Posts Tagged ‘cars’
T and I have just spent a week driving around a new Honda hybrid, all in the name of journalism (he also recently enjoyed some Xbox 360 review games; long may that continue. Gaming is not a cheap hobby).
General observations about modern cars, from the three new vehicles I’ve had cause to be in over the past couple of months: all the bells and whistles, buttons and levers, that they now slap on steering wheels, are kind of distracting. However, I definitely like the move to put the speedo up top above the rest of the dashboard – it’s incredibly hard to miss that way, and hopefully will help if you’re prone to careless speeding.
We did nearly 400km on $50 of petrol (!!!) though most of that can probably be attributed to the difference between our 15-year-old car and a new model vehicle rather than electric-specific savings. With fuel prices the way they are (and only going up), having to return the Honda IMA definitely stung.
Hybrids are still new enough that they’re not even on our budget radar, but when we’re older and wealthier, then WHY to THE HELL NOT? It does remain to be seen, though, just how well the technology ages – a more complex system is more prone to things going wrong.
Of course, the pipe dream would be for a real full-electric option. HaloIPT is one neat Auckland company spun out of the university (which has since sold to a UK firm) working on inductive power transfer technology that would overcome some of the barriers around charging car batteries. Now, if only industry would stop dragging its heels on mainstream electric cars …
Would you buy a hybrid? Why or why not?
Tags: cars, money, personal finance
A few weekends ago we swapped cars with T’s brother. We were driving a fair distance up north and our car, while it’s the nicest we’ve ever owned, isn’t in the best shape – and he figured if we could avoid putting it through the stress of a long journey, why not?
Now, he whinges and moans a lot about the state of our car. It’s always had a wee bit of an issue (we don’t know exactly what it is, and mechanics haven’t had any luck definitively pinning it down) that has to do with the steering or the wheel alignment. It drives fine, but not perfectly. And that really gets to him. He loves driving, and he has a long commute. He’s the one who spends the most time in the car. I get that. But I’ve always thought he’s overblown things. Our car gets us from A to B. It starts when we turn the key. The seatbelts work. Ya know? So it’s a little vibraty when we get on the motorway. No biggie. It’s more than 10 years old.
But for some reason he has it in his head that our car should drive perfectly. Immaculately. I do not know where he got this notion. Like I say, our 1998 Mazda is the best car we’ve ever owned. Our friends drive equally old, if not older, cars, by and large. My parents drive cars that are nearly as old as me. His family, well, don’t even have cars. We do not know anyone who owns one of these mythical vehicles that feels flawless to drive.
But as soon we exchanged keys, got into his brother’s Honda and drove off, he frowned. We weren’t even down the road when he declared it a piece of crap that drove even worse than ours. All the way through the high speed curves up out of Auckland he griped about the poor handling and what a terrible car it was to steer.
The grass is always greener.
(I think now he just might shut up about our car, at least for a few weeks.)
Do you care if your car drives perfectly? Do you expect it to? (More interested to hear from owners of older cars, obviously.)
There’s a truly irritating ad that’s currently doing the rounds on TV here that bleats on about the true cost of owning a car. Basically, it’s a public service message urging us clueless consumers to factor in the cost of petrol, and to check fuel efficiency ratings to see how much car X might cost to run vs car Y.
Automobile (Photo credit: A*A*R*O*N)
You want to talk the real cost of car ownership? Fine.
There’s a good $430 gone, if you’re in New Zealand. Every year. More, if you have a larger car.
Varies wildly, of course, by location, gender, vehicle, driving history. But that will account for another few hundred dollars, at least. For us, that’s $1000 every year.
Oil. Filters. Tyres. Other miscellaneous fluids. I know we generally have to replace our tyres every 12-18 months, and our filters are not only pricey but annoyingly fiddly to replace. Another few hundred a year.
