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Car Corner
Cars Worth Waiting For

September 1, 2010
By Scott Lewis

This is the second edition of my Cars Worth Waiting For List. Last year I said I wanted to make this an annual column, so he we are for round 2. As you will recall this is a list of new cars that I want to consider for purchase when they reach the $15-20K price range.

Some cars take a very long time to drop to this price range. The BMW M3 comes to mind from last year. New it sells for over $60K. At normal depreciation it would take about 7-10 years for a car that costs $60K to get down to $20K. So as I refine this list I want to take that into account. Yes, I would love to wait until an Audi R8 got down to $20K, but it is unlikely that will happen in a time frame to make this list practical. It might never happen. The R8 might become a collectible before getting to the $20K mark and its price could plateau and then rise as it ages.

I will use a 5 years = 50% rule. Some cars drop in value faster than this, but for higher end cars this is about right. I bought a 5 year old Porsche 911 Cabriolet for my wife and it cost within $1,000 of half its new car price. (I paid $40,900 with 44K miles and it was $79,999 new). That does not mean I won't put cars here that cost more than $40K. But I will be careful doing so as the wait could be so long that it might make getting the car for daily driver use an issue.

One last note... I just bought a 2004 Mini Cooper S with 36K miles for $14,800. The mileage is particularly low, but notice that this car was 6 years old and still cost a bit more than 50% of its original price. I don't have the original sticker, but based on the options on the car it was probably about $25,000. The main reason I mention the Mini Cooper (it was on this list last year, and still is) is because it influences cars I might want.

Let's get to the cars.

New Cars

Volvo C30 R-Design - I like the updates to this car. This is a grown-up's Mini Cooper. I don't know if this will stay on the list. I believe if I grow up and want something other than a Mini Cooper this would be too small.

Mercedes Benz E350 Coupe - Price could make this a LONG wait, but I really like the styling. With a current base price around $48K, and a probably out the door price in the low 50K range, it will probably be 6-7 years before these dip below $20K. That's reasonable for a daily driver (as my current Mini Cooper at 6 years olds proves).

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Touring - Another grown up car... sort of. They ditched the big wing and added more sound deadening material to make this palatable to the non boy-racer crowd. I like the idea, so I would like to test drive it and see if I like the execution.

VW GTI (2010) - I like the changes for 2010. A horsepower upgrade should be easy to do in the aftermarket even if the factory won't do it. This should be roomier than my Mini Cooper. Worse case for room would be to get the four door version.

MazdaSpeed 3 - This car just begs to be on an affordable list of enthusiast cars. I would wait for the new "happy face" 2010 edition to get down to about $15-17K.

2010 Audi S4 - I have not read a bad review of this car. In fact, quite the opposite. Every review seems to glow. If I need a four door there are not many cars that come to mind. BMW 3-Series, Cadillac CTS and the Audi 4 series. New for 2010 the S version of the A4 gets a supercharged V-6 engine that is lighter than the outgoing V-8. This is especially helpful on a front heavy car. I really want to see this car migrate to my driveway in a few years.

Returning Cars

Ford Mustang - The Mustang was almost off the list. However, the return of the 5.0 is something to lust after. The 5.0 Mustang is already spanking the Camaro. Expect these cars to sell in the mid $30K range for a coupe. If trends hold these American cars tend to loose value a bit faster than European cars. So it will probably only take 3-4 years to drop below the $20K mark. Just find one that has not been abused or modified.

Chevrolet Camaro - This car is loosing its appeal next to the 5.0 Mustang with over 400 hp. But I am a Camaro fan, so it stays for now. We will see if this car holds its attraction as we wait for it to reach my price range.

Dodge Challenger R/T - I had removed this from the list... briefly. The exterior styling of this car does the best job of hitting the retro look of the three Pony/Muscle cars. However, its interior is as plain as any Dodge. It is also the heaviest and slowest of the three. However, I saw one in Plum Crazy and I could see getting one in that color someday. I don't think this car is going to last on this list until a Plum Crazt R/T is available used for under $20K, but it doesn't hurt to leave it her for now.

Cadillac CTS Coupe - Now in production it looks SWEET. This is the car I want to have when I grow up.

Nissan 370Z - This car still looks great. The design is not lost on me. If I get a true sports car (two seater) this is the bang for the buck champ.

Audi A5 - Note the new 2.0 version is 500 lbs. lighter, making this a very appealing car.

BMW 328i Coupe - I am still a big fan of Bimmers even though I traded in my overpriced 335i. I still regularly check the previous model on AutoTrader, so I have to include it in the list. Coupe, convertible or sedan are all appealing.

