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Trapped Between High Depreciation, and Expensive Maintenance and Repairs

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,120
edited May 2010 in General
Modern cars, and especially the German ones, tend to be satisfying to drive, and they look elegant, but they're expensive to operate. The ever expanding list of new electronic features, plus the fact that more and more brands force you to go to the dealer for certain maintenance items, increase the cost-of-ownership. I say it's too high, and is costing.

The upshot is that the cost of car ownership keeps climbing. Have you discovered ways to decrease your cost of owning your wheels that you'd like to share with other readers?


  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,120
    In the last sentence of the first paragraph, above, I had intended to say, "'s too high, and is rising."

    My point is that, increasingly, the manufacturers have us boxed in, on cost-of-ownership. Leasing is expensive. Buying and trading every 3-6 years is expensive, and keeping a car for the long haul is expensive. If the depreciation doesn't get you, sooner, then the cost of parts and labor will get you later. The only way out is to buy a basic 4 cylinder, with few options.

    But wasn't it always this way? I'd say it's gotten worse in the last several years, as cars above the basic models, especially, have become increasingly complex.
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Posts: 4,161
    What helps with the German cars (and one of the factors that keeps them in the running when it comes time to shop) is many of them include maintenance for the first few years on new vehicles and then buying a used one gets a typical 100k warranty from the dealer which can take care of a majority of the items.

    I still stick to Japanese for all out reliability though. In my experience, they have been exceptional.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,120
    edited May 2010
    I agree on both points regarding the German cars, and that, in most cases, the Japanese set the standard on reliability. And, from what one reads, Ford and GM have largely closed the gap with the Japanese.

    What puzzles me is the relatively large number of out-of-warranty German cars that are still in existence. Excluding owners who do all or most of their own maintenance and repairs, maybe, how do owners of out-of-warranty German (and Swedish) cars justify the cost-of-ownership?
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Posts: 4,161
    I would expect those hefty numbers of Europeans cars are off lease, with many of those folks turning in every 2 - 3 years for a new one. I myself don't know many people who have actually bought rather than leased a European vehicle.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,937
    I think a big part of it is that while some of the cars become money pits, the majority of them aren't too bad, and they deliver enough pleasure to the owner to keep them going. As you say, there is no shortage of aging Euro cars out there, many of them in decent condition.
  • kathyc2kathyc2 Posts: 159
    how do owners of out-of-warranty German (and Swedish) cars justify the cost-of-ownership?

    LOL! We don't look at the cost to get from point A to B, but rather the fun to get from A to B, with a slight detour to take the most fun rather than the most direct route. :D
  • kernickkernick Posts: 4,072
    edited May 2010
    It sounds to me like you want luxury, but don't want to pay the price for luxury, as many of the German and European vehicles that reach our shores are luxurious. But by definition these vehicles wouldn't be luxurious, if everyone and their brother could afford to buy one and to keep it on the road! There is NO generally known way to beat the economics if you're going to buy a luxury vehicle new.

    What I did as buy my '05 Jag X-Type used after 2.5 years and 30K miles. That left quite a bit of warranty. I paid about $19K for it or about 55% of the MSRP. My wife and I have driven it for 2 years and 20K miles and have had to buy 1 tire which was due to a cracked rim. I'm sure brakes will be due soon. But I don't go to a dealer for normal maintenance. I have not had any problem getting oil-changes, wipers, tires, air-filters, and such. I don't expect to ever have much trouble getting shocks or struts if needed, or to have fluids changed. I'll probably even go down the parts-store and buy 6 spark-plugs, gap them and put them in myself (if the location looks reasonable).

    I guess if you have a lemon that involves proprietary software then you might be stuck going back to the dealer. But then again I do see the flaw with having some NAV system be the interface for HVAC, stereo ... I would avoid any vehicle that has a lot of unneeded extras tied into a NAV system.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,403
    The upshot is that the cost of car ownership keeps climbing. Have you discovered ways to decrease your cost of owning your wheels that you'd like to share with other readers?

