By on June 7, 2016

flexdriveway

John writes:

Bark,

We (me M52, F39, M15, F10) really need to step up our fleet (2006 Honda Pilot 240K mi, 2005 Honda Element 170K mi). We need to replace the Pilot as family car, and probably (for now) keep both Hondas rolling for my use and, soon, my son’s use too.

In the fullness of time I’d like to get us a plugin C-Max, especially given the uneventuality of the TTAC Long-Term Test C-Max. But, the rear legroom is less than our Pilot and our 15-yo boy is not getting any smaller. This would not be a good solution for weekend family expeditions of any length.

For now I’d like to start the fleet upgrade with a used Flex, post 2013 for the design refresh, has to be AWD because we have snow and a very steep, twisty drive home, really want the 6-pass version to keep the kids out of each others’ hair (2nd-row bench seat has proven contentious in the Pilot), really want Ecoboost and Limited/Titanium because why buy used if you can’t get it loaded?

I am seeing these from 25ish to just south of 30k around here (Northern Virginia). I saw one exact match for 23,500 but it had 66k miles, which seems like a lot for a car I’m going to get a 5-year note on. With turbochargers.

I wonder if I should back off of my expectations (settle! gasp!) to get a newer car with lower miles, but not as nice as the Flex.

We could get a C-max and repair the shit out of the Pilot and the Element (both getting a bit clunky, but overall reliable), and look forward to a day when a Flex makes more sense for us. Or I could take my chances with Mister 66 K, or his like, also repair the two Hondas, and put as many miles as possible on them while preserving the beautiful Flex for when we actually need that extra capacity or the rare times we will actually need three cars.

We really DO need that third row pretty often, to carry the whole family plus a friend or cousin or two, but not regularly and seldom to go very far.

I can put a few thousand into a down payment and I have good credit, but another five-year note on a used car sounds like it might be a bummer. Payments would be 450-550 probably, and I imagine we could start expecting repair bills around 150k miles. That is how we bought the Pilot (9 years ago, at 60k miles) and (except a four-year note) the Element (five years ago, at 50k). We ordinarily drive the wheels off of our cars but I am getting a little too old and impatient for that.

I just love the look and the utility of the Flex but we can’t always have what we love. Is it time to settle?

The Flex. Sigh. What a glorious vehicle, and yet so vexing on the used market. Dealers can’t give them away new, but they tend to overprice them and hold onto them for dear life on the used market, just because they’re “scarce.” Then, they sit and sit forever on used car lots, but all the dealer pricing and inventory tools tell the dealers that they’re priced right on them, so the dealers won’t budge on pricing. It’s a bizarre little bubble. Plus, you live in Northern Virginia, which might be the worst car buying market in America. Everything is overpriced.

I agree with what you say about a fiver on a turbocharged car. I’m not sure I’d still want to be making a payment on an EcoBoost (or really any car) with 150k miles on it. I’d probably be mad every time that I wrote the check for it, especially if I had to foot a large repair bill on top of the note.

So what would Bark do? Well, you already know that I’m not going to tell you to settle. That goes against the very principles of Ask Bark. If you want a Flex, you should get a Flex. I’ve had nothing but wonderful luck with mine. In the year and a half since I wrote that review, I’ve put another forty thousand miles on it, and had no issues except for a failed washer fluid pump.

But I’m going to give you a few options that, perhaps, you haven’t considered.

First of which is that you might consider getting a lesser model of Flex. I have an SE, which is completely base in every way, and I love it. The 3.5 V6 is a good, strong engine that’s virtually bulletproof. No, it won’t run the quarter in 13, but it’s strong enough that you’ll feel an upgrade from your Pilot and Element. The only option that I wish I had is the one you mentioned — I wish I had the captain’s seats in the second row as opposed to the bench seat. So why not look for an SE or SEL with that option? They’re hard to find, but they’re out there. Or, if you really want the creature comforts of the Limited, just look for one without the EcoBoost motor. Here’s one. Here’s a ’15 certified Limited (with bench seats) for only $31k — you could get CPO financing, plus an incredible warranty.

Alternately, if you really want the Flex of your dreams, why not lease a new one? You could get the pimpiest of all Flexes (EcoBoost Limited with every box checked) for about $575 a month with zero down over 39 months. That’s with 15k miles a year, too! If your buying habits have changed, like you mentioned, and you no longer need to drive the wheels off, then why not enjoy your new Flex just the way that you want it for the next 39 months…and then go get something else that you love? Or, take advantage of the low residual value and buy it out at the end of the lease?

