The Truth About Cars » New Or Used? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:01:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » New Or Used? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com New or Used? : This Musician Wants An Escort (Wagon) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-this-musician-wants-an-escort-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-this-musician-wants-an-escort-wagon/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 11:30:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=806738 Escort

I’m a working musician from NYC. I have a conundrum.

Since 1998 I’ve owned a 1989 BMW E30 ‘vert, which has served me well as a touring artist — it just hit 160k, most of those miles mine. However, all those miles have come at a price, between 40k timing belt changes and other occasional maintenance items, I wind up putting roughly $1500 into it every two to four years.

But I’ve always loved it, and it never let me down, until recently.

It’s hit that point where everything is wearing out at the same time – seat backs (not easy or cheap to replace correctly), seatbelts, shocks, minor trunk rust, fuel filler neck, and it needs new tires and rotors–though it is still mostly intact and in lovely condition mechanically and otherwise and drives great.

I’ve been worried about having my DD be a 26-year-old car without airbags that could theoretically be pummeled by a lowly Civic or equivalent, and while it still kicks ass on B-roads, every time I drive it on interstates I feel utterly vulnerable in a way I never used to.(Other cars have gotten so heavy and big!)

But right now I simply need a car, and the BMW is safely garaged as it’s not roadworthy for the aforementioned reasons. I live paycheck to paycheck. So I need to make the best use of what little money I have to remedy the situation.

The way I see it, I have three options:

1) Spend $2k on repairing my baby and DD it, Irv Gordon-style, till I or it crumble

2) Take a neighbor’s 1998 Escort wagon that I’ve been offered for free–it is rusty and a bit long in the tooth but more or less reliable, (but again, I’m a little worried about its safety compared to new cars, even though it has airbags and is engineered for the 1997 side impact protection regs)–and repair it as a DD (needs a new muffler and other small repairs-worried it might need a head gasket as those engines blow ‘em, though it seems fine now), and then insure the E30 through Hagerty and restore it slowly as a project.

3) Try to find another used car for around the same $2k that is a simple appliance and much much safer than either the Escort or my E30, and insure the E30 through Hagerty. I could also sell the E30, but I don’t feel ethical selling it in its current condition…plus it’s got many memories, and feels more like an heirloom at this point…sigh…)

I do love driving that darn thing, and it’s never really let me down. But I don’t know what the best use of my limited money is here, and if I’m just being paranoid about using my E30 or the Escort as a DD. Or even if I can get any car for $2k that isn’t a garbage heap. (I’m also 6’2″, so that too is a consideration.)

Thoughts? Recommendations?

Steve Says:

Start by getting the Escort looked at by an independent mechanic. If it’s worth keeping for a while, then it’s time for you to have one less heirloom in your life. 

Yes, I loved those old E30s too. I remember one road trip where I was stoned out of my gourd, and my best friend just happened to be driving a forest green 1991 BMW 318i convertible through California’s Highway 1. We eventually made our way east to Reno where we blew our remaining cash on blackjack and cheap booze.

It was money well spent, as was your BMW. But once the party was over, we knew it was time to move on.

So move on donate your car to an enthusiast who has more money to deal with all the problems you mentioned. If all you have is surface rust, and that BMW is structurally sound, it may be worth selling for around $2000.  Just make sure you disclose everything to the buyer first. You want a buyer who will pay a premium for honesty, and those folks are out there. 

Escorts of this generation do have one notable weakness, and that is valve seat failure.  They also tend to like mid-grade fuel. Even the non-Zetec engine, which is the version your friend owns. My wife and I had a 1997 Ford Escort LX for four years during my early years in the auction business, and other than having to put higher octane fuel to avoid pinging issues, the Escort was completely trouble free. It also had a decent safety record for that time.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 (<— nice video)

I only sold it because we were expecting a second kid. Even today my wife prefers to drive compact vehicles like that Escort.

So what would I do?  I would sell the BMW so long as the frame isn’t rusted out, and bum rides for a short while. I would then get the Escort inspected and have the repair costs assessed before committing to it. If it doesn’t work out, you’re only out $100.

Finally, if the Escort is worth more dead than alive, I would opt for a similar, older, unpopular vehicle that has cosmetic issues, but has been mechanically well kept. You’re a musician… so aim for something with lots of records (bad, bad pun… I know) and get the vehicle independently inspected before you buy it.

Save up. Weigh your options. Don’t be afraid to say no to both vehicles if it comes down to it.

One more thing. Nobody knows how to drive a stick anymore. I now have five of them at my lot, and a sixth at a nearby auction. So if you’re still in the market for one, let me know. Please!

Steve can always be contacted directly at steve.lang@thetruthaboutcars.com . 

 

 

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New or Used: Can One Car Last Through Five Kids? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-can-one-car-last-through-five-kids/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-can-one-car-last-through-five-kids/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:58:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804162 brady1

I currently have three cars and I feel a hankering to buy a fourth. My wife has bought into the idea, now it’s just a matter of what to get.

The particulars:

- Five kids between the ages of 5 and 15…

- Active duty military with seven (7!) moves since 2005 with a couple more likely over the next several years
- Three current cars are all paid for
- Commute is 35 highway miles each way and will be that way for at least the next 18 months and maybe longer
- Car #1 – 2006 Honda Odyssey with ~120,000 miles (bought new)
- Car #2 – 2007 Honda Accord 5 speed with ~83,000 miles (bought used)
- Car #3 – 1969 Jeepster Commando that’s been in my family since 1973.

Our oldest turns 16 in a few months and we’d like to get a vehicle that the kids can all drive over the next 13 years. Note that I said ‘a’ vehicle as we keep our cars a long time and don’t intend on getting another car for the kids to share. One and done.

What should that fourth vehicle be? I see really only two paths that make sense.

First option: Get a car that pushes 40+mpg to ease the pain at the pump my commute causes. Possible vehicle: my Dad is selling his 2011 Jetta TDI 5 speed wagon this fall and I have dibs, if I so choose. This option would mean that the kids would drive the Accord, which we’re fine with.

Second option: Get something that can double as the kids’ car and that we can use to tow the Commando on our future moves. This means I would keep commuting in my Accord, which is also fine. Budget is about $7K max and we’ll pay cash.

We are leaning strongly towards getting a third gen 4Runner (’96-’01) with a V6, 4×4 and tow package as the min requirements. Manual is highly desired but not required. There are several for sale where we live (north of LA) and examples with 150-175k miles can be found for around $5k, although most are automatics. Reviews and 4Runner forums seem to portend good news regarding longevity with relatively straight forward maintenance required. My fear? My vehicle aperture isn’t nearly wide enough and that there are lots of other good options out there that we’re not considering. Whatever the fourth vehicle ends up being, there isn’t a requirement that it be able to carry all seven of us.

I leave it in your capable hands. What does your magic 8 ball say? (It better not say to buy a Panther, ’cause it ain’t happening!)

Cheers,

Steve Says

I like your first option the best.

If your kids learn how to drive a stick (good move there!), they will eventually get a far better vehicle in the marketplace as they get older and more independent.

As a car dealer circa 2014, it amazes me how so few people know how to drive a stick these days. When it comes to older vehicles, I find that sticks will go for about 15% to 35% cheaper than their automatic counterparts with a few notable exceptions

I still buy a lot of em’ for retail, and although they sit at my lot for longer periods of time, they also attract customers who are far more conscientious about maintenance and upkeep. This helps me when it comes to financing these rides. Since a car that is well kept tends to have fewer issues.

As for option 2, yes, the Toyota 4Runner has an excellent long-term reliability record. But let me throw in an alternative that will cost thousands less and have a solid reliability record as well.

I would consider a Mitsubishi Montero  from the early 2000′s. If you buy one with the 3.5 Liter, they are virtually bulletproof, and the kids will benefit from a higher seating position.  The gas mileage will remain abysmal. But in the real world the 3.5 Liter in the Montero will get you a vehicle with about half the miles of the 4Runner for the same price, and the reliability of that particular powertrain is solid (<—click).

Maintenance history is critically important when buying older SUV’s because a lot of them are neglected and inevitably hot-potatoed in the used car market . So get it independently inspected and only opt for ones that have a strong maintenance regimen. Otherwise you will also be buying someone else’s problems.

Good luck! Oh, and if you decide to not buy an older SUV, I have a beige on beige Toyota Solara with a V6, no CD player, and a hand shaker in between the front seats. I’m thinking about naming it, “The Rolling Leper” in honor if it more or less being an unsellable car.

If you don’t have to tow, go find the west coast version of a low-spec Solara. In a non-rust climate like central California, I think a car like that would probably be the optimal fit.

All the best.

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New or Used : Do Two People Need Three Cars? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-do-two-people-need-three-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-do-two-people-need-three-cars/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:29:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=791657 ymo

Steve,

Thanks for sending along your email address, and for you all that you do to demystify the process of buying and owning cars. I find myself in a unique situation, and I would like your thoughts.

My wife is considering taking a job that is 135 miles away from our home. She will commute up once and return 3 days later. We have 3 young kids, and they attend a school that is about 15 miles from home and a similar distance from my office. Should she take the job, I will be in charge of picking them up 3 days a week, in addition to dropping them every day already.

I share this background with you to illustrate that we are already driving some significant miles. Her car is a 2011 Honda Odyssey with about 45,000 miles on it (and rising at about 19K per year), mine is a 2002 BMW M5 with about 84,000 miles (perhaps 14K per year). Simply put, she doesn’t want to drive my car to the job because she’s afraid of it, and I could really use the utility of the van from time to time when she is gone. I have no intention of selling the BMW—it’s worth less than I have in it, and it makes me smile.

We’re considering an additional car for my wife for the commute. It has to be dead reliable, as she will be far away with no time to spare while she’s using it. Right now I’m considering a lease (never thought I’d say that) or buying used (although I’m nervous about picking up someone else’s problems). When crunching the numbers, I see that the Corolla/Elantra/Civic segment is going to cost me more in insurance than going up a class, so the all-in cost is probably similar to a larger vehicle.

