Car Buying Hell

Benjamin Haas |

Ava is finally an officially licensed driver and now the urgency of finding a third vehicle for our house has been ratcheted up a notch. For those that haven’t tried to buy a car in the last 18 months, count your lucky stars, because the car market, both new and used, is an absolute mess for consumers. I hope it’s safe to assume by now that most people know that I like cars and consider my knowledge of cars (new and old) to be pretty deep. You’d think that should help me navigate the market right now but the disconnect between what I think a car is worth (based on years of following car news and reviews) and the actual listing prices of most cars right now is very hard for me to rationalize.

I find myself shifting back and forth between buying something inexpensive with Ava or something new or a couple of years old “for the house” for all of us to use. This is where my biases come to rear their ugly head(s). I yearn for the days (pre-2020) that an inexpensive and reliable car could be had for $10k with under 100k miles, easily. Now I’m seeing 10–15-year-old cars with 150k+ miles selling for $10k+ with unknown service history and unknown future maintenance costs…no thank you!

I understand the supply/demand dynamic that was brought about by the COVID shutdown and the chip shortage that has completely turned the car industry, and the availability of new vehicles, upside down. That shortage has led to used cars actually APPRECIATING in price, that’s not normal! And we’re not talking about vintage, unique or exceptionally rare vehicles – we’re talking Toyotas, Hondas, Fords, you name it and the same car you could have bought 2 years ago is probably selling 20-30% higher today. Many 2-3+ year old cars are selling for almost the same as a new model, except it’s really hard to find a new car nowadays too, and if you’re lucky enough to find one you may also be “lucky” enough to have to pay a dealer markup of a few thousand dollars just to outbid the competition.

Again, for those that know me may know that I can be frugal and have an aversion to spending large amounts of money at times and so here I am - welcome to Car Buying Hell! I have this vision of the prototypical bright red devil with his horns, tail and pitchfork welcoming me into the dealership with many different cars with sticker prices that I wouldn’t pay in a million years (think $50k for a $30k Camry) and they’re all the same color, what is lovingly referred to in my house as, “senior citizen beige”.

Wish me luck, I’m going to need it


Tracking # T003630