Category: Ask Bark

By on June 7, 2019

“I’ll tell you something.”

Normally this sort of phrase is followed by, well, something. But the grizzled old dealership veteran seated across the desk from me seemed to be sizing me up a bit, seeing if I was worth the time it would take for him to dispense some of his six decades’ worth of wisdom. After a deep sigh, he must have decided that I was, because he continued.

“This is the worst business. The absolute worst. I invest $30,000 to make $500 — if I’m lucky. Even Vegas would give me those odds. If I had any sense at all, I’d liquidate every car on the damned lot and put all of my money in the stock market. If I had done that at the beginning up the year, I’d be up a couple of hundred grand right now.”

I sensed that I was supposed to say nothing. So I did just that, silently encouraging him to continue.

He noticed my obedience and nodded gently. “Of course, I’d never do anything of the sort. I was born into it, you know. I’m a little bit older than most people think. My father opened the first of the Japanese stores here in (undisclosed state). Then he opened another one. I opened the first Korean store. And now look at me — master of all I survey, owner of ten points.

“As much as I want to get out the business — as much as I wish Daddy had never even thought about buying a car lot — I can’t. But you, young man, you should get out now. I mean now.”

It only took me about seven more years to follow his advice. I am officially out of the car business — kinda. I still have clients who have automotive clients. But I don’t directly sell to car dealerships anymore, which is why I have no problem pulling back the curtain in answering this next question from our friend and reader, Bart.

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By on May 31, 2019

Ford Fiesta ST and Ford Focus RS in Bark's driveway, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Yes, dear readers, I’ve missed you. More importantly, I’ve missed your questions and the opportunity to provide my occasionally helpful feedback. So we’re rebooting the “Ask Bark” column, which will run approximately as often as I have time to write it (hopefully 3-4 times per month). But I’m going to be doing things a little differently than we were doing them before.

While I’m still happy to answer your “What Car Should I Buy” questions (which is, coincidentally, the name of a series on a competing site that is probably in no way, shape, or form a ripoff of the original “Ask Bark”), I also want to answer more of your “how do dealerships work” questions. A recent job change has moved me outside of the world of directly selling advertising to dealerships, so I no longer feel that I have any conflict in revealing all of my dirty little secrets to you, the people. So if you’ve ever wondered exactly how a foursquare works, or why you never seem to be able to get KBB Excellent for your trade-in, or anything like that, shoot your questions to [email protected]

And if you’re a recent TTAC convert, you’ll get the idea after reading today’s question, which comes to us from long-time reader and commenter, Sobro. Click the jump and let’s get to it.

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By on January 18, 2017

Pontiac G8 GT at Ulurau 2

Cory writes:

My 2009 Pontiac G8 GT is finally getting to the mileage where a replacement may soon be needed. It has 103,000 miles on the odometer but still runs fine and has not been abused. Just the random aging that comes with a high mileage car that I’d prefer not to deal with (headliner coming down, seats lacking support, ride getting softer, leather on steering wheel coming off, side mirror motors not working, dents and dings). I’d love to go the SS route, but can’t support the price tag. I need four doors and like larger vehicles — new Chevy Malibu Hybrid, new Mazda 6, Acura TLX, used Volvo S60 (doesn’t hold resale), used Maxima (ditto)?

I know, none will be as fun as the G8 (I love it), but it’s time to update.

Ugh, this letter depresses me. Why? Read on.

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By on January 11, 2017

2016 Chevrolet SS blue

Mattias writes:

I’m doing my responsible midlife crisis thing, and I’m wanting a V8 sedan. My budget is around $40,000, and I’m looking at used examples of the Lexus IS-F, Cadillac CTS-V, and Chevy SS.

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By on January 4, 2017

2016 Lexus IS 300 AWD F SPORT, Image: Lexus

Dave writes:

Should we get a better deal on a special order car vs taking one off the lot? The dealer wants MSRP and won’t budge giving us some story about special orders affecting his allocation. We can’t go to another dealer because the other Lexus dealer in town has the same owner.

