When I wrote about the 1996 Audi A6 COAL some time back, I didn’t think another rapidly depreciated Audi would be coming home to roost. But here we go again, our own little Audi Groundhog Day!
About a month ago, my wife and I visited our daughter in college for a long weekend (or is it a short week?). She’s in California, about 2500 miles from our house, give or take. She’s a sophomore and while she was going to take the LR4 out there, further research on the logistics scotched that.
Our state requires an annual emissions and safety inspection (as I guess a lot of states do). So, the car would have to be here once a year for that, if it were to stay tagged on the East Coast. The cheapest estimates for open transport with them picking the dates, was $800 each way.
Our insurance agent wasn’t keen on it being that far from home either, and was concerned our carrier would drop it or worse, deny a claim.
We looked into titling it to our daughter and tagging it there, so it could just be shipped once and stay. I had trouble discerning the logistics of that, especially with a vehicle coming into California from another state. And, the estimates for full coverage were astronomical, with her being a young driver and it being the only vehicle on the policy. We were hearing $4,000.00 a year and up, or more than three times what we pay for full coverage with much higher limits, now.
She stayed in California and worked on campus last summer, and has a job with a major tech company off campus this coming summer. So, she appears to be pretty well planted there and a car for this summer and beyond would be a significant convenience.
We looked into renting by the month from Enterprise. At $800.00 a month or so, it wasn’t a terribly bad deal for a temporary need if you consider it included everything but gas. With the insurance prices we were hearing for the West Coast, this was my first choice. Rent a car for three months, then give it back. She had enough money left from her summer housing stipend with the tech company to rent the car too, as she would be staying on campus.
She’s claimed to have been happy with ZipCar when she needs a car otherwise. Our 17 year old son visited her a few weeks back, and was less impressed. “Yeah, we had to walk all the way across campus to get a dirty Versa that smelled like body odor and old pizza. It was gross.”
On a day she had commitments and couldn’t see us anyway, we went car shopping just for something to do. Well, you know how that ALWAYS ends, with the purchase of a car. But it was my wife’s suggestion, so I figured why not.
We had discussed this possibility at home, and had picked $18,000.00 to $20,000.00 as our budget. We walked the lot of a Volvo dealer after lunch, and didn’t see much of interest in our price range. A clean 2016 Mini was under budget, but was out of warranty due to having over 50,000 miles.
The second stop was a local Toyota dealer to see what our budget would get us. Lots of 2015 Camrys and RAV4’s with reasonable miles, it turns out. Or, a new base Corolla. There were Priuses too, but they had more miles than I hoped for though they were at or just under budget. We took a few phone pics and got the card of a very helpful salesman, and went down the street to the Honda dealer.
Maybe it was just the Honda dealer we were at, but their used prices seemed a bit high. For similar years and miles, the Accords were in the $22,000.00 ballpark. We looked at some Civics that were in our preferred price range, and pondered a new HR-V that they were willing to discount. A Lexus CT200 fresh from the detail shop caught our eye, but it had almost 100,000 miles. A 2015 Volvo was just over budget, but it was missing the front and rear tow hook covers, which seemed a bad sign.
I felt like a 2015ish Camry with 30,000 miles was going to be a great choice. You know from my COALS I love a good used German sedan, but I also really love my completely drama-free ES350. It’s the one you settle down with after you get tired of the singles scene, I guess is a suitable analogy. And with the car being across the country, I didn’t want my daughter having any issues.
As we were heading to dinner, my wife said “pull into this Audi place, let’s just see what they have”. Who are you, and what have you done with my wife, I thought to myself! I complied and pulled immediately in.
Well, what they had close to our price range was a 2015 A3 Premium Plus sedan, only 24,000 miles, and one local owner. The Carfax indicated it had been leased new in San Rafael and been serviced by the book at the dealer in San Francisco.
It had new Pirelli all season tires, and was pretty loaded. About the only thing missing was a backup camera, which was optional in 2015 though it is standard now on the A3. But all the nice gingerbread was there: an optional smoke silver paint, black heated leather seats, large sunroof with a black painted roof, nav, Sirius, real aluminum interior trim, keyless entry and starting, upgraded wheels, sport pedals, all weather mats, rain sensitive wipers, and dual zone automatic climate control. It was front wheel drive, which I preferred for less complexity.
After some dickering, they would take $20,000.00 cash today for it. The MSRP had been right at $42,000.00 when new. He showed me a printout that claimed they had $22,300.00 tied up in the car, and it appeared credible.
