Older Luxury Cars for the Not So Rich

I’m going to try to stay away from the word “used.” After all, most of us live in homes or apartments that have been occupied before, and sometimes the age of the house is what gives it much of its charm. So bear with me, and try to keep an open mind about used cars (oops!). OK, let’s start over. I think we can all agree that luxury cars are designed and marketed for rich people – that is, people who can afford to buy brand-new luxury cars (also known as the 1%). Once cars are no longer brand-new, rich people don’t want to pay a lot of money for them.* For that reason, luxury cars depreciate extremely fast, even as a percentage. That gives you and me a chance to own one.

Mercedes SL

This could be yours.

After five or six years, with the price dropping about twelve thousand dollars a year, a luxurious, high-performance car with an interior full of wood and leather, power everything and a great sound system, becomes as cheap as a slightly newer economy car. Another thing about rich people, they almost always have garages and keep their cars parked inside, clean and dry. Also, they can afford to have regular maintenance done. Finally, they usually have more than one car, so they don’t put on a lot of miles.

Since the original buyer absorbed nearly all the depreciation before you bought it, you get another advantage – you can sell it for about what you paid for it, or maybe more. The total cost of ownership will be much less than if you bought a new car.

It’s fun to shop for one of the best cars of the last ten years, rather than just the best car of this model year. As an example, I’ve been fascinated by the Volkswagen Phaeton, the company’s ill-fated attempt to compete with the their own Audi A8. Question: would anyone pay $100,000 dollars for a 12 cylinder VW? Answer: no, hardly anyone did. Conspiracy theorists suspect that Chairman Ferdinand Piech was trying to do some high-end development for the Bentley Continental and charge it to the VW side of the ledger. In any event, they were only sold in the U.S. for three years in the mid-2000s. You can still buy what is essentially the lovely, illegitimate child of an Audi A8 and a Bentley Continental for about the price of a new Honda Fit.

*Except when they do. Neither you nor Ferris Buehler is going to outbid Jay Leno on a fifty year old Ferrari 250 GT California.



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