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Buy with your head, not your heart


MY FRIEND and I had an argument the other day. He was complaining about his car, a 2007 Audi Q7, which is costing him an arm and a leg to maintain. I told him that he should have bought a new one with a maintenance plan. He said he wasn’t able to afford a new one and that’s why he bought a second-hand model. Unfortunately, he blames me for not telling him about maintenance costs of cars that don’t have service or maintenance plans.

I’ve decided to choose two cars that I’d like in my garage. A car that I desperately want in my life is a BMW M3 E92, the V8 coupé model. After hunting around I found a few that fit my price tag; some were slightly over and others were surprisingly much lower than expected.  I managed to find a mint-looking 2008 BMW M3 with 108 000km on the clock. The 309kW 4.0-litre V8 engine is mated to a slick six-speed manual gearbox. The asking price for this beast is only R359 900. Bargain!

Because the BMW is out of its service plan I’d need to know what it would cost to maintain my pride and joy, should I choose it. I phoned a BMW dealership to get some information. It is very seldom that a car is given a service where everything is changed at once. However, if I were to insist on a major service on the BMW M3 it would cost R7 733. This includes nine litres of synthetic oil, which costs R2 000 and all the filters and plugs (excluding labour). Remember, this is only if you insist on a major service. The car might decide that the air filter needs to be replaced, or the spark plugs, then, the cost would be much lower.

I then asked about other items that could need replacing. All the prices given exclude labour costs; these are just the cost of parts.

If my clutch goes I’d need to pay R12 879 for a new one. Brake pads all around would set me back R4 714 and to replace all the brake discs I’d be looking at R16 540. I asked about replacing the shocks but I needed to give them a VIN number for that. Something else to consider are those smoking tyres at the rear. A rear set of factory-specified Bridgestone run-flat 225/35/R18s would cost R9 486.

The BMW M3 is a high performance machine that needs specialized parts. These parts are costly and I don’t think that I can afford an unexpected clutch replacement. The monthly instalment and insurance alone is already going to cause me to eat supper at my mom’s house again.

There is another alternative… what if I take that R359 900 and get a new car with a service plan? Well, I want a Golf GTI but that’s R407 800 so I’ll settle for a Polo GTI. Now the Polo is not quite a road-ripping, tyre-smoking BMW M3 but it is pretty sporty and nimble. I rang up a VW dealership to see what it would cost me.

The base price for the Polo GTI (soon to be replaced) is R315 100. It features a 1.4-litre TSI with 132kW and 250Nm and is only available with a DSG gearbox. I did want some accessories, so I added the panoramic sunroof for R9 200 and the Bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights for R8 650. I then found out that I need to purchase a five-year/60 000km maintenance plan as the optional service plan (R8 038) only covers services. The maintenance plan costs R12 312 but does include a service plan.

So, at the end of the day, my Polo GTI would cost about R345 262 compared to the M3’s R359 900. I save R14 638, which I’ll put into a savings account for when I need to replace the front tyres. A pair of 224/40/R18 Continental Sport contacts would cost R4 590.

The biggest mistake that people make is that they overlook the maintenance costs of cars. There might only be R20 000 separating the used high performance BMW M3 and the new little Polo GTI, but the BMW is going to cost more to maintain because it’s out of its service and maintenance plan. Sure, the Polo GTI would also have costs involved like tyres, but other costs, such as services and parts wouldn’t be my concern, for the next 60 000km. 

This is where people make the mistake. We look at the price shown, but fail to find out about other costs. I’m not saying that you mustn’t buy second-hand; I’m just saying, it would be wise to think with your wallet and not with your heart - especially in our tough economic situation.

To avoid getting into financial issues, please do some homework, shop around and take into account the cost of the car, fuel, parts, services, tyres and insurance.


Article written by Justin Jacobs
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