Time to Change the Car (Part 1)

It’s 3 weeks since I published an article. I have a few ideas in draft, some investigations and the like, but must say that the seemingly endless house clearing of my late mum’s place is very emotionally draining to a point I really can’t think much of anything else.

No one tells you when a loved one dies, the immediate grief and funeral is just the start !

Last November I looked at the cost of changing my car in terms of FIRE goals , and whilst much of that holds true some things have changed.

Firstly, while doing my Covid-19 civic duty (along with others, I  daily deliver drugs and medicines to the vulnerable and isolating of my village and the outlying ones) I got distracted with some idiot barrelling up behind me on a busy fast road when turning, drifted and hit a central reservation. The force did no (apparent vehicle damage, but burst one tyre and damaged another so both had to be changed (another £270 quid). It seems the hit to the right rear also shocked one of the springs and yesterday while driving on a smooth dual carriageway they was a sudden and loud ‘bang-clunk’.

I pulled over and could see nothing. Now, in the past I have done some test driving and got used to evaluating vehicle performance in many areas (like suspension response), so just reviewed a few movements, load-unload and the like, and aside from a small occasional squeak there was no stability problem. The damper was fine and operating with the correct response. On the return journey I called in at my local garage and asked them to take a look. Jacked up and immediately pulled out the spring in two parts !

It was obvious where shock damage had been, so I am guessing that hard whack weakened it and it just gave out. Luckily not under load, but I am a pretty sedate driver really so unlikely ever to have been a safety problem for me.

It is OK to drive, but needs replacing so next Tuesday morning first thing…. another £150-£200.

If I total up the spend over the past 18-19 months (servicing, tyres, replacement parts etc) then I actually get very close to the trade in value of the car and whilst some are normal consumable and service costs, others are really one-off or every few year costs. The next biggy will be the recir-valve used in diesels to control the exhaust gas into the filter.. That will be about a grand if it goes and normal life is 80-100K miles. I am at 93K so already a bit on borrowed time.

This realisation does make me think, enough is enough !

I know, I know, wear & tear etc etc… I know, the cost is still less than depreciation etc, but there comes a point where I just want something else and am in the very fortunate position I have the financial means to just change. Logically, there is no reason to change. The car drives fine, is comfortable, pretty quiet, great on a long trip and loads of boot space. So what if I spend a load of money maintaining it. That is still less than depreciation costs .. right !

Really, what more do I need ?

And this is the real conundrum that has prevented me changing over the past 2-3 years (as I originally planned to do). I just don’t know what I want ?

How do I decide ? So today, I thought I would scribble a few of the thought processes.

I no longer drive long commutes, and go hear there and everywhere all the time. I really drive between 10 and 12,000 miles a year and I don’t really see that changing much. Although lately a lot of local driving with the CV19 deliveries, my real longer term driving will be longer: 50+ miles per trip, so although less local there will be longer runs for more UK-based holidays and breaks is probable/likely.

My wife is thinking of changing her car as well over the next few months and we are both agreed on one absolute – no more stick-shift. We are both going to have automatics. I have driven Automatics for many years in my work life – no problem at all, but just never had one personally. Now is the time as we are just fed up of phaffing with gears.

So … to business …. what type of powertrain. Most people start with styling, looks, seduction of costs and the like, but they forget that the heart and soul of any vehicle how it is powered.

Always, always start there. The most beautiful (to you) car in the world will end up a bag of crap to you if you hate the way the engine works. ALWAYS start with the powertrain !

1. Diesel

I have driven diesel cars for 20 years. They have a lot of low end torque that really suits my style of driving. In the past I have driven a couple of very sporty petrol’s but just could not get on with them – all rev & no ‘umph’

Problem is, Diesel is now almost persona-non-grata and in many places is likely to be banned (or charged out) to a point of banning. I do find it odd though that buses and lorries & trains will largely be exempt – more soft fruit of hammering mere mortals I think.


2. Petrol

Well, if not diesel, then maybe petrol. But again, this is only a wave behind in banning terms. the eco-worriors are howling at the gates on NOX and this and that emission. Thing is, modern petrol (and diesel) cars are actually pretty clean and a lot more could be done but I doubt manufacturers will develop much as the politics will be too unstable to make any guarantees.

Now an auto-petrol gets largely over the ‘umph’ dislike as the Engine Management System and auto-clutch take care of it all. Just put the boot down and go. No issue of stalling, balancing torque, traction and bite – none of that malarkey.


3- Electric

Just NO !


4- Hydrid

Plug in Hybrid is pointless – a miniscule range usually and only good for getting in and out of cities with restrictions. You carry a lot of extra weight & complexity.

Self charging is again pretty pointless – 1-3 miles range from brake/regen recharge. Basically a kind of F1 Kerrs system.

