Some stellar reporting by CAR magazine’s digital editor Ryan Bubear (can you tell I have a man-crush on him?) shows that increasing numbers of South African consumers are shopping around the R200000 price when buying a used car. I recently changed vehicles and joined the sub-200K crowd and still managed to come out with more features than I gave up. You see, cheap cars in 2019 – technically 2017 because that’s the model year I shopped – aren’t the same as they were earlier this decade. Of course there’s a champion in the price bracket when buying new or used, but let’s look at the Transunion data first:
It’s tough for everybody and the manufacturers are responding with ever more enticing marketing tactics to urge you to part with your monthly salary. Always remember that cash deals are nothing to dealers, they want to trap you with that monthly installment so that the banks smile and you keep coming back with that repeat maintenance business. So back to the only car you should be buying if you’re shopping at or under the R200K mark.
The humble (yes, I’m still adjusting to the downsizing from a 7-seat mid-sized SUV) Renault Sandero is by far the best deal around if you don’t mind looking like everyone else. Standard equipment includes, but is not limited to, Bluetooth audio, at least two airbags, electric windows all-around (looking at you previous gen Vivo and Figo) and enough space to accommodate a family of four on a monthly grocery shopping trip. Crucially there are still three years left on the factory warranty and there’s enough of them on the road so plenty options for cheap spares.
The downside is a 900cc engine that is mated to a five-speed gearbox with a long first gear. It actually drives like a 1400 once you get used to it, but our driveway is steep, uneven and concealed from the road so the lack of low down torque is proving to be an unforseen obstacle. Did I mention that my previous SUV was a diesel-powered automatic?
My point is that unless you have a specific need for a certain kind of vehicle, most people can thrive in a cheaper car. It’s mainly greed that pushes us to sometimes reach up to the very edge of our paygrade to mask our insecurities. A car is not an outward expression of your status. It’s a mode of transportation and we should be matching our real world needs with the lowest possible price. But I guess my opinion will change the second I get enough money to afford something more comfortable.
For now I’m just a data point on a chart that reflects the current state of the local economy. Sensible is the new luxury.