Thursday, February 21, 2013

Avoiding a Used Car Crisis: The Attitude.

Buying a car is probably the worst purchase you can make from an investment standpoint. The moment it drives off the lot, it loses ten to twenty percent of its value and depreciates like mad thereafter. By the time you pay a twenty thousand dollar loan, the car is worth about a tenth of what you paid for it. Despite this, people will still funnel their hard earned money into them and many will be paying on a paperweight by the time they're done. My Intrepid was a case in point. I took out eleven thousand plus a grand and a half for a service contract. Even though the contract paid out over thirteen thousand in repairs, the car was worth $200 to a junk dealer plus the tow by the time the loan was over. I had barely driven the car forty thousand miles because it spent the last year and a half in the parking lot, with a failed engine and steering gear.
Granted, this was not a new car. For most of us, a used car makes fiscal sense as the depreciation has already been paid by someone else. Cars are a lot more reliable then they have been in recent years, despite  all the technical wizardry they have. Even with that, parts will still break and they're a helluva lot more expensive than they were in years past. Labor has also gone up 300% in past 26 years of my driving career.  Mandates for safety, emissions and theft protection are also increasing. All of these add layers of complexity, as well as making problems more difficult to diagnose and fix. Airbags, seat belt pretensioners, express windows, struts and other components found on modern cars also present an element of danger that must not be ignored. These are the bare essentials. If your vehicle has options such as four or all wheel drive, power accessories or anti-lock brakes, these layers are added even more.
What I'm trying to say is that buying a used car is more than going to the dealer to pick out your ride and sign the paperwork. You need to add some street smarts and understand that the simpler, the better. I'm going to go out on a limb and say to stay away from any hybrid, luxury, a turbo or supercharger, or vehicle with all wheel drive and you'll avoid most issues straight away. Unless you're well off, stay away from any diesel pickup truck as repairing these engines is in the tens of thousands and usually involves pulling the cab off to fix a major part. If you want to disagree, that's your opinion and this from my experience. I like diesels and know how they work, but the emissions controls are what kill them nowadays. Continuously Variable Transmissions or CVT's are more common, but reliability is spotty. Modern automatic transmissions are also expensive to fix, but you can head these off with maintenance.  Most cars also come with power locks and windows standard, and these cost more to fix but not by much if you know what you're doing. Power and heated seats are nice when they work, but expensive to fix. Navigation systems, Bluetooth, and remotes are also nice while they work. Kitschy options such as mood lighting are really from the bygone era of conversion vans and really don't belong in a car. High intensity discharge lights are also in the hundreds of dollars to fix when they burn out. Again, when buying a used car, or even a new one, keep it simple. A vehicle is a means to an end, for you and carrying friends, family and groceries in relative safety and comfort. Cars should not be status symbols or a retreat and asking for anything besides basic transportation is asking for trouble. Sorry if this is rambling, but from the problems I've seen out there , a needed one. Maranatha!

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