By on February 7, 2018

2017 Cadillac XTS, Image: © 2017 Charley Baruth

Way before the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad existed, I had my own financial angel and devil on my shoulders in the form of my grandfather and mother, respectively. Granddad retired at 54 and lived more than four decades in perfect comfort based on the investment decisions he’d made prior to retirement. My mom is… well, let’s just say she didn’t retire at 54.

Mom always had champagne taste and a debutante’s contempt for anybody who did not. When my grandfather decided to buy himself a Cadillac shortly after retiring, my mother told me, in quite snippy fashion, that it was “a used Cadillac, like what a loan shark would drive.” I don’t know what I thought I was going to find in Granddad’s garage when I got there, but the six-month-old ice-blue Eldorado Biarritz that he’d actually bought wasn’t it. He took me to the grocery store in it. When we went to the register, he took out a coupon book.

“Granddad,” I asked, “why do you use coupons if you have a Eldorado with a stainless steel roof?”

“Johnny,” he winked at me, “that’s why I have one.

Shortly afterwards, my father bought a Town Car. It was brand new, which pleased my mother. But in my heart of hearts I always liked Granddad’s Eldorado better, all the more so because I knew he got it cheap. Every time I manage to buy something outrageous at a steep discount, I think of my sharp-dealing grandfather and his delight at never paying retail for anything. Which brings us to today’s questioner, who is considering following in the old man’s footsteps, after a fashion.


Sean writes,

Looking at a car for a retirement from my career job. Although I’m still going to work consulting and side work I won’t be driving into the city any more so I feel like I can get a car and really take care of it for once. Definitely want comfort and space so I was thinking Impala. Yes I know it’s no sports car lol. But I can get a Cadillac for the same money if I get an older model. I’m thinking under 30 grand out the door. They say it’s the same car. Do I get the Chevy or Caddy?

Sean didn’t say, but I’m going to assume that he’s talking about the Cadillac XTS since that’s the platform twin to the Impala. Turns out that my family really digs this car: my wife praised the XTS in a review and my brother grooved on the Impala a few years earlier. It seems like a reasonable choice either way.

After doing some investigation of various used-car pricing sites, it looks like $25,000 will get you a very nice 2015 XTS or a very nice 2017 Impala. Getting a brand-new one, particularly in Premier trim, will ring the register in the $30,000 range. So let’s compare a hypothetical 2015 XTS “Luxury” trim against a 2018 Impala LT brand-new from your local dealer. What’s the better buy?

Let’s start with the fact that you’ll have to pay extra for the 3.6-liter V6 in the Impala; it’s standard in the XTS. So don’t be fooled by loss-leader four-cylinder cars either in the dealer weekend ads or the ex-rental listings. Otherwise, the XTS is pretty much the same as the Impala, but everything is just that little bit nicer. If you can find a Platinum trim, then you get some truly exemplary interior fittings. Both cars are quiet, the Cadillac being more so. It’s possible to find a twin-turbo Vsport out there, but not at these price/mileage levels.

Most of the Cadillacs I found in the $25k range had about 20,000 miles on them. That’s mileage that you wouldn’t have on a new Impala, or a low-mileage 2017 turn-in, but the Cadillac also has a longer warranty. More importantly, the Cadillac warranty is performed at Cadillac dealers. As someone who has dealt extensively with GM dealership warranty service, I can attest that the wreath-and-crest is a serious advantage here. You’ll also get a loaner car from most dealers when you are in for service.

Down the road, the Cadillac will always be worth a little more, if that matters. The quality of the paint may be higher. On the downside, some of the XTS models have heavy, and pricey, wheel/tire combos. And if you happen to get an XTS with Brembos, that will cost you more to service, obviously.

So what should Sean do? The no-risk choice is to get an Impala. But I’d be tempted to do some careful shopping for an XTS that really did have a little-old-lady-from-Pasadena owner. It’s easier to find that kind of history in a Cadillac XTS than it is with a new BMW M4 — at least at the moment, meow. And there’s a little bit of extra joy that comes from driving a Caddy. Even if it doesn’t matter anymore… it still kind of matters to some of us. In fact, I can easily see myself driving a Cadillac someday. Make mine ice blue, like Granddad’s first Eldorado. (Yes, there were others afterwards.) I’ll take my grandson shopping in it. Well, online shopping anyway. I’ll show him how to stack deals at Saks Off 5th. There’s never a reason to pay retail if you don’t have to.

