Ten Questionable Best Used Car Deals

infiniti-g35

You know, relying on Kiplinger.com for used car advice is like going to Consumer Reports for info on buying a new car: You get real middle-of-the-road picks from the same folks who evaluate lawn mowers and diets.

Now, tgriffith is my writing buddy on this blog, but I can’t agree that Kiplinger’s “10 Best Values in Used Cars” represents anything like great cars or great prices. I do agree with him that the 2006 Infiniti G35 sedan (left) is a good car and a good value now ($32K new; around $20K now): It’s well-made, with performance and style. Mr. t is right about the Pontiac Vibe and the Ford 500, too: How did those clunkers get on the list? And there are more.

The 2005 Lexus LS 430’s $57K list price was always a fiction, and the fact that you can get this tank now for half that is merely a reflection of its originally inflated “value.” Same thing with the 2005 Toyota RAV4: At $13K it’s no steal, and it never was a steal. (Who would steal one of these things?)

Worst of all is the 2005 Honda Civic EX sedan, another victim of value bloat: At $18.8K new, your “certified used price” is now $13.3K. You’d have to be a total Honda fanatic to buy one at that price.

Let me put out the proposition that in fact it’s not such a hot time to buy a used car. There’s too much demand for good ones, and dealers rely mostly on their used car margins, as they always have, to move the iron. You can, however, make good deals on new vehicles if you’re willing to take some of the less desirable ones. Both GM and Chrysler are offering incentives of up to $6,000 on select trucks, SUVs, and sedans—the stuff that’s hard to move.

Through June 1, Chrysler will give you $4,000 back on most models, plus $1,000 for “consumer loyalty” if you own a recent Chrysler product, and another grand if you finance through certain credit unions.

This means buyers can get a hemi-powered Dodge Charger or Chrysler 300C, or family haulers such as the Chrysler Town & Country or the Jeep Grand Cherokee, for steep discounts. The Dodge Ram truck also is on the list.

Sorry, no Challengers or Vipers.

2009-chev-tahoe2GM is offering similar deals on select cars, plus 0-percent financing on many. Check GM’s Current Offers website for the cars and deals offered in your area. For example, you can buy the Chevrolet Tahoe (left) at 0 percent with a $3,000 rebate. A Buick Lacrosse will get you $4,500 back. You can probably negotiate much more than that from a dealer in distress. And which one isn’t?

The kicker is, of course, you have to want one of these guzzlers, and you must have faith that GM and Chrysler will be around in some form for service and warranty. With Uncle Sam as Big Daddy, your faith may be rewarded.

Buy new or used these days? Let us have your opinion, please.

—jgoods

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