Lastly, you should consider a Lincoln MKT. The sloping roof line minimizes the third row a bit, but you’ll get all the lux and EcoBoost you want from the Flex Limited, and you’ll get it at a surprisingly lower price. If you can find a certified example, the Lincoln certified warranty is a little better than the one offered on Fords, and you can normally get 1.9 percent over 60, too.

In summary — don’t settle, but don’t buy stuff you don’t really need, either. Go drive the naturally aspirated Flex, and see if it still doesn’t put a smile on your face. If it doesn’t, consider leasing a new one, or go find yourself an MKT. You’ll be happy with any of the above.

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80 Comments on “Ask Bark: Is It Time To Settle, Or Time To Flex?...”


  • avatar

    When I first checked out the Flex, I realized at that moment that Ford had completely lost its way.

    If you’re open to used cars, go for a lightly used Expedition or Jeep Grand Cherokee.

    • 0 avatar

      I always knew that you were Doug Demuro in deep cover.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Oh yeah the Jeep will work great for him, he needs three rows and some space neither which the Jeep has, he would be better off buying a cop pilot than the jeep, I can not see a lease but that is me, I would expand my search for a flex to find one you may have to travel for or look at a used GM SUV , there should be a ton coming off lease. The MKT should be plentiful but watch out for ones used as black cars.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        CPO MkT’s should have the CarFax available. While not the be all end all, it will indicate the type of lease or ownership.

        Like this MkT: http://www.carfax.com/VehicleHistory/p/Report.cfx?partner=FRD_2&vin=2LMHJ5AT0EBL56914

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      I really, really try not to reply to your trolling, but…WHY? I know we’re on the internet, but there is no space in cosmos (yes, I said ‘cosmos’) to blurp out a statement like that – and no argument whatsoever to support it. Dammit.

  • avatar
    johnharris

    I bought a new Honda Element and loved it. The idiosyncratic Element has a reputation for being beloved by those who bought them, but most people didn’t like them so it was discontinued.

    Then I bought a new Ford Flex SE and loved it. The idiosyncratic Flex has a reputation for being beloved by those who buy them, but most people don’t like them so rumors of the Flex’s demise continue.

    I just bought a new Toyota Land Cruiser…hmm, let’s hope I’ve broken the cycle…

    • 0 avatar

      Anyone who actually continues to plunk down a check for these monstrosities (including the Kia Soul, the Toyota FJ and a bunch of other polarizingly ugly/stylish vehicles) has some sort of emotional connection with it – despite what “professional reviewers” suggest.

      I’ve never met anyone with an Aztek that they didn’t love and want to keep indefinitely.

      Nor a Nissan Cube.

      • 0 avatar
        LS1Fan

        The same could be said of Pentastar products, for the rare nanoseconds they aren’t on a repair lift.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          Just for the record, our 2000 Durango has been on a lift for repairs once and that was at 188k miles for a pinion support bearing that was leaking. Just sayin’.

          If you are referring to a minivan transmission that is another story.

          At least non of the Mopars need an oil change immediately after purchase to prevent the engine from grenading.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Get a CPO MkT Ecoboost. You’ll learn to be okay with the styling and you’ll be happy inside the vehicle.

    You should be able to negotiate a 2013 CPO MkT, with under 30K miles, down to under $30K.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “We (me M52, F39, M15, F10)”

    are we all just supposed to know what this s**t means?

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I find these American prices/financing very disturbing. The Canadian market just does not have the same economies of scale.

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      I call BS on most of the numbers posted here as i suspect, knowing north americans, the prices do not include all costs and charges.

      So $575 a month for a loaded FLEX, is it really $575 or is there money down, delivery, other charges, fees, taxes and mystery costs that inflate the actual numbers?

      This gets back to the article last week that said Leasing was the way to go, leases look attractive but the true cost over 3,4,5 years is circa 50 to 70% MORE than the listed price.

      • 0 avatar

        Do your homework like I did. Go to Ford.com.

