‘Zombie’ cars offer huge savings, but come with some risks

Have you heard of buying a 'zombie' car before?

Ford Post 1 Billion Dollar Quarterly Profit
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

Automakers like Ford and Chrysler are dropping mid-size cars by the dozen this year as they focus on trucks, SUVs and small crossovers that buyers want.

That’s leaving many once-popular cars as orphans, or “zombie” cars. Could they be worth buying?

Zombie cars still very much alive

If you remember “The Walking Dead,” you know that zombies are trapped midway between the living and the departed.

That’s the case with almost a dozen car models sitting on dealer lots right now.

A Chicago Tribune headline says “Zombie cars offer sweet deals for consumers,” noting the huge markdowns that typically accompany a model phase-out.

Chrysler has been selling the last of its Chrysler 200 sedans and Dodge Darts for $3,000 or more off the sticker price.

And a Bloomberg News report predicts you will soon see huge discounts on Ford’s Taurus, Fiesta and Fusion sedans, all headed for the automotive graveyard in the next two years.

Downside of buying a zombie car

But you should know those savings can disappear if you trade in your zombie car too soon.

AutoTrader.com says a discontinued model can mean $2,000 sliced off its resale value, because two or three years later no one will want it.

If you are trying to trade it in, you may say “doesn’t that stink?”

If you snap up a deeply discounted zombie, AutoTrader says hold onto it to make it a real long-term value.

And it says don’t worry about finding parts: Discontinued cars will be supported for at least 10 years, if not longer.

Just remember that once a car is discontinued, its used-car value tends to drop faster than most cars, no matter how much you pamper it.

Keep that in mind if you don’t plan to keep it that long, so you don’t waste your money.

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