On top of the normal things that need topping up or replacing. Parts give out or break, over time. You misjudge the distance between your rear and that wall, and tear your bumper loose. Some asshole swipes your side mirror clean off while passing you on the road (it’s happened to us twice. Steer clear of other motorist on Hillsborough Rd, yo). And be sure to consider – especially when buying a car – whether parts are going to come cheap, or even be easily available. I know someone considering buying a BMW but the matter of parts is proving pause for thought.
Plus we could always go into potential parking costs, driving fines, or even venture down the path of depreciation, assuming you plan to sell your car eventually. But these are the unavoidable, non-negotiable realities. (Excluding, of course, non-legit running of a car. I’m more than familiar with people owning absolute clunkers that haven’t been registered or warranted for months or years.)
Have I missed anything?
Tags: cars, money, personal finance
I have written about the monumental pain in the ass that is Auckland public transport many times, and touched on what it’s like to get by without a car.
I have to say, it certainly has been easier since late 2010, when we finally got an automatic car (all our previous vehicles were manual, at T’s discretion, and despite my intentions I never really learned to drive manual properly), and a little more so again last year when we added a motorbike to our arsenal.
That said, a motorbike is not a second car. You’re at the mercy of the weather (which is temperamental in this city, to say the least, and has been ATROCIOUS this summer). You’re limited to what you can fit under the seat and in a backpack, and while parking is a breeze, you will be stuck carrying around a bulky helmet wherever you go.
I have always been inclined to think that we will eventually be forced to become a two-car household – either upon buying a house (because we’ll be priced out further into the suburbs than we already are) or having kids.
But I’ve been inspired by a one-car family I know that lives on the North Shore, with one parent working over this side of the bridge. Heck, if they can make it work…
I’ve reached a few conclusions about setting up for success at this.
Plan and communicate like a boss
I’m a planner. T is the opposite. Good thing, then, that I’m the car-less one. Getting by with one car requires getting to know each other’s schedules and planning all manner of journeys, from trips to the supermarket, parental visits, social engagements, and work functions.
Live close to one person’s place of employment
It helps if one person can walk to their workplace, or take public transport. Otherwise, planning gets even more serious, because you’ll have to contend with one person dropping off and picking up the other at the office every day (unless you can wangle a carpool with somebody).
Having never owned a car of my own, the number one thing on my list when choosing a place to live is proximity to bus routes. I was spoiled growing up; my parents’ house is literally 10 seconds from a bus stop. Since then, the furthest I’ve lived from public transport is a 15-20 minute walk.
Make sure you have a reliable car
Cars that don’t start or fail WOFs or break down regularly are stressful enough. When that car is your only mode of transportation, it’s infinitely worse. T and I have always worked in different areas of the city – and his is not one you can get to via public transport, especially at 6 or 7am.
And on that note…
Only patronise mechanics where courtesy cars are available
Or you’ll be forking out a lot of money to rent a car while yours is in the workshop.
Could you swing it as a one-car household?
Tags: cars, transport
I’ve always been an extremely self conscious person. I would lie in bed at night when I was younger, replaying the day’s events in my mind. Berate myself for lost opportunities, for failing to come up with witty retorts, for a particularly embarrassing trip’n'fall, and so on. I had a kind of list going on. Points for having the guts to speak up in class. Points deducted for getting tongue tied in front of my crush. Basically, a tally of maturity, as judged by me.
When we got the news about this latest car repair, I wanted to throw myself on the ground and launch into a tantrum. Why’d you have to make such a big deal about one tiny thing? Couldn’t the first two mechanics’ clean diagnoses have sufficed?
I went for a long, sweaty run. Then I decided there was no point in sulking. I could let it ruin my afternoon, my day, my week. I could wallow, gloriously – if wallowing was a sport, I would be a Olympic athlete. I decided that heck, I can’t do anything about it. Shit happens; we couldn’t have done anything differently. You never know with a used car how it was treated before.
