Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Matthew asks: I’m interested in your take on car buying services.
Here’s my situation: I’m looking to buy a used car for myself. No trade-in. Paying cash. Traditionally drive Hondas. Looking to reward myself with a bit of a luxury car. Can afford fancier nameplates, but after considering options, I don’t see anything material they are offering that I can’t get in an upgraded Accord, other than the fancier nameplate – and higher cost of ownership.
So I’ve honed in on 2016 and 2017 Accord Touring models. 2017 was the last year before Honda switched over to the turbo-charged lawn mower engines even in the high-end Accords (not to mention all of the so-called safety nonsense) and 2016 is the first year available with CarPlay and built-in Garmin navigation (I know . . . tech bloat; but this is tech I actually would like).
I’m also interested in getting as low mileage as I realistically can, say ~30k. I’ve been watching the websites for a couple of months, and there are some that come available, but they don’t last for long if they have clean histories. This leaves me feeling like I have limited negotiating power, and it seems like a no-brainer that the buying service would pay for itself in savings, let alone hassle. What am I missing here?
My reply: In the first place, you’re absolutely right about the overlap – about their being few meaningful differences between say a loaded Accord and an otherwise similar Acura. Other than the price of the badge.
In the second, I think you’re wise to snap up one of the models made before the Event Horizon of excess tech/lawnmower engines and creepy tech. The Accord you’re shopping for ought to suit.
With regard to buying services: There’s nothing to be lost by using them to look for a car, but be aware that they will charge full retail fore the car – which isn’t illegitimate, as they will generally clean/prep the car and even perform repairs needed to make it road-ready. They will also usually handle the paperwork and even deliver the car to your door. I’ve dealt personally with Carvana and found them to be ok.
However, I would not limit your search to what a buying service can find. I would also email every Honda/Acura store within your comfortable driving range and tell them what you’re looking for and that you’re a serious buyer, if they have what you are looking for.
Then I’d start my day by cruising through Craigslist ads, including private party ads – and be ready to pounce when a candidate appeared. Meaning: Have cash at the ready and be prepared to drop everything to go see and possibly buy the car before it gets bought by someone else.
A private party sale is more hassle, obviously. But it is not necessarily riskier (dealers and buying services can be cheesy, too – and even if not, you will pay for their services) and you could end up much happier – via a great deal you might not have gotten via a buying a service.
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