We’re looking at an IS 300. The reason for special order is my wife wants an exterior/interior color combo (from the standard colors) that the dealer can’t find in any U.S. or inbound inventory searches.

She’s flexible on other options, just has to have her color combo and is willing to wait for approx 90 days to get it.

Thanks,

Dave

Dave, you seem like a sensible guy, and not a dope fiend at all. So let me drop some knowledge on you about how dealer allocation and special ordering works.

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By on December 21, 2016

2011_ford_mustang_eng_10-de-as_4_717

Charles writes:

Dear Bark,

The 1986 silver, manual Accord Yokohama company car I was lucky enough to cut my teeth on in rural Ohio still comes to me in my dreams as I’m nigh on middle age. Here I am back in Ohio, and I’m sitting on the theoretical cash for my ’15 Golf TDI. My neurotic self vacillates far and wide: country boy F-150, Tacoma, Fusion Sport, Mustang GT, Civic Type R, Accord V6 Touring? My wife will have the family hauler, but I need something fast and mature that will occasionally accommodate my milk-chugging sons.

My wife says I’m too old for a civic, and she thinks a truck is “trying too hard.” The joy of the car fantasy ceases as soon as you drive one home. This is my struggle: once I choose the car I lose the potentiality. What’s my problem? What’s my car?

Oh, boy. Here comes some tough love. Buckle up.

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By on December 14, 2016

audi-1214054_960_720

Nick writes:

Hi Bark,

I’m a #savethemanuals sucker. My daily driver and only car is a damn Miata Club six-speed, but I’m getting married in a couple of months and my fiancée is not so stubborn. I’ve taught her how to drive stick, and she’s pretty good at it, but it’s not her thing. Driving really isn’t her thing, in fact. She doesn’t now have a car. When she used to live in a part of the country where you need a car, she had some plain Kia or whatever. Her only strong preference is for smaller cars over larger ones, as we live in a dense urban area.

Let’s say for argument’s sake I knock her up in the next 12-18 months. We’ll be in the market for another car. I wouldn’t be the primary driver, but I’d drive it often enough. She wouldn’t mind if it’s “fun and nice.”

I would keep buying stick shifts until they stop selling them, and I’d resent any car if I could have in a stick yet passed on the option in favor of a CVT. Still, I understand that’s not how the world works. I think the best compromise, then, is to get a car that isn’t available with a manual transmission.

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By on December 7, 2016

2018 Euro VW GTI Golf

Alexis writes:

I give advice to everyone about what to get and not get, and yet I’m finding it impossible to decide for myself.

I’m a moderately successful realtor living in Toronto, and my 2005 Saturn Ion is about to give up the ghost. Yes, I know, an enthusiast driving an Ion doesn’t really make sense, and I admit it’s a car for people who just gave up — that’s why I bought it four years ago.

Alas, it’s time for something else.

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By on November 30, 2016

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-006

Tommy writes:

I love reading your columns, and have a question that I think you’ll enjoy. I’ve been living in Washington, D.C. for seven years, about half of that time without a car. I’m planning on getting a raise soon, and with that, I’d like to buy a car. And not just any car, but an adult car that I can rely on to start when I need it, and not constantly have to wrench on the little things that break.

For so long now, I have wanted nothing more than a Focus ST. Everything I’ve read about them just screams to my inner child, and at 29, I think I can still listen to him because I’m not expecting a family any time soon.

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By on November 22, 2016

2017 Accord Hybrid

TJ writes:

Greetings Bark,

With a growing family, it’s about time for me to move out of my 2007 Frontier Crew Cab into something more family friendly. The crew cab has been great transporting our toddler, but we’re planning on having another one, and I don’t think the backseat will work for two little ones.

After a long search that has included newer midsize pickups without much more inside room, full sized cars (namely Impala, LaCrosse and Azera — nice car, horrible seats), I think I’ve settled on a V6 Accord. I have my grandfather’s old C10 for pick-up stuff once I get it running again, and my father is interested in buying my Frontier, so trade-in won’t be a problem.

