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July 13, 2012 9:49 PM   Subscribe

Can you play devil's advocate and talk me out of this Mazdaspeed?

I crashed my 2001 Integra the other day and even though my insurance company says it's repairable, I'm shopping for a new/used car. I've read nothing but good reviews about the Mazda3 and that's what I'm really looking at. My insurance company can make me a deal on a new Mazda3, but I have another option:

- 2007 Mazdaspeed3 Sport. ~$17200 (asking price is $17995, but the salesguy said I could probably do 17200 - this is in line with the Kelley Blue Book value) I drove this one tonight and kind of love it. One owner, great condition (except the tires probably). The car put out a lot of white smoke when I first started it but the salesguy said they'd fix it and I'll insist. One busted fog light lens, but I'll insist they replace that.

- I can also buy a 2012 Mazda3 - base model - for $18,592.

I'm mostly opposed to buying new cars because they lose so much value in the first few years. My preference is to buy an older nice car over a brand new base model car. The reliability ratings of the Mazdaspeed make me think that repairs will be minimal, but I'm willing to accept some repair cost.

I have $7000 to put down and the loan would cost me between $160-$185 for 60 months depending on whether they take my crappy Integra for $1500. I can probably round up to $200 payments most months.

The only two bad things I've read about the Mazda3 - loud outside noise and small back passenger space - I don't care about.

Reasons why I won't fix the Integra (cheapest option): the clutch is going, the hatch leaks, the antenna is useless, and now that I'm old climbing out of it is like clawing my way out of a paper bag.

The Mazaspeed is so nice looking too, great condition, mica black, and all the features I need.

Is there any reason I shouldn't buy the Mazdaspeed? And should I plan to take it to a mechanic before I buy?

Thanks for all your help MeFites.
posted by bendy to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, the Mazdaspeed has 40,244 miles on it.
posted by bendy at 9:51 PM on July 13, 2012

I own one and think it's a great little car: fun to drive, stealthy good looks, lots of practical space when you need it.

Some downsides:
* Average 25 mpg on mostly highway driving, and it takes premium gas.
* Stiff ride. It's like any sporty car, but you can really feel the bumps.
* Increased insurance cost. It's more expensive and "higher risk" than your old car.

Yes, always get a used vehicle inspected by a mechanic. If you don't have one you like, AAA has a service for about $100.
posted by ikaruga at 9:57 PM on July 13, 2012

Also: you'll want to verify that the various TSB/Recall notices have been taken care of by the dealer. One of them may relate to the exhaust smoke issue you saw.

I don't know if the car has more faults than average, but conventional wisdom says that there are always more kinks in the first year of a new model (which the 2007 MS3 is).
posted by ikaruga at 10:07 PM on July 13, 2012

Response by poster: ikaruga: I did an insurance quote on the Mazdaspeed and it's actually pennies less than my Integra. I think newer cars are safer (I've never owned a car with airbags!) and that reduces the insurance costs.

Thanks for the heads-up. Is there a fix for the issue in that TSB?
posted by bendy at 10:20 PM on July 13, 2012

I would be concerned about major, early rust:


For what it's worth, I had an older Mazda and I have never in my life seen a car with such pervasive rust, far worse than any Toyota or Subaru of the same age. as in, the entire underbody was fixing to fall off. more anecdote, but Subaru seems to really have gotten their act together on the rust front: my parents' '98 Forester hasn't got a speck in Maine, and we've never taken it through a car wash once.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:27 PM on July 13, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks dunkadunc. I live in northern California and hate snow.
The fog here is not *quite* that bad. :)
posted by bendy at 10:31 PM on July 13, 2012

Response by poster: Also, dunkadunc - when I lived in western Mass I was all Subaru, all the time.
posted by bendy at 10:34 PM on July 13, 2012

Best answer: Well, from what I've read (including a recent mazda3 askme) there have been some serious issues with relatively new cars getting rust in weird places. a lot of people are fuming that Mazda hasn't issued a recall. Tread carefully!
posted by dunkadunc at 10:40 PM on July 13, 2012

Best answer: You can buy a new one for a bit under $24k according to Edmunds. So you'd be saving about six thousand dollars to buy a five year old car that smokes when you start it up, is out of warranty, and will need new tires (glancing at Tire Rack, you might be looking at about $1000 for those tires -- low profile sporty tires aren't cheap -- so you've just cut your savings by that amount).