What am I overlooking? Is there some magical bare-bones vehicle I can lease or buy used that will provide decent MPGs and trouble-free motoring? Ugly/unloved models are no problem. I can be patient in looking for the right vehicle, but time is a semi-precious resource.

Thanks for your help!

Steve Says

You have just described why so many people now drive Camrys, Accords and Altimas.

A lot of folks like to match the size of the car to the size of the commute. Small commutes are often done with smaller vehicles. Long commutes encourage more stretching room and since many mid-sized cars now have as much room as full-sized vehicles a generation ago, they are becoming the new norm for road warriors.

In the case of your wife, she will likely have about six empty seats and space that will likely remain unused for those journeys with the Odyssey.

But as you mentioned, your minivan is still needed. It works. As for fuel economy, the Odyssey gets around the mid-20′s in mixed driving and the high 20′s on the highway. Plus you never know how the world changes. That potential job for your wife may come and go within a year or two. Or it may be you who winds up caring for the family thanks to an unexpected downsizing.

You didn’t mention a budget, but given your Wall Street money management job and the fact that you seem to be in that fungible mode where so many cars can potentially fit the bill, I would start with sampling a few rentals before finally paying the big bill. You may also put some feelers out there to see if any of your colleagues are trying to get rid of a used car that has been well kept.

I would wait a bit picking an alternative to the Odyssey. See how things work out once the financials are well-established, and then go forward from there. As for a family friendly mid-sized vehicle, or anything else in the world of new and used cars, I’m sure the Best & Brightest will have far more popular choices than the 12 year old brown Saab 9-5 wagon I just bought at the auction.

Then again, maybe not. How would she feel about a brown SAAB wagon?

Note: I can always be reached directly at steve.lang@thetruthaboutcars.com .

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New Or Used? : More Troubles With Old GM http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-more-troubles-with-old-gm/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-more-troubles-with-old-gm/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:42:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=790249 rogerhuyseen
A reader writes: 
I have a 2007 Pontiac G6 coupe which, up until last fall, had been a pretty decent car.
Then, in October, I had to replace a clutch and a flywheel ($1,700).  While the clutch was being fixed the driver’s side window stopped working and is now propped shut with wooden blocks.  Within a week the check engine light came on.  Friend who works at a GM dealership checked it (no charge) and determined it needed a air temp sensor.  The OnStar report also indicates that the ABS and Stabilitrack is not working and requires attention.  Then, about a week ago the key fobs and trunk release stopped working.  At first I thought it was ironic that so many things could go wrong at once, but now I wonder if all these problems are interrelated and somehow result from some kind of electrical bug.
Do you have any input on whether this could be the case and how expensive a fix could be?
In addition to these problems, the car also requires a ball joint, a tie rod end, and 4 new tires by spring (I have winters on it now).  This takes me to my second question, which is whether it is worth fixing this car or cutting my losses and buying something new.
I am really not keen on having another car payment, but if I do buy another car I would be looking for something used in the $10,000 to $15,000 range.  Because I live in Canada and have been experiencing the winter from hell, I would be looking for all-wheel-drive and would prefer a manual transmission.  This seems to leave the only options as BMW, Audi, and Subaru.  The only problem with those are the fear of ghastly expensive repair bills, particularly with the Germans, and especially considering these cars, at that price range, will have in the range of 125,000-200,000km on them.
So, the questions are, should I dump the G6 now and move on to something else?  Am I crazy for even considering the above-mentioned cars?  Are there other options available?
Steve Says
Your car is suffering from an acute case of Roger Smith syndrome.
This is a chronic disorder that is attributable to a bacteria known as planned obsolescence. All cars have it to varying degrees. However, certain defunct GM models that only existed to placate a bloated bureaucracy of bean counters are now the poster children of this disorder.
How do you cure your car?  By taking the current issues to an independent mechanic who is well regarded, and pay for those repairs. Window regulators, ball joints, tie-rod ends, ABS Sensors, all of these have shorter lives in a harsh environment. None of this is fatal for your Pontiac unless you are compelled to pay the new car dealer premium for fixing them all.
I would spend the $2000 (my rough estimate) since the car will likely sell for that much less with a propped up window, the ABS issue and the needed suspension work. If you just hate the car and want to go back to that merry-go-round of new car payments, that’s fine as well. But I am a card carrying member of the “fix-it” union, and your car is still worth far more alive than dead.
So fix it. Consider a nice seat or stereo upgrade at a local auto recycling center or Ebay. Give it a good detail, and pretend like it just came off the showroom floor. Because you know what? More than 99% of the good within this once new vehicle is still there.
You just have to bail it out… and remove those few parts that are old GM.
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New Or Used : To Fleet? Or Not To Fleet? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-to-fleet-or-not-to-fleet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-to-fleet-or-not-to-fleet/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 15:10:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=787681
golfcarts
Hi Steve,

I really enjoy your articles.  Thank you.

I have a question about fleet cars.  I was driving to a meeting in one of the fleet cars my employer has.  Nothing special, a late model Ford Fusion .  And I was thinking is this a better deal to buy when they get rid of it than another used car?  Then I realized that people who use a car that doesn’t belong to them trash it. So I thought, “No way!”

Then I realized that the same people who don’t take care of it, aren’t the same people who maintain it.  So are fleet cars a better deal then non fleet on the market? After giving them a good cleaning does it not matter one way or the other all other things being the same?

There is an age old saying that applies here, “It’s not the horse. It’s the rider.”

If you have ever seen a horse trained, or experienced a long scenic horseback ride with someone who had never been a horse before, you’ll get the gist of this saying real quick. Folks who use natural horsemanship techniques to train their horses are usually able to give their horses a better life. As it relates to cars, just change two words and you’ll have the core of what differentiates a good life for a used car from a bad one.

It’s not the car. It’s the driver.

The daily driver is going to have a far greater impact on the long-term quality and longevity of a vehicle than the manufacturer. So let me cut to the chase and ask you the two salient questions that apply to your particular situation.

Do you know who drove this vehicle? Or how they drove it?

If you don’t know, then either try to find out or accept the fact that there is more risk to the long-term ownership equation. The deal may offset those possible expenses.

What has always shocked me over the years is that most consumers are willing to throw thousands of dollars into the wind without first taking a car to have it independently inspected. I look at everything before I buy, as did my grandfather who came from a long line of successful cattle traders. My advice is to get that vehicle looked at by someone who has wiser eyes when it comes to cars. A fleet vehicle may have a good maintenance regimen but that doesn’t mean it will be a sound purchase.

 

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New Or Used : Go Fetch! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/new-or-used-go-fetch/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/new-or-used-go-fetch/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 12:38:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=773737 Yummy Food + Fire Hydrant Red = A Dog's New Best Friend

Yummy Food + Fire Hydrant Red = A Dog’s New Best Friend

We own a pet supply delivery business and use two vehicles. A 1995 Toyota Tacoma with 360,000 miles, and a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica with less than 20,000 miles.

Guess which one has given us more problems?

In fairness, the Pacifica wasn’t intended to be used for our business. However my dad no longer finds the Tacoma to be comfortable for the 150+ mile daily journeys, and the Pacifica has us a bit scared thanks to multiple high cost repairs.

We are wanting to save money on fuel, and have the ability to trade in a vehicle (or both) to save money on insurance, fuel, and downtime. With my dad’s age, he wants something much more comfortable than the truck.

We’ve looked at various models of Prius, Scion xB (1st Gen), Transit Connects, and lately have thrown in an Insight (2nd gen) and Escape Hybrid. He doesn’t like German (due to threat of high repair costs), though I’ve tried to convince him a diesel could be an option. Other than that, he has no brand loyalty.

Total cost should be under $10,000 – and we are able to do driveway fixes. The fewer miles the better. It does not need to be comfortable for passengers. We do haul about 300 to 400 pounds of product in our travels. So we want something that can handle that load without any issues.

Steve Says:

I would start with the seat. No, I am certainly not joking about that.

With all that driving, you will eventually prioritize that throne over all other considerations. Even those you already mentioned. What is different now versus nearly 20 years ago is that the Toyota/Honda quality dominance is no longer an absolute when it comes to cars. Every manufacturer can offer a durable product these days. However seat comfort seems to run the gamut. Some cars are wonderful. Others I can barely stand.

There are also so many vehicles that offer sold fuel economy, that it will be hard for me to say that one vehicle will equal out to more dollars and cents than another over the course of time. All that traveling for a mature person requires a supremely comfortable seat, a well constructed interior (a.k.a. avoiding Tonka level plastics)  and an overall environment that will allow for low stress.

My top pick for a $10,000′ish wagon like vehicle with good fuel economy? A Hyundai Elantra Touring wagon.  Like this one.

These models have plenty of room inside. A nice smooth suspension, plenty of good lumbar support… well, I’m not the review guy. So visit here, here and read the comments left by several owners and renters.

I’m sure there are other folks here who will recommend everything from a Dodge Magnum to a (gulp!) Ford Ranger. But if I were looking for a roomy economical transport vehicle for about $10,000, a late model Elantra Touring would represent the bullseye within a bullseye.

 

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New or Used : Care Free? Or Car-Free? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/new-or-used-care-free-or-car-free/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/new-or-used-care-free-or-car-free/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 17:32:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=773529 1999 Buick Century: Where Automotive Novocaine Meets Ambiguous Androgyny.

1999 Buick Century: Where Automotive Novocaine Meets Ambiguous Androgyny.

Dear Steve,

I just graduated from college this past December and found a wonderful job at my old alma mater.

The good news? I can walk to everywhere I need to go. My work, two nearby parks, the supermarket, and to most of my friend’s apartments and townhouses. I’m living an ideal life at this point.

Which brings me to the big question. Do I even need a car?

