $0.15 per mile excess mileage cost, it’s a BARGAIN. If you put 15k on it per year (75 mile r/t x 200 work days = 15k miles), the mileage ‘penalty’ is $450 per year. Less than one month’s lease payment on your typical Audi. Add the XM satellite radio and you’re done. 36 month bumper to bumper warranty covers everything. And leasing WILL make your tax record-keeping and calculations that much easier.

    The cool thing is they are practically GIVING the 2012′s away, since the totally-new 2013 will be out in October. And you prolly want to steer yourself away from the CVT’s in the first 2 years.

    What’s not to like? It’s the smart play.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    I wonder if CJinSD will echo similar with his new CR-V?

    The Saab 9-5 wagon has more cargo hauling space(73 cubic feet) than every modern wagon except for maybe the E-class. But the 9-5 can push well into the 30′s in fuel economy when driven sensibly and probably has the most back seat room too.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    It seems kind of lame to give his wife the car he doesn’t like, and then top it off by selling what I presume is the one she’s been driving. I don’t think it’s cost effective to replace it, though; the FX35 is one of the more reliable vehicles out there. It’ll have costs due to its age and mileage, but nothing compared to buying a new car (especially a nice one).

    Those CR-Vs are loud inside, though. No argument there. Having the local stereo shop install some Dynamat could help, I suppose.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    I suggest a Lincoln MKZ

    upscale but not too flashy, roomy for rear passengers and cargo, takes regular fuel, pretty reliable and lower maintenance costs than European cars

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Totally agree with Steve on this one. Keep the Infinity as it’ll last you a long time, put some good, new tires on it and add a satellite radio and be done for the time being.

    I had hoped to buy new later this year, but my truck had other ideas and forced me to replace it back in January so I had to kick the new car thing down the road quite a ways and buy used in my price range and ended up with a 2003 Mazda Protege5. True, it doesn’t have ABS, side airbags, traction control, anti skid etc, nor does it have Bluetooth, iPod/USB/Aux connectivity, nor steering wheel controls, but it has power windows, locks, keyless entry, a decent motor, better mileage than my old truck, though it could be better and was a much better size for on street parking in the big city where I live.

    So what I did was save up and just bought a new head unit with BT, USB/Aux connectivity – it’s en-route now as it is and should arrive on Friday. Total cost? $250 and it includes the install kit, the electrical pigtail and instructions, where were tossed into the box for free.

    If all goes well, I’ll be installing it on Saturday.

    That is what you should be doing instead of adding to your debt as the Infinity should be enough to impress (though as you say, the mileage isn’t fantastic). Otherwise, look for a late model used vehicle to replace the other vehicle that only looks expensive, but really isn’t and do the same as I have done.

    Good luck!

  • avatar
    DubTee1480

    Acura TSX wagon? I know your wife didn’t like the TL but the TSX looks a little different.

  • avatar
    SuperACG

    “The cheapest car is the one you already own.”

    It’s been written time and time again by the B&B on here. Think about the depreciation hit, and interest costs, and that buys a lot of fuel for the Infiniti.

    A new set of tires is likely cheaper than a down payment on something new. Does it have low-pro tires and their cost is too much? How about down-sizing the rims and getting narrower/higher profile tires. It will use less gas. I was perfectly happy with 16″ rims on my MK4 Jetta while my buddies were running 18′s and 19′s on theirs. I got way better mileage. I also drove slower.

  • avatar
    Zombo

    The Hyundai dealer nearest me offers free tires for life . Of course they put their own sticker on next to the factory one that is an average of 1500 dollars more . I’d try to find a dealer who doesn’t practice that and test drive a Sonata . Yes a Sonata with leather interior is plenty luxurious(for me anyway)and all Hyundais pretty much come with XM radio standard and you can always opt for the hybrid Sonata for best mpg . I know plenty of people with Hyundais and all are satisfied with them – some are 6-7 years old . They aren’t even close to what they were in the mid 80s when they were first came to these shores ! Buy or lease your choice .

  • avatar
    SV

    I’m inclined to agree that keeping the FX is your best bet. If it’s still in good shape, it should still project a good enough image; it’s 8 years old, but it’s still a luxury car. I’ve always thought the original FX’s interior was pretty nice too.

    If you have to get a new car, though, I’d suggest an Infiniti G25/37. They’re cheaper and roomier than the Germans, and drive quite nicely too (probably better than the A4, similarly to the C and almost as well as the 3).

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    How about a 2012 Chrysler 300 with the Pentastar V-6? Rated for 31 mpg highway and plenty of room inside. I have a co-worker with a new V-6 Charger who reported that he equalled or bettered the 31 mpg on a recent vacation/road trip.

    • 0 avatar
      cwerdna

      How about a ’12 Camry Hybrid instead? 41 mpg combined w/200 hp. See http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=31774&id=32092.

      ’12 Chrysler 300 3.6L w/8 speed auto is only 23 mpg combined.

  • avatar

    My advice… wait 5-6 months, lease a 2013 Honda Accord, trade for a new Accord every 3 years. (with how Hondas hold their value, you will likely have equity even with 45-50k miles after 3 years) It’ll have all the latest technology, be reliable and fuel efficient, and your clients won’t be turned off by their attorney driving a super-expensive car.

