By on March 26, 2014

People buy with their eyes in this business. Always have and always will.

I don’t care if you are a pseudo-sophisticated Yuppie wanna-be who thinks that Subaru is a value brand, (It’s not. They cater to the Costco crowd.) Or an impoverished mother of five who is taking her $6000 tax check and blowing it on the Cadillac of minivans.

Image completely rules this business. New or used. As much as I would love to sell old sturdy wagons and functional minivans that will last for another seven years, my customers want the modern-day crossover. The SUV that hypothetically gets great mileage if you read the window sticker upside down. A compact with an impossible to find leather interior, and of course, the upscale ride with the nice big wheels.

The first test of whether a car sells in this business comes down to a simple question.

“How much is it worth?”

That question is not answered by the window sticker. It’s figured out by the eyes, the hands, the ears, and all the senses within your body when you touch, see, and even smell that vehicle.

New or old? Doesn’t matter.

The reason why the Mazda 2 and the Honda Insight haven’t sold a lick, while the Mazda 3 and the Honda Accord are still wildly popular, is because those first two cars have completely flunked that test for most of the buying public.

Doors, steering wheels, and dashboards. Most cars are psychologically sold within the first twenty seconds of sitting in a car, looking at your surroundings, taking it all in, and turning the key. Your facial expressions and implicit behaviors tell the whole story. If you sit in a vehicle that feels and looks cheap, it doesn’t sell. Not enough sound insulation? Buttons and knobs that have the tactile qualities of a dog’s rubber-bone chew toy? Those are the things that quickly submarine the sales potential of a car well before the dealer tries to four-square you into a higher price.


The same dynamics take place on the wholesale level. At the wholesale auto auctions, where your trade-in’s, off-lease and repossessed vehicles get sold to the highest bidder, it’s the look of a vehicle that creates the market demand.

You want a premium price at an auction? It has to look clean and front line ready. Interiors need to be cleaned out and deodorized. The wheels need to be shiny, and there is one more missing ingredient that 99% of my fellow dealers miss when they come to sell at the sales.

A well-paid auctioneer and ringman.

You want the premium price? Tip them well. The guy who uses  his powers of persuasion to buy with a microphone, and the guy on the floor with him, are no different than the salespeople on the showroom floor trying to shuck off leftover Cruzes and Silverados.

Incentives create sales. And unlike the commission based salesman at the new car stores, auctioneers and ringmen get paid a flat fee by the auction. Which means that when I come on the block and sell my inventory I always tip them.

Typically I give $20 to each one if it’s a smaller run of ten or fewer vehicles. Larger runs get $50 and a particularly successful one gets $100. As an auto auctioneer and ringman in my earlier days, I lived the importance of getting good tips and back in the late 90’s and early-2000’s, your tips often exceeded what the auctions paid you. These days tipping is scarce, which frankly gives me even more incentive to do it.

I had a small run of six cars two Tuesdays ago which was a rolling representation of how important clean cars and well-paid staff are to any organization.


A 1999 plain-jane beige Lincoln town Car with 211,000 miles was bought for all of $425 late last year from a title pawn. This was crusher money (the market price for junkyard bound vehicles) and with the interior driver’s door panel smashed to hell and five months of sitting around with dirt and debris, it wasn’t worth much of anything to the pawn company. The body was perfect. However long-term neglect can make even the nicest of vehicles looking like junkyard relics.

I took my Snap-On battery box, started it up, and bought it. From there I hired a detailer who works for Carmax $70 to do a good thorough clean-up on the Crown Vic, topped off the fluids, and had a driver take it to the auction for $25.

It sold for $1800 less the $125 auction fee. Two guys who never bothered to open the door on this thing got into a dogfight and the auction staff, composed of a World Champion ringman and a sharp competitive bid-caller, squeezed every single penny possible from that thing.

