I’ve been without my own car now for the past couple of years. The reason is simple: manufacturers are keen for car journalists like me to use a car of theirs over an extended period of time, typically between three and six months, to write about what it’s like to live with. My current long-termer is a Seat Ibiza FR, which you might have seen on these pages. In a couple of months, that’ll be joined by a new Suzuki Swift Sport, which should prove a lot of fun.
I like driving new cars and I often recommend new cars, but would I ever buy one? Like the majority of car guys and girls here, the answer will usually be a resounding no. Here are my top five reasons why that is:
This is one of the biggest reasons why no petrolhead would ever buy new. While the new car scene is full of great cars, the used car market (particularly in the UK) is saturated with incredible machinery, which means we get to pick and choose between thousands of models.
As an example, anywhere between £16k and £19k bags you a top-spec Up (a seriously impressive little car), but when you consider that you can also buy yourself a BMW M5 V10 - one of the best-sounding cars in history - for around £13k, which do you think I’d go for? Yup, the one that leaves me with change left over for fuel, insurance and possible repairs.
To unwind, to escape stress, or to simply have some fun usually involves a car. The great thing about older cars is that they give you complete control at all times. Sure, this is the result of little or no driver aids, which can be dangerous, but there is little more precious to us than threading a car around a hairpin - preferably at the helm of something RWD - without being told off or slowed down by a brain far bigger than our own.
You won’t find two older cars that are exactly the same. Some will smell differently, others will have battle scars on their bodies. Older cars also tend to be more temperamental, failing to start when it’s cold, sliding out on snow and misting up when it rains. These things are a massive pain in the ass when they happen, but when everything’s going right, you appreciate the moments. With new cars, everything just works, meaning we switch over to autopilot and do the minimum amount of work needed to get from A-B. How lazy and reliant we’ve become…
Older cars also look so much cooler than their modern counterparts, don’t you think?
The longer a car has been in production the greater the availability of parts for said vehicle. Scrap heaps are a mecca for practical petrolheads, offering body panels, mirrors, exhaust manifolds etc at knock down prices. Were you to dent a wing on a new 3-series, you’d be looking at hundreds of pounds to replace it. Smash your wing up on an E30 and you’ll have a replacement in hours for no more than £50.
Old cars also allow themselves to be worked on. Lift the bonnet on anything older than 20 years, and you’ll find manifolds, HT leads, spark plugs and even a throttle cable - remember what they look like? Do the same with something more modern and you’re faced with plastic and brand logos.
Don’t buy a car which loses you money from the get-go, let someone else take the hit for you. New cars hemorrhage cash within seconds of leaving the dealership, sometimes losing half of their value in the first few years. This phenomenom usually hits cars hardest in the luxury car segment, which is excellent news for us used car buyers.
A quick look in the classifieds reveals all manner of bargains. A three-year old Phaeton, for example, will set you back around £20k; not bad for a car with a list price of around £50k.
What are your thoughts on buying new vs used?