What is your opinion on people buying very old expensive brand vehicles?

Hello CarTalk. What do you think of people who buy very old and expensive car brands?

When I first migrated to the United states, I lived in a community of poor people and my neighbors mostly owned 15-20 year old top brand vehicles, such as BMW, Mercedes and Range Rover.

They were poor ( such as myself ) as we were renting out section 8 apartments.

While I’m someone who believes people should buy whatever they want and can afford, I also believe buying top brand vehicles, especially really old ones, and when you are struggling to make ends meet, is ridiculous; it just doesn’t look right.

But maybe I’m missing something here. Maybe there are incentives to buying these old top brand cars that I’m unaware of ? If this is the case, do you mind opening up my eyes ?

Once again, people should buy whatever they want. It’s none of my business to tell people what they should or shouldn’t buy. That’s ultimately people’s decision. I’m just not understanding the reason to purchase very old top brand vehicles while living in section 8 apartments.


You get a lot of room to haul people in those big old cars. If you have a big family, such a thing may well make sense. The compromise is those big older cars are probably going to incur more repair expenses.

The other factor is that the purchase price is often pretty reasonable on those older, bigger cars. This 1990 Bentley Turbo sold for only $9,200.

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You just answered your own question.

Cars like the models you mention are inexpensive to buy and very expensive to maintain and repair. That’s why acquisition price is so low. Btw, you were very lucky to find a vacancy in Section 8 housing. Cream of the crop in the low income world.


Interesting that taxis in Europe are Mercedes and bmw, not Hondas and Toyotas. They wouldn’t drive them if they weren’t cost effective. Maybe not in the us but markets are different.

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Mercedes and BMW make excellent, well designed cars. IMO, the reason they are considered expensive to repair is an economy of scale factor more than anything else. Taxi companies presumably have their own repair shops and they only repair a few basic-equipped models. When the taxi starts acting up, the repair shop has probably already seen whatever the problem many times, and knows how to fix it without needing to do a time consuming diagnosis.


Yep, the taxis in Germany are not the loaded models we get here, I imagine taxes also make a difference.


Yea. I stayed in section 8 for two years. 3 bedrooms for $1300 per month.

I occasionally visit such a place for the memory and I’m still noticing old top brand cars being parked in the residents parking spots.

I’ve always wanted a bmw 340i. But everyone tells me to steer clear of the brand. I don’t understand why a bmw can’t be as reliable as a Toyota with care. I care for my vehicles always and I tell people this but they say it doesn’t matter how careful I treat the car, its plastic pieces will need to be replaced and that’s a lot of $$$

I’m not sure . . . but I believe the taxis in europe are often owned by the drivers

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You can lavish care on something all day long, that isn’t going to prevent a design defect, poor materials choices or insufficient design margin from rearing their ugly heads…no amount of polishing, changing fluids etc is going to stop electrical defects from happening if the design or materials are poor…The care first has to come when they design and build the car…

I’ve bought a few well used luxury cars when I was younger. They are so far depreciated that they were not any different in price than any run of the mill used car at that point. They were well past the period where common defects would take them out of service. The rare “good one” that was a survivor- every make has those even if the majority are problematic. So buying them at that stage let me enjoy some of the nicer features of those cars at a budget price.


The German driver I talked to in Munich did own his car. We started talking because I asked about the vinyl wrap on the car in the official German Yellow Taxi color. It was a Mercedes he bought used, wrapped and put into service as a taxi. He said he’d put 250,000 km more on the car, peel off the wrap and sell it to buy another cab. His last cab was an Audi A8.

It certainly can… Lexus cars are a good example of that.

Keeping a Euro luxury brand running takes regular service and parts replacement. My 47K mile Audi A4 needed an AC compressor. Less than 50K seems a tad short for that but it always has been a Florida car. It now needs all the front control arms replaced… heat cracked rubber bushings. I bought a heavy duty set of aftermarket arms for $1000. The factory parts would have run me about $3500. I don’t think it is reasonable for these to fail this early. Audi made a choice of a softer ride but shorter bushing life. Maybe because the average German only drives less than 9000 miles a year and the average US driver is 14,500 miles. But my wife and I both like the car so I tolerate this.

My 20 year old GM truck has original bushings on everything. If got a new AC compressor at 135K (but spent 10 years in a cooler state).

My 92K mile, 11 year old “always in Florida” Mustang had one front fluid-filled bushing fail and still has a working AC compressor. And not a spot of rust anywhere.


It takes some upgrades too. BMW uses plastic parts to save money and reduce the MSRP. I used to work with someone that loved 5-series BMWs and owned several of them. He developed a timeline for parts replacement that kept him driving. One part he replaced after a few years was the water pump. The OEM pump has a plastic impeller and it fails after a few years. He preemptively replaces it with a racing water pump that has a metal impeller. He never worries about it again.


I have heard that the cooling system on BMWs should be considered a maintenance item, with periodic replacement of pump and radiator. Sounds like your co-worker had this down to a science.

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To answer the original question… If someone is buying a used Euro luxury vehicle for image when their income is limited (section 8 housing), that person is making a poor financial decision, in my opinion. There is a DIS-incentive to buy one (high maintenance costs!) not an INcentive.

The old joke is; If you can’t afford a new BMW, Merc or Audi, you can’t afford a used one.

The used car prices of these cars tells the story. If the BMW is cheaper than a comparable Lexus, then the BMW will drain your finances faster than the Lexus.


Lexus used the double ball joint suspension system on the LS460, the bushings tore in 5 years. The control arm bushings were revised in 2010, they last longer but not as long as expected.

I have seen clean Lexus LS460’s bought by men in their thirties for $20,000, later to find the car needs $10,000 in suspension work. When I see a LS460 with a new license plate and custom wheels in the shop, I know this is going to be a bad experience for the owner.


Part of the reason I expect is the engineering compromise b/t reliability and performance. BMW’s designs tend to accentuate performance. BMW’s sold in the USA also tend to be “full-up” configured, meaning they have many modern conveniences; i.e. the complexity vs reliability compromise. This is what their market segment wants.

I expect you’d be as happy or more with the reliability of the 340i as the Toyota equivalent, provided all of BMW’s recommended maintenance was performed on schedule.

Thanks for mentioning this. I’m a custom wheel type of guy and hearing this makes me second think my intention for getting new wheels.

Aftermarket wheels can cause problems but that isn’t the point. A young man buys an $80,000 car for 1/4 the price, then spends the rest of his money on wheels before discovering how expensive parts and repairs are for his shiny new purchase.