Reader Question: Finding Those TDIs

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Kari asks: I listened to your podcast with Tom Woods. Thank you for monitoring the automotive industry. I have been on the look out for a sedan with room in the back seat (I read your writing on Lew Rockwell too). I am interested in the “good deals” on the diesel TDI VW sedan you mentioned. Can you educate me: Do I ask for the 2016 or the 2017 model when  approach the dealer? Also, would it be better to buy new or used?

My reply: A large inventory of new (never previously titled) 2016/2017 model year VW vehicles with the TDI diesel engine that were placed in storage after the emissions “cheating” scandal broke two years ago are becoming available for sale, including Jettas and Golfs; if you go back to 2015 or earlier there is also the larger (and roomier inside) Passat sedan. The latter will probably be used, but it’ll still be only about three years old.

Any of these would be a great choice, especially if you really like averaging close to 40 MPG and being able to drive as far as 700 miles on a single tankful.

I would send emails to dealers within the radius of your willingness to drive; tell them you’re interested in a diesel-powered car and ask whether they have any of the “held back” 2016/2017 models in inventory, as well as any used models on the lot – and proceed from there.

You should be able to negotiate a great deal on the still-new (just never titled) 2016-2017 models and I think VW will include an amended warranty to take account of the fact that even though these cars have almost no miles on them, they are still a couple of years old now and so the original warranty’s time provision would be partially used up. I’d personally try to get the dealer to toss in an extended warranty as part of the deal.

As far as whether it makes more sense to buy new – or used – there are pros (and cons).

New, obviously, is new – which means no wear and tear on anything and a full warranty that will pay for anything that goes wrong. But new also means a higher price, which in a way is no different than having to pay for something that goes wrong; either way, you’re paying. But there is something nice about a new car – no stains on the seats, not a scratch on the body. That new car smell. Being the first to drive it.

On the other hand, there is a lot to be said for letting a first owner swallow the initial new car depreciation – which is generally 20-30 percent of its original value after about 2-3 years from new. That is no small change – and given that modern cars are generally very well-built and extremely durable, a used car with say 30,000 or so miles on it is hardly broken in and will probably not give you trouble. The main thing you’ll be dealing with is wear and tear-associated routine maintenance, such as oil and filter changes, tires and brakes.

However, if you find a used car that has been recently serviced – new tires, just had its brakes done (and so on) you are effectively buying the same thing as a new car, just at a 20-30 percent (or more) discount.

Finally: If you are chiefly looking for a sturdy, very durable car with a roomy back seat, I encourage you to have a look at the current Toyota Corolla. It is technically a compact, but it has more backseat legroom than most current mid-sized sedans, is a very pleasant car and gets excellent gas mileage, too.

Please keep us posted!

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Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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