The Naked Guide to Buying a Car

I came across a new word today. Greysplaining.

It's when old farts lecture young people about what they're doing wrong.

Case in point: Most Millennials are scared shitless of ordering a latte in public, lest they cop a lecture from some octogenarian about poor financial choices.

God help 'em if they try and order breakfast somewhere.

Then today, a greysplainer was in the news warning youngsters - including those in their twenties - against buying a car.

Back in my day...

The old codger (apparently a respected financial columnist) said something like this:

1. Cars cost money. Young people shouldn't have any money.

2. When I was at university, I walked 11 miles each way. Today's young people are soft.

3. If you calculate the costs of running a car, then invest it at 9.6% until you're my age, you'll have $3.4 billion to pay for your dentures.

I'm taking a completely different view. I think cars are great for young people.

Cars give you freedom and independence. You can learn basic mechanical skills and visit places your parents never dreamed of. You can engage romantically with humans you find attractive without parents listening from the next room.

Best of all, cars are cheaper than they've ever been.

If pushed, Greysplainers will admit that some people actually need a car.

Then they'll suggest you save up your coin, and pay cash for something sensible, like a Toyota Corolla (with matching beige cardigan).

I'm not one of them.

Like a lot of Australians, I like cars. I enjoy driving them. I love long road trips, even though my passengers might not.

One day, I hope to be completely irresponsible and buy a Mercedes C63 AMG, even though it has the same basic function as a Corolla.

So with that in mind, here are my 8 handy tips for buying a car.

1. Don't buy a Jeep. Ever.

Got that? Good. Let's keep moving.

2. Be careful who you listen to.

Everybody's got an opinion. When it comes to cars, people have strong opinions.

Your neighbour Dave, a Ford man, will tell you to buy.... Yep, you guessed it.

If you go to a VW dealer, you won't hear this: "Truth is, VW has a terrible reputation for reliability. You should probably go somewhere else".

And as I've already said, sensible people will tell you to buy a Toyota (just don't mention the airbag).

My suggestion? Get online and read reviews at places like and

3. Prepare for Armageddon

Planning on starting a family? Thinking about buying a kid-friendly car? This is for you.

Take your current car, and leave an ice cream - any ice cream - on the back seat. Then spill a bottle of strawberry milk on the carpet. Leave it for a couple of weeks.

Hide an uneaten school lunch (bonus points if it contains fish) under the driver's seat.

Finally, add the finishing touches by running a metal garden rake down both sides of the car.

Perfect. That's what your car will be like after your little angels have finished their work.

So don't waste money on a good car -- buy something cheap and bulletproof that you can hose out at the car wash. Commodores and Falcons were born for this.

You'll know when it's safe to upgrade. It's when your kids are too embarrassed to travel with you.

4. Buy what you need, not what you want

Do you fancy yourself picking up your Tinder date in a new Audi RS4, but you still live with mum and dad and only earn $35,000?

Get over it.

5. The 12 month trap

There's this theory that buying a 12 month old car is the way to go. Something about somebody else copping the 30% depreciation on new cars.

I'm not buying it. That's because a lot of cars that age are repossessions, write-offs or rotten lemons. Either that, or it's a fleet car that's had the buggery thrashed out of it.

If you want newish and shinyish, look for something that's been traded in after three or four years. Something that hasn't been owned by a Uber part-timer.

6. Love me tender

Never, ever, ever buy a car without a service history. If you own one already, at least change the oil regularly.

The best bargains can be older European marques with complete log book histories. Sometimes, you can pick up a car for less than the cost of the last service. Case in point - my ageing Mercedes has 290,000 on the clock, but thanks to regular servicing by the wealthy former owners it's still going strong.

7. Do the numbers

Okay, deep breaths, because this is where we get serious.

Doesn't matter whether you're buying a Toyota or a Tesla, the important thing is the total cost of ownership.

That includes repayments (if you've borrowed money), rego, insurance, fuel, tolls; the lot.

Most State motoring organisations will have a nifty calculator on their website.

Once you've done that, sit back and have a think. Because owning a car is bloody expensive -- even the cheap ones. 

As I said right at the beginning, I think cars are great. But there's no point going broke just to own one.

8. A car is not an investment

Cars are appliances. They lose value with horrific speed, and these days, anything older than about seven years is pretty much worthless. So don't get all excited about resale value.

Of course there are exceptions. Take this yellow car, for example.

Once, I owned one very similar. An ill-handling, fuel-guzzling pig of a thing. I was glad to be rid of it -- for $3,600. I don't want to talk about what it would be worth now. A lot, I suspect.

Here's the problem though -- nobody can tell you which cars will become valuable in the future, and which ones should be sold for scrap. So if you've got a VN Commodore hidden in the garage, you're probably one of thousands. Prepare for disappointment.

Key point: Your life will be easier if you assume that your car is worthless, whatever you paid for it.

The Naked Takeaway

If after all that you still think you need a car (don't rule out a bicycle though) and you can afford one, then go and buy one.

I wouldn't be paying too much though. And new cars? Nah...

Think about this: Within a few years (I'm guessing five), our cities will be ruled by not just electric, but autonomous cars.

Which means your shiny (and supposedly safe) Toyota will be completely, utterly obsolete. And worthless.

1 comment:

  1. My hubby will be so disappointed with the take home message. Then again, he might not get to that. He'll probably still be looking at the picture of the yellow beast there.