[Image: Charley Baruth/TTAC]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

83 Comments on “Ask Jack: Trading in Your (Chance at a) Chevy for a Cadillac-ack-ack?...”


  • avatar
    IBx1

    My grandfather has a silver XTS he bought new, I think around a 2012 model. It’s becoming a service nightmare at 90,000 miles and he does a lot of driving with his ongoing consulting work. Lots of catalytic converter-related problems mainly; had to replace two around 70k miles and keep going back to tend to it. His last car was an ’05 DeVille that I learned to drive on that had 140,000 miles by the time he was done with it; surprisingly more reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      According to Wikipedia, it’d be a ’13 (first model year), not that “around a 2012 model” isn’t a perfectly valid description for a ’13. I wonder what’s up with the catalytic converter(s)? I’m tempted to say “first model year bugs,” but the fraternal twin LaCrosse came out in ’10. I wonder if it’s a direct injection-related issue, perhaps bits of solidified carbon tumbling downstream into the cats? (My 2¢: I think the industry is going to shift towards dual injection. Based on Lexus’ example, the extra cost and complexity of two sets of injectors seems to have a worthwhile payoff in terms of emissions and keeping valves relatively carbon-free. I know DI-only engines have improved markedly in that regard, but my guess is that carbon buildup remains a potential problem for high-mileage engines.)

      Per ajla’s comment below, I’m also curious as to which engine Jack’s grandfather’s Cadillac would’ve had.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        A colleague has an Ecoboost MKT and I know given her driving it has to be over 100,000 miles – it replaced a Town Car.

        I was behind her in traffic when she got on the throttle – the soot that shot out of the tailpipe gave me pause.

        • 0 avatar
          IBx1

          I just remember him having it before I moved to Texas in ’13, so it was a first year model.

          PrincipalDan, I saw an EcoBoost F-150 drop a gear or two and it had a split second of solid soot coming out the stock tailpipe. I could tell the particulate size is much more fine than if it were diesel exhaust by how fuzzy it looked.

          • 0 avatar
            EMedPA

            I have an Escape with the 2.0 Ecoboost. Mine does the same thing under full throttle. My uneducated guess is that it’s the nature of direct injection.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “I wonder if it’s a direct injection-related issue”

        This would be my guess. My advice is to check and see if the W-Impala which got the 3.6 DOHC in MY12 or MY13 has similar issues in order to establish a pattern.

      • 0 avatar
        HEOJ

        It’s not that bad an answer for someone who didn’t buy the car. A new 2013 XTS would’ve been sold in 2012, so not perfectly valid, but pretty darn close.

  • avatar
    ajla

    What engine was in your grandfather’s Cadillac?

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      If you mean mine, it’s the ubiquitous 3.6L. It sounds like his may be more problematic than the average for that engine, otherwise it would happen the same with any car with the 3.6.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      From what I recall the steel roof was dropped after MY91, so its either the eighth gen E-body with 4100 charm or the downsized ninth gen with “fixed” 4.1, 4.5, or 4.9. Since Jack or Gramps were not cursing the car in Jack’s anecdote, I’m guessing ninth gen 4.5 (MY88-90).

      Oh baby.

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadillac_Eldorado#/media/File:Eldorardo-7th_generation.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        From Jack’s prior writing he doesn’t have much love for the transverse Cadillacs of the late 80s, so I’m thinking it’s a ’79-’85. He’s alluded to liking those before.

        But, just for that generation it could still be 4.1L V8, 4.1L V6, 5.7L gas V8, 6.0L gas V8, or 5.7L diesel V8.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          True, Ajla. It would have depended on MY since the marque/model were a bit schizophrenic in the eighth gen. I don’t see his granddad in a diesel or V6, my guess is MY80 and the 368.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            It was a 1979, just like this one only with the 350 instead of the diesel:

            https://www.schmitt.com/inventory/ds-1979-cadillac-eldorado-biarritz-2-door-coupe/

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I really want a 1979 Oldsmobile Toronado with the Olds 350, nothing against the Cadillac but I’d rather have the big block even if it is V 8-6-4.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Arghhh I was thinking MY79 but something pulled me toward the 368 and its “Cadillac” heritage.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Ace Rothstein approves, Jack.

