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Two smart financial decisions I’ve made this year

I’ll easily be saving more than R20 000 over the next 12 months …
Compromises that aren’t too onerous could net you a five-figure saving in the course of a year. Picture: Shutterstock

With inland fuel prices breaching R16 a litre in July, it doesn’t make sense to be driving anything other than an exceptionally fuel-efficient car.

Sky-rocketing fuel bills, together with changes in ‘life circumstances’, forced my hand.

The first smart decision I made was to sell my paid-off Ford Focus ST and buy a Renault Clio. No matter how advanced Ford’s EcoBoost engine is, the fact remained that the ST had a two-litre turbo engine. This was a performance car. Don’t get me wrong: the performance part was great. But did I really need it?

Car makers play on emotion. It’s difficult, but not impossible, to not fall into that trap.

Cars are nothing more than a utility; a means to get to and from work. To take the dogs to the park. To maybe venture out of town on weekends. Perhaps to drive down to the coast once a year. When you consider a car through that lens, purchase decisions are a lot simpler.

Of course, the replacement car needed to be safe, drive ‘solidly’ and not be completely sluggish. The Clio ticked all these boxes.

Many might call this a downgrade. But with the Clio, my fuel bill (roughly) halved.

There was a secondary benefit to this decision too. The Ford had hit the five-year mark and was starting to become expensive to repair and maintain. The original plan was to drive it for another year or two. But there’s obviously a balance between ‘sweating the asset’ and throwing good money after bad. Last week’s Commandments of a Cheapskate column by the acerbically witty Ingé Lamprecht is a must-read.

The Clio was fantastic.

But life had other plans.

The car wasn’t even six months old when an accident on the way to work one morning saw it written off. In case you’ve ever wondered … airbags are loud! (You don’t ever want to experience that.)

This forced a re-think. Happily there was no ‘shortfall’ to make up, but I needed to find a new car.

The ‘default’ position was just to buy another Clio. But the Vat increase and depreciating rand meant that what had cost around R260 000 in March was now a lot closer to R300 000. I simply couldn’t justify spending that on a car that I use to drive under 200 km a week.

After spending a week or two researching various options, I decided to buy second-hand. You don’t have to swallow the new versus pre-owned depreciation hit, plus any extras on the vehicle are ‘free’. This was the second smart decision (perhaps my first decision wasn’t all that ‘smart’ after all!).

Given its great value-for-money credentials, the second-hand market for Clios is pretty ‘robust’. I had to look elsewhere. I settled on a three-year-old VW Up with 60 000 km on the clock, from a reputable dealer (which meant a full 80 point check and so on).

Not having a service or maintenance agreement is no reason to fret once you realise that the price of these is either bundled into a new car’s purchase price or added as an extra. This means you’re paying off – with interest – the cost of relatively inexpensive services over the first three years of a car’s life. (A number of readers pointed this out in the comments under Friday’s Commandments of a Cheapskate piece.)

Now, the absence of the Clio’s turbo means I need to stay in the far left-hand lane up the climbs on various parts of William Nicol, but the car is a pleasure to drive. And it’s just as safe as the Clio.

I couldn’t believe the mileage I got on the ‘free’ half tank of fuel I got on delivery. This car is seriously fuel-efficient. This tank will average around 5.8 litres per 100 km … in town driving, in traffic! My fuel bill is now even lower. At current prices, the ST would be costing me around R3 000 a month. This Up will cost me just over R1 100, making it a complete no-brainer. Over a year – at current fuel prices – I’ll be saving over R20 000.

Of course, the Up is not the only fuel-efficient one-litre on the market. Practically every automotive manufacturer has a car in this segment. And there are larger utility models big enough for families that aren’t two-litre turbos.

Don’t I feel the pressure to upgrade to the latest German sedan or hot hatchback? Not a chance.

Now, if only I’d made the call to buy second-hand in the first place!

* Hilton Tarrant works at YFM. He can still be contacted at




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I sold my vw Amarok double cab and bought a Suzuki motorbike.

Motorbike scare me

Yes. The motorbikers of today are the organ donors of tomorrow.

3 years ago I bought a 520d, with 79 000km for R163 000 with a year motorplan. I negotiated the price to R150 000. my consumption averages 7.1l/100km, 5.1 on a long trip. I get to drive a luxury car with excellent consumption. An ex-employee mechanic of BMW services my car at one-third of the price and Goldwagen is my source for spares, frequently at a fraction of the cost. I seem to have the best of both worlds!

This is all correct and great advise.
But as my father told me, you still need to live a little.
Life is short, but don’t waste and live outside your means.
Bikes is my live a little on the edge!

Famous words before a financial mess: “you need to live a little”.

You’ll soon get used to the high petrol price, but you’ll sooner get tired of the small little eggbeater.

I don’t buy into this idea, a car starts to fall apart as soon as the maintenance/service plan ends at 5 years. Regular services and cars last

Although I am told this exactly happens with BMW’s on the last day of the fith year

Perhaps that was true many, many years ago, but well-engineered cars of today will last a lot longer than 5 years without needing major repairs if serviced properly and looked after in general.

