You’re home alone. Your wife is out and the kids are at extracurricular activities. Perfect. You decide to take full advantage of that uncapped internet bundle and fire up the laptop. The swell of excitement rises. Lying before you are a bevy of models — and they can all be yours — with a bit of imagination. There are athletic ones, big and beautiful ones, older ones and examples desperate for a bit of TLC.
I am of course talking about the indulgent pastime of fantasy car buying. Have you not done it before? It’s an immersive game with simple rules. First, you’ll need to set a budget. Next, log onto to a used car listings website like Gumtree or Auto Trader.
Set your parameters and feast your eyes on all that can be had. It’s an addictive pleasure and I often find myself squandering hours on a lazy Sunday stocking my mental garage. But it’s not just a frivolous waste of data and time. I put it under the category of “research”. It’s a great lesson in the sort of value buyers can score on the used car market.
Second hand offerings make convincing arguments when stacked against their newer counterparts. Of course, you know that spiel about cars being depreciating assets — so I’m not going to bore you with it. But what I will do is illustrate just how much you can get out there.
Let’s start with something high-performance. How does the idea of an E90 BMW M3 grab you? It’s the last of the normally-aspirated variety, with that menacing V8 rumble revered from Sandton to Lenasia. I found a 2008 example with 68 000km on the odometer going for R379 900. It even had a small remainder of the maintenance plan. For a bit of perspective, a new BMW 316i will set you back R395 000 these days. But perhaps you feel the mighty Motorsport Beemer is a little excessive.
Here’s a spirited roadster that became the choice for more than 940 000 people worldwide — the Mazda MX-5. The compact two-seater is loved for its winning blend of rear-drive dynamics, affordability and cute factor. You can fetch a decent example of the current, soon-to-be-replaced model with reasonably low mileage for as little as R180000. That’s B-segment hatchback money. It’s no secret that large luxury cars depreciate faster than they accelerate. Take the Mercedes-Benz S-Class for example — the archetypal big executive sedan. A 2010 S350 CDI derivative, with a mere 57 710km on the clock, would set you back a snip around under R500 000. According to a pricelist from 2010, this model cost R1034880. The amount lost in depreciation could’ve paid for a small apartment in Fourways!
A car is never an investment, although in some cases it can be. A prime example is the Porsche 911 — particularly the older models. You could spend upwards of R400 000 on something like a 1982 Carrera 3.2. Perhaps this is easier to justify, because it is unlikely to ever decrease. Now these all sound like enticing propositions. But remember to do your homework before making your fantasy a reality. Unlike an internet window tab, you can’t simply hit the exit button when your new purchase catches you off guard with unexpected maladies.
Digital dreaming — it’s a bittersweet affair. Until I get that winning lottery ticket — or a sizable increase — I’ll keep contributing to that massive mental garage.