Or I could chin up, change my attitude and move on. Basically, act like a damn adult. Whining might make me feel better, temporarily, but accomplishes nothing. (I started bashing out a furious post, that went something along the lines of:
WHY do we always have the ridiculous problems? Why does nobody else we know have to deal with such insanely fucking expensive issues? Yeah, T drives a lot, but he doesn’t drive stupidly. Surely we’ve paid our dues with learning about regular maintenance, and paid our dues with his insistence on buying a stupid boyracey car and now opting for something sensible (insert LIFE’S NOT FAIR rant)
If I had double my cash savings right now, I would be seriously thinking about financing a brand new vehicle right now – 3% over 3 years, 30% down.)
before realising what a self-pitying douche I sounded like.)
And in the long run, whining only serves to make feel you worse. Instead, I would do what I do second best: deal with it. I’ve been meaning to get around to working out a new realistic number to direct into our irregulars account, which I’ve been putting off. As for ponying up the cash, it just means a blow to progress on the travel fund.
As always, car costs are the sticking point. We haven’t had any of our cars for more than two years, so judging reasonable ongoing repairs isn’t easy. Last year, the first year I tracked, we spent about $1000 on our piece-of-crap beater. So far we’re on track to spend double this year for our current 10-year-old one, between the new tyres and the new transmission (it was cheaper to replace the whole gearbox than the one specific part that conked out). I don’t anticipate much more for the rest of the year, and we shouldn’t need to get any work done to pass its warrant, but you just never know, do you?
Maybe aiming for $1200, the same figure as our motor insurance bill, is a good starting point. I figure this is actually not that crazy, because between his commute, visiting friends and family, and trips, we put a lot of kilometres on our one car. Where tyres might last 2-3 years for some people, it’s more likely to be closer to 18 months for us. So that’s already nearly $500 there. Add to that maybe $100-200 on fluids and filters for regular servicing, plus room for other nasty surprises.
So, do you love wallowing? Or are you a chin-up-and-get-on-with-it type? And how much do you spend on maintaining your car each year?
Tags: cars, money
It’s been a couple of months now since we said sayonara to our old white hatch, and I’m finally used to seeing something completely different in the driveway when I get home. (ETA: For those who don’t remember, our new car is still more than 10 years old.)
Despite its faults, it had its good points:
- No car payments. Pretty self explanatory. (Not that we now have car payments…we paid cash for our new one as well.)
- No need for full insurance. Not worth it.
- No need to worry about nicks and scrapes. Obviously.
But I hope that the benefits of our “new” car will outweigh the above. Namely:
- More efficient.
- Safer. Airbags, dude.
- More reliable – hopefully we’ll spend less on regular upkeep. And certainly remove the time and stress associated with major car issues, including passing WoFs and, you know, actually getting around like a car is supposed to enable you to do, rather than being stranded on the road.
- Seatbelts and windows that work every time.
Plus, after recent trips, we learned the following:
- Room to sleep if absolutely necessary
- Seats that don’t hurt BF’s back on long trips
- Better and safer handling (it “sticks to the road”, sez he.)
Do you ever miss your junker? Heck, have you ever even had one, or are you one of those spoilt kids who had your first car bought for you, and thus got onto the vehicle treadmill relatively painlessly?
Okay, so New Car brings with it New Insurance Costs.
If you’re just tuning in, this wasn’t a case of lifestyle creep; it was a case of knowing when to let go of the last in a string of beaters, and upgrading in the hopes of getting something more reliable and efficient with a bigger initial outlay. (Also, you may recall that every single one of our other cars died before we got the chance to replace them. I figured we should try and beat that this time around.) I’d never call a car an investment, but the idea is we are investing in terms of, theoretically, coming out ahead by reducing the cost and headache of ongoing maintenance and repairs. Our $1500 hatch was a steal (I’ve got a nostalgic post brewing) but the constant upkeep…ouch.