Most of my other vehicles fell into the same pattern. Even my mistakes from 2013. A 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP that was bought for $3200 and tripped a transmission code only after I had driven it for a week sold for $3800. A Kermit-the-frog green Rodeo with a knocking engine that blew up after the absent minded customer forgot to put the oil cap back on it went for $900. A Y2K red VW Golf four door with low miles, but a tranny that couldn’t stay in overdrive had been bought for $2155. Another mistake that does happen in the course of buying lots of vehicles where, in essence, you are sometimes playing the percentages between good cars and bad cars. I made a few hundred selling it that day. If I hadn’t tipped my auctioneer and ringman I have no doubt it would have sold for at least $500 less.


What didn’t sell? A 94′ Lexus LS400 that I had bought for $900 plus a $120 auction fee way back in late 2012. That one had been bought without a serpentine belt and to be frank, I got lucky on it. It has been financed twice and even though I did not want it back, the brief owners had employment issues. Not even four months of grace each time could keep this vehicle away from the lot. So I drive it to and fro these days, and since I rarely have time to clean it, I was expecting a low price at the sale.

I wasn’t disappointed.

I no-saled it with a bid price of $1450. Much less than the crappy Lincoln. Enough to break even on a pure purchase basis. But not enough to pay for the set of new tires I bought for it that usually go for $600 a pop, and the Lexus still has plenty of life left. A clean one at this time of year will usually sell wholesale for at least $2000.

That’s how the cookie crumbles in the car business. Homework and good work lead to the higher returns. But what about you? Has there been a vehicle you bought with your eyes instead of your head? How were you able to finally get out of that never-ending expense?

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86 Comments on “Hammer Time: Don’t Buy With Your Eyes!...”

  • avatar

    Seriously, is there a car journalism award “Hammer Time” can win? Who controls nominations?

    “Has there been a vehicle you bought with your eyes instead of your head?”

    My ’90 Town Car, it was like childhood all over again and was a big mistake of a purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      The funny thing is mechanics in my neck of the woods loved those old Panthers.

      They used to be the cheapest cars you could buy at the auctions on a dollar per pound basis.

      Here’s an article that will let folks use “mechanic’s eyes” for their next purchase.–low-cost-used-cars-that-mechanics-buy-192211682.html

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks Steve.

      • 0 avatar

        Corey – I spy an M35 on the list in Steve’s link.

        • 0 avatar

          God I’m brilliant sometimes with my research.

          The photo, for the record, is an 06-08 M35S. It’s got the blacked out headlamp background. Those came with metal on the dash rather than real wood, which I didn’t fancy. Also was not available in AWD. It did have some sports seats though, which had a piping effect on them, which I did fancy.

      • 0 avatar

        Steve, does the Infiniti M45 also belong on list?

        • 0 avatar
          Steven Lang

          There haven’t been enough samples of the M45 for me to give a qualified yes or no to that question.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve always heard with the 4.5L that you must be very vigilant about 3k oil changes, or you end up with lots of blue smoke down the road. (Final gen Q45 engine.)

          The M45 was a bit too expensive, and didn’t have a big enough gap in power between it and the 3.5 for the penalty you paid at the pump. Looking at 16mpg if you’re lucky for the AWD one.

          Oh, and there is such a lower quantity of the 4.5 in either Q or M guise in existence, you’re better off with the massively produced VQ35.

    • 0 avatar

      Yea early 90’s Panthers were a bit shakey, I want to believe that they patched them up over the years, but a huge list of recalls disagree with me on top of common defects.

      I didn’t know that Lang write for Yahoo though, finally a decent journalist on the yahoo team!

      I do agree with that article with certain W-Bodies being a good pick, I’d trust them over a Panther.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, the ’90 TC.

      That first was the first year of the next generation Town Car.

      I’m pretty sure that generation of the Town Car was the most popular “gangster car” of all wiseguy/mafia movies to date.

      I had an ’89 Town Car- the last of the older style- which was absolute sh*t. Clad in hearing aid baisch, chocolate brown “Prestige Roadster” sim-con top, and similiar “hearing aid baisch” leather seating. Lots of tin/metal faux wood on a blocky, blocky dash!

