If Your Car Was The President, Would You Vote For It?
By January 16, 2018on
It always amuses me whenever I hear someone espouse an economic theory as a means for humanity to be saved. Libertarianism, socialism, capitalism… all ISMs MISS the details.
Capitalism without checks and balances often leads to corruption and price gouging by the limited few who hold the pricing power in the marketplace.
Socialism leads to a conscripted mediocrity where an elite and mostly clueless clique dictates what everyone can or can not do.
Libertarianism allows the extremes of both capitalism and socialism to take hold. The capitalism side is fairly obvious, but libertarianism ignores the fact that large businesses and institutions will routinely pool together and use their resources to game the system so that new businesses and ideas can’t threaten their dominance.
So what works? It mostly amounts to balancing personal freedoms with the need to eliminate predatory and criminal behavior.
I believe four key ingredients lead to a healthy republic: Good works, scientific reasoning, the pursuit of knowledge, and what I would loosely call, “low barriers of entry”. Let me explain how this works in the world of used cars.
Good Works: The best sources for figuring out what to buy generally don’t come from commercialized enterprises. Corruption is a mammoth issue in automotive journalism, and most of the reviews out there are more focused on entertaining the reader while accepting advertising from the manufacturer. This isn’t a balancing act. It’s an act of deception that intentionally ignores the one thing that matter most to the buying public – honesty.
So where will you get honesty? In the used car market I believe it’s a mix of actual owners, the specific vehicle history (Carfax & Autocheck), enthusiast sites that can help you figure out the weaknesses and speed bumps of whatever interests you, and sites like Consumer Reports, Truedelta, and Dashboard-Light which all scrutinize the long-term reliability of used cars. Throw in an independent inspection from an experienced mechanic, and you’ll have a better basis for buying a car than any car review out there.
Scientific Reasoning: So what about new cars? Here’s the scientific deal. You like what you like, but you should also know what ingredients lead to the best car buying recipe when it comes to that like. Tom & Ray Magliozzi of Cartalk wrote what I still consider to be the best car reviews in the industry because they focused their new car reviews squarely and exclusively on the real-world driving experience instead of offering their audience thirty adjectives and adverbs that glorified what was usually an average modern car. When anyone gets a new car they want to know exactly what they are getting and if it is worth the money, if it is worth it then they can happily take it home, put it in their garage, install an alarm system for homes (got to keep an eye on the new purchase) and live their life happily knowing they got what they wanted. But, if they get lied to and it breaks down quickly they are not easily going to trust again and they will have multiple questions to ask.
How is the car like to drive on the open road in a typical American neighborhood, instead of the carefully chosen tracks and resorts that are typically chosen for new-car press launches? Is the car easy to maintain if you’re a DIY guy? Is handling and safety equipment more important? Or is speed your priority? The more logic-based your reasoning, the better outcome you will likely enjoy. Tom & Ray were big on that.
The Pursuit Of Knowledge: Should you take car advice from an entertainer? Here’s a surprising answer… maybe. There are entertainers who actually know what they’re talking about. You will find a few on Youtube who really do take a deeper dive into the internals of what that vehicle is really all about, and they all offer their own unique contribution to what will hopefully be a great decision. Eric The Car Guy and Alex Dykes are two fantastic examples of this.
Then there are those mental mungholes who partner up with corporate behemoths and lie as far as their lips will take them. I typically see these people hawk oil additives, extended warranties, and used cars that they neither bought nor worked on themselves. You’ll find the good and bad on Youtube and the prettier their words, the more probable that they are taking a piece of payola after the filming stops.
Low Barriers Of Entry: Used cars are all about investing in quality. Lucky for you, there are now over 230 million cars in the United States and millions of them have been price poisoned due to nothing more than having the wrong brand name.
The cars in this video may be older than dirt, but they are just a smidgen of the orphan cars out there thanks to the economic collapse that happened back in 2008. Chevys are often cheaper in today’s used car market when they’re Saturns and Pontiacs. Scions are Toyotas that have been thrown in the discount bin. Mercurys have less public demand than Fords, and SAAB? Well, a good SAAB requires an experienced mechanic or a DIY guy that knows how to work on them. But a Saab 9-3 shares its chassis with a Chevy Malibu that cost nearly twice as much to buy less than a decade ago. Today, the Saab cost less money in the wholesale market even though the long-term reliability is strikingly better due to SAAB’s stouter powertrain (Saab vs. Chevy here). If you’re a true cheapskate willing to pursue a government vehicle, you can also shop local and unloved cars at Govdeals and Public Surplus. Just make sure you show up in person and do your homework.
If you want to be a keeper, think it through. If you’re willing to stand on the shoulders of giants and rely on prior owners, experienced mechanics, and experts who know their craft, you’re going to get a lot more for your automotive dollar than some poor schlub that gets suckered into a seven-year car note or a cheap lease deal that hides thousands in added expenses and bogus fees.
The car market, like every market, rewards those who aren’t swayed by the hype driven bullshit out there. So put away the new car review that is almost always written by a bunch of English majors whose real goal is furthering the profits of their sponsors and advertising partners. Build your knowledge and go from there.