Car maintenance costs eating into your budget?

Maintenance Costs – keeping your car running without breaking your wallet.

Nothing in life is certain except death, taxes and ridiculous automobile maintenance costs.

While we cannot stave off the former two you can keep your wits about for the latter, your car running costs.

All men like to drive either huge luxury cars, fast and slick performance cars or American muscle cars. Hybrids and Breadbins on wheels are for Woosies! Real men are brawlers, lovers and saviours. Now let’s get to the real world. Your first and last car will be a money pit – hopefully not a white elephant but certainly a money hog. Wheels, tyres, suspension, brakes and fuel. No financial return except for maybe the thrill of it.  Motorcycles are even more expensive to run – they eat tyres, sprockets and chains and just one fall will put you back more than a few month’s salary in repairs and medical bills. What’s the solution?

  1. Eat your pride and start doing what the girls are doing: smaller but practical cars. No!
  2. Cut down on your home mortgage? No!
  3. Throw your swimming pool out and grow a vegetable patch? No!

The solution is to stop trying to compete and buy second hand – a car known for reliability. If a new car loses 50% of it’s value after three years what does that tell us? Unless you are a peak performance sales person whom needs his wheels to get from point A to B every day, chewing up to 40 000 miles per annum it might be a very good idea to start looking at what your current disinvestment is worth in real terms – both to your health and your pocket.

Lowest maintenance costs through reliability
Toyota Corolla – Photo Credit: CEFICEFI

It is a known fact that if you buy Toyota you may be buying one of the few cars on the road that give you value in terms of reliability and performance. Audis and BMWs look great, perform great but don’t buy one unless you have a full motor-plan and plan to stick to it for the period you intend on keeping it. I know of two BMW owners that have their car more on the ramp than on the road. I have nothing against BMW, they make stunning vehicles but most wannabe 2nd hand BMW owners forget the risks – parts can be expensive and like the Audi, catastrophic failure of engine or gearbox may cost more than what the car cost. What a way to go!

No, the reality is all cars have a life-span – that at which it becomes unstable and dangerous on the road, the engine doesn’t start, electrics are problematic and the upholstery starts to give. Where to start and where to finish?

If the marketing hype is to be believed these vehicles are the classic best-sellers:

  1. Toyota Corolla
  2. Hyundai Elantra
  3. Honda Civic
  4. Toyota Camry
  5. Volkswagen Golf
  6. Kia Rio
  7. Ford Fiesta
  8. Ford Focus
  9. Volkswagen Passat
  10. Volkswagen Jetta

Most people do buy cars with low maintenance costs. Their running costs are low because they are made to last!

Above is not not in any particular order but they all have one thing in common – reliable, good pricing and maintenance costing pretty fair.

Both BMW and Audi are also huge sellers but in the high end designed for executives planning to get there fast and enjoy the ride. Then we also have Mercedes. All three made and designed for someone with a big wallet – not for driving but for maintenance, just in case you do decide to go the second hand route. If something does fail you are in for a big fall.

I know many Corolla owners and not one of them has had any form of major failure – some of them are onto their 200 000th mile and the engine has not even been stripped. One is a 80s model, done nearly 250 000 miles with the engine overhauled at about 150 000 miles when he purchased it for $1,500.00. The Toyota Camry is also a long distance runner.

Ever notice how the Fiat Uno keeps on running and running. Cheap to maintain and cheap to run.

The small Ford Bantam 1600cc pickup is one of my personal favourites – no longer available but the second hand market cries for them. Easy to fix, cheap to run and an overhauled engine at less than $1,000.00. While talking about small pickups what about the Nissan 1400cc? Out of style, out of date but what incredible reliability. The Opel Corsa springs to mind but too may tales of unreliability and shoddy workmanship. Better looking than the Bantam maybe but we are looking at running costs.

No SUVs and 4x4s. If you need a 4×4 buy a proper 4×4. Land Rover. Land Cruiser. Possibly Jeep. I live in Africa. The one that has stood the test of time can only be the Land Rover. I believe the Land Cruiser is just as good. Think of Botswana and the old Rhodesia, now Zim. Three foot of strong wire and it will fix any problem.

My personal opinion:

  • Toyota Corolla or Conquest or Yaris and Camry.
  • VW Polo
  • Honda Civic
  • Hyundai Electra
  • Ford Bantam
  • BMW 3-series
  • Fiat Uno
  • Ford Ranger
  • Vintage Land River for 4 x 4
  • Jeep – ex-US army

What others say about owning a car with lower maintenance costs, in this case cars that can do over 200 000 miles.

Hyundai Tiburon
Nissan Quest
Toyota Tacoma
Ford Ranger
Mini Cooper
Lexus IS
Ford Escort
Mazda Miata
Honda S2000
VW Jetta
VW Golf or Jetta
Audi A4, 2000 or newer
Subaru Impreza
Honda Acura RDX
Chevrolet Avalanche
Honda Ridgeline
Lexus RX 350
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Scion xB
Scion xD
Toyota 4Runner
Toyota RAV4
Toyota Yaris
1981-1994 BMW 3-Series
1999+ Chevrolet & GMC Trucks
1983-2012 Ford Ranger (& Mazda B2300) w/2.3l 4cyl
Honda Civic
Jeep Cherokee & Jeep Grand Cherokee w/4.0 6cyl
1994-1999 Nissan Maxima
1989-1999 Subaru Legacy & Subaru Outback
Toyota: 4Runner, Camry, Corolla, Land Cruiser, Prius, Pickup, T100, and Tacoma
Volvo 850 & S70/V70
1983-1999 Volkswagen Jetta/Golf/Corrado
Isuzu Trooper

In no particular order and taken from ten different websites. Interesting to note that the early model 3-series Beamers do well here, including the early model Audi A4.

What to look out for when buying second hand and knowing that maintenance costs are going to eat into your budget:

  • Like all things mechanical have the right mechanic come along for the ride. Belong to the AA to get the best of tests.
  • Sometimes you may miss something – include one of your pedantic friends or spouse/partner.
  • If you are shopping for a particular model, know the quirks – read the forums.
  • If the neighbourhood looks dodgy so will the car.
  • High mileage cars can be dealbreakers – know the price.
  • NO oil leaks thank you.
  • Slipping clutches, dodgy gearboxes and wheel bearings. Quick to check and not so cheap to fix.
  • Rust, chassis repair and please check the roof.
  • Rust and/or corrosion around the battery housing.
  • Wiring / looms.
  • The less gadgets the better – much against our personal opinion, the less the better.
  • Maintenance log.

Top tip is the AA. Many years ago, 20 to be exact, a friend of mine had a potential buy, a ‘good condition’ BMW checked out by a local garage. Good to go they say. I recommended him to pay the fee and have the AA check it out. The vehicle was involved in a crash they say. Here’s the interesting bit, it took the technician come mechanic exactly 30 seconds to tell us this. He checked the steering wheel alignment first then the under-body. We did not see anything amiss, neither the garage workshop. It pays to be 50 years old and with 30 years of experience.

Cheers

Mike

(Mike has 20 years experience in the motor industry, has a 1958 Land Rover, loves Toyota, any Ford Mustang and drives a Ford Ranger which he believes has very low maintenance costs. He deals in motor vehicles. – Admin staff).