        • 0 avatar
          Detroit33

          Bark’s numbers are right. I leased a loaded 2015 Limited Ecoboost in December: $508/month, 0 upfront costs, 36 month, 12k miles per year. This includes 6% Michigan sales tax. There was a $4250 rebate at the time and I have supplier pricing. I also have the 6 passenger version which allows for pretty easy ingress/ egress to the third row. I disagree with Bark in that I think the Ecoboost is mandatory in this vehicle. It is just too heavy for the NA 3.5.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        My C-Max lease, despite having 9.8% sales tax, tabs, and all fees built into the lease, was $11 *less* than the quote on Ford.com. 0 down, 0 due at signing, $309/month. Ford.com said $320 for a car configured the same way.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    One word.
    Minivan. New or lightly used, it is a much better deal than a Flex.
    Skip the AWD. It’s the vinyl roof of the 2000’s Something everyone wants but is completely unnecessary with respect to competent driving in well shod FWD vehicle . You’re in Northern VA so winter is a short term problem each year, and I would bet that ice is more of an issue than snow. IMHO, FWD with winter tires trumps AWD with all seasons for snow and ice.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Except he explained exactly why he wants AWD, it is better suited to his particular needs.

      I’m sure, as with most Flex owners/fans, his reason for getting one is that it is decidedly *not* a minivan, yet its a very spacious and practical vehicle that’s also not a truck-imitating SUV, either.

      If his heart is set on one, why not have it? I think that if not, he might as well “settle” for some other crossover (like his Pilot, which evidentiary suits his needs from a practicality standpoint) before throwing in the towel on a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Usually my instinct is towards minimalism in all things, but in my experience, the AWD in vehicles like the Flex makes for a more sorted drive. My spouse is on her 2nd Flex and I think the ability for the drive system to move the torque around is beneficial for a front-drive-biased 4500 lb wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Felix,

      Yes, a minivan plus good snows makes a lot of sense. A new Toyota Sienna LE would be a payment of about $535/month. More space, better fuel economy.

      Perhaps the snows could be skipped, too. As a kid living in Northern Virginia, I remember spending the Winter praying for snow and getting nothing but rain.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I like the exterior design of the Flex and the Ecoboost engine but the interior and tech don’t do it for me.

    Is there any indication that there will be a new Flex or are they killing it?

    Another alternative could be a new CX-9, I’ll be looking at that this summer.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    It still amazes me that the Flex is foundering while the (same size class) Explorer is selling like bonkers. I hate the Explorer. the doors are a foot thick, the dash is enormous, the A-pillars are as big as 50 year old oak trees. It’s huge outside but feels more cramped than a Fiesta inside.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      But it looks sort of like a Land Rover and it’s named “Explorer”.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The Flex and the MKT are the only vehicles that really make good space out of that D3 / D4 platform. The Explorer is significantly more cramped, but like bball says, it looks like a Land Rover—partially because it was designed by the same person who penned some of the modern Land Rovers—and that’s pretty much all it needs to do to sell.

  • avatar
    WEGIV

    If you buy a used Flex, especially the AWD and/or Ecoboost, I strongly recommend that you get one with a good warranty, either Carmax or Ford CPO. We bought ours new (2010) and at 70K miles, are *definitely* getting rid of it before the extended warranty expires in January. Our extended warranty has paid for itself, as they have had to replace a turbo after it blew its seals and puked oil all over the intake, at least one fuel injector after it stuck in the open position and washed down one of the cylinders (both of those happened in the last year), and we’re on the third set of PTU seals over the course of the last 3-4 years (there’s a TB on it) because it keeps blowing them and leaking trans fluid. I would hope that some of those problems are resolved in the post-refresh model years, but I’d recommend hitting up the Flex forums and doing your research.
    Also, the “aerodynamics” of this vehicle mean that the Ecoboost’s economy is overrated. We average 17mpg in town, and low 20s on the highway. Get above about 74 and you’re into the boost to keep the thing moving through the air even on flat ground, and the MPGs drop pretty quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      17/20(s) is better than my cousin’s late model Traverse 2wd (non-turbo obviously since it doesn’t offer one), it gets 18 on a good day. She ended up keeping her old 2004 Impala as a commuter since the Traverse’s fuel mileage is so disappointing. She honestly regrets buying it, although (with limited use) it hasn’t had any mechanical trouble.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    I would buy a new Flex in FWD configuration with a NA V6.
    Then buy a set of dedicated snow tires and wheels to install each winter.

  • avatar
    LIKE TTAC.COM ON FACEBOOK

    Land Wind X7! It’s a quarter of the price of the Land Rover, and almost half as good.

    (For what it’s worth, “Jiangling” and “Changan” are the noises you hear when a Land Wind hits a bump or goes over a pothole.)

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    240K on the Pilot. A bit clunky but reliable, eh?

    And another 170K on the Element.

    That’s… a pretty good track record, lol. And yet, these two cars are still kicking around in your driveway and giving regular service.

