By on October 10, 2011
I buy a lot of cars from the last week of September thru mid-November. This is a dead zone for the dealer side of the business. We have no major holidays that encourage spending. No Christmas bonuses or tax reasons to spur demand. Plus a lot of the auto finance companies try to liquidate their used inventory so that they can hit their earnings for the year.
A lot gets sold and if you’re quick about it, deals can be found.
This 2001 Cadillac Deville was a dealer queen since day one. ‘Engine needs service’ was on the announcements and a Carfax check revealed 28 visits to the dealership; from oil changes to new struts for the front. I like seeing a long dealership history because it reflects a car that was spared little expense during its time of ownership… and Cadillacs aren’t cheap to keep.

A quick call to the local dealership also lead to my discovering that it needed a front 02 sensor for the ‘Service Engine Soon’ light. I test drove it at the auction for about ten minutes. Let it idle for about a half hour. It was perfect. Buyers are often scared of Cadillacs due to the head gasket blowing nature of the Northstar and the temperamental electronics of these beasts. It leads to serious discounting at the auction. A $2400 bid was all it took to buy this loaded up Deville with 129k miles.

The deal was done. So should I….

Rent: Cadillac Devilles were in abundance at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Avis for a very long time. GM’s pre-bankruptcy desire to stack them high and discount deep played a big role in this. But there were other attributes that made the Deville a worthwhile rental queen.

For a ‘new’ luxury car, these vehicles were supposedly among the lowest cost for ownership. The Northstar only needed 87 octane. Fuel economy was better than with the Panther vehicles. Most maintenance items didn’t need to be touched during the first several years of ownership. Plus… they were excellent road cars that attracted an older clientele who were willing to pay a premium for luxury.


As a ten year old luxury car the sweet spot on this Deville likely would yield me around $30 a day in the Atlanta ex-urbs. Except for one small thing. No one wants luxury cars with big V8’s to rent these days. If they are headed out of town with family and friends, the minivan will win ten times out of ten. Devilles, Town Cars and Roadmasters have all sat on the lot while the Grand Caravans, Previas and Odysseys pulled the brunt of the rental duties.

This vehicle will not work as a rental.

Finance: Is the sweet spot for well kept Caddies… so long as they hold up. Devilles tend to attract older and more mature folks. Since the intake manifold has already been replaced and the coolant has been regularly serviced, this particular Deville would be perfect for a finance deal.

$1000 down, $70 a week for 24 months. Yes this does represent a strong profit. But there’s also a lot of risk involved as well. A lost job. A major repair issue. Buyers who are liars. Dropped insurance followed by a severe accident. All of these risks and plenty of others lead to serious price premiums whenever you tote a note.

As a consumer with good credit you can easily find better deals. But if you have cost someone thousands of dollars, especially more than once, the finance markets handicap that risk to the point where many simply won’t want to deal with you at all. In my experiences, this vehicle is priced right for the market I serve.

Sell: This dealer kept Deville would likely sell in the $4500 to $5000 range.  Customers love it when you can authentic the maintenance history of a car since day one, and this is one of the very few that offers this edge. In the real world having this information can add anywhere from 15% to 30% towards the bottom line.

The bad side of selling a car like this  is that due to all the rental Devilles that have been unloaded by rental companies through the years, this one will very likely be lost in the shuffle. Just like the minivan market, there is a severe imbalance between the plentiful supply of V8 luxury sedans, and the demand for what’s seen as a gas guzzler for old  or ‘unhip’ people. Yes you can hit the mid-20’s miles per gallon and upwards with a light foot. However today’s buyers of big cars want SUV’s. Most of which get even worse mileage.

Yes, it’s a strange world these days.

Keep: If I were constantly on the highways keeping would definitely be a consideration. The Deville offers a lot of quiet and exceptional comfort for not a lot of money. In fact several of my friends drive them on a regular basis due in part to the fact that you can buy a good one for not too much more than a Crown Vic or Grand Marquis.

Heck, they’re even pretty close in price to the Corollas at the auctions. People ‘pay’ for finance fodder and the Toyondas get absolutely obscene prices these days.  Last generation old school Caddies are the exact opposite, which makes many of them worthy companions for the long haul.


This particular Deville though is a rolling profit of anywhere between $1500 and $5000 for me… and the long-term maintenance on it may go anywhere between those two numbers. These models can be buggy bastards and so I probably don’t want to keep it.

My world as a dealer is far different than your world as consumers. So what would you do? Rent it and heavily market your rides to the ‘Early Bird Special’ crowd? Finance it and roll the dice of risk or return? Sell it for the quick profit and move on? Or keep it so that you can always ride in Cadillac style.

