By on September 20, 2011

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.


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30 Comments on “New or Used: Executive Express or Wannabe Hotbed?...”

  • avatar

    And what? You think the repair bills on the Infiniti are going to be cheaper than your Accord? Ugly is treatable…

  • avatar

    Since the Accord V6M (assuming yours is manual) is a pretty sweet car, I might suggest keeping it. Don’t worry about paint or body problems that aren’t obvious when you’re standing well back. People really do not pay that much attention. Spend the minimum on the rest.

    On the other hand, you mentioned something about family-proof i.e. four doors. If a kid is on the horizon, I suggest getting something sporty (within reason) sooner, because you won’t want to later when your priorities change. Your future self will want an SUV or van, but since you have your new-to-you M, you won’t be able to justify it. Your future sub-conscious will thank you.

    I have some hesitation with the M and would suggest a mid 2000’s Acura TSX. Cheers.

  • avatar

    I have an older Acura TL, with 137k miles, and it has been a stellar vehicle so far. However, a few little odds and ends have to be replaced (hoses, belts, PCV valve) but that is expected on an older car. I bought it to replace my wife’s 84 Volvo turbo (headgasket, other major issues), and have been very pleased thus far.

    The Infiniti will be in the same place as the Accord in a few years, but more expensive and higher running costs.

    Keep the Accord, go to a body shop and get the front end fixed/realigned, and the car repainted. Keep up on the maintenance.

    Spend about a $1000-1500 on cosmetics and maintenance, and you’ll be good to go for a while. Timing belt is at 100k miles. Maybe start waxing it too, you’ll start to love the car all over again. And you know what you’ve got and that can meet quite a bit.

  • avatar

    I always imagined that the first gen M45 was Japans answer to the old school Jaguar XJR. Both of them powerful touring cars with long, low styling. I have always liked them both.

    If your accord is as rough as you make it sound, I think 2k on dealer trade is more likely.

    Not to put to fine a point on it, but financing a nearly 10 year old car with 100k miles just seems like an injudicious use of resources. But hey, who am I to crush your dream?

  • avatar

    What in the H-E-double hockey sticks is that in the picture, and why is it bow-legged?

    • 0 avatar

      Gigantic rims that are so big and so wide it requires a lot of negative camber just to fit under the (most likely shaved) rear fender. Most people do it for show cars only but some people are crazy enough to run this setup daily. Google “stance nation” if you want more.

      As to the OP, I would say getting rid of the Honda is a terrible idea. Why blow money on something prettier that’s also going to be under the AZ sun? You want your dream car to have peeling clearcoat in 4 years while you’re still making payments? Just fix the mechanical bits on the Honda and drive that SOB into the ground. I did the same when I had my 99 Accord V6 2 door, which only took a dump after a bad valve adjustment by the dealership.

      *Advice contingent on making financial sense, if you want to pull women, do the opposite.

  • avatar

    I sympathize with the OP. Have my current econo-box chariot with 170k. Have had cash to buy a new car for 9 years, but too fiscally conservative to pull the trigger. I see me a juicy looking 2005 Phaeton with 50k miles for $20k. Would be such a stupid decision, but a guy can dream, right?

    • 0 avatar

      A friend who can drive anything had one. Don’t do it. Imagine an old school Fiat at Porsche prices repaired by surly brits with a serious drinking problem.

      A last gen 5 series/six with a manual trans from a good owner. might be OK.

      • 0 avatar

        The service manager at my local VW dealer warned me away from a used Phaeton; apparently there are many electronic things that break with some frequency as the cars age, and they are hideously expensive to repair.

        Like many recent VW’s, you don’t want to be the second owner. Too bad, as the Phaeton is a beautiful ride.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m in your “fiscal conservative” camp vbofw, although my wife likes to use word like “cheap” or “tight wad”…….whatevva.

      While I certainly get “thrills up my leg” from high end luxury rides I have always resisted caving and buying one, even though I could drop in at my local Merc dealer tomorrow and write a check for the CL550 in the above article.

      As far as the OP goes; the Honda at 76K miles is barely out of its teens and with some mechanical love and a Maaco paint job should be a good soldier for many years to come…….Don’t do the Infiniti.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Only 76K on a paid-off Accord V6 coupe, and you want to trade it in for a potential train wreck? You’re nuts. I agree 100% with Steve, keep it, pretty it up a bit, and keep driving.

    Rubber bits will crack on an Infiniti, and timing belts will have to be changed. And every one of those services will cost more compared to the Honda.

    Sounds more to me that you are bored with your current car. This is an expensive way to cure boredom.

  • avatar

    If you absolutely must get rid of the Honda for something fancier (I wouldn’t, if I were as lackadaisical about maintenance as this guy seems to be), you’d be a fool to trade it in. Resale values on low mileage Hondas, even relatively beat-up ones, are ridiculous right now. Find somebody dumb and/or mechanically inclined enough to overlook the car’s rough condition and you’ll be most of the way towards paying for whatever aging luxobarge your heart desires.

  • avatar

    Use the money as a down payment and get a 2011 Audi A4. It is a much better choice than an old clapped out car.

  • avatar

    Imagine if had just kept his Accord in nice shape instead of beating it up???

  • avatar

    I just want to make light of the bippu’d out Gloria in the picture, it warmed my heart to catch a little VIP style today…

  • avatar

    I own a 2003 Honda Civic with 226k miles on it, with a recent overhaul of sorts at 225k miles: O2 sensor replaced; 100k mile service done (replaced seals, timing chain, serpentine belt, water pump, timing cover); replaced 4 mis-shapened steel rims with four 15×6.5 alloys wrapped in 195 R15 rubber with a 4-wheel alignment done. I recently managed to get ~40mpg highway average on a full tank of gas. Combined I am still getting about 36mpg. Body needs a little work, but never in an accident and just a few dings around the car from being parked on city streets and parking garages.