    I’m not too terribly sure I’d be pleased adding a new brand into my fleet given I was having successes with both of my Honda products. I get the family’s need for the Flex, but wow, does it have some shoes to fill (and expectations set relatively high) because of the two other proven Hondas in the driveway.

    This ought to be good. Lol.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      He needs to give the Acura MDX a good look. Keep it in the Honda family. He is going to be sorely disappointed when that Flex starts munching on his bank account relatively early as compared to the Hondas.

      • 0 avatar
        06V66speed

        Oh yes. If he thinks his 240k mile “clunky” Pilot is starting to give him problems here and there, just wait until the new Flex starts to rack up the mileage.

        Oh, who am I kidding. This “new” Flex will be long gone by then. But something tells me at least *one* of the Hondas that he currently has in his household fleet will still be around…

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      The 3.5l V6 and 6 speed automatic are about as bulletproof as it gets. ’08 Taurus X with 190,000 miles on it. Got it with 20,000 on it. Brakes all around once, a pair of front struts following the MA snowpocalypse of 2015 (otherwise known as a mild winter in Buffalo), one rear hub/bearing, and normal fluid/filter maintenance. Not a single ball joint or steering linkage has worn yet.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The Flex, especially in loaded form, is one of those cars where used pricing starts to make a new one attractive. That’s especially true given the platform’s so-so durability record and the fact that you will be replacing it when you need less room. And then you have the factor that Ford lease terms are usually reasonably attractive.

    I’d lease a new Flex EcoBoost with captain’s chairs on a 39-month lease with the idea that you will replace it with the PHEV of your dreams on lease expiration.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      PS. Ford’s site is quoting $540/month on a lease of a Flex EcoBoost with captain’s chairs and no other options. That’s before TTL, but you should be able to negotiate a discount that will allow you to work TTL into the lease for about the same price.

  • avatar
    Frode

    Dodge Durango. Basically a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a third seat. You should be able to find a decent one for under $30K.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Checked out Ford Canada’s pricing on a base Flex.
    48 month lease, 12,500 miles (20,000kms) per year with zero down. Cost per month with tax, etc is $527.00 Canadian. $25,296 in total payments to lease for 4 years.

    For $36,800 in total payments you can purchase the same vehicle with payments stretched over 6 years.

    In this case, purchase not lease makes sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      This.

      Again, goes back to that article last week where Leasing is supposed to be the win.

      I just bought a X3, loaded to the gills with the 3T, 2013 with 33,000KM. We paid $42,000 out the door and it is CPO’d so new tyres and brakes etc.

      To lease this vehicle it come in, after much haggling, at $771 a month, so my 42K would be eaten up in a little over four years. In four years the car is still worth over $20K for god’s sake.

      Leasing makes zero sense.

      • 0 avatar
        fincar1

        1) You can buy a car and make payments to a lender until the note’s paid off; then you own a car free and clear.
        2) You can lease a car, which amounts to paying some corporation to own it and let you use it for a specified term, and profit on the transaction. At the end of the term you own nothing.

        How could option 2 possibly cost less than the simpler option 1?

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Because sometimes you pay less in lease payments than you would lose in depreciation if you bought.

          Usually that’s because the manufacturer is trying to goose sales and assigns an artificially high residual. Sometimes it’s because the manufacturer straight miscalculates.

          There’s no substitute for doing the math. Sometimes buying is the more attractive option, sometimes leasing is. It’s not as simple as “I own something at the end.” It’s a question: “Is what I own at the end more valuable than the extra amount I paid to buy rather than lease?”

      • 0 avatar
        smartascii

        Leasing guarantees you a trade-in value that is equal to your remaining debt (provided you keep it in good shape and don’t drive too many miles). That’s all.
        For the sake of easy math, let’s consider a $20,000 new car that you lease for $250/mo for 36 months with 0 down. You pay $250*36= $9,000 in payments, at which point you can buy it for a pre-agreed price (probably around $14k, because taxes and finance charges, etc.). What if the car is worth $16k? Well, then you trade it in, take the extra $2k in equity, and apply it to a new car. What if it’s worth $10k? Give it back to the manufacturer and walk away. What if you love it? Buy it for $14k. What’s much harder to do is use that $250/mo to buy a reliable car that’s under warranty and will belong to you at the end of three years’ worth of payments.
        I understand that the most cost-effective way to transport yourself is to buy a two-year-old Corolla for cash and then never buy another car again, but most people can’t (or don’t want to) do that, and leasing is one way to have a nice-ish car for not too much money each month, even if it is in perpetuity.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      48-month lease rarely gets you the most attractive terms. The sweet spot is usually 36 but sometimes 39.

