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  1. #1
    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    Default car buying these days...

    Hello!

    I'm getting worried that my trusty old Polo may be giving up the ghost. On our trip to Belgium, it managed fantastically on the German highways (140 kph no problem, at 6.5l/100km), but I had to add oil... twice... After the oil light went on, I added a litre and less than 1000km later it went on again. It is 100% certain that it is not leaking oil and there are no visible leaks around the engine (quick look by the guy at the garage where I got a new oil bottle) so it must be burning it. There is a chance it is the PCV valve, which would be an easy fix, but if it is not that it may spell the end as finding which gasket/seal is causing it will be hell. I'll schedule a meeting with the garage soon to find out. I also have the feeling the thermostat of the airco is on the fritz...

    But I've been wondering what to get now, and it seems problematic. We are not in a situation to get an electric:
    • no ability to charge at home (apartment in city centre without garage, no garages available at all), public charging points quite far away (and they are slow chargers);
    • regular periods of 7+ days of non-usage due to alternating remote work (car is then parked outside: in winter in temperature below -20°C, in summer above +30°C; so that will just waste energy in battery heating/cooling and lower the available range),
    • we normally have a 20 km commute but with regular 300km+ trips for work and even longer ones for leisure (considering a 2x600km city trip in September and again scheduled a combined city-work trip of 2x1400km in October). Sometimes also the work trips have very short notice ("tomorrow meeting 300 km away").


    Important aspects for me are: automatic gearbox, comfortable seats, quiet highway driving (140 kph), automatic air-conditioning. As far as I've found, cars are now so stuffed with electronics - some mandatory, some as sales points - that things relating to comfort are a bit pushed back and moved to options packages to keep the base price attractive. Now you have to move to higher trim levels to get acoustic isolation (Mitsubishi), comfort seats (Volkswagen), or non-manual airco ... Small cars are relatively very expensive and even more basic, to give an idea: within 2000 euro difference, I can get Volkswagens from Polo, Golf, T-Cross, T-Roc to even Passat (they would not be equally rich equipped, but would have the options I care about: bigger models tend to have more comfortable basic trim). In many makes, lower trims cannot be combined with automatic gearboxes, especially in small cars.

    Second worry is the growing presence of low emission zones and other restrictions - Poland is a bit behind with that, but Germany and Belgium are not - so that makes me a bit weary of older second hand cars (i.e. pre Euro5 norm, 2009) as I fear they will be restricted sooner rather than later. A young second hand car at the moment does not seem cheap enough to justify it over a new car... or you have to go some luxury make but then it still matches the price of a new regular make (some 4-5 year old Jaguars can be found at the price of a new Golf)... So if I'm looking at a new car, such a thing matters to me (ideally would be current Euro 6d, since 2021, to maximise it usage possibilities and potential resale value).

    Weird times ahead... First let's see if the oil problem is easily solved...
    Last edited by VJ; 13th August 2021 at 03:18.
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  2. #2
    Super MURCer UtwigMU's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VJ View Post
    Hello!

    I'm getting worried that my trusty old Polo may be giving up the ghost. On our trip to Belgium, it managed fantastically on the German highways (140 kph no problem, at 6.5l/100km), but I had to add oil... twice... After the oil light went on, I added a litre and less than 1000km later it went on again. It is 100% certain that it is not leaking oil and there are no visible leaks around the engine (quick look by the guy at the garage where I got a new oil bottle) so it must be burning it. There is a chance it is the PCV valve, which would be an easy fix, but if it is not that it may spell the end as finding which gasket/seal is causing it will be hell. I'll schedule a meeting with the garage soon to find out. I also have the feeling the thermostat of the airco is on the fritz...

    But I've been wondering what to get now, and it seems problematic. We are not in a situation to get an electric:
    • no ability to charge at home (apartment in city centre without garage, no garages available at all), public charging points quite far away (and they are slow chargers);
    • regular periods of 7+ days of non-usage due to alternating remote work (car is then parked outside: in winter in temperature below -20°C, in summer above +30°C; so that will just waste energy in battery heating/cooling and lower the available range),
    • we normally have a 20 km commute but with regular 300km+ trips for work and even longer ones for leisure (considering a 2x600km city trip in September and again scheduled a combined city-work trip of 2x1400km in October). Sometimes also the work trips have very short notice ("tomorrow meeting 300 km away").


