Monday, October 2, 2023 Oct 2, 2023
82° F Dallas, TX

Deals on Wheels

By D Magazine |

How do you find a good used car? “Simple,” says Ray Magliozzi. “Wait until it’s dark, go to a good neighborhood, find a car you like, switch plates, and drive away!”

Ray cracks up. He and his brother Tom, co-hosts of the popular series Car Talk, airing Saturdays at 11 a.m. on 90.1, are answering a fundamental question posed by Car Talk assistant producer Doug Meyer, following the recent taping of a program.

It’s been a good show, and now both men are turning their attention to a question from one of the troops! Whither used cars?

“I’d look in the Sunday paper,” says Tom. “I’d look in the paper for a car sold not by a dealer, but by individuals.”

“But you’ve got to be prepared to spend a lot of time researching it,” says Ray. “You can’t buy a car in a weekend.”

Tom seems incredulous at Ray’s suggestions, and brother Ray concedes that the transaction can indeed be completed in a weekend, but that it’s highly unlikely that one will find the ideal car in the first shot.

How much money should you pay? “Well, what’s a new car cost?” asks Tom. “Twelve, thirteen grand? You want to spend less than that.”

“If you’re like my brother, you want to spend twelve, thirteen hundred,” laughs Ray, More guffaws, “Used cars cost $7,500!” “Naw! You’re crazy!,” declares Tom. “Used cars cost $4,000.”

“Yeah. And another $3,500 to fix them up,” says Ray, only slightly sarcastically.

Tom suggests $2,500 to buy the car, and $1,500 to fix it. “If you’re really cheap, you can get a driveable and safe used car for 4,000 bucks, but probably not less.”

And never believe used car salesmen, adds Ray.

“When you buy from an individual, you can tell if someone’s been a car abuser. I mean, who would want to buy a used sports car from some kid who’s twenty-three years old and probably beat it into the ground?”

But doesn’t a dealer give you a warrantee or a guarantee? “Not always,” says Ray. “In some states you do not get a guarantee. In some states there’s a law which allows dealers to sell cars in ’as-is’ condition, which means caveat emptor.

“So have it checked out before you buy it. In fact, have your mechanic suggest a. car to you, something that he likes to work on and is familiar with.

“If you’ve been going to the same guy for fifteen years, who serviced your Oldsmobile, and you’re going to buy a Subaru now, and he doesn’t work on Subarus, then you shouldn’t buy a Subaru!”

Tom suggests thoughfully that maybe one should find a new mechanic.

“Ill give you an example,” Ray says helpfully, and offers a sad tale about a fellow who bought a Volvo for five grand, and then had it checked out. Rack and pinion bad. Brakes bad. A lot of stuff-all bad. Twenty-five hundred dollars later, he was back on the street.

“And the guy he bought it from was in Honolulu! He bought his ticket with the five grand!”

So is buying a used car still a good idea? “Yes,” says Tom firmly. “Unless you’ve really got money. But if you’re trying to save money, you should always buy a used car. It can never cost you less to buy a new-car.”

“But,” says Ray, “then you’ll never know the excitement of smelling the new car smell, of making those payments to the bank every month, of fighting with the service manager over something you think needs fixing for nothing!

“And besides, if there aren’t more people out there buying new cars, where do all those used cars come from that we’re suggesting people buy?”

“Gee,” replies Tom. “I never thought of that.”

“So buy new! Go for it” says Ray. “So is that it? Can we go home now?”

Certainly. And, one hopes, in a good used car. From a good neighborhood.