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Fit to Be Bought

Ron Wayne

I ALMOST NEVER MAKE fast decisions. But I bought a used car in August immediately after seeing it. If I hadn’t, I might still be looking.

Inventories for new cars are at record lows. Prices for used vehicles are at record highs. This was not the year to buy another car, but I wanted to replace my 14-year-old Mazda sedan with a more reliable vehicle for long trips to see my children. I was tired of months isolated at home, missing my family. But I never anticipated the frustration ahead.

By now, most people have heard about the chip shortage that has hampered production of new vehicles. Fewer sales of new cars resulted in fewer trade-ins. That left me, an early retiree with a modest income, looking at used vehicles that cost 30% more than last year—assuming I could even find one I liked.

I’ve been buying used vehicles, instead of new, for decades. I let the original owners lose the value that comes with the initial quick depreciation. But today, people are selling their newer used cars at a profit or getting historically high trade-in prices.

I spent three months researching and looking. The offerings were paltry. I also don’t like buying from traditional dealers. I don’t want to deal with their hard-sell tactics and add-on extras. I tried to limit my shopping to Carmax, Carvana and two local dealers that offer no-haggle pricing and no dealer fees. Unfortunately, in this sellers’ market, I occasionally had to look at the usual used-car dealers, where I found even more arrogance than usual because they’re in the driver’s seat, so to speak.

I had thought about sinking the $1,500 in needed repairs into my old Mazda, but I’d already spent $850 on the car at the start of the year. I considered going without a car. I live in a walkable neighborhood and in a city with good mass transit. I thought I could use Uber and get groceries delivered. I could rent a car for trips to see my children in Atlanta and Orlando. I’ve had my own vehicle since I was 18, however. It was hard to imagine life without that sense of freedom, especially in retirement.

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Each day, I scoured online lists with dwindling inventories. It didn’t help that I have a strong preference for Japanese cars, though I did consider other brands in desperation. The Hondas, Mazdas and Toyotas would often sell before I even had a chance to test drive them.

I also prefer to keep my financing separate from the purchase, so I obtained a draft check from my credit union. To get the credit union’s best interest rate, I needed to buy a fairly new model within mileage limits. I was boxed in further.

Finally, I have been a longtime believer in Consumer Reports. I always consider what other subscribers say about their vehicles.

One Friday morning, I checked the inventory of a local no-haggle dealer and saw a new listing for a 2020 Honda Fit LX with just 8,900 miles. A photo had yet to be posted, but the color was listed as “orange fury.” I decided to check it out.

It didn’t have the bells and whistles of higher trim levels. No Apple CarPlay. No lane-assist warnings or newer safety features. And, as someone who almost always has had gray, white or black vehicles, the orange would be a big departure from my normally staid tastes, plus the list price was more than the manufacturer’s original suggested retail price.

I knew, however, that as soon as more people saw the online ad, they’d be there on the weekend checking it out. I bought it that day in the fastest big-money decision of my life. I paid $19,985 and now have a car payment for the first time in eight years.

Two months later, I see the same model and year with similar mileage selling for $20,990, $21,990 and $22,000 at traditional dealers. That’s not including the add-on fees they’ll try to force on buyers.

Used cars appreciating in value right after you buy them? We’re truly living in an upside-down world.

Ron Wayne spent 26 years working for newspapers in Pennsylvania and Georgia before becoming the editor in the University of Florida’s main news office. During his 10 years working there, he earned his master’s degree in mass communication and taught as an adjunct in the College of Journalism and Communications. Since retiring last fall, he’s enjoyed a simple life, including reflecting on his experiences on Medium.com. His previous articles were Medicare and Me and Losing at Cards.

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K Lacey
K Lacey
6 months ago

All autos cost money to buy, own, finance, repair, register, insure, and property taxes (here in Connecticut). If you need basic transport you can easily skimp. If you need to tow a heavy boat, or transport fire wood and make dump runs you need a larger, more expensive vehicle. And if the spirit moves you, and you have some extra unused cash, you can treat yourself to a stick-shifted sports car to run on winding country roads, with the top down and your hair blowing in the wind. Go for it – live a little – enjoy. No quiet electric autos for me. Electricity is for light bulbs.

Doug K
Doug K
6 months ago

our 2009 Fit has 130,000 and going strong.. would buy again.
Orange is a good color, easy to find in parking lots, and kinda fun..

my current car is a 2004 Ford Sport Trac, hoping for another five years out of it. I do the maintenance myself for most things which helps. Then the Ford Maverick is the same size pickup, with the hybrid configuration it gets better mpg than the Honda Fit.. hoping the used car market will have settled down a bit by then..

DrLefty
DrLefty
7 months ago

We have 2018 and 2020 Audis. We get multiple contacts every week—emails, calls, personal letters—from our dealership begging and pleading for us to trade our cars in. We vacillate between annoyance and amusement. We expect to be driving both of those cars for at least another 15 years.

GW
GW
7 months ago

Just buy a base model 3 Tesla? Crazy?
Not at all.

Teslas are the 4 safest cars on the road – by far!

Charge at home. Never go to a gas station again.

Never deal with a dealer again.

Almost no maintenance.

TCO (total cost of ownership) after 4 years is less than a Camry. After 9, less than an Accord. For a car that drives like a BMW M3.

Over the air updates – capabilities constantly improving for free!!

Incredible Supercharging network. Easily drive long distance without thinking about it.

Just get a Tesla Model 3 and keep
it for 12 years. You’ll be much much happier.

Completely different paradigm.

Last edited 7 months ago by GW
Antifa
Antifa
7 months ago

Good Day HumbleDollar,
Same happening here in Brazil, used cars price went up too.
Thanks Masters of Just in time policies. Hope that chinese stop buying meat, I m fed up to eat chicken.
Globalism must come back to eighties, what our farm produce we can eat or use it.
Hope that Evergrande goes bankrupted so the price of iron or steel reduces so that me and millions of small constructers can be able to build houses with a reasonable cost.

Catherine
Catherine
7 months ago

In a rare moment of dumb luck, In February 2019 I traded in our 2009 Fit that had 168,000 long distance commute miles, and bought a 2017 Accord, not as low mileage as yours but it’s worked out. I have got several calls from the dealer asking me to sell it back this crazy season.
Enjoy your Fit!

AKROGER SHOPPER
AKROGER SHOPPER
7 months ago

I was faced with a similar issue with my 1990 Volvo 740 with well over a quarter million miles when it flunked state inspection. A new one comes with only two electronic keys, would increase insurance costs, taxes, and probably not last as long. I spent $300.00 on the repairs and don’t feel so bad when the birds poop on it. The boy’s at the repair shop were looking for the start /stop push button on the dash when I handed them the all metal spare key from Wallmart. Sometimes old is gold.

Guest
Guest
7 months ago

Kroger – I have a ’93 Volvo 240 that I couldn’t kill if I had to. I’m glad you decided to keep her going.

Last edited 7 months ago by Guest
Guest
Guest
7 months ago

My only contribution – I love that orange fury color Mr. Wayne.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
7 months ago

We recently bought a new Honda. It killed me to pay MSRP, but there were no dealer add ons. We looked at a Kia Telluride – they had an $8,000 dealer add on! All the folks I know who have cars coming off leases are choosing to buy the car – the residual price is well below the current market value.

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