            My dad had a ’80 that looked exactly like this one, except it had the same alloys as the Biarritz you posted, and a tan leather interior:

            https://assets.hemmings.com/uimage/55525879-500-0.jpg

            Insanely dapper. Heck, I even got to third base for the first time in it (that electrically powered passenger seat recliner came in quite handy).

            It was a complete piece of s**t, but it was a looker.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            You only exist out here because of me!

      • 0 avatar

        Negatory on this timeline. He retired at 54, and lived over four decades since in comfort. So our used subject Eldorado is pre-78.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    CPO XTS with 7 year 100,000 mile warranty can be a tempting choice. If you don’t care what anybody thinks of your purchase (there are still people like Jack’s mother out there) and just want to gobble up the miles.

    I wish the nearest Cadillac dealer was closer than 130 miles away. My service would not be “wreath and crest.”

    Given that neither the Cadillac or the Impala will have any real residual value, the Caddy strikes me as the better value and the choice of the smart shopper.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Sir, may I tempt you with this lovely V-sport model?

    https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/726508494/overview/

    That’s tasty.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    We have to live with our choices. Get the Cadillac.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice piece Jack, I enjoyed it. Sean would probably be better off in the XTS closest to the Epi-Impala that offers the options he wants. Given GM’s penchant for parts bin and options packages, there is probably some combination which offers the best of both worlds without one-off Cadillac only parts/options.

  • avatar
    AK

    Sorry for being the guy who does this, but I’d get an off lease Lexus GS350

  • avatar
    relton

    I’ve driven the XTS and the Impala back to back, when the Impala came out. Frankly, I thought the Impala was a nicer car. It rode better, handled more responsively, was quieter, and the interior seemed better put together.

    Both cars had the 3.6 liter engine, and both had the same size and brand of tire.

    I’ve had a lot of high end cars, some of them even Cadillacs, but in this case, I’d take the Impala any day.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    When I retired I picked up a 42 grand sticker SRX with 15,000 miles for $16,000 (old guy died, family was excited when I started peeling off cash money). Now it’s at 90,000 mi, did have a set of dead cats replaced on emissions warranty, and when you go to the Caddy dealer you can hang out with the NFL and NBA guys who are getting their ‘Sclades serviced, at least the ones not rich enough to have “people” to do that stuff.

  • avatar
    relton

    FWIW, I wasn’t the only one to come to this conclusion (Impala better than XTS).

    Consumer Reports tested both, and gave the Impala 20 more points, almost 20%, than the XTS.

    I tried to get the powers-that-be at FCA to do a real teardown study to see how Chevy could take a $70,000 Cadillac, cut the price in half, and pick up 20 points in CR. I never was able to convince anyone that this would be useful knowledge, which is probably why FCA cars, typically, do so poorly at CR.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’ve driven both. A 16 Impala LTZ and I test drove a relative’s who had rented a 17 XTS while visiting from being stationed abroad.I’d have to give the nod to the Cadi.
    I did recommend the Impala to my inlaws, but they’re not looking to treat themselves, and the XTS is more special in most every way, and that’s what this gent is looking for.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    That’s a tough one. I really like Cadillacs, but the Impy is actually compelling. Probably the best big Chevy in a generation or two.

    I have a suspicion that if you were to appear on a Chevy lot and wanting to buy a V6 Impy in one of the higher trim levels, they’d write a pretty sweet deal to get one off of the lot. New car smell and warranty. Plus, you don’t have to deal with whatever the previous owner did or did not do to the car.

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    Personally, I’ve never bought new. I came AWFULLY close though, a couple times. Most recently when a Challenger became inevitable. Local dealer had a couple leftover ‘15 R/Ts and a whole stack of ‘16’s fresh off the truck. Figured I could swing a deal but they weren’t really willing to budge on the price, weren’t offering me what was fair on my trade. Neither ‘15 was set up to my liking either: one was red (meh) the other was white (ok I loved Vanishing Point and my last name rhymes with Kowalski) but both had white leather seats (yikes) and the automatic (I’m a die hard manual enthusiast but DAMN the TF-8 is awesome). So my prospect here is paying full pop for a car that Im buying more for want than need, AND I’m being asked to make compromises? Nyet.

