January 12, 2017

The ABC of Death: No Volvo for Me But This Commercial Makes Its Point

With the untimely death of my car last month, I have been forced to shop for a new (used) car. For me shopping for a car is the closest thing I've had to a near-death experience since my real-death experience five years ago.

Buying a car is a skill that I do not have, in a realm I know nothing about, and which requires more money than I can easily spend, in order to get a car that will not collapse, crawl to the side of the road, wheeze, steam, gurgle, gasp, and die.

In short, I have become very weary about everything in the car-buying process. Still, I must persevere and make this all an extended Zen moment.

And in the course of looking about with my Zen"I have to get a car"Mind I stumbled over this ad from Volvo. It didn't sell me on the over-rated and over-priced Volvo, but I think it will amuse you just the same.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at January 12, 2017 7:09 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Got to part company with you here, Gerard. If I could, I'd own nothing but Volvos for the rest of my life, which, considering that I am 61 now, means I'd only own at most two more.

I have had three Volvos and loved every one of them. My daughter still drives one, a 2005 V60 wagon with 192,000 miles on it, still as reliable and solid as a Rolex watch.

Eleven months ago I parted company with my own 11-year-old S-60 Turbo, easily the finest car I have ever owned. Loved it and literally shed a few tears when I drove my new car off the lot. Alas, the new car is a mere 2016 Honda Accord EX-L, tricked out with the full avionics suite. Do I like it? Yes, for sure. Do I love it? Not a chance. But I loved my Volvos.

But I will admit you have to be very careful buying used ones.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at January 12, 2017 7:56 PM

I hear that and if a new car was in the picture that might work for me. But alas a new car is going to be out of reach. At the same time I have to find a car that is not likely to crap out when I am taking my 102 year old mother to appointments or activities.

As it turns out, used Honda Accords and Toyata Camrys are on my short list.-

Posted by: Vanderleun at January 12, 2017 8:49 PM

I have never once been even far away from considering a Volvo. I'm sorta a bitter-clinger deplorable irredeemable pickup-driving guy. Help me out here. You say you love them to death, but I don't see why. And with the slow Scandi decline and cultural suicide in progress, I never even see anyone talking about them anymore. What is their distinctively different claim to fame?

Posted by: John A. Fleming at January 12, 2017 9:22 PM

Go to the dealer's fleet representative with the number ($) that you can afford. That number should be no more than 6% over the dealer's invoice (available from Kelley Blue Book www.kbb.com). Tell him what model, options, etc. you want, and say that you have that $ to spend, no more. If he/she doesn't agree, walk out. Keep doing that at every dealer until one agrees. If none do, you don't need that car. Wait until the end of the model year, when dealers need to clear inventory for the new models. They generally are willing (i.e., NEED) to sell very low. Dealer's profits are usually that 6% above cost. Don't get any of the "add-ons" (undercoating, extended warranty, etc.) that the dealer offers, because that's really where they make their money, and are all extensively overpriced.

Posted by: Stan Smith at January 12, 2017 10:01 PM

I always buy used and drive whatever it is until the wheels fall off. Still have my old truck with 180K miles on it. 4X4 and AC still work! Sounds like you got to the end of the road with your existing ride.Yes, Kelly Bluebook will tell you the personal sale value of a used car. Find one being sold by an individual and don't give more than the Bluebook price. If you find something you really like, pay a mechanic $50 or $100 to thoroughly to check it out prior to buying it. Find the mechanic first. Often friends can direct you to one you can trust.

If you are not great at negotiating, silence is frequently good. Look the car over and don't say much and see what the other guy says. If you really like it tell them that you have two other cars you are going to look at also. Never act too interested. Then say something like "I don't know.....(wait, wait, wait) what do you really have to have out of this thing???" Then be quiet for as long as it takes. That often pries open the seller to more information such as their desperation level to sell, or they might offer a lower price. Try to get them to name a lower price than listed. Do not negotiate against yourself by making an offer first. If you know someone local that can help you negotiate, take them with you.

This "disinterested" methodology often works on cars, guns, pool tables, furniture, etc.

