By on April 29, 2013

Anonymous writes:

Hello Oh Ye Sajeev-full, (WOW – SM)

I bought myself a ’12 VW Golf TDI (4-dr, 6-sp) because, at the time, I was driving 2k miles a month around the CA Bay Area for work. I wanted fun, frugal, and practical all in one car, and the damn thing delivered (best mileage was 57, average was 46).

My wife and I had stable jobs and low expenses otherwise, and I “needed” a new car because I’m a perfect-condition kind of car owner. So, we bought it and financed it through my credit union. The total was just north of $29k, and we owe just north of $25k still.

Then everything changed. She was offered a more career-oriented position in New Orleans, we moved, and concurrently other expenses increased. I found a contract position that doesn’t pay as much as my job in the BA and she has her full-time position.

Our gross income is less; my income is less stable; our rent, car insurance, and health insurance contribution are way higher; and because we both work a mile from our apartment, I’ve found myself driving once a week.

We no longer need two cars, nor can we afford to keep them both, and we’ve settled on getting rid of my Golf. Her car (Smart ForTwo) is made for an urban environment, works well for our needs, and is nearly paid off.

To sell the Golf, should I bring it to the VW dealer? The car is immaculate but it has 12k miles on it already.

Should I try to sell it private party? It’s still within the 30k free maintenance, but why would someone drop $25k in a private party transaction when that’s the entry TDI price at a dealer?

Also, I haven’t sold a car that still has a loan on it. Do I need to get approval from the lien-holder? How’s this process work?

Sajeev answers:

Good question, with simple answers. Definitely sell private party, to get the most money back. Which I assume you’ll need, considering the chances that you are either upside-down on the loan right now, or will be after accepting a dealer’s trade-in offer. But why bother regurgitating information when we can Google stuff on how to sell a car with a lien? And to find a decent appraisal tool to know the fair asking price?

(crickets chirping)

Well then! Now that you’ll sell private party (provided you aren’t more financially desperate than indicated) do some basic things before placing your ad. First, pick out your locations, the forums (VWVortex, perhaps?) and major car websites in your area (probably Cars.com, AutoTrader.com and always Craigslist).  Then spend the effort needed to make an appealing advertisement. My somewhat-not-Googlable advice?

  1. Clean the car inside and out, including the engine (yes, really) before taking photos. Shine up the tires, but don’t make the engine or interior glow with radioactive glee…just make a clean, honest, like-new looking car. Nobody wants to see a Mop ‘N Glow shine on the dash and under the hood.  It’s distracting and disingenuous.
  2. Take photos during dusk or dawn, most smartphones take good photos for this task, if you let the best natural light present the car.
  3. Write ad copy that tells the vehicle’s story since rolling off the dealer’s lot: why you bought it, what you’ve done to it, how you cared for it and why you are selling.  Be truthful, but not desperate or weak. No need to become prey for bloodsucking buyers on the Internet, until absolutely necessary. Put another way, a Simpson’s meme:

And with that, off to the Best and Brightest.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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101 Comments on “Piston Slap: Just Bought It, Now Gotta Sell It!...”


  • avatar
    flatout05

    The worrisome thing here is that the original poster appears to believe that because he owes $25K on the car, he will sell it for that. ’tain’t the way it works. It’s worth what someone will pay you for it, and if you reject solid offers because you’ve just GOT to get the loan amount, you’ll piss away time and monthly payments.

    • 0 avatar
      WestwardGeoff

      Agreed. Even more worrisome to me, though, is the thought of leaving the Bay Area for New Orleans. Perfect weather and beautiful scenery traded for…neither of those. Also, it can be very hard to get back to CA once you’ve left, and you will want to go back. I know this from experience.

      As for selling the Smart vs. the Golf, I suspect neither are very popular in the Big Easy. You’ve got your work cut out either way. But I agree with Lie2me: Eventually you’ll need the Golf for family visits, and for its utility. Also, the Golf is the obvious choice for the road trips you’ll take to escape the hurricanes and humidity.

      Consider selling the Smart and putting the proceeds onto the Golf payment.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        This makes perfect sense, but it’s probably mission impossible to sell a Smart in New Orleans.

      • 0 avatar
        Jean-Pierre Sarti

        sheeesh what is with the non relevant pot shots at New Orleans. I suspect he might miss those things but I also suspect he won’t miss:

        1. earthquakes
        2. mudslides
        3. forest fires
        4. crazy high taxes
        5. crazy high cost of living
        and worst of all
        6. over reaching state government

        Anyway,

        my advice to the original poster is if he is willing to lose a few thousand bucks, which in the long run will be worth it, I don’t thing he should have trouble selling his Golf TDI.

        Also note to original poster: if you don’t get as many bites as you want, it might be a little inconvenient, but don’t forget to advertise in Baton Rouge. Let’s face it a big college town will have a bunch of golf buyers.

        • 0 avatar
          kenzter

          I rent a two bedroom house with a small yard for $1600, and I’m 8 blocks from the beach. We also don’t have mudslides or forest fires in the city. Sure, we’ll have an earthquake someday, but most of the country is prone to some sort of disaster.
          But keep telling yourself and others how terrible California is; we really don’t need to add more to our population of 38 million.

