Real Wheels Live

Mar 08, 2013

The Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown and guest Lou Ann Hammond will discuss the auto industry. Plus, they'll give purchase advice to readers.

Hi Warren and friends

How old is your car and how much did you pay for it? Was it used or new when you bought it?

How much did you finance and what was your finance rate?

I'm doing a story and want your input. You can answer here, or email me at lou at

Like me on facebook

follow me on twitter

Hi guys, love the work that you do. I've been following the Geneva Auto Show and as always, there's a heady mix of cars for the masses (VW GTI) and for the 1% (Lamborghini Veneno). Which new cars do you think will have the greatest impact over here in the States?

That's easy. Cars such as the VW Golf VII, which won the European Car of the Year Award. They are accessible to the masses, which means that they are the cars that will have a major effect on what cars we will buy.

Warren/Lou Ann, what are your views on buying used cars from rental companies? I know that they are generally driven pretty hard, but I have seen some pretty good deals for late model cars.

did you know you can rent luxury sports cars, like a Porsche 911? I'm driving one from Orlando to Sebring next week!Hertz has Hertz Rent2Buy, you can check them out on the internet.

Yes, you can buy a used car from a rental company, but treat it with as much suspicion as you would any other used car.

Get an independent mechanic, get a carfax report, do all the due diligence you would for any used car and you'll be fine.

Compared to other automotive writers, you all seem to know much less about the actual workings of cars. No offense intended, it's just that you seem to focus more on marketing, model lines, which cars use which fuel types, etc. Have you thought about adding someone who can better answer questions about reliability and repairs?

Interesting point. Let's look at the numbers. With any luck, we wll sell 16 million new cars and trucks in the U.S. in 2013. I doubt that many of those 16 million buyers will have certification in automobile technology. I also doubt that many salespeople selling those cars will have similar certification. But they all will have some knowledge of needs and wants and the ability of said automobiles to meet those needs and wants at a given price...or not. Our interest here is to apprise our readers, our audience, about what is happening in the market and why. We are not a technologiogacl journal, nor do we pretend to be. We try to serve as large an audience as possible, which is probably why we have a larger audience than all of the buff books combined.

I noticed that the Beetle TDI that Warren tested had the manual transmission. Have either of you driven the DSG? Would you expect the diesel to be a good match for the convertible? Thanks.

Warren had a cute article about the Beetle in the WP

Remember the day you guys had the earthquake? Warren and I were in Virginia driving the turbo Beetle with paddle shifters.

DSG is the automatic manual for VW. I like the DSG because it would suit my lifestyle of drinking coffee in highway traffic or going up a hill in San Francisco. If I wanted more control of the car, a sporty feel, I would get the manual.

Audi Q5, Porsche Cayenne, or BMW X5, which one is a better and reliable car?

I'd go with the Audi q5 and be happy, particularly if I could get it in diesel, which offers overall better fuel economy and more torque.

I would take a second look at the Porsche Cayenne. We had the Cayenne diesel and loved it. My neighbor bought one after she saw it in my driveway.

BMW X5 is a stiffer ride, but sporty. On all of these, the diesel will give you about 25% better miles per gallon.

I do love the look, feel and drive of the Audi Q5 and would stress the diesel - again.

At age 24, I drove a VW Squareback with 1600 cc engine. Driving up the east side of the Rocky Mountains, I was passed by a little sports car. Going down the west side, I passed the sports car. Looked down at the speedometer and discovered I was at 90 mph. So I eased off on the gas pedal.

I, too, have fond memories of driving the nation when I was young. During college summer breaks I would get in my car, a Fiat 124 sedan, or a Ford, and drive cross country, or into Canada and hitchhike.

My little Fiat wouldn't have passed anyone going up a hill. I remember having to put the heater on in the summer, going up a hill because the car would overheat otherwise.

How I loved that car and the memories.

Thanks for sharing.

Warren, recently you advised your readers to go with the 2014 Forester turbo as the non-turbo version delivers worse gas mileage. You are wrong, the non-turbo delivers 32 mpg on the highway, not 27. You were comparing the 2014 turbo to the 2013 non-turbo. The 2014 has a CVT transmission and much improved gas mileage. By the way, your "capacities" (in Nuts & Bolts) were also for the 2013 model. The new version has more cargo space.

