Buying Rule #1: Don't spend all your money on the car.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

I need your advice. My kids are gone and my wife has a nice, late model Toyota Camry she loves. Problem: My dream car has always been the Mercedes two door convertible. A new 500 SL at $90,000 is out of the question, as I'm a government employee. Therefore, why not purchase a used or reconditioned one? Price-wise, I've narrowed down the choices to the 380SL, 1983-1985 at around twenty thousand dollars, or the 560SL, 1986-1989, at an average price of about $25,000. I plan to have the car thoroughly checked out before I buy it. Do you have any other specific advice for me?

RAY: Yeah. Don't spend all your money on the car. A common mistake people make when buying expensive used cars is forgetting about repair costs. A Mercedes not only costs more to buy, it also costs more to fix...a lot more.

TOM: For instance, if your Ford Escort needed a starter motor, it would cost you about $150. If your Mercedes needed a starter motor, it would cost you three times that. And you'll find the same is true for most of the other parts you'll need to replace.

RAY: And you WILL need to replace parts. That's part of the bargain when you buy an older car. So I'd budget an extra couple of grand a year in repair and maintenance costs as part of the equation.

TOM: If that sounds a little steep on your government salary, I see two options. You can either buy an older, less expensive Mercedes, and put some of that "purchase" money into a repair fund.

RAY: Or you can get transferred to the CIA and take the Aldrich Ames jailhouse seminar on "How To Supplement Your Government Income." I hear it'll be coming soon to a federal penitentiary near you.

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