I have inherited a 1999 Buick Century with about 130k miles that my parents bought brand new.

I HATE this car with a passion. Every time I drive it, I think about quarters shooting out of the tailpipe and onto the oncoming traffic. This year alone my parents spent nearly $2000 trying to keep this money pit on the road.

They want me to keep it, but I don’t want it within 300 square miles of my daily life. What should I do?

Steve Says:

Lao Tzu had a wonderful saying when it came to these types of situations.

“When in doubt, do nothing.”

You don’t know what the future holds. So I wouldn’t get rid of the car just yet. At the same time, you don’t need to add a lot of unneeded expenses in your life.   So I’m going to encourage you to re-allocate some of your funds so that you get the maximum pleasure minimal level of misery from owning this joyless machine.

First, see if you can get an auto policy that will offer a reduced rate for less driving. Preferably one with either a 5,000 mile limit or a 2,500 mile limit. This will save you a nice chunk on your insurance costs, which is a big expense for most folks in their 20′s.

From there you should take some of those savings and invest in a car cover.

The advantage of using a car cover is that…

1) It becomes a bit of a pain to constantly put the cover on and take it off. Therefore when you’re on that fence between either driving or using some alternative motor-free transportation, you’ll opt for the later.

2) A car cover enables you to avoid spending money on giving exterior care to a car you no longer use. It also helps you avoid wear issues such as faded paint, peeling dashboards, and other cosmetic wear items that result from a car that sits in the sun for far too long.

3) This may be a bit anecdotal. In my own travels, I have found that buyers don’t negotiate as much when you use a car cover and keep the car in good running order. A car dealership can’t pull off this trick with their inventory. However enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts are frequently able to offer a halo of extra care and value to their rides when they use a car cover.

I would change the oil once a year, keep an eye out for leaks, and drive it once every two weeks or so. Even if you don’t want to. Just find a good excuse.

Maybe you will use ye olde Buick Century, or maybe not. But at least you’ll be able to keep this unwanted car out of sight and out of mind. At least until your lifestyle changes, which it will. Trust me.

 

 

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New or Used? : A Road Trip… Geo Metro Style http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/new-or-used-a-road-trip-to-munchkinland/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/new-or-used-a-road-trip-to-munchkinland/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=743577 Click here to view the embedded video.

We want to go on a road trip this summer.

There are four of us. Myself, my wife, a teen and a tween. The wife and kids are thin and I’m about average sized.

Why do I mention this?

We are looking at getting a normal-sized vehicle that can potentially sleep four.  A minivan, crossover, or even a large SUV would be perfectly fine for us. We think that there will be times when we can’t use a tent, and I would rather get away from the overpriced state parks if it’s at all possible.

Our budget is $10,000. We don’t want anything funky to maintain. For us that means no VW vans. We will consider most anything else.  All domestics and imports are on the radar so long as they allow us reasonable sleeping quarters for our family.

Any ideas?

Steve Says:

Yes, rent a trailer or RV first.

A lot of folks think that they can take a big swig of the great American road trip in one feel swoop. But the truth is that close quarters will turn even the slightest of irritable personalities into a smorgasbord of communal hate and vitriol.

A week’s worth of traveling will help you figure out your own family’s tolerances real fast.

Your kids are young? They will want some space. The adults will want some space. Trust me. Whether you chose to give them real space or imaginary space via video games and movies is your call. But if this were my call, I would take the big bite that is the rental of a trailer (if you have a vehicle that can already haul one), a pop-up,  or an RV, and make the most of your time.

Most normal sized vehicles can’t sleep four unless you are willing to do some serious customization.  There are built-in tents and conversion kits for Azteks that can sleep two. Astros with third seats that can be made into a bed… that sleep two. There are even full-sized vans that supposedly seat four. Although the sleeping space me be a bit claustrophobic for some.

Heck, if you were creative enough, you could probably pull off sleeping space four in a stretch limo. But the truth is the only real games in town for road trips that can house four living souls comfortably are the camper conversions, trailers and RV’s.

What’s the cheapest route? Not going cheap.

In the long run your best decision will likely be trying one of these options out and figuring out what would best suit your family’s needs. Long-term road trip vehicles may be the one area where renting first actually makes sense. So rent something you like. Live it up a bit. Then, when you find the right size, make your investment in mobile living.

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New or Used? : Should I Salvage My Shady Tree? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/new-or-used-should-i-salvage-my-shady-tree/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/new-or-used-should-i-salvage-my-shady-tree/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 20:01:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=740305 littlebangtheory.wordpress

 

When I peruse the websites of some of my local yards, it seems like some of these cars have very little damage but some insurance adjuster has written them off based on whatever metric the company uses.

I’m an experienced shadetree mechanic and it seems like getting a 3-4 year old car for 30% of its original MSRP would be a screaming deal, and since warranty coverage is no longer an issue, it comes down to diminished value on the salvage title. I tend to keep my cars for 8-10 years so who cares.

Here’s where my doubts creep in.

If it was such a great idea, I would have surely read more about it. In the case of this one nearby yard,  they have a huge collision repair facility. So why aren’t they repairing and flipping these cars? Googling doesn’t provide a whole lot on the pros and cons, just on the procedural aspects.

Any experience or stories ?

Steve Says:

Plenty of them.

This past storm through Atlanta recently totaled two of my financed vehicles, and late last year, I had two others that succumbed to the laws of physics.

The best way I can answer your answer is by working backwards by starting with older salvage vehicles first.

If you are looking for the best deal on a salvage vehicle in terms of daily transportation, it’s going to typically be the older, unloved, unpopular vehicle that merely has cosmetic damage.

A 10 year old Saturn with the rear bumper bashed in.

The older SAAB that was well kept, but was hit in that precise point on the front quarter that would require the removal and repainting of the hood, front bumper, and quarter panel if it were brought up to spec.

There are a lot of used cars that are totaled which fit this description. Minivans that don’t have good leather seats or automatic doors. Sitckshifts in non-sporty vehicles. Unloved older SUV’s, orphaned brands, and of course, station wagons.

The exact same types of vehicles that are unpopular and obscure to the non-enthusiast, are those that can provide the best bang for the buck for the shadetree frugalist who wants to explorer the salvage side of the business.

You have to still do all the homework you regularly do when buying a clean title vehicle. It is essential to go and inspect the vehicle in person and figure out the history. Even with doing all that, the buyer fees will negate much of the advantage you supposedly may have.

Plus, there is that one annoying fact with salvage vehicles. They can often have hidden surprises.

If you are serious about doing this, make sure you have easy access to a spare inoperable car that can be used as a reasonably cheap source for parts.

As for the late model vehicle? Don’t even try. The most popular ones are often shipped overseas where the local markets offer a far greater tolerance for substandard repairs, and where the labor rates are a small fraction of those in the United States.

The price of used cars is also far higher in the majority of countries outside the United States. We are known as a “high-content” market which means that many models that appear to have low to mid-level features are considered loaded vehicles in those overseas markets. The exporters can often buy higher than most others, with a few experienced rebuilders who have the resources and know-how to turn over higher end inventory.

My advice to you is to start small. Heck, you can take two unpopular Craigslist vehicles and make them into one with parts to spare. Or just visit a nearby used car dealership or title pawn company and tell them that you would be interested in buying their inop vehicles.

Specialize in a type of car and who knows? You may find yourself profiting from experience. Just don’t expect a $2000 lick every time you sell a salvage car. The market demand will likely be limited to hardcore enthusiasts and frugalists.

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New Or Used? : A Twofer… And One For “The Bossth!” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/new-or-used-a-twofer-and-one-for-the-bossth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/new-or-used-a-twofer-and-one-for-the-bossth/#comments Fri, 24 Jan 2014 17:07:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=707578 Click here to view the embedded video.

I have three choices for a “New or Used?” column today.

#1 Is a real estate agent from San Francisco who is looking at spending $13,000 on her next ride. She needs something ‘nice’ to shepherd around her clients.

#2 Is the owner of an Acura RSX Type-S that has 108,000 miles. He is looking at whether to spend about $1500 in new tires and suspensions components. Or whether to blow the budget and spend $40,000 on something new.

#3 Is Baba Booey


Hi there. I’m a guy who lives right outside of New York City and the winters here can be brutal. For a guy like me that leaves work at 4:30 in the morning, temperatures can sometimes be in the low single digits.

That’s why I’ve always had a remote starter on the car. I need my next car to be one that can heat quickly, has good handling on icey roads, and strange as it sounds, a small glasshouse area. Every car I have ever owned tends to fog up whenever I drive it in the middle of the night; regardless of how strong the defrost is. This is why the contours of the windshield and surrounding windows are a big pet peeve of mine.

I would strongly prefer  a car with flat windows and good visibility all the way around.  Just about every two months, I also need to put some Windex on the windshield to clean it up, and a large one with hard to get to corners results in a cloudy, foggy build-up over time that I just don’t like.

My budget is about $30,000 and I’m buying new. What out there represents the best combination of great heat, solid handling on slippery roads, and easy to service windows?

Steve Says

#1 Should get the second to last generation Infiniti Q45. They are unique in the marketplace, incredibly luxurious, and a well-kept one will only cost about $7000. The right color combination can exude all the luxury and prestige you would ever want in an older car, and I can easily see a silver one with a dark tan to black interior exuding all the upward mobility you need for your customers who are trying to get that little edge in the real estate market.

#2 should visit the RSX forums and see what they have to say about tires and suspension upgrades. There would really be no point in spending $40,000 or even half that amount on another car. For less than $2000 you can have a car that can ride like new and continue to give you all the fun you ever wanted back. The RSX also has a solid long-term reliability record. So I would just keep what you have and look at the upgrades as a healthy investment.

#3 just described every new Scion that is currently selling for less than $20,000.