      Oh, I’m sorry… the color was called “Fawn Baisch”. (Senior citizens rejoice! A 29 year old whipper-snapper has remembered “the important stuff”!)

      All of the original parts started burning out and/or wearing out, one by one, from 72K miles on.

      It DID have those cool power vent windows, remember? The little triangular window segments on the front doors? You had to put those down first before putting the larger window down. Good times.

      Also had the most bizarre little thermometer on the driver’s side mirror I’ve ever seen on a car. In the shape of a circle, IIRC. Mine didn’t move. (Sad face…)

      Still confused as to how they ever robbed that much power out of a 5.0L HO Ford V8. Made that wheezy tired 80’s v8 sound that automotive enthusiasts have come to loathe, as well.

      I got a solid 95k miles out of it before selling it for virtually nothing. That’s about 23k miles of use…? Thumbs up!!!

      In all honesty, girls in high school loved the goofy-ass thing, and this was waaaay before Macklemore was glorifying Grandpa’s “Caddy”.

      • 0 avatar

        I wanted a Ford 302 V8 and this particular car had a documented rebuilt AOD and the new “90s” body seemed like win-win. Live and learn. Mine did not have the awesome power vent windows and mirror mounted thermometer but I do remember what you are referring too. Incidentally I pulled a mirror off an MY80 Seville once which had the same thermometer feature. I’m guessing it was the best mechanical way they could come up with to measure air temps.

        I had a gorgeous dove grey MY89 Cartier for a while in ’04. I sold it to make quick money in ’05 but it planted the seed for another 5.0 Town Car. That’s completely out of my system now, although a Mark VII would be nice…

      • 0 avatar

        The 5.0L used in the TC/CV/GM of that era was not the H.O. motor – it just had a similar looking manifold. The single-exhaust motor was rated at 150 hp, and the dual exhaust motor got a 10 hp bump to 160. The 5.0L H.O. was reserved for the Mustang and Mk. VII.

        • 0 avatar

          You are correct sir. My want of a 302 was (1) this is what most of us had/wanted in high school and (2) early mod motors (and its AOD-E transmission) could be problematic, which I knew from the business. Most of my car’s issues were age related, if I could have gotten it say when it was 10-12yo as opposed to 18.5, I probably would have had a better experience with it.

          • 0 avatar

            Yes, Wheeljack, you are correct.

            On my TC, it said “5.0L EFI” on the plenum.

          • 0 avatar

            I wonder just how badly strangled a 302 with speed-density EFI has to be to only pull 150 hp, especially when Chevrolet managed 170 out of the 305 at the same time…

            Maybe it has really awful timing and a super restrictive exhaust like the Olds 307, which also makes a decent amount less power than a Chevy 305.

    • 0 avatar

      I picked up a white 92 4Runner last year for $1200.00. Original owner, 5 speed, manual everything, rear window not working. It needed tires and a stereo and some basic maintenance. I don’t think it had been washed since new. I gave it a quick polish and wax, new tires, basic maintenance items. I sold it for $2000.00 about 6 months later. I broke even on the deal.I would have made a little money if I didn’t put $600.00 in tires on it.

      I just bought a 96 2wd GMC C1500 pickup for $2000.00. Again, original owner, high mileage, needed the basics. We’ll see if I break even on this one….

      • 0 avatar

        Good luck with that C1500.

        • 0 avatar

          Although there are many geezers like me who love these for work rigs , here in L.A. a ’96 1500 tops out at this price , fully loaded with maybe 140,000 on the odo .


      • 0 avatar

        I coincidentally picked up a 1992 Rodeo 4×4 V6 5-speed last year in similar condition. There is a little rear quarter panel rust on one side, but otherwise in great shape. The only things I’ve done is add a new head unit and new brake pads. I fully anticipate getting every penny I put into it back when I sell it.

  • avatar

    A 1991 Geo Storm GSI (used, very cheap). The engine block melted a couple months later because the thermostat failed to tell the rest of the car and me that there was a problem.

