I preach, but do not devoutly practice, Bangernomics; do as I say not as I do being a common mantra among the medical profession as they down their sixth pint surrounded by a cloud of cigarette smoke. For the past five years I’ve kept spreadsheets tracking every cost from my motley parade of shonky motors. Inspired by a recent JL Collins post, I thought I would share my yearly running costs here (1).
The current fleet stands at the 15-year old daily driver, and the classic, which MrsShrink never tires of telling me is older than her. There’s also MrsShrink’s car, but I don’t include that in the numbers as it’s entirely her property. This fleet is much reduced compared to recent years, generally more reliable and responsible, and less of an environmental waste hazard. At one point I had vehicles and parts scattered across several counties, and inhabited by a surprising variety of flora and fauna.
The reduction in general tat has come with the realisation that owning said tat is less a joy, and more a millstone. My head hung heavy with the weight of untouched projects. I can only physically drive one car at a time, so better to make it one really good one, than lots of good-ish ones.
The daily driver is a good-ish one, bought at 11 years old on 80,000 miles for £2,000. Four and a half years later it’s ticked round 135,000. Here’s the vitals for 2019:
- Completed 14,000 miles
- Required £1,052 in repairs and pro-active maintenance
- Cost 16.54p/ mile in petrol, for a total of £2,316 (I use the fuelly app to track my fill-ups and spending (2))
- Plus ~£300/year in tax
- And £350/year in insurance
- £0 depreciation – it’s old!
For a total annual cost of £4,020, or 28.7p/mile.
It’s been an expensive year for repairs, with a new clutch costing £650. Beyond servicing and perishable parts there was nothing else out of the ordinary. Unfortunately the old girl is starting to reach the age where lots of things go wrong every year, and it’s time to evaluate the trade-off of ‘better the devil you know’ versus ‘shiny new thing’.
Now I would never buy a shiny new car. My favoured choice is buying something ten years old and running it for five years, hitting my own personal sweet spot of depreciation vs reliability. As for data to back that up, well the clever spreadsheet jockeys over at r/UKPersonalFinance have come up trumps.
Seven months ago, /u/tirboki posted this thread (3). They wrote a python script which scraped data from Autotrader on price, age and mileage, and then compared it to data the DVLA publishes on MOT failure rate. This produced some fantastic results:
But was also largely based on summary data, and therefore wasn’t nuanced. Their suggestion was that:
If you want to own a car for 1 year, buy a 5 year old car. If you want to own a car for 3 years, buy a 4 year old car. If you want to own a car for 8 years, but a 2 year old car. If you want to own a car for more than 8 years, wait for the right month (August, February) and buy a brand new car. (3)
Now I’m not going to buy a brand new car. Nor am I going to buy a base model car. /u/tirboki went on to publish a further analysis thread recently, breaking down the DVLA MOT statistics further (4). This looked at the time it took for cars to go from peak volume (i.e. the most number of the road), to 5% of peak volume, as a marker of life expectancy. There’s a great variety here, a bimodal distribution where high end marques outlast lower quality manufacturers by five years (4). Top spec models also outlast base models.
So where does your car fit? /u/adam-a has the answer for you, developing a website rate my ride which produces MOT survival curves for popular car models (5, 6). It allows you to navigate MOT pass rates as a proxy for reliability (but actually for maintenance and quality, but close enough).
My buying criteria have been <£2,000, around ten years old, high end manufacturer, high spec model, regular servicing and few failed MOTs, moderate mileage (aiming for 6-8,000/year). Cars that spend years inactive tend to come with their own problems, and are often a worse bet than something high mileage but cared for. Ten year old models of my current daily have 80% MOT pass rates, compared to 72% for a Vauxhall Astra. At 15 years the daily is still 68%, the Astra 62%. Worse when mileage is factored in.
So is it time to buy something new(er)?
Bangernomics says it’s time to get rid when the cars value is less than remedial work. I’m anticipating another £1,000 year of maintenance, and with that the cars value will be £750. Being averse to debt, I’m planning to save up for the replacement. When it comes round to it I’ll document the sums here with reasoning (like Mr & Miss Way) (7). I’ll also make use of the excellent UK vehicle stats website (8). For the time being the old girl will continue to see service, but the chop beckons.