Beth Ostrosky Celebrates FHM Coverwakpaper

A Scion iQ would have the advantage of finding parking spaces in the traffic congested areas of New York City. All the windows are easy to access and the front-wheel drive should be a nice plus on the open road. Plus you can buy two of them in different colors and mess with the minds of your co-workers.

Then there is the Scion xD which is a Yaris on stilts, and the xB which is a Corolla on stilts. With both these models you would get better crash protection than the iQ. However I would say that the best deal on the road for what describing is a late model Ford Flex. I know… don’t want to buy used. Would you consider a Kia Soul?

I’m sure the folks here will have plenty of good recommendations. Any thoughts?

 

 

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New Or Used? : A Young Driver Wants His Milk & Cookies… Right Now! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/new-or-used-a-young-driver-wants-his-milk-cookies-right-now/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/new-or-used-a-young-driver-wants-his-milk-cookies-right-now/#comments Fri, 10 Jan 2014 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=695777 123rf

 

I just got a job that involves a fair amount of driving and I am looking to spend about 11-13k on a car that is fun to drive but at the same time practical and reliable.

I have a large dog, bicycle, and significant other that I transport on a regular basis (not all at the same time). I’d like to get a manual but the fact of the matter is that I am very likely to get stuck in a traffic jam one way or another so I am still debating on that. My job covers gas and a modest vehicle allowance that will cover wear and tear maintenance with a little pocket change left over. So gas mileage and little things going wrong are not a big deal. However it does need to be reliable in the sense that it will start everyday and get me where I need to go.

Some cars I have been thinking of are Mazda 3, GTI, Focus, E46 3 series(wagon if I can get it), and Mustang(thats a wildcard). I would prefer that any car I get be 2006 or newer so I can finance a modest amount but I do not want to get in the hole of financing a new car thus my budget. Help out a fellow car enthusiast and let me know what you think.

Steve Says:

Your question reminds me of the all too scary fact that my own soon-to-be 11 year old son may someday be in your shoes.

I hope to hear this in, oh, about 15 years from now.

“Hey Dad! Guess what? I just got promoted to hedge fund manager at Milken, Milken & Dacau.”

“Great to hear it son. Remind me to retire soon.”

“I’m sure you’ll die first Dad (thanks son!). Oh, the bosses boss wants me to trade in the Camry and get something really nice. Like a Lamborghini Flatulencia.”

“Jeez! That will be quite a bit of bitcoins!. Are you sure you can afford it?”

“Sure! I’ll just get a loan with….”

… the uncomfortable thought of a loan on a car is enough to stop that happy daydream dead in it’s tracks. It may not be a good idea quite yet to arrange for a long-term divestiture of your wealth. Why?

You just got a job.

You haven’t made any money yet at this particular job.

You are now what we called in my native state of New Jersey, “working class”. Your financial security is exactly equal to your “new job” security. There is good news and bad news with that.

The good news is that you have work. The bad news is that if you’re smart, you are going to be in saving mode for the next several years and eventually buy those things that are worth keeping. Which means that when it comes to cars you may want to hold off on the late model throttle a bit.

I would go a little bit deeper down the model year range and consider an 03 to 05 model that has 100,000 miles or so and has been furiously depreciated. A stickshift on a medium sized coupe or sedan (Infiniti G35, Lexus IS300, Acura CL/TL) would be a worthwhile consideration. You can even go more into the affordable arena and wait for what we call the “rare birds” in the car business. A supposedly plain jane Solara that has a nice V6 and a 5-speed. Or the last of the Q45′s that often gets blurred out of the car shopping process.

If it were me, I would start nagging friends and associates for a well-kept older car and then tweak the suspension and upgrade the tires over time so that it rides the way you like it to. However I can hear my son in the 15 year distance revving up his Flatulencia and wondering how his Dad became so debt averse. The truth is I was raised that way. Debt to me is still a four letter word. So I’ll leave it up to the folks here to offer some more recent 11k to 13k alternatives with financing in tow.

 

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New or Used? : How Much Is MPG Really Worth? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/new-or-used-how-much-is-mpg-really-worth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/new-or-used-how-much-is-mpg-really-worth/#comments Fri, 03 Jan 2014 16:07:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=692090 autoguide

 

Dear Steve:

My wife and I finally bought a brand new Honda Accord.  She loves it, and I now have one less worry in my life.

With that one less worry though comes two more things, in the form of two similarly sized cars. At least one of which I no longer need.

We have a 2003 Honda Civic and a 2011 Mazda 3.  The Civic has served as my wife’s faithful commuter for the last 10 years. While the Mazda 3 has served as my own daily driver and our road trip vehicle. I love the Mazda, and it has served me to an absolute T for nearly 50,000 miles.

I just don’t know if I need it now that the Civic is available. Here’s the thing. The Civic gets far better fuel economy than the Mazda 3 which has averaged only about 24 mpg. Now that my wife has a new car that will also become our road trip vehicle, I only need my daily driver to serve as a commuter car. My round-trip commute is 47 miles a day and I just don’t see myself ripping up the asphalt with the Mazda 3 while listening to NPR. So I’m thinking the Civic may be the better long-term bet. Even though I absolutely love the hell out of that Mazda.

Another random thought came to me while adding up the resale numbers. Should I perhaps sell both vehicles and maybe, just maybe, buy a new one? The Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte would be a great match and if I sell both vehicles, the cost difference between a new car and a used one may only be a couple thousand bucks.

So what should I do? Sell the Civic? Sell the Mazda 3? Buy an Impreza? Or should I just keep both used cars?

 

Steve Says:

The #1 mistake I see folks do in their car buying decisions is overstate the importance of gas consumption.

Enthusiasts want fast… and they want their MPG.

Commuters want comfort… and they want their NPR… and their MPG.

Retirees want luxury… and plenty of unused horsepower, and they want their MPG.

Each one of these sub-species in the automotive buying world has to deal with two big problems related to this want.

The first is that high MPG doesn’t always equate to high personal satisfaction with the vehicle. Let’s take your two cars for example.

The 2011 Mazda 3 has an enthusiast bent to it, and your list of alternatives seem to point to the desire to have a car with great handling and solid performance.

As for the 2003 Honda Civic? My wife kept one for three years. It’s a perfectly pleasant vehicle, and like most cars given that level of mild praise, it’s definitely more aimed towards the non-enthusiast crowd. If all things were equal, the Mazda 3 would likely be your easy choice.

The second problem with putting gas consumption on that highest pedestal of want,  is that gas consumption represents a very minor cost when two vehicles of comparable size and engine displacement are pitted against each other.

Let’s say you kept these two vehicles as your commuter for the next 8 years and 120,000 miles. The Mazda 3 averages 24 mpg during that time (your average), and the Honda Civic averages 30 mpg (my wife’s average).

In that time, the Mazda will consume 5,000 gallons of gas, while the Civic consumes 4,000 gallons. If the average price of gas is $3,50 during that time, you end up with $3500 extra in overall gas cost. This equates to $437.50 a year or a little less than $1.80 a commuting day.

Still with me? Good. Because that level of difference can become a complete wash in the long run when you factor in repair costs to the older high mileage Civic. Maybe that will happen. Maybe not. Insurance, depreciation, resale value, opportunity cost may all sway this one way or the other. But the bottom line is this…

When you make this decision, the driving experience and the quality of the interior in particular should be the two biggest considerations. You will spend months of your life inside that car. So you need to raise ‘quality of life’ to the top of the list and gas consumption, far lower in the list of wants.

You love the Mazda, and like the Civic, and I’m willing to bet that the Mazda 3 hits those two quality of life check marks with a darker #2 pencil than the Civic. So sell the Civic and keep the Mazda. As for the list of new car alternatives, I don’t think any of them are worth the financial leap given that the Mazda 3 already hits your wants and needs. Good luck!

 

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New or Used: Should I Beat My Hauler? Or Haul My Beater? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/new-or-used-should-i-beat-my-hauler-or-haul-my-beater/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/new-or-used-should-i-beat-my-hauler-or-haul-my-beater/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 13:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=685722

rzrforums.net

To The Best & Brightest,

I need advice on my next used car purchase.

99% of the time the vehicle will be a daily commuter (rural highway and very little city traffic / 26 miles round trip). But during the winter when salt keeps my classic pickup off the roads I need the ability to tow my boat and trailer (combined weight of 4500 lbs.)

The towing distance is only 13 miles and the vehicle must either be front wheel drive or AWD/4WD to get the boat out of the water. The ramps are fairly steep on the lower Niagara river and for obvious reasons can be icy in the winter time. Normally just me in the car but have a wife and two teenagers who come along boating occasionally. A three seat pickup would work but most I have seen are too expensive. It’s either by two vehicles or one if it offers the right combination of capabilities and economy. I would like to keep it under 12 grand but would go as high as 15 for a great vehicle. If it won’t get a t least 20 mpg I would likely go the two vehicle route. I have a neighbor who is a great independent mechanic and for reasonable prices will help me keep an older vehicle on the road.

Lastly, is it worth the cost and hassle to travel to a non snow state to find a rust free vehicle to avoid the rust belt effect of vehicles here in the Buffalo area? I thought a used Grand Caravan would be perfect but those are evidently only rated to tow 3500 lbs. Thanks.

Steve Says:

The good news is that you’re hitting the prime part of the used car market as it pertains to value.

There are a ton of older minivans and SUV’s, hundreds of thousands of them, that are molderizing in wholesale auction heaven as we speak. Unpopular vehicles. Orphan brands. You could pretty much start at the near beginning of the alphabet with the Buick Rainier, and work your way nearly all the way down to the Volvo XC90. Both of those vehicles, coincidentally, would easily hit your price quotient and may have older owners who took proper care of those rides.

This brings me to what I think is going to be the big issue with you, the prior owner. You’re not buying a used vehicle these days as much as a prior owner who may or may not have done the right thing. I would keep your list fairly open and wide while attempting to snag that ride that can handle all of your hauling days.

