Late-model used cars have long been the clever shopper’s new vehicle alternative. While hubris keeps some of us from dirtying our driveways with anything that isn’t fresh from the factory, bargain hunters know purchasing an off-lease vehicle is a decent way to save a trunkload of cash and obtain something that can still be considered modern. It also provides cash-strapped individuals with the ability to buy something normally above their means.
With leasing growing in popularity and off-lease vehicles pouring into the market like pigeons on a slice of bread, shoppers can find late-model, low-mileage cars for roughly half the price of a new one. Often, still under warranty. Some deals are better than others, and a recent analysis of 2014 model-year vehicles highlights several models with above-average depreciation rates buyers can easily take advantage of.
Almost a month ago, I wrote that the Ford Focus Electric was the cheapest car in North America. Because federal, state, and local incentives are rolled into the price of a lease, along with the sizable discounts applied by the manufacturer, a $30,000 dollar EV can easily be priced below a $16,000 internal combustion model. Those piling discounts on other models have dethroned the Focus as America’s cheapest car.
Fiat’s 500e can currently be had for roughly the same price as a decent pair of sneakers, continuing the trend of bargain basement pricing on small electric cars. At $69 per month for 36 months with no money down, it’s also a better deal than the shoes — which can typically only manage a few hundred miles before becoming a tattered mess. With some evening reprieves to recharge, the Fiat can top that in a week with only the slightest hint of tread-wear. However, this incredibly low leasing rate for the $33,00 EV isn’t even the best deal of the last few months.
Navigating the new car market can be treacherous, but the used market is significantly larger and riddled with more hidden pitfalls. Used cars also offer the best potential value for your money, provided you don’t end up with a lemon. Even something that passes your initial scrutiny might be a few months away from becoming a clattering heap.
Fortunately, Consumer Reports keeps a running tally on the worst second-hand garbage that money can buy. Taken from its most recent ranking, here are some of the more common models from the last 10 years that scored so poorly in reliability that they aren’t even worth your consideration.
It’s time for a new car, I told Mae last night.
She was explaining to a group of friends how she tore the passenger side mirror off and drove across the MacKay Bridge, on a particularly windy evening, with the mirror swinging about like an unchoreographed contemporary dancer.
The dangling power mirror, which another friend disconnected at Mae’s request, was only the latest issue. First, it’s a Saturn Ion Quad Coupe. Issue number two: the air-conditioning died long ago, and Mae’s reluctant to spend a single penny redeeming this car. It’s bitterly cold in eastern Canada now, but A/C is needful for one-third of the year and helpful for the other nine months. Finally, it’s a Saturn Ion Quad Coupe with a manual transmission.
“Ooh, aah, save the manuals,” you say. And I’m with you. Mae’s with you, too. But I’ve spent enough time — way too much time — in manual shift Ions to know that in an extremely hilly city, the Ion’s shifter/clutch combo is worthy of dread. Not all manuals are worthy of saving.
Now the mirror’s off, and the conversations Mae and I have had over a period of many months culminated in her succinct statement last night: “I want a Honda HR-V.”
Insert awkward pause.
Some cars seem to excite a primordial part of our lizard brain, prompting us into ill-advised purchases.
A brother of mine once bought a Pantera sight-unseen, based on eBay thumbnail photos and boundless faith in his fellow man to Do The Right Thing. The De Tomaso rust bucket that arrived on a flatbed a month later might as well have been the trash can that Mookie heaved through Sal’s window in a fit of pique.
Hard-headedness must be genetic. I also stepped on the same metaphorical rake in the shape of an engine swapped Honda Insight, its K20a drivetrain from a JDM Acura RSX-R being the siren song that lured my ship onto the rocks … but that’s a tale I’ll save for another day. As a result, I’ve resolved to stop being a ready-fire-aim kinda guy: from now on, when buying distant cars, I’m getting a pre-purchase inspection.
Now my eccentric fiancée has her heart set on a 1989-91 Nissan Pao, a car that has graced these hallowed pages before.
Twenty-fifteen is all done and junk.
We had a lot of change around here, didn’t we? Everywhere that I’ve ever worked in my entire life, somebody has taken me aside and said something to the effect of, “If you don’t like change, this isn’t the place for you.” In fact, there’s so much change in the world nowadays that there are actually people who make six-figure salaries as “Change Management Specialists.” They do things like give you safe spaces to discuss your grief and then send you large bills to fund their vacations.
The only thing that any of us can really count on in 2016 is more change. In order to maintain relevance in this space, TTAC has to continue to evolve. There are people who’d like TTAC to be timewarped back to 2005, to the time when our austere founder and his band of merry men took on the giants of the industry — and won. I’d like to think that spirit still exists here. I, personally, do the very best I can to bring you my unfiltered opinion on this business, and I trust the others who share the responsibility of putting their names below the masthead of TTAC to do the same.
That being said, there is often a difference between The Facts and The Truth.
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- ToolGuy Here is an interesting graphic, if you're into that sort of thing.
- ToolGuy Nice website you got there (even the glitches have glitches)
- Namesakeone Actually, per the IIHS ratings, "Acceptable" is second best, not second worst. The ratings are "Good," "Acceptable," "Marginal" and "Poor."
- Inside Looking Out "And safety was enhanced generally via new reversing lamps and turn signals fitted as standard equipment."Did not get it, turn signals were optional in 1954?
- Lorenzo As long as Grenadier is just a name, and it doesn't actually grenade like Chrysler UltraDrive transmissions. Still, how big is the market for grossly overpriced vehicles? A name like INEOS doesn't have the snobbobile cachet yet. The bulk of the auto market is people who need a reliable, economical car to get to work, and they're not going to pay these prices.