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.