      • 0 avatar
        Ltd783

        Yeah, everyone I know who moved out of California tells stories about it like it was surviving WW3. 3 hours of traffic just get home to your 600 sq foot, $2500/mo apartment, no thanks.

        • 0 avatar
          Jason Lombard

          You should probably talk to a few more people….

          • 0 avatar
            Ltd783

            Or perhaps you should? Google “California population loss” to see what I’m talking about. The number or people leaving California has been greater than those moving there for a few years. Its almost like a few extra days sunshine isn’t worth all the extra cost and BS…

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            I second that! Get a second opinion, ltd. There are a lot of Californians among the B&B, and they’re not responding to your stereotype because they’re ROFL. It’s better than the old “fruits, nuts & hippies” version, though.

          • 0 avatar
            Ltd783

            Stats don’t lie. You’ve got no insider knowledge that I don’t know about, I’ve been all over California, from Tijuana to the Oregon border. The vast majority of the state is beautiful, I don’t fault you that, but it is ridiculously overpriced. You’re probably used to it, but just housing is enough to keep me away. Sure, income might be higher, but it’s not worth it if 50% of my income goes to living expenses. I’ll stick with living in flyover country and having extra money to go on several vacations a year, live in a nice house, have extra cars, and a garage for all those extra cars. Meanwhile, go back to discussing how beneficial a SMART car is in Cali so you can cram it into a tight curb spot.

        • 0 avatar
          protomech

          After the move to New Orleans, he reports:
          “Our gross income is less; my income is less stable; our rent, car insurance, and health insurance contribution are way higher”

          I’d generally operate under the assumption that California living expenses would be markedly higher, but I don’t know his specific situation. Clearly my (and some others in this thread) general assumption is incorrect in his case.

          Keep whichever car works best as a only vehicle. Sell the other .. and heed the advice about not focusing on what you owe but on what you can get.

          • 0 avatar
            Ltd783

            Generally, yes, California living expenses would be more than Louisiana, but you have to look at the particulars.

            Car and health insurance being more makes sense. I’m assuming the average Louisianan is in worse health than a Californian, its a trend common in the Southeast, where health insurance is typically more because of this. As to car insurance, NOLA is one of the highest crime cities in the US, so that makes sense.

            Rent is the one I don’t get, unless they lived in a tenement in SF, and now rent a whole building on Bourbon street in NOLA, I would assume SF was more, its average rent is second highest in country only to NYC.

          • 0 avatar
            Splorg McGillicuddy

            According to this report, SF rents are now higher than NYC: http://nlihc.org/oor/2012 (devil’s in the details and I can’t vouch for the source).

            How in the world is your New Orleans rent higher than your SF rent? If so, this is a long line of bad decisions.

        • 0 avatar
          nickoo

          Cali is a big state and there is something here for everyone. I’m in the San Diego area and don’t suffer any of that. Yes, rent is a little higher than where I came from ($1400 for a 3 bedroom one bath stand alone house with a small yard), and yes, instead of taking 5 minutes to get to work, it takes me about 20, but such is life in any decent sized city and I would never trade what I have now for what I had before moving here.

        • 0 avatar
          SoCalMikester

          15 minutes door to door, including the carpool lane of the 605. Helps to have a 2-wheeler. 900sf, 20 year mortgage, $627.

      • 0 avatar
        slance66

        Ugh. Left the Bay Area in fall of 1999, best move ever. There are few places in the country I’d want to move to less. Not only are the average home prices incredibly high, but they are small homes on crappy lots.

        That said, he should sell or should have sold a car in the BA before moving. Worth more there. I agree, sell the Smart Car. Golf gets great mileage and has more utility. Better for heading to the beaches in Mississippi.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        A friend moved to the SF Bay area for a great programming gig from his home of Indiana. A co-worker moved back from the SF Bay leaving a great job to be back in Indiana.

        They both say the same thing except reverse the state names – “[Indiana/California] was such a dump – only idiots and meth heads waste away in [Indiana/California] because the state is circling the drain. I’m so happy that I moved to (-1)*[Indiana/California] from [Indiana/California]”

        Except that (i) Indiana’s BMV is surprisingly un-terrible and (ii) Bay-area weather rules.

        • 0 avatar
          walker42

          SF has the tightest housing market in the nation (small, desirable place with big demand from tech industry). The situation is so bad that the city is considering allowing condos as small as 150 SF of living space. In addition SF is bending over backwards to help apartment owners convert to condos. When you consider that SF was one of the first cities to impose rent control you can appreciate how completely the tide has turned.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            I’m not sure you know what you’re talking about re: condo conversion. Condo conversion is highly regulated in SF, and they recently came up with a compromise for reforming the process that is still extremely onerous, and in some ways is much more restrictive. The SF Tenants Union is strong.

            The people who are espousing 150SF apartments/condos are the ones who want every homeless person and drug addict to be able to afford a place in SF. Many other people despise this idea for ghetto-ization. The developers are lobbying for this, of course, because they can make more money per square-foot selling crapboxes.