Would I encourage you to buy it outside of the rust-o-sphere that is northern New York? Hell yes. Not only due to the rust, but the fact that the suburbs surrounding the tri-state area are swarming with used SUV’s (and minivans to a lesser extent) that have been garage kept and dealer maintained. I may sound like a complete snob for saying this. But I would prioritize a vehicle that was dealer maintained over one from the rougher parts of town that was not. I used to liquidate vehicles for an auto finance company and  at the time, I visited quite a few wholesale auctions that had more heavy haulers than they knew what to do with. The difference between a well-kept one and an abused one was quite vast.

If you’re asking for that one vehicle, well, I have a bit of a shocker for you. My choice would be the last year of a good generation from an unpopular automaker. A 2002 Mitsubishi Montero Sport Limited 4WD with all the options. I would definitely opt for the 3.5 Liter with the touring package. As for fuel economy, if you drive with a lighter foot, you’re likely to get about 16 mpg, which is less than the 20 mpg you mentioned. But if you’re only driving it part of the time, say maybe 8,000 miles a year,  you are only looking at a few hundred dollar difference in gas. To me, a better tool for the job and a lower purchase price will more than make up for that cost differential.

If you drive a LOT, then get whatever car interests you for daily commutes… and then get the Montero anyway. The only hauling vehicle with a serious fuel economy edge would be a Touareg TDI, and they are hysterically overpriced. So is the Toyota Highlander.  There is also the SAAB 9-7x with the 5.3 Liter V8.  But most people don’t have the guts to buy an orphan brand. Even though that particular vehicle is composed of the most common of GM engines and the most common of GM platforms, nobody wants em’.

That’s what I recommend. Hit em’ where they ain’t. Opt for a loaded orphaned or unpopular vehicle that was built in the last year of it’s production run.

Good luck!

 

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New Or Used? : No One Loves My Bimmer Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/new-or-used-no-one-loves-my-bimmer-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/new-or-used-no-one-loves-my-bimmer-edition/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 13:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=641281 bmw

 

A reader writes:

Steve –

So glad to see you back at TTAC.  I’ve learned so much more about auctions to go along with what you and I discussed a year-and-a-half (!) ago.

I have a question of a personal nature. Well, it’s still car-related, but it has to do with MY car, so I guess that’s what makes it personal.

I am approaching the end of my CPO on my 2008 BMW 535i sedan.  I have kept it in excellent repair (in fact, I’ve had about $7k in warranty claims since July – oil cooler, oil filter housing, both turbos, water pump failure, and, just last week, a new valve cover gasket).  The tires are 10 months old.  It’s never been smoked in, and it’s optioned to the hilt (just missing rear air bags, the fancy window shades, and HUD).

I’m looking to get rid of it before CPO expires on Nov. 27, and jump into a 2014 Mazda 3.  Trouble is, I’m not having much luck in finding what seems to be a fair price for the BMW.

This week, I had it appraised at a Carmax in Houston, and a BMW dealer not far away (a second BMW dealer would not even look at it, on account of it having 82k on the clock).  The appraisals came in at $13.1 and $14k, respectively.  That’s way way way under what Edmunds ($16.2) and KBB ($17k) say is the trade-in value.

Perhaps Carmax and Momentum BMW gave me low numbers because I wasn’t looking to buy another vehicle from either place (and I’m assuming either one would just wholesale my car).  I dunno. I am quite baffled over the discrepancy between their offers and what Edmunds and KBB say.  Is there another online source I should check out?  Should I ask someone at my bank (Chase) to look at something I’ve heard called “Manheim” (which,  as I understand, is a super-secret set of numbers dealers often use to arrive a trade/sell prices).

As an aside – one thing that both Carmax and the BMW dealer mentioned when they gave me the disappointing bids was a re-spray job on the trunk and driver’s rear quarter panel.  I told them both that was done to repair some vandalism that occurred last year in NOLA.. and pointed out that they would have deducted even more had I left the scratches, etc. as is.  Also, I had the work performed at a body/paint shop that is owned by the same company as the BMW dealer, so there.

I would sincerely appreciate any advice you have to offer.  And, thanks in advance for taking time out of what I’m sure is a busy day to help.

Steve Says:

The trick to keeping the German machinery is to get the ones that have the most common powertrains with the fewest bells and whistles possible. Avoid 4matics and other all-wheel-drive systems. Cross out the active suspensions, dual turbos and navigation screens as well, and you are generally fine.

Unfortunately, your car represents the exact opposite of fine. Sell it.

How do you do that?

Forget about selling it to a re-seller. That’s like paying someone $1500 for a repair that costs maybe $200. Oh wait, you almost did that a few times this year. See, that CPO warranty saved your ass, and now it’s time to park this Barnacle Bitch of a car, and haul your ass to a less costly ride.

Sell it on Autotrader, Cars.com, Craigslist, and especially… local enthusiast forums. This vehicle received the very best of care for the time you owned it. An honest guy like you deserves to be saved from the, “lowballers r’ us”  brigade.

When you advertise it, emphasize the CPO history and all the repair work that was recently put into it. I know it sounds strange. But telling people you recently replaced the turbos in an under-engineered piece of shit car like this with a new factory unit is a big plus. It’s akin to the early 2000′s Chrysler minivan buyer finding out that your ride has a new factory transmission. Or an old Mark IV Jetta buyer finding out all four window regulators have been placed.

They won’t be surprised. They will be relieved. Your CPO warranty bit the bullets that the buyer wants to dodge. So let em’ know about it.

This is the time of year when people don’t have much money. There are no holiday bonuses. No tax returns, and no commercials that show oversized bows on overpriced cars. The used car market dies out a bit in October and November,  so don’t be surprised if it sits for a bit.

As for pricing, I would recommend you average out the three most common mainstream pricing sites for “good to very good condition”; KBB, Edmunds, and NADA. Deduct maybe 5% for the accident and the fact that you want to get this car out of your life, and let the laws of economics take their course. Manheim offers a wholesale pricing guide called the Manheim Market Report. It’s useless for retail. You want retail prices and those three do a fairly good job at pricing the market.

Stay positive and make em’ pay retail because, let’s face it, that’s how you bought this son-of-a-bitch.

Consider this to be a golden opportunity to shape up on your picture taking and writing skills. Tell some stories and post 12 to 27 high res pics. Offer some healthy links that highlight owner based reviews for your audience. If you revel in providing better advertising than those lazy retail establishments then maybe, just maybe, you’ll get a multi-thousand dollar return on your time.

It’s a risk I would take.   So sell it straight and when it goes down the road, count your blessings… and your Benjamins.

 

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New or Used? : The Unwelcomed Gift Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/new-or-used-the-unwelcomed-gift-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/new-or-used-the-unwelcomed-gift-edition/#comments Mon, 28 Oct 2013 12:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=632138 mbeans
I’ve written before for “New or Used?” regarding my ’04 Scion xB 5MT that I (mistakenly) ended up trading in towards my family’s 2013 Outback 3.6R last year. Since then I’ve been driving my wife’s ’06 Accord EX-L V6, now at 105k. It’s a nice enough car to drive, but was never “my” car, if you know what I mean (and I’m sure you do).


Due to my recently starting a new job, the wife has given the go-ahead to look for something new that’s modestly priced. I became smitten with a 2013 VW GTI 6MT and was mere seconds away from signing the lease agreement. I had completed the credit application, indicated the radio stations I like, and then started examining the P&S contract, but got that funny feeling you can get and pulled the plug. I don’t know what it was. Dealer shenanigans. Fee overload. Slight indecision perhaps, as I’m only driving a grand total of 8 miles per day for my new commute. (Do I really need to change cars??) Or perhaps it was the X factor.

The X factor is my father-in-law. Due to age and health he is no longer driving. My mother-in-law recently traded his minty 1986 928S4 to their contractor for some money owed. She is offering to give me his 2006 Cayenne S with 75k miles. I’m feeling pressure from the wife to accept it. I’ve offered to take it and sell it for them, but my wife feels that there is a sentimental thing going on, and they want to see us drive it. I really would have preferred that 928.

Sure the Cayenne a nice car, but again it’s not really “me.” Although I’m 6′ 3″ I like small cars with stick shifts that I can throw around, not heavy pseudo-SUVs that get 12 MPG city/. However, am I crazy to turn down a free Cayenne?? I have concerns because (A) it’s not my kind of car, (B) the Carfax has 3 accidents on it, (C) maintenance costs are going to be crazy. Supposedly the frame is fine, but I know he had more than 3 fender-benders (he should have stopped driving years ago), and we have two small children so I would want to verify that. Also the car has been immaculately maintained. He did pretty much whatever the dealer’s service department told him to do.

Part of me thinks I should drive it for 1-2 years and then trade it towards something I want, while the other part of me would be worried about being stuck with a 10 year old SUV with a bad Carfax. And of course the third part of me (if that’s possible) is sick of driving an automatic.

I’m getting some serious pressure to act on this soon. Any advice from you, along with the best and brightest, would be greatly appreciated.

All best,

Steve Says:

Any gift that comes with strings attached is not a gift. Ever. When family members give you something that you must absolutely positively keep under the penalty of (insert snubbing method here), then what you end up with is a family tie that will bind and gag you and your family. 

I’ll give you a personal example. My MIL is a truly generous person and, one day, she decided to give me and my wife a doghouse. The only problem was that we didn’t have a dog. So about a year later, we have a garage sale. The kid down the street just got a puppy and it just so happened that they were the same folks who Freecycled a trampoline to us the year before.

So what did I do? Well of course! I gave them the doghouse!

My wife goes outside about an hour later, and invariably asks where the doghouse is. I tell her what happened and she tells me in no uncertain terms that my MIL is going to be ticked off to the nth degree.

