Reader Question: Best New (and Used) Diesels?

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

Norwin asks: I am semi-retired but need to get back into the work force on a part-time basis. I am planning to work as a car salesman, but I want to sell the best new diesel or best used diesel cars that are on the market. I believe that I heard you mention on the David Knight Show some time ago that the VW TDI is the best used diesel on the market and that the Mazda is the best new diesel. Is this correct? Thanks for your expert opinion!

My reply: VW’s TDI diesels were the only lineup of affordable diesel-powered cars available in the United States. VW offered a diesel-powered version of practically every model it sold, including the Golf, Jetta, Beetle and Passat. The other diesel-powered cars were mostly expensive, luxury-brand models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz. There were one or two exceptions, such as the Chevy Cruze – which was available with a diesel – but it was also considerably more expensive than the VW diesels because Chevy made you buy a loaded Cruze before you could buy the diesel engine. It’s not a bad car by any means – just a more expensive one. The virtue of the VWs was that that they delivered very high mileage (50-plus on the highway; higher than the EPA advertised highway mileage) at a very reasonable price.

This, of course, made them dangerous . . .  to the Electric Car Agenda. Which is why VW was treated like Jean Valjean from Les Miserables over a pedantic “cheating” issue on emissions certification tests.

The good news – for you – is that these VWs are hugely desirable as used cars by people who want a high-economy car that isn’t a hybrid and doesn’t have the gimps of an electric car. The bad news is they’re hard to find – because people who have them generally love them and want to keep them!

I suspect a man who could corral an inventory of TDI VWs would make a very nice living selling them.

On the Mazda: There’s nothing wrong with it, per se – just not enough that’s better vs. the gas-engined version of the CX3 to make it especially appealing. Its mileage isn’t that much better – about 5-8 MPG overall, IIRC – which isn’t enough to justify its higher buy-in costs and the ownership costs of DEF (which all of the still-available diesel-powered cars on the market require) and the 30-40 cents extra per gallon that diesel fuel costs vs. regular unleaded.

You might look into selling gas-powered cars made during the “sweet spot” era of the mid-late ’90s through the early 2000s. These vehicles are in my opinion the apotheosis of car design; almost maintenance-free, incredibly long-lived but not as complicated, expensive and BigBrothery as cars made since around 2010 are.

I think the value of these cars is going to skyrocket soon as people turn away from the over-teched, over-expensive stuff being foisted on the market today.

. . .

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

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  1. The VW TDI’s are (like all VW’s) kind of a conundrum- the “economy” one gets from the superior efficiency of a diesel, is negated by absurd over-complexity of the cars; ridiculous cost of repairs; and relatively short lifespan (Too many things go wrong after a few years; too expensive to repair vs. the value of the car).

    Think about it: How many VW’s more than a few years old do you see on the road?

    And unless you’re an expert specifically on TDI’s, you’re stuck with either expensive independent shops that specialize in VW’s, or the VW stealerships…which charge INSANE prices and treat ya like your money is worthless and you are a red-headed stepchild, and that they are doing you a favor by deigning to work on you car for $150/hr. (And don’t even think about a loaner!).

    VW ain’t what it used to be.

    I love Eric’s suggestion of specializing in simpler, older cars! That’s gonna be the sweet-spot, until such cars are gone and/or become to valuable to be practical. ALL of the late-model cars from all manufacturers are essentially piles of planned obsolescence, with ludicrous amounts of electronics and delicate mechanical systems which render them essentially useless in the long-term, ’cause there is so much to fail after they start to age, and parts to fix ’em have become very specific to model, sub-model, and configuration that used parts are often a no-go; and new parts are either outrageously expensive or not even being made after a few years.

    Used cars are on their way to becoming extinct.


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