Nicer cars also mean higher insurance premiums. According to this Liz Pulliam article on MSN Money, 10 per cent is the most you should pay for full coverage.
Problem: That doesn’t work for us. Full cover is about $1200 annually – way more than 10 per cent.
Meanwhile, third party, fire and theft cover is only $500 (it was $300 on our old car).
That’s a difference of $700, or just over double. And yet, is that really all that much extra for total peace of mind? I don’t mind a few dings and scratches, but what I am afraid of is a total wreck. After all, you can’t control the actions of others, and it’s not inconceivable that it could be totalled through no fault of our own. That would mean putting away $23 a week for insurance, as opposed to $6.
In the worst case, I could afford to replace it, even now…but that would put a massive dent in my savings.
So, it’s a gamble. Pay that $700 (our excess payable on claims is $500, by the way), or attempt to self-insure? It wasn’t even an option previously; none of our cars were ever worth the cost of full cover. Not even debatable.
But this is a car we want – need, even – to last years.
What would you do?
Tags: cars, money
The same model, courtesy of a Google search
You know what they say…the best laid plans of mice and men…
But circumstances forced our hand. Our old car had its registration paid up till March, which I was loath to give up, but the $100 or so was a lot less than what it would have cost to get it up to warrantable standard – and we didn’t want to go through the expense and hassle of getting the damn thing fixed, especially since we were planning for a possible replacement so soon. This really was the tipping point – know when to cut your losses. Urgency arrived in the form of a cop who pulled T over on his way to work one morning for not having any rear lights, and warned him that the next time he wouldn’t get away with it.
We’d had a few cars on our watchlist, but in the end we only ended up seeing and test driving one. Result? We basically have the same car – a Familia – but in a five door wagon not a three door hatch, and nearly a decade younger. Guys, we’re talking 1998 – at only 12 years old it is by far the newest car we’ve ever owned! It’s also the most solid – that’s something you can definitely feel about it.
You know what else this means (especially in a wagon)? Yay road trips! (This solves the question of whether we’ll drive or rent a campervan when we do the South Island). And I’ll be able to help ease the driving load. (Ironically, I’d finally come around to the idea of getting a manual – better odds of gearbox not crapping out, and finally learning to drive manual in a decent car – but it wasn’t to be.)
Actually, I’m not so sure about those long trips; BF has already filled up the boot with a sound system (sigh) which means even groceries go in the backseat. Careful shopping plus his work discount meant we got a lot of bang for our buck; still, it was difficult for me to bite my tongue. $600 on car audio???!!! But it’s his money and if that’s what he gets pleasure out of, fine.
And the main thing is, we came in under the $5000 budget, sounds excluded, even after buying and getting an alarm and immobiliser installed.
The one spanner in the works: insurance. Apparently this model/year is a high theft risk. And that sets the stage for the next post: the insurance dilemma…
Tags: cars, money
So, the car search is tentatively on.
Here’s what we want. It will be a four-door, at least 1500cc and we’re looking to spend up to about $5k. Maybe a little more. Preferably a Toyota (Corolla, Corona). Toyotas, well, go forever.
I suppose we might be willing to entertain the thought of another Mazda (or equivalent Ford), possibly a Nissan. We’re staying away from Hondas, Hyundais, and anything European. (I know you Yanks all seem to have a thing for Hondas, but the Dog and Lemon guide disagrees. As do I; I have observed a sharp decline in the number of old Hondas I’ve seen on the roads in the last couple of years, and that’s probably for a good – or bad, rather – reason).
Reliability is key. Safety, not to much. In fact, Dog and Lemon deemed our current car reliable but an accident risk, simply because it was “small and light” nor did it have airbags. Which is sweet with me; the odds of being in a serious accident concern me far less than the likelihood of a breakdown.
When it comes to narrowing the field, we’ll be looking at:
Mileage. Obviously, the fewer the better; around 100,000km would probably be about right. Even less would be ideal. This also means we have to be hyper careful and ensure the cambelt has been changed.
