The Truth About Cars » Used Car Buying http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:58:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 » Used Car Buying http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Hammer Time: Is Reliability Getting Old? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hammer-time-is-reliability-getting-old/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hammer-time-is-reliability-getting-old/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 15:24:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=701097 “You can have any car you want. So long as it’s a Toyota or Honda.” My parents had offered to split the costs of a new car with me back in 1994. That matching policy eventually included an awful lot of disclaimers and exclusions. “No V8! No V6! No turbo! No stick! No convertible! No […]

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“You can have any car you want. So long as it’s a Toyota or Honda.”

My parents had offered to split the costs of a new car with me back in 1994. That matching policy eventually included an awful lot of disclaimers and exclusions.

“No V8! No V6! No turbo! No stick! No convertible! No small car! No! Nein! Nyet!”

I eventually settled on a red Toyota Camry Coupe that served me well for 12 years and nearly 240k miles. It’s still on the road, which is funny because my brother, who had an equal bent on the Toyonda reliability supremacy, did something unusual recently.

He bought an Audi. Then he did something even stranger than that… he bought another.

Now the first Audi he bought was a lease. So that doesn’t count for very much. But the second one he bought outright for his college attending daughter. A sharp girl who simply couldn’t give two flips about the brand of car she drives.

It was a used, CPO, three year old Audi A4. Even with a few minor electric bugaboos, the car went out the door real quick. This car buying decision was highly unusual for a guy who kept up with cars and had bought nothing but new Hondas and Toyotas for nearly 30 years.

He knew all too well about the historical reliability issues with VW products. He even enjoyed the two Toyotas and one Honda he bought before going completely cold turkey on them about 10 years ago. When it came to spending that large chunk of cash on a daily driver, he crunched the numbers just like he always does on a spreadsheet, and checked off the usual must-haves.

But those numbers and wants yielded a final decision that was far different than those times of 10, 20 and even 30 years ago.

The 1984 Celica Supra. The 1994 Camry Wagon and the 2003 Honda Pilot have all given way to a 2012 Audi A6 and and a 2013 Audi A4.

I can see three big reasons why this happened.

The first is the length of warranties for used cars Certified Pre-Owned programs. The pushing of long-term warranties into the late model used car market have enabled brands that were once reliability pariahs, to become unusually competitive to today’s once untouchable reliable brands.

The removal of repair risk is a game changer for car buyers like my brother. Just as the Treasury guarantees their notes regardless of the current debt, that CPO warranty is guaranteeing the manufacturers product regardless of it’s potential repair issues. That vehicle may have thick black dots on Consumer Reports. Or even a long list of complaints about a specific mechanical issue that is a mere Google search away. It doesn’t matter, at least for right now. Because all those parts that may go south are covered to a further extent than the boring new car alternative.

The consumer’s perception of a CPO vehicle is that the warranty will make the repair costs for that sporty, fun, prestigious vehicle similar to the most drop dead boring, toaster personality, reliable competitor. Perception is often the only reality that matters in the marketplace, which is why late-model European models in particular have largely adapted a process of catering to the lease crowd first and the CPO seeking customer later.

So why buy a new boring or cheap car when a three old fun-to drive alternative offers more bang for the buck and a better warranty? For those who are used to trading or selling their car once it hits 100,000 miles, the broadened CPO programs have greatly expanded the scope of vehicles that are considered reliable enough to handle that mileage period.

The second reason for the decline of reliability based car buying, is that cars are increasingly  seen as a durable goods in the marketplace. Old diesel benzes, Volvos, Toyotas & Hondas were once the gold standard  for those who were seeking long-term car ownership.

Now, even the worst brands are assumed to have lifetimes well into the double digits. Some may last as long as 15 or 20 years in many parts of this country.

There is a long list of legitimate reasons why this has become the case. The institution of lean production methods. The development of polymers, petrochemicals and other materials that have longer lives and better resistance to age and wear. Even the shuttering of unprofitable brands has enabled certain manufacturers to focus more on the quality of their offerings, instead of what could kindly be called a pointless plentitude of cosmetic primpings.

There are countless honest to goodness reasons why the 10 to 15 year old car of today is seen as capable of lasting 20 years or beyond, and that psychological reality has made reliability seem to be more of a rule and less of an exception.

The final issue I will cover here (I’m sure all of you will chime in with other good ideas) is that the internet has essentially wounded the standard bearers of reliability information in the automotive industry. I can go to carsurvey.org and find over 100,000 feedbacks from folks who have actually owned and kept specific vehicles. Edmunds, Yahoo!, MSN, Kelly Blue Book, a long, long list of automotive sites that provide information to a mass audience now offer reliability information and insights for essentially nothing. Want to go deeper? There are hundreds of enthusiast sites that make the car buying experience as detail driven as you want it to become.