            Rent control has not been overturned, and if anything, the city is becoming more aggressive about considering more people “disabled” in order to give them lifetime tenancies.

          • 0 avatar
            walker42

            Things have changed in SF. The avg. condo price last month was just under $1M, up $200K in a year. Selling prices are 104% of list. That demand, plus political funding from high tech sources, has finally re-balanced power in the city.

            Developers are getting the OK on 150SF condos because 42% of the population is single, most of them young. Without the new affordable construction where are they supposed to live? While a 150SF condo won’t sell for $1M the price will be way beyond the reach of a homeless person, even in SF. Condo conversions are going on all over the city at a record pace.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            It is the rent controls that led to the shortage of housing. Had they let the market work, people would have been building housing for as long as demand justified it. It was rent control that made the Manhattan housing market so ridiculous until the housing boom of the late nineties. Prior to that, nobody had built a residential building in decades out of fear of government interference in their ability to pay their bills. I guess they can take some comfort now in being better run than San Francisco.

            When the dot com bubble crashed, I was working for a company that was on the hook for a 20,000 square foot office lease at $73 a square foot in San Francisco. We were based in NYC. The lease had been signed for anticipated business which evaporated. I ran the numbers once and figured out how much of my own billing was going to pay that lease, but I don’t recall the exact figure. We could have sublet it for a bit more than a third of what we were paying, buts someone advised us that it wasn’t worth the bother. I’d have thought $50K less a month in rent would have justified some bother, but I was an independent contractor so it wasn’t really my problem.

          • 0 avatar
            walker42

            “It is the rent controls that led to the shortage of housing.”

            Absolutely. SF made a mess of things and is now having to take heretofore extreme measures to clean things up, like building 150SF condos and, gasp, letting a property owner control his own building (condo conversions).

  • avatar
    Summicron

    “Nobody wants to see a Mop ‘N Glow shine on the dash and under the hood. It’s distracting and disingenuous.”

    Sajeev does great public service announcements.
    I would just add “or on the damn tires!”

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Wait a minute…, your keeping the Smart and getting rid of the Golf? Please rethink this. Occasionally you’re going to want and need a real car. A relative comes to town that you want to show around, or maybe you just want to buy a coffee table for the living room w/o the hassle of having it delivered. At some point you’ll wish you had kept the Golf. Please reconsider your options.

    • 0 avatar
      AMC_CJ

      I’m guessing the Smart might be paid for, or at least a much cheaper payment. Seems like a money issue here, although why in the hell anybody would buy a smart car in the first place, outside of a retirement community or to put in the back of a giant motorhome…..

      I’d take both of them and trade them in on a decent, cheap, practical car. Or at least give it a try and see what the numbers work out too.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        He says the Smart is “almost paid for” not knowing what “almost” is, they would still save a monthly payment and have one “real” car between them. One Smart for two young people could easily lead to divorce

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I understand that the OP only needs one car, but a SMART only counts as half. My concern is if they end up needing just a bit more than the SMART offers (which isn’t hard).

        Like EVs, SMARTs are a niche car; they perform a task well, but sacrifice versatility, hence they are often not the best choice as a sole vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Trade in both cars on a Buick Encore size and buy two bicycles for work.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      +1 on keeping the Golf. Ditch the Smart and keep the more practical car. If you ever plan to leave the city for road trips you are going to regret not keeping the Golf. If you have trouble selling the Smart, worst case is to take it to Car Max in Baton Rouge.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      +1 on this advice. The Smart isn’t even a good grocery-getter. If you and your wife go shopping together; there’s no room for groceries. The idea of even a 2-hour road trip in one of them is truly frightening . . . and definitely not fun.

      I think the Smart is a big fail as a general-purpose car; the Golf is definitely not. And, I would add, by selling the Golf, you just realize what otherwise is merely a paper loss which will disappear in time.

      The moral of this story, IMOH, is people who elect to buy a very narrow-purpose care (e.g. a Smart, a Leaf or any other EV) should realize that, marketing b.s. aside, these cars can never serve as primary vehicles for anyone who doesn’t live in NYC (and doesn’t need a car anyway). That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy one (although, for the life of me, I don’t see what the Smart offers over the Fiesta, Mazda 2, Fiat 500 or similar cars), but it does mean that, like a sports car, this is definitely not going to be your primary vehicle.

      It’s too late now, but the O.P. should have sold the Smart in SFO, where there’s probably a better market for them.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “It’s too late now, but the O.P. should have sold the Smart in SFO, where there’s probably a better market for them.”

        Even then, I’m not even sure that people buy them that much here, because they’re so useless for carrying more than a briefcase and have a terrible jolting ride on the freeway. I’m probably more likely to see rare cars like a Tesla Model S, a Volt, or a Leaf than a Smart car in the Bay Area. I do try to avoid driving within the People’s Republic of San Francisco when I can help it, but I still end up driving a fair amount in it and still don’t see many Smart cars. As another example, you’re more likely to see an ancient Mercedes Biodiesel than a Mercedes-sold Smart in Berkeley.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Whichever one you sell, when you put it on Craigslist be sure to ignore any offers that involve a cashier’s check for more than the purchase price.