They paid Audi Financial $20,000.00 for the car at the end of the 24 month lease, in June 2017. Then they put new tires and front brake pads on it, changed the oil and filter, and he had receipts for paintless dent removal of door dings, a new windshield to replace a chipped original, and curb rash repair on two wheels.
As with my ES350, it had been sitting there too long and they wanted rid of it. “We could sell it to you at a loss, or take it to the auction and probably do worse”, the salesman explained.
The catch? It is a diesel. As in, a Dieselgate diesel. Though, this is one that could be fixed. 2015 was the first year of a new 2.0 liter diesel in the VW and Audi vehicles, which can be made “legal” unlike the older TDI models.
The salesman was very upfront about what it all meant, and had literature from Audi to put it all in writing. This vehicle already had a software update per the sticker under the hood, and has the DEF fluid equipment from the factory. Sometime in 2018, the owner will get a letter to bring it in for replacement of the exhaust trap oxidizer, which is like a catalytic converter for a diesel, and a few other tweaks. It’ll take one day and you’ll get a loaner. In exchange for this, you get an exhaustive (no pun intended) extended warranty on the entire engine and emissions components, to 11 years or 162,000 miles from the original in-service date.
Along with over a year of the bumper to bumper new car warranty remaining, that was some significant coverage to offset my initial concern. It would have an engine and emissions warranty until May 2026. We went back to the hotel to ponder all this.
They had it on their website for $28,995.00, which was too much, but $20,000.00 sounded like a good deal. If you don’t mind the diesel issue. The online searching I could do on my phone showed that a 2015 A3 Premium Plus should be worth about $23,000.00, and indeed there were lots of 2015 A3’s, gas and diesel, in a 100 mile radius for that price with the same or higher miles.
So, we called our daughter and ran this by her. For about the same price she could have a drama-free 2015 Camry with 25,000 miles, cloth seats, and no gingerbread. Or, for the same price, should could have the Audi with the gingerbread, but it’s a diesel. And that means refueling can be smelly. The diesel exhaust fluid tank is the only other oddity from a daily driver standpoint, but it is large enough that a filling at each oil change should suffice. Just take it to the dealer for the 12 month/10,000 mile service and they will fill the DEF for her for free up to 50,000 miles anyway.
It’s a choice between Ethel Merman and Sophia Loren, and of course she went with Sophia. More to look at, but higher maintenance.
No offense to the Camry owners, you know about my ES350 which is an Ethel as well. But this little Audi really drove home how German cars have a different feel to them. Though it is small, it felt solid in a way my ES just doesn’t. Zipping around town, I’d pick the Audi. On the 101, though, you felt every ripple and divot that the ES (or Ethel) would glide over.
Will the car have enhanced resale value in the future as one of the “legal” diesels? Or will it be shunned and worth nothing? Who knows, I’m not sure I’d take that risk if I planned to own it just a year or two. But I anticipated this would take her through college and grad school until she buys her first car on her own. At that point, it’ll be eight or more years old and pretty well depreciated regardless. If one of her brothers doesn’t need it, I’ll take it and play with it.
The next step was to see what the insurance would cost. We are AAA members, so that seemed liked a good place to start though we have never had insurance through AAA. The next morning, my wife and I reported to the local AAA outpost and without so much as a wait, were ushered in to sit with an agent. She was polite and efficient, and immediately priced out the different scenarios for the Audi, as well as the LR4 for comparison purposes.
With higher limits than the required California minimums, the Audi priced out a little over half of the LR4 for an annual premium. For about the cost of an Enterprise rental for three months, she could have twelve months of decent coverage on the Audi in titled her name, as a young driver with a one-car policy.
We told her if she would pay the insurance, we would buy the car. Then, we had to pay for it. We didn’t go out there intending to do this. We have a security freeze on our credit and all that information to unlock it was at home.
I wanted to use my airline card for the miles. I could get a free round trip ticket out of it, knocking another thousand dollars or so off the car. No can do, said the dealer. They had a $3,000.00 limit on credit cards for vehicle purchases. The finance person gave us a final “out the door” figure so we could go to the bank.
We use Bank of America, which as the name implies is everywhere. We asked Siri to direct us to the nearest branch and we got a certified check.
The evening of Day Two, we went back with our daughter and as they promised, everything was printed and ready for her to sign. They skipped all the add-on sales talk as they agreed earlier to do. We were done in 30 minutes, and went back to return our rental Altima early, since we had our own wheels now.
It’s been a little over a month and our daughter is thrilled with the car. A prorated parking permit for her dorm was only $100. There were a few social media posts tagging our daughter, joking about a parking lot incident, but we haven’t asked and no details have been volunteered.