  • avatar

    love hammer time. read ’em all, all the way through. still waiting for an update on the vw w8. c’mon steve……..

    i’ve bought a few on looks and i cannot really say i’ve learned to regret any of the purchases. i can say i bought them at a time in my life where the vehicle fit the passion. i would not necessarily purchase them again – different passions.

  • avatar

    I bought my Saturn in significant part with my eyes. (At the time, ’93, Consumer Reports had given the car its blessing.) Had my eyes not played such a powerful role, I would have walked when I discovered how bad the turning circle was, and gotten an Integra.

    But I loved the way the thing handled, I loved the way it looked (and still do), and what I thought of then as the growl of the engine, which was really NVH, shoiuld have put me off. Here’s the story:

  • avatar

    Bought a lightly used 96 Ford Contour SE with V6, leather and a stick that way. Turned out to be a darned good buy. My boss at the time had a Caddy Catera and was shocked at how much nicer the little Ford was than her car, for much less.

  • avatar

    For years I tried to convince my managers that if we just did a legitimate full detail on our used cars and threw in some floor mats we could get much more money on each sale. They were all too cheap, so we sold dented, smelly, upholstery and carpet stained used cars – even the “certified ones.” Ugh.

  • avatar

    Um, was that beige car a Lincoln Town Car or a Ford Crown Victoria?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Crown Vic. Beige makes my eyes blurry…

      • 0 avatar


        That is dreadful.

        Especially when you factor in that beige/gray… weird combination of both? Does this monitor need to be adjusted? Lol

        I’ll never forget the early 90’s Caravan that we sold back in my car dealership days. I remember that God-awful color combo like it was yesterday.

        Hopefully you didn’t just eat, because you might lose your lunch:

        Silver with baisch pinstripe over baisch cloth WITH gold wheels.

        Oh the humanity…

    • 0 avatar

      I rented a Grand Marquis once that was a shade darker; we called it “the turd.”

      As for me, I buy with my ass. As in, how fast does this vehicle move my ass? When I was shopping for a crossover in 2007, I drove the XC90. First the 3.2, then the 4.4 V8. As soon as I pulled out of the lot with the V8 there was no turning back for me. I still own it almost 60k later and it’s been great to us.

  • avatar

    It always amused and frustrated me how much of the auto business is still based on mutual back scratching. You tipped those auctioneers to help them boost your selling prices. At the dealer level, we have wholesalers and accessory guys kicking back to the managers, salesmen buying lunches and cigarettes for managers that make twice what they do, banks giving freebies like dinners, trips, and other gifts to f&i guys for sliding business their way etc..

    • 0 avatar

      When I was in the autobody repair business in a bigger way, kickbacks were the norm. Wine and dine the adjusters and estimators or they won’t send work your way or give you that extra bit of gravy in your estimate.

      You want that new car dealer’s collision work? You’re doing their scratch and dents for next to nothing.

      Some new car dealers would give all the collision and warranty work, but then ask for a 10% kickback of gross at the end of the year because it was easier to skim off an independent shop than the manufacturer when it came to transport damage and warranty body work.

    • 0 avatar

      Thats just business in general, ever notice how most video games often receive rave reviews from the critics even before they go on sale?

      Then theres always car journalists and such being invited to parties, good relations can seriously help carry a business.

  • avatar

    I have a car in my garage as we speak which was greatly desired by “The Misses”. SHE bought it with HER eyes.

    I had very little time to research it thoroughly, but I looked up and read up on what I could before executing. She gave me all of one day to do so as she wanted this Benz and wanted it like yesterday.

    It’s called the GLK 350 (Go Like Kardashian? Tee Hee.) made by Mercedes-Benz.

    Why did I okay this?

    It’s 4 Matic equipped. (Thumbs Up for the mighty German all wheel drive system)
    For such a heavy bastard, it goes like stink (0-60 in 6.5 seconds which I can vouch for)
    It’s black on black (<-I'm a sucker for this, everytime)
    Made in Germany (bonus), NOT Tuscaloosa County, Alabama.
    Better than average reliability.

