Thursday, 9 December 2010

Car Ownership Conundrum

About a little over a year ago, I finally got myself a brand new car, which replaced the ageing Proton Wira my family had since 1997. Now, it isn’t a particularly big car or one that could even remotely be considered luxurious, or flashy (I am not one of those who dream of Porsche-ing around town; a two-seater car is so ludicrously impractical). It is a simple Proton Persona, an economical and easy to drive sedan with a slightly sporty look.

I chose this car mainly because it was a good drive and most Persona owners were very (if not extremely) satisfied with the design, engineering and technology that went into it. You could say it was a logical choice, added to the fact that it was sitting squarely in what I could afford.

Proton has several classes or standards for this model, starting with the basic Baseline, onwards to Medium line, then upwards to the High line and a final notch up, the High line Special Edition or S.E. In all honestly, the Baseline version would have sufficed, but such is the story of my life, I lusted for the SE.

I postulated that I could afford the monthly bank installments with some cut backs on my current lifestyle and habits. The first day the car was delivered to me was a special day. It a strange mix of pride, for finally owning my own shiny new ride and ahem, I am driving an SE! (I guess this is the same feeling Ferraris would give to its buyers).
My baby! All clean and polished to a gleam.
I have been everywhere in it as far as Penang and Johor, to work, for short gallivanting jaunts and run-arounds. Truth be told, I am satisfied with the build quality and reliability of my car, despite what Proton naysayers are spouting.

However, I have failed to take into consideration the actual cost of owning a ride isn’t so much the monthly installments, but the actual running costs – road tax, yearly insurance, fuel, parts replacement, servicing and all other maintenance related money-sinkers like washing, polish and waxes and those assorted bits we not necessarily need but want nonetheless for the car.
Some say the 'snow-wash' type of cleaning is bad for the paint job. Is this so?
A friend recently told me of his plans to also get a car for himself and I found myself cautioning him the realities of car ownership. I certainly wasn’t trying to scare him against getting one, but I may have come across rather strongly in my advising.

I wish someone had taken the time to guide me on what I need to really look at. Obviously, having an ‘SE’ labeled car automatically makes you feel like one is part of an elite few (yes, never mind the fact that it is only a Proton), but there is much I should have known in hind sight.

Roughly two weeks ago, I sent my car in for a major servicing as it had already clocked 40,000 kms. The car was of course equipped with maintenance schedule and it urged to get certain things done, lest the car warranty kaput. Drove to my usual car service guys and got them to do what is needed.

And these little things made the owner go ouch ouch ouch!
Treatment time! Removing the gungy transmission and engine oils.
Thus my bill came out like this:

RM 18  : Air Filter                                                
RM 12  : Oil Filter                                                 
RM 18  : Engine Treatment                                    
RM 97  : Engine Oil 4 Liters                                   
RM 18  : Engine Cleaner                                        
RM 175: Automatic Transmission Fluid 5 Liters       
RM 3.5 : Windshield Cleaner                                  
RM 12  : Radiator Coolant                                    
RM 60  : Major Service Charges                            

TOTAL = RM 498.50.

I ended up gasping for air a few moments thereafter. The service mechanic also recommended that I change the front wheel brake pads (estimated at RM75 a piece!), the brake fluid (good for a few more weeks) and maybe consider doing a proper car detailing (which is an estimated RM 1500 layered combination of washing, claying, polishing, waxing, buffing and re-waxing to restore the body paint quality) at a good detailing center.

Eeep! Uhm, next month please!

Most of my days are spent working how much I actually need to set aside for my car. Now I know why some consider owning vehicles as a liability instead of it being an asset.