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at January 13, 2017 5:07 AM

I had a Turbo 850. Green, four doors and absolutely invisible to law enforcement. Good thing too, I took it out on a country road and had it wound up to 132 M.P.H. I wish I still had those heated seats during our mini-ice age here in the Puget Sound area.

Posted by: Mumblix Grumph at January 13, 2017 5:48 AM

I buy cars now from CarMax. National online inventory. Customer friendly sales process.

Posted by: Steve at January 13, 2017 6:22 AM

I have a job where I drive every day from client to client in all kinds of weather. I must have a reliable car, because if I don't see the client, I can't bill for that time and will lose money. A boss years ago recommended that I purchase either a Toyota or Nissan. I currently drive a 2009 Toyota Highlander and my kids drive all over creation in a 2003 Highlander. Both are fabulous cars with no breakdowns and only standard yearly maintenance required. The 2003 looks great for its age.

Posted by: Annie Rose at January 13, 2017 6:30 AM

Gerard, I've some experience in this, having worked in automotive sales from '99 to '07.

Mostly Ford, with a goodly mix of Honda & Toyota, and a few months with a dealer that transitioned brands, so got some GM and Dodge in the mix, too.

Stan Smith, per above, isn't wrong in his approach, but the 6% does NOT apply to the Honda/Toyota brands. They operate at far narrower margins between invoice and MSRP. (just trying to avoid some frustration for you, there.)

And, there's no need to traipse around to fleet managers, these days. Do a little online research, and find out who the ACTUAL Internet Sales Manager is. Note: every internet rep carries that title, but only THE I.S.M. can actually cut the deal.

On an Accord, for instance, you'll find about a $1,200 to $1,500 spread between invoice and MSRP. Making a deal at $100 over invoice is common as hell.

Where Stan is dead-on-target, is avoiding dealer add-ons. Do NOT pay a "lot fee", "dealer services fee", etc. Don't pay for window tinting, pin-striping, and the worst rip off of all..."sealant packages".

You want a really good, smooth, easy, courteous and PROPER experience at a dealership?

Go here: http://www.carprousa.com/

Put in your desired car, trim, etc. His relationship with affiliated dealers is BUILT on the idea of NO HASSLE to the customer, correct and best pricing, and fulfilling everything that Stan and I are here trying to help you achieve.

Here in Galveston, Iris bought a 2013 Accord at the local dealership. GREAT car, and ZERO hassle at the store. Just as if I had been the salesman myself. You'll get the same out there via a CarPro connection.

And if you're going Toyota, you'll be able to STEAL a 2017, as the 2018 Camry will be an entirely new platform, from the lug-nuts up.

The good thing these days, is how damn good all the cars are, but Honda and Toyota are still the gold standard for the sub $30k market. I'm more a Honda fan, as they tend to be more of a "driver's car", but that 2018 Camry is said to be addressing that issue, specifically.

I would avoid the Hyundai/Kia brands though. Good enough platforms, but that "100,000 mile warranty", is NOT the good deal it purports to be.

Honda and Toyota too, will RULE in the retained value for future resale or trade. Much more than the Korean brands.

Anyway, that's my bit of a primer on the topic.

Good luck with your search!

Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Posted by: Jim at January 13, 2017 6:44 AM

Bought my Blazer 4x4 from an ad on craigslist last Aug.

The price was right (I'd been researching for over a year) the condition was good.

Met the *seller* in a Steak n Shake, paid cash in exchange for a clear title. Been driving it ever since.

It has some blemishes but you have to look close and I can live with that.

**Yes, the bobcat was in my pocket along with my gerber lightning when we met. I am aware.

Posted by: ghostsniper at January 13, 2017 7:06 AM

Automobiles. I have been a member of SAE International (Society of Automotive Engineers) since 1988. From an engineering/execution point of view, Toyota and Honda are THE leaders in both engineering and execution. American auto makers are near the bottom of the list when it comes to engineering. There are many super engineers at GM and Ford. The problem is, they are over ruled at the execution stage. This is due to the vast numbers of lawyers and accountants at both companies. The lawyers and accountants are the actual decision makers--sad indeed.