People waste so much money due to this misconception that once a motorplan expires, it’s time to buy a new car. My 2007 Golf GTi has 167000km with no repairs needed since the motorplan expired 6 years ago. Cost R190k second hand in 2011.

What is your fuel bill?

@TimRice. Nope, a BMW doesn’t just fall apart once Motorplan expires….it EXPLODES! *lol*

This Article should be sent to all Politicians , Mayors & other so called Public Servants . They should be limited to max 1,5 Litre commuter cars , not the Luxury Gas Guzzling Bling Cars which they Undeservedly drive at our expense .

I would propose that all politicians (local, Provincial and national govt.) be given a smart car. With a trailer- for the extended family. Jacob would probably need several trailers.

And I’d propose they should be forced to use public transport. Perhaps an i10/Picanto/Swift for the Pres, just because he’s special needs.

Thai small car idea will ot work, their fat arses are far to big to fit in a small car.

See how quickly we adapt to expecting less and getting poorer!
Quite the opposite to the majority who expect more for nothing….
It’s a White MinorityCapital thing….in my opinion.

Driving my Corolla Auto for the past 17 years!!! Guess how much I have saved?????

By my calculations you have saved an impressive amount by not getting any hot dates to take to the movies in your Corolla ! Just kidding, well done, that is very impressive !

My wife’s 2005 Golf V 1.9 tdi, 13 years old with over 200 000kms started misbehaving early on in the year so she made the decision to sell it and buy another car. We settled on a 4 year old Citroen Aircross Hdi (diesel), a mini SUV that is only 2cms longer than the Golf V with more space all round. The fact that it is essentially a Japanese built Mitsubishi ASX with a French powerplant gave us peace of mind. Better still it only cost R165K and still under service plan (one more free service). An equivalent VW product would have cost R85K more.

It is even more economical than the Golf, 6.2 L/100kms vs 7 L/100kms in town and goes to under 5L/100 kms on the open road. The Citroen diesel motor has a far better reliability record than the VW powerplant, and better still, hijack proof. It also costs less to insure and services are cheaper too.

Congrats…you’ve done your research well.

Many non-mainstream brands (e.g. certain models in French, Italian, Swedish car lineups) actually sell well in European markets, but somehow has an “image” problem in SA (perhaps marketing & service levels were poor….but nothing wrong with the actual model of car).

Example, Fiat’s PANDA is immensely popular in Europe for good reason, but doesn’t sell well in SA. What causes it to be a ‘bad’ car here in SA?, but a good, reliable car in the rest of the world?

Take the huge Indian market…Suzuki-Maruti has been the leader in small car sales for years. Only Hyundai starting to make sales inroads, while Toyota or VW not having the relative sales success. Does it mean a Suzuki is superior than a Toyota? (The Indians seem to think so, but rest of world will differ.) Honda again has been the leading Japanese brand in the USA. And Honda in SA?….not that much. Hondas thus inferior to Toyota locally? (Obviously not)

A LOT has to do with marketing (hype) / branding image, and backed up by great service, in each respective region.

Some Saffas will state “Ford is rubbish compared to VW or Toyota”. I say, not so fast…Ford is one of the best selling brands in the UK market, so they can’t be rubbish.

South Africans are (extremely) conservative in their vehicle choices: we’ll stick with known brands (because my dad drove this or that), with a certain fear of venturing to different car brands.
Easy…if one doesn’t know what to buy…just choose a VW or Toyota as it must be the safest “default” choice.

On a lighter note, the way SA economy is going, we should hopefully see more Tuc-Tucs on our roads…(and SAVE costs of one less tyre) 🙂

People say Ford is rubbish because there are many examples of things breaking in them. That doesn’t mean every model but the amount of Ford Ranger stories I have heard from friends is astounding, on the other hand my wife has driven her ecosport for a few years without a single issue.

I must admit, I went from Audi to VW recently and will see how it all turns out but I’m fairly happy so far. Fuel costs are not great but it really depends on your situation, if you drive 3000kms a month then buying a hogg is really stupid.

Everyone got it WRONG!

The SMARTEST financial decision on a vehicle would entail:
– Only buy NEW, so that you have those ‘free’ warranties & service/maint.plans
– Select the most expensive car you can afford (you only live once, remember, and it’s status), by financing over (max) 72 months.
– …and with 30% residual/balloon payment. Your installments will be relatively low.
– Trade it in after 2 to 3 years of use, and buy NEW again. And repeat every 2 to 3 yrs.
– Lob the outstanding finance-contract shortfall of the traded-in car, on top of the current/new car’s finance-contract. Increase balloon to say 40% to compensate.

The above is highly recommended…believe me. Because, (i) it will help the car dealer’s sales turnover & boost their profits, thus keeping the wheels of the economy moving! (ii) Plus it assists used-car buyers to pick relative bargains.

You thus end up driving the latest-model vehicles, with latest engine tech, which equates to best fuel savings. And replacing a new car every 2 years, helps boost the country’s economy.
So, how can this advice be bad? Keep it smart!

“The Ford had hit the five-year mark and was starting to become expensive to repair and maintain.” Really? My experience with a succession of Japanese cars over the past 30 years is no significant expenses up to 10 years/160,000km.

