Buying Used: Let Someone Else Take the Depreciation Hit

2005 Mercedes E-Class wagon: Buy this car for $27,050!

2005 Mercedes E-Class wagon: Buy this car for $27,050!

You’ve all heard this one: “A car starts to depreciate the minute you drive it off the showroom floor.”

I’m not sure whether that sentiment really kept anyone from buying a brand-new car, since automobiles are objects of desire as well as utility. But, unless you’re in the market for a rare specialty car, depreciation will likely be the biggest factor in determining a used car’s worth.

We’ve written about this before, and now Consumer Reports (which of course must read this blog) has come out with recommendations for buying 2005-2009 used cars based on their depreciation—the difference between the car’s original base MSRP and a current average dealer price.

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Cars Coming Soon->The World’s Ugliest Convertible, a New Ford GT and Camaro Z28

Ford GT

2005 Ford GT

I get a sick and twisted pleasure out of ugly cars, so it’s always exciting when a car is announced that has the potential to become one of the ugliest automobiles ever made.

Of course that distinguished list already includes the likes of the Ford Edsel, Pontiac Aztek, and the 2010 Mazda3. Of course I’d never own such an uncomely automobile, but it sure is fun to wonder why anyone would.

Today it’s my honor introduce a new candidate for the list, perhaps one that could even jump all the way to first place. To balance out the ugliness, I’ll also present two unofficial but potentially very fast American beauties. But first I give you…

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Lurching Toward 60-mpg Fuel Efficiency Standards?

NYC traffic

As early as tomorrow, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) will propose new mileage standards, raising the bar to “at least 35.5 mpg overall [for cars and trucks] by 2025.”

But some folks want the standard to be 60, or even 70, mpg. More than 20 environmental groups are urging that the higher standards are not only technically feasible but environmentally necessary.

The Obama administration is getting a lot of pushback from the auto industry, which supported last year’s higher standards, and even from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) itself. Agency head David Strickland said that no decision on any 60-mpg standard will be made until there is a full review.

And there are big questions as to how much gas would be saved (40 billion gallons annually, says one source), whether people would just drive more, whether a gas tax is a better answer, or a carbon tax, or no CAFE standards at all.

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Porsche Cajun Could Offer a Little SUV Spice

2011 Porsche Cayenne

If you’re a true Porsche fan, you’ve probably spent the last few years clamoring for an SUV smaller than the Cayenne. I mean seriously, what if you want something bigger than a Boxster but smaller than the Cayenne? What are you supposed to drive, the Panamera? I don’t think so.

Porsche thinks the answer might be an Audi Q5-sized SUV of its own, possibly called the Cajun. (I wonder why Porsche seems to name its SUVs after intensely flavored seasonings. Porsche Paprika, anyone?)

Nomenclature aside, a new small ‘ute from Porsche brings even more excitement to the brand. Or, depending on your point of view, a whole new level of controversy.

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Green Update–>Moving Beyond the Prius

Toyota A-BAT concept

As the boys at Toyota have learned, you’ve got to run just to keep your place in line (or something like that). In the hybrid marketplace, they have had a great advantage by being first with the Prius, for many the symbol of green transport.

But the competition has certainly not been idle, and so, with the speed of a turning battleship, Toyota is finally moving to meet it. Whether it can still lead the fleet is the big question. The indications to me are that it’s coming with too little too late.

First, the company is floating rumors of redesigns and additions to the Prius, like the A-BAT (above), which the company calls a “parcel carrier,” not a truck. The concept, first shown at the Detroit Auto Show in 2007, will be based on the Prius and may have to be produced in the U.S. because of a 1963 tariff (the “chicken tax“) on light trucks.

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Are Salvaged Cars Worth Considering?

2008 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Next time you buy a used car, maybe you should consider one with a salvage title.

I know that goes against all rational advice and conventional wisdom for used-car buying, but there are certain conditions where a salvaged car might actually make sense. First, though, it’s important to understand exactly what a salvage (or junk) title really means.

Generally, though it varies greatly by state, a salvage title is issued to a damaged car when the insurer determines the cost of repair exceeds about 75 percent of its market value at the time of the accident. Repaired cars are often sold with the “salvaged” or “rebuilt” brand on the title at substantial discounts over similar cars with clean titles.

Considering how many ways a car can get destroyed, there are certainly risks in buying once-wrecked vehicles. However, you could also score the deal of a lifetime.

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Ferrari 599 SA Aperta: Design Has Its Privileges

Ferrari SA Aperta

Ferrari is going to display the roadster edition of its 599 Fiorano at the Paris Motor Show, and it will be a showstopper. Called the SA Aperta (meaning “open”), the car is simply gorgeous. It is also expensive (reportedly around the $500K mark) and already sold out.

Eighty cars are being made to honor the 80th anniversary of the Pininfarina design house, and at the recent Pebble Beach Concours, all were scooped up at a private viewing. Exclusivity and insider trading have always gone hand in hand, you know.

The Aperta has the Fiorano’s 661-hp V12, with a specially stiffened chassis, customized interior, etc., and so forth—state-of-the-art performance to match that of the company’s flagship car.

But what I want to talk about is the styling. Some may quibble, but I have not seen a more beautiful roadster design ever.

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How To Test-Drive a Car Audio System

2011 Audi A8

Driving and music go together like the ocean and salt.

The humble in-car radio started it all, beginning as a luxurious novelty in the 1930s. Today there are people who treasure the pounding of thunderous bass in their cars so much they rank the performance of an audio system over the performance of the engine. Yup, people love their music!

Car salesmen especially love these audio aficionados. I’ve talked with some who judge how easy a sale will be by what the customer does immediately after starting the car for a test drive: If he or she turns the stereo on, the sound quality will sell (or not sell) the car. If the customer turns the stereo off, the salesman knows he will have to work harder to describe the car’s other features.

According to USA Today, Matt Kirsch is a “stereo on” kind of guy. Kirsch is an audio engineer with General Motors and has an intriguing playlist for testing audio setups, which you should check out if you’re an audiophile who likes to test-drive the tunes:

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Study: Parents Give Less Help to Fat Kids When Buying a Car

Nobody said fat people have it easy.

A recent study of college students who bought cars for themselves found that those who were overweight or obese were “less likely to have family support for an automobile purchase, regardless of the family’s financial status or whether they were male or female.”

Well, most of us know that fat people are discriminated against…but by their own parents? That is really “tough love.” I think it’s part of a conscious effort to put down teens for their self-destructive driving behaviors—you know, texting, eating, making out while driving, etc.

“You’re too fat, Charlie. Your mother and I will only help you pay for the car if you lose 50 pounds by Christmas.”

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Jeep Returning to Military Roots?

Jeep’s military career began in 1941 when an early production unit was driven up the steps of the United States Capitol by a Willys test driver. Many years of legendary combat performance brought fame to the brand.

Fast forward to 2010, and Jeep’s military presence has been overtaken by suburban moms ushering kids to soccer practice and ballet performances.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but perhaps Jeep should return to the glory days of its military roots. Glory days that included the above 1965 CJ5 Military Gun Jeep. Look carefully and you might see a small rifle mounted through the windshield. See it? That’s a recoilless rifle, added in 1990 for service in Operation Desert Storm. The Jeep also has a .50 caliber Browning machine gun, just for good measure.

In my humble opinion, that’s what a Jeep should be! Maybe Chrysler agrees…

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