She’s probably going out of the country for a semester abroad in the Spring of 2019, and I am looking forward to bringing the Audi home and playing with it myself for a few weeks. It could also just sit on campus too, but why not have fun with it. It felt really strange to buy a car, then leave it behind! Except for the ride to the airport, I didn’t get hardly any time behind the wheel.
How am I going to get it across the country? Ah, glad you asked! We’ll cover that next time!
Very nice rig, lucky girl! One thing to be aware of is that Diesel pumps are less widespread in CA than in other states (some stations don’t carry it). But she’ll figure it out I’m sure…
I know exactly what you mean about the “feel” – You drive a Japanese car for a while and all is well and good and you’re perfectly happy and then you get back into a German car and wonder how is it that it feels so different, buttoned down, and somehow more solid? Nothing wrong with either and not a negative either way, just completely different. Then you step back into the Japanese one and everything feels so light…
I do share that concern about the pumps…..there’s a couple or three stations with diesel just off her campus, so that’s good. I told her to look out for the diesel prices in green LED, which seems to be a universal thing nationwide, and download GasBuddy or something like that if she ever needs to search up a station.
Yeah, the green LED thing is mainly at truck stops from my experience. I think in the cities in CA diesel is just often unmarked until you pull in and not on every pump even if they do have it. If she road trips to SoCal or something on 101 she should do a little planning ahead. On our Diesel Touareg the Nav System would show where there were diesel stations but I do recall almost getting stranded in Des Moines once when I ran extremely ow and then when I went to the station as directed by the system the pumps only appeared to have the large nozzles for delivery trucks etc until the attendant told me that the passenger pump nozzle was only on ONE of their pumps. Who knew there were different sizes for passenger cars vs trucks but it makes sense due to tank size vs speed. I never would have figured it out and being a male, am of course reluctant to ask anyone as I should know everything naturally…
It’s likely gotten better in CA since my time there as for a long time passenger diesel cars were not sold there. Now they are.
That’s interesting about having to look for a station with diesel in California. Here is flyover country it is rare to find a station that does not have diesel available, most of the bigger outlets have multiple pumps for diesel. I suspect this is because a fairly substantial number of people here are willing to spring for the diesel engine option in trucks. My uncle had a MB 240D for a year or so back in the seventies; now that made for some interesting fueling experiences. At that time if you wanted diesel you pretty much had to go to a truck stop and dodge the 18 wheelers.
I own a ’13 MB E350 BlueTec and have found that nearly all Chevron and Shell stations have the diesel. Another plus is that the car gets around 36mpg on the highway.
I once read somewhere that Japanese cars feel so light because with the traffic density that is prevalent in Japan driving even shortish distances would be tiring. German cars are driven at higher speeds and to feel confident at speed requires a solid feeling car.
I don’t know if that is true, but having owned a few German cars and as many Japanese cars…as well as several American cars, the Japanese cars always felt light. I am embarrassed to say that every time I switch from any car to a Japanese car with a manual transmission I stall the first few times I start off. The minor controls also feel lighter when operated, though unlike American cars, that lightness doesn’t come across as “on the verge of breaking”.
The Audi A3 2.0 TDi, one of the best compacts you can buy today. I ride in one that belongs to a friend frequently. Feels really solid inside, love the minimalistic lines of the dash, it’s zippy to the point of pushing my back to the seat. The only bad thing is that his is stripped down to the point of not having cruise control or xenon headlights.
The note on the dealer’s financing on the car (“flooring”) was probably coming to the end of its interest-free time. That’s a good time to deal, when the car has been on the lot for a while. They would rather have the money than the car at that point.
Good point; after this and my off-lease ES350 experience, I’ve learned to try to find the oldest ones in inventory first, and go from there!
I am not up on my Audis, but the first day we were there, they had a filthy black S8 or something like that traded in. And the next day, it was sitting beside our A3 on the “SOLD” line, detailed and sold already. So I guess they lose on a little on some like mine, and print money with some other deals…..
What a deal you got here! These A3’s really intrigue me, as they are realistically the size of the original A4, which suits me just fine. Even the most basic models come very well equipped, with leather power seats, panorama roof, 8-speaker sound, xenon lamps, etc. A very good value at the now $32k starting price, and an outright steal for you at $20k and 24,000 miles. Regardless of the now infamous 2.0 TDi powertrain, I would think it suits the character of the car just fine, and considering the extended warranty, is likely the smart used buy compared to the two other gas turbos available. Well played, sir.
+1 on everything you say. It is a right-sized, well-equipped, and handsome car. Nick Murray gave a very positive review of a new 2015 A3 on his YouTube channel and provided an analysis (see around 16.50) of why it is priced so much more favorably in the U.S. than elsewhere, in particular noting the model he tested would cost twice as much in his native New Zealand and considerably more in the U.K. $20K for a nearly new model seems to be a very good deal and a perfect choice in this instance.