  • avatar
    cwerdna

    How about a Plug-in Prius? (http://www.toyota.com/prius-plug-in/) Prius is a classified as a midsized car, unlike the Lexus CT and thus is larger inside than the CT. If you want gadgets and want to go higher in your budget, get the Advanced model. For CA, there’s a total of $4000 of incetives ($2500 Federal tax credit and $1500 CVRP). See http://pressroom.toyota.com/releases/toyota+confirms+prius+plug-in+eligibility+state+california+consumer+incentive+epa+mileage+rating.htm. Another plus is the green HOV lane stickers.

    Otherwise, I’d look into the Camry Hybrid (40 or 41 mpg combined per http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=32092&id=32093). Or, wait for the Lexus ES hybrid (http://www.autoblog.com/2012/04/04/lexus-debuts-2013-es-including-new-300h-hybrid/).

    There’s no way I’d buy an Audi. Look at their reliability in Consumer Reports.

    If you want good FE, look at http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/02/the-most-fuel-efficient-cars/index.htm and http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/new-cars/buying-advice/best-worst-cars-review/best-worst-fuel-economy/best-and-worst-fuel-economy.htm.

    I’m puzzled why the author is looking at BMW 3 series, Mercedes C class and Volvo S60 when they’re all compact cars per http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=32175&id=31700&id=31208 (click on Specs tab).

  • avatar
    BCE

    I say let the wife keep the Infiniti ( which I think is a sweet ride) and hold out for the 2013 Fusion or get a new Taurus SHO. Either one looks impressive, both would make a boring commute fun, and are reliable. The FX should be reliable for many more years though. That engine is awesome!

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    In days of old, a full ash tray would have been the reason to trade the car for a new one. Since cars don’t have ash trays anymore, the tires have stepped up as the reason du jour :)

  • avatar
    Tummy

    I have a 2004 FX45 with nearly 80,000 miles and thought about selling it, but there is nothing else like it and I rather enjoy not having a car payment. The FX has been the most trouble free car I’ve ever owned. The only thing we do for it is regular maintenance twice a year. I don’t understand why it’s a “ticking time bomb”, when something breaks, just get it fixed. What’s the big deal?

    I get about 21mpg on the highway, 17 in mixed driving, so it’s not that horrible unless you compare it to 4-cyl cars. It’s about the same as what we get in our MB E500 4Matic which is also an AWD V8.

    I don’t understand why people think new tires are expensive, when you compare it to a car payment that is nearly the same, but happens every month. Get Yokohama Parada Spec-x for about $160 each. You will not be disappointed in the ride quality and the handling. How is it you are on the original tires at 52k miles? You must not be driving it with enough enthusiasm!

    There is a large enthusiast community at InfinitiFX.org and infinitiscene.com that can help with tire choice and other electronic upgrades. I would just get an iPod connector and stream pandora.

    If you have to finance the car for 5 years, then I say you can’t afford it. You will only get maybe $11,000-$13,000 for the FX. The depreciation curve has slowed at this point and there is not that much more money to lose.

    • 0 avatar
      mcw

      Didn’t “have” to finance the new car, but took the cheap money at 1.9%.

      Sold the Infiniti for $17,500. The used car market is so inflated that the car depreciated only $2500 in five years.

      I live in a hilly area but got about 12 mpg around town on the Infiniti, and around 22 on the highway.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    This is a non-problem, the FX35 is a reliable and proper vehicle, a set of tires is not too much to do for it.

  • avatar
    mcw

    I am the (now former) owner of the FX35. Ended up selling it privately for $17,500. Bought it for around 20k, so it depreciated $2500 in five+ years.

    Purchased an A4 with no money down which we financed at 1.9%. (Lease rates from Audi have not been competitive so it made no sense to lease). Used the 17.5k received from the Infiniti sale for a house remodel we had planned, so we are essentially financing the house remodel over 5 years at 1.9%. I could have paid cash for the Audi or home remodel but can earn more than 1.9% with investments.

    I absolutely love the A4 and could not be happier with my choice. Having the latest tech and a great sound system on my long commutes has made the drive that much better and made it easier to make client calls, etc.. Mileage has been 30+ on the highway. Car looks great, handles great and is a blast to drive.

    The FX 35 was affectionately known as “the beast” in our house and after driving the Audi it was an appropriate name.

    Did I make the most “practical” choice? Of course not, but if everyone made practical choices their would be no luxury car market. I don’t regret my decision for a minute.

    • 0 avatar
      Tummy

      I’m glad you are happy with the A4.

      I’m wondering though, what your FX was missing that the A4 has? Did you not have the tech package, because the only thing on my car that’s missing is integrated bluetooth. Nav, keyless go, adaptive laser cruise control, rear DVD players were part of the tech package in 2004. I also think the Bose stereo sounds pretty good.

      • 0 avatar
        mcw

        I didn’t have the tech package, so no navigation, no rear dvd,etc.. I thought the Bose system was good, no complaints about that.

        The integrated bluetooth is fantastic on the A4 and the ipod integration works well.


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