  • avatar
    chrishs2000

    LOL at “needing” a brand new car and also buying a Smart ForTwo. I’m struggling to feel empathy. I’m also a perfect condition car owner, but half the fun in that for me is finding 5-10 year old cars that have been treated with the utmost care and respect. Any interior part that is impossible to not wear (scuff plate, floor mats) are dirt cheap to buy and easy to replace.

    +1 Sajeev on the dashboard shine. 303 Aerospace Protectant is a great product that makes the dashboard look ‘brand new’ by giving it a very slight amount of shine while also protecting the material. Also it isn’t slimy or sticky once properly rubbed in to the surface.

    But back to the post, the proper tactic when selling a used car is completely different depending on the situation…if you’re not in a hurry to sell, do everything Sajeev said and try to either get someone to take over the payments or sell it for what you owe. If you are in a hurry due to cash constraints, your options are severely limited – take a big hit and trade in, or take a bit hit.

  • avatar

    Flipping a new car so shortly after purchasing it is the road to a financial ass kicking. I know, I was dumb enough to do it – once. Chances are you are going to have to add several thousand dollars to the deal in order to pay off the car. If you don’t have the extra cash to do that, you are going to have to soldier on.

    Contact your insurance company and tell them about your reduced daily drive. You are driving less that 5000 miles a year so that should mean a fair reduction in your rates. Maybe not a ton of money, but I have been there and I know every little bit helps.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Flipping a new car so shortly after purchasing it is the road to a financial ass kicking.”

      This right here. If you still need one vehicle, I’ll echo what others have been saying, sell the Smart and keep the more useful vehicle that gets the same fuel mileage.

      If the Smart is nearly paid off, you’ll likely have something left in your pocket even if it is a hard sell in the Big Wheezy and you can take that amount and put it down on the VW loan to get above water a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      Assuming you could get $10k private party for the Smart based on what they go for at Baton Rouge’s Carmax and you end up forking over $5k (worst case) to rid yourself of the VW, you’re still $5k in the black without a car payment and no nearly-new-car insurance/title fees.

      If you want something nice, take a page from Murilee’s playbook and get something like a Lexus LS 400, one of the most reliable cars ever made and have a local practitioner of the dark arts cast a spell so that the starter motor runs until the end of time.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        A big +1 on an LS400, but I wish luck to whomever desires such a quest as they are becoming hard to find. Unfortunately, my local dark arts practitioners unionized and my appointment is backlogged to 2015.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    Is it just me or does a super clean engine back scream “THIS CAR HAS PROBLEMS”? I want to be able to see what its been doing/leaking over the last 6mo of its life. This may not hold true for a “new” car compared to the beaters that I buy.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I would think anyone looking at such a new car would expect the engine to still be fairly clean.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        An engine and trans in their natural state will reassure no recent engine/trans/clutch repairs have been done and nothing leaks (hot or cold).

        Otherwise I’d have to offer less cash.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      It usually screams to me, “I got the car detailed so it’ll look nice.” That’s what I did before I sold a car for a family member last year, and it greatly impressed the buyer. The buyer also had his mechanic look at it for good measure. I gave the buyer all the maintenance records too.

      The owner could just be anal and keep the engine compartment clean. Maybe they just replaced an expensive component, and that’s why it’s clean. Some people theorize that it could have been in a front-end collision, but an inspection should help you with that one.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Not just you, though it does depend on how old the car is. For a ’12 Golf with 12k miles, a clean engine bay is a nice touch. Though at that age, it should be pretty clean anyway.

      If I’m looking at cars 10-years-old or more, a clean engine bay suggests the seller is hiding anything from a fluid leak to a front-end collision.

      I wouldn’t walk away from a car because of this. As noted, an inspection can figure out why it’s clean. It does raise questions rather than impress me though.

  • avatar
    parabellum2000

    Good Luck getting close to 25K. I just purchased my 2012 Golf TDI 2 door, with tech package. It was a demo with 120 miles on the clock for $21,000. There are several more factory demos in my area for 19,000-22,000 depending on options and all have less than 200 miles on the odometer.

    The good news is that asking prices for used golf TDI’s aren’t much different. I think your realistically looking at somewhere around $18,000-$19,000 from a highly motivated private buyer. Probably somewhere less than $15,000 from a dealer. (maybe much less)

    Good luck!

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      A quick search on cars.com for CPO Golf Diesels turns up a 2013 CPO 2-door with DSG for just under $23K (not counting tax, of course) offered by a dealer in the Washington DC area. This car has a little over 200 miles on it. The way that VW’s CPO program works, the buyer of this car will have a longer warranty than the buyer of a new 2013 car.

      I have no idea how these prices compare with NOLA, of course. But my guess is that the OP will be doing well to sell his for $20K.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Dude, you are never going to take highway trips? Leaving Naw Leans and heading ANYWHERE beyond the city limits would be hell in the DUMB car. But I’m guessing you are one of those people that anytime they have to go more than about 200 miles they fly. But then I’m one of those people that if you give me a choice, I’m gonna drive, I don’t care if its 500 miles, 800 miles, or heck 4,000 miles round trip.

