I'm more excited than I should be about the prospect of spending thousands of dollars for a new car. Simply put, there's no bigger gadget than the automobile and I haven't been in the market for one in more than 20 years. Without any skin in the game, I've largely ignored the automotive world since the last car I owned: a second hand 1970 Karmann Ghia cabriolet. My how things have changed.
For more than two decades I've had the luxury of living in some of the world's best cities. As such, I haven't needed to own a car due to the abundance of reliable public transportation at my disposal. Now in Amsterdam, I do most of my commuting by bike, although I've been a subscriber to a car sharing service for longer trips outside the city center. Times have changed alongside the needs of my family. A few years ago our living radius was about 2 miles from home, but that has expanded greatly to about 25 miles due to weekend soccer games, weekly gymnastics practices, new nephews and aging in-laws we'd like to see more of, and a newfound passion for kite surfing in the North Sea. As such, I've projected that my subscription car service bill would more than double this year, likely exceeding $4,000 which easily justifies putting that money towards something to own.
Unfortunately, the car world has gotten a lot more complicated. Last time I shopped around there weren't any mass market electric vehicles to choose from, or even hybrids. Everything was gas or diesel, and nobody bought diesel. I'm looking to buy a used car and trying to cap my spending at $12,500. Surprisingly, there are EVs for sale in that price range, because, unless you own a Tesla, the resale value sucks for electric vehicles that sold for more than $30,000 when new.
But buying a used electric car like a Nissan Leaf, even one that's only four to six years old, raises all kinds of questions about battery degradation and the need to pay to replace it outside of warranty. Still, my city has a goal of being emissions-free by 2025 and thus makes owning an EV attractive, even an old one of diminished range. Benefits include the elimination of taxes and giving me priority access to a street parking permit. That latter bit is a big deal because permits can take years (up to 10!) to secure and will save me $125 to $250 per month on the cost of a private parking space. Hell, the city will even add a charger to a dedicated parking space on a nearby street if a spot's not currently available.
Unfortunately, I find almost all EVs exceedingly ugly, especially those that were on sale around 2012 (the models in my price range). I do quite like the looks of the recent Kia Soul EV but used models still sell in excess of $20k and feature a rather dismal 90ish-mile range when compared to the 200-plus miles achieved by modern electrics. That brings my attention back to the ol' combustion engine.
I have a weakness for small boxy cars fueled by gasoline and the visceral hate of a surprising number of people. I love cars like the Mini Clubman, Honda Element, Scion Xb, and the slightly larger Ford Flex. If I lived in Japan, I'd damn well buy a "Kei" car like the Daihatsu Move Canbus (not that CAN bus) because oh my god that thing looks awesome. So yeah, power's not my thing, nor is aerodynamics as it turns out. I prioritize ease of parking and driving in a big city, and a car that’s flexible enough to suit the diverse needs of my family. I don't want to win any drag races and I'm content with taking a train or airplane for longer trips. I'm also willing to suffer the ridicule that comes with my love of a divisive design.
I haven't made any firm decisions either way. And I still need to investigate hybrids. Clearly, I have a lot to learn and a lot of hard calculations to make. But I'm excited about cars for the first time in years. Yeah, I realize I'm looking at old models, but they're new to me. I look forward to my edification because the journey, I’ve learned, is often the best part of the process.
Cue the Hunter S. Thompson quote!
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”