    Important aspects for me are: automatic gearbox, comfortable seats, quiet highway driving (140 kph), automatic air-conditioning. As far as I've found, cars are now so stuffed with electronics - some mandatory, some as sales points - that things relating to comfort are a bit pushed back and moved to options packages to keep the base price attractive. Now you have to move to higher trim levels to get acoustic isolation (Mitsubishi), comfort seats (Volkswagen), or non-manual airco ... Small cars are relatively very expensive and even more basic, to give an idea: within 2000 euro difference, I can get Volkswagens from Polo, Golf, T-Cross, T-Roc to even Passat (they would not be equally rich equipped, but would have the options I care about: bigger models tend to have more comfortable basic trim). In many makes, lower trims cannot be combined with automatic gearboxes, especially in small cars.

    Second worry is the growing presence of low emission zones and other restrictions - Poland is a bit behind with that, but Germany and Belgium are not - so that makes me a bit weary of older second hand cars (i.e. pre Euro5 norm, 2009) as I fear they will be restricted sooner rather than later. A young second hand car at the moment does not seem cheap enough to justify it over a new car... or you have to go some luxury make but then it still matches the price of a new regular make (some 4-5 year old Jaguars can be found at the price of a new Golf)... So if I'm looking at a new car, such a thing matters to me (ideally would be current Euro 6d, since 2021, to maximise it usage possibilities and potential resale value).

    Weird times ahead... First let's see if the oil problem is easily solved...
    I had 2001 Polo GTI (1.6, 125hp, loads of fun) and 2000 1.4 16V 100hp before that. I had to add oil on 1.4 couple of times a year from since I've bought it at 160k km. On GTI I had to add oil to the point where at 250k I had to add nearly 1L of oil every 3k km and there was blue smoke from the exhaust. I ended up selling the car to some young guy who worked in car shop who then was able to rebuild the engine. Engine is around 1-2k but at 180k you will have to add oil regardless. Also the air conditioning wasn't so great and even if I filled the gas it would escape.

    Now I drive 2009 Honda Civic 1.8 140hp, it's at 170k. In years pre COVID when I was driving 25k/year I had to add 1L of oil once a year, now I twice haven't added any oil between regular annual service. My scenario is similar to yours. I drive 8km commute and short local trips to shops. Once a week I do 200km roundtrip, once a year I go on 1000-2000km trip. Everything works, zero problems, service costs 180 EUR / year. The problem I had was I crashed the car but also the parts came within a week which is a concern with Japanese cars.

    On Polo there were constant problems: clutch, water pump, spark plug cables, leaky steering servo, starter - car would randomly not start, once it nearly failed in the middle of Austria when I was driving my visiting friends back to Germany. I was pretty much paying 1000 EUR per year for maintenance.

    Fuel consumption is around 7-8L/100km, same as GTI although it's a larger, heavier car. Fuel consumption doesn't matter that much. If you go to ADAC you get TCO per km and per month. Typical cars cost 300-500 per month to run and if your consumption is 1L less you save 15-20 EUR/month which negligible compared to rest of costs such as insurance, depreciation, tyres, service.

    Hybrids are OK but problem is CVT transmission, I couldn't stand driving one. One solution is Mazda which has dual clutch auto gearbox. Mazda has in my opinion the best philosophy at the moment, distraction free interior, efficient petrol engines, fun to drive, no CVT, all instruments still on the panel, unlike Renault and Tesla which have everything on a tablet which will fail after 7 years.

    So gasoline is preferable, at this point I would give hybrid a consideration. Toyota is the most far ahead in hybrids but it depends if you like it or not. Otherwise screw German cars, they are not what they used to be, when you could drive Golf Mk1 or 2, Mercedes W123 or W124 or BMW 3 E30 for 20 years. After end of warranty and/or 7 year leasing period they have built in planned obsolescence with plastic parts in engine. Expensive used to translate into more durable, now it just means more gadgets and more expensive to fix once leasing is over.