      I’m also getting the impression from a series of posts like this that Canadians are not getting lease terms as favorable as those available to US consumers.

      I’m going to pay $11,124 to lease a loaded C-Max Energi for three years. To purchase the same vehicle with the same negotiated deal on a 5-year loan would have cost me around $31,000 after TTL and interest. In my case the lease is the obvious win.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        36 month lease from Ford Canada on a C-Max (base) is $17,892 total. $497 per month with zero down. For 48 month is $431.

        The lease versus buy proposition is dependent upon the incentives from the manufacturer and the residual value of the vehicle.

        Current lease rates on for example F-150’s are enticing.

        And the difference between lease rates and used car prices in the USA and Canada is often staggering.

  • avatar
    whosagrubb

    Having just come from an ’11 Explorer XLT, which is essentially a Flex, I can absolutely vouch for having 2nd row captain’s chairs vs. the bench. Problem is ours didn’t come with them, so what did I do? You can retrofit the 2nd row on the cheap, just scan junkyards for the driver’s side 2nd row seat out of a car that came with them..

    All you end up having to do is replace the driver’s side “60” portion of the rear seat with the captain’s chair from another. At least on the Explorer it was a direct replacement. The only downside is the passenger’s side 2nd row seat has a more squared off shape than the captains chair where it connects with the driver’s side portion. That bothered me for 10 seconds until I realized how much more functional the 2nd row was after I made the swap.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Just how far behind the front seats would the 2nd passenger captain’s chairs be?

      Once ordered a Caravan ‘sport’ with 2nd row captain’s chairs and discovered too late that a rear facing child seat would not fit in them behind the driver’s seat.

      • 0 avatar
        whosagrubb

        On the Flex/Explorer, the “Captains Chairs” are positioned exactly the same as the same vehicle with a 2nd row bench. There’s really no structural difference between the two options other than the fact that with the Captains you lack a middle seat.

        In either case, there’s plenty of room for a rear facing child seat. In our ’11 Explorer it fit behind the passenger seat without a problem. Newer models also came with a 2nd row that was adjustable front to back, so I think there would/could even be more room.

  • avatar
    Chan

    “We need to replace the Pilot as family car…”

    Why? Because it has 240k miles, or because it actually has problems?

    If John here is willing to replace “need” with “want,” then the Flex is a somewhat appealing upgrade. If he can’t do such a thing, then I wouldn’t be shopping Ford Flexs.

  • avatar
    CaptainJon

    We were in the market for a used Flex. Our neighbor had one, we borrowed it, and decided it would be our next family vehicle.

    The passage regarding the used market for these is right on the money. We tried very hard to find a deal on a used Flex, but found nobody willing to budge, and combined with the higher interest rate on financing for used, we were effectively ushered into a new Flex. Between the cash on the hood and low interest rate, it was no more expensive than a used Flex, and this was just as the refreshed 2013’s were rolling onto the lot. So, we ended up with the refreshed Flex at a bargain. (Pro-tip: The refreshed ’13 and up benefits from lots of small improvements that end up making it a hugely more satisfying car.)

    It’s got everything except vista-roof and the eco-boost engine. Admittedly, two big options, but I’ve never found myself wishing for either one. It’s simply a wonderful family hauler, that’ll eat mile after mile in comfort, that would benefit greatly from another 5 gallons in the gas tank. I find the range to be a little limited.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I can’t wrap my head around the idea that the LW’s kids can’t sit in the back seat of a C-Max much less behave being next to each other in the Pilot. I have a friend with a C-max who drives for uber and his (adult) passengers love it. When my sister and I were the ages of the LW’s kids (we’re two years apart and this would’ve been late ’90s early ’00s), our family vehicles were a ’96 Infiniti G20, ’89 Honda Civic Hatchback, ’90 Toyota Camry, and a early ’90s Isuzu pickup. My sister and I managed just fine in all those with the possible exception of the Isuzu. She and I even survived a family cross country round trip from Florida to Wyoming in the back seat of the G20 when I was 12 and she was 10. I do not understand parents who feel their kids require giant vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      I resemble that remark. My brother and I existed happily in all sorts of seventies and eighties economy wagons. We rode with the gear on fishing trips in the back of a Datsun 720 (at least we had a rug and a wall of sleeping bags).