I’ve test driven the Accord twice, and the dealer is absolutely pressure-free; which my wife and I appreciate. BUT…the dealer only has three V6s in stock — all standard, easy-sell black or silver. I prefer Honda’s Obsidian Blue, and the salesman said getting one shouldn’t be a problem. Am I setting myself up to get taken if I email him requesting the blue one?

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By on November 15, 2016

Screen-Shot-2016-11-15-at-11.11.05-AM

Kori writes:

Hey, Bark! I’m a 37-year-old woman with a couple of financial degrees and a decade of experience in the world of money, yet I still dread going to the dealership. I know that they’re screwing me but I just don’t know how, and that’s the worst part. I don’t object to the dealer making his fair share of money (I’m a capitalist after all), but I just wish that there was a way to know how they were making that money, and where.

In your experience, where do most customers get the shaft in a car deal, and how can it be avoided?

Thanks for your question, Kori. Most customers feel uneasy about the whole purchase experience for this very reason. Let me see if I can help you feel a little better about it by breaking down the various money aspects.

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By on November 9, 2016

money

Brian writes:

Hi Bark,

I’ve been a TTAC reader for a couple of years now and you seem to be the guy for the right advice here. The wife’s six-year-old CUV with 160,000 kilometers is showing signs of a problem that the dealer couldn’t reproduce, but said will cost upwards of $1,800 for parts (if I am right about it). This is after a different repair last year that cost over $2,000. I am wondering if now is the time to replace the car while it still has some trade value. My wife’s argument is that a repair still costs less than a year’s worth of car payments, but my counter is that a predictable car payment is easier to deal with than an unexpected large repair bill. This is especially true given our first child is due very soon.

I understand some people are serial leasers, but we tend to keep our cars well beyond warranty. So, when is the right time to replace a car?

Thanks‎!

160,000 kms? Hold up — let me get my Canadia-to-Trump calculator. Whoa — that’s only 96,000 miles! Which FCA CUV does your wife own?

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By on November 2, 2016

2017 Chrysler 200C Platinum

Thom writes:

Hi Bark,

Your RC F article got me wondering: what are some of the cars out there you think are actually good, enjoyable cars that get crapped on for no good reason other than inherent bias and/or groupthink in the automotive world?

I always wonder what’s out there that’s actually decent, if not outright good, that everyone seems to think is garbage. (Notwithstanding that sometimes everyone thinks a car is garbage because it actually is.)

This is gonna be fun.

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By on October 26, 2016

2016 Chevrolet SS blue

Nate writes:

Hi Bark,

I like to know your opinion on the subject matter of the email. My ideal car is a reliable all-wheel-drive, full-size sedan with more than 400-500 horsepower, similar 400 lb-ft of torque, decent average fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon, and it’s made by Honda/Acura with all the safety features (lane keep assist, front collision mitigation, blind spot detection, etc).

However, that vehicle does not exist, and I have a budget of $55,000 out the door.

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By on October 18, 2016

2015-Lexus-RC-F-Badge

Ryan writes:

Hey Bark,

I’m in the final year of my lease on a 2014 Cadillac ATS 2.0T and the itch to start shopping for my next car has kicked in. Ownership has not been perfect. CUE annoys me on a regular basis, the 2.0T noticeably shakes the car at idle when the engine is cold, it’s been recalled four times for its sunroof, and its automatic transmission is way too eager to up shift. While my wife loves how quiet and smooth the car is, I am a bit ambivalent. The handling is great, but the car itself lacks character when you cane it.

I’ve owned an E46 BMW M3, both eighth and ninth generations of the Honda Civic Si, and a Toyota MR2 targa top in the past. Recently, I put a refundable deposit on a 2017 Subaru BRZ with a manual transmission in hopes of getting back into something that’s a bit more raw, but it seems Canadian customers are not receiving some ’17 updates and my wife hates being a passenger in it.

I was eyeing the new Chevrolet Camaro SS, BMW M2 and used Porsche Caymans when, on a whim, I test drove a 2015 Lexus RC F.

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