I have a 2007 Toyota Tundra (Over 100K trouble free miles) that in my opinion is the best designed/built vehicle I have ever driven. Oh, I make my living doing work directly related to Porsche. A once great automobile.

Posted by: Terry at January 13, 2017 7:45 AM

Honda Accord.

Used or new.

If used, make sure it's been serviced regularly and with synthetic oil if possible.

Get the 4 cylinder; six is overkill.

You won't be sorry.

Good luck.

Posted by: ca at January 13, 2017 7:53 AM

Never had (or wanted) a Japanese car until @10 years ago when my last fun car plowed in. My mechanic, a mensch of the first water, "sold" me his '82 Toyota pickup parts-chaser for $1, and it ran until my back couldn't take the seats any more - at which point I sold it for a grand to the "help us get these old pieces of shit off the road" folks at smog time.

A friend sold me her 10-year-old Corolla for $2000 in 2010; it finally entered the Oxygen Sensor black hole last year, and that cost me $1200. I put new tires on it at the place that does my yearly oil change (Firestone,) and I bought a lifetime wheel alignment from the same place when I bought it.

That's it. Six years and it runs and starts like a new car. Absolutely everything on the car works. Take a hint.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at January 13, 2017 8:37 AM

Didn't know that the Bergmann estate was consulting to Volvo

Posted by: OhioGuy at January 13, 2017 8:42 AM

Thank you, thank you, thank you all. That is amazing and highly useful information.

Posted by: Vanderleun at January 13, 2017 9:23 AM

I have always bought my daughters cars for them. Right about used Camry's. Anything Toyotish. Accords have issues, surprisingly. The best buys are from old folks giving up driving (low miles on ten year old cars). A car's age often comes with problems in the east, but not much where you are. I used my first dealer ever for a purchase this week because one daughter is in Salt Lake, and I ain't.
https://www.autolist.com/ is amazingly efficient for dealer cars. It's a new site and it's already put YahooCars out of business. Anything that puts Yahoo out of business is good. Got a 2001 Sentra with 67000 miles, one owner, cheap. Most listings come with a free car fax report. Filtering for miles and model is easy. But if you see something like a 2005 Crown Vic with 30k miles for five grand the only thing between you and a deal is that this officially marks you as an old fart, while the Camry only suggests it. Camry is my next car.

Posted by: james wilson at January 13, 2017 10:49 AM

This book was recommended to me by a used car salesman. I'd reread it before buying another car.

Don't get taken every time by Remar Sutton

Posted by: katzxy at January 13, 2017 11:58 AM

Nice Edward Gorey reference in the commercial.


Posted by: DrTedNelson at January 13, 2017 2:11 PM

Re: Toyota, I agree with the other favorable comments above. Had a friend who was a mechanic, he went with me when I badly needed a car for delivering mail in rural Australia. It had to be an automatic and it had to be reliable. My mechanic friend rejected each car until we found a 6 year old Toyota Corolla. He put it through its paces (most cars failed his tests due to noise from the CV joints or oil leaks where there shouldn't be any.)

I drove the very hell out of that car; it never ever let me down, not even once. I still miss that car; but it was a bit underpowered. I'd get a Camry now for more horses. That Toyota was the most reliable car I've ever owned, bar none. FWIW.

Posted by: Eskyman at January 13, 2017 3:10 PM

If you were a lesbian, I'd recommend a Subaru. As for Volvos, they're boxy but nice.

In any case, if you have not already, I'd recommend reading Cialdini's "Influence" to get some insight into the scams - sorry, persuasion techniques - that car dealers run.

Posted by: SteveS at January 13, 2017 4:34 PM

Been out of town all day. Agree with most everything above. Toyota or Honda is definitely the way to go in the used market.

