Tag Archive | "car ownership"

Is Car Ownership A Luxury?

What are you eating tonight? Italian, perhaps, or some tacos? Which cinema to choose or DVD to rent? These are the daily dilemmas we must face, except they’re not really problems at all are they? They are luxury choices. We know where our next meal is coming from. So do most of us really need that motor outside?

On behalf of Motor Blogger, I have completed an entirely unscientific vox pop down my street. I wanted to know if people felt their car was a luxury or an essential item in their lives. You know, sometimes people can be very rude but those that did respond stated that their car was a necessary and important part of their lives.

When offered the choice, the general consensus was this: going any distance by rail usually means changing trains at least once. Your journey is constrained by a timetable. The railway companies seem to be only interested in the commuters travelling into towns and cities, who are reasonably well served but who have to pay astronomic amounts for their season tickets. Otherwise service can be very patchy and often leave you some miles short of your destination. Try going from Norwich to Newquay, for example.

Bus services around towns are usually pretty good, but outlying areas suffer anything from an infrequent service to no service at all as the companies cut uneconomic routes. That’s their business decision of course but it flies in the face of both government and green lobby desire to get drivers off the roads. The old days of real public service transport are long gone.

Here’s just one (true) example from down my way. Take a pensioner couple who could never afford a new vehicle but can just about manage to run a used car – a Toyota Aygo to be precise. If they go from our suburban street into town it costs them jointly over six pounds return by bus, a journey of some three miles each way. For that money they can buy a gallon of petrol that will take them over 50 miles. Naturally, there are other costs to running a car but their insurance is cheap by today’s standards; they have a good deal on a service contract from a quality dealer and the road tax is twenty quid. The figures really don’t stack up favourably for public transport. Add to that the convenience of door to door transport and, crucially, the ability of going where they want when they want and there can simply be no debate. To live their modest lives to the max – and why shouldn’t they – they need a car.

If you’re well paid or wealthy, like a government minister, then rising car costs don’t really affect you as your pay generally rises commensurate with inflation; but if you’re a pensioner or someone on a low wage with a family to support a car is a lifeline that no amount of public transport can match.

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Married To The Motor

Car ownership is like marriage. It goes through stages. First there is the anticipation stage. This is where the goods are examined closely and a selection process takes place. In the early days it is possible to make mistakes and, although they are likely to be expensive, they won’t be insurmountable. It is important to choose with the utmost care and attention. It may be helpful to consult a friend but on no account should you ever ask your mother.

These days it is popular to go online to find your new partner for the road ahead. There are many websites that cater for all tastes, some more, erm, quirky than others. The final choice might be virgin territory for first timers – although a used model may attract, ensuring that depreciation is taken into account, obviously – and it is important to make the correct decision before signing on the dotted line.

The pomp and circumstance of the union can be a bit tiresome and over-the-top as most are simply keen to get on with it; but the paperwork still has to be done – only then can things move forward with that heady mixture of apprehension and exhilaration. Next comes the honeymoon stage. This is the phase where the happy couple get to know each other more intimately, discovering that new and cool things are possible and a lot of mileage can be gained although it becomes apparent that love is like car insurance – more expensive than was first thought.

There will be pitfalls along the way. Arguments involving inanimate objects will happen and, like a spilt take-away coffee, the fabric of the relationship will have to be repaired. So the years pass. Routine maintenance will from time to time be needed to keep things running smoothly until one day some surprise accessories are added and life will never be the same again.

Sadly, time waits for no man. Although some go the distance others will notice a certain dimming of the headlights and have a sense that some parts are just about hanging in there. A certain amount of rededication to the relationship may help but for some it really is the end of the road. Why maintain an old model when there are new shiny delights out there? It is a choice all will have to make but remember, there is still a great sense of satisfaction to be had from maintaining a classic.

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People’s Choice

There was a time, not so long ago, when motorists aspired to bigger, better and faster cars. The automobile as status symbol. Ownership of a prestige brand was a demonstration that the driver was successful and people aspired to this. Well, now it has all changed and the car is seen as just part of what we are pleased to call lifestyle.

This means that performance figures and sheer physical size are being ignored in favour of real world choices like running costs, fuel consumption and safety. We like our cars to be part of what we do and, increasingly, they are being electronically connected to our social activities, like a home away from home.

Car makers have responded to this very astutely. Cars are, by and large, pretty good value. They are very reliable. Most importantly they are becoming smaller and much more efficient. Out and out performance has given way to comfort and mod-cons.

Traditionally, new developments have slowly trickled down from the R&D departments, through the luxury end of the market until such time as the economies of scale could see them fitted to our everyday motors. It took ten years for the airbag to filter down from its introduction in an expensive Mercedes to be fitted as standard to a family hatchback – the Honda Civic.

Today, the pace of change is much faster. Cars that are within everyday budgets can do some remarkable things for themselves and this year – seen recently at the Paris motor show – many popular models will be available with real cutting edge technology.

Seatbelt airbags, intelligent lighting that gets brighter the faster the car is going, parallel parking assistance and auto-braking are all in evidence as standard. Lane departure warnings and adaptive radar based cruise control are becoming the norm.

Ford have taken another important step. At some point in the life of an adult a day will come when, as parents, they become afraid; very afraid. One of the kids has just passed their driving test and want to borrow the car. This of course is a cunning ruse by the former ankle-biter to get the parent to buy a separate car for them; but for those grown-ups of a sterner disposition who hold their ground, be thankful for Ford’s MyKey system.

This allows for certain parameters to be enforced on the car. Set speeds can be programmed and warnings emitted. Volume controls can be set to stun rather than loud enough to make ears bleed and so on. It’s a great step forward that teenagers will hate, but, hey, that’s part of the fun of being a parent. We may no longer aspire to expensive vehicles but at least we are now able to avail ourselves of the best and latest safety features. We might not ride in luxury but we ride well and you can’t say fairer than that.

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