Buying a car right now is insane

My oldest son started driving earlier this year. We have been looking on and off for a car for him. With back to school and he being a senior in high school, his desire to get a car increased dramatically. So, we started the process. It’s not surprising to learn that, in this car market, used cars are selling for insane prices. My daily driver, a 2017 Honda Accord Sport with 33k miles is now, according to, worth a several thousand more than what I paid for it new.

Here are several observations we made over the last two months of looking for a used car. Some of these places were so bad that it is a public service to mention them by name.

  • Dealerships showrooms are empty of new cars. We went to a Toyota dealership that had just one brand new car on the whole lot. We were looking for used but it was very weird to walk into an empty car showroom.
  • Sales staff are at the bare minimum. When we pulled up at Old Saybrook Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM dealership, through the window, the showroom was entirely empty of cars. In the front window was a salesman sound asleep in his office chair. When we went in, there was no one to greet us. All we got was a yell over a cubicle wall. No one even got up.

The sales tactics are worse than ever –

  • Some places won’t quote you an “out the door” price unless you come into the showroom. This is no matter how hard you work to get them to reveal the actual price and fees that you will face. What they are trying to hide is sometimes hard to believe.
  • One place had pretty decent prices advertised online. But, after talking with them, the fine print was pointed out. “Please note that the Special Price reflects a $1,250 Bertera Subaru of Hartford Loyalty Rebate which requires a trade-in of a previously purchased Bertera Subaru of Hartford vehicle”. Apparently, they don’t want their customers to have more than one vehicle purchased from them. Don’t tell their service department!
  • Many advertised prices require dealer financing and there is an up-charge for paying cash.
  • Other advertised prices assume a down payment is made in addition to the quoted price. I was seeing this as high as $2,000. Obviously done to game the car search sites and get on the radar of those searching by price. And, who isn’t?
  • My state (CT) allows a “dealer conveyance fee” to cover the costs of selling the car including paperwork, etc. This is traditionally very difficult and often impossible to negotiate under any car market conditions. It is printed on many sales contracts. The average fee is just over $400 but many dealers charge $500 to $700 for this. I’ve found that the only recourse is to have them discount the purchase price for the amount of the dealer conveyance fee. But, in this difficult used car market, it is not easy to get any discount from the asking price.
  • Some places automatically add on VIN etching and other “services” as non-negotiable extras.

This is probably the best/worst example of what we were seeing –

This includes the “dealer conveyance fee” of $698.72 (the highest we saw anywhere) and, on top of that, a Government Fee of $490.00 (a new registration in CT is only $177.00. I have no idea what the rest of this is). Plus they added the dreaded VIN ETCHing. And, that $750 Total Savings? It’s not valid for cash sales or those with outside financing.

Worst of all was Road Ready Used Cars which required all cars it sold to have rust proofing added. This was on top of the same problems as the previous dealership; a high conveyance fee, VIN etching add-on and an up-charge for paying cash.

Vehicle pricing includes all offers. Tax, Title and Registration not included in vehicle prices shown and must be paid by the purchaser. Prices do not reflect our $698 conveyance fee, $199 Vin Etch, and Rust Proofing starting at $799. Vehicles not applicable for rust proofing have paint protection added for $799.  All prices reflect a 5% finance savings.

I accepted that I would have to pay the conveyance fee and the VIN etching but they simply would not budge on the rust proofing requirement and only (kind of) flexed on it once I threatened to stop the conversation. This place was so darn proud of their rust proofing! I was informed that they have a dedicated person trained to do it. Luckily for us, they have a full page detailing it on their web site and it’s everything we’d hope to allow us to deep dive into what ? this is. This is so absurd I can’t help but dissecting this.

Watching the video, we hear that the application process requires the use of hazmat suits. Obviously, this is due to the aerosol nature of the application. It goes everywhere. Yet, there is no apparent masking done to any part of the vehicle in the video. This is more than obvious if we check out the ‘after’ pictures where we can see the body of the vehicle being rustproofed. There is lots of overspray directly on the rockers.

The product they are using, KS500 Sprayable Bitumen Underbody Protection, has a tech sheet which states “DO NOT spray on engine parts, the transmission, brakes, or exhaust system pipes”. Clearly though, they are coating the brakes. We see the rustproofing on the caliper and even on the face and edge of the rotor! Again, no masking looks to have been attempted even on parts that are not supposed to be coated. Even if they plan to come back in and clean the rotor, I really think that the next brake job on this vehicle is going to be extra painful to do.

