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The value in used cars

The value in used cars

If you're like most Design News readers, you drive a Ford. And, you're apparently happy doing that because most readers consider Fords the best-engineered cars in the U.S.

Those are just two of the results of our most recent automotive survey, highlighted in this issue.

But here is another statistic to emerge from the survey that may contain a message for automakers: Nearly 43% of survey respondents would buy a used car vs. a new car, and 75% of that number would do so because of what they perceive as the lower price and better value of a used car. That means nearly a third of all engineers surveyed believe the new technology in new cars simply isn't worth the price. Are they right?

It's a matter of personal choice, of course. What is worth a lot to one person may not be worth much to someone else. For example, I believe technology that increases safety and fuel economy is worth a lot and would gladly pay for it in a new car. Others would rather pay for more horsepower. In any case, the survey results show that automakers either have to become more creative in developing the new technology that goes into new cars, lower the cost of that technology through smarter engineering, or write better ads.

Beyond the survey results, it seems to me hard to dispute the fact that cars, like everything else except computer technology, continue to get more expensive. You can't buy a new car for much under $15,000 today, which is a pretty hefty investment for some people. Like some recent college grads, which brings me to a personal story.

In late August, I took my daughter car shopping. She graduated from college in June and wanted to trade in her old Jetta for a new car. Within minutes, she learned that new cars were out of the question and started looking at used cars, which also can get relatively expensive. A decent one she liked cost about $8,000. Negotiations got it down another $600.00. She might have done better taking advantage of a new Ford "concierge" program, which has Ford employees act as brokers for customers arranging, among other things, new- and used-car purchases of any make. Personally, I like doing the negotiations myself. I enjoy the thrusting and parrying with a salesman until we reach an agreement. It's more fun to do that.

Maybe that's another reason why so many engineers opt for used cars, the chance to match wits with an adversary while they save money.

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