New or Used? : The Brass Ring Edition

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used the brass ring edition

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

I am about to graduate college (this week in fact) and before I start my new job I need a new/used car. I am lucky enough to be graduating college debt free and with an excellent new job lined up. I will be moving from bone dry Texas to rainy Seattle.

For the past 6 months I have been driving my father’s 2006 Avalon, but he will need it back once school is over and I don’t think I can take another day driving it. The lack of steering feel, the horrendous turn radius, the size etc.

I am leaning heavily towards something fun and sporty with a manual transmission. I am looking at cars between 15k and 18k. 20k if I can find something really clean. I will be getting an interest free loan from my parents that I will be paying back within the first year. My top three choices are an E46 M3, a E39 M5 and an RX-8. Yes all notoriously unreliable cars. Is there something I am missing? Should I forget the M badge and get a E46 330i or an e39 540i? Or should I go in debt and get an FR-S or BRZ?


Steve Says:

If those are your top three choices for buying a used car, I have one simple piece of advice.

Buy the new car.

The only caveat I can give you is that a new sporty sedan, hatch or wagon will likely be far more useful to you than a sport coupe. A lot of my friends who owned a sports coupe back in the 90’s ended up shelving them once the wife and kids came into their life.

Right now you may be as close to that stage in your life as Mercury is to Pluto. But trust me. Life happens fast and your needs (and tastes) always change in due time.

Sajeev Says:

Your taste in fresh-outta-college cars is just disturbingly awful. It means that if you aren’t a shadetree mechanic, you hate your pocketbook. If you can (and will) turn a wrench, you are obviously a masochist. And the RX-8 is so terrible that even loyal Rotor-heads begrudgingly include it in the family…so you need a reality check.

Then again, when I graduated from college (post Enron-collapse in Houston) I was lusting for…a damn job. So perhaps I should take the personal equation out, and be more like My Man Lang.

I know you’re hot to trot with your sweet gig and no debt, but you are overlooking your future needs of a house, fancy clothes, lavish vacations, expensive dinners/cocktails with the pretty ladies, etc. Such items not only require a more reliable mode of transportation than a used up BMW M, but something with a lower total cost of ownership.

Are you traumatized by your father’s Avalon? Apparently so. But, for crying out loud, don’t swing to the other end of the spectrum just because of it! There are plenty of reasonably nice sports sedans, that will be a better overall machine.

My advice? Test drive every sports sedan from a Kia Optima Turbo to a Focus ST, to a VW GLI, to…well every dealership in town. If that all fails, then you get an E39 M5 and rule the world. For a moment.

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3 of 157 comments
  • Whuffo2 Whuffo2 on May 18, 2013

    No matter what you buy, it's a depreciating asset. As its value declines, it'll want repairs, insurance, taxes, etc. Owning a car is more expensive that most give it credit for. Things like BMW M cars are all about image; how it makes you look to others. There's no roads or streets where you can legally use that level of performance, so that's not a valid reason for purchase. And those fast semi-exotic rides carry huge insurance premiums for the young unmarried male driver. Try asking your insurance agent about the costs of insuring these cars for an eye-watering quote. Since you're just starting out, it's all bright and shiny in your world. That's fine, but be more practical and you can still have lots of driving fun. Drop by your local Honda dealer and take a Fit for a test drive. They're pretty nice, you can buy a new one within your budget, and your fuel and insurance costs will be minimal. When you meet the right girl and settle down, the Fit will be a practical family car. Until then, it's not ugly - but it's not gold-digger bait either. You don't need the kind of company a M car would attract. If for no other reason, this is a great one for avoiding expensive looking cars.

  • Pat26.2 Pat26.2 on May 20, 2013

    I'd go sniffing around VW dealers. The 2012 6-speed manual Turbo Beetle can be had for thousands off. If you don't want 207 ft-lb of torque at 1700rpm, and 200hp, check out the base model.

    • Hummer Hummer on May 20, 2013

      On second thought nevermind, that makes more sense the more I think about it.

  • Jeff S I don't believe gm will die but that it will continue to shrink in product and market share and it will probably be acquired by a foreign manufacturer. I doubt gm lacks funds as it did in 2008 and that they have more than enough cash at hand but gm will not expand as it did in the past and the emphasis is more on profitability and cutting costs to the bone. Making gm a more attractive takeover target and cut costs at the expense of more desirable and reliable products. At the time of Farago's article I was in favor of the Government bailout more to save jobs and suppliers but today I would not be in favor of the bailout. My opinions on gm have changed since 2008 and 2009 and now I really don't care if gm survives or not.
  • Kwik_Shift I was a GM fan boy until it ended in 2013 when I traded in my Avalanche to go over to Nissan.
  • Stuart de Baker I didn't bother to read this article. I'll wait until a definitive headline comes out, and I'll be surprised if Tesla actually produces the Cybertruck. It certainly looks impractical for both snowy and hot sunny weather.
  • Stuart de Baker This is very interesting information. I was in no danger of buying a Tesla. I love my '08 Civic (stick), and it feels just as responsive as when I bought it 11 years ago with 35k on the clock (now 151k), and barring mishaps, I plan to keep it for the next 25 years or so, which would put me into my mid-90s, assuming I live that long. On your information, I will avoid renting Teslas.
  • RHD The only people who would buy this would be those convinced by a website that they are great, and order one sight-unseen. They would have to have be completely out of touch with every form of media for the last year. There might actually be a few of these people, but not very many. They would also have to be completely ignorant of the Hyundai Excel. (Vinfast seems to make the original Excel look like a Camry in comparison.)