Wednesday, August 12, 2009

So what's it worth to ya, then?

Alice responded to my latest tweet very rapidly the other day, calling me almost as soon as I posted it. My tweet read, in part:

Bad: $1000 to get my car thro its WOF. Ouch!

My car is about 11 years old, which means it has to have a check-up once every six months. Last time it sailed through with no problems, but a year ago I had to have a teeny teeny tiny rust spot fixed on each sill and it cost me nearly $1000. Nightmare!

So here we are, a year later, and I'm faced with another $1000 bill. Ouch indeed!

Alice reckons I should sell my car immediately and get a new (second-hand) one. Her logic is that, as I'm now regularly having to spend as much each year on getting the car through its WOF as it's actually worth, I should get rid of it asap, and buy one that's not going to cost me so much to maintain each year.

She's got a point - on the surface it makes perfect sense. Why keep a car that costs me a grand a year (at least) to keep on the road - and for which, if I were to sell it, I would probably not get much more than that?

Alice and I think somewhat differently about this though, because I reckon my car is worth between $10,000 and $15,000 - to me.

What I mean is, if I were to buy a new (second-hand) car, it would cost me somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000. I bought my current car for $12,000 eight years ago, when it was 3 years old, and I'm sure I'd have to pay at least as much if I bought another one now.

I'm not one of those people who worships their car. Half the time I can't even remember the licence plate number, and I certainly couldn't tell you the engine size (although I do know the make and model!). It's just a useful thing as far as I'm concerned, and there are many other things I'd keep in preference to my car (like my computer and internet access for example), if I had to choose.

I don't use my car very regularly - once a week down the hill to Batucada rehearsal and on to the supermarket every fortnight, maybe once every six months taking the cats to the vet, the occasional visits to friends, maybe the garden centre every month or two - and that's about it. It gets me from A to B when I need it to, and the rest of the time I walk or take the bus, so it's not as if I need it to take me long distances every day - or even every week.

I keep a log book where I record my petrol purchases, and a couple of years ago (before I joined Batucada) I realised it had been 12 months since I had last bought petrol for the car. I filled up the tank yesterday, and my last purchase was in January, so there you go.

I'm very much my father's daughter. Dad was extremely careful with money - miserly even - and he taught us to be careful with money too. He had a credit card, but he (literally) only used it to buy ferry tickets for the family camping holiday to Europe each summer. The rest of the time he didn't buy anything unless he had saved up enough money to buy it outright. No mortgage, no HP, no borrowings at all.

I'm not quite as pure as that (not by a long way), but I do do my research very carefully before I spend my money, and (apart from my house) I don't buy stuff unless I have the money to pay for it either. I paid for my current car with cash, which probably disappointed the salesman who was eager to tie me into a deeply costly finance agreement as quickly as possible...

Dad also never threw things away if he could fix them himself. He was an engineer, so he did all the maintenance on our cars, and never had to pay anyone else to do it. He only ever bought second-hand cars, and always bought Ford Escorts because he reckoned they were the best in those days. Funnily enough, I have also never bought a new car, and my current car is also a Ford Escort. Told you I was my father's daughter!

Fundamentally, I can't just throw away my car because it needs a bit more maintenance these days. I'm just not wired that way. Like my dad, I'm planning to drive it until it falls apart - and if it costs me a thousand bucks a year to make that happen, it's worth it as far as I'm concerned. It's certainly better than forking out 15K to get myself a new one before the old one's quite finished...

PS - I owe Justin at Capital City Ford a very big thank you. Instead of sending off to Auckland for a new headlight (there was moisture inside the old one, which meant it was failing its WOF), he took the time to take the old one apart, dry it out and put it back together again. My bill ended up being $400 less than they'd quoted, and my knackered old headlight got a new lease of life. A man after my dad's heart for sure!

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