The last thing we’ll highlight here is something we see in the below before and after comparison. That is the rust proofing of the spare tire with material applied to both the the wheel AND the tire.

This is just lazy. A spare tire is pretty easy to remove by design. Wouldn’t you be better to rust proof with the spare tire off of the vehicle and protect the body above the tire? Maybe they did this but, based on what I am seeing in the other pictures, I doubt it. Remember that this is the vehicle that they chose to feature as an example of how good their process is.

So, here we had a used car purchase which required rustproofing that’s applied for a cost starting at $799 and done so haphazardly that any benefits of it are offset by the overspray both directly and indirectly on your new-to-you car’s body, on the brakes and on other things you probably don’t want rustproofed. For me, even though the car I was looking at there was probably a great car and a great value, this requirement alone made me look elsewhere.

And, looking elsewhere is what we did. We ended up buying a Honda at Weeks Pre-owned in Danbury, CT where we paid a $499 dealer conveyance fee, $250 for registration and DMV fees, no additional cost for paying cash, the list price on the web site is what we paid (actually, we paid less as we even got a small reduction off the list price) and no VIN etching requirement (in reality, the car already had it done and it was never even mentioned).

Putting the pedal down

In times like these, it may seem like the best thing to do is to follow the herd. Which seems to be letting up, putting things on pause and waiting for things to get better. But, I think that’s the wrong thing to do. It’s time to double our efforts. We need to excel in our work lives, excel in our personal lives, be better partners, be better parents and most of all, use this new found time that we all seem to have to grow ourselves, learn new things and continue to do the things we love. Especially, those things that we might not have had time to do previously.

Rather than letting off the gas, I’ve been putting the pedal down. So, among trying to do those other things that I mentioned, I’ve been putting more time into something I love – this site. I’m trying to invest a little every day. And, it’s been therapeutic. One of the main things that I got done was to get this blog up and running again. And, by doing that, I realized just how long it’s been since I’ve had and used this as an avenue to express myself. If you read back a few posts, I didn’t think it was something I needed any more. Well, I think I was wrong.

In that vein, I wanted to give an update on the things I’ve been working on to make the best use of the free time I’ve been lucky to have.

Updates and security patches to the software used by this site and

This site uses a number of separate software packages each for the main site, the forums and this blog. All of these require regular patching and updating. These types of things don’t usually result in a visible change on the site but are important to keep up with for bug fixes and, especially, for security patches. I’ve sometimes fallen behind on these. But, not recently.

Separate from this I also started the process of evaluating an upgrade the main software package that this site uses which is called Drupal. A more up to date version than what I’m currently using is available and I have started the process of determining the complexity and process of that upgrade.

Registering for the tent for Carlisle Ford 2020

It’d be easy to put this one off. The deadline for tent registration is still weeks away and the I question whether the event even will happen. But, I didn’t let that stop me. I’ve committed to it now and am paid in full for the tent and tables. And, I hope you commit to it, too. Don’t forget to register by May 4th!

We should again be located in the 1987 to 1993 Mustang LX Stock class.

Signing up for Ford Performance Club Connect

You may have seen the front page post on this. I had a nice email exchange over email with the Club Connect team to answer some questions that I had on the registration process. They were very helpful and responsive. As such, we are on the map but no longer listed at my home address!

Getting the auction history back up to date

This tracking has been on and off for the last couple of years. It’s a lot of work and, with the decline in ebay partner benefits, it has been a long time since it has been able to cover the costs of running this site. But, I still see the value in it so I continue. I’ve been considering other revenue models like a Patreon effort to support what I am doing. But, for now I’ll keep at it the best that I can. As always, click the links to support the site. Even if you aren’t purchasing the items I am linking to, I still benefit from your clicks.

Getting postings going again on

Last year at this time, I went full out on the new project that Fox Feature Cars became. I posted nearly every day until I burnt after a few months of it. It was intense to post once a day. And, quite honestly, there aren’t enough feature cars for sale to warrant a daily post.

