There it stood, right next to the Michael Jordan Wheaties display.
A brand-new 1992 yellow Geo Metro convertible.
Price Chopper, a local New York supermarket chain (think Pathmark or Albertson’s on crack) was opening up a brand new location in Saratoga Springs.
The Metro would be the perfect vehicle for upstate New York’s salty roads and wickedly cold weather for one irrefutable reason. It was free… after tax, tag and title. The only thing I had to do was figure out how to win it.
So I got busy. 150 entries a day for 3 full months. 13,000 in all. The day came for the drawing, and I won!
That was the asking price for a 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser down at my local Chrysler dealer back in June 2008. Throw in a $1500 rebate or the “Refuel America” $2.99 per gallon guarantee into the equation, and you may have ended-up with a pre-tax, tag, title price right around $10,300.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Then again, was it? There are a lot of long-term factors to consider when approaching any of the less popular new cars that are in their last years of production. Not all will be a good deal. But you may be surprised. Join me now as we journey down the PT-shaped rabbit hole.
What would be the most reliable car I can purchase for about $7000-8000? And what would be the upper limit on mileage that I would even consider?
“Steve, what car should I buy?”
“Well, if I give you the real answer, you’ll roll your eyes and buy what you want anyway.”
“No really. I’m open to new ideas.”
“Okay then! Buy a 2012 Malibu. Buy a Buick Park Avenue. Buy a Dodge Raider or buy a Suzuki Equator.”
“Ummm… are you sure about that?”
“Hell no! Now go buy me a soda and buy yourself a Camry!”
A reader writes:
I have a 2007 Pontiac G6 coupe which, up until last fall, had been a pretty decent car.
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?
6:30 P.M. on a Sunday evening… and three more vehicles just pulled up to my car lot.
You may think that’s a good thing, and it would be if people didn’t park all over the place.
One person parks in one direction. The guy coming from the west parks right in front of that guy, and so forth. This happens in infinite combination until the process of getting people in an out becomes a personal pantomime of moving and motioning cars. At certain times of the day my work becomes comparable to the late Marcel Marceau.
I knew I had to do something about it. However, I didn’t expect that something to become the enabler of my 11 year old son’s criminal history.
People buy with their eyes in this business. Always have and always will.
I don’t care if you are a pseudo-sophisticated Yuppie wanna-be who thinks that Subaru is a value brand, (It’s not. They cater to the Costco crowd.) Or an impoverished mother of five who is taking her $6000 tax check and blowing it on the Cadillac of minivans.
Image completely rules this business. New or used. As much as I would love to sell old sturdy wagons and functional minivans that will last for another seven years, my customers want the modern-day crossover. The SUV that hypothetically gets great mileage if you read the window sticker upside down. A compact with an impossible to find leather interior, and of course, the upscale ride with the nice big wheels.
The first test of whether a car sells in this business comes down to a simple question.
Everyone has a certain point with their daily driver when they would rather see money back in their pocket, instead of seeing more money fall out of their pocket.
Time marches on. That old clunker loses it’s endearing qualities and then, what do you do?
Well, the answer depends a lot on what type of vehicle you’re trying to sell… which is why I’m introducing Carmax’s wholesale operations into this write-up.