Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Joys of Special Finance




The ads are everywhere, and they seem to promise you a brand new car for a little bit of money down. Most people can probably walk in and buy one. But is it worth it? Let's take a look at what you get for $199 down...

2008, pretty much last year's model
Kia Spectra, a great car but horrible resale value
5-speed transmission, hope you can shift for yourself
Several hundred miles from tons of test drives because some people DON'T qualify after all

OK, so maybe it's not the best car in the world. I'm sure Hyundai has similar deals on Elantras, Toyota might sell you a Yaris for that, and Mitsubishi has some basic Lancers they could toss your way. But let's see what this deal ends up costing you in the long run.

$199 down payment
MSRP of $16,790, you pay full retail
72 month note, you get 6 years of high interest
Payment isn't very low either, try $400-$450 a month!

That's $30,000 or more for a $17,000 car. OUCH!!!

A better bet would be to find a ten-year old economy car for cash. 1998-2002 Chevrolet Prizms and Toyota Corollas come to mind, as well as 1996-2000 model Honda Civics. The 1996-2002 Mitsubishi Mirage is also an excellent deal for what they sell for these days. You can spend $1500-$3500 in cash and not have to think about car payments, interest, resale value, or full coverage insurance premiums. When you're done with the car, it'll still be worth most of what you paid.

I imagine at the end of that 6-year note, the Kia wouldn't even be worth $3500. That's a lot of depreciation, plus all the interest you pay.

Caveat Emptor!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Update for the sake of updating...:)

Not much new to report in the world of beater cars. Archived posts have a ton of information and I should have some more Sample Beaters, Beater Of The Week, and more bits. For now, it's Christmas, so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and I'll be back in January, hopefully with a fresh inspection sticker on my 1976 Ford Gran Torino sedan. Cheers!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique (Mistake?)

In the early 1990's, Ford decided to come up with a new "World Car". They introduced the Mondeo platform in Europe in 1993 and thought it would make a great replacement for the aging Tempo/Topaz models in the USA. The car was introduced in late 1994 as a 1995 model and sold well. Unfortunately by 1997 when the smaller Escort and Tracer were redesigned, the Contour/Mystique were about the same size as the new Escort range, and were pretty much obsolete. The front end was redesigned in 1998 along with the taillights and the cars continued through 1999 and 2000 with little to no changes.

An SVT Contour was produced but isn't what I would consider a beater. Catering to the same crowd as the Taurus SHO, it was a performance model and was very competent.

Standard (non-SVT) Contours and Mystiques are generally plagued with electrical problems and do not have what I would consider to be "reliable" powertrains. I often see used Contours in nice condition for well under $2000. Typically, the "for sale" Contour has some kind of no-start problem, a failed transmission, or electrical gremlins, and for $500 or significantly less. A recent Dallas Craigslist ad had two 1997 Contours for $600. That's not two cars priced at $600 each but both cars for the one price of $600. These are best left to ASE certified professionals with a lot of time on their hands.

My ex-wife drives a Mystique. I would say something about karma but that would be counterproductive as far as karma is concerned.

A coworker of mine at a courier service drove a 1999 Contour and generally was able to drive for two weeks before making some sort of repair (often for the same thing he fixed a few months prior). That's about 3000 miles, or one oil change interval, between repairs. I don't think he ever got his cruise control working the entire time I knew him.

For more details on the Contour and Mystique, visit the enthusiast site at The forums are an excellent place to read up on quick fixes, troubleshooting, how-tos, upgrades, and more. You can also visit the Contour wikipedia page. Ford Forums also has a Contour forum.

Humor: How To Read Used Car Classified Ads

Needs Minor Work - To every component on the vehicle.

Needs Nothing - As long as you don't plan on driving it anywhere.

Easy Project Car - Completely disassembled after garage fire. Bring a spatula and some buckets.

Some Rust - Don't put your feet on the floorboards.

Minor Rust - Major rust you can’t see.

Low Mileage - Odometer hasn't turned a mile in at least a decade of commuting.

Convertible - After driving under that truck.

Runs Great - Too bad it can't stop.

Alarm - All valuable parts are already stolen.

Nice Stereo - So you won't hear the knocking or the exhaust leaks.

Needs Paint - To cover all the visible rust.

New Paint - Already covered all the rust you used to be able to see.

Fully Loaded - Just like the seller.

All Options - 8-track player and rich Corinthian leather.

Only 43,000 Miles - It's really 243,000 but it's a 5-digit, who can tell anyway?

Rare Model - One of 200 still in existence that still runs and hasn't rusted away.

Must Sell - Before the police pick me up on outstanding vehicular homicide warrants.

Must Sell - Need to bail my grandmother out of jail before I go in.

Summer Fun - Heater is not functioning.

Summer Fun - Won't be running by fall.

Reliable - Don't leave the neighborhood.

Dependable - Don't leave home without AAA and your platinum VISA card.

Daily Driver - Back when I was a cabbie.

Only Driven Sundays - Sunday is Dollar Day at the Tri-County Dragstrip.

Engine Rebuilt - New valve cover gaskets and freshly washed and degreased.

Doesn’t Smoke - When it isn't turned on.

Trans. Rebuilt - Brake fluid smoothed it right up.

4 Speed - 5th gear is stripped.

Hurry, Won't Last - Exactly as it says. And call me anytime at 267-8433 if you have problems (Dalworth carpet cleaning in Dallas).

New Tires - They were new last year before I put it on as a taxicab.

Well Maintained - Oil changed as soon as it was empty.

Drives Like a Dream - My therapist consider nightmares to be dreams.

Always Garaged - HOA won't let me park it outside.

Family Owned - Passed down from all the methheads to me.

Fully Restored - Not a single OEM part left on it.

Smog Exempt - And after sitting in a barn for eighteen years, I can't believe it runs!

Tags Till Next Year - Until my neighbor sees his plates and sticker are missing.

Moving, Must Sell - To get as far away as possible from this car and the note lot that sold it to me.