    We'll see how this pans out. Wifey found the Hondas and Toyotas I recommended to be a snore.


  • avatar

    wow that is a shame about the ls400, it would go on CL for $2k all day long!

  • avatar

    So the photo is of a Crown Vic, not a TC. But then you called it a Crown Vic later in the paragraph.

    Quit drinkin!

  • avatar

    VW’s. (3 of them over a 21 year period.) Bought on emotion, rationally dispatched before the warranty expired. Never again.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Cars bought with my eyes:

    74 Fiat 128SL – It was beautiful, but troublesome. No regrets.
    95 Dodge Stratus ES – Not bad, but it was too small for me.
    02 VW Passat – Trouble from Day 1, but the dealer was nice.
    05 Honda Odyssey – Trouble from Day 1, and the dealer wasn’t nice. This is the only car I never test-drove. I should have fixed my old Voyager instead.

    These four cars spent 8 years (combined) in my possession.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Did this a few years back on a 2000 Taurus LX- bought it to help out a family friend. Had I not been so blinded by armor-all shine, I might have noticed the disconnected check-engine light. The romance was over 6 months (and one head gasket) later.

  • avatar

    The cars I ended up going off my eyes were:

    1. Volvo 244, the cleanness of it, simple interior arrangement, build quality, price, and the low mileage sold me on it. This has turned out to be the one GOOD car purchase I ever mades

    2. ’84 Mustang, I thought it was neat in the pictures, regretted it once it showed up at my door. It was surprisingly slow for a de-mufflered V6.

    2. Plymouth Horizon: A bit too abused, but honestly it wasn’t that bad of a car beyond the miserable shape of it, and being gray.

    3. ’70-something VW Fastback: If I didn’t need the money I would’ve smashed this car myself, absolutely terrble car with virtually no support from VW groups. Yea the build quality was fine, but the design and suspension set up were just idiotic. It also had two trunks yet only one was semi-usable.

    And if anyone thinks that modern engine bays are cramped, I ask you to try fitting your hands around a type 3s engine, and considering these are old cars you WILL need to work on them more to get anywhere.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting as I had a 1970 VW Typ II Fast Back with the BW automatic tranny and I loved it , it was bone stock and I kept it that way for dead nuts reliability , the wretchedly crude BOSCH D-Jetronic fuel injection is trouble free *if* you don’t fool with it , *and* change that damned filter every 12 Mo. / 10K miles .

      I still miss that rust free So. Cal. original paint carpet and seats car , I was offered $1,000.00 *and* the freshly painted & trimmed ’71 Super Beetle I was doing a major clutch job on when the Korean Lady owner showed up , I told her ” I’ll take $1,000 cash only and this car ” on a Sunday afternoon thinking she’d go away and let me get to work, instead 15 minutes later she was shaking a fistful of hundreds in my face and yelling ” but YOU SAID you’d sell it ! ” so I foolishly relented and sold it , make $1,000 on the Super Beetle and had only paid $125 for the Fast Back @ Police Auction .

      I wish I had it now , 32 MPG’s and the sun roof were sweet .

      It even had near new tires on it .

      For those not in The Auto Trade , Fast Backs are always a drug on the used car market ~ once every ten years someone has a new one and they sell a bunch for two years then everyone gets tires of them and I used to have to break them for parts to get rid of them , good thing all the mechanicals were the same as the other air cooled VW’s .


  • avatar

    1972 Corvette Stingray 454ci LS5 that I decided I wouldn’t be able to function another minute in this world unless I possessed it. It was beautiful and fast with custom fender flairs and sidepipes, metalflake gold paint and black leather interior. Biggest automobile mistake of my life. It was such a money pit that I took a year off of college to work full time to pay for this mess of a car. I got out from under it by a coworker who despite knowing about all the problems I had decided HE couldn’t function another minute unless he too possessed it.

    I got close to what I paid, but nowhere near what I had in it, I went back to school and never saw him or the Corvette again

  • avatar

    I don’t buy with my eyes. I want something that will fill my transportation needs as economically and reliably as possible. Period.