This is all very well, but if you have a family or want to go on road trips every so often, that VW UP will show its limitations very quickly. This is why we need electric vehicles in this country. An EV can offer all the benefits of a regular vehicle, but at far lower running costs. Unfortunately there are almost no practical EVs available in South Africa. I’ve been harassing Nissan to find out if they’re bringing the new LEAF out here and they’ve confirmed that two models will be brought our for testing in our local conditions. I’m not sure what our conditions have to do with it, to be sure. Come on Nissan, we NEED this car in SA!

EV’s are much more expensive. You save nothing.

We need Elon to show us some love and bring Tesla here, the only problem is SA is not very well set up for electric cars. No charging stations anywhere and pretty vast geographically hence KM limits will be a problem I suspect.

It’s a bit of chicken and egg but imagine your business had solar panels and a car charger for employees, would make a ton of sense considering our climate and how we have these huge head offices.

Two smart financial decisions I’ve made this year:
1) Sold my PSG shares
2) Sold my PSG shares

One misconception most people have, is to think that you saved Rx by spending less i.e. on fuel, car payments, etc. Spending less is usually because of a tight budget / because I don’t have the money, whereas saving in the true sense would be if I use the “savings” made on fuel, car payments, etc and make additional payments on my house mortgage bond or if one invest such “savings” i.e. in an ETF. Also Hilton, your first car buy decision were effectively cancelled out when the insurance reimbursed you.

So you basically paid R260 000 to save half your fuel bill. And you call it a good choice?

Thx. First sane comment on this lot.You can never ever “save ” enough fuel to warrant the price of a new car. It is a myth that cars become unreliable or expensive to maintain after 5 years. Both my Toyotas ( bought as used) are older than 10 years and good as new.We go on loong road trips every 2nd year with my Hilux with 190 000k on clock.Never had a moments hassle.Saved myself hundred of thousands by not buying new. My friend who is a rep did trouble free 550 000km in his Corolla 160i and now 500 000km in his present Corolla. People talking like Hilton just trying to convince themselves. Some makes are less reliable.Stick to reliable makes and service and repair when required. 2 were not buying a car and not buying a car. Spending R260 000+ to “save” maybe R500 pa does not make sense.

I sold my Golf R to buy a Up 😛
That was 2 years ago, best financial decision I ever made.

To add to JBD1007’s earlier comment, 2 and a half years ago I bought a 2009 BMW 320d with 171,000km for R119,000 and fitted a new set of tyres. It’s now on 234,000km. My maintenance came to R7500, which consisted of a once off item of R4000 (Goldwagen has all the OEM parts and I use an ex BMW mechanic) and 4 oil services at SMG BMW of around R900 each. I average 6.9l/100km in urban use and 5.9l/100km on the open road, depending on driving style, this can be bettered. I just fitted a new set of tyres again and it feels like a new car again. Similarly I have a friend with a 2007 C200 Mercedes with 255,000km and only routine maintenance through the cars life. You can buy twice the car for half the price 2nd hand, still have great fuel consumption, and even in the unlikely event of a major failure like an engine or gearbox, it will still cost you less to fix than the amount you will loose in depreciation in the first year or two on your new car.

Car is actually a massive expense. Only realised the full extent since moving to Europe and only using public transport that cost me R1.5k a month. I found that I am saving much more here than back home and I believe my salary increase just reflected higher cost of living and not even fully. I attribute that to my transport costs. Back home my installment plus insurance plus fuel and maintenance was R10k now its 1.5. I know this is not an alternative in sa but transport is a massive expense. Need to start factoring that into our town planning

Best way to save on a car, and fuel.
1: buy used, insurance for 3rd party only and replace it cash if it crashes,ie self insure.
2: dont drive everywhere, all the time. Lots of smart alternatives here that will reduce unnecessary mileage. Ill leave them open to the imagination.

FWIW… The primary reason I sold the Focus ST was because I needed the cash to put towards a house (that I hadn’t planned to buy)! More on that soon…


Don’t brag about smart car buying and then admit to buying a money pit. Next you are probably going to admit having children. Those cost at least R3m in net present value, more if you own the home you put them in…

We got a handle on our two cars. Both used, both belonged to ex family members from new and I bought them cash at great prices and they have been very well behaved in terms of maintenance costs.

Whats killed me this year has been R15.5k on tyre and rim repair due to the shocking state of our roads!

Sorry to hear about the unforeseen tyre & rim damage. That’s not great! 🙁

What’s the “aspect ratio” or size of the said car’s tyre?

Still buying cars, Hilton? What about moving closer to work and using Uber for all your little trips? Much safer and also much cheaper.
I cannot understand how people can live in Pretoria/Johannesburg and do the daily commute to Johannesburg/Pretoria? No wonder people don’t have enough money to retire….

“With inland fuel prices breaching R16 a litre in July, it doesn’t make sense to be driving anything other than an exceptionally fuel-efficient car.”

Best is not to drive at all – if you can… maybe walking to some shops is good for the gut and petrol tank 😛

End of comments.





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