So, I’ve taken a more measured approach. I am going to post but not every day if it isn’t appropriate. If there are great cars, sure. But if there is nothing on my radar, I’m not going to dig deeper to find something that might be sketchy or something being pushed by a dealer and/or of questionable value.

So, join me on this. Let’s all improve ourselves and creation a distraction for ourselves and, quite possibly in doing so, create a distraction for others. And, since the weather is getting nice almost everywhere, get that Mustang out and put the literal pedal down.

Blog is back online

At some point, the WordPress software used here broke and was producing an error; no blog content, just the error.

“Your PHP installation appears to be missing the MySQL extension which is required by WordPress.”

I finally got off my butt and figured it out. I figure it broke when I upgraded the version of PHP being used on the site when trying to fix something else (possibly the forums) which made it incompatible with the really old version of WordPress being used.

The solution was to update to the latest version of WordPress. Which I did and the blog content is now back.

Now the question is whether I will continue writing new posts. I haven’t decided that yet. I know my last post states that I wouldn’t be posting anything else here and using either the main page or the forums. The truth is that those two options seem much more formal than I would like for my blog posts. Posting my sometimes random thoughts on the main page or in the forums just hasn’t been comfortable. I may restart using the blog. I’m not sure yet.

Blog now closed

Just a quick note that the blog is now maintained as an archive and will not receive new posts. Comments are closed as well. New content will appear on the front page of this site and no longer be “hidden” here. When new content warrants commenting, a discussion thread in the forum will be opened. This is being done to reduce the number of places where new content and commenting happen on the site.

We already know 5.0 Fox and Coyote 5.0. This is Bear 5.0

I’m a very data-oriented person. I find satisfaction in recognizing, in seemingly random situations, numbers that are meaningful to me.

For example, I have been agonizing over spending money on a new laptop when my current one was still mostly meeting my needs. When I finally pulled the trigger on a new one, I paid online using my credit card’s one time use account number feature. The last eight digits of which were exactly my birthday (YYYY MMDD). Weird. But, it helped me rationalize that the purchase was meant to be.


Last weekend, a bear visited our yard. We have heard there are bears in the area but have never seen one. I looked out just as this guy successfully lowered our bird feeder. The feeder is suspended about 15 feet above the ground using a rope and pulley system. He must have unhooked the rope looped on a j-hook on the tree by pulling it off the hook.

He cleaned out the feeder before moving on. While he was there I snapped many pictures of him. I took one as he recognized that I was watching him. At that point, I realized he was tagged. As I later reviewed the pictures I zoomed in and found a number very familiar to me.

Car repair and roasted nuts

This is a nice story about roasted nuts which is perfect as we head into the holiday season…

I just completed an interesting car ‘repair’. It was not on my Mustang but it was still pretty fun. And, a pretty good repair success that I don’t mind bragging about.

Yesterday, the family piled into the car for a trip to the store. As we sat there warming up the car, we smelled coming through the heater vents, the scent of something burning. It was not a typical synthetic, car problem smell but organic like burning wood or leaves. We all bailed out. Under the hood were signs that a mouse was active. Acorn shells and other bits were present in a couple of places but nothing that appeared to be burning. We took the other car.

Today, I started to debug the location of the problem. I hoped a mouse hadn’t made its was into the heating ducts. That’s happened to me before but the quickness of the burning in this case made me think that some part of the exhaust system was involved.  What else could heat up so quickly?

After a little looking around and removal of a heat shield, I spotted the problem. Actually, I almost missed it. Due to the strength of the smell I was looking for something big. I thought that I would find a mouse nest and possibly the remains of its inhabitant. But, there it was –

Acorn in its perch

A roasted acorn.

Burnt acorn

Back from sunny FLA (with a picture you probably wouldn’t expect to see here)

Yesterday, I got back from an 8 day trip to Florida. It was a nice winter break. I was in the Orlando area. Over a week ago when I left it was around 0 degrees here. The temperature gauge in my fathers car showed -5 at one point on the way to the airport. The weather there wasn’t perfect but it was still pretty good.

The trip was not without its hiccups. Our furnace here quit mid way through the week. I had the controller replaced just before we left due to some problems we were having. It turns out that the replacement was defective. Luckily, we had informed my father of the problem we thought was fixed and he was checking the house daily and discovered that the furnace was not running. He saved the day and was able to get it repaired before we got back and, more importantly, before any pipes froze.