Personally I wouldn't take that deal. The chance is too high that it was ridden hard and put away wet by a young guy, and your savings are way too small to make it worth the risk. The financially smarter choice would be a base model, or better, a slightly used base model (or, if you really want the Mazdaspeed version and can afford it, buy a different one). I mean, if you take on this loan, you'll still be paying it when the car is 10 years old. That just doesn't make any sense.
posted by Forktine at 11:06 PM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

The Mazdaspeed3 is supplied with summer tires, which wear out much faster, and it's something to consider if you're planning on ever taking the car out when it's cold.
posted by grouse at 11:52 PM on July 13, 2012

Forktine alludes to the point I was gonna make: serious prospect that the car was driven hard. I would also want to see a full maintenance record....

I could more easily see getting something like an 09-10 Mazda 6, which is quite nice, less likely to have been worked over.

By the way, I've driven/been in basic Mazda 3s of a few different years, a 2012 Skyactiv hatchback, didn't notice serious road noise. Wanna say the Skyactiv hatchbacks have 165 hp, but I drove it and it's plenty quick enough, handles nicely w/o the sports-car heard-edged stuff. I hear the nice ones go for about 20, which sounds like a good, wise compromise 'tween the used MS 3 and the basic ones.

Lots to be said for buying used, but new--new!--is really good, too.
posted by ambient2 at 12:28 AM on July 14, 2012

Best answer: (asking price is $17995, but the salesguy said I could probably do 17200 - this is in line with the Kelley Blue Book value)

FWIW, the sales guy isn't doing you any favors here. When you look up a price on KBB, you'll notice tiny icons which can be clicked to get more information about each price type. The one next to "Suggested Retail" says this:
The value that is representative of dealers' asking prices for a used car. A starting point for negotiation between a consumer and a dealer.
Note also that KBB doesn't even ask about the car's condition. Again, from the KBB website:
Kelley Blue Book assumes excellent condition for this price type
In other words, KBB is not reporting actual likely selling prices; it is suggesting an initial asking price based on the assumption that the car is pristine. If you pay the KBB "value" for a car that's in less than awesome condition, you are way overpaying. If you want more meaningful numbers, check Edmunds.

Anyhow, I'm with Forktine: this car sounds like a big risk.
posted by jon1270 at 4:05 AM on July 14, 2012

Best answer: I own a 2011 Mazda3 hatchback. It is not as fast as the Speed3, but it is really fun to drive and I get pretty good acceleration and handling, plus the hatchback allows me to fit basically whatever I want/need into it. I would look at it this way, a used car that has been most likely driven really hard and will have many surprise repair bills for $17200, which is a really high price for the car, or a new car with no problems and a warranty for $1300 more. I would go the the new car since I would take good care of it and have it last me a long time. You will save that $1300 back in terms of repairs you will not need to do within the first year most likely.
posted by Nackt at 6:10 AM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with ambient2 and Forktine. I've always heard that with Jeeps and sporty cars, you have to be careful in the used markets. I've been looking at Subarus, and the consensus seems to be that you shouldn't bother with the STI stuff because chances are the previous owner drove it really hard. That fact definitely narrowed my search window. There's also typically a cost premium for parts associated with the sport versions of baseline cars. I think you'd be better off finding a regular Mazda3.
posted by neveroddoreven at 6:32 AM on July 14, 2012

The used versus new car paradigm doesn't really hold well right now in the small, fuel efficient car market. So many people want small cars that the market is sort of screwy. When we were car shopping in March I went out with the intention of buying a used Mazda 3 (I'm a 20 year Mazda owner). After I got frustrated at the lack of selection and lack of price flexibility in the used car market I decided to spend a day driving new cars, and the dealers were throwing themselves at me.
We ended up buying a new Corolla, heavily discounted and a no interest loan, because my wife preferred it to the Mazda 3. I preferred the Mazda, since she is the primary driver on the new car...
posted by COD at 6:47 AM on July 14, 2012

Best answer: I far prefer the look of the Mazda 3 to the speed, which is why I didn't even consider it. I bought a Mazda 3 and love it. I got a new one because they were offering a 0 interest loan, and that offset the higher price of the car so much that I'm saving money in the long run. They also put a lot of work into getting me that loan because it was conditional on me buying the car. I was ready to walk if they couldn't get it for me. My dad was just at the Mazda dealership looking to buy a new car and they offered him the 0 interest loan.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:00 AM on July 14, 2012

Best answer: 40,000 miles and it SMOKES when you start it up?

RUN AWAY. Run fast in any direction. This is not a car you want.

$17,200 for a car that's been abused, and is likely to be nothing but headaches? No, thank you.

Fully Disclosure: I've owned two Mazdas, with varying success. Mostly I'm a Honda guy: last year I bought a brand NEW 2012 Civic for $16,200.