Of my three Volvos, only the first was bought new. It was an '83 242 GLT. The second I got for my wife in 2008, it was the 2005 V70 wagon my daughter still drives. I bought it from a family member on my wife's side; it had 93,000 miles on it but no flaws. He had all the services done at the dealer he bought it new from. In fact, I rode with my daughter today down I-40 to help her move back into her apartment for her final semester in college. My wife followed in the Accord which I had to drive home.

My third Volvo was the '05 S-60 Turbo. I got it from a dealer coming off lease at 63,300 miles also in '08. You'll cringe at this, but I actually traded in my 2003 Camry XLE on it. I had bought that used, too, and it had every option there was. But I didn't like it. Booorring to drive, but I will say that they do not break. So for reliability, absolutely go with a Camry or an Accord.

I traded the Volvo in last year because it had been wrecked (deer strike at 75 mph), had got caught in a hailstorm and developed a large hole in the carpet, driver's side, which Google revealed to be a common problem because the mat didn't cover there and one's heel hit that place getting in and out. All this happened under my ownership, btw. There were zero mechanical defects until the very end, which I decided not to repair because the book value was so low due to its history and cosmetic issues.

New Volvos were way out of reach (I lust for an XC-60, but 46 large!) and the used market at the time was fairly sparse. The only ones I would have selected were 4-5 years old and the same price (mas o menos) as the new Accord, so I went with the Honda - same dealer, btw.

Agree with advice to get the four-banger over a six. Maintenance is cheaper and my four-cylinder Accord is only marginally slower than the V6; I test drove both. My S-60 Turbo took off like a scared cat, but the Accord is surprisingly brisk and very stable at speed.

There were two big things I loved about the Volvos, one of which grabbed me again when I sat down in daughter's V70 today: once you shut the door it is like sitting in a bank vault. I mean those cars are solid. Her 12-y/o wagon feels much more solid than my one-year-old Accord, which is not exactly a slouch in that department, btw.

Second, the seats. Volvo is famous for its seating and rightfully so. They pioneered orthopedically-designed seats and are still today the world leader for seating. Mercedes alone is a close second. That said, I do admit that my Accord's seats are very, very good.

I will also add that Volvo's driver ergonomics are probably unsurpassed.

Gerard, I hope you get a good used car that serves you for many years. Take care of your wonderful mother! You are blessed.

I am going to drop a car offering in your bleg box and I encourage all other readers to do the same.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at January 13, 2017 5:45 PM

Gerard, a month ago I traded the last of six Honda Accords on a new Mustang GT. I do not recommend that you do this. I'll go with most of the above commenters and recommend that you find a good Accord or Camry. If you really like to drive, try for the Accord; if driving's just a chore for you a Camry will do just as well. Good luck!

Posted by: pfsm at January 13, 2017 6:07 PM

Oh, by the way....

In re fun, when I first got the 2000 Corolla in 2010, the first thing I did was to drive it home on the West Marin backroads where I used to play in my BMW. What I discovered was that with the automatic overdrive engaged (making it a 4-speed,) I could put my foot in it and kick it down to 2nd, out of which it shifts at @60. Awfully surprising for a 4.

Without the overdrive turned on it'll run on mountain roads between 2nd and 3rd just like the German car, and go like hell once you get the feel for the front wheel drive. All it lacks is sway bars, which I had to add to the 528i anyhow. And when I drive my age it'll get 35 mpg and use no oil.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at January 13, 2017 6:54 PM

I have such bad car karma when it comes to buying cars (new or used) that I've given up on the idea of owning a car. In fact, I think with the options available these days owning a car is more of a luxury. I use public transportation or ride share, mostly Lyft and Uber. I walk more, ride my bicycle more, and get things accomplished while riding the bus to work. I don't have the maintenance headaches & bills: I don't have to carry auto insurance, pay for gas, license, registration, parking, tires, cleaning, and so on. Pay as you go is much easier. For me at least.

Posted by: longtime lurker at January 14, 2017 4:22 AM

Bobcat and a gerber. Almost nobody probably understood that. Heheh. I like your style.

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at January 14, 2017 6:11 AM

Again, I am just stunned by all the needed and fine advice here.

