As our own Matthew Guy has marvelously demonstrated recently, it’s widely known a new-car purchase’s best value can often be found in the base-level trim. Rarely is a vehicle improved in proportion to the cost of additional options. Nor is the money spent on additional options or higher trim levels recovered in resale as secondhand customers are reluctant to pay more money for bells and whistles because, quite often, they’re obsolete by the time the car sells the second time around.
If we take these truths to an obvious conclusion, it can be said that the higher the trim level, the worse the resale value — and in my years of experience working for Autotrader, I can tell you that’s true. Many of the low-end pricing tools used by dealers to determine used car values often don’t even take trim into account.
Is it any wonder then that General Motors’ and Ford’s top trim levels have wretched resale values?
No, I’m not talking about “LTZ” or “Titanium.” I’m talking about Cadillac and Lincoln.
I have a confession to make. I’ve never modified any car that I’ve owned. Not a cold air intake. Not an exhaust. Not a single bolt-on. Nothing.
I guess you could make a case that I modified my Mazda RX-8, but all I did was buy Koni Sport shocks (which are considered OEM replacement) and O.Z. Ultraleggera wheels (man, I miss those) to make it a better autocrosser. And I did buy the Trackey software for my Boss 302. But I’ve never done a single thing to a car that would cause a warranty to be violated. And as a “car guy,” I’ve always been completely okay with that.
That is, I was, until I saw an Instagram picture yesterday.
Surprise! It’s a Ford hatchback!
As many of you correctly guessed yesterday, the new long-term tester (and this one’s gonna be loooooooong) is a 2016 Focus RS in Nitrous Blue. And, man, is this thing glorious.
I bought a car yesterday (as seen below). I’ll do the full reveal and write-up for you tomorrow. For now, let’s talk about all the things I considered buying but didn’t, and how it might help you make your own buying decision in the future.
And yes, I bought it. I didn’t lease. We’ll discuss that tomorrow, too.
We need to talk. You’re a good state. Really, you are. I love your beaches. There’s the delightful lilt of latin accents everywhere. Daytona is the place where motorsports royalty is crowned in America. Sebring is the place of legends. And who doesn’t love Disney World?
But we need to talk about your car situation. It’s just flat-out embarrassing. All of your friends are talking about it. I think it’s time we had a an open, honest conversation, and maybe we can solve this problem together.
Right up there with I wish they’d make a manual diesel wagon in brown, it’s among the most played-out tropes on the Internet.
There just aren’t any bad cars anymore.
This is generally followed by some recollection of a Saturn of the early ’90s that had a faulty engine, or perhaps some Brezhnev-era Soviet masterpiece. Blah blah blah nostalgia blah blah A Christmas Story blah blah. Enough.
There are plenty of bad cars out there, but the majority of people haven’t driven enough of them to know it. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I have. And I’m here to break the bad news to you: some cars suck. Maybe even the one in your very driveway.
Let’s be real with each other for a minute, okay? Car reviews are just plain awful. They serve no real purpose for today’s in-market automotive consumer — they only serve to boost the SEO rankings for anybody searching for “MID-SIZE SEDAN UNDER $30,000 NEAR ME,” which is approximately nobody.
Your friend Bark is here to tell you how this, um, industry of car reviewing needs to be improved in order to help customers find and buy the car they need instead of the car they’ve already decided that they want.
As we reported just the other day, analysts are somewhat confused by the continued rise of used car prices to near-record highs, despite a flood of lease returns hitting the market.
This just goes to show you the stupidity of most people who call themselves “analysts.” There’s absolutely no reason to think that used car pricing will go anywhere but up in the near future. If these analysts had ever spent a single day in a used car department at a franchise dealership, they’d understand why. Unfortunately, they haven’t.
But guess what? Your friend Bark has! And I’m here to tell you why this used car bubble isn’t going to pop any time soon.
I own a Ford Flex. It’s true. Well, technically, Ford Credit owns it, but I’m only 12 months or so away from getting the real title in my hands. I’m constantly being told by people — hell, even by commenters on this website — that the Flex is a great car, but that people just don’t seem to like it. Of course, since I bought one, I completely disagree.
The Flex is just one example of a car that people who fill up comment sections of automotive websites seem to love but never buy for themselves. The list of such automobiles is quite long: The Pontiac G8. The Mazda RX-8. The Fiesta ST — wait a second, what the hell is going on here, I’ve owned all of these!
Just what is it that makes a car popular with enthusiasts but unpopular with the general public?
There’s been a slow, yet steady change in the automotive marketplace over the last eight years, and you, the consumer, have been the lobster sitting in the pot as the change has occurred. The market has gotten significantly worse for car buyers. The number of franchise and independent dealers has been reduced by almost half. And yet, those surviving dealers have had an unprecedented run of year-over-year growth since 2008.
But as that growth has slowed in 2016, car buyers find themselves paying more money for used cars than ever before. We know that the typical American household can’t afford the typical new car sold in America, but we may soon be approaching a day when that same household can’t afford the typical used car, either. In fact, according to NADA Data, the average used car transaction price in 2016 will crest $20,000 for the first time in history, and will be 59.1 percent of the average new car transaction price of $33,903.
What does all of this mean to you? That buying used may not be the smartest financial choice you can make. In fact, it might not be very smart at all.