    Good questions and as a multi-owner of high-mileage German and Swedish iron I can tell you how to keep costs within reason.

    1) Buy used. BMWs Porsche and the like lose up to 50% of their value in the first three or four years of service. I boiught my current 2000 528iA with four years and 44K on it for $26,000 which is about half the sticker price when new and the approximate cost of a new Camry with equivalent options.

    2)Stay away from dealers. There are lots of good independent service outfits for the German makes and (at least in New England) the Euro makes who will work much cheaper than the dealers.

    3)Don't skimp on maintenence. Have all required services done and done on time.
    Euro cars have much less tolerance for poor maintenance than Japanese or American cars.

    4)Have fun! These cars are great to drive and you don't need to be afraid to push them from time to time. A car meant to stand up to autobahn travel at century speeds will last for a long time under American driving condition.

    The Blue Max is one of several BMWS, Audis and Saabs that I've driven well past their warranty period (it's now @ 121K and going strong.) Would you rather have this or a six y/o Camry?>

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    seem to lose like 1/4 of their value going from 49K to 50,001 on the clock, because their warranties end there.

    I have never done it but I have been tempted to buy a Mercedes or perhaps a BMW at 50,001, as I would imagine you can still get a couple of years' good service out of it at that point before the expensive repairs begin.

    And then again I am someone who maintains my car religiously, so given what has been written above, perhaps I wouldn't have to worry too much about expensive repairs. I know I wouldn't buy one without a CPO warranty though.

    And they can be really cheap after that 50K mark, I have a co-worker that just picked up an ('06/'07?) C230 with 70K miles a few months back for $12K. That's a beautiful car that I would rather have with all its potential problems than a brand new Versa with air for the same price.

    But you can't be spending every last penny on that car payment. If you are doing that you need to buy the new car with a warranty (or better yet, NOT do that at all!). I would think that with a German car I would set aside 50% of the car payment as savings against those future repair costs.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,937
    I shopped like you. In 06 I bought my 02 E55 with ~27K on it for $28K - the same price as a nicely equipped Camcord. The car would have stickered for around $75K new. It was just out of warranty, but I bought a 4 year aftermarket warranty for about $2K, I've had to make 2 claims and never had a problem. The running costs are more than the 'normal' car, but I enjoy driving it more than I would something more usual, that's for sure.

    imageSee more Car Pictures at
  • jeff71jeff71 Posts: 11
    Cars are so much better made these days and last twice as long so depreciation is less. And with today's electronics, if you get a check engine light you go to the auto parts store and they plug in the analyzer and it tells you what is wrong. Then you go on the internet and search the code and find out what it means and how to fix it.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,594
    as they age? I always liked the A8, but I've heard that's the kind of car you only get when you're rich, and even then, you lease it and turn it in before the warranty is up!

    I think the smaller Audis are attractive looking too, though. An A4 might be too small for my tastes, although with a 110.6" wheelbase, that's not exactly a compact car (unless you're talking a 1970's compact :P )
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,937
    edited May 2010
    I think Audis since 2005 or so are much improved, but before that they can really be a game of Russian roulette. Old A8s have to be huge money pits, worse than their German counterparts - early A8s are already becoming kind of scarce on the road. I think older Audi parts support is weaker than MB and BMW, which hurts things too. They are beautifully finished cars...but I'd still feel like I was a risk-taker if I went that route.

    The new style A4 is larger than old ones, looking to me not much smaller than the original mid 90s 100/A6.
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Posts: 4,161
    edited May 2010
    Is it really true that they still manufacture and stock every single part they have ever made? I don't know where I read this before but if it's true that is really neat.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 39,018
    edited May 2010
    Sounds like a bit of an urban legend to me.

    Found this in a quick search, but maybe the Cougar owner just didn't know how to look for parts on the net. It's the "My 2nd Baby" review.