    Check out Mazda 3, CX-30, CX-3, Honda Jazz or Civic or HR-V or Toyota Corolla, CH-R or RAV4 or Suzuki Swift. If you want to go on budget but new, IMO Citroen has one of best price-performance ratios and is built reasonably OK with a bit more problems than Japanese but less problems than Germans costing less than both.

    Don't go for the meme 3-pot 1L cars. I had replacement Polo 6R (5th gen) with that engine for couple of days and it was rattling like a tractor while idling at a stop. Those cars will probably not last to 200k km. All cars are turbo now so if you must get one, get the one that has enough displacement to move the car on it's own. Again Mazda and Honda don't have really tiny engines but are more sane with their 1.5L and 2L engines with turbos.

    Also think if you need auto transmission. Unless you drive in heavy city traffic a lot it's not necessary. On highway or non busy roads you can just use cruise control.

    Electric cars are like CRT vs LCD. They will take over, but old technology at it's peak is better than new at the start. I heard a story of a guy who bought new 160k Audi E-tron that has broken down and they had it in saloon for a week with mechanics from Germany in space suits figuring out the problem.

    Used cars are going up due to semi shortage and lack of new cars and inflation and those problems won't go away at least for 1 year.

    Don't get a diesel since it's not suitable for your scenario and they are being pushed out by EU first.
    Last edited by UtwigMU; 13th August 2021 at 07:25.

  3. #3
    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    Mine is a 2003 Polo Comfortline (the model with the round headlights), a 1.6l with DCT. I got it new; now it has 174000km. It had a few issues (recently ignition coils), but has been very reliable without any gremlins. Between the two oil-alarms I added 1 litre and drove around 1000 km. But this was on constant German highway usage, which is likely to see increased oil usage. It still seems a lot, so I'll have it checked (there is no visible oil under the car but also no signature blue smoke). Shortly before the first alarm, my engine light went on, but it was fuel related (it went off again after refuelling the next time - the fuel that caused it was described as "cleaning the engine"), but maybe that also impacted oil use afterwards.
    Everyone always talks about gremlins with German cars, and how the check-engine light is just indicating that the engine is still there, but I cannot complain. Funny thing is: at the dealer last year, the guy at the service-desk asked me if I'm not considering a new car. I replied it works fine, so there is no need to which he smiled and replied: "yes, you won't drive a new one that long". The normal annual service costs the same it always does (around 150-200 EUR).

    I've actually never been in a Toyota that was comfortable for me (have a history of back problems), my parents' Mokka is a disaster (comfort wise, for me), as is my in-laws Lodgy. This part scares me the most, as it is such a subjective criterion that is difficult to assess when sitting in a car for 2 minutes. A colleague's Subaru Forester was very comfortable, but is in a different price range.

    I'm still wondering between a well equipped smaller car (size Golf), or a more basic equipped bigger car. Somehow I fear French cars, perhaps because of my parents' experience with a Renault (literally falling apart after 12 years, even though always stored in a garage), a friend's experience with Peugeot and another friend's experience with Citroen. I don't know anyone who is brand-loyal to any of these. They do tend to be comfortable, but with issues and limited longlivety. Second hand cars are not off the table, but I've never bought secondhand and have heard a lot of horror stories (also heard good stories, but the horror stories stay, making me prefer a new smaller car over a big secondhand car). The driver's seat in my father's Volvo 850 lost its comfort quite early on, which would be annoying if you get it as second hand. Important for me is that I can trust the car and don't have to do anything other than the annual service (some people don't mind small issues as they can cope with them; I don't want to have to cope with them ;-)). I don't want to keep track of engine coolant, like my father-in-law does on a 10 year old Hyundai i10 (which they got new) or any of such things. I want to be able to park the car, leave it for a week (-20 or +30 temperatures), go to it and expect to go for a 300km drive - surprisingly that is possible with my 18 year old Polo (if I take a bottle of oil).

