A Sucker No More: Highway Banditry and Honda Badges

About a year ago, I bought a 2015 Honda Fit LX fresh off the lot. It was, in my mind, a mature decision. The Fit was a practical car, a respectable choice that would signify to the world that I may not be “making it” yet, but I’m at least making good decisions. I kept my previous daily driver, a ‘94 Miata, as a sort of vestigial tail of rebellion. Plus, it was fun to say that I had a “weekend car” when talking to people at the bar.

Two things happened that would result in my mutiny on the Good Ship Maturity:

  1. I sold my Miata. It wasn’t getting driven with the regularity it deserved, and seeing it in my carport was a bitter reminder of how cool I used to be. I then blew the money on stupid shit that I would eventually regret or sell.
  2. An uninsured driver sideswiped the rear quarter panel of the Fit in a location that couldn’t be PDR’d into perfection. The insurance estimate was just under my $1000 deductible, a number I had chosen with misplaced confidence in the driving ability of my peers.
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I left the dent on the Fit as a mark of shame and because it didn’t seem like it was worth $950. Meanwhile, the car was falling apart in a manner that ill befitted the H-badge on the grille. The top of the huge dash panel had shrugged its way out of alignment, and interior panels were falling off like Ja Rule circa 2003. Front bumper cover sag, a common complaint on these cars, was making itself apparent with the panel gaps on the front end growing ever wider. And though I frequently shouted at the car while driving for its Radio Flyer-esque ride quality and sketchy handling characteristics, it did not make any efforts correct these flaws.

The honeymoon was over, but I knew that I couldn’t sell the car as it sat without taking a huge hit because of the body damage. I found myself sitting in front of an estimator’s desk at a local body shop, preparing to pony up the required ducat for the repairs that would free me from the clutches of this foul subcompact. After he hit me with the expected estimate, he suggested in passing that I run it past CarMax before I lay down the cash to fix it. Worth a shot, he reckoned.

That estimator is the hero of this story.

The next free Saturday, I drug the Fit to Big Blue with an unwashed exterior and the interior covered with fresh coffee from a fistfight with a cortado dulce. I fiddled around with the Scion iQ in the showroom while they dissected my car, all the while girding my loins in preparation for what I was quite sure would be a four-digit number. 45 minutes later, the saleslady called me into her office and handed me a sheet that offered $13,500 for my car.

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$13,500 for a base model Fit with an “undesirable” 6-speed manual, a sideswiped quarter panel, and 15,400 miles.

$13,500, or about $300 less than KBB’s “Very Good” private party number (which is admittedly bullshit, but everyone uses in negotiation).

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$13,500, or about $3k more than I owed on the car, meaning I’d be walking away with cash in my pocket.

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I may frame this.

I sold the car one week later for that exact number after calling around to several local dealers (including local sleazeballs Texas Direct Auto) to see if they’d match it. Nobody got within $1000, even before figuring in the body damage. The process was painless, even though I’m almost convinced they made a mistake in offering me what they did.

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The drive-out number at the dealer for my Fit was $16,500, meaning that the price before TT&L was around $15,300. That’s $1800 to drive the piss out of a brand new car for the better part of a year, or around $165/month. I know people with smartphone bills that high. It’s money I’ll never get back, but it was entirely worth it to drive a reliable, ostensibly fun car with a bangin’ stereo for the better part of a year.

It is very stupid to sell a car less than a year after purchasing it new, but if you’re going to do it, buy a Honda. And if you’re going to have it for longer than that, the depreciation curve would flatten out significantly more after a year.

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Stay tuned for the tale of its replacement.

Author’s note: I hope this didn’t read like a CarMax ad, but just in case it did: never ever buy a car from CarMax unless it’s hugely unreliable and you get the warranty - they’re selling my Fit for more than it cost new. Also, I don’t know how leases work, so let me know if they’re better deals than this.

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