    Maybe on the outboards? :shades:
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Posts: 4,161
    Sorry, I abbreviated my question. I was talking about Mercedes. I usally refer them as "Mercs" even though I could see how one would think Mercury. :D
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,937
    edited May 2010
    I think you mean Mercedes, not Mercury :shades:

    But anyway, yes, you can get pretty much any mechanical part for a MB made in the last 50+ years right from the dealer. You'll sometimes pay dearly for it, but you can get it. In 1997 my fintail broke a little FI line...I got a replacement from the local dealer, not too shabby for a car that went out of production in 1965. However, not every part is available - I don't think the MB parts source stocks little interior shiny bits and the like for cars over 20 or so years old - but I do think they can source anything mechanical and many body parts. There are also some good independent MB parts sources out there - MB people are maintenance enthusiasts, so the demand there to be filled.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 39,018
    lol, well, Mercury has been on my mind this week with Ford's shut down announcement.

    I'm painting a bedroom - gonna blame it on the fumes. :D
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,120
    "...don't look at the cost to get from point A to B, but rather the fun to get from A to B..."

    There were several good responses to the delemna posed by this discussion. I think kathyc2's suggestion of focusing on the joy of the ride and the pleasure of ownership, instead of the cost of ownership, is the key to justifying the expense of owning a high maintenance car. To extend this thinking further, if you're a compulsive person who only or mainly thinks about the cost-per-mile of operation, it's a mistake for you to drive a European luxury car. That's because the driving pleasure and other attributes of a luxury car are trumped by your compulsion.

    One of my friends fits this stereotype. Although he could easily afford an C or E-Class Mercedes, or its equivalent, he used to drive K-cars, which he purchased at the end of the model year, to get a lower price. His second car was a used econobox, like, say, a Tercel. Now he drives a miled up '00 Camry and an Echo. And to complete the picture, Mark actually enjoys driving. It's just that his definition of enjoyment has to accommodate his "do-it-ala-cheap" guilt demon. Mark needs to get a life. He even acknowledges his compulsion, which sometimes drives his wife nuts, but he can't seem to shake it loose.

    Another good suggestion that some of you have put forth is to buy used, and stay away from the high end, most complex luxury cars. And, when selecting a used car, evaluate the previous owner as much as the car and the deal. Did he/she maintain it well, and drive it with reasonable care. Well, that's what I did when I recently bought a '07 A4 Quattro 2T, for my wife as the primary driver. This car is a delight to drive, and it's got the nicest interior of any car we've owned. If its cost of ownership turns out to be on the high side, well, so be it. We're concentrating on enjoying our ride, and practicing a "have fun, be happy" attitude. In the unlikely event that this A4 should turn out to be a money pit, we'll replace it. Anyone know where I can locate an older, low maintenance A8?
  • kathyc2kathyc2 Posts: 159
    edited May 2010
    Some people take more pleasure in having money than spending it. My Mom is the same way; she can't enjoy going out to dinner because the whole time she's thinking about how she could have made it for less. My theory is after you have taken care of the necessities, the extra should be for things you enjoy whether it be a nice car, vacations, etc.

    I bought my 2002 325CI in 06 w/ 53K miles, and 4 years and 30K miles later I've put around 1K in repairs; the most expensive of which was to replace the string system that keeps the headliner tight on the rear pillars when the top is up. Of course maintenance and wear and tear items are significantly higher than on domestics, but I knew what going in so I was prepared. I tried a couple of independent shops that specialize in German cars, but was not happy with them for one reason or another. Ended up going to the BMW dealer for service, and although posted rates are higher, they usually give me a discount of some kind or another.

    Since someone else took the first couple years hit on depreciation by leasing, the percentage I've taken in 4 years is probably less than if I would have bought a new domestic for the same amount as I paid used. One of the things that has impressed me the most is after 80+K miles, the leather seats look new without any sag or creases.

    It's a beautiful weekend, why not go for a joy ride on some twisty curvy road and really enjoy your A4? if you ask real nice, your wife might even let you drive part of the way. :D
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