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Video | I Took the Cheapest Rolls-Royce Phantom to CarMax for an Appraisal: 1 Year Ownership Report

It’s hard to believe, but it’s already been a year since I purchased the cheapest Rolls-Royce Phantom for sale in the U.S. After buying it from one of the fanciest dealerships I’ve ever been to, my Phantom made the trip back to Kansas from Chicago effortlessly — despite its many mechanical issues. Since sorting this massive land yacht, it’s been mostly reliable, and really enjoyable to own. Still, I’m not sure if I’m going to keep it, so I decided to go visit my old friends at CarMax to see what they would offer.

Actually, CarMax wasn’t the first place that I took it for a trade-in offer, as my local Porsche dealer had a 911 Turbo S traded in that I was interested in — but the manager refused to even give me a number. After checking with his wholesale manager, and working his luxury dealer connections in other states, the offers he was getting back were so low, he didn’t want to upset me by disclosing the actual figure. I’ve never been in a situation before where a dealer didn’t want to present an offer and try to make a deal, so it was a little strange. It was also discouraging, especially when considering how much I spent on it over the past year.

When I bought my 2005 Phantom for $80,000 last year, it was the cheapest example I could find for sale at the time — and when I arrived to see it in person, the numerous undisclosed issues helped justify the low price. Both front window motors were tired, and the information center was angry about a suspension fault. There was also plenty of loose and broken trim on the interior — and also the horrible wrap. In an effort to make my Rolls look more like a newer Phantom, vinyl with a brushed metal look was applied to the hood rather poorly, and the trim pieces on the hood looked to be reapplied with crazy glue. Thankfully, none of these issues stopped me from driving 700 miles home to Wichita, Kansas — but I had a lot of work to do.

Shortly after I got home, though, the engine began misfiring badly — but a $25 coil solved my sputtering BMW derived V12 very easily. My suspension fault was also fixed with a new BMW branded suspension pump — but things started getting expensive when my mechanic began sorting the Rolls-Royce specific items. I saved thousands by sending my window motors off to be rebuilt, but there was no getting around my tire problems, as sourcing the original experimental Michelin PAX system run-flats proved to be impossible. Since the double-lipped wheel would not accommodate a traditional tire, I was forced to source a different set from a newer Rolls-Royce, which no longer had this weird tire setup.

In total, I spent around $8,000 to sort out my Phantom ($4,000 of it was just the wheels) and another $7000 in taxes and tags — but thankfully, my Phantom rewarded me with a long honeymoon. I had six months and six thousand miles of flawless ownership, with several road trips, and never for a moment did I think the car would leave me stranded. The car is obviously really well built, but eventually, the BMW parts that run this car finally betrayed me. My only major issue came in the form of a very stereotypical BMW coolant leak, which sidelined the Phantom for over a month.

When I brought it up to my mechanic to diagnose the leak, it initially seemed like an easy fix. The water pump appeared to be the source, a common BMW failure item, but unlike most BMW models, the long nose of the Phantom made it easy to access. I would have been back in business for less than $500 if that was the source of my leak, but sadly, removing the water pump gave my mechanic the ability to finally find the source of my river Nile of coolant.

A seal on a coolant crossover pipe had failed, which is a common BMW malady and requires tearing apart the top of the engine to access. My water pump had a failing bearing as well, so it was replaced along with this massive job. With the intake off, I decided to let him replace the remaining coils and spark plugs while they were easy to reach, and do an oil change. Even with the savings of using my affordable independent mechanic, the cost of this major service was $2,600.

Thankfully, the car has behaved itself since, but as I float over our 1 year anniversary together, I find myself debating whether I should keep it. I love the fact that it’s the last great land yacht, the last built in a way that goes back to the hand-built, coachwork assembly from over 100 years ago — but the car is very ostentatious, attracting way more attention than I want. I love the old school luxury experience, where quality and comfort is paramount, and gadgetry is an afterthought (or entirely ignored), but it would be nice to have a backup camera for this massive beast, and some sort of Bluetooth system.

My 1966 Imperial convertible, another hand-built luxury land yacht, was way cheaper, and despite being several generations older than my Phantom, driving it feels about the same. The same could be said for just about any other car from the land yacht era, although the quality and finishes obviously wouldn’t be in the same league. So I’m conflicted as to whether I should keep this Phantom much longer — but selling it will probably be a challenge. At least I know I count on good old CarMax to give me an offer, as they will on any car that shows up at their door, so I was eager to see what dollar amount they would put on the Phantom.

After a much shorter wait than my previous CarMax visit appraising my 2020 Jeep Gladiator, they came back with an offer of $53,000. That’s almost half of what I have into my Phantom at this point, but I was still pretty impressed. The average scruffy wholesale auction car seems to sell for around $60,000, so CarMax was still giving themselves a pretty good margin for profit — but it was still way better than the Porsche dealer that didn’t offer anything.

Prices have dropped a bit on Phantoms in the last year, making it fairly easy to find a nice, sorted Phantom like mine retailing for around the $80,000 I paid. Most likely, the best I could hope for selling my Phantom private party would be around $70,000 — and if I got an offer close to that, I would probably be tempted enough to take it. Even though I couldn’t replace that car for the same money, there are plenty of cheaper luxury land yacht alternatives to keep me occupied. Getting rid of that big car payment would be nice (I still owe almost $60,000), but either way, I would be happy. Find a Rolls-Royce Phantom for sale

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    • Seems to always follow the same script: Buy a basket case car, drop $20k on it, then a year later sell it at a loss….

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