Car Corner
All Possibilities For A New Daily Driver

April 2, 2017
By Scott Lewis

I have been here before. I know, I don't seem to ever get what I want. Life gets in the way and makes these plans difficult. This time is different. When I do go shopping for a car I do not have a wife interfering with my choice, and my kids each have their own cars so I don't have to worry about getting something they can drive (or even will drive).

I have a debt consolidation loan that is finally going to be paid off at the end of December this year. So... I will be shopping for a car in early 2018. I expect to have a budget of about $25,000-$30,000. With down payment I want a monthly payment of no more than $400. To maximize that down payment I will likely wait until after my income tax check comes in before buying a car.

I have not decided what direction I want to go. At $25K+ I have options. Too many options. I have three main ideas in my head at the moment.

  • Straight up trade in my Ford Focus for a nice modern car, preferably still under factory warrantee (if even for just a little bit). Even better would be a CPO car.
  • Keep my Focus and be a little more daring with the modern car. Think Porsche. I would spend less (hopefully) and put the remainder of the budget toward maintenance costs. This means getting an older model year (as Porsches are expensive). Once I start down the path of getting an older car that was expensive when new... I start seeing cars like a 2004 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG with 45K miles for $23,995. A car that stickered for $127K when new.
  • My last option is to keep the Focus and get a really nice classic. This would be something on the order of a 66 Mustang, or 70 Camaro, or 70-72 Monte Carlo. I would buy such a car with classic car financing (LINK), and use classic car insurance (link). However, I would plan to drive the car as often as possible.

Today we will cover the cars from the first group, and touch on cars from the second. I Finally, the classics will be covered in my Classic Car Watch column.

Let's get to my short list of cars I am considering as a replacement for my Ford Focus.

1) Cadillac CTS/ATS Coupe. I have said more than once, the CTS Coupe is the car I want when I grow up. It may finally be time to grow up. I would love a CTS-V, but I would need to save up a significantly larger down payment, or wait too long.

2012 Cadillac CTS Premium, 29K miles, $22,250

Comments: I want a red one. This car is nice enough.

2014 Cadillac CTS Premium, 26K miles, $25,980

Comments: However, even though this one cost mare, it is newer and still under warrantee, and I like the interior more. And its not black, white or silver.

2015 Cadillac ATS 3.6 Luxury, 25k miles - $29,211

Comments: This is right at the bleeding edge of my budget. But Nice, and still under warrantee.

2) Porsche Boxster/Cayman. Ideally a 2008+ and an S. This gets into the need to keep my Ford Focus in case repairs get costly and the car needs to sit while I save some money. I would try to budget a maintenance fund if I bought a Porsche.

2002 Porsche Boxster, 38K miles - $15,900

Comments: I forgot how nice a Boxster can look. This dealer does a fantastic job detailing cars before photographing them. The price seemed insanely low for such a nice looking Porsche. After a little research I found that this is not that special. I searched AutoTrader for 2002-2004 (there was a redesign in 2005) Boxsters with under 45K miles under $18K. I saw 13, including this one, and a 2002 Boxster S with less mileage (35K) for just a little more, $16,985. Would I get a 2002, even this nice? I might while keeping my Focus. But I really want something a little newer.

2007 Porsche Cayman, 34K - $25,350

Comments: This car is just about perfect. It is within 10 years old (now), so a loan will be a piece of cake. We just want to verify the owner's claims of no accidents with a CarFax, and see the maintenance records. Of course, I would get a PPI (Pre Purchase Inspection) on any Porsche. Other than that I really like this car.

2007 Porsche Boxster S

Comments: Oh yea, an S!

3) Mercedes C-Class Coupe. 2012+ and must have the Sport package. I have it on good authority these cars are very reliable. Just do the maintenance. Also it looks fantastic in red and would make a great model for my photography.

2013 Mercedes C350, 24K miles - $22,930

Comments: This car is just out of its warrantee, but it is a one owner car with a spotless CarFax and it is the 350 (a bonus over the 250).

2014 Mercedes C250, 25k miles - $24,995

Comments: This one is a 250, but it too has a spotless one owner CarFax and is still under factory warrantee!! This one also has nice red stitching and suede inserts on the seats.

4) Chevrolet Corvette. No list that included a Porsche would be complete without a Corvette. I would prefer 2008+ with the full leather interior. I could almost see waiting for the C7 (2014+) to get affordable, but that is a ways off.

2008 Chevrolet Corvette, 37K miles - $25,991

Comments: Blue is my favorite color... 'Nuff Said!!!!

2009 Chevrolet Corvette, 19K miles - $27,990

Comments: A little more, a little newer, a little less mileage... and Resale Red!! Oh, and those floor mats will be left at the dealer.

5) BMW 4-Series or 3-Series Coupe or Convertible. A friend that owns a 1-Series convertible told me I should definitely consider the 4-Series. I did a little digging and in my budget there are choices for 428i Coupes. Convertibles are just starting to dip below $30K on the used car market. Unfortunately, I am not seeing any 435i models in my price range... yet. Of course, the 4-Series is very new, so looking at coupes and convertibles I can look at recent 3-Series. Even ones still under warrantee.