    I once told a car salesman that and he said “that’s great, but for every person like you there are 99 worried about placement of cup holders.”

    Yup, I’m always in that one percent.


  • avatar

    1973 2002. no speedo or heat fan but yes to rear shock tower rust. didn’t matter.

  • avatar

    In my days of buying strictly for cheap transportation, I’d look for sun bleached peeling paint. People would give those cars away even if they ran fine.

  • avatar

    I could listen to auctioneers all day. Seriously.

  • avatar

    1978 Lincoln Continental Mark V Bill Blass. It was my first car that my dad bought for me when I turned 16, for the princely sum of $500. I was sure that I could fix it, even though every body panel had rust perforation, and it barely ran. I learned a LOT about cars from it, but never got it on the road.

    It was a beautiful vehicle. From about 50 feet away.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Only car I really regretted in my 40-some years of car ownership was my 1980 Audi 500 diesel. Typically, like the overeducated sumbitch that I am I did not buy with my eyes (the car was brown!)but by what the “experts” said: We were going to have $5+/gallon gasoline in just a few years (remember, in 1980, $5 bought a lot more than it does today. The diesel had something like 68 horsepower, and was a “dieselized” version of Audi’s 2.3 liter 5-cylinder gasoline engine. It was, in fact, a very comfortable car to drive and ride in and it did reliably get 30 mpg of diesel on the highway. However, it was hopelessly slow, even in the era when the 55 mph speed limit was pretty rigorously enforced, and it would not maintain that speed even on a fairly modest hill climb. Absolute observed top speed on level ground was 68 mph.

    All of things were known to me when I bought the car, but with the “expert’s” predictions in my head, I swallowed hard and bought But what I didn’t know was that it would require more repairs –some rather expensive (new steering rack; head gasket) during the relatively short period of my ownership than any 3 cars I have owned before or since.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Me too with the brown Audi 5000! Except mine was a ’79 gas model. Loved the way it drove and comfort. Nice, simple, sensible design. $200 aluminum door triggers, $250 window lift motors, and a blown head gasket at 78k.


  • avatar


    Its funny that I read this while my guys are prepping cars to run at Greater Tampa Bay tomorrow morning…

    You should see the owner of my place up on the block. He’s a riot. A real skilled wholesaler, too. Tips well, knows when to bump, knows when to cut. I ran our cars myself for three weeks when he was away with his son and – needless to say – the results were less than blissful.

    We have this habit of writing up car windows before they run. I remember one ’12 MKS base which had no admirable or redeeming qualities about it – bad Carfax, paintwork, gold metallic with no toys – but he HAD to write something. Just thought it was the most hilarious thing for about two weeks, especially because I took it as a demo for the weekend. Driving around with…

    “2012 LINCOLN”
    100% CAR!

    …on the side glass was simply profound.

  • avatar

    It was 1975—the car was a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T, blue with a black vinyl top, 383 4spd pistol grip shifter—-what a looker. Of course, the car had been run hard and put away wet. One year later, a new clutch (not from me driving it), numerous freeze plugs, 1 ruptured heater core, 1 patched hole in the floor, 1 blown voltage regulator later, I swore never to buy with the eyes again. And I’ve been happy buying cars ever since. Thanks for bringing back the memories, Steve.

  • avatar

    Why do I buy so many Grand Ams?

    I still go on Craigslist sometimes looking at them. There is a very good chance I’ll buy another one at some point.

    I’m completely disgusting and ashamed.

  • avatar

    I’m still young but I’m trying to avoid buying with my eyes, no matter how cool looking an old Camaro, Firebird, or Mustang may be.

    Of course, looking at old box Caprices probably isn’t that good of an idea either…

  • avatar

    2002 Land Rover Discovery. Bought it off of eBay for $1000 under blue book. Drove it home to St. Louis from Chicago. Started smelling antifreeze in Springfield. Before the week was up I spent $800 for a new radiator… In 18 months I put all new brakes and rotors, new coil packs(that was 8 hours of sheer hell), new window regulator, and finally got rid of it when the head gasket started going. Traded it in on a CPO Fit. Still miss it. Worst vehicle I ever loved.

