Sunday, November 9, 2008

When you HAVE to have a nice car

If you're in sales, visit clients, or have to transport important people around, you can't exactly show up in a 1993 Plymouth Acclaim with peeling paint and a dented right fender. No one wants to see that (which is why we park our beaters far away from the front door where we work), so there are times when a nice car is needed. You might have different expectations of what is a "nice" car. Some of you might want what looks like a newer car. Some of you want a prestigious nameplate or brand. And some of you just feel bigger is better. I have solutions for all of you without spending many thousands of dollars, the typical down payment on a flashy new or newer car.

If you want a specific new car but don't want to spend $25,000 to get it, start looking at used models of the same car. You can save more than half of the cost of a new one by looking at a 2 to 3 year old version of it. Take for example a new Dodge Charger sedan. If you were to buy one new, let's say it's the SXT with the 3.5 engine, leather, and 18" wheels, you'd spend about $26,000 plus taxes, fees, and interest. You can start looking at used 2006 Charger SXT's. A used 2006 model can be had for about HALF price. Many are listed here in the Dallas area with 20-40K miles for $12,995 and $13,995. I found one on CL for $9,995 with 82,000 miles. Save by buying used, works every time!

Let's say you want a newer looking car but can't afford more than a few thousand, you can go with lesser known cars. You may have your eye on a nice Lincoln MKZ which is over $30,000 new, but you have your champagne taste conflicting with your beer budget. Look for a 1998-2002 Lincoln Continental. They are smooth, silky, comfortable, and offer a lot of luxury for a low price. 1998 models are easily under $5,000 while the final 2002 models don't often sell for more than about $8,000. If foreign models are more your taste, try out a 2000-2003 Nissan Maxima, a 1997-2003 BMW 5-Series, or a 1998-2003 Jaguar XJ. All for the most part under $10,000 and all look remarkable similar to other new cars.

Need a beautiful name but can't afford a beautiful (to the salesman) price? Again, you'll want to look at used models of the ones you want. A 2003-2008 Navigator will cost you much less than a new one. Modern looking S-Class Mercedes W220 sedans came out in 1999 and will cost a fraction of the new W221 model. There are so many luxury models that came out years ago but are still viable transportation today. Just because you want a luxury name doesn't mean you have to spend as much as you would on a house to get a nice car.

And then there is my favorite category, classic cars. Your neighbor may have done a full frame-off restoration of his '57 Chevy Bel Air 2-door hardtop and spent $68,000 getting all the bits together. You can still make him feel silly by picking up an older, worn, amateur restoration of a similar model. A 2-door hardtop Bel Air in decent daily driver condition can be bought for less than $20,000 easily. I found one in Colorado, was restored in the 90s and looks showroom new from 20 feet away, for $16,000. A 4-door sedan or a wagon would be even more useful for a daily commute and can be had for less than half of that. Even better, spend $3,000 and restore it yourself on the cheap, making it beautiful and functional with a newer 350 TBI engine and overdrive automatic from a 90s pickup, and you'll enjoy a classic ride and 20-25mpg!

There are lots of ways to get something nice without spending a nice amount of money. Stay tuned and I'll show you more ways to save on cars whether you want them to look nice or not!

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