    I ended up buying a 1- owner, 16K immaculate ‘09 R/T manual at a savings of better than $10K. I got the exact color I wanted (electric blue), manual, tutone black/grey leather seats, no sunroof, and it already had the Mopar CAI and functional hood scoop upgrades. I got stuck with 20” factory wheels (18” Old school mags were already budgeted) and the nav screen, didn’t get the Super Track Pack I wanted, but those concessions were well worth the $$ saved. Sure its a 7 year old car but it’s lived like it’s barely 2. I could care less about bragging about a ‘brand new car’…a good running clean V8 muscle car set up (mostly) how I want it gives me far and away more value and grins than a brand new anything else that’s not checking those boxes.

    I guess the point is you’ll be happiest by deciding what’s important to YOU and you alone then seeking maximum value per dollar, vs the cheapest or the newest option.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    He’s tradin’ in his Chevy for a Cadillac
    You oughta know by now
    And if he can’t drive
    With a broken back
    At least he can polish the fenders.

    As Billy Joel sang, it used to be a big deal to move up to a Caddie – now not so much. For resale value, I’d probably look at a 2014-15 SRX which seem to be at about the same $25,000 price point.

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    My answer would be neither. The days of used Caddy or good high end Chevy being nice rides are over. Not unless we are talking a Tahoe or Suburban.

    My suggestion for something in the same price range would be get a Grand Cherokee Limited. For new you can find them for 35-40k. For used considerably less.

    A Grand Cherokee is the Buick of yesteryear. Not too ostentatious. Not ghetto Ford or Chevy like. And not a uppity Mercedes or BMW or Audi. and not a so me too Japanese. A Grand Cherokee is a vehicle that one can drive in any social setting and gets respect from everyone. No one begrudges you. It shows you have arrived at a place in life where you are comfortable with things. Of-course a 4-Runner is even better, but those can’t be found cheap even used. Still a 4 Runner limited or a Grand Cherokee Limited are the Buicks of today.

    If you really want a car, go get a Genesis G80. Case closed

    • 0 avatar
      MeJ

      “…not a “uppity” Mercedes or BMW or Audi.”
      I think you meant “fun.”

      “…and not a so “me too” Japanese.”
      I think you meant “reliable”

    • 0 avatar
      AK

      Sure, but SUVs aren’t as nice to drive as big sedans. Please, just let someone buy a sedan. We need him. :)

      G80 is not a bad call but the Genesis branded ones are not 30k yet. You can however take your pick of Hyundai badged 2014 or 2015 for comfortably under 30k. That’s a lot of car for that price.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    XTS CPO all week long. I’m seeing 16’s with under 15K miles and high option levels for under $25K at GM dealers. So much more satisfying than an Impala.
    “Let’s make a deal” then XTS is the value buy here also. Previous owner took the hard hit on depriciation so you can smile as you drive.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Baby, baby drove up in a Cadillac/I said “Jesus Christ, where’d you get that Cadillac?”/She said “Balls to you, big Daddy.”/She ain’t never coming back!

  • avatar
    maui_zaui

    Jack, you mentioned Rich Dad, Poor Dad, but have you ever read “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas Stanley? He talks about the behavior of people who had accumulated over $1 million net worth and how you wouldn’t be able to spot them from anyone else because they live modestly (like buying used cars). The folks he profiled all earned their high net worth by working and saving, not inheriting the money like most people believe. The story of your grandfather reminded me of this.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I seem to remember “Millionaire Next Door” also mentioned high net worth individuals who treated themselves to used luxury cars purchased directly from their spendthrift neighbors at a good price. Used cars with a known history from a known person and with no dealer markup.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Is buying a used $30K MKX really going to make you a millionaire over buying a new $30k Mustang or a new $25k Impala?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Yeah… that was how I ended up with a Town Car that almost killed my wife. From now on it’s Brioni overcoats and $59,000 trucks! :)

  • avatar
    deanst

    The obvious answer is buy a new, leftover 2017 Buick LaCrosse.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    If OP is willing to look beyond GM, OP is spoiled with lots of choices that tick all the boxes: comfortable, luxurious, hit with depreciation even though the odo barely has 5 digits and with good reliability even if you go past 100,000 miles

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    When my wife decided to replace her Rabbit with a (trigger warning ahead) crossover we test drove an Edge Titanium (Platinum?) and a same era MKX on the same day. I personally found them to be no different; they both had leather and Ford MyTouch. But my wife was adamant about the Lincoln. It had nicer paint, more (cheap) leather surfaces and more little luxury convenience features. The sum of the incremental parts was greater than the whole for sure. We have been enjoying it.

