By on July 31, 2009

Sajeev is lookin’ for a steenkin’ Lincoln. Well his dad is at least. They want a late model Town Car in black that hopefully, preferably, has less than 50k miles on it and a very certain trim level. It’s not an easy request for me to fulfill. Despite the fleet focus for this model, Ford has well over a dozen different trim combinations for TC’s (e.g., Signature, Limited, Cartier). Visits to the auction for this type of inventory are surprisingly rare. A few keystrokes. A secret password. And I get to see everything within a 100 mile radius. I find . . .

Four of them. That’s it. Three in beige. One in a smokey grey, and none of them fitting the Black bill. When folks ask me to look for the showhorse car, I usually end up with bupkis. The immaculate Town Car that has been conservatively driven and well maintained still carries a premium. Even in these recessionary times. The same is true for virtually anything that has a strong niche or a cult following. Most manufacturers will push that inventory to their dealers through their own re-marketing channels before having it served to the general dealer population at large.

Now if someone’s looking for a plain Jane Mercury Milan or Chrysler minivan, that’s a completely different story. A ‘workhorse’ with a ding here, a scratch there, is a far more open possibility. Unfortunately most folks claim they want a workhorse when in fact, they want a showhorse for a workhorse price. With this option package, with this exterior and interior combination, with this many miles, at the same price as a no-frills whip. Can it be done? How much time do you have?

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17 Comments on “Hammer Time: Other than that, how’s the car?...”


  • avatar
    findude

    Steven,

    I find your sort of service an interesting niche in the used-car world. Without getting into the very local/finance it here aspect of it all, there is the part of it you describe here: essentially someone looking for a bespoke, used, cream puff.

    From your perspective, at what price point does this service really pay off for a typical customer in Sajeev’s position? Surely it doesn’t for a $1,500 car, surely it does for $40,000 car, and surely the high-end exotic market is served by marque specialists (you are probably not the go-to guy for the buyer who wishes to discretely acquire a Deusenberg or an early sixties Ferrari). What’s the cut-off? How much of a wait (with the continuous checking) is included with the basic service? I recall a piece you did a while back that described your services in more detail, but I could not call forth the search terms to isolate it from all your other posts.

  • avatar
    commando1

    I live in the land of the “waiting to die” (central FL). You want Caddies? We got Caddies. You want Buicks? We got Buicks. You want Marquis and Town Cars. We got them too. All low mileage (2-3k/yr). The only problems with them are that the 12 way adjustable driver’s seat is usually stuck in the maximum forward/up position.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Steve,

    I always enjoy your pieces. This one in particular made me wonder whether used cars are very often moved from high supply areas to high demand areas of the country. Commando1’s description of the central Florida phenomenon would seem to suggest that, no? Perhaps not worth the cost? (In my area of MA, there are a number of Buicks whose engines have seemingly never exceeded 1500 rpm!)

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    The used car market is a cruel arbiter of a car’s true value. Not, perhaps, of each indidual unit, but of a model in general. I think that there is both a desirability factor and a durability factor. Some, like 90s Hondas seem to have both and are quite expensive any time you find a nice one.

    My experience echo’s Stevens that a nice Town Car of almost any age still carries a premium. They may not be as widely desirable as an Accord, but there is a smaller pool of them to satisfy those of us who still like V8 rear drive american cruisers. I routinely see examples on Craigslist between 180-220K miles that still command a price higher than I would want to pay for a car that well used. The front drive Caddies and Buicks don’t seem to hold their values as well as they age.

    A similar example (in my central Indiana area) is the Ford Excursion, particularly the diesel. These remain high priced vehicles, even the older ones with high miles. Ditto the Ford E-series wagon in Chateau trim. Hard to find a nice one, and expensive when you find it.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I beleive that there are few of these around. Black ones that I see are usually see are in the livery trade – they drive them until it literally melt – a 50,000 mile one would be unusual. I dont know why that is actually – there are loads of former livery black DTSs around- but not the lincolns. Maybe Cadillacs 30,000 mile lease is favorable? Maybe Lincolns have interchangable parts for the last 100 years? I dunno.

    But geeze, this is a boring hunk of lead car.

  • avatar
    Deepsouth

    Most of the Ford Factory auction Town Car stock is in black but they are 2009 year model. You must be looking for an older model. Sooner or later it will coming down the lane via Ford credit. If he can’t wait just expand your search radius.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Here in the NYC area, you would have better luck finding a MB 300 Gullwing for $50K than a nice, low mileage Town Car. They all get snapped up by the limo services on their way to 300,000 mile lives going back and forth to the area airports.

  • avatar
    50merc

    “Now if someone’s looking for a plain jane Mercury Milan or Chrysler minivan, that’s a completely different story.”

    That’s encouraging. I like the Milan, especially the Premiere when it can be found without garish two-tone seats, but it seems to me the depreciation has been fairly modest. Clean ’08’s and ’09’s that still have some warranty left are usually advertised at $17K to $20K. MKZ’s and Zephyrs are even more appealing, but I don’t think they’re worth an additional $5K or more over a same-year used Fusion or Milan.

