Is this car a good deal?
May 26, 2015 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Is it worth paying over Blue Book value for a car that was just purchased from a dealer?

The car is in "good" condition according to KBB. The KBB value for the car from a private seller is $2,300. The owner bought it from a dealership a month ago and paid $3,000. She has to move unexpectedly. I offered her $2,800. She's thinking about it. Seems like an honest woman, though I just met her.

I'm wondering if this is right. The car doesn't have any leaks, runs smoothly, but has some fairly big cosmetic issues. All records are accounted for.

My question it worth paying over KBB value for a car that just came from the dealership? What are the bonuses in that situation? I've never bought a car from a dealer, only from private parties. All of my cars have been good, except for my last one, and I never want to go through that again.

posted by amodelcitizen to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
Take it to a mechanic and have it checked. It's unfortunate for the current seller, but the car is worth much less than she paid for it. If it's really roadworthy, might be worth 2,800 to you. It's an excellent deal for her.
posted by theora55 at 3:54 PM on May 26, 2015

No. The premium for the dealer is that you're dealing with a company that can do things like take credit cards, arrange financing, has assets to sue against in case of an egregious fraud and is not potentially an axe-murderer. Here you have somebody who hasn't even had the car long enough to know how the dealer may have lied about it (an in turn lie to you).

Also "big" cosmetic issues and kbb good aren't compatible as I recall.

That said, I don't love KBB for cheap cars. If the car is worth $2800 to you, I'm not going to tell you you're wrong.
posted by wotsac at 3:57 PM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

I bought a car a year ago from a private seller (with the help of Metafilter!). Obviously this is a YMMV situation, but from what you describe, I don't think that the car you're looking at is worth $2800, let alone $3000. When you buy from a dealer, you're paying a premium for more protection than you get when you buy from a private individual on Craigslist or whatever. You aren't getting any of that protection, and you shouldn't pay for it. It's unfortunate for her, but really it's her loss. Also, if you're looking at the VIN number records, you should be aware that I believe it can be a while for things to get fully updated, so it's possible that something happened to the car in the last month that is not yet on record. That's part of why you shouldn't be paying a premium for something you're not getting (buyer protection). Also, as wotsac said above, I don't think that KBB "good" and "big cosmetic issues" jibe - my car was "fair", if I recall correctly, and its main cosmetic issue was lots of clear-coat fading and some bumper scratches from city parking. For what it's worth, my car had those cosmetic issues, around 135000 miles on it, ran perfectly, no rust, and needed a major repair ($800 for struts plus routine oil change), and I paid $1900. The owners had all the records as well. I think the KBB value for the car was also around $2300 (might have even been more like $2400 or $2500), the owner was asking something like $2100, and he lowered the price once my mechanic realized that it needed an $800 repair (I figured that any used car was going to need a repair, so I was happy to kick in some extra money to cover it too). I personally don't see what value you're getting for paying $500 over Blue Book, unless you really need a car right now. It's her loss to have to take, not yours.
posted by ClaireBear at 4:55 PM on May 26, 2015

Agreeing with everyone else: there's nothing magically better about a car that recently passed through a dealer's inventory. This is especially true for a lower-priced car with significant issues (cosmetic or otherwise), because the "dealer" is likely to have been a budget / bad credit used car lot as opposed to a dealer franchised by a major manufacturer. Buying this car at a price higher than you could sell it for yourself is functionally equivalent to giving the seller a big pile of cash for nothing.
posted by jon1270 at 5:06 PM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, yeah, as jon1270 suggests: what sort of dealer is it? I was assuming a legit dealer franchised by a major manufacturer (e.g. a Toyota dealer). If it's just a private used car dealer, then multiply my upthread advice x10000. As someone said in the thread I linked above:

Avoid el cheapo used car dealers like the plague; their entire business model is knowing how to make a crappy car look good, along with hard-sell tricks.

If it wasn't a legit branded franchise that sold the car to the woman with a warranty, I personally think you'd be better off with a random car off of Craigslist than with a car from a shady dealer. I certainly wouldn't pay a premium for the latter.
posted by ClaireBear at 5:32 PM on May 26, 2015

And I'll just reiterate (I hinted at it before) what everybody else said - reputable dealers don't sell $3000 cars. Disreputable dealers often shoddily paper over problems and are at best no better for reliability than buying from J Random on Craigslist.
posted by wotsac at 8:01 PM on May 26, 2015

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