Thanks again

Posted by: Vanderleun at January 14, 2017 8:48 AM

I've owned two Volvos (Volvi?), an early-70s 140 that I bought used, and a new 1980 DL, which was the 140's immediate successor. The 140 had been ridden hard and put up wet, but it just kept on going. The DL was similarly tough. It had a 4-cylinder Renault-built engine, a 4-speed manual with an electronic overdrive, and not much else, but try as I might, I couldn't kill it. I paid $10k for it, drove it for 10 years and got over 300,000 miles out of it. Not a bad return on investment, if you ask me.

I've owned a Toyota (Solara) and both a plain Honda and a Honda in a tuxedo (Acura), and found them all to be well-engineered and highly-reliable cars, if a bit on the sterile side. But their cost of ownership is relatively low, and they won't let you down in a pinch.

Posted by: waltj at January 14, 2017 12:39 PM

Gashlycrumb Tinies, yes. That was all I could think of watching this commercial.

Cars: My 1980 Toyota Corolla was the best car I'd ever owned. My current 2008 Chevy Cobalt with 107.000 miles is still driving nicely.

Posted by: Harry at January 14, 2017 12:57 PM

It all depends.... On the dollars available, how much you drive, and any special needs.
The Honda & Toyota models retain a large portion of their original purchase price on resale. That is good if you buy new, but bad if you buy used.
American built cars, (include Toyota, Subaru, Honda and BMW in that list...)and American engineered cars have improved significantly over the years.
Personal opinion is that I will not pay what sellers want for a used Toyota or Honda with 150,000 miles on the clock. Those vehicles will very likely last another 150,000 miles, but most likely they'll be threadbare and ratty looking by that vintage. The paint and interior bits will get worn and ugly. If you don't mind, that's fine, but most American cars will do the same, lasting just as long, if they are given decent maintenance.
The Crown Vic mentioned, or its gussied up sister, the Lincoln version, will last a couple hundred thousand miles with low expectation of failure in civilian use.
I purchased a used vehicle with ~90k miles, and given my annual miles, and an expectation that the vehicle could go to 150k with little problems, that vehicle would likely last me 10-20 years. I was purchasing 'miles of use' left before there were failure worries in the engine & transmission.
Almost every vehicle built in USA and some imports will easily last 150,000 miles or more with reasonable care. Purchase the miles you need for the expected use.
I avoid Honda and Toyota because of the impression, correct or erroneous, that they 'last forever', and thus are worth more. Their resale value is ridiculous. If you want a Toyota or Honda, buy new. The American product is nipping at the heels of the two brands referenced the most in other posts.
If my budget was low, I'd look for a Taurus/Sable with less than 100k miles, and would be able to find one for less than $2k. The drivetrain, brakes, suspension, etc should easily last to the 150k mark, and the interior should hold up reasonably well for that time. If you look at a used H or T vehicle in the $2k range, you will be seeing odometers in the over 200,000 mile range, with a many actually worn out, but holding value because of reputation. Sorry, I don't trust Volvos of recent vintage. Others have their own opinions, but they are expensive to work on, have limited parts availability(how many dealers?), and have fewer service people familiar with the brand. The seats are nice, as is the ride. The same can be said of the Renault and Peugot, but try to find a throttle cable in Colorado Springs when yours breaks.
In many cases you will do better purchasing from a private owner than a used car dealership. The dealer has overhead and sales people to pay for, while the private deal has a driveway, whether the old car is there or not, and he/she lives there, so no salary consideration.
In. My. Opinion. YMMV

Posted by: tomw at January 17, 2017 7:14 AM

We've got a 2004 S60, a nice car in many respects. I find it cramped and the radio is worthless (but the speakers are good) The turbo really makes merging into fast traffic a pleasure. This is a car built by the EU, parts are made in Spain, Belgium, etc. Needs a timing belt and struts and bunch of stuff (which is why you will find a ton of them for sale) at the hundred thousand mile mark. Need a good, trustworthy mechanic. Six quarts of synthetic. Can be hot-rodded, kids in WRX's will pull up alongside you at lights and give you "the look"...

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