I don't have the specs in front of me, so I'm going to assume you're correct on fuel economy. I remember the 2.5 liter will still make 170 horsepower but the 2.0 makes better horsepower. You are correct the 2014 gets a cvt, which will help with fuel economy. Subaru's are great vehicles, and I like that the Forester has a rear-camera as standard.

Let's look at the numbers: 100% of vehicles need repair and maintenance, and when we buy new or used, 100% of us want to know about reliability and cost of repair. You don't have to be a technological journal to talk about that, just wish you had knowledge to share about that when people ask.

When we have questions about mechanical problems we solve them with you the best we can. Sometimes we have taken them off-line and asked experts. Most of my/our chatters know that if they have a question they can email me at lou at Garrey from Canada emailed me this week talking about cost of ownership. His cost is 50 cents a mile, while another chatter is 8 cents a mile.

Feel free to ask us a question.

You can manually shift the DSG transmission too if you like.

Yes, you are correect. It's funny, isn't it. I mentioned paddle shifters and yet I still think of a manual as a pure manual that can't be overriden by the car. I"m showing my age. :)

My car is 9 years old, bought it new in Dec 2004 for $24,000. I used my HELOC so no financing but in a way I'm still paying for the car as I've rolled that HELOC into my mortgage and am still paying on it at 3.75% interest! If I had to do over, I wouldn't of used my home equity and just gotten a loan for 5 yrs and aggressively paid it off as quickly as possible

But you thought they way I might have thought - that you get to write that interest off, but now that interest is probably much more than you thought.

Very interesting - email me at lou at I may want to use your experience, if you don't mind.

My car is 10 years old.   I bought it new in 2003 (Honda Accord EX with Nav) for around 16K. I financed all or most of it over 5 years. looking to purchase a new car this year or next. Car has 183K miles on it now. Knock on wood it runs just fine. gets good mileage too average around 30mpg

Would you buy new? How much would you be willing to pay out the door for a new car?

Warren: a few weeks ago someone asked an interesting question, and I'm not sure your answer addressed it. He/she asked about relative repair costs across cars, and wanted to know if there was some kind of authoritative resource that buyers could consult when making buying decisions. If I understood the rationale, the thinking was that this would be a factor that could be included in estimating ownership costs. As an example, he/she cited a friend with an Audi who had to pay some huge amount for a standard brake job. Your response was something along the lines of "adjust your expectations; Audis are expensive cars and therefore are expensive to repair". While that is true as a rule, I don't think it really gets at the question. It would be useful to know if Brand X is more expensive to repair than Brand Y. (Not just Audis and BMWs...comparing VW to Honda to Toyota, etc. Your experience with your Mini is a good example: you've mentioned that Minis are expensive to repair. I'm sure it would have been nice to know this before you bought the car.) So let me resubmit this person's question: do you know of any kind of resource that would be useful in making comparisons like this? Thanks.

Kelly Blue Book put a list of least cost to own over 5 years together. I quoted them a couple weeks ago because the least cost to own of hybrids was the chevy volt.

If you look back a couple weeks, sorry I don't have it here, you will see it.

I can't understand why someone signs on to a FREE chat and proceeds to chastise the folks who take time out to answer questions. If you don't care for the chat, nobody is forcing you to read it! Sheesh. Thanks Warren and Lou Ann! You do a good job of answering the questions that come at you, and you promise to follow up or provide a link if you don't have the answers handy.

:) Thanks

We're not mechanics, we don't pretend to be, but the chatter is right, each car will have mechanical issues. Some people still want to repair their cars themselves, others know that as these cars become more computerized there will be less repairing the cars themselves and more taking it to someone to repair. That is where reports on reliability and repair over a period of time become important.

If you put the two together you can see that we are at the juncture in time where this is taking place.

Thanks for the support.

Have a 2010 Mazda 3 which we put down 1/3 on and financed the rest at 0% interest. Still paying but at least I'm not paying interest. When we replace our other car, I'll finance if I can get a deal close to as good but otherwise paying cash.

Oh, interesting. Did you have to put down 1/3 to get the zero percent financing? Email me at lou at and tell me how good your fico score is to get 0% down.


Our cars are a 1-year old Forester and 3-year old Outback. We always pay cash for new cars and keep them 4 to 5 years before buying new ones. Try to keep the cost to $25-30K (no more than 30) for a new car, .

Ahhh, Subie owners:)

I love that you have kept your budget in check and can buy with cash. You might be the first person, so far, that has said they can do that.

