Hammer Time: Car Buying 101 – The Changing Tides


The most common car I have sold in the last five years is a rental car special: the fourth generation Ford Taurus.

That may sound like an aesthetically sad and mechanically mediocre reality. But the truth is my choices in what to sell and finance have always changed with the tides of the wholesale market.


Those last generation midsized Tauruses of the 2000’s, with the Vulcan V6 and the AX4N transmission, still represent the Detroit equivalent of a Camry or Accord in the older used car market. Especially compared to the nightmarish Chrysler LH sedans equipped with the Soviet quality 2.7 Liter engine, and the cabal of endless mediocrity that represented GM’s pre-bankruptcy midsized lineup.


I like financing Tauruses because you can still get them cheap at the auctions, and retirees will often get the vehicles maintained at the new car dealership with OEM parts. Conservatively driven and well maintained cars with cheap replacement parts are the bread, butter and gravy of any good used car business and Tauruses represent a Golden Era vehicle here in Atlanta.

What also helps is that Atlanta is a Taurus happy town. Since it, along with the Mercury Sable, were made south of Atlanta for well over 20 years.


Before the Tauruses became a staple at my dealership, I focused on selling Volvos and Subarus for cash money. In our business we called them the ‘wanna-be’ cars, along with Saabs, because those who bought these brands usually preferred to have Lexuses, Benzes, and Beemers. They just couldn’t afford the price premiums that came with buying those later vehicles. So the less loved brands here in the South ruled the economics of that time. At least until late 2008.


Once the sub-prime mortgage crisis hit, I had to change my entire selling methodology and become the bank of Steve. Within a year, I would reduce my Volvo purchases by half. My Subaru purchases declined by about 80% (dealers from North Carolina began buying them up) and the Taurus quickly became my most popular vehicle.


For the last five years these Tauruses have receive $700 down stickers at my lot. After a quick sale and two years on the road, my customer would get a clear title, and I would get the profits needed to keep buying more of them.

Not every Taurus I bought would turn out to be worth retailing in the end. But with the financial risk of losing a few hundred dollars, versus making a few thousand, it didn’t take long to become a dedicated buyer of all things Ford and aquatic. I even learned a few things about the Duratec and SHO engines along the way… none of which were good.