    If you never plan on leaving the city (other than on a jet plane) keep the SMART. But if you actually enjoy driving and would drive to your neighboring states, keep the TDI. Any plans for children? Keep the TDI. Plans for a large dog? Keep the TDI.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    +1 on selling both to get a real car and wind up with some leftover cash for maintenance because you have positive equity in the Smart. Keeping a Smart car as your only vehicle is prohibited in most southern states and is a capital offence in Texas.

    You need something that has 4 seats and space to carry things. If your wife gets pregnant, you’re going to be up the creek without a paddle stuck with a car you simply cannot use and will be forced to sell at a loss.

    If you’re not driving much at all, find something reasonable but cheap. For good reason, default options from the B&B tend to lean towards well-maintained Impalas, Tauruses, most GM products with the 3800 V6, (subject to possible concerns with the plastic intake manifold) and odd-duck high-depreciation-solely-due-to-uncoolness-cars like Chrysler/Dodge minivans, Saturn SLs, Ford 500s/Montegos with the 6-speed auto only, etc.

    These are not the sexiest, but who really cares if its driven infrequently at best and lives on NOLA’s gritty streets.

    Because you are working less frequently, you may have time to learn how to keep a ‘new’ used car running in top shape to make sure you’re happy. If you’re up for a challenge, I’ve been bitten by the elderly RWD Volvo bug (Volvo 240s/740s/940s) and just acquired a seasoned 940 wagon that I adore. With some very basic knowledge (I had none when I bought), they are very easy to maintain and repair. Its hard to find a sub-$3000 car with the Volvo’s combination of comfort, quality, durability, and functionality. Its been reliable, but has required some wrenching time and a few hundred bucks to get there.

  • avatar
    dts187

    A couple thoughts here:

    You paid $29k for a Golf TDI? Msrp for a 4dr manual TDI with sunroof and nav is like $28k. You either added on every VW accessory out there or got hosed. Did you not negotiate the price at all? My 2012 GTI with DSG was under $25k out the door.

    I’ll echo what others have said, keep the Golf. It’ll probably be a chore to sell the Smart, but get rid of it. If you’re going to have one car make sure it is a useful one. Your Golf will be better for longer trips when needed, have much more cargo space, and at no point will you have to tell people you drive a Smart.

    You’re going to take a trip to the financial cleaners if you sell this Golf. KBB lists private party value for a loaded Golf at $24k. This seems pretty optimistic to me. A Golf TDI is only going to be purchased by someone specifically looking for a Golf TDI. It’s not like a Civic, Corolla, Accord, Camry, etc that the person just looking for transportation is after. I personally know someone who purchased a ’13 TDI. It’s a base model with manual and was just a shade over $24k out the door. I think you’ll be lucky to get $20k.

    TL;DR
    You overpaid for the Golf. Sell the Smart, keep the more practical Golf. If you do sell the Golf privately (best option) you’ll likely end up paying $5k for a car you no longer own.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Amazing what people will do to justify a new car purchase… Lets spend well over $20,000 on a heavily depreciating asset all in the name of saving a thousand bucks or so a year at the pump. Sorry man, horrible decision financially. However, I will help you recover and save more money long term:

    Bail on the Smart, bail on the VW, and buy some Honda Civic sedans (USED) with the funds from the Smart sale. That will put you on the track to saving money while making money.

    • 0 avatar
      mmarreco

      The issue is that after paying off the Golf he will have no money left to buy another car. He is about $5-7k upside down and the Smart is probably worth $5-$7k.

      • 0 avatar
        SomeGuy

        Hmmm.. $5k – $7k on a Smart? Ouch.

        28-Cars, yeah if he is in dire straights get some US small cars instead. Cavalier, Cobalt LT (or even LS if you really are slumming), Malibu (pre 2008, the car is smaller), etc. all options with 4-bangers and likely to be owned by adults versus teens.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Civic ain’t exactly cheap used friend, but I see where you’re going with it. I’d say keep the TDI (which should always have decent resale), dump the Smart, and if she really needs a car see what sort of old school ride you can swing for 2K. I can’t speak for New Orleans, but I know in the south there is Detriot iron to be had.

  • avatar
    brettc

    You might be in a better position to sell it if you can wait a little while. I read the other day that Mark 6 Golf production has ended or else is ending soon, which means that VW dealers won’t have new Golfs available until the second quarter of 2014. It’s apparently also getting difficult to find manual transmission Golfs now, so that could work to your advantage. Check out this post on Jay’s car blog for more information (Jay is a sales guy at a VW dealer).

    http://jayscarblog.com/official-no-2014-gti-or-golf-for-us-market/

  • avatar
    challenger2012

    When I read this article, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. A SmartForTwo? Unless it came free in the kid’s meal at McDonald’s, why would anyone own such a useless car? The same amount of money could have purchased a Sonic, Mazda 3, Civic etc. And to make matters worse, a 6 speed manual, in the land where automatics rule. What fun commuting will be by slipping the clutch as you crawl down Royal or Bourbon Street? There needs to be a fundamental change in thought processes here. I am glad I don’t have to make the decision, either one will be bad and will cost money. I would keep the VW even though at about 60-70K the turbo will go out at a cost of $2,400. How do I know? A co-worker had his turbo go out on his VW 2 years ago at this cost.