My car is 9 yrs. old. I bought it new, a 2004 Infiniti G35 for $33K. Financed half its cost over 3 years, I don't recall the interest rate. I usually finance half since I don't want to take so much out of savings but I also don't want to pay a lot in interest. I would probably buy new again since I keep the cars for 10 to 15 years.

Do you remember if you got a better interest rate because you put more down?

What is wrong with CVT transmissions? Conceptually they seem to be the right answer to the constant wear and tear on a typical automatic transmission but only a couple of cars are available with it. What is the issue with them?

CVTs are relatively new and some car companies haven't quite got them right. It feels like you're always hunting for a gear.

I asked the President of ZF how many gears you can have before you have a CVT. He laughed. There is a 9 speed coming out, we'll see.

I do know that rental companies strive to keep their cars in good shape and stick to regular maintainence. However, perhaps I'm a bit jaded from years of driving rental vehicles, but I would equate looking at rentals for a used car is like looking for a wife in a house of ill repute. You just don't know how they've been used.

On the other hand, your car would be well experienced :)

I think, not verifiable, a car company, even a rental company, will lose it's cache if it over promises on a car that they know has had problems and trys to sell it for more than it's worth.

Rental companies are becoming a large unit of used car sales.


Lou Ann, our 2011 Chevy Cruze was brought brand new, (don't remember the price but, through USAA it was a great deal). The rate was 1.9%. 2008 GMC Canyon brought in 2012 for 13,000.00 the interest rate was 5%.

Wow! A brand new car for $13,000!

USAA has great deals don't they? I always go to my credit union for financing.

Thanks for the info.

I'm looking to buy a car in the near future. It's not urgent, but I'm getting antsy not having one. I'm thinking about the new Fiesta ST when it comes out, but wondering about manual transmission. Everyone in DC says I'm nuts to want to drive stick in city traffic (I got rid of my car when I moved here), but when I drive I want to drive. Is it really that bad?

I've driven a manual in DC and enjoyed it. It's not like driving in San Francisco with all the hills and you have to play the clutch and the brake and the accelerator. And there are cars that have hill ascent control now with a manual, so even that isn't bad.

Do you like to drive the car when you're driving, or do you like to drink coffee etc?

My car is a 2002 Hyundai Elantra (she has about 160k miles on it). I bought it used (it had two owners before me, both kept every single repair record/receipt) and cost me about $2k in 2010. It had just over 100k miles on it when I bought it, but not by much. It's been a great car!

Do you remember the interest rate?

We have a 2001 Honda Odyssey minivan with 190,000 miles. We bought it used at Carmax for $12k in 2005 with about $2k down and the rest financed with my credit union at 6%. I'm glad that you focus on the non-technical aspects of cars and driving. You would think from some of these comments that the Post did not know this when they hired you. We have the internet now so we have plenty of sources to find out the exact horsepower numbers of the newest BMW. You're more of a columnist than a reporter that way.

Love you.

And thanks for the info.

A couple of years ago we had to replace our minivan (over 200K miles) a bit sooner than hoped, so we did not have time to save up a good-sized down payment. We ended up buying a new 2011 Odyssey with $2,000 down at 2 percent interest, then every month we took the money we would have set aside every month to build up the down payment and used it to pay well above the minimum for our scheduled monthly payments. With this approach, we managed to get the Odyssey completely paid off in 18 months.

Congratulations. You are my type of buyer. Conscientous, no entitlement issues for you.

Thanks for the info.

I don't know if I got a better int. rate by putting half down. Sorry. Love your chats!

interest rates are so negotiable, but dealers don't like to tell you that. :)

No interest rate; we paid cash to the owner directly. One of the rare good Craigslist deals. :)

sweet! thanks

Thank you everyone for all the great answers. I see that some of you have already emailed me directly with more information. Thank you.

Warren, get over your jetlag. Jessica, thanks for all the help.

Let's chat again next week.

And remember -

Never drive faster than your Angel can fly.

In This Chat
Warren Brown
Warren Brown has covered the cars industry for The Washington Post since 1982.

On Wheels Archive

Real Wheels Live Q&A Archive
Lou Ann Hammond
Lou Ann Hammond is the founder and owner of the first privately owned automobile website Recently Lou Ann has developed an automotive and energy issues related website,, that covers a broader range of subjects than solely the automotive or the energy industry.
Recent Chats
  • Next: