Why are you buying a car? The Usual reasons, commuting to work, social life, visiting family etc. So when we decide to buy a car what do we look for in a car? Well logically the criteria should be along the lines of:
Fit for Purpose
Environmentally Friendly (possibly more of an ethical attribute than a logical one)
So selecting a car should be a simple exercise. Find a car that fits our needs and budget and continue on with life where our new purchase gets us from A to B.
So why is young Jimmy only starting out, first year on the job, driving a new car whose payments and running costs are more in line with the company CEO’s budget who employs him? Meanwhile Jimmy is praying the car does not break down or the tyres wear for the next 4 years and hoping his parent will continue to feed and shelter him. We can look at Stephanie who is ferrying her two children a mile and a half to school on a smooth tarmac road in a vehicle that is more suited to pulling six fat bullocks across a hilly mountain pass in West Cork? But it’s OK, she has her reusable green shopping bag in the boot to help save the planet.
Whether we admit it or not, us humans are emotional beings and more often that not our choices and actions are influenced more by emotions rather that logic. However we can be logical, its application usually starts to kick in when we attempt to justify and support our emotional decisions and behaviour. Jimmy will tell you he needs a reliable car and has always admired the best in German engineering. In the long term, time will prove his invest a wise one . . . well eighteen months in conviction is slowly eroding to hope!
Stephanie will claim the safety of her children in transport is paramount, thus her choice of vehicle. Lets hope when one of her children absent-mindedly dart across the road that the Mammy next door, with this years latest model in bullock hauling, is not the one zipping down the road, late for her Pilates class.
Psychologists tell us that the motivation behind our actions and behaviour is not always fully transparent, not even to ourselves. Anthony Robbins, the famous motivational coach, summarised the key human emotional needs that control our behaviour in to four primary categories:
3. Recognition in the eyes of others
4. Love and connection with others.
These are four states in emotional needs every body on the planet share. What makes us uniquely different is the varying proportions of these needs we lean towards. A formula 1 driver will have the ability to handle a high level of “uncertainty” while another may have that need supplied by a game of golf on the weekend. Worth noting, if we en-gauge in one activity that fulfills any three of these needs this can be addictive. An addiction may not be negative, it can also be positive. For example if we have a career that has handsome financial rewards it will give us security. If the job is challenging and we have the aptitude to handle it, the need for adventure and challenge will be fulfilled. Plus such a career may grant status in the society you live among thus giving you the “recognition in eyes of others”. On the other hand alcohol as an example can be a negative addiction. It has the “certainty” of being available and the “uncertainty/adventure” that when under the influence the time spent in that state is a roller-coaster of elevated emotions with anything possible. Plus the connection and brotherhood shared by fellow participants with satisfy the needs for connection and approval by others.
The weighting in our emotional needs will change as we progress through life. We all start out craving security and the protection of our parents and guardians. Our quest for the unknown and adventure is a slow development from that initial crawl to explore, with a glance back for reassurance to see Mammy is still there. By the time that child has grown into a teenager and the years that follow there is no glanced back, nor do they want Mammy glancing after them! Where once the weighting was on security, it has now progressed towards uncertainty and adventure. Plus the recognition and validation once sought from parents and guardians is now sought from their peer group. At a later stage in life, as parents themselves with responsibility, that quest towards uncertainty may have moved towards a more balanced weighting with certainty and security.
So where does that leave us with choosing a car to get us from A to B? The reality is a car in 21st Century society has more powerful semiotic connotations that being just a means of transport. Next to our home and where we live, the car is probably the next greatest expense, and for many, potentially a more powerful reflection of who and what we are. Cars have become a powerful symbol in attempting to portray our “significance” to the wider community. Selecting the vehicle we drive may reflection the satisfying of an emotional need rather that a logical choice.
Lets look again at young Jimmy who is attempting to leave the nest, and while our early ancestors may have aspired to replacing their rabbit skin jocks with a bear skin coat and wielding a bigger club to mark their virile manhood, Jimmy is struggling to flaunt the best of German engineering. And Stephanie is displaying the modern equivalent of a successful hunt with an elk cooking over an open fire-pit in full view of her fellow cave dwellers.
I don’t want to sound critical here but the first step to making better decisions in life is being honest with oneself. As Socrates, the Athenian moral philosopher said nearly 2,500 years ago, “man know thyself”. Understand and be honest with ourselves about why we make the decisions we make.
I am sixty plus now but I well understand young Jimmy - I drove a Granada back in the 80’s. I loved cars then and still love cars and I can understand not wanting to settle for a vehicle that is a budget priced, reliable, aesthetically dull car. Most young people when the time comes wants to express themselves by the car they drive. I believe there is a solution and one that fulfils both emotional needs and the logic of being financially affordable. Purchase the car you want to drive but let your budget decide the age of the car you can afford. Modern cars should at least clock up 300,000 kilometres and some up to half a million with proper care and servicing. The first 100,000 can see a car depreciate by 50% and by 75% at 200,000. Somewhere along this timeline your dream car can come within your budget. The maintenance expense as a car gets older will increase but it is considerably less than the repayments associated with a similar new model.
Speaking to Declan Ennis from Top Part motor factors recently and surveying a select number of garages where we discussed the costs associated with maintaining older cars and preparation for NCT certification. I am not going to name specific makes or models as I have no wish to show a bias. Looking at a car that comes with an initial prices tag in the region of €50K to €60K, ten years old with 200,000 to 250,000 on the clock. Maintaining, servicing and keeping road worthy should require a budget between €1,000 and €2,000 per year. With individual cars, annual mileage and previous owners history of use etc. that can vary. One may be fortunate and drive for three years and not incur any replacement expenses other that normal servicing and tyre replacement but one should allow for expenses if doing a preliminary budget prior to purchase. One must also be aware when making comparisons, new cars will require maintenance also, servicing and tyre replacement are not the prerogative of older cars. The best advice if buying a second hand car is to get to know and trust a really knowledgeable and reputable garage. Seek advice from others if you do not know one already. You could always get them to check over a car before you purchase. If purchasing from a dealership you will have a guarantee. You can find all you need to know about your rights when buying a second hand car on www.citizensinformation.ie
If you are starting out in life and looking to buy your first car you have options. Buying a second hand premium car you admire can bring a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. Plus as it ages you are less likely to resent the maintenance costs it will incur and more likely to afford. So for now why not make your mark and be “significant” within a budget. The day will come again when you want change and can afford more. Will it be a 4x4 fitted with booster seats and no hitch, or a plug in bubble, green to the core? Who knows!