No edit available – meant to write nearly new condition, low mileage car…
Periodic emissions tests are widespread. Safety inspections? Not at all, not for years. They’re still somewhat popular on the Eastern Seaboard, and there’s a sparse scattering of states elsewhere that at least pretend to go through the motions of a roadworthiness inspection, but mostly no. And even those on the Eastern Seaboard have been growing more and more cursory over the years. In most of the United States it’s all but impossible to get a car’s headlamp aim properly checked and adjusted, for example.
It did? Unless I’m under- or overthinking, the math doesn’t add up here. I’m fairly certain car dealers don’t stay in business by selling cars at a loss.
The paintless dent repairs, new windshield, curb rash wheel fixes, and new tires would cost a consumer that extra $2,300 bucks, but the dealer isn’t actually spending that kind of cash. Dent repair/curb rash was likely handled in house. The windshield and tires not so much, but at a significant discount compared to us mere mortals.
All true but given the Audi dealers in that area (assuming it was Carlsen in Palo Alto or Rector in Burlingame) are located in some of the priciest real estate areas in CA, a used car likely won’t get sold if it’s not on the lot (unlike a new car that you can more easily stash offsite if it’s a duplicate of something on the lot), sometimes it’s likely better to sell it for a penny over what it might fetch at auction in order to free up the parking spot for something more likely to sell quicker at a bigger profit. At some point the dealer is in it for a certain amount of money and the depreciation factor doesn’t stop just because a dealer happens to own it.
“We lose money on every car we sell, but we make it up in volume.”
Massachusetts has actually gotten tougher, requiring cameras to record the inspection process.
Massachusetts has gotten tougher:
While the documentation on what the dealer had in the car was a bit, shall we say, convenient, it is plausible.
The author’s general story is familiar to me. My wife informed me in spring of ’17 that my daughter was moving off her college campus in the fall. Bummed rides, Zip Cars and bicycles were not going to cut it anymore.
Our story is a little different, we live in the Midwest and campus is about an hour from home. Given our geography, we were talking Dodge Darts instead of dirty diesels, but the story is similar in that both have been lot poison for dealers – they are sedans with a stigma.
Dealers make a bet on every car they take into inventory – can we sell if for a profit above acquisition, prep, repairs and carrying costs? My understanding is that smart dealers get real about their prospects on winning the bet as inventory ages, and when something has been around too long, they begin aggressively marking the price down until it sells.
Darts were ultimate lot poison in early 2017, and we came across several dealers that had been sitting on Darts they acquired from rental companies in the fall of ’16, just after FCA announced the Dart and related Chrysler 200 were being cancelled.
I dubbed these cars Turkeys as they had hit the lots around Thanksgiving and were still present in June of 2017. The local Chevy dealer would not budge off about $11,000 for a 2015 Dart with about 45k on the clock. I pointed out that I could go to the Airport and buy off rental 2016 Darts with 25K for $12,000 to $13,000, and I needed to be at $10,000 to buy the car. They let me walk away for a much better deal.
My daughter and I went home and plugged in Darts in Auto Trader for a 300-mile radius. Sure enough, we found some Turkeys that dealers did not want to celebrate a second Thanksgiving with. I zeroed in on a 2015 Dart with a clean Carfax, 39k on the clock, 200 miles away at a Ford Dealer, and a $9,300 asking price.
I called the dealer early the next morning and said I’d bring a cashier’s check by noon and hand it over if the car checked out. The car checked out, and after the fastest car purchase transaction I’ve ever had, my wife and I were having a nice lunch at a place our salesman suggested.
I just ran the same exercise on Auto Trader, and it is still hard to beat the deal we got, I think people figured out Dart pricing was depressed for a time, and prices seem to be up a bit.
So far, the Dart has been a perfect college car, may daughter loves the style, and surprisingly, she really appreciates the made in USA with an American brand aspect.
Over two thousand dollars for a year of insurance! To me, it seems insanely expensive. A bit less if I think about Slovakia and the US differences – like average income.
Would somebody be so kind and explained me simply, what for are the US citizens paying so much money? Does it include more than just basic accident coverage?
Our 2008 Ford C-Max with 2 liter diesel engine is currently basically insured for 90€ ($110) per year. Titled to a driver of 30 years with no accidents.
I was talking with a classmate of mine about his VW Tiguan, which he got as a 18th birthday present a few months ago and titled to himself. His annual insurance costs him around 500€ ($620), IIRC. In this sum is also a windscreen damage coverage and theft coverage. I find it pricey, since it’s not affordable for me right now.
