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Car Purchase 2 - 2013

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The time is just about right, to draw conclusions concerning the multiple alternatives to a petrol-driven beginners car. The question arises, particularly for those who only have limited funds, whether more money could be saved, if one would take the total working life of the vehicle into consideration. Perhaps one could even combine ecology with economy.

One thing however, should be mentioned beforehand. It's a pretty good idea nowadays, to give the matter a lot of thought, before buying a new car. It's just as wise, to assume that the vehicle will be in service for quite a long time. It doesn't make much sense, to react every time a manufacturer suggests that a model-change is just around the corner. Since a change, with today's unbelievably low used-car prices, can only mean losing a great deal of money and, apart from anything else, you would not be doing the environment any favours at all.

After all, a new car must be manufactured and that uses up resources. Even if your present vehicle no longer offers the fuel consumption that you would like, as long as no greater repairs are expected, it is still more favourable. Nevertheless, it does makes sense to keep up with what's being offered on the market, because if your car does pack up, you generally need a new one quickly.

Let's begin with the running costs, excluding e.g., the insurance premiums, which are calculated to fit your needs and may differ from car to car. Let's take, among other things, the inspections, which depending on the make and model, are once every 15.000 kms or once every year, sometimes maybe once every two years if the car is treated gently. This would be the case if, e.g, the car does not have to be cold-started, or to be used for very short distances. Going by foot or using a bicycle can also save workshop expenses.

At this point, we get a bit personal. What one really should do, is to decide what type of driver one is, in other words, it should be clear, what the new car is going to be used for. One example: If you're travelling a distance of approx. 20 kms to work every day and you have an alternative vehicle for longer distances, a purely elecrically driven car could be taken into your short-list of choices.

Whereby, the word 'pure' can be taken literally, if your trip is into or through the city. Think about it, an electric motor is always ready to go. It doesn't have to be started and also doesn't have to be warmed up. In this case, you need not feel quite so guilty, if you use the car to quickly nip off to post a letter. From the mechanical aspect, excessive wear and tear is not to be expected.

The only thing which might possibly be a drawback, are the batteries. Things now become a little more complicated, the travelling range comes into play. Where you work, do you have the possibility to charge the batteries? Be careful: Is this possibility constant and secure, or do you have to tussle with others for a place? The same question is valid for a possible charging point near to where you work.

Indeed, if available, how high are the fees? Would you be paying for the amount of current you take in, or for the amount of time you park? Perhaps it would be better to chose a vehicle with sufficient range to get you to work and back home again. Then however, take winter into consideration. Are you prepared to just manage to arrive, half frozen at work? Or sweating in summer? You see, buying a purely electric car is not as simple as it seems.

We can take this even further. What type of person are you? Would you rather play it safe by renting the batteries for a monthly fee, or would you buy the car including the batteries, and will the dealer take back the batteries when they're flat, even after the guarantee has expired? Can this car ever be resold, except as a trade-in against another one of the same brand?

Admittedly, this article is getting out of hand. You probably expected concrete help in making a decision and are now being bombarded with questions. Ok, let's turn away from the electric car and have a look at the plug-in hybrid. Perhaps it may get a bit simpler.

First of all, we must unfortunately warn you about the unbelievable sounding CO2-statements and the fuel consumption derived from them. Don't believe them, since the first battery charging is not included in the calculation. Then, have a look at what the battery capacity costs. Due to the fact that it also has to have a conventional engine, this type of car would be even more expensive. Looking on the practical side, an additional vehicle for longer distances would no longer be necessary.

This, by the way, is the main reason why the plug-in hybrid is given a bigger chance for the direct future and also plays an important role as far as the used car market is concerned. Even more expensive, are the Plug-in-hybrids with a Diesel engine. It's quite sad, that these Diesel engines, when used alone, use even more fuel than they would, if they did not have the additional ballast of an electric motor on board.

Perhaps we'll put our heads on the block and advise you to buy a car with an economical Diesel engine, if your yearly travelling amounts to between 20.000 and 30.000 kms or more. This is even more valid if you place a high value on the comfort offered by larger cars and if you have nothing against using the fast-lane occasionally. The Diesel engine is more forgiving than the petrol engine as far as high-speed escapades are concerned, also then, when a hybrid is also on board.

Petrol driven hybrids without rechargeable batteries certainly do have their eligibility. They are often combined with an economical engine. Indeed, take care: Those who can really control themselves and stay mostly below the recommended motorway speed (130 km/h in Germany), will enjoy driving cars like this. If however, every now and then, you like to put your foot down, you'll have to get used to visiting the filling station more often.

As you can see, a lot depends on the reason why the vehicle is to be bought. Finally, a variation which is becoming more and more interesting, the natural-gas powered car. In this case, there are only three stumbling blocks:

1. Additional expense when buying or converting the car.
2. Additional expenses caused by the increased inspection effort..
3. More frequent fuel-stops and possibly, having to search for suitable filling stations.

Indeed, give some thought to the advantages as well. Once bought, you start saving immediately. Those who always travel the same road, with perhaps a suitable filling station on the way and clock up enough kilometers annually, will certainly be well served with a car like this. That the natural-gas technology is better for the environment, is simply an added bonus. 09/13

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