Hammer Time: Value

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time value

What makes a vehicle valuable? Most folks chose to invest in the myth. A given brand a ‘Supername’ alone can save them from a Kryptonite’s worth of expenses and maintenance issues. I work backwards. The name alone doesn’t tell me very much. The owners do. When I find an owner who has been a good steward of their vehicle, I take the plunge regardless of the name involved. Does this always work?

Not always. In the real world it’s only about 90% successful… give or take a few percent. Car buyers of all stripes should always start with ‘owner reviews’. That new car review from days of yore won’t tell you that the tranny won’t last, or that the car has more operational issues than Zimbabwe. Hundreds of owners will. Truedelta, Carsurvey, Edmunds, MSN, even enthusiast sites provide all of us with an infinitely better wealth of information as to the long-term qualities of a vehicle.

From there… be a sucker when it comes to ownership records and quality parts. If the owner spent money keeping the vehicle in tip-top shape, you will have a much easier time making it a long-term keeper. At the auctions I generally pay 20% to 30% more for a vehicle that has been kept up. It can go even higher than that if the vehicle in question is rare or valuable. Shopping based on price will yield most folks a ‘cheap’ car instead of a good car… and most cheap used cars on Craigslist and the classifieds are cheap for a reason.

On the flip side, a lot of absolutely wonderful vehicles are given a ‘stigma’ based on the brand involved. Mitsubishi’s still suffer from their mind numbingly dumb finance policies of the Y2K era (0% down, $0 a month, until 2003-4-5). A lot of Mits went to people who barely had a pulse and a paycheck back in the day. They are the sub-prime properties of the modern era along with many dying and defunct GM, Ford and Chrysler models.

Do most of those cars, even the good cars, offer a lot to the enthusiast? Mostly no. But I see a surprising number of them with high miles at the auctions. The chosen few were driven conservatively and maintained well which is why I try to heavily target those vehicles.

Yes, it’s true. The resale values of the ‘stigma car’ tends to be far worse than most models that are known for being reliable or ‘fashionable’. No surprise there. But that thick paint brush of media driven ignorance can quickly be overcome by relying instead on the real-world advice of owners and ‘keepers’. For those folks here who have to deal with constant questions from friends and family about cars, the answer to the question, “What car to buy?” shouldn’t really be a ‘what’. It should be a ‘who’ and a strong consideration of ‘where’ to find the real story. Like the X-files, the truth is out there… or you can ask me.

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2 of 25 comments
  • Tparkit Tparkit on Nov 26, 2010

    I buy my cars new, and keep them forever. I still have a 1991 Accord -- it's going strong, though, so Mr. Lang won't be bidding on it any time soon. Steven might not get any of my dad's cars, either. The last time he traded one in the dealer had a mechanic put it up on the hoist to check it out... and the mechanic bought it. The car before that disappeared off the lot in one day. Like many old guys, dad has both the cash and the inclination to keep his cars maintained. Also, his rides spend their entire stationary lives indoors, parked in his garage. The Caddy is never winter-driven. He asked me recently if I want it, and I politely explained that it's not my kind of car. It will eventually make someone else very happy, though.

  • DweezilSFV DweezilSFV on Nov 28, 2010

    Norm: that's how I have bought my new ones:Base models with less junk to go wrong down the line. They have all gotten premium care, even the beat down Citation I bought with the money I saved from quitting cigarettes. And that's what I'll be looking for when the time comes [many years from now] to buy again, the simpler the better. I have discovered that buying new is a foolish waste of money and since I have done it and experienced that new car feeling I can pass spending 15-25,000 on that rush ever again. I'm not getting the loose change thing though.... can you elaborate ? Depending on the pants worn, my change falls out of the pockets.... and my cars are well cared for.... not sure if that means I am falling down on the maintenance schedule or letting things slide on my rigs or just that...... change falls out of my pockets, period. I always heard that you should check the radio pre-sets to tell what sort of music the driver listened to and to steer clear of cars whose stations were pre set to hard rock... So many rules of thumb and so many thumbs......

  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...
  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that