This is not the first time I buy a (used) car (actually 7th), but somehow this time I could see a pattern and found this experience fun enought to worth some notes,
Ok, to begin with. Here is how I normally start out. I define a goal (buying a second car since my wife’s company car goes away), purpose (need to transport kid(s) to school/kindergarten and myself to work), boundary conditions (budget) and then start going through my regular list of reliability, good resale value (perhaps have to sell in a year and get a company car again) and last but waaay not least practicality (no 3 doors hot hatch this time). Since I’ve recently bought a car that had to serve as a temporary primary transportation (until I had too many voices around me to get another one supported by inner voice of having fun busying one actually), I already knew more or less what I was looking for. Well, at least I thought so.
My starting budget was…. Let’s say, in range of junk (in European standards that is). Junk in, junk out, max loss is the value of junk. I showed my wife few choices and from her face I understood that I will not be getting junk any time soon. Then she rephrased the boundary conditions from budget constraint to budget loss. That changed picture a bit as I could get in my comfortable range of 8-10 years old cars in “driveable” condition. Now we’re talking.
Let the fun begin. I’ve spend more than a week searching, comparing and trying to understand (again)the Dutch market of small cars. One thing is that since the tax is based on weight and gas type (petrol being the cheapest diesel the most expensive in tax terms) small “shopping carts” hold their value pretty well unles they tend to fall apart (I am not in love with ehm… French brands). Anyway, pretty soon I was settled on Toyota Yaris as the primary candidate. Two days before I agreed to see the first candidate a thought stroke me that I am going to see something I may potentially buy not having a single reference point. Well, normally this is ok if you see just one of many, but this one looks pretty well on the ad (I like low mileage and yellowish collors on small cars ;)), therefore I didn’t want to spoil it. Fortunately I have good friends with similar model that were kind enought to let me test drive it around 10pm the same night as I hadn’t another chance otherwise. Well… Let’s say this was interesting experience being scared going a little above city limit becaause I felt myself… Naked! “Don’t worry” I told myself, “you get used to it, it is only for short rides”. Overall feeling was rather neutral since the car lacked liveliness as for my taste and switching gears didn’t give any joy unlike my previously bought Nissan Note from 2006 (even 1996 Primera was feeling better, am I becoming Nissan fan? no… And I will prove it later ;)). I’ve used to central digital dash pretty soon and the controls were “on the proper places”.
Next day I had to go to Germany (another interesting story), but instead of focusing on my “regular targets” like Porsches and Audis I was trying to find some Yarises on the way trying to imagine myself in one (saw some, but my imagination failed me completely). What was remarkable is that I somehow was attracted by appearances of the rival of my Note (lost on feeling basis and in price war) – Honda Jazz. Perhaps I still had the rush in me since I was looking for one for long time (actually I was determined to buy one), but finally failed and after quick demo to my wife went for a “more mature and grown up” Note (seriously, Honda felt “childish” inside). Almost never mind, but the same evening I sent an e-mail to the Honda dealer that I wanted to try a Jazz as I will be in that neightbourhood anyway (1.5 hours driving is more than half of country here, so they were impressed ;)).
Ok, on the test day I left to see my initial target golden colored Toyota Yaris 5 doors 1.3 from 2001. Man old ladies can park in everything that sticks from the ground or parked next to them. It had very moderate mileage (which I liked), but the rear and (what is worse) side parts were scratched pretty seriously. Resale calue? You’re joking. But ok, it was not expensive from the start and the guy agreed to repaint the side scratches properly within the price. I could even get winter tyres for a little extra. But that was not the point.
Test drive. You first gear in (yes most of cars are manual here, and even old ladies use sticks pretty well)… You start getting a kitchen feeling – it is like you’re… mixing dough… You turn the steering wheel and you understand that the gym subscription is not needed anymore. And that thing had a power steering! Anyway, off we go, some corners – little to no feedback… Hmmmm… But the worse thing was driving in town. Or say better loosing your way there and try to turn 180 degrees. I felt tired after 15 minutes! The car was struggling to get to speed producing a lot of noise already at the town speed (50 km/h!). I couldn’t believe my ears. I guess at the end I was more tired of the car than wanted to have one. That was it. After some coffee and talking I’ve settled for my next target. I only had time for another test (most small garages close around noon on Saturdays), so I went to see the blue Jazz.
This Honda wouldn’t make it to my list when I was looking for the previous “long term secondary car”. Having small 1.2 engine (ok, it is closer to 1300 than the bigger 1.4 to actual 1400), no airco, very basic equipment. But this time it just make it through in the budget range (actually I’ve cheated to get it in, but ok, dealers are always more expensive), it was 2 years younger than the other ones (2004) and… I really wanted to try it. I also had two other ones on the list of possible candidates (besides few Toyotas), but they were older and I couldn’t make it in time the same day. After a pretty detailed explanation of all the buttons (they were used to have elderly customers with these cars ;)), I started little Honda. Or did I? Well, yes if I believe tachometer. Wow, that is quiet! Then the driving part. I love the feeling of steering wheel. I didn’t really like the response from it with respect to the road, but after Toyota I was prepared to forgive this. I laught at the gearbox stick (feels like it came from a child toy). It is…. soft. You cannot expect much torque from 1.2, but unlike in Toyota I didn’t have to look at the speedometer to ensure it accelerates. I felt it. Very gently, but enough to get convinced. And I liked the sound of it. There was some music, not roar that you want to suppress by letting the gas pedal loose. The steering wheel lacks directness in responce, but at least I could steer normally and easily with one hand when needed. And of course the cabin. What looks Iike a toy car from inside has loads of space inside. I can easily sit behind myself (not in Yaris unless I sacrifice comfort), loads of space in trunk (yeah, Nissan Note could have been just a bit longer ;)). It does not have all equipment that I would want on the only car in the family, but in this case. It is only the car itself that mattered. And the car was great! Back at the dealer I found that it just had all disposables like brake pad, tyres, etc replaced. It even had all season tyres I wanted (otherwise another few hundreds for winter tyres that I will never see again). The only small problem was the price. But that was the exact point those friends of mine with Yaris gave me. Ask for discount. Especially at the dealer. I am not a good negotiatior by nature, but this time I felt I needed it. So I did negotiate and… Got the price I was aiming for! Looking at it now I think I may be ale to sell the car at the same price next year as my local dealer charges way more for such ones. But the price I’ve paid was… more than I was planning initially.
Therefore few points:
– You always start looking for less price than you finally pay; but you get more for for money!
– You buy car with you feelings. Not with dry checklist (although you start with a checklist indeed);
– (perhaps my personal) You always end up with something else than you actually went for (last time I went for Jazz and bought Note ;)).
Have fun and drive safely!
P.S. I will pick up my “new” Honda on December 24. looks like Santa comes early this year ;).