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Car Angel finds heavenly deals

web provided Greg Macke at dealership

Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News senior reporter

Buying a car should not be an exasperating experience, according to Greg Macke of Ojai.

But all too often, the process involves hassles, haggling and headaches, which is why he started a car-finding business.

Macke, 59, founded Your Car Angel in 2007, but he has been buying cars for other people for more than 40 years. The first car he bought for someone, a Ford Falcon, was for one of his six sisters, circa 1980, when he was 18.

In his job as car-finder, Macke becomes the client’s assistant and guide — their Car Angel, “making sure that the person who’s hired me to help them buy a car is getting the most car for their money; the best car with the best experience,” he said.

First, he interviews the client about the car they’re looking for. “I help them make a good decision on what type of car to buy.” While some people know what they want, “some people have no idea. They really lean on that part of the service.”

Then he goes about finding that car at a dealership or from a private party.

Next comes the inspection. Macke estimates he has inspected tens of thousands of vehicles during his career, looking for previous, undisclosed accident damage, teenage abuse and whether the car was highway- or city-driven.

For every car he buys, Macke has inspected seven or eight others. Most used cars in a dealership’s lot will fail his inspection.

Macke does all the haggling with the dealer and arranges the test drive. Some buyers will negotiate like crazy to get the best price on the car, he said, “only to be taken at the end of the deal by dealer add-ons.”

Then he gets his client the best financing rate possible.

Saving money is not the most important aspect of what Macke offers. “Really, I save time and energy. That can sometimes be more valuable than the amount of money you save,” he said.

Macke is a consumer advocate, a personal assistant who specializes in cars. “My vested interest is in getting the best car for my client, period,” he said. Dealers are more ethical and play by the rules when they deal with him. “There’s a breath of fresh air that I feel comes into the whole staff at a dealership, because the Car Angel is here.”

He charges $850 to buy and $850 minimum, with a sliding scale, to sell a car.

In selling a car, Your Car Angel’s job is to make the car as valuable as possible for the market. Detailing a vehicle makes it worth more and easier to sell. “You’re going to get more people looking at it,” said Macke, who personally details the engines on all cars he sells. “When you sell, I get you the most money for your car.”

Who makes the best cars, trucks and SUVs? “Toyota, in general, has always had the best manufacturing processes of any automotive company,” said Macke, based on the philosophy of “kaizen,” a Japanese term meaning “constant improvement.”

“It’s proven that Toyotas last a long time, and that shows up in resale value,” said Macke. And they tend to stay in the family. It was Toyota that introduced the six-digit odometer.

According to Macke, an electric vehicle revolution is underway, with Tesla leading the charge. With the price of batteries coming down drastically, there’s now a parity in price between internal combustion and electric vehicles, which are nearly maintenance-free because they have a motor instead of an engine.

Car prices are high because fewer new cars are being built, fewer new cars are being sold and fewer used cars are being turned into dealers.

That’s going to change over the next few years as more people buy an electric vehicle to replace their aging gas-powered vehicle. “Internal-combustion cars are going to be as cheap as dirt,” Macke said. Lately, he’s bought quite a few Teslas, which have the advantage of charging stations located just about everywhere.

Macke has created more than 125 videos for his YouTube channel that help his more than 175,000 subscribers buy and sell cars. Many of the videos deal with problems to look for when buying a certain make and model.

Your Car Angel also offers a consultation service where people can hire Macke for $100 an hour, for not only advice on buying a car but on things like DMV services.

The first car Macke owned? A 1967 Buick Skylark he bought when he was 15 but couldn’t drive for a year, so he worked on it instead.

To be the Car Angel, you have to love cars. “But really, you have to love people, because this is a people business about cars,” Macke said. “You have to have those two things in the right order.”

 

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