Publisher: Hunting for second vehicle in expensive times

By BRIAN WHITMORE/Publisher
 
My father, Harvey, taught me a love for automobiles. And he taught me how to look for and study automobiles.
 
Daddy taught me brand loyalty — love all things Ford. Although, I also am fond of  Jeeps.
 
He taught me to love NASCAR — all things Bill Elliott.
 
Remember before the Internet, when new car dealers gave out the booklets on each vehicle. Daddy would read and study those.
 
It was almost like he was always in the market for a vehicle, even when he wasn’t.
 
We’d get on him, “just go buy one already.”
 
I’ve been without a car for more than a year. The family has been down to one vehicle, which has been tricky at times.
 
Instead of booklets, I’ve been on the Internet.
 
Unlike the old days, all forms of transportation are ridiculously expensive nowadays — 38 percent higher than 10 years ago. The average price of a new car is $35,000.
In the last decade the real median household income only raised by $3,000. That ain’t 38 percent. (Car and Driver info, 2019)
 
The hunt
I started looking at trucks. The cheapest new truck you can buy for 2021 is the Chevy Colorado, starting at $26,155.
 
Now that’s the starting cost, a base model with few options (harder to find, as dealers don’t make as much money on them). Once you start adding options, well you’d better hope they’re running one heck of a sale. A Colorado is around $31,000 or more when you add the options.
 
The 2021 Ford F-150 starts at $30,000, but can exceed $80,000 with options.
 
I can’t afford a new truck. How about a used one? I need a good price and low miles, under 50,000.
 
Those trucks start at $20,000 and that’s for a base model with few options.
 
I really want to spend under $20,000. This second vehicle is for work commute, school pick-up and kayak trips only. Being tight, I set a budget of $13,000.
 
Now I’m looking at compact Sports Utility Vehicles. The cheapest new SUV in 2021 is the Chevy Trailblazer L, starting at $19,995 (a subcompact). Likely $25,000 + once you add the tech.
 
Even brands that used to be affordable are now getting out of reach for common people. The Ford Explorer starts around $33,000 and can hit more than $54,000.
 
Used compact SUVs with low mileage can be found around $14,000-$15,000.
 
I’m not looking for a car, but in case you are interested — the cheapest car you can buy new is a Chevy Spark, starting at $15,495. Likely $20,000 + once you add the tech. Anything less than a Spark is a golf cart.
 
Used compact cars with low mileage are around $10,000.
 
So why are car, truck and SUV prices so high?
 
1. Technology. Remember roll up windows and manual locks. At some point, people got to lazy to do that. Added cost.
Then came computers and cell phones. Now everybody wants a computer in their dash. Added cost.
Most people can’t drive. So we have cars that can park themselves, stop before you hit something and tell you if you drift into the oncoming lane. Added cost.
Fuel efficient engines, better transmissions. Added cost.
 
2. Government Regulations. Going green is going to have us all walking before long. 
It cost the manufacturers more to deal with government red tape and they pass it on to us.
3. You’re willing to pay. Forget keeping up with the Jones, let’s leave them in the dust with our $70,000 truck. That’s half what most houses in Laurens County are worth and we’re in debt up to our eyeballs, but who cares.
 
Is there hope? Yes, if you’re willing to compromise.
 
I’ve found compact SUVs with under 50,000 miles for $10,000. Finding a deal takes  patience, time and concessions — few options, no power anything, radio instead of computer.
Outcome: I’m purchasing a 2016 Jeep Patriot, below budget, and under 50,000 miles.
 
Your turn
We’ve got several good automotive dealerships — new and used — in Clinton. And several good service shops to keep you running.
Set a budget, do your research, figure out what you can live without option-wise, and start your search local.
 
Happy hunting for your next auto, spend as much or as little as you want.
 
Brian Whitmore is the publisher of the Clinton Chronicle.

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