Age. The newer the better. In this price range, mid to late 90s would be realistic, bordering on hopeful. Seeing as Toyotas and Mazdas are such longlifers, they’re valued accordingly.
Engine capacity. We don’t want anything below a 1.5l, and if we end up getting a wagon, 2l would be better. No 1.3l Corsas for us!
Consider ease of procuring replacement parts. Ideally, a fairly common model so we can continue to visit Pickapart when things break.
This probably goes without saying, but it needs to be a petrol car. No diesel versions for us; road taxes suck, as do emissions, and repairs should things go south.
We’ll probably go for a private sale again, but this time we might consider dealers or auctions.
What factors do you consider when car shopping?
Image via Wikipedia
As we’ve established, living without a car in Auckland kind of sucks. Luckily, I think I’ve got the best of both worlds – bus to work, joint car and built in chauffeur for everything else.
Funnily for someone who doesn’t even drive, though, financially speaking, our car history is our biggest shame.
First car: Bought on a whim shortly after T and I moved in together and he got a job. Early 90s red Mazda MS6 sedan. 180,000k on the clock. Lasted…six months before the gearbox crapped out? (No doubt you’d like to know what we did with it. While I’m all for learning from – and sharing – mistakes, that crosses the line into sheer sadism.)
Second car: Late 80s/early 90s Corolla two-door hatch. Don’t remember anything else about it except the manual transmission. Given to T in exchange for paying off someone else’s debt. Again – don’t even ask. I don’t remember dates, but it was before the Mazda died; they overlapped and for a brief period we had two cars. Imagine! Again, only lasted a few months before the engine (big end bearing, or something like that?) died. All because we didn’t know anything about maintenance. A little oil and regular fluid checks would have prevented it.
Third car: T’s infamous 1989 Levin coupe. 200,000k. Paid too much for it. Again, kept paying for it AFTER it died. Don’t recall too many issues with it except for the driver’s window not working; but T was hit in an accident (hence why I’ll never buy a house on a main road) which cost a bit to fix. Not to mention a stressful court case. Eventually this died too; the transmission failed, as far as I recall, but I could be wrong.
Fourth car: Our little Mazda Familia hatch. 112,000k, manual. Paid $1600 for it early last year; it’s still going, but bodywork – rust – is an ongoing issue. Unlike the previous three, it appears the mechanicals are going to outlive the body. The driver’s seat is worn to the metal on one side and needs replacing, the front bumper is a mess (it’ll happen when it gets kicked; I’d rather he have kicked the kerb instead. Wouldn’t have damaged the car, and might have taught him a painful lesson.) The driver’s window is touchy, but that’s not a biggie for us.
So that’s four cars in three years. I think our Familia has actually lasted us the longest so far.
Each time, we always were caught offguard by the cars dying, and thus were forced to shop quickly for a replacement. Recipe for disaster, right?
Well, this time we’re going to have money beforehand, and probably starting in the new year, will be poised to pick up a bargain should we come across one.
The plan of action is simple:
1. Make shortlist of potential cars – makes and models - against the Dog and Lemon guide – essential for anyone looking to purchase a car. It’s comprehensive and accurate; we might not have bought that first car if we’d known about the issues mentioned in the book. It covers all variations of makes, all years (depending on the edition) and you should be able to pick up a second hand copy for less than a movie ticket.
2. Cruise TradeMe listings in spare time / Talk to T’s friend who is the unofficial car-finder of the group.
3. Schedule viewings in spare time.
4. Arrange mechanical check – we’ve never done one on any of our cars and were fairly lucky – but this would be our biggest car buy ever. Also purchase Carjam report to make sure there’s no money owing on it.
When it comes to cars (and houses) you need cash. Lots of it. Don’t wait for your one car to die before looking for a new one. We didn’t have a choice before – but now hopefully we will.