Buying a New Car, from Ken Smith

February 26, 2007 |

 Yesterday I sat with a Honda salesman, agreed to price for an Accord, pulled out my checkbook to pay in full. The salesman shoved papers at me to fill out. These asked personal questions that in my view had nothing to do with the sale.

You got a car. I got cash. That's all there is to it as far as I'm concerned. No. Must to complete the papers and sit with the finance officer.

What kind of business is that? Should be like buying a sack of onions, go to the cashier and pay, walk out with onions. I walked out. Still looking for a car dealer to take my offer.

James Lackey writes:

 Yes, back to the good old days when we waited three days for a check to clear, then marched ourselves down to DMV to register the car before we drove it.

Oh, and how could that pesky finance man try to sell us something after securing a loan for 4% under the Fed Funds rate? Do not take the Japanese rate of 0.9% — best deal Honda offers is 3.9% for 60 months.

Never pay a 2% premium on a Honda for a full factory 100,000-mile warranty. Let's all just complain that our four-year-old car with 70,000 miles on it broke down and cars are much too complex to work on nowadays. Worse, we can just trade in and buy new cars every 2.5 years once they reach 36,000 miles.

New Honda tech that is wonderful unless it breaks:

1. A Drive-by-Wire throttle system helps to smooth the power delivery. And the Maintenance Minder system monitors how you drive and reminds you when it's time for service. VTEC adjusts valve timing and lift to increase low-end torque as well as high-rpm power. In the 2.4-liter engine, i-VTEC adds Variable Timing Control, boosting power and economy.

2. The Accord automatic transmissions use Honda's Grade Logic Control system. This system differs from other computer controlled shift programming because it can detect vehicle driving situations and then set appropriate shift points for the car. This avoids gear-hunting on uphills and descents, and downshifts for added engine braking.

3. Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control is a sophisticated safety device that aids the driver in retaining control of the vehicle if wheel slippage is detected. When the driver is cornering or must make a sudden maneuver, the system can sense over steer and under steer and can brake individual wheels and/or reduce power to restore the driver's intended course.

4. Power sliding doors — my favorite on the minivans!

And this is the simplest of mass-produced cars. You should read the Lexus tech specs. Unreal. Awesome. New cars and the deals are amazing. If anything, they are "too good" to the consumer — as far as stocks and profits go.

George Zachar adds:

Lack's hosanna prompted me to ping the CPI database to see how these advances showed through to the reported price data. Thanks to hedonic adjustment and price compression, the government's CPI series for "new vehicles" shows prices are unchanged since September 1994. For geeks, the series is CUUR0000SETA01.

Roger Arnold adds:

 My 1999 Nissan Maxima GLE with all the options had a sticker of $32,000. The new loaded Maxima has a lower sticker. In real terms, without hedonic adjustments, that's 30% lower. With hedonics I don't know what it would be, but as James pointed out, it has to be a lot.

Nissan said they would give me $10,000 for my 1999 with 94,000 miles and get me into a comparable new car for an extra $20,000. Is that a good deal? My 1999 is perfectly fine and in near-new condition.





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