I’ve become fascinated by the long term cost of things of late. I suppose this is merely a natural progression in a personal finance journey; you are no longer content to know just what things have cost to date, but what they will cost you in the future, too. Of course no one knows what will happen in the future with any degree of certainty although two outcomes remain a given: you’ll pay taxes, and die at some point.
Beyond those two cheery thoughts, a little artistic license may be required.
As I was driving to work yesterday evening, a thought started buzzing around the fringe of my consciousness. “Just how much have I paid for this car in its 6 and a half year life?”. As many personal finance bloggers have mused in the past, cars are expensive. They are even more expensive on a finance ‘deal’.
I realised I could probably answer my question with a reasonable degree of accuracy, as I keep all documents relating to my car since purchase no matter how small. I promised to add it all up and find out, If I remembered between the thought coming to the surface and getting back home.
This afternoon I dug out my “Car Expenses” docket and opened up a new Google Spreadsheet to start typing in numbers.
I drive a 2003 diesel Ford Focus 5-door hatchback and this is if I am an honest, a superb vehicle. It’s extremely efficient if driven right (currently 67.5mpg according to its computer), still looks great, can haul anything I put in it, and is extremely comfortable and reliable.
Unfortunately, these are the only good things about my purchase.
When I first bought it at age 19, I wanted “the best” – after all, my consumerist desires had been nicely nurtured by the salesman and two decades of advertising exposure – so I went all out. I had metallic paint, supaguard protection inside and out, the highest trim level (Ghia), a 6-disc CD changer, 115 bhp engine rather than the usual 100 and so on and so forth. The list of ‘extras’ goes on for miles.
In total the “there and then” purchase price would have been £16,209. Not too bad for a brand new reasonably specified vehicle, even in 2003 money.
Purchase Mistake #1: Unfortunately, that wasn’t what I paid. When I first bought the car, I had £8,000 in savings to put towards a new vehicle. In hindsight I could have got a lesser vehicle – still new – for that alone. The purchase price of the car I wanted was £16,209.01 which meant I needed to source £8,209 from elsewhere. I probably found the necessary 1p in my pocket to save getting that on finance also, so £8,000 needed to be financed. The place I bought the car was all too keen to sell me their finance package and looking back it wasn’t a bad deal: 6% APR over 3 years.
Purchase Mistake #2: I thought I could do better. I telephoned my employer who ran an assisted purchase scheme for new car buyers. The headline rate is 3.5%, so I signed up to get my missing £8,000 and made up the difference that way. However, 3.5% is not the APR, that’s the flat fee per year. The APR which I subsequently found buried in the small print) is 7.5% if taken over 3 years like I did. Adding the arrangement fees and paperwork costs on top, I paid nearly £1,000 over the purchase price to borrow that £8,000. The only good point about this loan was the payments were taken from my gross wages, meaning the money was taken before my income tax and national insurance payments were calculated.
Purchase Mistake #3: In 2005 I got married, and so that we could set up home together having started with nothing, we took out a £15,000 loan over 5 years. Included in that was some consolidation of our existing commitments and operating capital on top. I paid off the loan from work, and rolled it up in this loan instead. Now my car would have been paid off in 1 more year if I’d kept the original repayments going, instead I had just extended them for another 5 years at 9.9% instead!
Purchase Mistake #4: In 2009 I filed for divorce. In order to restructure my finances to help get me debt free more quickly, I paid off the remainder of this loan and a few others with one super-loan from my bank for £10,000 at 8% over a further 3 years (although my intention from day 1 was to pay this off inside 12 months). This wasn’t a mistake per se, but does theoretically mean that 6 years after taking delivery of the car I am still paying for it and could do until 2012, almost 9 years after driving it off the forecourt!
So far, purely courtesy of finance costs, arrangement fees and interest my £16,209.01 car has actually cost £22,962.09 – nearly 30% more than the original price of the car.
Put another way I would be debt free right now if I had not taken out my car on finance. My net worth is at August’s calculation -£4,951.49 so I’d actually have almost £2,000 in the bank, instead of still owing others money.
I then went a step further and totaled up my insurance, road tax, servicing and other car-related expenses such as my annual diesel spend and played around with the Google Spreadsheet graphing toys to produce the following:
As we can see the Total Cost of Ownership goes down year on year from the point of purchase to about 3 years in, and then climbs rapidly. In 2003 (year of purchase) it cost me £1,771.71 excluding the down payments. In 2004 that dropped to £1,597, and in 2005 it dropped again slightly to £1,587.89. 2006 saw my servicing costs rocketing courtesy of crash #1, but lowering insurance premiums saw the TCO continue to drop slightly to its lowest point of £1,461.60.
Mistake #5: From that point onwards though, it has year on year cost me more and more to own the car. I began to neglect the servicing schedule. As a couple, our financial issues began to really cause a lack of disposable cash. Non-essential spending was cut to a bare minimum and there just was not enough to service the car beyond the absolute essentials to keep it running.
2007 saw fuel prices start to get noticeably more expensive as well so despite spending less than I should have been on maintenance, TCO went up to £1,814.35. Since then, fuel prices seem to have only one long-term direction: up. At this point I had not really correlated that keeping the car serviced and driving sensibly actually reduced my fuel bill…
2008 continued much the same as 2007 but problems were building up with the car thanks to the reduced love and care it had been given over the past 2-3 years. A further crash in the icy weather stored up further problems towards the end of 2008 that could only be put off very temporarily. My marriage came to an abrupt halt, and I saw the light.
2009 consequently became very expensive for servicing. I had to have 3 years worth of remedial work done, crash damage fixed and the 100,000 mile service performed, which is a big deal in a diesel Focus (timing belt change). As a direct result of this, the 2009 servicing cost is the highest to date but does follow the general rule that “the longer you own a car, the more expensive it becomes”. You can see from 2009 my fuel cost reduces despite higher prices, as I made an effort to drive more sensibly.
Mistake #6: The cost of my insurance dropped every single year by always shopping around for the best deal, but I wasted money here as well. I had always opted to pay over 12 months rather than paying for my insurance in one go. This is all well and good for budgeting purposes, but not too good for balance purposes when you consider the typical APR for doing so is 27.9%! I have paid £320 over 5 years just for choosing to pay monthly instead of annually for my car insurance. I corrected that error of judgment in 2009 as well.
The total expenditure of owning my car from new, crashing it twice (minor damage to my own vehicle only – no insurance claims), servicing it and keeping it fed?
Tags: consumerism, finance package, Ford Focus, insurance payments
Category Motoring, Spending Analysis
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