The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Well, let's just total that up, shall we?

It seems I am always "in heat" for new things, mostly cars, these days. There's nothing wrong with my car other than it gets poor gas mileage in city driving. Unfortunately, that's pretty much all the driving I do these days. In my car. When we take a trip somewhere, we use Faye's. Her car's a little newer. And Faye prefers the cloth seats in her car to the leather/leatherette ones in mine. So, I acquiesce.

Because I just drive around town, it would make sense to have a small fuel efficient car. Something that gets good mileage, something with enough room to carry my golf clubs and the associated gear (rain jacket, a couple of small towels, two pair of golf shoes, and about 6 hats I only wear at the golf course), something "zippy", something cheap.

So I watch ads. I peruse the internet. I do a lot of "Build your [insert model name here]." In doing so, I have noticed a commonality. Price creep does not creep like a tortoise, it leaps and bounds like a kangaroo, it soars like an eagle.

I am at that age where I no longer can tolerate the stripped down model. I once owned a `56 Chevy 2 door sedan. Stick shift, vinyl seats, 6 cylinder engine, no radio, no power steering or windows, no heater. I added an after market radio which means I found a cheap Chevy/Delco radio at an auto junkyard and installed it.

But you cannot buy a stripped down car anymore. You cannot buy a new car the way we once did. Here's how it worked. You went to the car dealership, you test drove one of the demos. You selected the options you wanted individually; radio, power steering/windows, heater, and so on. The salesman would total it up and you would sign the contract. The car would be ordered from the factory and arrive within a couple of weeks. Those days are pretty much gone.

We have gone to buying cars like we shop for groceries or garden tools or just about anything. We select from the inventory on hand. In some, maybe many, cases the dealer will try to locate a car that comes close to, or matches, your preferences from another dealer (he'll swap one of his with that dealer for it) and you'll have it within a few days at most. It seems we no longer want to wait. In exchange for not having to wait, we compromise on accessories, features, and trim.

The auto makers have found a way to exploit that. You want that $400 built-in navigation system? You have to add the "tech package" for $2500 (or more) which gives you a number of extra features and accessories you don't want or need. You want the 17" wheels? You have to buy the "touring" or "sports" package for $3500 which includes things like a motorized sun roof and a rear deck spoiler and fog lamps.

So, you see an ad for a Jetta and it says "under $16,000" and you think "Wow! That's a pretty good price." Until you try to find that vehicle anywhere. It doesn't exist. No matter where you go, even on the internet, you will not find that stripped down vehicle.

After you sigh a few thousand times, go through all the anguish, and decide you will bite the bullet and pay for what you don't want to get the 10% you do want. You find all the additional charges...

Dealer prep - Anywhere from $200 to $400 (sometimes more) depending on the make and model. This means the dealer allegedly checked the car out and washed it. And maybe tossed in a full tank of gas.

Title transfer - Starts at about $200 and rises rapidly depending on state.

Destination charge - Several hundred dollars. Basically you are just reimbursing (at a profit) the dealer for bringing the car to the dealership so you can see it on his lot and settle for it instead of the one you really wanted but could not get.

And you may also run into something that is just outright theft in my opinion. A premium based on desirability. I saw one of these premiums as high as $2000 tacked onto a new model van from Toyota back in the mid-70's.

So that $16,000 car that you saw advertised? Did you look at the fine print? You'll have to pause your DVR or get a magnifying glass for the newspaper or magazine ad to find out the one pictured is "$25, 995, as shown."

And people wonder why I'm a cynic...


Piratenamedneo said...

and always will be a cynic... why change now

Steven Scott said...

Premium based on desirability is theft? C'mon, that's what the rest of us call "the invisible hand of the market" ;)

and it sounds like you're in the market for an MX-5!

Douglas4517 said...

Did I call it theft? No, it was simply taking advantage of the willingness
of consumers to pay a premium for no other reason that it was demanded. I
purchased a Honda Accord in 1976 (first year they came out). No premium but
there was a waiting list 6 months long. I waited it out and got the car at
the list price ($3995). However, a few enterprising souls ahead of me
ordered several Accords and then sold them to people who did not wish to
wait for a huge premium. I don't begrudge the car dealers those premium
charges but they would never get it from me.

I like the MX-5. Very sporty and reasonably priced. I might, however, buy a
used one rather than new.

Sledpress said...

I had a sense of that experience when I bought a new car in February. I did want a couple of things (practical stuff like heavier mats) that were on the hotshot model, but seemed absurdly expensive to add to the basic model (I did anyway).

But after waiting 22 years to replace my last car, everything on this seems divine. I don't even have to crank my windows any more, and the car won't let me leave the headlights on or the transmission in Drive. I think this is the formula. Just wait. Everything seems incredible after two decades.

Douglas4517 said...

I think you are absolutely right. Nothing wrong with the car I have (it's
very nice, actually) except it's older and not flashy anymore.

Steven Scott said...

well you /did/ say "outright theft," but I'm just playing around.

Good to know that the process of buying as many of as you can and then ebaying them for profit isn't a new thing. Pretty ambivalent about them, but mostly because I'm not the one getting the cash.

Mazda just pops to mind when I try to think of something small, decent, zippy, and cheap. Zoom-zoom and all. And the MX-5 may not have a sports car engine, but it's hard to say much else bad about it. Also I'm anti-"american" cars, previously due to crappy quality, and now due to the fact that the idiots should be out of business, not spending my tax money rebuilding their crappy financing companies that also make cars. Ugh, especially GM.

They almost had something with the Sky & Solstice...Lotus stuck a GM engine in an Elise and sold it as an Opel ( GM tried to bring it over and took all the things that were good about it, except the looks, and threw them away. Talk about a no-go showboat.

Douglas4517 said...

Well, to me it is outright theft. Others may disagree. I won't pay it. I
would have to be forced to and that is pretty much the definition of theft,
isn't it? Let's call it "voluntary theft"... where the victim seeks out the
thief. Or maybe a scam.

With the exception of the Corvette, no American made "sports" car has been
successful. One has to wonder about that.


Steven Scott said...

They've always been successful at muscle cars, and that's still what they're putting out...or at least the modern versions thereof. Can't argue that the Mustang hasn't been successful, and Camaros and whatnot were always popular.

It's only in the past 5 or so years that the Corvette has transitioned (IMO) from a "muscle" car to a "sports" car. It's iconic, there have been many beautiful ones...but not until the C5 have they had any sort of handling whatsoever...and only on the Z model. the C6 is a nice machine. I mean, I know it's a sports car, but I prefer my sports cars to go around precipitous mountain curves with the same alacrity that they go from 0-60.

I do hope I can get a Stingray one day...when I have lots of free time and a free garage bay.

Douglas4517 said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Though the `54 Vette was closer to the
sports cars of that day than some might think. GM got sidetracked into that
horsepower, horsepower, horsepower mindset soon after. Not all that much of
a Stingray fan. The Jag XKE stole my affections that year.

Steven Scott said...

Wow, I didn't know about that car. Color me impressed. Probably a lot harder to obtain one, but if I ever actually do go down the road of ancient PITA sports cars...