    Basically, I guess what I am trying to say is, keep the Accord, fix it up and save up for a new car when its time. Otherwise, I think you’d be making a mistake in dumping it.

  • avatar

    The M45 was one of my dream cars, and it would be the car I’d buy if I were relive the past decade. It has all the ergonomic center console quirks of the Q45, limited rear leg room, and questionable chassis rigidity, but there’s really no going wrong with any of the Japanese V8 sedans from the era.

    Reliability was great, they’re fast and comfortable, and made all the right noises. Oh sure, you run into snobs who said how superior the Europeans were. These are the same “experts” who won’t own a European marque outside of warranty.

    Just promise you won’t modify the car like the captioned photo.

  • avatar

    $300 for a shock boot ?!?…May as well just replace the shocks for that amount. With all due respect, it seems import owners will pay any silly sum of money to maintain/repair their cars without questioning it.

  • avatar

    First off, you bought a 1999 Honda Accord 2 door V6, don’t drive it too much and have let it get quite rough in that length of time, tells me you don’t take too good care of it. That is, a 12 YO car, even if parked 0n the street in full weather 24/7/365 even if it’s mostly hot Arizona sun should still look OK years later, provided you kept it reasonably clean and waxed it every 6 months or so, the clear coat should still be intact even now.

    That said, 76K is very low mileage for your car’s age and with its current condition, it won’t net you what you think it will in trade in. Also, 76K miles on ANY car these days is puppy miles, most especially if a Honda or a Toyota, given reasonably good maintenance.

    I agree, your plan isn’t the best so I would invest a bit more in your Honda and drive it a bit longer or simply get another Honda a bit newer, but with 4 doors if you really think you will need them in the near future (read, the next 2-3 years or so max) and be happy with it and try to maintain it better and give it a wax job at least once a year, pref twice yearly to keep it up and then get a new car if you must and you can then get a better trade in on your current car at that point.

    I know whereof I speak when it comes to waxing, I’ve never had ANY car I’ve ever owned be parked in a garage and thus has to endure the weather 24/7/365 and by waxing twice yearly, the paint stayed good, even if its over 10 years old, clear coat or no. Now, I don’t know how much my vehicles were garaged prior to my owning them but the 88 Honda Accord I once had, had that Seattle Silver paint, while it shined up OK for a car that was over 10 years old but when you look in the door jams or underneath the wind deflector of the sunroof (yes, this WAS the LX-I sedan), the paint was obviously darker at one point and had, thusly faded by at least a shade or 2 from new and I kept it waxed pretty good up until the last year or two (owned it 8 years or there abouts) and it still looked decent when I sold it on Craig’s List for $900 in 2006, needed LOTS of attention at 180K+ miles on it.

    • 0 avatar

      And I should say, my current ride, a 1992 Ford Ranger was roughly 14 YO when I bought it in 2006 and the paint on it then was in very nice shape despite it being a daily driver and had 189K miles on it and thus it may well have been garaged and/or waxed/taken care of most of its life by then.

      I’ve only washed it a couple of times (3 at most) but never have gotten around to waxing it and it STILL looks decent enough,still has a shine of sorts and the clear coat is still intact despite it being a medium shade of green. The canopy which was painted to match shows a bit more fading, but not by much and it still looks good.

      So a little care and such can have your paint lasting a VERY long time even if it sits outside like my truck has for the past 5.5 years+ that I’ve owned it.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        The Southwestern sun can be brutal. The district I work for is having a surplus vehicle auction, the vehicles painted white are largely OK. The the vehicles any other color have their paint burned off. No vehicle is newer than 18 years old and none have ever been washed, waxed, or garaged.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    For the love of god tell me that’s a photoshop.

    • 0 avatar

      It may very well be photoshopped, but then again, it may well be the real thing someone’s shot as there ARE ricers who’ll do this kind of mods to just about anything.

      24″ wheels with uber low sidewall tires on an 80’s era Caprice anyone?

      • 0 avatar

        At the risk of setting off a bout of “Panther Love” I see a late 90s/early 00s (the most recent body style in any event) Crown Vic or Grand Marq with a tacky lift-kit, that sits a little higher than an Expedition, tooling around my area.

        I haven’t a clue how big the box-fans are that the person is running, but the car looks ridiculous. It looks like (s)he spray painted on the tires as they don’t look thick enough to provide anything other than a token about of grip. I’d hate to know how it handles in the winter, except to say that starting off must be a treat (I think I remember hearing that increasing the tire diameter effectively “gears” a car up – making 1st more like 3rd etc).

  • avatar

    I agree on getting a GS400/430 over this if you’ve just gotta have a mid-sized, V8 Japanese luxury sedan. While the V8 Gs are also pretty rare, at least they share almost all of their parts with the GS300s, which are not. The second gen GS was also pretty much the most reliable Lexus made at the time short of the LS.

    They aren’t anywhere near as fun as an E39 5 series or even a C5 Audi A6, but you might be able to fix some of that if the TRD (ne “L-tuned”) parts still exist, or just bolt on some 3rd party shocks and sways.

  • avatar

    I don’t know what year the dude’s Accord is, but the M45 is not much more roomier than the 2003-2007 coupe.

    My dad has an ’03 M45… it’s flawed in a lot of ways. Inefficient packaging (huge body tiny interior), fast engine + sloppy chassis (overdamped to control those heavy low profile wheels/tires), etc. A GS400 makes much more sense.

  • avatar

    Oh My God, I’m the GS400 “Wannabe”
    But, love the mighty “G” and at the end of the day it’s still a Toyota, with most of the goodness that brings.

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