You don’t need to subscribe to anything. You don’t need to wonder what the real difference is between a half blackened oval and an almost fully blackened oval with a strange dot in the middle. You can read actual personal feedback from folks who have owned the specific model that interests you and if you want to learn more, just keep reading… and reading…

This access to knowledge has changed not only what people buy, but what they’re willing to spend. A young person may not have a fondness for older cars in the beginning of their search for a daily driver. But if they reads a long list of happy feedback from a brand that is defunct, or a model that is no longer sold, that consumer may just decide that the popular reliable car is not worth what could amount to a near five-figured price premium.

A 15 year old so-called beater car, at least according to the information in front of them, can do the commutes just as well as a five year old car that would put them in debt. So why not? After all, many of those older beater cars still look great, drive well, and last for the long haul.

There are a long list of reasons why reliability is becoming more of a given and less of a means to differentiate one car over another. So feel free to share your thoughts, and to those of you who offered me a Happy Birthday yesterday, thanks. I am still thankfully young in what may very well be a long, long period of middle-age.

 

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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   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 […]

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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? : The Passion Of The Chrysler http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/new-or-used-the-passion-of-the-chrysler/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/new-or-used-the-passion-of-the-chrysler/#comments Tue, 31 Jul 2012 02:07:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454809   Gentlemen, there’s some automotive/emotional baggage that I need a resolution for. I’m finally in a position to replace a Celica with something that will possibly see an HPDE, and the occasional autocross. I have $9000 to spend. Although the Celi drove beautifully, it wasn’t a viscerally thrilling car and I’d like to learn the […]

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The Lord Needs No Restraint

 

Gentlemen, there’s some automotive/emotional baggage that I need a resolution for.

I’m finally in a position to replace a Celica with something that will possibly see an HPDE, and the occasional autocross. I have $9000 to spend. Although the Celi drove beautifully, it wasn’t a viscerally thrilling car and I’d like to learn the dynamics of a rwd platform.

It will mostly serve as a weekend car/alternative to my DD pickup.

Fuel economy and number of doors I’m not concerned with. It just needs to have a comfortable cabin, shift/handle well, and make me want to take it out for a drive with no destination, like the Celica did.

When I presented this conundrum to my friend, he threw me a curve ball in the form of offering me his 2005, very low mile Dodge SRT4 for WELL under my budget ceiling and it’s market value. Not the rwd sports/sporty car I had in mind, but fun in its own right with plenly of capital left over to push it into high HP territory. The car is factory stock, with a clean service history (friend is a Chrysler technician).

What are your thoughts, biased or otherwise? Should I reconsider one of the popular choices? Hold out for greatness? or pounce on a wicked deal(that will be around for a while)?

 

Steve Says:

I would pounce on this deal.

Why?

Well, in my case it’s because I could nearly double my investment by financing it out to someone who is a little less picky. SRT4’s and other affordable sports sedans of the mid-2000’s go for utterly insane amounts of money. We’re talking enough proceeds to buy a new mid-level compact sedan with cash left over for your first year’s worth of insurance.

Your case is different since you’re trading $9,000 worth of savings for a long-term divestment. You buy. You keep. You lose money. But gain a bit of fun and freedom in the end.

To figure out if this is the right decision for you I would do three things.

1) Drive the vehicle for an hour or two.

Offer to fill the SRT up with a full tank of gas, let your friend in on the dilemma, and just spend a couple of hours driving it in different environments. Figure out if this vehicle is a good fit for you.

2) Visit a few enthusiast sites.

One of the reasons why I decided to keep my little 1st gen Insight, and sell everything else, is because I found a community that was agreeable to my interests. The folks at VWVortex are far different from the Insightcentral crowd, who in turn are more hands on than the Planet Lexus community.

Are you the type that can get into this type of car over the long run? A few evenings reading about the car in question can make you far more aware of the long-term ownership experience than a simple test drive.

3) Will you invest?

No one wants to invest in a Chevy Aveo. They want the car to run, hopefully, and nothing more.

A performance machine goes by a far different set of financial criteria.

Tires? Preventive maintenance? Premium parts?

All this and the inherent defects of the vehicle will go hand in hand with the ownership experience.

The true question you have to answer is, “Am I willing to invest thousands of dollars to keep this car in tip top shape as the years go by?”

That’s the question only you can answer. I wish you luck in whatever you decide.

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