    I looked at Mazda online and they look nice (no idea how they sit); a friend of my parents always buys Mazda (doctor who does house calls, but he does not drive long distances). I don't think I'd mind a CVT, and I also looked at Subaru and Suzuki. Particularly Subaru here is very well equipped here (e.g. Impreza: choice of 2 trimlevels, metallic paint is the only option in either), but has a rather limited network in Europe. Also not unimportant when travelling with it. The e-boxer hybrid thing seems nice from a technical point of view: it is a pure hybrid and can drive electric, but with very limited range - it is rather used to help the engine (in that sense it is closer to the current crop of those 48V mild hybrids, which however cannot drive on pure electric). Kia is very popular here, but they have so many models in similar prices that it is just ridiculous; improved comfort (e.g. seats) quickly push up their prices though. Hyundai also is common on the road here, but similar to Kia when it comes to improved comfort. I need automatic as it saves my left hip and back, and our commute is very busy city driving. The hip and back are also why I value comfortable seats so much (and fear uncomfortable ones), and it is annoying to see that in cheaper cars, those get delegated to high trim versions.

    Maybe I'm overthinking it, but I'm also wondering what in the future, when manufacturers will stop with fuel powered cars. Some will stop in 2025, others in 2030, and no new fuel powered cars can be be sold from 2035 in Europe. That will have repercussions on the secondhand market. In addition - perhaps I know too much about this from work - we foresee huge issues with the shift to electric: the grid just won't manage. Mercedes presented a car that can charge at 200kW. That is the maximum power of 50 households (single-phase)... for a single car. In Netherlands, a university won a bet with a grid-operator: the operator said their grid is safe. The university distributed free pizzas and asked 20 people to switch on their ovens at 20.00 to heat up the pizza, while charging cars (edit: https://flexible-energy.eu/portfolio...lectric-ovens/ ). The grid failed and caused a local blackout; this was in 2015 when fast car chargers were not pulling as much power as now. In Belgium, only electric company cars will have tax benefits (and in a few years fuel powered company cars will not be allowed), but every year they have power issues and it will get worse (nuclear powerplants are end of extended life in 3 year or so, and they don't even have the building permits for the gas powerplants that will replace them).
    The push to electric does not make much sense for people who cannot charge at home, which is the majority of people who live in the city centres. In Belgium they already put limits on how long you can leave your car at a public charger, meaning that IF you are lucky enough to have a charger near to where you leave AND you are lucky enough to have a spot, you still have to move your car after some time. So when you come home at 18.00 and plug in the car in the slow charger, you can expect to have to interrupt your evening to move the car (or you will pay a lot). City centres will more and more ban cars (fuelpowered moreso, but cars in general - diesel the most: you currently cannot buy a diesel that will be allowed in Antwerp after 2027). So while electric cars may make sense for use in the city, they do not make enough sense for many people living in the city. Hybrid cars will be treated as fuel powered cars in low emission zones (ok, bmw presented hybrid cars that use geofencing to detect they drive in a low emission zone and switch to full electric; but I doubt the law makers will take that into account). And lastly: small citycars are too expensive to produce (Audi cancelled the A1, Opel cancelled the Adam, ...) as it is too complicated to meet emission requirements in a small car.

    The audi e-tron used our institute as a backdrop for its presentation to the press. So we also got to sit in it. Nice car, but at the same time I was surprised how small it was inside (passenger space, trunk), in relation to its outside dimensions. The trunk was small for a vehicle this size; a VW Passat has a bigger trunk.

    Sorry for the rant, but I have all these things playing in my head and it complicates the search for a car... Ideally I do not want to get a new car, but I know I should be prepared if the oil problem is serious enough. The search seems to tell me to get a very good fuelpowered car (can be hybrid if the price is right), and drive it as long as possible: no upcoming issues with low emission zones (it does not seem that Euro 6 will be blocked soon - I checked future plans of various cities, and most seem to allow Euro 5 till after 2030; so we are looking - my wild guess - 2035 at the earliest when some might consider blocking Euro6), no issues with range for long drives, and comfortable enough for long travels. And if it meets those requirements, perhaps it resale value will also be quite good after 10 years or so.

