One of the least pleasant aspects of buying a new car is being lectured by used car zealots about what a fool you are. There’s always at least one person there to lambaste you for your spendthrift ways. They have their speeches at the ready. To hear these folks talk, you’d think that there was nothing else in the world they enjoyed more than deflating the joy of a driver who’s just bought a new car.
“You know, the moment you drive a new car off the lot, a coven of devils will beset you and torment you and also the car will depreciate by up to 40 per cent.”
“Used cars are cheaper. You could spend the money you save on a three-star all-inclusive holiday where you can drink your weight in cheap rum.”
“If you buy a new car, hailstones – each weighing about a hundred pounds – will fall upon it, but, if you buy a used car you will pay less in insurance and angels will sing.”
For some reason they’re never convinced by the argument, “Yeah, but I like new cars.”
Well, guess what, smarties? Those days are over.
There has never been a worse time for Canadians to buy a used car. Never in recorded history. In the United States, the average price for a used car with a little under 110,000 kms on it is $31,426 Canadian. For months now, used vehicles have been selling for the same cost as new ones.
Meanwhile, the thirst for used automobiles remains unquenched. Canadian drivers who have spent their lives swearing by the used car mantra – buying cars that are between one to three years old – remain ardent in their quests for previously owned wheels. After all, they say, such used vehicles are cheaper, there’s no depreciation, and you still get that new car feel.
Like a comet, a blue moon or an eclipse, the current rush for used cars is a rare event and the product of an extraordinary confluence of events. There is less new stock available because when the pandemic hit, manufacturers shut down production for two months. According to Associated Canadian Car Rental Operators, at that time Canadian rental companies unloaded 30 to 40 per cent of their vehicles and flooded the market. Now that the domestic travel has rebounded, Global News reported, these same companies are holding on to their fleets. The biggest factor in pushing up prices is the continued shortage of microchips. There are fewer shiny new cars rolling into the market.
This leaves those who can’t wait and need to buy a car now – those who can’t wait a few months until the madness passes and production returns to normal – getting used and abused.
What the used car crowd doesn’t always understand is that new car buyers come in many shapes and rationales. My first means of transportation, as a kid, was bicycle and horse. It was public transit exclusively for years, especially when I lived in big cities like London. Today, if I lived in a city that had decent public transit, I probably wouldn’t own a car. I don’t. I live in Toronto.
I didn’t buy a new car until I was in my forties. I couldn’t afford one. I drove old beaters. When our kids arrived, however, I wanted the reliability and safety of a new car (okay, a Dodge Grand Caravan). The new sticker price was just a little more expensive than the used. I knew then, as I know now, that this was all part of the dealership leveraging buyers into going for a new car. I knew and I didn’t care.
I bought my most recent ride new as well. Safety and reliability were a factor, but the big reason was I simply wanted a new car. I’m a car guy and I felt like I’d earned it. I can’t defend this stance. It’s crass, shallow and materialistic. It says a lot about the kind of person I am. Make of it what you will. All I know is that, when I go for a drive, I’m the kind of person who is driving a new car.
Used car zealots should not lose heart. This used car world-turned-upside-down can’t last forever. It will right itself and soon, you can sing your sanctimonious songs once again. In the meantime, close your eyes and think of the depreciation.
Discussing the upcoming fall semester, Ontario Premier Doug Ford told the media, “We’re going to make sure the kids are going back to school in September. They’re going to be in class. I want to repeat that they’re going back. Even if I have to hop in that school bus and drive it myself.”
It’s hard to know what is more disturbing about Ford’s statement. That he thinks all you have to do is “hop” in a school bus and “drive it,” that he thinks driving a school bus “myself” is somehow unique (as if most people drive school buses in tandem) or that he thinks he can fit all two million Ontario students in a single bus. Has Ford driven a Ford lately?