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Opinion // On Buying a “Family Car”

So this might seem like a random post, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about recently and I have some frustrations. I’m in the market for a new car. Yes, the time has come for me to finally accept the fact that I need a family car. Of course I’m not talking about the dreaded mom van, but with a husband, 2 boys and a dog the reality is that I need to give up on my Mini Cooper S and get a small SUV.

Having spent quite a few months doing some research, test driving cars and the like, my husband and I are leaning towards the Renault Kadjar.

The thing is, I’ve noticed something very annoying when looking at car reviews online.

Few people review these cars from a family perspective. You’ll hear everyone (mainly men) talk about the speed of the car, the torque etc and none of the things I care about when considering a family car. I have kids in the car, I’m not going to be pushing my car from 0-100 in who gives a f*** how many seconds.

I want to know can I fit myself and my husband, my two kids (in car seats because they take up extra space, that’s a big factor), the dog and the kids bikes or prams or sports equipment or whatever in the boot. It would be nice to know if I can fit my mom (or a friend) in the car as well at the same time, because if we all go somewhere together, at the moment we have to take 2 cars.

What many people don’t consider when they’re in the market for a family car, whether this is an SUV or a people mover (I don’t know how many kids you have), is things like having more kids. As a woman, are you ever going to be pregnant getting in and out of this car? Because you might not think it’s a big deal, but it really is! I had no trouble getting into the Mini when I was pregnant, but I sure as hell had trouble getting out! It’s a great car, it’s comfortable, but it’s low – and trying to leverage yourself at that angle out of the car with a big stomach really isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

The next thing that unfortunately we all have to consider when buying any new car, is affordability. It’s particularly important when you have kids however because there are certain needs that they have that must come before the car you’re in love with. Pesky things like school fees for example. An entry level Kadjar is R364 900,00. This doesn’t account for the fact that with kids you actually need leather seats because no matter what they say about scotchguarding cloth seats, they inevitably end up stained. It also means that if you do want any of the extras you’re looking at additional outlay. If you go for the top of the range model which is a full 4×4, you’re looking at R454 900,00.

Let’s do the maths on an entry level version quickly.

Rent/mortgage, utility bills, medical aid, life insurance, pension, food – all of this adds up every month.

If I put down a R30 000,00 deposit, pay it off over 60 months and for arguments sake went with a 12% interest rate, that would mean my monthly repayments are R7545,00. And that doesn’t even take into account car insurance!

That is NOT affordable! Anyone with a child knows that creche fees alone range between R3000 – R4000 a month and I’m not planning to send my kids to private school when they reach actual school going age! Make that 2 kids and I’m already paying in the region of R8000 a month on school fees alone. Rent/mortgage, utility bills, medical aid, life insurance, pension, food – all of this adds up every month.

Sure I’ll probably trade in my current car, and that would bring the repayments down substantially, but what if you decided that you need a second car and you’re buying it without a trade in? Unless both partners are earning a substantial salary every month, the reality is that new cars are simply not affordable if you’re buying a car that can fit the entire family. It’s not like I have an unusually large family either. Yes I know I could go the balloon payment option. No I don’t want to do that, I don’t feel it’s practical to still be owing a lump sum at the end of my payment terms.

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Let’s say you manage to bring the car payment down, through trade in and savings to an acceptable level, let’s take that a step further and consider how much the car costs to maintain once the motor plan has expired. Because sure, while the car is under motor plan and warranty and you’re not paying anything when it goes in for service it’s great, but the moment that motor plan expires does it become a nightmare to service? I discovered this the hard way with the Mini. Once the motor plan expired suddenly even a basic service was costing me an absolute fortune largely because of BMW’s labour charges on their services which are exorbitant. I’m talking about a service in the region of R18 000.00! No, that is not a typo. Yes, it went on my credit card on budget. Yes that’s part of the reason I’m now looking to sell my car.

Honestly, I’ll probably wait until there are a few more Kadjars up for sale second hand with low mileage, because much as I want a new out of the box car, I don’t know that I’m prepared to pay the price of a new car!