  • avatar

    I once bought a shiny red ’92 Accord EX to replace my wife’s fav car of all time. Amazing how well a ragged out accord can drive.
    I used the bargain-rate, after hours services of a dealer mechanic to put it back together, but still lost several thousand in the deal.

  • avatar

    “The reason why the Mazda 2 and the Honda Insight haven’t sold a lick, while the Mazda 3 and the Honda Accord are still wildly popular, is because those first two cars have completely flunked that test for most of the buying public.”

    I love cars like that. Why? From the standpoint of reliability, and cost of ownership, there is nothing wrong with them. Sometimes people just reject a car strictly on looks, which means you can get those cars for cheap. If your plan is drive your money out of them, they are very good deals. Many times an ugly car is cheaper to operate over the long run than taking the bus.

    Vanity is expensive. That’s a lesson I learned a very long time ago.

    • 0 avatar

      The Insight is terrible inside. I literally felt impoverished in the car, a pang in the gut I couldn’t shake. Everything is thin and flimsy and hollow-feeling. There’s no center arm rest. Poverty and anxiety. I don’t get that feeling in a 2003 Toyota Matrix, or a 1998 Honda Accord, but I do in the Insight.

      • 0 avatar

        I understand what you’re saying, I didn’t mean the Insight specifically. Generally speaking some cars will just bomb with the public for reasons other than reliability, or performance. Those turkeys usually are a a great value if all you are interested in is reliable transportation.

  • avatar

    Can someone PLEASE answer this for me? I beg for your expertise!

    Is getting your car waxed/detailed once a year (for $100) good for its resale value, assuming it looks good? I can’t wax it myself.

    • 0 avatar

      $100 is a very good deal for a hard wax and polish, and a detail(?).

      If your car is garaged, a once a year, good wax job, should suffice. If it is not garaged, twice a year(Spring & Fall) is what I would recommend to save that clear coat and your paint.

      Great paint is always nice for an owner to have, day in and out, and is a big deal for a buyer, as paint can be the biggest repair expense on a car. The annual cost of paint maintenance/wax, has to be amortized a bit by the enjoyment nice paint brings.

      A car with tired paint at just a few years, is warning sign for other owner neglected issues.

      Wax your car, even an owner applied spray wax, is better then nothing.

      Paint, is primarily ruined by three things, car wash machines, poor hand wash techniques, and lack of maintenance(wash & wax) which allows sun and chemicals to attack the finish.

    • 0 avatar

      Depends on length of ownership, I would say. If you’re buying new and dumping after five years, probably not, just do it before you go to sell. If you’re going to own long term or bought used, it’s probably a good idea. Especially if it’s a Honda product from the late 90s to mid 00s. Those seem to oxidize like crazy. That reminds me that I should wax my FIL’s Accord at some point.

  • avatar
    Norman Yarvin

    I’d be curious to hear your recipe for “deodorizing” a car. I know there’s stuff like Febreze for that (well, not the ordinary consumer versions, as they have added perfumes, but there really is an odor absorber in the stuff), but have never heard much about which products are the best. (And whether they actually last, or are just good for getting a car through a sale.)

    • 0 avatar

      I hate the smell of and react to the typical car interior detailing chemicals. I use dry baking soda, sprinkled liberally on the carpet and use dissolved soda on a sponge for vinyl headliners and upholstery. Keep it off the paint and rubber.

      Leave it in the carpet for as long as you can, but at least 2-3 hours, vacuum thoroughly.

      For other surfaces apply dissolved soda to a small area(1-1/2’x1-1/2′) with a sponge and before it dries, wipe with a wet, clean absorbent rag. Rinse rag thoroughly and repeat.