      Have you seen the STUFF the modern child comes equipped with? Yes, you can make it work in a Kia Spectra (believe me, I know), but it makes travel a lot less painful with cubic feet to spare.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      tjh,

      +1

  • avatar
    Willyam

    I did this same math and bought an Odyssey (I know van was mentioned). I’m batting 25% on Fords good over bad since 1998 (Windstar, F150, Focus, Mustang), and this would be the most expensive vehicle I’ll probably ever own.

    My Odyssey has been flawless, the only silly parts being the spare tire location and the bizarre sound/video system controls. It gets 25+ mpg on trips, eeks every bit of mileage out of the engine oil, has 270+ horsepower, and holds tons of stuff as well (full-size kids play house with no scuffing).

    Still, as good as it is, it does leave the enthusiast a bit…wanting.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I also find the spare tire location in the Oddy, well, odd. The touchscreen system is slow, I’ve felt that Honda rushed it to market to quell the complaint about 98 buttons on the dash.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    “Plus, you live in Northern Virginia, which might be the worst car buying market in America. Everything is overpriced.”

    Really? I think the DMV area is pretty cheap. There are so many dealers trying to cut each other’s throats when it comes to new cars.

    Not sure about used cars generally, but I can tell you there’s a huge surplus of entry-level used luxury cars here. Tons of people lease them and dump them 3 years later.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    I love the Flex, and I am forever obliged to post the short answer as to why that is the case:
    http://s26.postimg.org/wyadsghrd/Flex_Volvo.jpg

    With that out of the way:

    1) How common is it to indebt yourself to buy a car in the US? If there is any sort of debth that doesn’t make sense to my brain, it’s cars (well, maybe cheese, too). Cars necessarily depreciate and the money keeps burning.

    2) How long do Flex’s stay on inventory? Is there a way to see an industry average for used car dealers? I see they are traded expensively as grey exports on mobile.de, too, and importing one to my country, Norway, would be forbiddingly expensive due to its massive engines which trigger punitive taxation.

    3) How about a Toyota 4runner? I think they came with both AWD and 7 seats. Reliable, not a big nameplate so prices should be sensible, and I know nobody who is not happy with one.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “1) How common is it to indebt yourself to buy a car in the US? ”

      it’s pretty much the done thing.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        …but, why? Isn’t that an expensive approach? And even more so for used cars?

        • 0 avatar
          gearhead77

          Buying on credit is just how it’s done here in the US by the majority of car buyers. Much easier to see it in terms of a monthly payment than an outlay of cash. Plus, if you’ve got good credit, you can qualify for no interest or low interest financing for as long as 84 months in some situations.

          And with no money down in quite a few cases. Even with banks paying nothing for interest, why not use the automakers money and let yours sit in the bank? Five year CD(certificate of deposit) with $25,000 even at a piddling 2% works out to another ~$4500 in your pocket. Get a vehicle with great resale and you could lose very little.

          Cars are an awful financial loss anyway, but they’re too much fun for me to go all Dave Ramsey with.

          Or, with same good credit, you can get a no money down lease. New cars are “cheap” in the US for those who are qualified and can find the right deal.

          • 0 avatar
            Sjalabais

            I see your point, but with inflation hovering around 0-1% for a while now, a 2% interest rate on a loan, and unstable stock markets, it’s not necessarily easier to let money work and have a loan, than to buy a car outright?

            I’ve calculated loan-based purchase and leasing for myself once, and the result was an incredible waste of money. Might be different in the US, though.

          • 0 avatar
            gearhead77

            Sj, many people just also do not have the cash to put out on a car outright, myself included. I won’t get into it too much, but the buying habits of the US consumer always lean to immediate gratification. Why save 20k for a new car when you can just spend that much in the monthly payment? Ignoring interest, especially at somewhere around 0-5% on a new car for even middling qualifed buyers, what difference does it really make?

            Also, many people do not have the income and/or the cash flow to save substantially, especially the middle class who buy most of the new vehicles. And while you can make a $5000 or under car last, if you aren’t handy or mechanically inclined, your true savings might not amount to much.

            There’s any number of variables and many combine together. Some people get all preachy, I say do whatever works for you. We lease because we like to for a number of reasons and it works for us.

