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Buying Luxury used cars



  • fintailfintail Posts: 40,923
    On this subject, I have pretty much told myself I am going to keep away from the really modern cars and drive my old school E55 as long as I really like it - not going to give in to temptation. However, once the C63 depreciates to my level, it might be hard to resist.

    Yesterday I went to the dealer to get a replacement for my dead sidemarker bulb, as it is closer than any parts store and I don't trust the parts shop books now that one referred me to the wrong bulb. They gave me the bulb for free. Worth no more than a buck no doubt, but a nice gesture.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    Yes, that was a nice gesture.

    Circling back to a recent message where I listed the attributes that I value most in German luxury cars, how could I forget the seats? They're usually the best-in-class, in my opinion. They're comfortable and supportive.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 40,923
    The seats in my E55 are very good too, supportive in the right places, you can drive for hours with no pain. The seats being upholstered with nice nappa leather doesn't hurt either. I like the BMW style of extendable thigh support, I haven't seen this on other makes.

    The fintail has big squashy old seats...lots of room, and enough support to keep you in place (as you won't be generating too many gs in it anyway). It's what I imagine an old fashioned airplane seat to be like, somehow.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    I dunno; the seats in my dad's E320 were supportive but I just never liked them at all. I like the seats in the smart a lot more.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,025
    how do BMW seats tend to compare with Mercedes seats? The only German car I've ever logged any considerable seat time in is my buddy's 2002 or so 5-series. After about an hour, my thighs started to ache a bit and I was getting restless.

    Still, by my standards, a seat that I can last an hour in is actually pretty good! My uncle's 2003 Corolla starts irritating me after about 10 minutes!
  • fintailfintail Posts: 40,923
    My car has the pneumatic multicontour seat adjustments too, that might make a difference. I haven't spent more than a few seconds in a Smart.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 40,923
    I'd say on average BMW seats have more support and are maybe even a little firmer - to go with the sportier quality of the cars, I guess. That 5er should have the adjustable thigh support section too, maybe that would have helped. I once rode in an X5 that had extremely comfortable seats, it was amazing.

    I see German car seats as made for people who are maybe a little taller and heavier than average - as Germans can be.
  • texasestexases Posts: 7,650
    "I see German car seats as made for people who are maybe a little taller and heavier than average - as Germans can be. "

    Not only '83 GTI fit my 6'5" fine, the seats were very comfortable. It amazes me that so many US and Japanese makers design uncomfortable seats - just go buy a Recaro and copy it! I spent 4 hrs being tortured by the squishy seats in an Escalade - and they must have cost big $$.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Bigger heads, too?

    That fintail 190D that apparently lives at the local body shop has headrests with what looks like a semicircle carved out of the top and a big indentation in the face.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 40,923
    Headrests were dealer installed options on fintails, and I assume some aftermarket variants existed too. I know the most common ones have chrome loops that mount them to the seatback, kind of odd. They are relatively rare.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 40,923
    A big squishy seat with no lateral or lower support can be the worst kind, even if a larger person can easily fit in it.

    Speakingof Recaro seats, I saw a pic of an 80s AMG SEC that had Recaro seats, with huge vintage tech controllers at the sides. Somehow, very cool.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,728
    Back in the old days, when Shifty worked for Mercedes Benz NA and dinosaurs freely roamed the earth, just at the end of the Indian Wars and the recession of the last glaciers----Mercedes got a LOT of complaints from new, first-time, American Mercedes owners (this is early 1970s, before electric lighting and indoor toilets) about how HARD the seat were.

    Americans were so used to driving mom's sofa or a block of ice with a steering wheel, that the Benz characteristics of firm suspension, firm seating, precise shifting and REALLY good brakes were a shock to former Cadillac owners.

    Some never ever made the adjustment and they went back to Pillowville.

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 40,923
    You even had a fintail when it wasn't a remarkably old car, so you must be a real relic :P

    Firm supportive seats are better for long trips if you are even slightly above average in size. Looking at the market now, it looks like people realized luxury doesn't have to be button-tufted with ocean liner handling.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,728
    I am a relic. I'm actually dead but I'm channeling the body of the guy you see in the Carspace photo. He's not in bad shape for his age actually and I may be able to use his body for another 20 years.

    I had a fintail in 1971, which I traded in for a brand new 280SL pagoda which I ordered with a manual transmission. Benz sold me that car for $10,800 !!. Of course, that WAS a year's salary back then.

    I've owned quite a few "risky" used luxury cars, including: BMW 735i, MB 300D, 300SD, 560SEL, 560SL, Audi 100, (sorta luxury), Jaguar XJ6 (sold quickly after just READING about the car's problems, which it didn't have at the time), Alfa 164LS (quite luxurious). Also a few Cadillacs, etc. passed through my hands but I didn't own them but for a few days.

    My strategy was always to buy very *very* well-cared for luxury cars that someone else had JUST dumped a boatload of money into, then drive them a quick 5K--10K and then bail out while everything was still okay.

    I pretty much escaped serious internal injuries on ALL of the above. The only "quasi-luxury" cars that really beat me up were Saab Turbo convertibles.

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 40,923
    Today a plain new SL will set you back twice the average income, you got a bargain ;) ...I know in those inflationary times, those things had amazing resale value too...I have some NADA/KBB books from 1976, and late pagodas booked at nearly original MSRP.

    Is there a luxury car that isn't risky? Even the old Japanese makes have their drawbacks. The bigger they are, the harder they fall...anyone want a 1983 Rolls? Didn't think so.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,728
    Well there's risk and there's RISK.