    • 0 avatar
      andyinatl

      ??? So the fact that random VW had its turbo go out and the guy was stupid enough to have dealer replace it means that every VW with turbo will have it go out at same interval?

      I don’t like turbos because of reliability, because normally people tend to be harder on engines of the turboed cars and turbos require different maintenance, etc. But i’ve had some turbo cars that had no issues even past the 100K miles.

      • 0 avatar
        challenger2012

        No turbo = no turbo repairs. There are plenty of 40 MPG cars that are not turbo.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          And none of them are much fun to drive.

          I have owned more than a dozen turbocharged cars, both gas and diesel, most with a large number of miles on them. I have never, not once, ever, had to do anything to the turbocharger with the single exception of having bought a ’92 Saab 900T where the previous owner had intentionally turned down the boost when his daughter started driving the car. 15 minutes to get it back up to spec. This is across Volvos, Saabs, Peugeots, VWs, and now a FIAT Abarth. Driven correctly, a turbo is the closest thing to a free lunch that physics will allow. Power when you need it, efficiency when you don’t. Yes, they are one more thing that CAN go wrong, but in general they are pretty darned reliable pieces of equipment these days.

          • 0 avatar

            Same here. Five turbocars ranging from a callaway after market VW system (window sticker NO BOOST UNTIL WARM…30 Second spin down-no water jacket, oil line “cool” only) to a few Saabs, Trionic and “regular”, and a Chrysler GLH with water jacket but no intercooler. Never any turbo issues.

            I stopped worrying about turbos when I saw a friend’s 80′s battered Dodge make 235k. Unlike her I change my oil every 5-8k with synthetic.

            I’m not worried about my TDi’s turbo…

            TDI vs. Smart for a one car family…..what possible discussion could there be ? Keep the TDi, maintain it, enjoy the 40 mpg/90 mph lifestyle. The Smart is a toy, sell it to someone in NYC.

    • 0 avatar
      Splorg McGillicuddy

      I can’t believe you’re going to make me defend a smart car, but as a San Francisco resident, I feel I must. I’m debating buying a used one as a second car ONLY for around-city jaunts. Do you know why? Because it’s the difference between being able to park somewhere – or not. Period. In my neighborhood, your parking options are increased ~40%. There are spots that only fit smarts or motorcycles. It’s enough to ignore the shitty transmission.

      • 0 avatar
        Wscott97

        +1, I live in Socal and there has been so many times where my Civic couldn’t fit in ANY open spot on the street. It makes me wish I had a smart car. My friend has one and always parks in that little piece of curb in between two driveways.

        My boss even bought one for around town Laguna Beach driving (I mean parking).

      • 0 avatar
        challenger2012

        I will agree with you on this premise. If you can buy a Smartfortwo in the $5-7K,then it beats a motorcycle. There has to be plenty of low mileage shoeboxes on wheels in the $7K range that would work just as well. Thank God I don’t have to drive such a death trap on wheels.

  • avatar
    michal1980

    I say first stop should be a carmax.

    No hassle way of at least getting a number for the car. actually take both the smart, and golf in and get them priced.

    I’d personally sell the smart. Use the money from that to help with the golf payments. at least then you’d have a real car. not a .5

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    San Francisco is one of about three places in the US where the Smart car makes sense. I’ve had to deal with on-street parking there at times – the smaller, the better.

    But I am fully in agreement – sell the Smart, keep the Golf. It’s new, it’s under warranty, the last thing you need while establishing a new life in unfamiliar territory is some cheap used hooptie that will be a pain in the butt to own.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    The OP is describing a problem that happened to many people I knew while in the military. Their problem was normally caused by lack of forethought or unexpected transfer orders. Probably in equal proportions. Despite living in the Houston area I have avoided NO like the plague so don’t know about the public transportation. With that in mind, I agree that the only solution I have is keeping one and dumping one. Keeping a SMART isn’t.

    Nothing particularly wrong with the thought process that bought the cars. In SFO the SMART probably blended in with the crowd. Nothing wrong with taking a transfer to NO if it meant more money. It actually probably meant more money when considering the cost of living if you were prudent when you got there. The problem is when you combine the two and have no money. It’s normally not how much you make, it’s what you spend. You may have painted yourself into a corner where your job will not suffice. You are close enough to the oil patch that some opportunities probably still exist. You are really in a situation where advice, no matter how well meaning will not help you.

    From all that I can see, the California that I loved so much as a kid has died and been replaced by something I do not care to see. If I am right, I predict that you will not want to return. You give me the hint that most of the decision making might have been made by your spouse. If so, she may want to return. Sometimes you just have to hold your breath and bite into that old s__t sandwich.

  • avatar

    Sell the Smart car.

    If you are dropping down to one car, you need it to be far more versatile than a Smart car will be.