I can't imagine paying MORE than that for a car that's already ruined.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:33 AM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Let me amplify that:

$17,200, for a car that's already ruined, already needs a thousand dollars of tires, AND IS ALREADY OUT OF WARRANTY when the head blows up?

"The car put out a lot of white smoke when I first started it" is a clear a warning sign as you can get from a used car. Why would you look past that?
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:42 AM on July 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The car put out a lot of white smoke when I first started it but the salesguy said they'd fix it and I'll insist. One busted fog light lens, but I'll insist they replace that.

Run away from these dealers and this car. A responsible dealer would have fixed both of these issues before showing the car. And in fixing the smoke issue may have also then had to fix other things that they discovered as well.
posted by zippy at 8:45 AM on July 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for being voices of reason everyone. I didn't know if the white smoke was really a problem but it sounds like it's not worth the risk. I've never considered buying a new car, but I've never had this combination of cash and good financing.

I'm going out today to test drive some new cars. Thanks again.
posted by bendy at 10:03 AM on July 14, 2012


I'm usually the guy who comes in these threads and says "Buy it if you like it." BUT... that's usually for a rarer car or a better deal than this.

Sometimes people ask my advice on buying cars because I have done a little wheeling and dealing with cars and grew up with a car-loving Dad who did the same. One of the best ways to buy a car I've decided is to set a budget, then pick out a model you like, not a specific existing car and then look for good examples of that model.

Two years ago, I made a budget of $5000, because I wanted to pay cash and then got Consumer Reports guide to used cars and then looked for something that would be a sporty hatchback in my price range. I actually had a few different options. I ended up looking at a few different cars and picked a Mazda Protege5, which is the forerunner to the Mazda3. It had 88,000 miles and had been very well maintained by an engineer who was the second owner.

It now has 125,000 miles and has needed nothing but Mazda-specified service (which was just a new water pump and timing belt at 110,000 miles as specified, at a cost of $600).

I think most cars made after the year 2000 should give at least 200,000 miles of service life.
posted by Slothrop at 10:46 AM on July 14, 2012

I have a 2009 Mazda 3. I love it, but I will never buy another standard-transmission Mazda.

A couple months ago, I had a serious clutch problem (imagine barreling down the interstate at 65 when suddenly, car jumps out of gear and I can't engage clutch or accelerator. It was rather scary.) while out of town. Car was still under standard and extended warranty. The nearby Mazda dealer's service manager looked at it on a Saturday and said that it was clearly a premature failure and all parts and service would be completely covered plus a rental car.

Then on Monday morning, I get a call from Mazda corporate who refused to cover anything and blamed it on operator error. Called the dealer back and raised hell, then called Mazda USA and raised hell. I finally wore them down and got the parts and rental covered, but not the service; it was a real mess, extremely inconvenient for a couple weeks, and not cheap. The dealer intimated to me that they knew what really happened but weren't at liberty to override corporate.

Google "Mazda clutch failure" "Mazda sudden clutch failure" "Mazda catastrophic clutch failure" "Mazda premature clutch failure", and see the numbers who are also in my ranks with relatively new cars experiencing inexplicable clutch failure. The prevailing opinion is that Mazda USA knows this is a well-documented problem and just refuses to handle it or get better clutches from their supplier.

I don't blame the dealers on this one; Mazda USA gets the fault as far as I'm concerned. But I won't buy another clutch from them, I'll tell you that for free.
posted by pineapple at 3:48 PM on July 14, 2012

Response by poster: Pineapple, that sounds like a scary and frustrating issue! I did do some googling but only saw reports of this in 2010 and before Mazda3s. I really hope this is resolved now, or at least that the company will take responsibility.

On the way down to the insurance-company-certified dealership the Integra's check engine light came on, the oil light started flashing and smoke started pouring out of the hood. I ended up leaving the dealership with a 2012 Mazda3 Sport HB with a six-speed manual. So far (30 miles later) I love it. The price was right, the APR was excellent, and I plan to drive it until either I or it dies.

Thanks again for the advice and warnings all - I think I'm really going to enjoy my first new car.
posted by bendy at 5:39 PM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Congrats on your new car! My only advice (as it apparently only has 30 miles on it) is to really adhere to the break-in procedure for your new car. Often it's early oil changes, watching your engine speeds, etc. Of course, if it's a new car to you but already has a couple thousand miles on it, that's different. But really, if it is brand new, you owe it to yourself to not skimp on this detail. You and your Mazda can zoomzoom soon, when it's ready. :)
posted by xedrik at 7:30 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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