by Tom McParland, 28 December 2018
It’s that time of year again, where I take a break from the prudent car buying advice to give you all a rundown of all the times I said “No. Just no.” Here’s all the cars I convinced people not to buy in 2018, including a few Jalopnik favorites.
For those of you just tuning in, I’m a professional car shopper. Folks hire me to find cars and negotiate deals on their behalf. All of the car buying advice columns and tips you see from me here on Jalopnik come directly from my experience working hundreds of new and used car deals over the course of the year.
Most of the folks I work with have a general idea of what they want and need a little guidance narrowing it down while others have a specific car in mind. Sometimes, I make a case that the car they picked may not be the best choice and they may want to be open to other options.
Here are the cars I convinced people not to buy in 2018.
Ford Focus RS
I’ll get this one out of the way first since this website has been singing the praises of the Ford Focus RS since it came out. I’ve helped a lot of customers get behind the wheel of the 350 horsepower super-hot hatch, but I’ve also had a few of them come back and be like “This thing is fast, but it’s very loud, very rough, and not super comfortable as a daily driver.”
So I took that feedback and started warning folks that were in the market for a Focus RS that if this is a car that they plan on being in for long rides and or rough roads, it could get tiring very quickly.
While a lot of people heeded my advice and ended up with something like the more livable Volkswagen Golf R or something along the lines of a BMW 340i xDrive, a good friend of mine was looking to upgrade his Focus ST and was set on a Focus RS.
I warned him that the car was a bit extreme for his daily commute, but he caught the bug and picked up a nice white car with the RS2 package. About nine months later he admitted that the ride was getting rough on his back and it was time to step down, so he traded the RS in for a lightly used GTI.
The Focus RS is an incredible performance machine, but a hardcore one. If you’re willing to live with that, more power to you (perhaps literally.) If it’s too much, there are other options that better balance livability and fun.
Dodge Durango SRT
What is not to love about the Dodge Durango SRT? The MOPAR maniacs took a three-row crossover and shoved a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 under the hood. I was working with a very cool woman from Texas who loved fast cars but wanted something comfortable for the taller folks in her life. She came to me with the Durango SRT in her sights.
After looking at the price points I told her that if she was going to drop $65,000 to $70,000 on a monster SUV she might want something that actually could handle and didn’t have the same interior as a $35,000 rental car.
I suggested the usual Mercedes GLE 63 AMG and BMW X5 M options but when I found a local Porsche Cayenne Turbo for her to try out, she caught the bug. The local car didn’t have the color combo she liked but she ended up with a nice example from a Chicago Porsche dealer and had it shipped down to Texas.
I give Dodge a lot of credit for making a mean family hauler, but the Durango SRT would be a better buy after it has suffered some depreciation.
Certified Pre-Owned Luxury Crossovers
I’ve actually lost count how many clients I had this year looking for a lightly used luxury crossover. That’s not really surprising as we are in the midst of crossover madness and the sedan market is rapidly shrinking.
For many buyers the $35,000 price point is the sweet spot, and they have been told that they can get a great value by picking up a two or three-year-old European luxury car since it has already taken a depreciation hit and therefore get a “nicer” car than a brand new Honda, Toyota, or another mainstream brand.
The problem is that these buyers wanted a used luxury car but they also wanted the latest technology features like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and advanced safety tech such as collision mitigation, auto-braking, and blind spot monitoring, but those features either weren’t available on the lightly used luxury cars or they were only available on certain high-end trims that are hard to find.
So I would tell them they were better off buying a new “mainstream” car that was fairly fully loaded instead of a used luxury brand. And the one that these buyers gravitated to the most was the Mazda CX-5. While Mazda isn’t a luxury brand, per se, they are starting to punch above their class in an “upmarket” way. Now that the 2019 CX-5 comes with even more luxury features and a turbocharged engine, bet Mazda will be stealing even more used luxury buyers next year.
While a used luxury model might give you more “car for your money” it’s not a value if those cars don’t have the features you want.
Buick Regal TourX
Finally, General Motors gave us a nice wagon that didn’t cost a fortune. Of course, General Motors did what it normally does with odd cars and bungle the whole thing up.
When the TourX first came out I tried to put in on the radar of anyone I knew looking for a nice wagon. Some people even took one for a spin and found it to be pretty nice. But a bad combination of lousy dealer experiences and non-competitive pricing killed deal after deal. It eventually got to the point where in the rare case when someone did ask about it, I would say they weren’t really worth it and I told them they’d be better off with a Subaru Outback, VW Golf Alltrack or perhaps a BMW 3 Series Sport Wagon.
After months and months of ignoring the TourX, Buick finally decided to throw some deals at them to make it a worthwhile purchase. Our rad man Bradley Brownell just bought one so keep an eye out for that story. Unfortunately, I think it may be a case of too little, too late for the TourX and it’s likely to go down in history as another failed GM product.
What it really comes down to is that sometimes good cars have bad deals, or bad dealers. And other times a cool car might not be a good match for a certain buyer. When you are shopping for your next car, keep an open mind and try out several models and it pays to shop around.
Correction: An earlier version of this post said the Durango SRT has a supercharged V8. It is naturally aspirated. We regret the error.