          • 0 avatar
            tjh8402

            There are a lot of variables to consider. I had a paid off car, but my driving increased dramatically, and it was going to be quite expensive in both gas and maintenance to put 2k miles a month on an out of warranty German car. Yea I could’ve paid cash for its replacement, but I also decided I wanted halfway decent safety rating and features (like side curtain airbags). Once I added that requirement, I was already pricing myself out of what I could afford to pay cash for, especially if I didn’t wan’t something higher mileage with a questionable ownership history. My rather low $210/month payment is the same as my maintenance budget on my old car and the gas mileage is a lot better so I’m already ahead there, nevermind that I was able to get a 2 year old one owner car with only 24k miles on it. I’ll pay a couple grand in interest for the peace of mind that brings over buying something 10 years old with over 100k miles on it, as well as the fact that in my case, this car has a lifetime bumper to bumper unlimited mileage warranty on it. If I drove less, I would consider leasing. There is a great deal of peace of mind that comes from knowing your cars ownership expenses will never exceed a certain amount thanks to a warranty. As I a homeowner, I already have one necessity that I constantly worry could throw a catastrophically expensive and unexpected repair my way. It’s nice to know the car won’t do the same to me.

          • 0 avatar
            Sjalabais

            I’m, sounds like there are very reasonable ways to borrow oneself into a car.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Sjalabais,

      Are you saying the Flex is channeling the spirit of the Volvo 240 wagon? I’ve owned two 240s and I would not agree.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        No, I think of it more than a modern day 760. It is sized well, quite luxurious, ambitiously build and – first and foremost – as square as they come. The 240, together with the 140 and 1800 my preferred Volvos, is of a more archaic and basic tradition. If that’s why you would disagree with the above comment, I’m all in.

  • avatar
    ganong

    Slightly used Town and Country is what you are looking for!

  • avatar
    Sam Vimes

    On the one hand, it’s just a stupid appliance. On the other, I walk out every morning past my wife’s 2015 FWD Flex and think to myself I am so (#*&$ happy we have this car. While I understand some find the design polarizing, I love looking at and driving this big boxy box of a station wagon. It replaced a heavy, floaty 2006 Pilot which served us well but was overkill when we moved to CA where weather doesn’t exist. The Pilot was never fun to drive either. The Flex rides and handles firmly with plenty of non-eco power. To an earlier commenter the gas tank is definitely too small and I could do with more analog and less Sync. My daily is a GTI and I never hesitate to grab the keys to the Flex and not just because I can’t stand her driving.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I’ve never had good luck with a Ford product of any kind, new or used. But that’s beside the point.

    If you truly want a Flex, then go ahead and buy one new. Yes, you may lose out a bit on depreciation but based on your Pilot and Element you’re not the type to trade every three years (or even five.) In my own case, I specifically avoid used because I have never bought a used car in which I didn’t have to spend thousands more to fix my predecessor’s problems. Even my like-new ’97 Ranger (22K on the clock) cost just shy of $2K to rebuild the AC and hydraulic clutch before I could drive it home on an 800-mile trip. My luck with new (outside of Ford) has been No Problems with most cars and covered by warranty on the rest out to 70K miles and more, effectively saving me the out-of-pocket expenses for repairs when they were needed. Yes, it does cost more in monthly payments, but if you offer a big enough down payment you can control them to some extent.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      Let me just offer an economics-only perspective: We have two cars, a 2002 Honda Stream 7 seater and a 2002 Toyota Camry, which is very rare in my neck of the woods. Both cars are. So parts supply is totally dismal, everything has to be bought new.

      Both cars average around 1 NOK/km* in gas expenses, the Honda is over 1 NOK/km in repairs/maintenance, too, while the Camry remains proverbially reliable with few maintenance cost apart from a transmission flush (700$!), exhaust work, bulbs and tires. The cars average a pre-capital-cost of 2.66 and 2.63 NOK/km.

      A new car the size of the Honda would be 7-8 NOK/km, the Camry just shy of 10 NOK/km the first five years or so. Capital costs are very low with our vehicles. Even though we have to repair and maintain our old-ish crap regularly, we get away nicely when we think about money exclusively. I can’t imagine that that would be so very different in a US context, particularly once you factor in capital cost and even a loan.

      *the actual amounts/currency/measurements don’t matter, I’m going for relative numbers here.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        That’s why I choose to buy new, Sjalabais. Granted, conditions may differ in different regions and/or countries and I’m willing to accept that. But my personal experience has been that I get much better reliability out of buying new (yes, I do finance) and overall costs are greatly reduced during the warranty period which for me has been typically longer than 3 years (five years with my last two New purchases and a factory extended contract on the drivetrain of my Jeep.) My Jeep is at 9 years old and 70K miles and I’ve spent only a little over $2K on unexpected repairs for a brand and model supposedly notorious for needing the shop. My Fiat 500 hasn’t cost me a penny for unexpected repairs.