Anyway, Importamation, your choice for your daughter would make me equally happy as her. Since its introduction, I’ve liked A3 sedan more than the hatchback. If I were in market for a car like this, the only thing I would change is the engine. 1.8 TSI or 2.0 TSI, gasoline powered. That would suit me more. But, don’t look a gifted horse on its teeth and enjoy it as much as possible.
If my calculations are correct, your daughter is only a year older than me (I was born in ’99). So I can wish her only happy and pleasurable miles in her small silver sedan – her first own Car Of A Lifetime!
Things are quite different in the US and in Europe in that regard. The two biggest ones are medical costs (personal injury) and tort (large settlements for pain and suffering, etc.) since the US is a very litigious country, and the whole legal system works rather differently.
To the best of my knowledge, if you hit someone in Europe, insurance will pay for the damage to the car(s), but medical expenses are just paid in the usual way, through the various socialized medical insurance schemes. In the US, no matter how good your own medical insurance is, your medical insurance company is going to get reimbursed/paid by the at-fault driver’s auto insurance. And as you probably know, medical costs in the US average more than double what they are in Europe, due to our specialist doctors making well over half-million a year as well as many other reasons. For instance, I know folks who had fairly minor injuries, but then had massage and other non-medical alternative therapies every week for many months, all paid for by the at-fault driver’s insurance.
And if you get hit and are injured and lose time from work, you will be compensated by the at-fault driver’s insurance for pain&suffering (which can often be very large settlements) as well as loss of work, and other more intangible losses. It’s very common for settlements after fairly moderate accidents to be well into six figures (over $100,000). This is all separate from the damage to the cars, which often ends up being a smaller percentage of the total costs.
There’s a reason why the first things Americans do after getting hit and injured in an accident is to hire a lawyer. In Europe, that’s almost unheard of. There’s a very different culture regarding car crashes and other causes of damages and injury. They are treated more as a social cost rather than as a personal cost.
If one has any sort of decent income and assets, it’s essential to increase insurance coverage above the required minimums for personal injury/medical costs. I carry one million dollars in coverage. It’s not that much more expensive, but settlements for even minor crashes can get very expensive nowadays.
So that is the answer.
There were strong movements decades ago to move to a “no-fault” insurance scheme for automobiles, where everyone’s coverage just paid for their own actual costs, and there was no tort involved. It would be much cheaper. But the political lobby of attorneys is very powerful in the US, and killed it.
Tort is a huge industry in the US. As Europeans moving to the US, it was a revelation to learn about it. As little kids, other kids would say “we’re going to sue you!”. It took some time to understand what that meant. In Europe, that’s essentially unheard of. Or it certainly was back then. But even now, the concept of tort in Europe is profoundly different.
That’s a really good summary, and yes Umbrella liability for at least a million is very wise.
Years back, my wife turned left in a fairly blind situation, and her big SUV got clipped so hard in the rear quarter it spun 180 degrees and broke the rear wheel off.
It turns out the Accord driver, who witnesses said was speeding, weaving, and daily commuting through an intersection he had to know was blind, thought he’d go for a little bonus in the settlement. We both had the same insurance company.
But, the company had a million reasons to investigate the idiocy of his driving, and pushed back hard. Even though my wife got the ticket, not only did Mr. Speedy not get his bonus, the insurance company charged his damages to his policy!
Very good question! Insurance costs in the U.S vary widely (and wildly) depending on what state you are in, whether it is an urban or rural area, theft rates in your area, etc. So, being in an urban area of a congested state, the rates on the A3 in the Bay Area of California are probably some of the highest you would find on an A3 in the entire country. Detroit, Chicago, and NYC might be even higher.
She does have “full” or “comprehensive” coverage on the A3, which covers the car being damaged or totalled by her or someone who is uninsured. Just “liability only” can be purchased and is usually much cheaper.
The A3 would probably cost about $1200 a year, or half what she is paying, for full coverage for a young driver in our rural town on the East Coast.
I could probably drop “full” coverage on Bertha, my 2007 S550, but it just dropped to about $500 per year, so I kept it instead of going to “liability only”.
I think it dropped because now, any moderate accident would result in it being “totalled”, so the insurer would just write a check for the market value instead of actually paying to fix it. In my state, damage equal to 75% of the fair market value is a “total loss”.
Forgot to mention, I also live in California and was surprised to see I had to have the 2013 MB diesel car smogged at the 4th year reg renewal, not # 6 as with a gasoline fueled car. Every other year after that, so no difference there.