A Landlord's Conundrum: Loaded Lesser Model, or Discounted Premium?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

A guest showed up at the apartment yesterday, ready and prepared for when things got hot. No, stop thinking that, you weirdos — it was my landlord. He was replacing my smoke detectors. God.

Nice guy, I should point out, certainly the best landlord I’ve ever had. Anyway, as tends to happen with this fellow, we got to talking about cars. Also per the norm, he found himself on the fence regarding a purchasing dilemma — one that’s no doubt familiar to many readers.

Like many of us, my landlord has an aging parent who wants to ditch a reliable but increasingly decrepit sedan and enter the crossover club. Everyone’s doing it. There’s a good reason why passenger car sales drop each year, and this is but one example.

Without asking his father’s price range, I suggested he replace his 2003 Volvo S60 with a Toyota RAV4. While the current generation’s body doesn’t do it for me (does any crossover do it for me?), the rock-solid powertrain, good resale value, and supremely comfortable front seats make it an obvious top pick.

Oh good, he said, I looked at one. It was a Limited model, apparently, decked out in Toyota’s finest, but it also served as a dealer loaner for a span of about 4,500 miles. I have to assume it was a well-used 2018 model, as the dealer apparently wanted $42,000CAD for it. Not having all the time in the world in the middle of the day, I didn’t stop to check Toyota Canada’s website for a firm MSRP on that model, but his quoted price seemed steep. Turns out it is. A loaded Limited model with optional Platinum package, after delivery, retails for $41,902. Yikes.

Meanwhile, my landlord, channeling his father, had discovered an opportunity: Acura Canada has $5,000 in manufacturer cash waiting for anyone willing to drive off in a new RDX. A similar-sized crossover, but a premium marque. Something tells me his Volvo-driving father rates highly the status a badge can bring; certainly no amount of options turns a RAV4 into a Lexus, at least not on the outside.

A loaded 2018 RDX Elite retails in the Great White North for just over $49,000. With $5,000 on the hood, that brings the MSRP to roughly $44,400 after delivery and fees. A pretty narrow gap between it and the RAV4.

Having not driven an RDX in ages, I can only remember when the existing (refreshed) generation was new. Good, ballsy power from Honda’s trusty 3.5-liter V6 — about 100 ponies more than the RAV4’s perfectly decent 2.5-liter — and a very soft suspension are the two things I recall from that long-ago drive. That V6 isn’t the thriftiest thing, though, and it demands premium unleaded. As this is Canada, 91 octane gas often warrants an extra 15 cents a liter, with premium prices currently hanging around $1.35 a liter (that’s over five bucks a gallon, Americans.)

While I didn’t ask my landlord just how much leeway his father was allowing himself with this car purchase, nor how fixed his income is, I can’t say if a hefty gasoline budget would hurt him in the pocketbook. It’s also possible he won’t put all that many miles on it, making this a non-issue.

I could tell my landlord was leaning towards the RDX, but wasn’t deep-sixing the idea of a loaded RAV4 just yet. At that price, however, who wouldn’t take the Acura? Strangely, the Toyota dealer wasn’t budging on the price of this pricey loaner, and Toyota Canada isn’t offering the kind of incentives Acura has on hand. (There’s $1,000 off for cash buyers right now, nothing more.)

My advice to my landlord was to go back to the Toyota dealer and, not having anything to lose except an overpriced loaner, play hardball. Just for fun, to see how far the salesman budges. Naturally, the price of the RDX will come up as a bargaining chip during this showroom conversation, and I sort of wish I could be there to see it. My father once left a Toyota showroom and bought a Jeep (then two more) after an unpleasant experience with a salesman, possibly at that same dealer, so it seems there’s some real stubbornness going on there.

At this point, I fully expect to hear that my landlord’s father picked up a loaded RDX. It’s winter, and with a next-generation 2019 model on the way, his timing might prove opportune. I imagine our readers have better ideas on how to spend $40,000CAD earmarked for a crossover, and there’s nothing stopping them from weighing in in the comments section.

Let’s have it, actually. If given a choice between only these two vehicles, how low would that Toyota dealer have to go? Or is my landlord simply looking for crossover love in all the wrong dealerships?

[Images: Toyota, Acura]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Maymar Maymar on Feb 16, 2018

    For what it's worth, the fuel economy cost should be a negligible difference between an RDX and the S60 he already has (I used a FWD 2.3T for reference). On top of that, the feature count he's accustomed to is what's found on a 15 year old luxury car, so what few gadgets the Toyota might have over the Acura would potentially go unnoticed, but I'm sure the Toyota's relative crudeness might be more easily apparent.

  • Kobo1d Kobo1d on Feb 16, 2018

    It's always been my opinion that most "features" on cars are a waste of money, so I tend to err toward the base version of a nicer model.

  • Carson D I hadn't seen a second-generation Courier with a Mazda engine before. I've seen a few with Ford engines. There was one at the Cox Driving Range that they used to collect golf balls. Golf would definitely be more entertaining to watch if they used moving targets.
  • Tassos ooops, Tim, you missed this one. Would make a lovely "Tim's used car of the day". It satisfies all the prerequisites except the wildly overpriced bit.
  • Tassos ASTON AND BOND BY A MILE. While Aston Martin sells a TINY FRACTION of what even the rarified Ferrari and Lambo sell, it is unbelievably well known. Credit the idiotic, but hugely successful and sometimes entertaining James Bond Movies.
  • Tassos 1988? Too young for me. It's all yours, Tim... BAHAHAHAHA!
  • Gray Awesome. Love these. But, if I had the money for a Fox-body, there is a clean '84 GT 350 here for little more than half the price.