  • avatar
    ellomdian

    You guys are being too hard on this recent Bay-area escapee. Southern California is a different world, and while they may be insane about everything else, it’s one of the few places I can see justifying owning a Smart as a single-car.

    Having said that, sell the Smart immediately. Your change in lifetyle has apparently not completely taken hold – there are maybe a half dozen regions in the country that you can justifiably live with either no car or just a Smart, and you are not in one of them. If you are not already in the poor house maintaining the VW, it hurts me to think of writing off the depreciation and Taxes/Licensing you have already put into it. I don’t feel keeping it as your single vehicle is putting good money after bad, while maintaining the Smart in a region of the country they are just as likely to refuse service as they are to have parts seems terrible.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Find a dealer willing to take them both and walk away. Save for a year and pay cash for someone’s 12K mile, 2013 car, that’s in the same prone position you’re in now.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Everyone advising to keep the Golf and sell the smart has it exactly backwards. Keeping the Golf entails years of payments, higher insurance costs, registration, taxes, etc. The smart is almost paid off according to the OP, and costs less to own and operate than the Golf. OP apparently lives in an urban core where most necessities are walkable, and likely lives a lifestyle that doesn’t require more than light shopping trips. Weekend car rentals can cover the handful of times a year when something larger would be handy. Unloading high-cost assets is a key to downsizing one’s economic footprint.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @bumpy ii…I agree with you to a point. Downsizing one’s economic fooprint,is certainly,the best route. I guess it all depends on how big the overall hit will be. The VW is still under warranty. That is huge.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Not all urban cores are the same. For example, I don’t think I would want to live in Houston without a car.

      I haven’t been to NO, maybe it is walkable.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I’m not up on the U.S. market. However reading the comments here, the Dude is going to lose his shirt on the VW. If you dump it now your locking in your losses.

    Eating that sort of cash is a fact of life when you sell that early. Its okay if you have have the financial resources. Folks that flip thier cars every couple of years is what keeps the car buisness alive.

    What I see here is a guy a little short on cash flow. Keeping the Golf makes way more sense.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Ditch the SmartCar. Seriously. The Golf will be far more serviceable in everyday living, out of town sojourns, etc.

    Oddly enough, my gut feeling is the Smart is more expensive to insure since you’re guaranteed to DIE IN AN ACCIDENT.

    Or go to CarMax and sell both, then grab one of those 2012 Impalas with 10k on them for $15000. My CarMax has 11 of them, and all lightly used.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Sell BOTH cars.

    The upside-downedness of the VW will be offset by the somewhat right-sidedness of the Smart.

    Call it even money, even a few thousand to the good.

    You are each within a mile of work in a near tropical climate. Each of you buy a pair of good cross-training sneakers. Or each of you buy a decent used hybrid bike (see Craigslist) upon which you can affix panniers.

    Take any remaining funds and buy a Jeep Cherokee XJ. Reasons: A) it’s a real car, and will sit four comfortably, B) they can outlive cockroaches, C) cheap to run, cheap to fix, and most importantly….

    D) It’ll get you through the muddy, flooded streets when the next Big One hits. And it’ll have room to throw in most of your clothes which you will need for your extended stay in a FEMA trailer.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, letter writer, but it sounds like moving to New Orleans wasn’t the best idea for you and your partner based on what you’ve told us. Of course there is more to life than just finances, so I hope everything works out for you two. I would sell the smart and keep the VW if you’re looking to go down to one car because more utility and the potential for longer highway trips is worth having.

  • avatar
    Turkina

    I’ll join the chorus. Sell the Smart and keep the Golf. Even if you live in the urban core of New Orleans, you’ll find that you need to leave the area to do certain things, far more than in SF. Many of these things, like visiting the IKEA in Houston (I kid!), or for that matter, one of the many many stores that wouldn’t set foot in a city center, require a real car.

    What if you find yourself a different job once your contract job is done? That’s a very real possibility. You might be driving daily then.

    The Smart car might be made for an ‘urban environment,’ but to say the Golf is not… You’re not comparing a Smart to a Suburban here. The Smart is a toy, a frivolity; going down to one car demands the one you do keep has utility and able to cope with unforseen duties in the future.

    As for the finances… You got yourself soaked by taking the depreciation hit on the Golf when you bought it. Selling it won’t make you whole. Sell the Smart and put the money towards paying off the Golf. If that still breaks your budget, sell both, and buy a small, solidly built, useful car (aka a hatchback or little CUV) off the recently used market. This may save you a few thousand in loan payments.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Join the forum at http://www.tdiclub.com and list if for sale there. You should have no problems selling it.

  • avatar
    Ltd783

    Stats don’t lie. You’ve got no insider knowledge that I don’t know about, I’ve been all over California, from Tijuana to the Oregon border. The vast majority of the state is beautiful, I don’t fault you that, but it is ridiculously overpriced. You’re probably used to it, but just housing is enough to keep me away. Sure, income might be higher, but it’s not worth it if 50% of my income goes to living expenses. I’ll stick with living in flyover country and having extra money to go on several vacations a year, live in a nice house, have extra cars, and a garage for all those extra cars. Meanwhile, go back to discussing how beneficial a SMART car is in Cali so you can cram it into a tight curb spot.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    All good advice. I am curious about your thoughts about where to advertise the car for sale. Craigslist is certainly an immediate choice… and the only cost will be dealing with a bunch of people wasting your time and sending you fraud emails. VW enthusiast sites also can’t hurt.

