Buying a car is a lot like choosing someone to marry – both are long-term commitments. And as in marriage, our emotions when buying a car can cause us to make some bad decisions if we’re not careful.
Cars, you see, elicit passion. We don’t just like them, we love them. All too regularly buying a car is an emotional decision, not a rational one. Car companies know this, which is why they so skilfully manipulate our emotions in their advertisements. They don’t try to sell you a car – they try to sell you a lifestyle. They show us how wonderful our lives would be if only we owned their cars.
Yes, buying a car is quite often an emotional decision. If it wasn’t, no supercars would ever be sold. Buying a supercar, after all, is an irrational decision. It doesn’t really make sense to buy one. They are ridiculously expensive and impractical, and how often will you actually get the chance to make use of their preposterous power? Not often enough.
The aim when buying a car, then, is to keep emotions at bay and base your decision on logic. Deciding to marry someone is much the same. If the marriage is based solely on attraction, there’s a good chance it won’t last. Looks will inevitably fade, and what will become increasingly important is stability and dependability. You need to find someone you can build a life with.
When choosing a car it is easy to be swayed by looks. We take one look at that latest model with its seductive lines and shiny grille, and fall instantly in love. But it is important to remember that the attraction will fade. The object of your affection might look fashionable and modern now, but in five years’ time it will look, well, a little dowdy and dull. And when the blind infatuation has worn off, you’ll want and expect different things from it – in short, you’ll want the same sort of things that you would want from your partner. You’ll want it to be resilient, dependable and reasonably affordable to maintain.
The fact of the matter is that things written in vehicle reports and road tests are not always the things that will matter in the long run. Fancy gadgets and an engine that’s slightly more powerful than the competition’s is great, but it’s not as important as the advertisements suggest.
Other factors count for more. If I had to hand over my own hard-earned money for a vehicle that cost R400 000, six things would be important to me: resale value, length of the warranty, length of the service plan, reliability, parts availability and the size of the manufacturer’s dealer network.
Resale value would be particularly important. A vehicle is never an investment. You are not going to buy one now and sell it at a profit a few years down the line. Manufacturers are quick to point out that their particular vehicle is cheaper than any other vehicle in the segment, but how often is resale value, or any other factors, taken into account?
If you consider vehicles’ resale values, warranties and service plans, it might turn out to be substantially cheaper to own one make or model for a period of five years than to own another.
It might not be fun to admit it, but the building of a successful long-term partnership requires some number crunching. You have to think long and hard before taking the plunge, and you need to know you’ll be offered some security down the line.
Of course, if you have loads of money, you don’t need to worry about any of this. If you’ve got the funds, you can do what Hugh Hefner does, and simply keep trading in your old model for a younger and sexier one. Sometimes, you see, money does buy happiness. And passion.