    One thing you have to do is really study the reputation of various cars. There's a good deal of "collective wisdom" out there which is often worth ten Haynes manuals or 100 Klick and Klack radio shows.

    Some luxury cars, I'd bet on, and some I'd bet against.

    BWM 3 series? Replace the radiator, thermostat and water pump and be happy for the duration.

    BWM 5 series? I'm betting you'll be pretty much okay.

    BMW 750 series? May God have mercy on your soul.

    Audi Allroad? Good luck, you'll probably need it.

    Jaguar X Type? you poor thing

    Mercedes 300E -- I'd bet in your favor here.

    83 Rolls? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA :cry:

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  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,294
    A 1983 Rolls-Royce would be an excellent car to give to somebody you hate. It's the ultimate white elephant!


    For some reason I think of old "Dallas" reruns when I see these '80s Rollses.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,728
    Elephanto Blanco, world-class edition.

    You could double the price of the car in one visit to the repair shop-----EASY. I just saw a repair bill for a 71' Corniche.....brakes, tires, suspension, blah has 88,000 miles on it....the bill? $19,500.

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 40,923
    Notice as the car gets bigger, so do the pitfalls. A cared for old 5er or E is a relatively safe bet. A nice looking 7er or S can destroy a man, V12 models especially. A 2001 S600 can be had for under 20 grand now if you shop around, and that's for a car with acceptable mileage. Just imagine the potential expenses.

    A coworker of mine has an Allroad...bought to replace a V70 that was out of warranty and nickeling-and-diming him to death (he's pretentious and hauls a couple dogs - he sees himself as being above a Subaru). Now the Audi is getting expensive, apparently an involved brake job is required now.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,728
    I don't see how you could even FIX an S600 unless you went to Benz school AND had all the special tools and books. I don't even think a Benz dealer knows how to fix them.

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    Only a fool or someone who's insanely rich would buy, or even lease, a car that's virtually unfixable today, or one where the cost of repairs and maintenance are unjustifiable.

    I look for sales of high end cars to remain depressed for a long time to come, as Americans increase their savings rate over the next several years. Also, credit will probably loosen up, but it's highly unlikely to be as readily available as it was in recent years.

    Times have changed. Near luxury ($29,900-$39,900) is the new mid luxury ($40,000-$59,900), and mid luxury is the new high end.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,728
    Bingo, gold star for you. The cars that were considered "luxurious" in the 1980s have options that are now commonplace on far less expensive cars.

    Used luxury cars, unless they are extremely rare, will NEVER bring big bucks because of this repairability issue.

    Let's face it, if a 25-30 year-old luxury car can't even bring $5,000 today, it's not ever going to be valuable. It's had enough time to start to appreciate.

    It's about time to let go of that 1980 Blimp-mobile you've been hoarding, insuring and repairing for 30 years. There is no gold at the end of that rainbow.

    Ditto a 1990 Lexus LS400 and ditto a 200X BMW 7 series or MB luxury sedan.

    As for luxury coupes and ragtops, well the scenario may or may not be different. Certainly a 1980 Mercedes 450SL or SLC hasn't moved very much in price these past ten years (if at all), and all 90s coupes and convertibles are behaving like used cars, depreciating every year.

    There may be a few rare, specialty-built luxury cars that will remain valuable.

    "Investment" aside, you have to be the very opposite of risk-averse to buy one of these out of warranty.

    I just can't imagine, with these cars using their multi-plexing circuitry, containing over 75 microprocessors, that even the cleverest of computer gurus is going to go in "cold" and fix a very glitchy wiring harness, unless they have a complete set of schematics, lots and lots of time, and your blank check in hand.

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    All the points you made conspire to increase depreciation, and, therefore, the cost of ownership, which is why I feel that sales of new high end cars, especially sedans, will remain under pressure for many years. The days when used Cadillacs and Mercedes' held their value well (the '50s-mid '60s, and the '70s and '80s, respectively) won't return. So, yeah, the way to go with used luxury cars is to buy a well maintained one, drive it for 5,000 - 10,000 miles, then sell it while (fingers crossed) it's still intact.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,728
    It's a crap shoot. If say you buy a 1998 Mercedes S600, you'd think that the engine control module was very $$$, like a Jaguar, but it's not. It's cheap!

    But then if your brake fluid motor and pump go out (just a little light on the dashboard as you're driving home), that's $2,300 bucks. Ouch!

    If you lose the transmission, which can certainly happen on a higher mileage car, that's $5,600 bucks. This is on a $10,000 car.

    I guess you could argue that lots of used cars have transmissions that cost 1/2 the value of the car, but you know with a Taurus or a Corolla you can fix it a lot cheaper or buy a used unit.

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 40,923
    I think there will always be enough posers out there to snap up high maintenance barges when they hit the market. There are always fools around who know the average dope on the street can't tell a 2001 lux boat from a new one, so it becomes time to put on appearances.

    People will realize the marginal increase in comforts as car prices shoot up isn't worth what you pay. For 35K you can get something pretty excellent, no need to spend 70K, especially if you've lost 40% of your retirement and 25% of your other equity.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,728
    oops! Looks like the author deleted it. What was it?

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 40,923
    Geez what are the odds...I found it like 15 minutes ago.

    01 S600, clean, 60K miles, clean history etc....17.9K (I think)


    Relisted at a lower price
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,728
    He's gonna have to drop to around $12K I fear...maybe $13,5K if he's lucky.

    That "trade in" price is pure fantasy. I doubt a dealer would give him half that.

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 40,923
    That car probably cost around 130K when a wholesale/residual of maybe 10% after 8 years and 60K miles...well, it was made during the peak of the Daimler-Chrysler days :shades:
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