Ask Bark: Hot Car In The City

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
ask bark hot car in the city

Micah writes:

Hi –

My wife and I live in New York City. For most people, this would mean no car, but our neighborhood isn’t on subway lines, necessitating wheels for errands, and we often leave the city on day trips. Our car – a ’98 Jetta – has needed nearly $2,000 in repairs over the past 18 months (and repairs are necessary, at an increasing rate), so it might be time to move on. We both agree that the best car for us is a Mercedes-Benz GLK Bluetec (yes, we test drove the previous generation), but that’s more for when we plan on moving out of the city next summer. We sorta need something until then. What are our options?

I see several:

  1. Negotiate a 12-18 month lease
  2. Try the lease takeover thing
  3. Buy something CPO that’s small and cheap that we can flip next summer
  4. Buy the Benz now, insurance be damned
  5. Just rent something for whenever we need to leave the city

What do you think? Thanks!

There are two huge problems with owning a car in New York — parking and insurance. I’m not sure which borough you live in, but parking spaces in Manhattan and Brooklyn probably cost more per month than my house in Kentucky does. So kudos to you for paying outlandish fees to park a Mk III Jetta, and it won’t cost you any more to park a Benz than it would cost you to park a Jetta — unless you feel like you want a better, safer parking spot for your new whip, which might cost more.

So let’s look at each of your options and determine which one is right for you.

1 and 2: Leasing a car in New York isn’t a terrible idea — until it is. Some captive leasing companies will be kinder than others when it comes to damage sustained over the course of a lease, but New York is a magnet for scratches, dings, and dents. Along with Washington, it’s the only city where the cars with bumper guards seem to outnumber those without. While the lease pricing might be attractive upfront, you might get a nasty shock when you go to turn in the car, especially if you’re leasing something that you have no interest in keeping at the end of the term and if you’re not going to lease another car from that OEM.

3: I like this option, and I’m not even sure that CPO is a must. If you’re only planning to keep the car for 12-18 months, I’d probably go a little more used so that your depreciation hit is lessened.

4: I’ll ask you the question my father would ask me in the same situation: would that make you happy? If so, is the increased cost and pain of the insurance in the city worth it? That’s a question that only you can answer. Financially, it might not be the smartest decision, but the emotional value could make up for it.

5: This would appear to be the most economical decision. I don’t know how often you leave the city, but the cost probably comes out ahead. However, the convenience factor is very low here. Do you really want to have to plan your life out that far in advance? If you need to make a nice little Saturday out of a run to the Home Depot, are you prepared to deal with that hassle?

There’s one more option you didn’t mention — keep the Jetta and suck it up on the repairs. I have a feeling that you have no desire to own the Jetta for even one more day, but I have no doubt that at least five members of the B&B will tell you that this is what you should do. Screw that. Life is short.

So here’s what I’d do:

Find a used car that you don’t mind driving for the next year or so that’s already taken a nice depreciation hit but should still be fairly reliable for that time period — why not a nice Cadillac ATS 2.0? 2013s are going for about 40 percent of MSRP right now, but I don’t think they’re going to trend any lower in the next year. That means you should be able to sell it for nearly exactly what you originally paid for it, provided that you keep the miles low (which sounds like a given) and the dent fairy doesn’t bless you with too many visits. The 2.0 is a relatively well-tested powertrain at this point, so you shouldn’t encounter many issues.

Then, when you get your house in Connecticut and your picket fence, you’ll be able to transition into that Benzo, completely pain free. You’re welcome.

Questions for Bark can be electronically mailed to, or sent via this new Twitter thing to @barkm302. I also have Snapchat. I don’t know how to use it.

[Image: MsSaraKelly/ Flickr]

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2 of 42 comments
  • Dude500 Dude500 on Aug 24, 2016

    buy CPO or lease = $500+ per month parking = $500+ per month plus gas, insurance, maintenance etc etc $1000+++ per month... Just take Uber everywhere, even every day, and you'll be better off.

  • Laerm Laerm on Sep 02, 2016

    Hi everyone – I'm the dude who wrote in. Thanks to you all for your advice, and extra thanks go to Bark for running my question, which I was pretty stoked about. I figured I'd update you with our plans. The neighborhood we live in is underpopulated – mostly warehouses and such – so parking here is a piece of cake. It's a bad day when I get street parking two blocks from our place. So that's not a concern. Of concern is that our neighborhood has awful roads, which had already contributed to 5 new shocks in the Jetta in two years. But, well, sorta moot point, as we decided we'd just hang out with car2go and walking for a couple months. I'll keep an eye on craisglists nearby for cars that we'd be interested in that you suggested – like the older MB C-class or the Prius C – throughout the fall and see if we can turn up a deal. If not, I'll count our blessings at not having to deal with a car parked on the street when the snow comes and we'll get our GLK next spring. The only lease deal we considered (well, that *I* considered and tried to sell my wife on) was on the Volvo V60. $259 was a great deal there.

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