We bought a 2000 Dodge Neon ES from Economy Cars in North Charleston, SC, a used car dealer, and signed the final paperwork earlier tonight. This is the story of that purchase with some tips and warnings.
2000 Dodge Neon ES Journal
As you can see from the picture, our Neon is in fair/poor condition, and that’s part of what makes it such a great purchase. This car needs some real work done on it, so the asking price is lower (the Kelley Blue Book suggest retail price is below). Now I’m not some master wheeler and dealer on used cars, so when you read this, keep that in mind. This was our first used car purchase in about 15 years, and I’m an average Joe when it comes to buying cars and I’m not trying to tell you I got a great deal or how you can do the same.
This used 2000 Dodge Neon had 136,550 miles on it and was $1,900 as-is on the used car dealer’s lot. I looked at it and realized it needed some things. Call me crazy but after I drop $2,000 for a car I don’t expect to have to wash, wax, get the car detailed, change the oil or spark plugs, or correct any mechanical deficiencies! I expect a mechanically sound automobile with a fresh oil change and a nice and clean one at that. We found out this car had just been acquired by the dealer as a trade-in, and then put on their lot – no attention was given to it. No car wash. No cleaning. I doubt they gave it any mechanical inspection beyond driving it around the block.
So back to $1,900 (in April 2011), that was the dealer’s price as-is. After we found out there was no attention given to the car after purchase we asked for 2 new tires, an oil change and new spark plugs.
In January 2017 that’s about $215 for 2 tires, and $150 for an oil change and spark plugs (for my more expensive SUV) at a local Chevy dealership = $365.
Our $1,900 as-is price went up to $2,300, an extra $400. You can argue that’s reasonable, and if we weren’t talking about tires, oil change and spark plugs back in 2011 I may actually agree with you. So moving on after taxes and tags we were quoted about $2,500. Our actual out-the-door price was almost $2,900 – another $400. I checked Kelley Blue Book today (http://www.kbb.com/) which made me feel better about the purchase price the salesman was giving me. The suggested retail price from a used car dealer is about $4,400.
After this “ordeal” I checked Kelley Blue Book’s value (http://www.kbb.com/) which made me feel better about the purchase price the salesman ad given us. The suggested retail price from a used car dealer is about $4,400 but only if the car is in excellent condition.
But we bought ours in Fair/Poor condition (see KBB Conditions below) so later as I was writing this I went back to Kelley Blue Book and checked out trade-in values for the Dodge Neon ES.
It hadn’t occurred to me to check out trade-in values to get an idea of what the car may actually have cost the dealer until now. I was too caught up in the excitement of having a second car. So we bought a car that was roughly worth $1,250 at Kelley Blue Book trade-in value plus another $365 for work we asked to be done = $1,615. So after revisiting this 6 years later I suppose $2,900 is not a horrible deal or a rip-off considering sales commission etc.
You need to know how to buy cars and work out the best deal for yourself. You should be willing to walk away. If you are not willing to walk away from the deal, the salesman has the leverage. Even if you lose the car you want, you can find another deal somewhere else. Just some thoughts.
A Note on Used Cars
Depending upon the used car dealer and the car you are looking at, the car you want to buy may not be cleaned, polished and all spiffed up. This car was a trade-in to Economy Cars of North Charleston. It still had some personal belongings from the previous owner and was sorely in need of cleaning, a tune up, the windshields are dirty and more… it needed some attention and maybe we got to it before it got processed by the used car dealer. After all Economy Cars is in the middle of their grand opening.
Kelley Blue Book’s Rating System
- Looks new, is in excellent mechanical condition and needs no reconditioning.
- Never had any paint or body work and is free of rust.
- Clean title history and will pass a smog and safety inspection.
- Engine compartment is clean, with no fluid leaks and is free of any wear or visible defects.
- Complete and verifiable service records.
- Less than 5% of all used vehicles fall into this category.
- Free of any major defects.
- Clean title history, the paints, body, and interior have only minor (if any) blemishes, and there are no major mechanical problems.
- Little or no rust on this vehicle.
- Tires match and have substantial tread wear left.
- A “good” vehicle will need some reconditioning to be sold at retail.
- Most consumer owned vehicles fall into this category.
- Some mechanical or cosmetic defects and needs servicing but is still in reasonable running condition.
- Clean title history, the paint, body and/or interior need work performed by a professional.
- Tires may need to be replaced.
- There may be some repairable rust damage.
- Severe mechanical and/or cosmetic defects and is in poor running condition.
- May have problems that cannot be readily fixed such as a damaged frame or a rusted-through body.
- Branded title (salvage, flood, etc.) or unsubstantiated mileage.
- Kelley Blue Book does not attempt to report a value on a “poor” vehicle because the value of these vehicles varies greatly. A vehicle in poor condition may require an independent appraisal to determine its value.
Its a good idea to visit Kelley Blue Book online to get estimates for yourself before making buying decisions.