        The old Ranger? After my noted repairs on acquisition it hasn’t needed any more work… yet, but it’s a Ford and it’s always a concern. My previous Ford, an F-150, cost me $2300 to pass state inspection due to needed repairs about 5 years ago and that same truck just cost its new owner another $1300 in supposedly needed repairs after my only driving it for 3,000 miles in that period of time. It was obviously far more truck than I needed but it was the best available for the money when I needed it. This Ranger is much more the ideal size for my needs.

        • 0 avatar
          Sjalabais

          2k$ in unexpected repairs over 9 years is excellent indeed, but there’s a maintenance budget, too, isn’t it? That’s probably not too different from a used car though, with tires and all.

          I’ve seen some good numbers now – looks like the economics improve once the market for car loans gets big enough.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            $2K over 9 years is acceptable; $2K within one month is not. That’s why I refuse to buy used if I can avoid it. Two Ford pickups, both required major repairs before I could even register them. Admittedly one of them I knew exactly what I was getting into–or so I thought. Brake job, yes; exhaust manifold? Total surprise. The other, with only 19.8K miles on the clock needed a total clutch system rebuild; master and slave cylinders replaced along with almost all of the hardware leading into the clutch itself.

            My very first used car? I had to replace the engine block within the first WEEK! Oh, the engine ran good, but was pumping engine oil by the gallon into the coolant system. The first reliable car I ever owned was brand new. Maybe it’s just bad luck on my part, but I’ve only ever owned one used car that didn’t need constant repair and that one got totaled in a crash just as it reached its first anniversary with me.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Vulpine,
      My experience with four used Fords is similar. Two were bought off commercial leases from a relative. These Tauri had approx 50K miles and were 30 months old and had been serviced per the maintenance schedule We put about 30K trouble free miles on each before selling them. So far so good for 80K miles.
      I bought a 2000 Taurus with 140K miles privately in 2005. It was a maintenance headache from day one over the approximately 100K miles I had it. I ended up scraping it in 2014.
      I inherited a 97 Crown Vic in superb condition that was fastidiously maintained by my late father. At 70 K miles, I replaced all of the brake lines due to severe corrosion. Fortunately, nothing else under the car has more than surface rust. I just discovered that the plastic manifold is leaking coolant at a hose connection. Plastic used where not appropriate.
      Also, several coworkers with 2004-2005 Tauruses had complete tranny failures around 80K miles. One owned the car from new and had it dealer serviced which didn’t seem to matter.
      As a comparison, I examined the brake lines on my wife’s 99 Honda and my 2004 Saturn Ion. Both were plastic coated and had no rust. Ford used un-coated steel brake lines that probably saved them 5 cents a foot.
      I can’t say if Ford quality has improved since 2005, but based on my experience I would not expect a Ford product to last past 100K miles without premature (IMHO) failures.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I like the Flex, but my wife does not. ” It looks like a refrigerator, yuck”. But I don’t like the Flex not having sliding doors. Big turnoff for me after being used to minivan ownership.

    We’ll be minivan customers for a long time and possible minivan lessors for a long time. If you’ve got to drive a minivan, why keep the same one forever? I’m liking the Sienna SE for the next one, but I’m intrigued by the Pacifica and Sedona for a change. And a new Odyssey will be out when our lease ends next year. I like the MB Metris, but it won’t fit in our low garage (the Odyssey barely does) so that won’t work.

    I know we all survived being kids in a wagon or minivan crammed with stuff. But why not get more room if you can? It’s all about making due with your means and using the best tool for the job. My kids are older now and in booster seats, so we could get away with a wagon or sedan. But having the versatile box of the minivan is nice for family work, especially with grandparents involved. A recent trip to somewhere with the grandparents where parking was at a premium reminded me of how having a large vehicle with a third row and a low step-in height is what I need most of the time. Not a pseudo macho crossover with no real space.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      gearhead,
      You hit the nail on the head with your comment. I would only add that the need for separation of children increases after they get out of car seats. We have three kids, and found that they were getting in each other’s way in the back seat of a Taurus wagon in the late 90’s. I replaced it with a 99 Oddy with second row captain’s chairs and the third row bench. Now no one had to sit up against anyone else. All problems with “he’s touching me” etc disappeared forever.
      We still have that minivan even though the kids have launched. I don’t use it very much, but it’s great for trips to HD. I watch in amusement at the loading area the work people with full sized SUVs go through to put similar items on their roofs. 4×8 sheets of drywall or plywood fit in the floor of the minivan if you remove the second row seats. This takes about 5 minutes.
      Minivans rule; SUVs drool!

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