Be careful or repairs could cost more than your new ride Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Depreciation can be a beautiful thing — especially if you’re excited by the idea of affordable access to a world-class luxury ride.
Many top-line sedans will drop a significant amount of resale value after just a few years, meaning that a six-figure car with reasonable mileage can be had for a fraction of its original cost. Get it right and an older, higher mileage luxury flagship sedan might be available for what its original owner paid in tax. Whatever the luxury car you’re after, we’ve compiled a cheat sheet for you to take along on the test drive. Have the vehicle scanned The used luxury sedan you’re considering is a high-tech piece of machinery with numerous sensors, controllers, computers and modules that communicate with and monitor one another. Have the vehicle you’re considering subjected to a full diagnostic scan, preferably by a dealer technician. A diagnostic scan is cheap, fast and can reveal potentially concealed issues.
Have the vehicle inspected and updated A Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) by the appropriate dealer is highly recommended. During the PPI, a trained technician familiar with the ride can inspect it from rims to roofline for signs of countless problems or issues.
A PPI is typically about a $100 job and can reveal thousands of dollars’ worth of problems.
While you’re at the dealer, talk to the service advisor about software updates — some may be available to pre-emptively fix or address some latent problem or issue. Running a used luxury car with all software updates applied is a great way to avoid headaches and getting frustrated when certain systems fail to work as expected. Try everything When you arrive at your test drive, don’t be too anxious to get onto the road. Shoppers are advised to spend time, perhaps 15 minutes or more, trying each and every single high-tech luxury feature fitted to the vehicle in question. Is the top-line stereo working properly? Does the power trunk closer work without issue? Do the ventilated seats work? How about the rear-seat entertainment system? The head up display? The keyless entry? Work your way through the car, trying all of the features, and confirming proper operation, before you drive. Check the central command system Whether it’s iDrive (BMW), COMAND (Mercedes), MMI (AUDI), CUE (Cadillac), RTI (Lexus), or any other branded central command interface available, be sure to run the system through its paces. Connect a smartphone via Bluetooth, make and take calls, play media from various sources, toggle through all menus and commands and be absolutely certain that the display screen and controller, as well as all associated buttons, work consistently every time.
If the vehicle you’re considering has a central control knob, dial or joystick, confirm that it works in every direction and isn’t sticky, otherwise, it may need replacement. Confirm proper operation of all steering wheel-mounted controls, too. Avoid the air suspension Many top-line sedans were offered with some form of air suspension system — and you should probably avoid used models equipped with it. In years of researching used cars, I have yet to find an air suspensionequipped ride that doesn’t have owners reporting issues as the system ages, leaks or fails. If you’re set on a ride with it, consider adding extended warranty coverage that may protect you from repair costs.
Watch for modifications Many used luxury sedans have been modified by previous owners. Common upgrades include computer chips or tunes, particularly on turbocharged or supercharged models designed to turn up engine power. Modified engine management software can make the car more powerful but could also ruin its engine and void any remaining warranty coverage.
Owners also tend to purchase suspension modifications that lower the vehicle, or slap on oversized wheels. Suspension modifications can cause wear, handling related issues and durability problems, especially if the quality of the parts or their installation is poor. Oversized wheels may be more susceptible to damage and can cause issues with handling or fitment, depending on their size and quality. Stick to a model that’s as close to stock as possible.
Mind the battery Modern electronics can get ultra fussy in the presence of a weak battery, and even more so in cars with loads of high-tech features, like a luxury sedan. If the model you’re after exhibits any random funny business with electronic systems, including symptoms like sporadic warning messages, flickering lights, or random non-functionality of various features, a weak battery may be to blame. Consider investing in a trickle charger and hooking it up to your ride’s battery when you won’t be driving it for a few days or longer. A cheap unit can be had for about $30 and will keep the battery topped up automatically, helping prevent potentially frustrating issues.
Consider the additional costs You may be able to afford the luxury car, but can you afford to keep it rolling? Be sure to consider all additional costs: highend cars typically cost more to insure, often require being fed pricier premium gasoline, and will be more maintenance-intensive than that Corolla you’re trading in, with fluid changes, tune-ups and other recurring work. Note, too, that many replacement costs for items like brakes, tires, suspension components and lighting provisions will be more expensive as well.
Typically, you buy a high-end luxury car for the motoring experience, not the low cost of ownership. If your budget can’t handle it, a fully loaded version of a more mainstream ride may be a better idea.
You can get a great deal buying a used luxury sedan, but take note that repairs and maintance — not to mention the cost of filling up on premium fuel — could break your budget.