Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Car buying - the James May way

Phil Ball here.  You might remember some time ago I posted about how I couldnt find my ideal daily driver.  Well It still doesnt exist - sorry to dissapoint.  So I decided to get a bit more serious about making a compromise.  Then things got a bit James May...

The WRX did very well in this calculator whipping session

At least I was able to eliminate this car from the search.

My friends have noticed my uncanny personality match with James May - some would say this includes his love of ugly shirts.  I like to do things slowly and methodically, and sometimes I'm quite pessimistic.  When they saw me making a spreadsheet they freaked out and have been calling me James May ever since.  I think Ish wants to be Clarkson, Parker wants to be Hamster, and Russ wants to be the Stig, that leaves Phil Lee to be our star in a reasonably priced car?  Or a coffee table or something.  Anyway thats off topic.

"What kind of car are you interested in Mr Ball?"

"Well, I want something with a little bit more power than my current car but something thats cheap to own and fun to drive so I'd prefer rear wheel drive or all wheel drive.  And I would strongly prefer a 4 door, and a hatchback if possible."

Rear wheel drive
4 door

Oh dear.  I realized I was going to need to sit down, have a nice cup of tea and make a spreadsheet.  I went wrong the first time getting all caught up on fuel economy and purchas price as the deciding factor.  I realized that fuel economy is only one part of the cost of ownership.  Then my head started hurting, so I had another cup of tea.  Then math happened.

I gathered up all the cars that are giving me akward boners when I see them in public.  Then I worked out a lot of numbers on my spreadsheet.  I added some more numbers and a chart, and I think I have this all figured out.

Lets start with my list of contenders (based on factors such as style, performance and fizzy feelings in my gooch).

2012 V6 Mustang
2012 Focus ST (not available yet)
Hemi Charger - 2006-2008 ish
Imprezza WRX - 2006-2009 ish - hatchback
BMW 328 - 2006 ish
Jag XJ8 - 2006 ish
Infiniti G25 - 2011
Infiniti G35 - 2008 ish
Infiniti G37 - 2009 ish
Mustang GT 2012

Some obvious compromises in there - Mustangs, obviously not 4 doors.  But if I go coupe its my favorite choice, I think it offers the best bang for the buck performance wise.

Focus ST not rear wheel drive, but I think it might be fun enough to enjoy it.  I could add the mazdaspeed3 but I think the focus will get better gas mileage.  The rest are 4 door cars, RWD or AWD.

My commute is about 50 miles round trip each day and is mostly highway.  My experience has shown me that I get about 2 mpg under the highway gas mileage advertised for cars on average.  That's how I worked out fuel costs.  Some of these cars require premium fuel (which is equivalent to a 10% penalty in fuel economy typically). 

Cars depreciate, some more than others.  What I did was assume that if I bought new I would hold onto it for about 5 years (reasonable considering my track record) but If I buy used (with around 50,000 miles) I would only hold onto for 3 years.  I get rid of daily drivers at the 125,000 miles mark because thats when things start to get a little sketchy.  Im therefore assuming 25,000 per year which is about right (still with me?  eyes glazing over?)  So I did the math by looking at purchase price, assumed a resale price after im done with it, and divided by the ownership period.

Adding fuel and depreciation together I get ownership cost (in dollars per month) - simple

Then I looked up power, and weight for the cars to get a power to weight ratio.  Thats where the fun comes in.  It turns out the cars grouped into 3 categories, I also included my current daily driver - the 2007 mazda3 as a reference point.

The first 4 cars cost about the same to own, around $400 per month, and all have similar performance.  The middle group costs more and performance was a little more relaxed, the final group costs the most and has the best performance numbers.  I can pretty much eliminate all but the cheapest 4 since cost is more important to me than performance - thats the whole point of a daily driver.  I thought it was fun to see how power to weight ratio scaled with ownership cost though so heres the chart that I plotted.

The search has thus been narrowed significantly:

2012 Mustang V6
2012 Focus ST
2006-2009 Imprezza WRX with about 50,000 miles on it
2006-2009 Hemi Charger with about 50,000 miles on it.

I think the Mustang loses points for being a coupe and the focus loses points for being FWD so perhaps its really just a choice between the Charger and the WRX.

And since the charger only comes with an automatic, and isnt available as a hatch - that counts against it.  Also I am a little worried about people thinking I am a cop and driving slowly in front of me - the cops around here drive chargers.

So WRX it is.  Anyone have a WRX hatchback they want to sell?

Wait, maybe I should take some for a test drive first...

1 comment:

  1. If you want a fun DD, a WRX is a wise choice James May. It doesnt get better than that.