Also, I had hoped my latest automation to ebay auction tracking would have kept it in low maintenance mode but things did not go so well with it. The automation did not pick up many of the feature car-related auctions as I had hoped it would. There were some oddities in the data coming back from ebay that I didn’t anticipate. I hope to write more details on it later. I was back on it tonight and have done more fine tuning.

While in Orlando, I went to EPCOT (as well as many other of the theme parks). At EPCOT, after I rode Test Track I was surprised to find a 2010 Camaro in the post-ride display area. I had no idea it was there although I can’t say I follow that car as closely as the Mustang. I only had my camera phone so the quality of the pictures I took was pretty poor.

2010 Camaro at EPCOT's Test Track

Overall, I liked the car in person even more than what I have seen in photos. This model seemed to be a base model with black steel wheels and plastic inserts where the fog lights would go on a higher trim model. After seeing this, I can’t wait to see the real thing when they come out later this year. Competition is good.

Achieving a balance with nature

I have a lot of respect for nature and our earth. I have written about preserving our earth for the future as well as responsible outdoor lighting. But, this isn’t about that at all.

I took my son to a birthday party over the weekend on Saturday. It was at a local farm. They had a petting/feeding event with a variety of animals as well as a hay ride. Good outdoor fun on a really nice spring day. Except, I was dissed by a llama. I took this picture about 30 seconds before this little ba$tard spit in my face!

Spitting llama

That’s my three year old son in the picture. He was going to put some food in that bucket but got understandably spooked when these guys quickly started moving in. So, he backed off. I guess this upset the one in the center because I then heard a hissing sound and was sprayed with…who knows what. I didn’t know what happened but a nearby mother heard my gasp and said “I heard that llamas spit but I’ve never seen it happen.” Until now I guess. I wiped it off my face and shirt and moved on.

That evening, I had an opportunity to take the Mustang out for the first top down drive of the season. It was awesome! About 10 minutes in, as it was nearing dusk, I noticed my windshield seemed to be much hazier than when I started out. I realized that I hadn’t washed the car after taking it out of storage and the windshield was covered with some of the overspray from the conditioner I used on the top before storing but it seemed odd.

When I got home I was shocked to see the carnage on my front bumper, hood, side-view mirrors, windshield, A-pillars, basically every front-facing surface. I think I must have taken out 1000 mosquitoes!



I originally thought that this was about balance. I am a firm believer that things always even out. I liken it to the amount of energy in the universe; none gets created nor destroyed. It just gets transferred from one place to another. Do something nice for someone and something nice will happen to you. Nature got me and I got it back.

But, this Sunday evening I had to clean off those bugs.

Nature 2, John 0.

My “MINI” obsession

Go easy on me…I need to get something off my chest.

Maybe it is just the time of year but I’m really starting to miss driving a fun car. My daily driver just isn’t doing it for me. Actually, my wife and I switched cars this winter since she needs 4WD for her commute more than I do. The Honda Accord we have just isn’t that exciting. OK, it’s not exciting at all.

Although it will probably never happen, I am always thinking about getting another fun car. Don’t worry I’m NOT thinking about replacing the Mustang. Seriously, I have no plans for that.

The MINI seems to be a car I keep coming back to. Curiously, it actually embodies most things I despise in cars: flashy color schemes, vinyl decals, tons of accessory add-ons and retro cuteness. I don’t know why I am attracted to it so much. On the other hand, I do know exactly why I like it. It seems like a blast to drive. The front wheel drive would allow me to drive it all year round. And, you can’t beat the gas mileage.


Now for the obsession part. I talk about the MINI regularly with coworkers. I think my friend at work who sits next to me must be sick of it already. I have a Matchbox MINI on my desk at work (but not a Mustang). I’m reading MINI forums more often than Mustang forums. I have signed up for the MINI web site and have currently two saved MINI configurations.

Phew, now that its out in the open, I feel better already.

When I was a kid and I wanted to purchase something I saved for it. As an adult with credit available I don’t have so much restraint. But, for this I am taking the old school savings approach. Although, at the rate I am going, I should be able to afford a 2008 MINI in 2018. Maybe I should get a paper route. More likely, I will be obsessing about the next want very shortly.