Finding a used car south of the border – Part 1

Search for a high-value deal takes a surprising turn

Published: February 29, 2012, 6:00 PM
Updated: June 29, 2015, 4:58 PM

Infiniti Q60 Convertible - Antiquing in Pennsylvania – There are some who revel in antiquing. Finding rare or unique items that have been happily used by others decades or even centuries before. Mirrors, chairs, tables and other furniture rank high on the list. As would being able to protect those items, whether hidden gems or mint-condition find. You wouldn't want to be driving an Infiniti Q60 Convertible when you came across one of those can't-pass-it-up treasures.

I really don’t need a car in the practical sense, I have a steady stream of test vehicles and own a couple that my wife and daughters drive.

But I’m a car guy and I "need" a car in the ethereal sense, something to fawn over, to wax even though there are already several coats of 45% carnuba protecting it from whatever might befall it while parked securely in my garage.

The last one I had, never saw rain let alone winter. After 14 months of ownership and a whopping 603 km of driving, a friend made an offer I couldn't refuse. So I sold it, leaving a blank space in the garage – and my life.

A replacement was called for – after all, it would be sheer folly to take the proceeds of the sale and invest it, especially in the midst of the worst economic crisis to hit the country in my lifetime.

The funds could obviously be put to better use. Instead of watching it disappear before my very eyes like the rest of my meager investments, it could be parlayed into something I could see, touch and enjoy while it depreciated.

I earn a living reviewing, driving and writing about new vehicles and related issues. The vast majority of them are well outside my budget. The cars I own are practical conveyances that meet the needs of my family – safe, reliable and affordable.

But as a long suffering "car guy" I am constantly involved in discussions with my similarly-afflicted friends about such worldly issues as what would be a fun car to own? Where are the good buys?

Lately those discussions have centered around the opportunities in the luxury and entry-luxury segments. These are vehicles built to a high standard and loaded with features – vehicles that depreciate very quickly, some more than others.

Folks shopping in this segment generally lease and after a couple of years want something new and different. There is nothing wrong with the vehicle – it is just time for a new one.

These discussions became more serious once I was truly in the market. One brand that caught my eye was Jaguar. The troubled English company, saved from bankruptcy by Ford – once again found itself on the auction block when Ford’s financial woes deepened.

This state of affairs did little to prop up resale values. Then word came that Tata bought Jaguar, and while those of us in the know were aware of the huge resources of this conglomerate and the improved outlook it brought to Jaguar, the immediate public perception was not as positive.

The retained or resale value of Jaguars suffered and the Jaguar S-Type was high on my list along with the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class, Lexus IS and Acura TL.

The list was predicated on the fact that if I bought a family-suitable vehicle it would get more use than the little quasi-four seater I had just sold.

The search was well underway for one of the above, but not restricted to that. It quickly became evident that a three to four-year-old model was in my price range – at about half the original value. Low mileage and pristine condition were the priorities and I was willing to give up a year in trade for those properties.

These restrictions narrowed the selection considerably so the scope of my search expanded to the rest of the country – and then with the Canadian dollar at or near par with the American dollar I started casting my net in the deep south where rust was only a word and people bought luxury cars upon retirement and used them gently and very little. It didn’t take long to find a number of candidates in Florida.

A little research showed that there are a number of auctions each month in south Florida, including one in West Palm Beach where 1,600 cars a month are auctioned after coming off lease and a more general event in Miami where thousands of vehicles are sold each month.

I found a few dealers with good reputations and started asking them to keep an eye open for a 2004 or 2005 Jaguar S-Type. Soon I was inundated with information and narrowed the field to two in particular, both in exceptional condition, silver or champagne in color, 20,000 miles on the clock and $16,000 or so. I was set.

Then my family got involved.

When my wife and a daughter saw the photos, both questioned my choice of a four-door luxury car instead of something more interesting. I had become so intent on getting a deal due to depreciation that I forgot about the fun part.

A change in plans. Instead of an S-Type I renewed the search, this time with a wider scope to include a number of more sporty conveyances including the BMW Z4 roadster. Within two days I had located one - black with champagne interior.

Built in July 2006, leased to a lady in Miami in August and returned at the end of the lease two years later with 18,986 miles on the odometer. All the papers and service history were there, a Carfax check revealed nothing untoward and a deposit was arranged.

Now the game began.