My response was, “And??? This is our house! Just tell her we exchanged it for the trampoline. If she complains then we know it wasn’t a gift ”

Is your wife an only child? Then take the car if, and only if, it is truly a gift with no strings attached. Thank your in-laws profusely for their generosity either way it turns out, and consider yourself a lucky man. Don’t complain. Not even if it isn’t ‘your’ type of car. Just be a mensch, and when this isn’t such a hot button issue, you can sell it and set up a fund to handle any health issues for your in-law’s. By that time you will also have a better perspective on the security of your new job.

If your wife has siblings, then you can’t keep this car. Don’t even try. Let them know that you hope your father-in-law will live for a long, long time. Then you can do the right thing for everyone.

Research the true market value of the vehicle. Post the vehicle for sale online.  Handle the transaction for your in-law’s. and then finally, thank them for thinking of you and your wife.

As for your desire to buy a stickshift, I’ll let the folks here sort that part of your life out.

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New Or Used? : Darwin Riding Shotgun Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/new-or-used-darwin-riding-shotgun-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/new-or-used-darwin-riding-shotgun-edition/#comments Fri, 08 Mar 2013 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=478934

I bought my first car six months ago, a dark green 2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5 TS. I purchased it from a local dealership for $5,800 with 97,100 miles on the odometer. Stick-shift, Subaru AWD, and sticky studded snows made this a solid candidate for the harsh Vermont winters. And while this past snowy season didn’t turn out to be too frightening, the car did.

About a month after purchase, my mechanic threw it up on the lift and showed me that my rear subframe was laced with rust and together by a thread. He said that the car was becoming more dangerous to drive and that resolving the situation (new frame, struts, cables) would set me back $1,500 at least. A month later the Subie got involved in a late night tussle with a deer, and the deer won. This repair needed to be made as the deer left the scene with my headlight for a necklace. I got a buddy to reconstruct the face of my car for $500 — headlight, new bumper, etc. I kept driving the heap despite my mechanic’s earlier warnings that soon the frame would fall out and I’d be propelling the thing like my name was Flintstone.

But the final blow came last month when coolant and oil began leaking out onto the engine. By this point the car has only 110,000 on it but Subaru’s are notorious for needing head gasket repairs around this mileage. It was time for me to think about my options. This new diagnosis would set me back another $2,000.

So the sum total of what I would need to put into this car — between frame and engine — would be near-as-makes-no-difference $3,500-4,000 to keep it going. By this point I think it’s a no-brainer. Ditch the Subie and pick up a late nineties Corolla with few miles. I just hate giving up on something I’ve driven a sinful 16,000 miles.

Help!(?)

 

Steve Says 

The only help I can give you is prayer.

“Heavenly father. I pray that you will give this young lad the wisdom of Darwin and the fear of the most conservative of Camry drivers.”

A frame hanging by a thread represents death on the road. At the salvage auctions you will sometimes see these rustbuckets totaled to the point where the survival of the prior occupant was between doubtful and impossible. You will also see the word ‘Biohazard’ scrawled on the windshield to reflect the residue left from the rotting corpse that once occupied the driver seat.

Cars that have severe rust issues end up with failing brake lines, broke axles, defective sub frames, and all sorts of steering nastiness when you are traveling at rates of speed that endanger you and every other human being in your domain.

You can kill people. You can kill yourself. If you want funny on the open road, go ride a lawnmower.

This is what you do. Sell the vehicle at a public auction that is frequented by dealers. Sell it with the following announcement, “AS/IS, Frame Damage, Parts Only, Dealer Bid Only, No Individuals”.

The auction should have a specific bill of sale for “parts only” vehicles. Sell it. Sign it. Consider your cost a cheap education compared to what could have been.

Sajeev Says:

I hope you learned your lesson, don’t buy an older car without a Pre-Purchase Inspection. A PPI woulda spotted the subframe rot rather quickly, and been worth every penny spent.

That’s for next time.  Now you dump this machine with all kinds of warnings (and a Bill of Sale stating it’s sold AS-IS with frame damage) for the next owner.  Should you buy a Corolla?  Maybe.  But any FWD machine with snow tires will be adequate, and some of them have decent suspensions too.  Sure, it ain’t a Subie, but that’s also a good thing in some respects.

Go test drive some sporty FWD machines (Focus, Civic, any Mazda, etc) in your price range and, for the love of all that’s right in this world, get a PPI this time!!!

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New or Used? : Economic Outpatient Care Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/new-or-used-economic-outpatient-care-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/new-or-used-economic-outpatient-care-edition/#comments Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:30:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=478075

Hello Steve,

I’ve enjoyed for a couple of years now the articles you’ve written for TTAC and the insight you give on used cars and the business you work in. Since you do provide your contact information, I thought I’d write to ask a question relevant to my used-car-shopping situation.

The situation – this girl (my cousin, in her early 20s) used to have a nice 2005 Civic that was given to her new by our grandparents when she finished high school. This would normally have served her until the end of time, but she sold it last year for very stupid reasons.

Now she is back in Atlanta, has no money of her own (she lives at home and is supported by her mom) and is trying to get her life back on a more solid track, but can’t do anything without a car. Her mom would rather not spend a few grand on another car, but it is a much smaller burden on her than using her own car, and they do not live in an area where there is any realistically-usable transit. So cheap used car it is.

My cousin would prefer some kind of SUV for style reasons, but while I love her and want her to get her life together, I don’t think her own preferences have much weight here – she is being supported by her mom, who is also prepared to spend ~$3,000 on a car for her despite her own bad decisions.

I think the primary need is for something as reliable as one can get for that kind of money that is not too expensive to maintain (ex.: my mom’s husband knew of a well-kept one-owner 190E in Toccoa being sold by a friend, but I would not consider an old Mercedes, even a well-kept low-mileage one, to be a low-cost-of-maintenance car.)

It strikes me that in this price range the ownership and maintenance history of a particular car is probably more important than the brand reputation of a given make and model. My own firsthand knowledge is centered around ’90s Nissans and old Fiats, as that is what I own or have owned and maintained myself.

I will appreciate any response you may have the time to give.thanks,

Steve Says:

A few things…

I really don’t know why you are putting yourself out there in the first place. Let’s face it. Her mom doesn’t need to indulge your cousin at this point in her life and neither do you.

The following words you wrote were the only ones that mattered.

“Now she is back in Atlanta, has no money of her own (she lives at home and is supported by her mom) and is trying to get her life back on a more solid track, but can’t do anything without a car.”

Bull.

She can apply for jobs and get a taxi when an interview comes along. If she’s in the Atlanta outskirts, she has plenty of time to take long walks and reflect on her present and future.

Your cousin has time to read, write, exercise, plan, learn, develop a skill or three, and figure out the way forward. She doesn’t have to worry about where her next meal will be coming from, or whether there still will be a roof over her head in the near future.

This is what we call in life, a learning opportunity. And a golden one at that. We all go through them. A hardship can often be a good thing because it teaches you a valuable lesson about who you are as a person, and who you can trust as a friend.

When you constantly give people things they don’t rightfully earn (such as money, love, respect, etc.), that thinking process stops. The indulgences become entitlements, and the entitlements become expectations. Several books have highlighted this unique process of babying as ‘economic outpatient care’ but it applies to all things emotional and financial. In the long run, you make the person more sick and dependent on handouts by shoveling unearned gifts their way.

So why would you want to help give someone a new freebie when they have recently committed, “very stupid decisions” with their old freebie? Think about it. Some people are smart enough to eventually move a swing when it’s facing a brick wall.

Do that instead. Listen to her. Be there for her. Do what you can for her. Heck, 2 years from now she may be the one on top of the world and you may be experiencing your own struggles.

But mark my words. She won’t be successful if her mom simply gives her a car. Let her earn it.

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New Or Used: Keep Fit Or Blow It? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/new-or-used-keep-fit-or-blow-it/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/new-or-used-keep-fit-or-blow-it/#comments Sun, 26 Aug 2012 21:52:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457877

Anonymous writes:

Last year my Ranger blew up on me and all I had to my name was about $500 and a motorcycle. I’d gone through a string of bad cars and decided to go the new route, trading in the motorcycle (it was impossible to sell, no bites) and getting a 2011 Honda Fit. It’s a great car, and as it’s brand new, has needed no maintenance. I’m now making a loan payment of $230, with an extra $60 in insurance.

One of the reasons I didn’t get a loan for a used car was that the used car market here in Oregon is particularly awful. It seems that the cheap, well-maintained $3000 Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas with 110k on them from five years ago are all gone (or not up for sale).

Indeed, even as prices for used cars go up into the $8k range (and beyond), it seems the cars just get later in model year, but not higher in actual quality with attention to proper care and so forth. For the most part, my experience has been that the used car market here has dried up. You have a choice of cars, all with 140k on them and in various states of disrepair, your only choice is how expensive and what year you want. I kid you not, there was a local craigslist ad here in town for a 1987 Toyota Camry Wagon that said $5200 FIRM on it. Oh, goodness.

I’ve put the Fit online, and have some bites but I have no idea if I want to sell it or not. The idea is to come out with around $5000 in cash, spend $4000 on a car and keep $1000, plus the added benefit of around $300 in savings each month. I have a couple of questions for you.

First, how difficult is it to sell a car you still don’t own (the Fit)? Is it a total pain?

Second, is the used car market starting to come down a bit in exorbitant pricing? I’m starting to see a *few* cars online that might be worth the trouble but I’m still leery.

Should I make the move to my comfort zone, a used car and no payment, or should I keep the stability of my new car?

Steve Says:

It sounds like you have commitment issues, not car issues.

There is nothing wrong with paying off a loan and enjoying 10+ years of no payments. Throw in 30+ mpg’s, minimal maintenance for a lot of that long haul, and a past track record for exceptional reliability, and it looks like you have finally found yourself a keeper.

I realize that it’s tough to read an enthusiast site and buy nothing for 10 years plus. On the other hand, the Fit fills in a nice niche that was partially occupied by the Mazda Protege 5 back in 2002.

