Ask Jack: Lex Loofa?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
ask jack lex loofa

“We buy year… then we buy mileage… then we buy condition.” That was a favorite axiom of the used-car appraiser at my old Ford dealership. What he meant was this: In the first few years of a car’s life, people will pay more money if it’s a bit newer than a similar model sitting right next to it. Once it’s about five years old, the conversation switches to mileage: you’d rather have a 2012 ECTO-300def with 75,000 miles than a 2014 model with 105,000.

Usually by the time a car reaches the decade mark, and certainly by the fifteenth anniversary, it’s all about condition, condition, condition. Are you in the market for an Eighties Porsche? Condition is king. Are you limited by fate and circumstance to something like a 2005 Ford Focus? Then it’s doubly true.

Which leads us to today’s episode of Ask Jack, in which the person doing the asking is… uh… me.

JB writes,

Hey, you handsome devil, let’s talk about that 2004 Lexus ES330 that our old pal John has for sale. He’s the original owner. It’s been in a garage its whole life. Looks brand-new despite 147,000 miles on the clock. Even the seats look new. The tires and brakes? You guessed it — they’re new as well. This car has always been maintained by the book. It’s virtually a new car, albeit one with enough mileage on the clock to blow a Subaru Legacy’s fourth set of head gaskets.

John went to trade this in on his new Acura ILX, but they only offered him $5,000. He think it’s worth $7,000. It would make a great commuter car for rainy days and Mondays. The problem is that cars of this age and mileage tend to go for $3,500 or so at all those corner lots. Is this even worth considering? Should we make him an offer in the $6,000 range? Or is it cheaper and better to just keep putting the mileage on other cars?

I don’t have any real desire for an ES330 in my life. But this is the very definition of creampuff and it’s likely to run another 100k without encountering any fatal difficulties. The problem I have is that there’s no way I will get my money out of it if I change my mind at any point in the next five years. The moment I buy it, this Loofa-scrubbed Lexus luxury car goes from a one-owner indoor-storage diamond to a two-owner, acid-rain-washed used Toyota.

If I put 50,000 miles on it and sell it for three grand, I’ve gotten those miles much more cheaply than I would if I put them on my 61,000-mile Accord coupe. But given that I’ve kept this Accord this long precisely because of its affordability compared to say, a Challenger T/A or even a lime-green Audi RS5, it seems stupid to get a cheap car to save my cheap car.

What say you, B&B? And if anybody here wants to pay John $7k for his perfect stone-grey ES330 with black interior (it’s not the car in the photo) then let me know and I’ll allow you to step in line ahead of me. The age of the car? Not great. The mileage? High. The condition? Out of this world.

Join the conversation
3 of 47 comments
  • Cdotson Cdotson on Jul 27, 2018

    Based on some Craigslist browsing an ES330 in that age/mileage range is commonly available through private party sale in the Mid-Atlantic region at $4500-$6500. Getting a $5000 trade offer from a dealer is money in the bank and he should have taken the money and run. He'll be lucky to sell it within a few months on his own for anything more than the dealer offered not to mention dealing with the hassle.

  • Danio3834 Danio3834 on Jul 27, 2018

    He should have taken the $5k trade. It would have reduced the tax burden on his new car purchase which would have helped close the gap between the trade value and his perceived value. Then he wouldn't have to carry this and deal with the inevitable Craigslist nightmare. Why Jack would want this when he has an Accord coupe, I'm not sure. Another vehicle on the policy, another parking spot lost.

    • DavidB DavidB on Jul 27, 2018

      My 2002 ES300 has had 3 owners - My mom's late husband who purchased it new, then my mom after he passed, and finally me after my mom decided not to drive any more. So, 3 different people on the title, but all in the same family. The Lexus dealer here in KC offered me $6K in Feb 2015 when it had 90K miles on it. Perfect condition still but a 2004 with 147K miles at $5K wholesale seems high, even if it is perfect.

  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.