Season’s greetings, humans of Jalopnik, and welcome to Letters to Doug, your favorite weekly column wherein I answer a letter from one lucky reader out there on this lonely blue planet we call Earth.
And don’t forget! You, too, can send me a letters at Letters2Doug@gmail.com. I had to use the “2” because “LettersToDoug” was already taken, probably by some bastard with a first-generation Touareg. Fortunately, karma is undoubtedly getting him back for this great injustice, because his check engine light probably provides more reliable illumination than his headlights.
Anyway, this week’s letter comes to us from a reader I’ve named Milford. Although Milford did not tell us where he lives, I am going to assume it is Florida, because his letter includes several grammatical errors. Milford writes:
Hello Doug, I think your the coolest guy in the whole world and should be president! I hope that’s enough flattery for you to consider my letter. Anyway what happens to 6 figure exotic cars five years after they end production? There are only so many Tavarish’s in the world and I figure carmax warranties won’t cover a Laferrari. I image there is almost no demand since they don’t really depreciate enough to be affordable to us peasants and they don’t end up in junkyards so were do they go or is my answer to search Africa on google maps?
What Milford is basically asking here is: what the hell happens to used exotic cars when rich people who buy them new are finished with them? Fortunately, I happen to be an expert on this subject, because I have spent many hours running Carfax reports on old exotic cars. This has led me to discover a pattern: they disperse.
Allow me to explain. When an exotic car is new, BRAND new, just-off-the-showroom-floor new, first-of-its-kind new, you only see it in about eight places in the United States. Namely:
- La Jolla, California, parked next to a Nissan Leaf.
- Los Angeles, California, cruising slowly down Highland Avenue with the driver looking around hoping people will notice him.
- The San Francisco Bay Area, where people will give it nasty sneers because it isn’t a Tesla.
- Las Vegas, where it was financed over 144 months with 11 different credit cards.
- Dallas or Houston, where the oil-rich owner complains because it isn’t as comfortable as his Chevy Silverado.
- South Florida, where the owner is either elderly and senile or currently under investigation by the FBI.
- Fairfield County, Connecticut, where the tires will constantly pick up horse manure.
- Northern Virginia, where the car is purchased by the owner of a huge private firm that just got a big government contract, but he doesn’t want anyone to know he bought a flashy car with the proceeds, so instead he goes everywhere in his 2007 Impala LS with hubcaps and an expired satellite radio subscription.
Eventually, over the next year or two, these high-dollar exotics start to trickle down to other large cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Austin, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Boston. But they start in one of those eight places, always, without fail, except for that one crazy guy who buys everything and lives in some small town in Indiana where he owns some giant bed sheet manufacturer.
But after about eight years, car enthusiast residents of these places – and other major cities across the country – begin to notice something: the car that was “BRAND NEW” just eight years ago has now disappeared, replaced instead by today’s latest and greatest model. The new thing is out, and the old thing is gone.
For proof, I want you big-city dwellers out there to consider something: when was the last time you actually saw a Ferrari 550 on the street? Or an early Lamborghini Gallardo? Or a Ferrari 348? Or an early Lamborghini Murcielago? Or an early Bentley Arnage? Or a Lotus Esprit? Or an Aston Martin DB7? These cars – once popular; once visible, if you knew where to look – are now gone, gone, gone, like the woman from that Ben Affleck movie where she shows up at his house in a Jaguar XF, bloody and beaten, because Barney Stinson tried to kill her.
So where did they go?
Like I said before: they disperse.
Here’s what happens. When you’re first on the list for a brand-new $250,000 car, you live in a big city and you have a lot of money. But you also get bored very fast. So after six months, you sell your former $250,000 car to someone else in your city for around $180,000. He or she drives it for a few years, also gets bored, and then maybe sells it to someone else local. The $250,000 car is now worth $140,000.
After a few more years, the third owner is ready to sell. By now the $250,000 car is worth $80,000, which means it’s well within the reach of an enormous number of people who couldn’t afford it at first. And so, they do what you or I would do if our dream car was suddenly affordable: they throw caution to the wind, they ignore the fact that it’s an eight-year-old exotic car and the closest dealer is six hours away, and they buy it. “A $250,000 car for eighty grand!” they think.
I can say this with authority because I’ve spent an enormous amount of time running Carfax reports on exotic cars I “spotted” on the road in the mid-2000s, and they all have a common theme: after being sold new in Atlanta, where I saw them, they’re now on the streets of some smaller area like Moline, Illinois, or Tucson, Arizona, or Little Rock, Arkansas, where they are no doubt being obsessively wiped down with a diaper by a new owner who is the absolute talk of his subdivision.
And if you live in an exotic-deprived area, and if you buy a used exotic car at a favorable point on its depreciation curve, your neighbors will never know you paid 75 percent off the original price. Instead, they’ll see a bright yellow Lamborghini Gallardo in the driveway, and it’ll look so different from the normal crop of Chevy Tahoes and Honda Accords that they’ll just have to stare at it, longingly. And then, they’ll do what neighbors always do, which is talk. And they’ll say:
“Did you see Bob’s car? Bob just got a TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND dollar car!”
And what’s old has just become new again.