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What Makes a Premium Marque Car Worth It?
Old 03-10-2017, 09:35 AM   #1
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What Makes a Premium Marque Car Worth It?

DW's car is way too old, but she's clinging to it.

I've been involved in a thread like this elsewhere, and I thought I'd see what kind of responses we get here.

Like most here, I'm a diehard LBYMer, but I've also been interested in cars my entire life. As a baby, my parents told me my first word was "wheel." We're not afraid to spend more for better value, we just hate to waste money.

We keep cars longer than the average person, most 7-10 years. We've had a few nice cars (BMW, Audi, Volvo) but we've had way more Honda's and Toyota's. My Dad always had very nice cars (some would be bonafide classics today), so I was exposed to other premium marques. Every time we get a new car, we struggle with priorities - cost, value, reliability, performance, safety, prestige, features, service locations, etc. As much as I admire nice cars, ultimately it's just transportation. Many of the features and better performance premium cars offer are grossly underutilized, the average driver (self included) can't really never appreciate higher performance. Some people are talented enough to drive a performance car to it's potential, but most people aren't, including most who by performance cars. DW had an Audi TT, a competent sports car - that she drove like a Buick. It was mostly an image thing for her.

So since I'm sorta shopping, I thought it might be interesting to get some perspective from others.
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Old 03-10-2017, 09:53 AM   #2
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I recently went through this same exact thought process. My older "premium marque" car finally bought the farm and I had to replace it. As I was searching for what I might like and what made the most sense for my life, I noticed that the premium / luxury models a) were not rated much higher (if at all) by Consumer Reports and b) the price premiums seemed to be unreasonably large for the extra "value" they supposedly were providing.

For example, in the small SUV class, the price premiums for the least expensive BMW or Mercedes or Cadillac tended to be at least $5,000 compared to the most expensive, fully decked out Mazda or Honda or Ford. And as I looked into exactly what I'd be getting for that extra $5K or $7K (or more), I found that it was essentially nothing I considered important. Did I really want to spend an extra $6,000 for a few convenience features like seat position memory, self-closing doors, and heated back seats? In my case, the answer was a definitive "no". And at this point in my life, the prestige of having the fancy luxury branding was not nearly appealing enough to justify the added cost.
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Old 03-10-2017, 10:04 AM   #3
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I just recently went car shopping and had all these considerations. So I made a spreadsheet. Make, model, looks on a scale of 1-10, price, reliability on a scale of 1-10 based on truedelta and consumer reports and so on. Price per trim level, MPG, storage volume, headroom, legroom, options, favorite color option, etc. Included Honda, Toyota, Acura, Lexus, Buick, Mercedes, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai, Audi, then after some recommendations Subaru, and Mazda.

Honda won hands down for me. Honda won hands down last time when I got my Civic, so my idea of daily transportation needs when it comes to cars is very utilitarian. Comfort and overall cost and whatever storage needs I have come first.

I supplement this with owning a very fun motorcycle, so if I had to wrap it up all into one, I'd be more inclined to buy something more fun to drive.

But I've driven and been driven in some very expensive cars. I'm finding a historic trend that what starts out in the big marque market trickles down. What's in my friend's Lexus from a few years ago is now standard equipment in the Honda I'm picking up. The trim is a bit fancier, but if I went up a trim level in the Honda, that'd be the same too. But a $3k premium for a few accent pieces and an ok sound system isn't worth it to me.

But if I didn't have the motorcycle, and could handle getting down into a lower car still, I'd be strongly eyeing the IS line from Lexus right now.
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Old 03-10-2017, 10:04 AM   #4
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Our only premium car was a lightly used Toyota Supra Turbo that DW enjoyed for a few years before car seats foreclosed it...

But, probably will be buying something above base-level Fit/Civic in the next couple of years, even though our present cars aren't much over 100K yet. Biggest concern will be seats that remain comfortable for a 7+ hour drive (In-laws house, and beyond) and separate climate controls so that we don't need to open my window periodically to make up for DW's need for furnace-type temperatures. I think that will put us over 25,000, maybe even 50,000 if purchasing new? Not sure.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure how those things will square with a manual transmission and minimal computerization/entertainment crudware. Tradeoffs....
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Old 03-10-2017, 10:07 AM   #5
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To me, a car is a car.
I don't really get "impressed" until I see a Lamborghini on the road, which I consider a "premium marque" car.

It's also pretty impressive to see a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud pull up beside you.

Due to reliability and repair costs, I often consider BMW's to be a sucker's car.
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Old 03-10-2017, 10:11 AM   #6
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Due to reliability and repair costs, I often consider BMW's to be a sucker's car.
Based on our experience, and Consumer Reports, I thought some premium marques were reliable. Some definitely aren't, we'd never have a Mercedes or Jaguar. But no disputing repair costs are $$$$ premium...
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Old 03-10-2017, 10:23 AM   #7
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But no disputing repair costs are $$$$ premium...
Yep, this was another big factor for me in choosing a non-luxury brand. Pretty much all of them require high-octane fuel, which nowadays is a good 40-60 cents per gallon more than regular unleaded. And repair bills are substantially higher. Why exactly would I want to burden myself with all that again?
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Old 03-10-2017, 10:27 AM   #8
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I'm considering a BMW lease, with European Delivery, to drive around the Alps.

Yeah the car enthusiasts say you don't want to own some German cars outside of warranty.
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Old 03-10-2017, 10:44 AM   #9
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I'll most likely be buying my next car just about a year from now, and I've already started my research with a nice spreadsheet that is filling up fast. I have nine vehicles on my shortlist and most of the specs on eight of them so far.

Although I've never owned a high end car, I surprised myself by actually having three on the list that I've always considered out of my price range. But when I look at the prices now, I see that the lowest priced one is 86% of the average (of the eight) and the highest priced one is 121% of the average. So not really a huge differential there.

Regardless, I enjoy the research and as time goes by I'll start visiting showrooms and taking test drives, simply because I enjoy the process. I typically get a new one every 5-6 years and at my age there won't be many more so I might as well enjoy them.
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Old 03-10-2017, 10:45 AM   #10
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I have done a lot of maintenance on my cars over the years. Not for my main commuting car. I can now have a car out of service longer as I do some repairs. New cars, let the dealer take care of the warranty issues. Which is why I bought a Hyundai last time around. 5 yr bumper to bumper, 10 yr warranty on the drivetrain. I just left the 5 yr period with no reportable repairs required. Even if I had bought a car with a 3 yr warranty (if built as well) it would have been the same no-cost. Cars are so much better nowadays.

Since I did my own out-of warranty repairs, I generally went with main stream vehicles. They seem to have parts that are stocked at the local parts places and are lower cost. For example, a friend just had his Smart car in for a fuel pump. A rather pedestrian vehicle that has an premium sales outlet, Mercedes Benz. The OEM fuel pump repair was 1150+ Pump alone was >330 Labor was 800 for a couple of hours work. Alternatively, the OEM pump for my 2000 GMC ran me $160 to DIY 2 years ago. My point is premium cars get premium repair costs.

I don't get any thrills from what other people think of the car I drive. A car is a car. It needs to serve the purpose and no more. I get my vehicle pride from the ones I build or restore.
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Old 03-10-2017, 10:57 AM   #11
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1. Hourly repair rates are premium for premium cars.
2. Yes, a premium car exudes a sense of wealth, success and awe to those around. An errant shopping cart, poor roads or idiots opening car doors on you, don't care either way.
3. The never-do-wells notice premium cars and their drivers, and size up weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
4. Insurance companies notice premium cars, too.
4
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Old 03-10-2017, 11:18 AM   #12
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I'm going to go against the grain on this topic it seems. Cars are one of the few places that I spend more than is necessary just to get the "utility" of the purchase covered (i.e. just buying something that will get me from point A to point B.

For me, a car must first meet two primary criteria for me to even consider it. It must:
A. Have what I consider adequate power (when I want to punch the gas, it better be able to make me feel the acceleration).
B. It must provide me the comfort I want.

The latter is where I tend to get picky and most "cheaper" cars don't cut it for me. Seat comfort, features, layout, ride noise, etc all come in to play for me at that point. Heck, I may avoid Infiniti sedans next time I buy a car because they don't have the option for heated and cooled seats right now (just heated); Mercedes are out of the question until they revamp their seats into something I find more comfortable in general. The fact that I've spent a significant amount of time in my vehicles over the past couple decades (averaging close to 20k miles/year) to me indicates that it's an area where the comforts will be beneficial to have. If I'm going to spend 5-600 hours in a vehicle each year, I'm going to make it one that I enjoy both driving and being in and not just get one that I can deal with.
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Old 03-10-2017, 11:25 AM   #13
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Since I did my own out-of warranty repairs, I generally went with main stream vehicles. They seem to have parts that are stocked at the local parts places and are lower cost. For example, a friend just had his Smart car in for a fuel pump. A rather pedestrian vehicle that has an premium sales outlet, Mercedes Benz. The OEM fuel pump repair was 1150+ Pump alone was >330 Labor was 800 for a couple of hours work. Alternatively, the OEM pump for my 2000 GMC ran me $160 to DIY 2 years ago. My point is premium cars get premium repair costs.

One thing to note here is that the fuel injectors might be at the combustion chamber which is call direct injection and these fuel pumps are very expensive because the pressure has to be higher than the compression on the chamber.

Lots of new cars from Honda, Toyota's have started to migrate to this because of better fuel economy. I have started to hear of some problems with the valves getting all junk up with carbon.

If I was looking for a new set of wheels, I will avoid cars this direct injection and CVT transmissions.
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Old 03-10-2017, 11:27 AM   #14
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... Seat comfort, features, layout, ride noise, etc all come in to play for me at that point. Heck, I may avoid Infiniti sedans next time I buy a car because they don't have the option for heated and cooled seats right now (just heated); Mercedes are out of the question until they revamp their seats into something I find more comfortable in general. ...
Which brands/models have you found to be best for seat comfort?
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Old 03-10-2017, 11:29 AM   #15
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No argument there . If that is one of your "criteria" then by all means, it should be part of the equation. My point was I don't by a premium vehicle for a status symbol. I used to drive 20,000/600 hrs per year too, for many years some days 20 hrs straight. Now I only drive maybe 5 or 6K. My requirements changed as my life did. From what you wrote, it sounds like your criteria are more creature comfort and performance than a particular premium marque.


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Originally Posted by exnavynuke View Post
I'm going to go against the grain on this topic it seems. Cars are one of the few places that I spend more than is necessary just to get the "utility" of the purchase covered (i.e. just buying something that will get me from point A to point B.

For me, a car must first meet two primary criteria for me to even consider it. It must:
A. Have what I consider adequate power (when I want to punch the gas, it better be able to make me feel the acceleration).
B. It must provide me the comfort I want.

The latter is where I tend to get picky and most "cheaper" cars don't cut it for me. Seat comfort, features, layout, ride noise, etc all come in to play for me at that point. Heck, I may avoid Infiniti sedans next time I buy a car because they don't have the option for heated and cooled seats right now (just heated); Mercedes are out of the question until they revamp their seats into something I find more comfortable in general. The fact that I've spent a significant amount of time in my vehicles over the past couple decades (averaging close to 20k miles/year) to me indicates that it's an area where the comforts will be beneficial to have. If I'm going to spend 5-600 hours in a vehicle each year, I'm going to make it one that I enjoy both driving and being in and not just get one that I can deal with.
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Old 03-10-2017, 11:29 AM   #16
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Sometimes, the lower end of the premiums can be about the same as the higher end of the regular pack.

I know I like a smaller SUV. I also know I like leather and a sunroof, heated seats, satellite radio, etc. I like remote entry. I can add all these to a honda or buick and pay the same as a basic acura or audi. And the premium cars come usually with all those things and little extra touches.

If you're going to spend 10+ years with the car, then the price difference over those years really starts to flatten.
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Old 03-10-2017, 11:43 AM   #17
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Mercedes are out of the question until they revamp their seats into something I find more comfortable in general.
I was astonished at how hard and uncomfortable Mercedes seats are.

I also found it amusing that while even the top end Toyota trim leather seats I find cramped and uncomfortable, I find Lexus to be one of the most comfortable options.

Volkswagen is high on the list for comfort. At least it was when I had my premium trim Beetle. I spent 38 out of 48 hours in one on a cannonball run cross country and couldn't have been more at ease.

I also spent 23 hours once in my Civic, and found the seats to be comfortable enough to need very little in the way getting out to stretch. These seats are really comfortable. The leather highly adjustable ones in the new CR-V are even more so.

I'm on my butt enough with enough back problems that I strongly agree with the philosophy that anything I'm sitting on should be comfortable enough to want to stay seated.
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Old 03-10-2017, 11:52 AM   #18
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If I was looking for a new set of wheels, I will avoid cars this direct injection and CVT transmissions.
Because they're not easy to maintain or repair yourself or because they're less reliable?

I know that electronic fuel injection controlled by chips prevented a lot of smaller shops from working on newer cars because only the dealer could buy expensive equipment to tweak those electronics.
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Old 03-10-2017, 11:57 AM   #19
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Which brands/models have you found to be best for seat comfort?
My BMW had very comfortable seats but I find my Infiniti's seats to actually be more comfortable for longer rides. Seat preferences, however, tend to be quite individual in my experience. A friend loves his Kia's seats, I think the leather is relatively "rough" compared to the soft, smooth leather in my G37 and the headrests push my head to an uncomfortable angle. My dad, on the other hand, hates how low my seats are. When I start looking for a new car, my first step is to go to Carmax and sit in every car in my price range first to narrow it down to what cars are comfortable at the time (just because they were good/bad 10 years ago doesn't mean that's still the case now...). Then I start narrowing it down from there.
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Old 03-10-2017, 12:16 PM   #20
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Some premium cars have actually negative depreciation:
The Ten Least Depreciated Cars Of The Last Ten Years

Limited edition ferrari in there, as well as the audi R8. Hard to know upfront though.

The mini Cooper seems to be a pretty safe bet though. Somewhat premium yet very wanted, so low depreciation. Audi has been doing great in general as well.
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