Sporty, fun to drive, cheap to own.

I would argue that the Protege is a competitive vehicle in today’s world, and that a decade from now the Fit will settle in that same square hole.

Keep the Fit, and invest in your long-term sanity.

Sajeev says:

Steve nailed it: you need to focus on your sanity. Reselling a car for your “payoff+profit” asking price isn’t gonna work smoothly.  I guess if you wait long enough, the right buyer will come along…but that’s not a healthy outlook.

I’ve heard that the sky-high, 2-5 year old used car market is letting up a little bit in some urban areas, but will it last?  I have too much uncertainty in the economy, political elections or not.  And if the economy gets worse, used cars are a better option. Combined with the, um, automotive density of Oregon (relative to my Houston habitat) and that you want an inflated(?) asking price/profit margin for your Fit, I can’t give you the answers you wanna hear for questions 1 and 2.

 

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New or Used: Two Too Many Beaters? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/new-or-used-two-too-many-beaters/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/new-or-used-two-too-many-beaters/#comments Thu, 16 Aug 2012 19:33:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457055   Anonymous writes:

I picked up a Forester for a song and a dance ($500) this past summer, and did brakes and an oxygen sensor. We have less than $750, total, into it. It presently has 256K miles (another reason I don’t really want to use it as a daily driver!) I’ve had my 1999 Saab 9-5 wagon for about two and a half years, from 160K miles to 197K miles.

I bought it for $1,000 and other than rebuilding the brakes (and doing a very thorough detailing when I first got it) haven’t done anything other than routine maintenance.

My wife has a 20-minute highway commute with her 2003 Subaru Baja, about 25 miles round trip, with heavy traffic. I have a 110-mile per day round trip commute, mostly highway cruising, although there is some gridlock in the mornings.

Most of the repairs and maintenance I do myself. But the CEL codes on the Saab have me and my indy mechanic stumped. So – I am thinking about replacing the Saab.

Having an extra car as a daily driver has proven to be very convenient and very cheap thus far. So it’s a hard decision. The $600 or so in insurance (per year) on the Forester has paid for itself in using the thing like a truck, avoiding rentals, etc. But I don’t want to drive it every day.

So do I try to cash in two beaters and buy a nicer vehicle? We’re paying down student loan debt, saving for a house, and generally live pretty simply. I’ll consider all comers. But Panthers are not practical for my commute! Your thoughts?

Steve Says:

A lot of folks get past the emissions issue by registering their vehicle in an area that doesn’t require them.

That’s the first thing I would do if emissions are a long term concern with either of the cars.

Alternatively, since this is a third car, you can add another family member or close friend to the title who may sometimes require an extra car in a pinch. It would provide both of you with a nice hedge in the event of the unexpected. If the CEL on the Saab bothers you, take it to a Swede specialist or start drilling hard at finding the fault at the enthusiast sites.

With specialists you do pay more. But you also save yourself the trauma of a catastrophic financial event which, given your commute, is quite important.

I would keep both cars. Just parlay out some of the issues and realize that every once in a while you will have to pay a ‘price premium’ to keep them in good running order.

If push ever comes to shove, you can always sell both and move onto something else. But I see no sense in getting another ride at this point.

For right now you have two good solutions, one minor annoyance with the Saab CEL, and zero terminal problems. Keep them.

 

Sajeev says:

Sir, how dare you suggest that a Panther is not suitable for your needs!

You haven’t even given it a chance! But honestly, you need a less charismatic vehicle. Singular. This should be something without the charms of a SAAB or a Subie.  Panther no, but something boring from Japan or the USA.  No complex SAAB electrics, no difficult Subie labor rates…a big concern at that mileage!

So set a budget and stick to it.  Maybe $5000 for a decent Corolla, Civic, Focus, Cobalt, Malibu, Camry, Sentra, Accord, etc. Get something with better-than-subie fuel mileage and bulletproof components.

If you find it boring, drive the wife’s Baja a few times. Save your cash for a home, or maybe another weird third car that might float your boat. Or maybe a little truck with a stick.

But right now, the smart money is on you consolidating and simplifying.

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New or Used: The $32,000 Question http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/new-or-used-the-32000-question/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/new-or-used-the-32000-question/#comments Sat, 11 Aug 2012 19:24:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456364

 Ian writes:

My wife drives a 2007 Lincoln MKX in need of shrewd replacement. The good lady finds the Mark Ten a chore to use around DC: clumsy, hard to see from, and very thirsty for all the enjoyment she gets from it. It also lacks exactly the features that she prizes: a sunroof, and up-to-date bluetooth – iDrive – voice/nav goodies. After a 16-month test drive of this very kind gift, it’s time to trade it towards something more suitable.

To narrow the field: We prefer wagons to crossovers, but are open to persuasion on the latter category — especially if better maneuverability and fussy electronics are on tap. No hybrids, definitely open to diesel. Big fans of used/CPO vehicles, inclined to buy and hold.The budget’s around $32k total. Every idea from new Focus ST to 4-yr-old Cayenne has crossed our kitchen table, so there’s barely a box to think outside of, and here’s the trick:

The puppy’s car-trained and our first baby en route. So this is the last car we’ll buy for years where gearhead intangibles might factor in the selection process. This car also is likely to become mine in 3-5 years (replacing my 08 CPO 535xi at 99,999 miles, and staying a Long Time), so I’m willing to go an extra mile on behalf of dumb stuff like steering feel, all-day seats, real durability and such.

If you had to sell a new Beltway mom a car today, that will become your war horse in 2016, what car would it be?

Steve Says:

This is the hard part. My wife’s tastes are probably a complete 180 to the two of you. Her idea would be to buy a reasonably kept older car in the $6k to $10k range and spend the rest on travel.

So the first thing I naturally think of when I hear a $30,000+ family car for what amounts to family errands is…
“Really? You want to spend that much?”
No offense. But when I deal with someone who is already dissatisfied with a loaded luxury vehicle after less than a year and a half, I get concerned about steep depreciation curves and fickle fashions.
So I would do it this way.
Have her do the shopping list first. Find six vehicles that really could do the trick for the two of you. Three new and three used. Throw in one or two vehicles as well that are on the cheaper side of $25k (you may be surprised) and test drive all of them.
Take notes, discuss it together, read up on what current owners have to decide, and then make your choice.
Good luck!
Sajeev Says:
Mark Ten?  You stole my bit!
So anyway, making a recommendation with such vague requirements (yes, really) is more than a little difficult.  Go test drive stuff!
Why am I saying this? The MKX is a pretty decent vehicle for your needs, and yet you’re ready to dump it and find another vehicle that you’ll hate in a matter of months. Get a new smart phone instead and keep this Lincoln, mission accomplished. Or buy something absolutely silly (Cayenne) fully understanding that you’re foolish or get a 4cyl CUV for the ultimate in long term value.
I have no clue what’s gonna make you happy.  Go test drive stuff, or you’ll regret it.
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New Or Used?: Living In A Cheapskate Paradise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/new-or-used-living-in-a-cheapskate-paradise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/new-or-used-living-in-a-cheapskate-paradise/#comments Wed, 25 Jul 2012 22:13:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454214

I currently drive a 2005 MINI Cooper S convertible. I’ve been swapping winter/summer tires for the past few years but I was thinking that this year I might get a beater car for the harsher weather months. The combination of FWD and wear and tear on the fabric roof are my main reasons for these considerations.

I live in NJ, so most of my driving is on the highway but as part of my job as a systems admin in a datacenter, I’m occasionally called into work at times when even the highways haven’t been plowed.

Do you think it’s possible to find a cheap (around $1000), preferably AWD car that would work well for winters in the northeast? Craigslist searches so far have turned up a handful of Subarus, Volvos, and Audis Quattro.

 

A Former Resident Of The Garden State Says…

 

Yes! You can buy an AWD car in New Jersey for $1000!

Of course the car would have to be stolen or misappropriated from a government agency. Maybe both.

Then there is always the slim chance to do one of those low down payment deals and ‘negotiate’ your way through the winter months.

Something tells me that neither one of these possibilities will come true for you. Then again, I have no idea who you work for so feel free to ponder them if you like.

My real advice is two-fold…

1) Buy some top of the line protectant. TTAC isn’t in the official endorsement business. But start with this.

2) Most anything you buy these days for $1000 will require a lot of immediate maintenance… and may very well be at death’s door.

If you want to lose your savings, keep being stingy.

If you want to keep your car for the long haul, invest in it. Snow tires, protectant, and a couple of good cleanings throughout the year will  yield far greater dividends than a broken down jalopy that spews oil and sucks your savings.

You can also rent if you like. Enterprise and a few other rental car companies will pick you up. Make sure you have plenty of coupons and a friendly relationship with the counter person. Good luck!

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New or Used: The Beating of His Hideous Heart!!! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/new-or-used-the-beating-of-his-hideous-heart/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/new-or-used-the-beating-of-his-hideous-heart/#comments Tue, 15 May 2012 18:41:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=444535

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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New or Used: Respect The Van http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/new-or-used-respect-the-van/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/new-or-used-respect-the-van/#comments Thu, 27 Oct 2011 05:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415677

 

David writes:

Hi Sajeev,

My family of 5 (1 spouse, 2 four year olds, 1 2 year old) shares 3 cars.  A 2003 Passat Wagon, purchased used with 30,000 miles is our primary family car.  It gets good mileage (33 mpg on the highway!), fits three kids seats across the back row, and carries a ton of luggage (more than many SUV’s).  It handles reasonably well and has good driving dynamics and comfort (and a tight turning radius).  Our second car is a 1996 Honda Civic two door hatch, which gets great mileage, was purchased with 8000 miles on it, and was recently declared a rolling hazard with the head gasket ready to fail at any moment.  It gets driven 10-15 miles a week at speeds below 35 mph.  Our third vehicle serves the dual purpose of track/date car, a 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight, purchased with 60,000 miles on the clock.  These three cars have been more than adequate for our family’s needs for 5 years.  Until now.  We need something that carries 7.