    Perhaps Cash4Clunkers will push down the price of clean 2 year old cars. A $4,500 rebate can make a new car as cheap as a used one.

  • avatar
    Ninjalectual

    You’re telling me, Steven! A drunk driver recently totalled my 2003 Toyota Tundra with an access cab, TRD package, and a LSD in the rear. I have so far found one (1)! for sale within 600 miles that wasn’t $3,500 over retail book.

    If I was one of the people who traded in every 3 or 4 years, I would be fine making compromises. But like most Tundra owners, it seems, we want to keep our trucks until 2025 and further! They will never make a truck like the 1st gen Tundra again.

  • avatar

    My 82 year old father keeps his ’04 pewter colored Lincoln Town Car in the garage for the most part.
    After five years, it has 6200 miles on it. I’ll probably keep the car after he’s gone.

  • avatar
    revjasper

    What trim level does dad want? Put it out there and there’s a few people who might be able to help.

    Black 2007 model with 24K miles?

    http://portland.craigslist.org/wsc/ctd/1295449046.html

  • avatar
    capdeblu

    Tell Sajeev to take a look at Texasdirectauto.com They usually have a good selection of that type of car.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    About 12 years ago, my grandfather passed away, and my dad, whose lease on his Infinit Q45 was up, decided to buy his ’92 Town Car from the estate. I think he paid about twenty bucks.

    I haven’t driven a sled like that since I inherited mom’s ’75 Olds Custom Cruiser wagon in high school. It was like piloting the Exxon Valdez on Valium.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Here’s an ’89 with 41,000 miles for two grand…

    http://www.cars.com/go/search/detail.jsp;?tracktype=usedcc&searchType=21&pageNumber=0&numResultsPerPage=50&largeNumResultsPerPage=0&sortorder=descending&sortfield=YEAR+descending%2cPRICE+descending&certifiedOnly=false&criteria=K-%7cE-%7cM-_28_%7cD-_270_%7cN-N%7cR-50%7cI-1%2c7%7cP-YEAR+descending%2cPRICE+descending%7cQ-descending%7cZ-80134&aff=national&paId=310264538&recnum=15&leadExists=true

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    I just two weeks ago bought one from Texas Direct that would have fit your bill exactly:

    http://search.ebay.com/110411337469

    It’s a fantastic car that was at least as good as advertised. Interior indistinguishable from a new car except for the drivers door pull being slightly loose on one side. Nice exterior, no mechanical issues, 39K. I got it for a shade less than the eBay buy-it-now, which is well under book.

    I don’t actually think these are that hard to find. Most of the higher trim line cars (Cartiers up to 2003, and Signature Limited, Designer or Ultimate thereafter) are in Florida and to a lesser extent in Texas. Particularly southern Florida. A quick look at eBay will show that southern Florida is Town Car Heaven. I think cars in those areas are more likely to have been owned by private individuals. In other regions you get the plainer fleet and corporate cars.

    IMO these are the greatest car deals around. Try to get a Lexus for under 15K that isn’t a beater. Depreciation is your friend when you are buying used.

    I did find a few unrealistically priced ones in my search, most notably a 2003 Cartier L (the long wheelbase one) with 9K that was bid up to $21K and still did not sell. A pity, as I would have liked to have the last Cartier L.

  • avatar

    I’ll let you guys into some of the things Steven discussed via email during this time.

    1. Texas Direct: that place is nuts. We found a PERFECT car (low mile, black/black, fully loaded) and it was snapped up within hours before we could put our money down. We made the silly mistake of going home and thinking about it: you snooze you lose at this place.

    2. Broadening the search was necessary: old man cars are all over the place in Florida, and they DO get shipped elsewhere to keep the market from getting saturated.

    Case in point, the car we bought last week:

    It was from Texas Direct, no surprise there. 2006 Designer with THX/NAVI and a really cool grey/brown color that you just never see on these cars. It was “love” at first click. Not a perfect car, but it was an off-lease vehicle from (you guessed it) Florida. Dad seems to like it too, and he’ll finally be comfortable in a car again, without having to spend tons of money up front, or tons in servicing an older large import that runs on unique and expensive parts.

    Internet people may not understand, but I’m surprised how this particular Designer Series gets REAL individuals interested: fancy seats and an understated (but punchy) color, THX sounds and a mean swagger with 17″ chrome rims and little whitewall tires.

    Just goes to show how Lincoln wasted their opportunity with this car. Pathetic.

  • avatar

    MadHungarian : I did find a few unrealistically priced ones in my search, most notably a 2003 Cartier L (the long wheelbase one) with 9K that was bid up to $21K and still did not sell. A pity, as I would have liked to have the last Cartier L.

    Low mileage Signature Touring Sedans (i.e. the Mercury Marauder without the engine and wheels) and Cartier L’s do go for more than the others. Kinda makes sense. What I don’t understand is where all these livery-spec 10k mile 2009 models are coming from. At $28k or less and with that warranty, that’s a serious family hauler for not much money.

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