Boston to Nashville: A Cheap Car Challenge Results in a Bargain Mazda RX-7

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When people shop for cars, they typically stay local. But a new CarGurus study revealed that expanding your search to other metro areas can yield substantial savings. Buying a Ford Mustang in Miami, FL, rather than Albany, NY, could save you close to $2,000. Picking up a BMW 3 Series in Albuquerque, NM, instead of Dallas, TX, might net you as much as $1,900 in savings—all after considering the cost of airfare and gas for the drive back home.

Of course, the folks at CarGurus aren’t your typical car shoppers, either. When two Gurus—Dan and Justin—decided to enjoy a quick jaunt down to the Kentucky Derby and onward to Nashville, TN, they didn’t do it planning to buy a car in the Music City area… and they certainly weren’t going to fly to get there. They were going to drive extremely inexpensive, heavily used, and questionably cared for beater cars. They were going to sell them in Nashville before flying home to Boston, and they were hoping not to lose their shirts (or their dignity) in the process.

It was Justin’s first trip like this but Dan’s second, and Dan made sure to learn plenty from that first adventure. The maiden voyage took him from Boston to Miami with no itinerary and no plans. He left New England on a Wednesday, knowing only that he had a one-way plane ticket back from Miami International Airport the following Sunday. He spent $500 on the car and managed to sell it for $250. This time around, the pair were committed to turning a profit.

The guys made their trip with two additional teams of two. While Dan and Justin went a safe, sensible route with a 1998 Toyota Corolla LE purchased for $300, the other teams approached the journey with a decidedly masochistic approach. Dan and Justin’s Toyota—dubbed the Symphony of Beige—would be accompanied by a $560 1998 Mercedes-Benz E 320 Wagon sporting a reverse bench seat (but also more rust than sheet metal), and “the Swaggy Caddy”: a $700 2001 Cadillac DeVille.

From Boston, the caravan trundled along through Buffalo, NY, made a pit stop at the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, down through Columbus, OH, and on to Louisville, KY, where the group would watch Always Dreaming take home the roses at the Kentucky Derby.

If only it were that easy.

Before even leaving Massachusetts, the Cadillac lost all its coolant a scant 113 miles from the starting line. The Corolla “accidentally” drove into the Mercedes in a parking lot between Buffalo and Columbus, and on the same stretch, the Mercedes’ rear suspension collapsed.

But as Justin pointed out after the trip,

“The adventure is in the journey. You’re seeing parts of the country you’d never see if you just flew to Columbus or Louisville or Nashville. And at the same time, you might get stranded. But what’s an adventure without a little risk?”

Between Columbus and Louisville and on to Nashville, all three cars made do without incident. Sure, the Cadillac’s air conditioning didn’t work, and the driver had to keep the heat on in order to dissipate the engine’s heat. He couldn’t depress the accelerator too firmly, otherwise the coolant would spurt, and yes, as they drove deeper into the South, this did become a bigger and bigger problem. But in the end, the questions surrounding their trip evolved from “Why?” to “Why not?” Why would you spend all this time and money on a plane ticket or a new car when there are very reliable cars available at a fraction of the price?

At the end of their trip, having driven on from Louisville to Nashville (where they would catch a plane back to Boston), the guys moved to sell their cars for at least what they had paid for them. Thanks to a pull-a-part junkyard, they were able to find a buyer for both the Mercedes and the Toyota—with the former netting a $200 loss and Dan and Justin making a $10 profit on their Symphony of Beige. The Cadillac went to a new home in a private sale for double the initial $700 investment.

Justin's RX7

Different markets value specific models differently, and worn-out Cadillac DeVilles must have a cult following down in Tennessee. Revered early-’90s Japanese sports cars, however, apparently do not. While in Nashville, Justin found a 1994 Mazda RX-7 for sale. With 90,000 miles on the chassis but only 300 on the engine, the car was priced below $14,000—compared to valuations closer to $20,000 in the Boston area. Although he opted to drive to buy, rather than fly to buy, Justin still managed to land his dream car at an incredible price. As he put it, “There’s always a great deal out there.”

Have you ever flown (or driven) to buy a car?

-Matt Smith

Find Certified Pre-Owned Cars and Used Cars in your area at CarGurus.

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