Q: My question doesn't have to do with collector cars or racing cars, but I'm hoping you can help with the answer. What is your opinion of buying new cars versus buying used cars? Also, what exactly is a program or off-lease car and do you recommend these as a good used car?
I do own a collector car, by the way, a 1967 Chevelle SS 396, but I'd sure love your opinion as you write about everything. Thanks, George L., Evanston, IL
A: George, first you've got a great car in that 1967 Chevelle SS, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite years of the Chevelle SS era from late 1965 to 1971.
To buy a car new or used is a concern for everyone. New cars come with full warranties, and deliver the expected satisfaction you may or may not get with a used car. The downside of buying new is depreciation, especially in the first 18 months.
As for "program" or "off-lease" cars, these are brand new cars put into service, used for up from 12 months to 36 or 48 months and then returned to the dealership via new car dealer auctions or lease returns. "Off lease" cars from this category not purchased by new car dealers are sold at used car dealer auctions, with many still in very good condition and offering great buys to the public at our nation's used car businesses.
Not to get too complicated, today's rental companies like Hertz, Avis, National and the such are either owned by the car manufacturers or in some way associated with them via fleet sale programs.
Most all of the rental cars on the road today eventually end up back at a new car dealer, like Ford, Toyota or Hyundai, or at a reputable used car dealer. These off-lease or program cars are actually good deals based on the fact that most all people that rent cars are not "crazy, young wild kids" that will beat a car to death. Granted, some people who rent cars do abuse them, but it's just not true that the majority of rental units are bad apples. Overall most rental units will delivers many years of service to the new owner, and are kept in great shape by the rental companies. So, don't be afraid to buy an off lease vehicle from a new or used car dealer, as many still have warranties attached to them.
To those who buy a used car that is not "off-lease," that's where the "hope for the best" situation comes in. It is up to the buyer to determine if the car is a good choice, which is why I recommend spending $50 to $100 to have a trained mechanic look over the car you intend to buy. If the used car dealer disallows this, then think twice about your purchase.
Remember, too, that there is a lot of good information available on used car selection and reliability records, which is one of the reasons I subscribe to Consumer Reports magazine. This magazine delivers perhaps the best information on a car's history available today, including features on "Used Cars To Avoid."
We'll get back to collector car letters next week, but to all those considering buying a collector car, I doubly recommend having your personal mechanic look over the car as I've heard some real horror stories both mechanically and about body work, the latter where cardboard and plastic filler were used in a $100,000 Plymouth Superbird sale.
Take care of the 1967 Chevelle SS, and thanks for the letter.