Motoring journalists are often asked to help others with buying cars. Heck, this tester even writes several articles about the sharpest depreciation declines, the cleverest used-car bargains – but when it comes time for yours truly to buy a third car, I’m utterly stuck.
At this point I expect to hear tiny violins playing a sweet sound of (no) sympathy, but choice is a bastard. Having the privilege of driving most new cars in the market has left me with too many to choose from, more questions than answers, and FOMO – or, fear of missing out.
Let me explain. I’m attempting to build something of a dream garage on a budget. Already in the shed is a 1989 Peugeot 205 GTI, which has featured in MOTOR before and which was bought a decade ago for $4500. I consider it more classic car than hot hatch in the grand scheme of dream garages – up there with a BMW 2002 Tii, Lancia Delta Integrale, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo Tommi Makkinnen and 993-gen 911 in my fuller, fictitious garage.
Next to it is a 2010 Holden VE Commodore SS manual, bought for $15,500 with 90,000km and in one-owner country-car condition, but with an OEM-suspension refresh since purchase. I love my two-car $20K garage of disparate abilities; both were easy decisions.
Ah, the third though. Number three is tough, because it has to be both a ‘daily’ and also complementary to the others to round out the trio. The Pug’s too old, the VE drinks 22 litres per 100 kilometres around town and it loses every single rockstar-park pursuit in the city.
To make matters worse, every time someone asks me for car help, I immediately ask them what is their price range. Yet here, it depends on the car. I’m a car enthusiast, so getting it right is more important than whether I play sensible, buy cheap and throw cashola into the mortgage; or else dip into the latter part a bit harder and pay more for something.
Depending on the decision, it could be a $15-to-65K budget, essentially. So take this as the most authentic piece of motor-journo advice; one where hand is (might) be going in pocket.
And let’s set parameters. The 205 is 30-years-old, the VE is a decade old. So I’d like something newer. No SUV and no automatic transmission. If I were to keep both, ideally, seats and space aren’t really a problem. The SS is a fine country tourer and weekender, as happy hunting Hunter Valley curves as it is filled up with friends going there and carting cartons back. So perhaps a sports coupe, a roadster, or a newer hot hatch is the go?
Another option is to trade the VE in for a VFII Redline or Motorsport edition, only I’d then need another car to do daily duties as it sits there gathering dust; and is that smart?
Perhaps I go on the auto equivalent of a Friday night bender and wave goodbye to Commo ownership – ideally I don’t want to do this, as they’re bloody good cars and an end of an era – then tumble the cash back in to buy a proper sports coupe.
That could be a BMW M2 Pure manual or Porsche 981 Boxster, both of which now retail for around $65K. Maybe the latter is preferable, but it needs a locking diff option, adaptive suspension and sports exhaust to really shine, and few people ticked such boxes; while even fewer ticked a manual.
The now two-year-old Bimmer comes brilliant straight out of the box, and with around 30,000km on the clock is basically new for about $30K – or a third – less than its new price.
It could be the bargain of the century, only I can’t really afford 205, SS and M2, as delicious a garage as that would be.
So in an attempt to keep the former two, my ‘short’ list of new-ish used-car manuals are as follows: Ford Fiesta ST, Peugeot 208 GTi 30th Anniversary, Honda CR-Z, Mazda ND MX-5 2.0L, new-gen Suzuki Swift Sport, Toyota 86 GT Performance Pack, Renault Megane RS275, Audi S3 sedan (rare as manual!), Volkswagen Polo GTI or Golf GTI Original, and – at a stretch – a Honda Civic Type-R. If anyone presented me with list I’d call them crazy, yet here we are.
Choice is a bastard. What do you think? More in the next instalment…
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