For the last week I’ve been doing a lot of Car Analyses. Some of it was trying to figure out how to judge one car over another; another was visiting my history of cars, and determining satisfaction, and pinpointing my motives. This is what I’ve figured out; I’ll start with the most useful first:
My Experiences with Places to Sell or Buy a Car in Louisville
Disclaimer: commentary above is based on 1 statistical sample in some cases and may not be significant.
In the end, we got $2000 more for our 2008 Honda Accord Coupe from Sam Swope Honda World than we would have at either Cottage or CarMax. Terry Smith there was very professional, courteous, and prompt; no pressure of any kind; I would definitely do business with him again.
Evaluating the Worth of a Car To Me
When I was in the throes of trying to make a decision between a X and a Y, I needed some way to evaluate the cars. Here are the tools that I found:
I also used a formula like this:
- Consider a 2010 Honda Civic EX for $16k with 42k Miles on it.
- According to UsedAutoGraph, it holds its value well (should not die) till 100k, probably even viable to 200k. Knowing myself, I’ll find a reason to upgrade, so lets say 150k miles instead. Approx end sale price then is $5K.
- So I would get 108k miles for approx $11k, yielding around 10 cents a mile from the purchase price.
- at MPG of 25/36, I would get about 30mpg out of it, at $3.50/gallon yields 3.50/30 = 11 cents per mile gas price.
- So the car would be about 21 cents per mile, for me.
I did this same analysis for the cars we had owned till now. I always thought that the Honda Pilot that we bought was a complete gas hog.. averaging 15 mpg.. however, the sale price vs the buy price made it BETTER than the Ford Focus that we also had. I would not have thought that. (Then again, the Focus had an encounter with a Deer which dropped its resale considerably)
Picking through CarMax Inventories
We pretty much knew we were going to buy the next car through CarMax, or at least use a CarMax car as the baseline to compare against. My general approach was:
- Use them for test drives to figure out which car we want (year differences, trim level differences, lie down in the trunk of the car, etc)
- Assume that we will NOT be buying the car from the local (Louisville) CarMax
- This freed me from the necessity to make the decision NOW.
- Search their inventory for the right mileage, color, options nationwide. We could also look at the CarFax history (for free) and see where the car used to live (avoiding Florida due to Salt damage).
- Spend $99-$299 and arrange a transfer of the vehicle to Louisville.
- At this point, the car is locked in as mine. But it might take a day to three weeks to execute.
- This gives me time to reflect and really decide if this is the car for me.
- Good thing, because that Ford Escape that I ordered.. ended up having second thoughts and choosing not to buy it.
- To CarMax’s benefit – I cancelled the order fast enough, they had not loaded it on the truck, so they gave my money back (they didn’t have to). (Well, i was transferring a different car, so they moved it to the second transfer).
- The car hasn’t arrived yet; I’m in that reflecting place. So I can’t say what happens next; but it will probably involve test driving, and then buying this car.
Filtering CarMax Inventories
They have a LOT of cars, with a LOT of options. Here’s how I tackled that, in an Excel Spreadsheet:
Initial search: No filter, just the make/model/year range, sorted by price, and or mileage. Pull the first 10 into the spreadsheet. Get a baseline, the corners of the grid. This is the least / most amount of money I would spend on that car type. Chart it. Bubble chart using a function to show age by bubble size.
Successive Searches: I narrow it down by features, getting more and more selective. I pull each of those into the spreadsheet, but as a different series. I layer the series so that the more specific ones drown out the less specific ones.
Using this approach, I could easily see that if I wanted X set of options, the lowest miles for the price was at Y, but if I added Z option to it, then that drove the price up by Y2. Ie, how much car am I willing to spend on. Note that I inverted circle sizes, so that newer cars were bigger circles.
Note that while filtering in CarMax, I really like how they show numbers next to features. This helps me figure out what are “standard” options and/or are packaged with each other. In this screenshot example, (106) is standard across everything, while the Satellite Radio Ready is a much more selective. I got pretty good at it, being able to choose 3-4 options that narrowed down the car to exactly what I was looking for.
Its been a crazy week. Its been a fun research process. In the end, I have a car on order that I cannot wait to get my hands on. I even made a picture of it my desktop background.
I hope some of these tools are useful to you in your future. Enjoy!