    Personally, I have never had ANY luck with either Cars.com nor Autotrader. As an individual seller one has to pay money only to be placed eight pages deep behind all of the overpriced premium dealer ads. I tried them in the past (to be fair, it has been a while) and never received a single call for my money. I also worked for a new car dealer for a while and we rarely got good leads from either of these sites.

    I have had better luck with eBay. And, with either the Smart or the Golf TDI with a manual transmission, it would seem to me that the wider reach of eBay Motors would be helpful. It also costs nothing up front to list your car there. What say the B & B? Where have you had luck advertising your cars for sale?

    • 0 avatar
      ktm

      I’ve had great success with Autotrader.com when selling my cars. Carmax has also surprised me twice with their offers, so much so that I jumped on both of them without hesitation.

      I always pay for my advertisment space on Autotrader.com as it gives you more photos, longer description, and, more importantly, the ad runs until it is sold. It is worth the $50 when selling a $10,000 to $25,000 item. I clean the car, take plenty of pictures, add a good description, and, most importantly, price it correctly.

      I eye all of the ads on Autotrader.com, both dealer and private party, and Carmax.com. I use Edmunds.com as my source for the value of the car and gauge that against the asking prices on Autotrader.com. I then put a VALUE ON MY TIME. That last part is key. Just how long do I want to deal with the tire-kickers and dreamers? How long do I want to carry a car payment (if I am still paying) on a vehicle I no longer use? I then set a price that I am happy with. Using this method I have sold all of my cars within 1 week, with the exception of my B5 S4 that took 2 weeks.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “Carmax has also surprised me twice with their offers, so much so that I jumped on both of them without hesitation.”

        I’m surprised by that. Carmax offers I’ve seen were a joke and a good bit lower than a dealer purchase price on AutoTrader and so a good bit lower than trade in. It wasn’t anywhere near private sale price, of course.

  • avatar
    Tim_Turbo

    Dear lord, got to the part about which car to sell and didn’t read any further (well skimmed it)…..

    Keep the VW, ditch the “Smart” car!!

    Just my 2 Cents.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    To be honest you are under water with the TDI. I can only guess that you did not do your homework and had a very low down payment and high monthly payments. Whatever sell the smart car and use what ever you get and try to pay down the TDI. The TDI will hold it value because it is a diesel but not $29,000.00. I ran my Jetta diesel for 3 years but after i retired i had no need for the high mileage. I paid new in 2009 $23,000.00 with 6 speed stick & sunroof and got $1,400.00 back from the goverment & paid no sales tax. When i sold the car i got $20,000 trade in on a new GTI with all options and paid $4,000.00 + tax. Buying a car is like getting married. Sometimes you just get in too deep. You will not be running up high mileage in New Orleans so you should be trouble free with free service for two more years and your guarantee runs for 5 years 50,000 miles. Once the car is paid off you can keep it because the hatchback is very handy or if you wish sell the car and buy whatever you like. If you keep the car but worry about a problem you can get an additional guarantee thru your insurance company for approx $1200.00 for an additional 5 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      This is it right here. He actually cannot afford to sell the Golf, which if he hasn’t already found this out, he will soon. He’s not alone, though, anyone who finances a car is going to be upside-down for awhile, it’s a given. This is why it’s so important to buy a car that suits you and your needs and not just for today but for five years out. He has a good option by selling the Smart. There’s nothing worse then being upside-down in a car that’s crap, That’s really stuck.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Why is it a given that anyone who finances a car will be upside down? I am not upside-down on either of my financed cars, not even close. Am I the only person on the planet who makes down-payments? Does no one have equity in their trade-in?

        • 0 avatar
          Nick 2012

          No, you’re not the only one. But the herd of down payment/positive equity buyers will thin even faster with cars like the BMW 320i and Merc CLA arriving on the stage competing for dollars.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Depends on the car. The more expensive the car, the longer you are upside down.

          Even with no down payment, given used car prices, how long are you really upside down on something like a $20k C-segment car? The first year?

  • avatar
    ktm

    I’ll echo the sentiments of everyone who is advising you to ditch the Smart car and keep the Golf, or ditch both and buy something that you can either pay cash for or lower your monthly payment (if cash flow is an issue).

    The Smart car is a non-starter for any area other than an urban environment. NYC and SF are unique in the US. While other cities have urban dwellers, they are not integral in the cities development and are more an after-thought.

    Ideally you would have sold the Smart in California and kept the Golf. People in Louisiana will avoid the Smart like those in SF avoid SUVs, unless they want to purchase one to strap to the top of their Hummer as an escape pod.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    If the op is gonna sell the golf I would try the TDI sites likes Fred s TDI page good resource of what he may get they hold their value but I do not see a way he will come clean if he sells it, sell the smart drive it to a big city and sell there good luck hope it works for you.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Keep the VW and sell the stupid rollerskate.


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