July 18, 2011 (Suleiman Munyua) – Buying your first car is an achievement that means you are finally able to stand on your own two feet. It also of course means becoming the designated driver for those friends of yours who do not have cars.
When looking for a car, there are a few things you need to look at to ensure your hard earned money does not go to waste. Unless you are buying a car or truck for commercial purposes, never consider it as an investment.
It depreciates in value and unless it’s bringing in some financial returns then the word investment should not come to mind.
Now, when you go car shopping or respond to an advertisement you have seen in the local dailies, notice boards or online, there a couple of issues that you need to keep in mind before making your payments.
The first and most important thing to look at is; what are your needs and what would you like this car to do for you. If you are looking for a car to get you from point A to B in town, then a small car with a low capacity engine would suffice. If you do a lot of off road trips either to the farm or ferrying the family, then you need a slightly bigger car with relatively good ground clearance.
The second thing to look for is the condition of the car. There is always a reason for someone to sell their car and most of the time, its “junk” they need to get rid of. So it’s imperative to check out the condition of the engine, the suspension, the body, the tires and the interior. Repairs on engine parts can get very costly. In some incidents, you could be forced to buy a new engine and maybe a new computer box that could cost anything between Sh40,000 and 300,000 depending on the type of the car.
Suspension parts like bushes, shock absorbers and springs are not the cheapest to buy especially if you have to replace the entire set. Where possible, ask for a service report for the car and have the engine checked by your own trustworthy mechanic and not someone who is out to make money off of you.
The body is like the face of the car. The way your car looks, portrays a lot about you. A clean and well maintained car will always show that the owner knows how to look after their vehicle. It also shows that you are caring, organized, mature and can be entrusted with positions of power. Women look at you as someone who can take care of them too. So as you shop for your car, look for signs of accidents in the body panels. Any bumps, newly painted panels or inconsistency in the colour should raise a red flag. Those are signs that the car has had an accident.
After buying a car, the last thing you want to do is have to buy tires, so ensure that the tread depth in the car is on the healthier side to give yourself the chance to breathe before buying a new set.
Select a car model that in the event that you would like to upgrade your car, would not take a nose dive with regards to its value. Brands like Toyota and a couple of Four Wheel drive vehicles tend to hold value for much longer.
As you shop for cars also put in mind the cost of repairs that the car might need and decide if that is a necessary headache. Some vehicle models are known for their costly spares. However you also need to remember that cheap is expensive so ensure that you buy original parts from reliable outlets.
Cars like Mercedes, Subaru, BMW, Audi and others have highly priced parts which however they tend to last longer. Other brands like Nissan and Toyota’s have what is referred to as “Genuine Fakes”. These are fake spares packaged to look exactly like the originals but will not last. Try investing in genuine parts and enjoy the comfort of your car.
Another critical item to look at is the engine capacity of the vehicle. Unless you own shares in an oil company, try sticking to small engine capacities. Avoid large petrol guzzling engines for your first car no matter how attractive the offer might be. For a first car, anything between a 1000cc to a 1500cc vehicle would be good.
My final words of wisdom will be, ‘do not be in a hurry to get your dream car. Start small and work your way to your dream car. That way, you will have mastered the art of dodging matatus and potholes and will be able to take better care of the car.