Handling and fuel economy are important in our purchase of 7 seat vehicles. We prefer cars for ease of entry, efficiency, handling, and visibility out (too many vehicles and children can hide below the beltline of a SUV or van).  With automakers showing renewed interest in higher fuel economy, we expect to be able to choose from higher mpg choices in a few years.  So we want to buy used to minimize the depreciation loss of selling the vehicle in three years.  Our intention is to buy a 7 seater to replace the Civic, then a used Prius to replace the Passat, resulting in an overall significant increase in fleet fuel economy.  My first choice was a 1996 Camry Wagon with the rear facing seat (the extra two seats are for occasional use only, not normal transport).  The middle seat seatbelt was only a lap belt, so no go.  Then a Ford Taurus wagon from the early 2000′s, but again, only a lap belt in the middle seat.  I looked at Toyota Siennas, but it is difficult to find one with a middle bench (we want three in the middle seat for 5 person use to maximize luggage space), they are expensive, heavy, unwieldy, and not particularly efficient.  I have settled on the 2005-2007 Ford Freestyle, which is less expensive, more fuel efficient, has 7 seats, and would appear to deliver a more car like driving experience.  In terms of vehicle amenities, safety features and power door locks are the minimum bells and whistles we need.  Simpler is better.

Sajeev answers:

Actually a used Ford Freestar (not Freestyle) or Chrysler minivan is right up your alley.  You sound like you know your stuff, so check the condition of the transmission fluid as they are the weak point in any minivan. and actively seek out a unit with a comprehensive service record. Yeah, I know you don’t want a Minivan, but you really need it. Slap on a set of good performance rubber, more aggressive brake pads, aftermarket shocks and (maybe) swaybars and you’ll forget about their handling deficiencies. You can get all of those goodies for a 2004 Caravan. Think about it.

Okay fine, the Freestyle looks more like a car.  And it might get better mileage.  But I will not relent, I want you in a Minivan!

Steve answers:

First off.. congrats on the brood! I think the two of you are going to have your hands full for at least the next 20+ years (if not longer). So in light of that my recommendation will be to minimize your overhaul hassles.

Find what you enjoy. Period. A minivan will more than likely be the best fit. CUV’s tend to have very tight rear seats (the Freestyle/Taurus X in particular) and I’ll be blunt in saying that a Mazda 5 is simply too small for the long haul.

If you are looking at used nothing will beat the long-term costs, safety, comfort, and spaciousness of a minivan. I particularly like the short wheelbase Caravan / Town & Country Sport models from the 05 thru 07 era. But they are more utilitarian vehicles in their base form than anything else. That is no power sliding doors or built in entertainment systems. I like that. Your wife may not.

Eight seat Siennas have a lot of trouble selling. You may want to look at one of those. What else sits at the lots? Well pretty much every minivan with the exception of loaded Siennas, Odysseys, and Town & Countrys. I would skip the now defunct GM and Ford offerings due to their abysmal mileage and reliability.

The Hyundai/Kia models are fine but not particularly economical. The Quest is a weird duck as is the MPV. Odysseys are overpriced and have a multitude of issues.You can also hold off and drive two cars whenever you need to, which wouldn’t be that often,  until something truly piques your interest.

Take your time and find what you enjoy. End of story.

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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New or Used: Dude, Where’s My Gig Van? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/new-or-used-dude-wheres-my-gig-van/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/new-or-used-dude-wheres-my-gig-van/#comments Fri, 07 Oct 2011 14:32:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413806  

(courtesy: Jan London Band)

Hman writes:

Howdy,

Long time reader, first time emailer. (Except for two published Ur-Turns.) Anyway, I’m in a two-piece “rock” band and we are doing a 6-week tour in April and are shopping for a van. I’ve long been a Toyonda/Hondota fan, but alas, they make no full size cargo vans, so I’m forced to go domestic.

A prior band of mine used a Ford E250 to great effect, and I’ll admit I’m partial to the brand. Craigslist is chock full of Econolines of all trim and year. I’d like to solicit the advice of the B&B here at TTAC ASAP! I.E., years to avoid, brands to avoid, etc. All suggestions welcome.

Mr. Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist has $3-4 grand to spend, so lots of miles is expected. All told we will have three people, one drum kit w/trimmings, three vintage Fender tube amps (Hi, Jack!), two guitars, one bigass pedal board, t-shirts, cd’s, vinyl, and clothes.

This will be a coast-to-coast-and-then-some trip, so reliability is paramount.

Sajeev Answers:

Luckily this is a small(ish) band, so just about any full size, 15 passenger (i.e. long wheelbase) van should do the trick. Diesels aren’t necessary and are probably not worth the pricing and servicing premium, even with the amount of miles you’ll be driving. Having spent a lot of time behind an E-150 and a little with a Chevy Express, I’m pretty certain that the Ford is the way to go. The older GM G-series vans are just as good, maybe even better than a similar vintage Ford. But you probably can get a newer van with your budget, and I like the seating position/wheel arch design better in the Econoline versus the Express. This holds true for long periods behind the wheel, something that has been verified from a LeMons racer/HVAC tech that has experienced just about every van on the market.

Honestly, the Ford also looks better inside and out. I know some have spark plug thread problems (mostly from less-than-anal installation when installing new plugs) and transmissions are always a concern on vans of any shape and size. That said, if you find a clean Chevy for the same price as a ratty Ford, go ahead and pull the trigger. It will be condition and service records above all else.

There’s no wrong answer here, except the Freightliner/Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter. While some perform reliably and get good mileage, I’ve heard an overwhelming number of complaints about this vehicle’s difficult diagnostics, expensive parts, lack of parts, and overall poor value compared to the Ford or Chevy.

Steve Answers:

I will disagree here.

The best option for a band is a conversion van. How do I know? Those are the only young folks who ever bother to look at these glorified mastodons.

Get a 1996-1997 Chevy Conversion van with a 350 and low miles. With this generation you get the benefit of OBDII diagnostics along with a powertrain that will easily chug along for 200k+. It’s not a sin to get a small enclosed trailer should your needs expand. But if I were you guys, I would look at a few and see if they can handle all your gear. Some bands do remove the third seat for extra space. But you may want to keep that for other purposes.

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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New or Used: Executive Express or Wannabe Hotbed? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/new-or-used-executive-express-or-wannabe-hotbed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/new-or-used-executive-express-or-wannabe-hotbed/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2011 16:39:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411673

Thomas writes:

Hi Steve and Sajeev,

Currently I own a 1999 Accord -2Dr V6 with about 76,000 miles. The interior looks good- the leather is in good shape I’m still quite happy with the stereo system I installed in it years ago. However, the exterior is a different story. 9 years of Arizona (un-garaged) sun has not been kind to it. The paint is looking *rough*. Peeling clear coat on almost all the horizontal surfaces. I won’t mention the hack paint job I did on the trunk lid with my Harbor Freight air compressor and E-bay spray gun in my shed. It’s also sporting a tweaked front bumper/light/hood from a tiny fender bender 11 years of parking lot door dings. So it’s UGLY. The Accord has its 75k mile service is coming up, $200 SRS light is on, $800 timing belts have yet to be replaced, and the rubber bits are falling apart (latest is a cracked $300 Shock boot).

In the other corner, the object of my desire: 2003 Infiniti M45 88k miles 4.5l V8 $10k

Family future-proof with 4 doors, fast and classy. I’ve always loved that body style. I figure the difference in premium gas and my commute would hit me for about $400-500 a year (not a deal-breaker) According to the VIN the dealer picked this up for about 7k, I’m guessing I could nab it for 8000-8500 and grab 4k on the trade-in. Thoughts??

Steve answers:

You’re dreaming. Seven to ten-year old Japanese luxury cars are a hotbed for ‘wanna-be’s’.

What is a wanna-be? It’s the fellow who wants to have an awesome luxury car… in their own mind. But they can’t really afford one. So they end up financing a car with a fancy name that has anywhere between 80k and 120k.

There are a LOT of wanna-be’s who will finance their ride these days. Not too surprisingly there are a LOT of parties that make money off the wanna-be.

The dealer will sell the vehicle to a finance company for anywhere from 65 to 75 cents on the dollar. What that means is that if the dealer hooks this up as a $9k finance deal, the deal will likely net another $6k to $7k in interest, fees, and other bogus related charges. Let’s say that about $15,000 would need to be paid on the Infiniti over the course of the note.

About 70% of that amount will go back to the dealer once the finance company picks up the note. $10,500 is the dealer’s revenue. Throw in a $350 auction fee and $800 in additional expenses, and the Infiniti would yield them around $2,000.

However if you pay them 8k cash, guess what? They have no profit. Everyone assumes that the auction price is how much a dealer has in a vehicle. In most cases, it’s not true. Auction fees, repairs, detail work, floorplan fees, advertising costs, it all adds up to a lot of expenses beyond the initial auction purchase.price.

So should you buy the Infiniti? No. Not unless you’re willing to pay a bit more for it. I would spend $3,000 on your current ride and get everything right on it. Paint, body, maintenance…bring it all back to day one. Drive it for 5 years. Then get a new car for cash or get a real nice late model car that comes with a CPO warranty.

Good luck!

Sajeev answers:

Well, as the LeMons people always like to say, “what could possibly go wrong?”

If you want an executive express on the cheap, the Infiniti M isn’t a bad choice. Especially if you like the body style. The only problem is that it is an orphan car with a very unique collection of trim bits, so if you break something, happy hunting in the junkyards! Of course, given the condition of your Accord, it sounds like I’m preaching to the choir.

I’m having a hard time discouraging you from this fairly stupid plan of yours, and not because I have a soft spot for the original M: I’d rather spend a couple grand more for a Lexus GS400.

Or a punch in the throat. Either way, good luck with that.

 

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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