Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Matthew asks: While searching for used cars I found listings for more than one BMW selling for less than $10,000 with anywhere from 65,000-100,000 miles. I can’t find an honest review anywhere. My question is, should I be suspicious of any vehicle selling for that price with that many miles? Can I assume that even the lauded “Beamer” needs to be ditched at 100k?
My reply: All cars depreciate – i.e., lose value – from the moment they leave the dealer’s lot. But luxury cars depreciate at a faster rate, because part of their value is bound up in being the “latest thing.” Put another way, the person who buys say a new 7 Series BMW doesn’t want to be the guy who is driving a four-year-old 7 Series. This is why a large percentage of luxury cars are leased rather than bought. It is also why there are great deals to be had on used (and former leased) luxury cars.
But there’s a catch.
While the cost to buy one of these can be a very sweet deal – vs. what the same car cost when it was new – the cost to service luxury cars is often haltingly high. Not just labor but also parts. And luxury cars – modern ones – tend to be the ones that bring the latest technology/gadgets to market, before they become common on lower priced cars. These gadgets and more complex systems entail more things to go wrong and more expense when they do.
That said, some luxury cars are better in all regards than others. Lexus cars, for one. In part because they are exceptionally well-built but also because they are Toyotas. Lexus is merely a brand name used in North America only – because American buyers are very hung up on branding. Anyhow, these “Lexus” cars share many functional components with their “Toyota” brethren – and “Toyota” parts tend to cost less than – for example – Mercedes or BMW parts
Acuras and Infinitis are also generally pretty good bets, for the same reason – being essentially (respectively) Honda and Nissan vehicles.
BMW and Benz vehicles are iffier, in my opinion – anything recent (last five or so years) at least. They are way “teched” and I’ve had small glitches with brand-new press cars. I’m not saying don’t buy one; I am saying be careful. Choose one that has been thoroughly gone over by a competent technician you trust; if possible, get the seller to include an extended warranty on major components such as the drivetrain (engine, transmission, AWD system, etc.)
Keep in mind that if “the price is right,” having to spend a little money might not sour the deal. Like you, I’ve seen cars that once carried $50,000 MSRPs on used lots for a third that sum by the time they were five years old.
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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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