Q: Do you get a better deal on a new car if you pay cash? Not a handful of bills, just credit card or check. If so, in negotiating, when do you mention you're paying cash?
-- K. McCaughna,
A: You'll hear many versions of this story. Here is mine: Buyers' experiences from one dealer to another vary widely, but I think paying cash can actually hurt your chances of getting the lowest possible purchase price.<\/p>
Dealers may be willing to give low prices to customers who are getting loans through their in-house finance companies. This is because they can offer finance terms that increase the dealer's profit by a wider margin than would be possible by simply raising the transaction price. Indeed, numbers from Power Information Network show that the transaction price is lower with financed purchases. Often buyers pay more attention to the transaction price than how much they will pay during the life of a loan. This presents an opportunity for profit that is lost when customers pay cash.<\/p>
Still, it is possible that paying cash will work as a bargaining chip. After all, you are at least boosting that salesperson's monthly total and saving time that can be spent chatting up on the next potential customer. I think dealers tend to ask customers early in the discussion whether they plan to finance or pay cash. So you're potential thunder may be stolen right away. If the topic doesn't come up, you should keep the fact that you are paying cash to yourself and let the salesperson do the talking initially. This may be tedious but it could reveal possible discounts and other special deals you weren't aware of. If the salesperson assumes you are planning to finance and offers a lower-than-expected price, you may be able to pounce on it.<\/p>
And paying cash eliminates the cost of interest on a loan, which can be significant, especially amid the current tightening of the credit market and fewer low-interest deals being offered.<\/p>
In the end, though, I think your best negotiating tool is your ability to take or leave any deal that doesn't satisfy you. Walking out of the showroom still gets attention.<\/p>
Q: What's your opinion on using a fuel injector cleaner? How often should it be done and is there a brand you would suggest?
-- Rado Ilarionov,
Mill Creek, Wash.<\/p>
A: I'm generally not a fan of over-the-counter fuel additives because they tend to be expensive and I don't think they do anything beyond what the fuel is already formulated to do. Fuels you purchase at the pump are already blended with additives designed to keep fuel injectors and other fuel-system parts working properly, so I'd skip the cost and hassle of adding anything else to the gas tank.<\/p>
If you feel a fuel-delivery problem is hurting your vehicle's performance it's worth a visit to a mechanic.<\/p>
Q: I live on a mountain in northern Connecticut where we get a lot of snow and ice in the winter, and need all-wheel drive. I currently drive a 2001 Subaru Outback LE wagon; I love the handling, especially in the winter, and the reliability. Unfortunately, with car seats and booster seats, and the occasional dog in the back, it doesn't have enough room for our family. At 150,000 miles, I'm wondering what car I should get to replace it. I would really like a minivan, for the sliding remote doors, the ease of loading the kids, the storage, and the third row of seats. Since we live far out, I'd like a minivan that gets decent mileage, at least as good if not better than my Subaru. I can't imagine I'm the only parent looking for a minivan with all-wheel drive and good mileage. Are there any other options other than the Toyota Sienna? Are any hybrid all-wheel-drive minivans planned for the U.S. market?
-- Melissa Carver Sottile,
A: The only minivan I can think of that would come close to matching your Subaru's fuel economy is one of my favorites, the Mazda 5. It has three rows of seats with room for six people. Unfortunately it has front-wheel drive, not all-wheel drive. Still, I bet it would be fit for duty in your snowy region.<\/p>
If all-wheel drive is a must, you might try the Ford Flex. I think Ford should have called it the Country Squire because it's really a giant station wagon with a third-row seat. I drove one on a long road trip where it logged 25 miles per gallon, which is impressive for a vehicle so large. It was also surprisingly comfortable with six passengers including an adult in the third row. The GMC Acadia and its chassis-sharing relatives like the Saturn Outlook are similarly roomy and comfortable, but I have yet to drive one that has come close to the Ford's fuel economy on a long trip.<\/p>
Q: My husband drives a 2007 Ford F250 diesel that is used for work. I drive a 2006 Lexus ES 330. We were recently given a 1996 Oldsmobile 98 Elite with 57,400 miles on it. I've been driving the Olds and it gets good gas mileage. The Olds is exceptionally roomy, has good pick-up, no exterior rust or damage and the interior is immaculate. My Lexus has been sitting in the garage for the last two months. What to do? I miss driving the Lexus -- the ride is incredible. What are your suggestions as to the value of these two cars? Store the Olds and let it accrue in value? Drive the Olds and eliminate the mileage on the Lexus for better trade-in value?
-- Judith Vamos,
A: Old cars have a way of accumulating like old clothes. Often they aren't worth much more. I have seen the Oldsmobile valued as high as $4,500, but a price of roughly half that is more realistic whether selling privately or trading it in at a dealership. But the Olds starts to look like a useful gift if you view it as a low-cost way of racking up miles.<\/p>
If you're planning to trade in the Lexus soon and wish to limit its mileage, this is one way to do it. Even if you decide to keep the Lexus for the long haul, spreading your mileage between two cars will make both last longer. Of course the value of this arrangement declines quickly as soon as you start paying for big repairs on the Olds. So once the old car begins to falter, you should probably donate or sell it.