2014 BMW 428i, 24k miles - $25,500

Comments: Love these in red or blue. It has the sport seats, which is a requirement for me.

2013 BMW 335i Convertible, 41k miles - $22,998

Comments: If you can't get a 4 series convertible you can go back an extra year or so and get s 3-Series convertible. This has the bigger engine and still has the sport seats. Sweet!

That covers the core cars I will be looking at. I have searches saved on AutoTrader for each of them. I will be keeping an eye on the market and see what happens.

Next are the cars that fall further down the rabbit hole than the Boxster/Cayman. Most of what follows are cars that have massive depreciation. They will almost all be costly to maintain (like a Porsche) and be expensive to fix when they brake (like a Porsche). Some I like better than others, but these all intrigue me and I wonder if I can get one and live with it.

6) 2005-2008 Mercedes SL500, SL55, SL550. This is at the top of my list of older cars that were never affordable when new. Almost every version was over $100K new. Depreciation being the bitch she is, these cars can be had easily for under $25K. Without a doubt... this is the car that absolutely sent me spiraling down the rabbit hole. Maintenance and repairs would have to be planned for (or the car could sit for a long time). The SL55 AMG models were around $125K new. Sweet. I love the styling change to the SL with the 2003 model year, but research shows to avoid the first couple of years. The real fun is that your neighbors will never know it is a 12 year old car you scored for less than the price of a new Civic.

2006 Mercedes SL55 AMG, 57k miles - $24,992

Comments: I wanted to get one AMG in here. Hopefully a better color will come along.

2009 Mercedes SL550, 37k miles - $26,000

Comments: These cars look elegant in white. This was the newest, and best mileage price combination I found. I love the wood on the steering wheel.

2007 Mercedes SL550, 48k miles - $22,900

Comments: I just had to find a red one. This one has a spotless CarFax. Though a three owner car, all the maintenance was done at Mercedes dealerships, and it was sold each time from a Mercedes dealership, as it is being sold now. This is almost as good as it gets. Properly, dealer maintained car with an average of about 5K miles per year. Yea, this is the best I found recently.

7) 2002 Ford Thunderbird. This is a weird one. I would only buy a 2002 because that is the only year you could get turquoise with a two-tone turquoise & black interior. The only way I want it. I have seen very, very nice examples with low mileage for just under $20K. I think these have bottomed out in value. I don't expect them to go up, but if you keep them nice they should hold the value they have. Granted, this car is special to me in that if I buy it it will be the start of my permanent car collection. I would never sell it.

2002 Ford Thunderbird, 37K miles - $19,900

Comments: There is no reason this could not be a perfectly viable daily driver. I really like this car... and in this color. After seeing this one I saw a number of them out there. None were as clean as this one, but this one will surely be sold by 2018.

8) 2006+ BMW 650i Coupe/Convertible. Like the Mercedes SL above, these cars have seen some massive depreciation. Not as attractive as the MB, but a better driver's car. I want a test drive. I also need to do some research to get an idea of maintenance costs and reliability of these.

2008 BMW 650i Convertible, 38k miles - $24,900

Comments: Well within my price range, but maintenance/repair costs could be a huge issue. I get the feeling I could take this car seriously. This car has an earlier version of the iDrive... when people may have still hated it. I need to check into that. This is such a classy car for the money. How cool would it be to drive into Cars & Coffee in this. You would look like someone that had more money than you did. Don't tell any one it only cost $24K. Shhhh, it's a secret.

2010 BMW 650i, 40k miles - $25,950

Comments: These cars look bad-ass in black.

9) 2005+ Mercedes SLK/SLC. This is the "baby" convertible Benz. The first generation of these got the retractable had top before the SL. They are small, so I would have to drive one before I decide. I have seen relatively recent ones still under warrantee for sale under $30K. If I could score a CPO car I would not mind trading in my Ford Focus. Look for the Magic Sky Control option!

2009 Mercedes SLK55 AMG, 33k miles - $27,900

Comments: I just had to get an AMG in here. Too bad it is silver.

2012 Mercedes SLK250, 16k miles - $26,289

Comments: This is a CPO car. However, it is already out of factory warrantee. MB offers unlimited mileage on its CPO cars, but only 1 year extension to the factory warrantee. So, we need to see what is being covered as they sell it as a CPO. But this is what I want. A low mileage CPO car... and its RED!!!

2015 Mercedes SLK250, 17k miles - $27,995

Comments: If you can't have a CPO, this is the next best thing. This was the newest car I saw under $28K. It is very low mileage and still has over 2 years & 32k miles left on its factory warrantee. Good enough. The pictures suck. I saw two 2014s with slightly more miles that looked so much better. But hey, if bad photos gets you a good deal I can live with it.


We have a lot of examples to choose from. Primarily we are looking at Cadillac CTS/ATS Coupes, Mercedes C-Class Coupes, BMW 4-Series Coupes... and in an ideal world... the Porsche Boxster/Cayman twins or a Corvette. I am also leaving the door open for the chance of chasing a rabbit for a massively depreciated luxury/performance car.

Until next time.