Now if only there was enough power to argument a really efficient petrol to give you that overtaking performance !


But how to decide ?

So out of the 4, I would consider a self-charging hybrid but only in conjunction with a super efficient petrol engine where the electric power augmented to give real acceleration performance. Cruise performance is key to being both fuel-efficient and the lowest possible emissions. The problem is, the power generated is rarely enough to accelerate a car 0-60mph in anything less than 12-13s, and rarely gives solid acceleration from 30/40 – 60 in anything less than 8 sec’s.

This is not enough to be able to safely overtake in traffic. It is those annoying Sunday drivers tooling along at 40 in a 50/60 zone or lorries doing the same. Just an irritation at times.

If only a self-charge system gave enough additional power to give you that acceleration – be a winner !

So really, my choice is pretty much going to be limited to Petrol. Definitely if I am buying, but if leasing (and never leased so far), then perhaps a diesel is a possibility because essentially the costs are fixed. Leasing is largely about a forward managed cash flow..

But leasing is a liability – essentially a forward debt and as we know in FIRE – debt is a drag that reduces options.

In reality, if a car does not have a book performance for 0-60 of no more than 10s (and more likely 9s) then it won’t be for me. The only caveat is the performance from 30-50 and 40-60 … if they are good enough for me then I can consider the car. My car has a book 0-60 of 8.5s and I have rarely ever pushed it. It has plenty of go if I need it, but again, the gear-change + torque balance time is certainly slower than that for me, but has never been a problem. So a 10s Auto may well be fine – test drive time 🙂

So far where have I got to …

Petrol (maybe a SC-Hybrid) + Automatic + 0-60 of 10s (max)

phew ! …. now what ?

What stuff am I really used to and now see as must-have include:

    • EPB ‘with’ DAR (Electronic Park Brake with Drive Away Release ). I find it remarkable, some need to be manually released … what is the point then !
    • Automatic wipers; Automatic rear- mirror Dimming; Auto – lights. These are now becoming pretty much standard. I am so used to it that laziness is a way of life.
    • A decent boot space with more by folding seats. I have gotten used to being able to lug lots about and really don’t want a dinky car. Her Ladyship likes her little Astra. Suits all the town stuff she does and is easy to take her elderly mum & dad around in. It is OK (not outstanding) on a long drive to see relatives on the rare occasions he does not use my car. So we need the boot space for my one holdall and her many suitcases (just for a weekend away !).

What else … well, I would quite like to be a bit higher up, so the SUV / Crossover type of veh. There is more weight & drag so the penalty is efficiency and fuel consumption, but in todays mad-herbart driving world, being able to see further ahead is an advantage. I drove a Range Rover round 30 odd state of America over 3 trips once and the visibility just made driving on the wrong side of the road so much easier. I love being a bit higher up. Again, it suits my driving style as I tend to look far ahead.

What about manufacturers ?

In our time between us we have had Vauxhall, Honda, Ford, Mitsubishi, Skoda, Rover and Hilman (and probably others). In work I have regularly driven BMW, VW, Peageot, Citroen, JLR and sundry piles of American cars. For a variety of reasons I would not now consider VW (Skoda or Seat), JLR, Ford or Citroen. Rover & Hilman don’t exist. I was not a fan of BMW’s until I test drove a 5-series for a couple of days. Was really impressed, but I really don’t like a ruddy great axle heading to the rear – it just is not necessary any more.

So really, probably will look at BMW (maybe), Peugeot (I do love the 3008 styling) and possibly Volvo. Never driven a Volvo but do like the XC series styling and reviews. I have a friend who has an XC60 going back and forth between the UK and his home in Austria. He really likes it. Although I don’t include JLR as a likely choice, I will probably drive the new Evoque. I just love the styling. It is a really nice looking car (but limited in boot space and JLR does not do well on the reliability stakes, nor on toys as its systems are a bit dated now. My brother just got another Kia (a Santa Fe) and I took it for a spin – very nice in general, but not for me. He is one of those annoying people clogging the roads up with a big caravan so needs the ‘grunt’. I have a friend just getting his second Sportage, so may well have a look at a couple of Kia’s as well as he has been very impressed.

What about age ?

Well, I have owned new cars and providing you keep then 5/6 years really the loss on depreciation is offset generally by the costs in maintenance etc (as I know how I drive). Depreciation is a true killer if you only keep 3 years. But my preference is probably a car up to 6-8 months old with very low mileage, and will aim to keep 3-4 years tops. This really holds the car in warranty and gives no real maintenance cost issues outside of tyres & servicing.

This is pretty much as far as my thinking has taken me…… I guess I really need to draw a bit more of a wish list up and set up some test drives.

More to follow on the journey !