    In my experience, when buying used, it pretty much always pays to get the most loaded car you can, unless some features just don’t matter or make things problematic. When I got my G37 I thought “eh I can get a Journey and swap the big brakes and LSD later”… in retrospect, I’m glad I got a Sport with all that already installed

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “In my experience, when buying used, it pretty much always pays to get the most loaded car you can, unless some features just don’t matter or make things problematic.”

      Yep. I’ve spent insane amounts of time and energy in my life making sure that I buy fully loaded versions of used cars. I’ve never regretted it.

  • avatar
    Scout_Number_4

    Jack, thanks for this–I, too, admire your grandfather for managing to spend such a large percentage of his life retired.

    Point of information: what is the preferred way to contact you for “Ask Jack?”

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    The local Cadillac dealer is also a Chevy dealer. Both brands share the same building for sales and service. That makes it easy to compare similar models side by side.
    I went to look at an ATS which didn’t have a Chevy stablemate, but the upper time Impalas gave the XTS a run for the money. Given the platform sharing, it’s getting harder to justify the price difference between the two. However, Cadillac can rely on residual badge whoring to extract a few extra sales.

  • avatar
    George B

    I’d tell Sean to buy whichever GM car he likes better within his budget, New Impala vs. Used XTS. Neither is an obviously bad choice and is should be easy to find a used XTS in excellent condition.

  • avatar
    ernest

    I like your grand dad- man after my own heart (I’m a committed mooch when it comes to buying cars). The XTS is a decent car, but CUE annoys the living daylights out of me. They couldn’t have made it less user friendly if they tried. I’m not technology averse- my Charger has more dang pages of choices to scroll though than any human would need. At least they’re easy and intuitive to use, unlike the Cadillac. I’m neutral on the Impala- neither like nor dislike it.

    My own choice in this class of car would be a Chrysler 300c lease return, preferably with AWD, and absolutely with an extended warranty. Unless he wants to get in touch with his inner child, like I did, and spring for a Hemi.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Out of curiosity, why not offer up the Lacrosse? I believe it is the same platform and is readily available with the V6 and a Premium I AWD is not a terrible place to spend ones time.

  • avatar
    r2s2

    Warren Buffett drives an XTS. Lots of worse people to take advice from. Case closed.

  • avatar
    BrentinWA

    i say go with the XTS. I have a 2013 Platinum model. Everyone that rides in it can’t shut up about how much they love it inside. The lighting at night makes the interior positively lovely I also have asked the dealer about replacing the Brembo Brakes as I thought I may be nearing time at 55,000 miles, but they told me I am still at about 70% but no worries when replacement comes as it would only be about $130 per axle.. per AXLE, not per corner. Damned cheap in my book especially after experiencing other “luxury” car service bills.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    One of the things that still disgusts me from my long-past days in retail were the cheap mofos who acted like they’d refuse a heart transplant if they couldn’t get a deal on it.

    If you’re not willing to pay full price, you don’t really want something. And if you don’t really want it, why are you trying to buy it?

    Stuff costs what it costs, and if you can’t afford it don’t buy it.

    I’m not a rich man, I just can’t stand the penny-pincher mindset.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • FreedMike: This is definitely not good news. China is probably critical to the company’s health.
  • Fordson: Some makes just should never produce SUVs…this is one of them. Look at the Maserati car in the group...
  • FreedMike: Toyota. Why do you think they haven’t invested in EVs?
  • redapple: Who will buy Tesla? GGM?
  • forward_look: Once I bought a ’74 (?) Colt/Mitsubishi for $100 that had the strut towers rusted out. I welded...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States