Imagine you’re going on a 27 mile hike over the course of three days.
It’s a long journey ahead. Hills nearly as big as mountains. Wet and slippery ground everywhere.
And the sun? It can beat you down to the point where you feel as ragged as a wore out mop. There will be no hiding from the obstacles ahead. None.
Now imagine if your partner for this journey came up to you, and the first words he blurted out were, “Those are some nice boots you have! But I got a killer deal on mine.”"
Would you think they were, well, a schmuck? To put it lightly?
Now consider this…
Every car buying decision can be summed up in four simple words.
Deals don’t matter. Really. Take it from a guy who does this for a living. Buying a car, and keeping it, just because you got a good deal for it, is almost always the mother of all future regrets.
As a personal example, I once bought a 1993 Subaru Impreza for $25 that surprisingly ran like a top after I replaced the battery and the shiftlock mechanism. It had been in the inop lane of a nearby public auction with nary a glance of interest from anyone else.
I was inspecting over 10,000 vehicles a year for a finance company, and had the fortune of having the right car in front of me at the right moment. Except the Roo’ had one small issue. I hated driving it.
I hated the thin sheetmetal. The sound of the engine. The cheaper than tupperware interior. It just rang all the wrong notes for me whenever I turned the key.
But that wasn’t true for the man who wound up buying it . The guy who bought it from me on Ebay was a long-time Subaru enthusiast, and knew these cars better than I ever will.
He flew all the way from California to Atlanta, and drove it nearly 2500 miles back to Orange County.
Then he drove it for another 50,000 miles. After which, he likely used it as a parts car since he was a Rally Coordinator for Subaru.
He bought a 9 year old Subaru with 168k miles for all of $1576 (plus the auction fee) on Ebay.
Did he get ripped off? Did he get a killer deal? Does it really matter?
No, nein, and nyet! He bought what he liked, and let the laws of commerce take their course. That’s it. Game over, and everyone involved left with a nice smile on their face.
That’s how car buying decisions should work in the real world… and this story also serves a greater purpose as it relates to the tired old buy new vs. buy old arguments.
Value, is usually not something you can mathematically calculate when it comes to your passions. If you find yourself bragging about the dollar bills you saved by buying x vechicle over y vehicle, that’s fine.
But you’re not acting like an enthusiast. You’re a frugalist, and very likely a delusional one. Nothing wrong with that. But let’s call things a spade instead of bullshitting about how frugal it is to buy a new or old sports car.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have enjoyed my share of victories serving those who are tried and true enthusiasts. As for my losses, one I can’t forget was a stomach-churning $1500 loss on a SAAB 9000 CSE that also, thankfully, wound up with the right owner.
No matter what I did to that SOB of a car, it just wouldn’t run right. I began to think that SAABs came out of the factories with blinking check engine lights.
Then it finally found the right caretaker and nearly 12 years later, it’s still running like a top.
God I hate those things!
A lot of folks want advice on buying a car. Heck, I’ve republished a series about it for six years now.
So instead of posting yet another testament to personal victories (and notable incompetence), let me spare you all the false bravado and simply offer ten classic sayings for this holiday season, finely wrapped in a long forgotten Hammer Time of yore.
Hopefully that will help you or your friends buy that next best car.
1. Buy what you like. Life is too short for cheap boots.
2. Be honest with yourself. Are you a trader? Or a keeper?
3. Traders either specialize, like I did starting out. Or they try to ride the wave of new car fashions.
5. Depreciation kills, monthly payments stink, and everyone from the tax man to the insurance companies favor the economics of a well kept used car.
6. Want cheap? Buy a Corolla. A car that is made cheap won’t stay cheap.
7. Before you consider any car, new or used, get feedback from actual owners of that vehicle. The media will only tell you so much.
8. Enthusiast forums in particular can better help you navigate the path of ownership.
Now having said that, I now need to get rid of a thrice repoed, 12 year old Dodge Intrepid. Any takers?