Chevrolet Corvette - I have to have this on the list... I am a HUGE Corvette fan. It might take a long time for a 2008-2010 Corvette to drop below $20K, but it is worth the wait for me.

Mazda Miata - This is an easy choice. It is only a little over $20K new. I regularly look for Miatas under $15K. In fact, I could see getting one for under $10K as a second car. Maybe I will do just that next year. We'll see.

Mini Cooper S - I am on my second one now, and I could see getting another one.

Pontiac Solstice - I had removed this car, but then I saw a review of it and it reminded me that this future collectible might be worth it as a second car if the price were right. Technically this car is no longer available new, so maybe it should be dropped from the list (more later).

Honorable Mention

Here are a few cars that I thought about adding to the list this year. But in the end each had enough of a flaw that I passed on it.

Ford Taurus SHO - Too Big. I remember the original Yamaha engined Taurus SHO. It was a really cool car. The new one does the SHO name justice, but the car is huge. I saw one at a car show parked next to a 67 Pontiac GTO. The Taurus towered over the GTO, and in its day the GTO was not small. The GTO was a two door and its back seat was as big as the SHO's. I don't know that I would want a car this big. Maybe Ford could build a Focus SHO. That might be a worthwhile car... especially with the 365 hp Eco-boost engine. But that will never happen.

Lotus Evora - Too Expensive. I really like the idea of the Evora. It is a grown up Elise or Exige. Both of those smaller Lotus cars are just too high strung for daily driving. The Evora is the grown up. A little more luxury and drivability. Yet it is still light by normal car standards, if not by Lotus car standards, and it could make a great daily driving sports car. But at over $80K new it would be about 10 years before it would be affordable by this article's standards.

Audi RS4 (2008) - Too Expensive. I love this sedan. I don't know exactly what years we had the RS4, so it might not fit here because they don't sell one now. But the outgoing RS4 was a really great sedan. Unfortunately it will probably be too long before it drops below $20K to be a practical daily driver.

Removed

Audi TTS - The A5 trumps this car. No need to have both on the list.

Infiniti G37 Coupe - Lost its appeal next to the 370Z.

BMW M3 - The M3 sells for over $60K new. By the time it gets below $20K those cars will be 8-10 years old, and have a lot of miles. They will NOT be practial as daily drivers. However, if you are getting a second car for fun then you can certainly wait. I think the 328i coupe makes a better choice for this list.

Honda CR-Z - This car was a huge disappointment. 37 mpg from a small two seater with hybrid technology. Where is the 50+ or 60+ mpg we should see. The Prius is a lot larger and gets 50 mpg. Sorry Honda. I had a CRX Si and loved it. It got 30 mpg in daily use and I got 38 mpg on a cross contry trip... over 20 years ago. Mileage should be better for this new sporty hybrid.

Porsche Boxster - I removed this because of the price. Having owned a Porsche 911 (I bought one for my wife) I can tell you that maintenance is pricey. Not outrageous, but you really do need to plan for $1,000-$2,000 a year in keeping a Porsche running properly. That also means some time in the shop. Buying a Boxster for under $20K means it is probably too old to be a daily driver. If you did drive one that old every day your maintenance would be even higher. So I dropped it from the list.

Porsche Cayman - Dropped for the same reason as the Boxster.

Chevrolet Volt - I dropped this from the list. Yes, this is the car I invented over ten years ago. But it is still an unknown. I really like the idea of it, but Chevrolet's lack of details about the car with it due out in a couple of months gives me pause. I will take another look at the Volt next year when there are road tests and people have them in their garages. Maybe it will make it back on the list. (Note: Another reason to remove this is due to the fact that I live in an apartment, so there is no place to charge it up at night. Add to that I have an 80 mile commute and the Volt's 40 mile range on electricity is not ideal for me... at least for now. I am still hopeful about this car. I really want to see it succeed.)

Conclusion

Nothing really surprising on the list this year. I want to address the Audi RS4 and the Pontiac Solstice. I did not put the Audi on the official list. But I think I should. Just because it is not available anymore does not mean it does not belong on this list. By its very nature the cars on this list will eventually get to a price point that makes them fit my $15-20K price range.

Next year I am going to include a year range with each car, like I mentioned with the Corvette above. For the most part a 2005-2007 Corvette is not a lot different from the 2008+ years. But they did add the full leather interior option, including the dash wrapped in leather in 2008. So I want a 2008+ Vette with this leather interior. And yes... it is worth waiting until the car is 10 years old to get it if necessary.

Come back next year and I will have one more change planned for this list.

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