      For cloth, use house hold upholstery cleaners. For leather, leather cleaning and preserving products, but a soda wipe works good, too. Just test a small hidden area, first.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      I used a lot of baking soda and Febreze on my Accent to knock down the funky smells and stains (one of the perils of buying a car from a marine biologist). For the spare tire well, I threw half a dozen charcoal briquettes in there for six months.

      Sometimes if the odor is bad and persistent enough, you just have to replace the seats and/or carpet with spares from the junkyard.

  • avatar

    Steve, always quality and useful info for car/vehicle consumers.

    But… I buy with my eyes, ears, smell, and touch. But my biggest asset for buying well, is an extensive knowledge of mechanical issues a particular vehicle could have and what it will take in labor and cost in parts to fix it. It means specializing somewhat, but there is a bigger blanket you can throw over all vehicles and that is a very good basic knowledge of typical mechanical issues suffered by all vehicles. This has been hampered somewhat by the newer electronically controlled vehicles.

    Buy cars that you are familiar with and are popular, know the low and high of that market. Or buy market popular vehicles and get familiar with their issues and values. Of course if your not handy and tooled up or don’t have access to that talent at a reasonable price, your at the mercy of your liabilities, and need to find another way to make money or learn real quick.

    If you still want to go for it, you definitely need to have a good go to list of talent to deal with whatever issue, upholstery, paint, paintless dent repair, glass, exhaust, mechanical, transmission, etc.

    A good running vehicle, well detailed, with the popular equipment and good colors, well bought… is a home run.

    As a young man(early 1960’s), I started buying decent cars for $50-$150. Would clean them up, tune them up, and sell them for a little profit_ $10-$50 usually, if I made more then that, I figured I had won the lottery. If you youngsters think those prices are a ridiculously low, those were the price of older used cars when gas sold for 18-21 cents a gallon.

    Eventually, I had enough capital to step up the game, and it has brought me to the place today where I can buy cars in the six figures. It also helped put me through college and over the years has allowed me to fund new and collector cars for personal use.

    And those high end cars are where the real money is in the car flip sales business, it is also a very high risk market. But, you can make good profit percentages in the $10,000 to $20,000 market. I just turned a 1050% profit on a $9,500 acquisition that I had just over a week.

    Besides profit, the hunt is a lot of fun, when it is not frustrating the hell out of you when somebody doesn’t respond to your e-mail or calls.

    So if your the guy in Northern Cali with the 53′ XK120 coupe and your reading this comment… could you ‘please’ call me… I’m the guy with the cash.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    That doesn’t seem to apply to me. My cars’ paint is usually not the best, my current ride has almost the same amount of scratches as a tiger has spots. Interior-wise I try them to be spotless.

    Ripped seats/carpet, filth, smells are no go.

  • avatar

    Yeah, my wife bought her 550i with her eyes. The interior is what they call natural brown and that’s what sold her. That and the short throw shifter of the M Sport package. Which IS to die for.

  • avatar

    That auctioneer — Marty Hill.

    That guy can sell.

    I like the few films/recordings of tobacco auctions.

  • avatar

    Tip the car cleanup boy. He makes a silent, but important, contribution to the saleability of the vehicle.

    I should know, I cleaned cars for years. Dealers at the auction and customers on the lot were always impressed by my work.

    It’s not just about cleaning a car, it’s about giving it a new history.

    • 0 avatar

      A good detail, is very important for the presentation for sale of a vehicle, and to get all you can out of a vehicles potential.

      A great restorative detail, is a work of art, and the results can be downright amazing. The guy that ‘Fast & Loud’ occasionally uses, is one of those rare detail artists.

      Detailing… is about erasing history. Bringing a car back to like new appearance.

      Before someone decides to sell or trade in a perfectly good running and serviceable vehicle, they should get a good detail. Often, after a good detail, they will reconsider getting rid of their car for a new one.

  • avatar

    What a good question! It made me realize two things:

    1) The cars I’ve bought with my eyes are the ones I’ve loved best, even if they were not terribly sensible to own (I currently have four in that category);

    2) The cars that were/are objectively best were/are the ones I kept/keep replacing.

    I am clearly shallow and irrational.

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