Apologies for the following long ramble about buying a car.
The costs of cars (Do I even need one?)
My prolonged hunt for a new (used) car got me thinking about how much they have cost me… and how long I’ve kept them.
In 2008, by the time it had 215,000 kms on the clock, it was only good for scrap when I sold it, getting back only about $250.
My second car was a 2000 Holden Astra, which I bought in 2008 for $10,990. (In 2018 dollars this is about $13,900.)
At the time it had 117,000 kms on the clock; ten years later it’s now at 180,000, and is basically worth almost nothing, which is a bit annoying as about a year ago I spent $500 on brand new tyres for it.
So basically, the two cars I’ve had have depreciated by about $1100 per year.
What other costs? Insurance roughly $400 per year (though it used to be higher when I was younger). Rego about $800 (this is rising, not reducing).
Petrol: I fill up about 4-6 weeks. Looks like I spent $518 on fuel in 2017.
Maintenance and repairs? So far since the start of 2017 I’ve spent about $1600. This is probably going up as the car gets older, so let’s guess an average of $600 per year.
So in a year, costs of about $3400, over double the cost of my annual Myki fare.
With average annual car travel of about 6300 kms (which is under half the Australian average, by the way) that’s about 54 cents per kilometre.
My usual driving pattern is that I use the car on the weekends, but rarely during the week. Mostly those weekend drives are around the suburbs, but a few times a year it’ll be a longer trip to visit relatives in the country.
What if I didn’t own my own car?
The only car share scheme in my area that I know of is Car Next Door – vehicles cost about $20-30 per day plus about 33 cents per kilometre.
Based on my annual kilometres, that works out to be roughly 20% more than paying to own my own vehicle. If my weekend drives were occasional, it’d probably be cheaper, but not if driving a bit almost every weekend.
Of course if using car share, you’re likely to make more of your trips using other modes. Countering that: my sons are about to learn to drive, so demand for a vehicle may go up a bit.
So for now, I’m thinking I need to continue owning a car, at least until PT is so good that the PTUA has no purpose!
What I want in a car
So I got to shopping. What did I want?
- 5-star ANCAP rating – Nothing gets you thinking about safety like your offspring learning to drive
- High used-car safety rating if an older model
- Automatic — after 20 years of being intimidated by hill starts, I think I’ve had enough of Manuals (and my sons don’t seem interested in learning on one)
- Cruise control for country driving
- Something a bit bigger/roomier than the Astra, but not too big, so it’s reasonably fuel-efficient. Small to medium-sized, while noting that small cars are now about the size of that Magna I used to own
- Reliable/as new as possible, of course. (Just to filter down the options, I decided to stick to Japanese brands, as a synonym for reliability)
- Preferably white, it’s meant to be safer
- Nice to have: alloy wheels make the whole car a bit lighter, which may be more fuel efficient, or so they tell me
- I’m quite enamoured of indicators on mirrors. Possibly they are more visible to pedestrians, but in any case I just like them. I’m not sure why.
- Daytime running lights are now a mandated European standard, apparently help safety, particularly with visibility to pedestrians. (I have fog lights on my current car. I don’t think I’ve ever used them.)
What would fit the bill?
Working out the costs of motoring, above, especially the real costs of purchase back in the day, and the money lost in depreciation, made me feel a lot better about shopping for a car in the $15,000 range, to get something as new as possible, and of course with a 5-star ANCAP rating.
After talking to relatives, I concluded that everybody likes the car they drive. Stepfather likes Subaru; sister likes her Mazda 3; cousin likes his Mitsubishi Lancer. (All Japanese brands. Hmm.)
After noting the high safety rating, I did start looking at Subaru Impreza for a while, but there aren’t that many of them about for sale, and you have to spend well over twenty grand to get an almost new model with those nice indicators on mirrors and daytime running lights. Not that they’re essential by any means.
I was also a little nervous about reviews which remarked that Subarus can be a little fussy on maintenance. Which means to minimise risk it’d be a pricey dealer service every time.
So, back to the Carsales web site to do some more searching and researching. (By the way, the Carsales mobile web site lets you search for specific feature in a car, such as Cruise Control. I can’t see that feature on the desktop/standard web site.)
I just bought a new car
While out for a walk the other morning, looking at various cars I saw along the way, I wondered:
Considering I spent over $19,000 (in 2018 dollars) on my first car, back when I had relatively little money, what about upping the budget a bit so I could stop compromising so much and get everything on my list?
I am lucky enough that I can (just) afford to do this.
An ad caught my eye: a demonstration model 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer for $18,500 (drive away price). Retail price for the 2018 model (in automatic) is $21,990.
I like the size and the style (though I could do without the “bum enhancement”).
$18,500 is more expensive than I’d like, but let’s look again at the maths:
- Servicing on a used car could easily be $500-800 per year, and is often wildly unpredictable, especially the older the vehicle gets. But many brands of new car have capped price servicing. In this case, it’s a maximum of $230 per year for the first three years, so potentially a saving of at least $750 over three years, but even beyond that, repairs are hopefully going to be cheaper on a newer vehicle. (Plus warranty.)
- A new car also comes with a full year of rego, saving up to $800 — many of the used cars available only have a few months
- It’s new, so there’s no need to pay for a pre-purchase inspection, saving about $225-250
- It also comes with four years of roadside assistance, saving about $50 per year (for budget roadside assistance companies) to $105 (the base level for RACV) per year
So in the first four years, potentially a saving of around $2000. And given how much I hate buying cars, I can keep a brand new car for longer.
Suddenly buying a discounted demo car at about $18K seems not a bad proposition compared to a used car at $15K, so I went and test drove it. I quite liked it. It seems odd that the Lancer is being discontinued (and not replaced) at the end of 2018.
Anyway, I decided to go for it. Although it was a demo car, the dealer said it’s actually brand new, sitting in a holding yard somewhere until it can be delivered.
Trade-in? Worth almost nothing, unfortunately, a couple of hundred dollars. But I knew that going in, so at least I wasn’t disappointed.
But we did that little haggle dance around the final “changeover” price, and I did manage to get a bit of a discount, and floor mats thrown in.
The main guy handed me over to a lady who organised payment and delivery, and also offered some extra options like tinting, paint protection… They made the mistake of giving me a minute or two to Google and find this Choice article: Useless car extras revealed, leading me to opt out of those.
So anyway, I’m getting a new car. And not just a new car, but a new car.
It arrives in about two weeks.
Hopefully by the time I’m done with it in a decade or more, electric cars will be plentiful and cheap, and/or public transport will be at a standard where I don’t need to drive regularly on the weekend.
- Niggling doubt: rather than a sedan, should I have bought another hatch? Will I be cursing myself the next time I need to bring home flatpacks from Ikea? Mind you the specs say it does have the 60/40 split folding seats
- Of course, having been researching cars for months, every online advert I now see is for cars.
PS: This crash test between a 1998 Corolla and a 2015 Corolla shows the value of newer cars with improved safety features:
…That said, it’s notable that older cars often have poor safety ratings now, but did well in ANCAP tests at the time. They don’t have the 1998 Corolla ANCAP results still available, but the 2009 model scored 5/5 at the time, but only rates 2/5 now based on accident statistics.