Let me go back quickly and mention why I’m interested in the Kadjar as opposed to the Mini Countryman for example (given my history with Mini).

Let’s begin with the price – the Countryman starts at much the same price as the Kadjar – R365000,00 for the Cooper, R433600,00 for the Cooper S, and ranges all the way up to R526000,00 for the JCW model. Additionally if you want any extras, practically everything is an added extra and knowing what the post-motor plan costs involved are, I’m just not willing to commit to Mini again no matter how much I love the car. You can only push brand loyalty so far if it’s going to pauper you in the process.

The Kadjar on the other hand comes with a lot of features standard. Realistically I would probably only add leather seats to a mid-range model and pretty much everything else suits my needs perfectly.

The other nice thing of course is that although it’s smaller, the Renault Duster is also an option for me here. The Kadjar might have the advantage in size, but I would still be able to fit kids, bikes and dog in the Duster which is a mini SUV.

The Kia Sportage starts at entry level at R369 995.00 and goes all the way up to R503 995. Again, many of the features which come standard in the Kadjar, are not standard in the Kia.

Car manufacturers can no longer use the excuse that the parts are manufactured overseas either, as most major car brands (Kia, BMW, Renault etc) have local factories. It used to be that some brands were cheaper to buy, but as soon as they required service the costs were high and the wait times long due to the fact that the parts had to be imported.

To recap: most of us once we hit our mid-30’s need a car we can use to get the family from work, to school, to sport, to the park and on holiday comfortably, but what value are we getting for our money? Are these “affordable” cars really that affordable? Is it no wonder that we consider buying second hand? Much as I might like that new car smell, there is practically no motivation for me to buy a brand new car, especially with the fluctuating Rand over the last couple of months. I would have to put down a fairly substantial deposit (whether cash or through trade in) for me to feel comfortable with the monthly repayments in this economic climate.

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About Pippa Tshabalala

Tattooed Gamer. Writer. VO artist. Work in TV. Sony Xperia Brand Ambassador Bookings: unexpectedpippa@gmail.com

4 thoughts on “Opinion // On Buying a “Family Car”

  1. Loving this, thanks so much. My group of friends actually discussed this yesterday as 2 of our families are in for “new” cars. The outcome, we all looking for low milage second hand cars with leather seats and an option to extend the motor plan.
    Ps: I got a brand new out the box X trail 5 years ago. I LOVE my car. I’m a girly girl but the x trail is the most comfortable spacious car ever with a huge boot. The service from Nissan has been amazing and im very glad we fork out extra every month for the motor plan. Will drive it until it’s dying too as we can’t afford another car for a long time with school fees and life and and and, and I love it. Good luck my love xxx

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  2. hmm, on my side i’ve always found car auctions to be about the best option – you need to shop around and to take your time and to know what you want in a vehicle, and you also need to be aware that you’ll need to put some cash into changing tires and doing a service checkup on the vehicle you get, but with some canny effort you can pick up pretty much what you want for about 40-50% of retail… (with VAT that can be written off to boot if you have a company to do so)

    there are 4 types of cars at any given auction – 1) a defleeted car, a writeoff, a repo and an estate sale – the defleeted cars have been driven to within an inch of their lives and usually have 100+k km on them, the writeoffs are damaged or defective or have had their warranty voided somehow and the repos are cars that have been picked up by the bank from those people that couldn’t afford them… the estate sale is the car of a (usually) deceased person who is having their assets sold off as part of their will.

    the last two are top line (as no-one goes around expecting to have their assets repossessed or to die – they’ll usually be high end vehicles that have all their paperwork and are still under warranty with about 20-50k km on the clock… and 50% of retail gets you a LOT of extra leeway to get the high-end version of the car you want for the same price as the entry-level car you can afford…

    big down-side, you need the cash upfront or to have a pre-approved auto loan from your bank,

    on the new car front the main hurdle you get hit with is the vehicle tax on purchasing a new vehicle… that’s ~25% of the value of the vehicle that just disappears the second you take it off the sales lot. rather let some other guy pay the tax and take the value hit 🙂

    anyway, my 2c.

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