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23 Comments on “Rent, Lease Sell or Keep: 2001 Cadillac Deville...”

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    As a frequent renter of cars for business travel, I’m painfully aware of the exorbitant local taxes and fees inflicted on car renters.

    I’m curious – Do you collect similar fees when you rent your cars? If not, then I might just rent from you next time I’m in ATL.

    As for the Caddy – Sell it. You never know if and when it will need an expensive repair!

  • avatar

    I’d sell it and move on. If the model is that buggy you may have a financed customer just walk away once problems start popping up.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    The history is nice, try the eBay route. Though even I would fear this one with it’s liquid cooled alternator. Is it true the RWD Northstar is less problematic in the real world because of changes that were made to orient the engine for RWD use?

    • 0 avatar

      actually, 2000 was the last year for the liquid-cooled alternators. I have a 2001 DTS and the L37’s awesome and packs a standard ALT.

      @SteveLang If you don’t pack away the highway miles and you got that good of a deal on such a creampuff, just fix the O2 sensor, put a fresh coat of wax on it and mark it for $7k. After wheelin’ and dealing with a few prospects you should still easily get $5k for it.

  • avatar

    God I miss my 2002 STS. Selling it was like Bilbo dropping the One Ring: an enormous weight lifted off my shoulders, coupled with a deep sense of loss.

    I love what I drive now… but that Cadillac was something very, very special.

  • avatar

    “..if you have cost someone thousands of dollars, especially more than once, the finance markets handicap that risk…”

    The wall street protesters may not take kindly to your dose of reality. Occupy Steven Lang’s Dealership may be on your doorstep soon. Of course, they will show up driving moms car and live on dads credit card, but they will be there ready to fight the power.

    By the way, sell the car. Enjoy your profits.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn`t think the protestors were complaining about legitimate finance practices. Just those that were wrong like too much securitized debt or bundling low grade mortgages and calling them AAA.

  • avatar

    Steven! I’ve been dying to send you this link. Act fast!!!

  • avatar

    I’m 6’2″, 220ish pounds. One would think that I was within the 95th percentile of potential Cadillac buyers, but I could never find a comfortable driving position in my company’s DTS. The bottom of the dashboard fouled my shins and the steering wheel was a man-hole cover sized obstruction that moved in coarse gradients on its prehistoric ratchet tilt steering column. I had the choice of pinning my thighs with the wheel or running with the wheel in horizontal city bus orientation. On top of that, the car just lacked the general upright seating comfort one expects from a full sized luxury sedan. It did have impressive power relative to our flacid Town Cars, but it also had Saab 900 turbo quantity torque steer. I’d sell it.

  • avatar


    You’re just a head gasket or main seal away from taking a loss. At 129K, you’re at the right point to unload it; not so many miles that it’s a known time bomb. You should be able to get $5K for it.

    Don’t get greedy, kid.

  • avatar

    Gosh dang, I’d love to have that for 2400. Not 5k or 7k.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    Man, this and the ’98-’04 Sevilles are the only FWD Cadillacs I’d ever consider, mostly due to the Northstar and the later ones with Magneride. I’d love to find that car for your purchase price, thankfully that’s not too hard once money allows.

  • avatar

    If that color is that hideous pearlescent white, sell it for that reason alone! I absolutely HATE that color on anything and it doesn’t age well.

    Sell it regardless!

  • avatar

    I drove a friend’s DTS while we were visiting him, and it really surprised me how much it felt like my 2003 Silverado, considering that it drives from the other end. I suppose it’s due to general similarity in the controls, the drive-by-wire throttle etc.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I ended up financing it. The customer has financed four vehicles with me over the past three years alone and I ended up taking an old (but nice) 1992 Roadmaster as the down payment.

  • avatar

    Sell Sell Sell. By having the word ‘Northstar’ written on it in several places, you want to get rid of this one asap.

  • avatar

    I would sell it, you make a nice profit. Keeping is not a bad option, but white cars are the worst, they show every spec of dirt.

  • avatar

    Agree w/ Zackman. That color acentuates the hideous octegenarian tuna boat. You probably found a box of granny tissue and the little trash can still residing in the back seat, right? At least a Crown Vic gave you that Fed feeling as you roll. Like the man said, polish her good, put some oatmeal in the crankcase, sell her for $7K, go for $5K.

  • avatar

    The 2002 STS was one of the best Cadillac’s ever. It had a proper overhead cam V8 and it body was not outrageous. It was just in good taste.

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