Not all used cars are expensive cars – you just have to know where to look for them. And how to wait for them.
A friend of mine recently did just that. He found an early 2000s Ford Fusion with about 72,000 miles that looks like it has 20,000 miles for about $8,000 – which he was able to pay for in cash.
As opposed to getting in hock for a new car – average transaction price, $32,000 – and paying monthly for the next six years or so. This being precisely why, historically speaking, many financially-savvy people avoided “buying” new cars – which inevitably became used cars, anyhow.
Well, because used cars got almost as expensive as new ones, courtesy of the shortage of new cars – courtesy of the controlled demolition of the supply chains upon which new car manufacturing depends. Courtesy of that thing up in DC – or at least the things pulling the talk-cord coming out of its back.
That plus waning interest in new cars, regardless – of which there aren’t very many left to choose from. The majority of “new cars” are those things styled crossovers – as useful as the paper bags at the supermarket checkout counter and just as emotionally involving. Yet they have all-but-taken-over the new car market – and not entirely because of the market. It is true lots of people buy them. This doesn’t mean they would, if they had an alternative.
Large cars with large trunks once were that alternative. Also the wagons based on them. They had room for people and the things that often come with people, i.e., their stuff. With bench seats, one of these could comfortably transport six, including the driver – and also whatever they needed to bring with them, in the trunk.
The government all-but-formally outlawed that alternative, via the regulations pertaining to “fuel efficiency” that had the same effect. Sedans got smaller – especially in the trunk – on the theory perhaps that buyers wouldn’t notice this downsizing. It affected even the largest, most luxurious models – such as those made by Mercedes-Benz, BMW and so on. They were big in between the axle center lines – but had (and still have) pinched-short trunks without much space, relative to their size.
And so it was that crossovers filled the hole that had been created. Also trucks and SUVs, which gave buyers the large sedans they wanted, with 4WD added to the mix.
Anyhow, there aren’t many sedans left now – especially in the ever-thinning ranks of the affordable/mid-sized class. Former big-sellers such as the Ford Taurus and Fusion aren’t sold at all anymore. New, that is.
But my friend found a great deal on a used one.
The waiting consisted chiefly in regularly scanning the used car classified; in particular, the off-the-beaten-path ones.
You are also unlikely to find a good deal on any used car – and forget a used truck – by scanning dealer ads. Many of these are begging people to sell them their used cars – in order to make up for the inventory of new cars they haven’t got to sell, courtesy of that thing up in Washington. You can imagine what they’re asking for them. In fact, it’s not necessary to ask – because it’s being broadcast from the proverbial rooftops that used car prices are up something like 30 percent over the past 12 months.
Shopping for a used car at a dealership – this includes the big box retailers of used cars such as CarMax, et al – is like going swimming with sharks, your pockets stuffed full of bleeding hamburger.
Forget them. Don’t even look at their ads; it will only depress and demoralize you. Instead, look for the not-well-put-together ad, placed in a local auto trader or similar, ideally by an elderly person or someone acting on their behalf. Such people are generally not sharks. They are just looking to sell a car they no longer need – or which is no longer being used by the owner, who may have grown too old to drive. It may be a kind of boring car. Those often being the kinds of cars purchased – when new – by older people.
Like my friend’s new (to him) early 2000s Ford Fusion.
It was owned by an older lady whose family needed to sell it because the older-lady owner could no longer drive it. She hadn’t been driving it much, either. Seventy-something-thousand-miles on the odometer of a nearly 20-year-old car works out to something like 3,500 miles a year. Possibly, to church and back on Sundays. It was literally the proverbial “little old lady’s car” – and thus, the perfect car.
My friend waited for just such a car to pop up in the for-sales. And then he acted. Immediately. There is no time to wait – in a market like this (of a piece with the real estate market). When you find what you’re looking for, do not wait for someone else to find it.
My friend didn’t. He was ready, cash in hand.
And thus, he now owns a car that could pass for new or nearly – just without the sticker shock and attendant monthly in-hock. It’s also a car without “connectedness” or “assistance,” which makes it something well-worth paying a lot less than new car money for.
. . .
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