    edit: forgot to add... From July 2022 (or July 2024, not sure how they define new vehicle types and new vehicles) new cars in Europe have to have Intelligent Speed Assistance ( https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better...-assistance_en ). This means the car has to limit to the maximum speed (which it knows from gps and cameras); the driver can override it by pressing harder on the accelerator (ignoring audible and visible warnings). The system can be switched off, but it has to be on every time the car starts. Seems very safe (!) to drive the only new car in busy traffic, when it suddenly decides to slow down or you have to force it to speed up. There are roads here where the speed limit is 50 (for no apparent reason: 3 lanes both ways), but in normal traffic everyone goes 70. A car driving 50 at that place is a danger to the others. So maybe not a good idea to get a new car after May 2022...
    Last edited by VJ; 13th August 2021 at 09:35.
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  4. #4
    Super MURCer UtwigMU's Avatar
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    I had engine light on the GTI on almost all the time. Also youtube videos of guys driving I've found had the engine light. It's normal. Once you have light + another light + 3 letter code on LCD then it's a real problem. :-)

    I also don't like Toyotas although the new ones seem better. The "TV" in the middle of dashboard is off-putting.

    Renaults are crap. Drove a Kangoo on the job before and plastics just broke. Also I find the desnig with lines at random angles that don't intersect or have any relation very ugly in most of the recent ones. Way before in some job I had a Renault 5, that one was pretty good.

    Stay away from Opel because most owners tell they are having constant problems.

    My Honda is exactly like you describe. Service once a year, replace battery, tires, brake pads. No warning lights ever (now 12 years old), except for tire pressure when I had a screw stuck in it. It's much more comfy for long trips compared to Polo but Polo was much more comfortable to nip around city, change lanes, etc...

    Get a smaller car with higher trim level, it's easier to park, body parts are cheaper, service is cheaper.

    Mostly electric cars by 2030 are overly optimistic barring any life changing discovery or event. I read somewhere it would take entire World's cobalt supply to electrify all cars in UK. There are production bottlenecks where you need mining facilities and factories. Another problem is power grid. Europe is shutting down coal and nuclear while dreaming of electric cars. With power and GDP growth we will probably need to double our generating capacity. Unfortunately politicians don't understand and think they can mandate physics. The political push to electrify cars is there but the infrastructure which politicians could incentivize is not following.

    Eg, there is a coal plant here that was built a decade ago with the most modern at the time pollutant reducing systems. There is a coal mine next to plant and coal goes straight to plant on a conveyor. Now due to CO2 coupons coal plant is no longer profitable. If we shut it down and don't build a 2nd nuclear plant we'll have to import power.

    Electric cars now make sense for people who can who can install their own charger on their porperty and who have other car(s) for long distance travel or would rent a car for holiday.

    Try renting a few cars you like for a week or a weekend drive. Usually dealerships can give cars to people for weekend without much problems.
    Last edited by UtwigMU; 13th August 2021 at 11:25.

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    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    My Polo cannot give a 3 letter code (no display)...
    My parent's Opel Mokka seems fine, but they don't drive it much.

    On paper, I like the Subaru... Partly because there are no low/high comfort options... just feature options.. but it looks outdated. They are behind on their 5 year model refresh cycle (covid) and rumors say the refresh will not be next year.. The limited network also is an issue...

    I still like the VW models (particularly t-roc), but the service guy's comment makes me weary. It also seems they have to work out some electronics issues, a bit like bmw had many issued several years ago. Mazda looks nice, but the screen looks small on photo... I'd have to see it in real life. A friend of my in-laws has a Kia Sportage, and I was surprised how massive it looks. Much moreso than on photos...
    Last edited by VJ; 16th August 2021 at 01:58.
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    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    Just checked the oil level, and it still is good... After driving 800+ km... Perhaps it was due to the different fuel or the highway driving... Still, meeting scheduled for Wednesday for a quick check-up (need to change a headlight as well).
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    Well, 1 ltr of oil for 1000KM, even if on the Autobahn can't be right. And these 800+, highway KMs or urban?
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    Super MURCer UtwigMU's Avatar
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    Could be Germans might have additives and bio-fuel. The VW diesels of the era are some of most reliable engines (gasoline not so much).

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    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Umfriend View Post
    Well, 1 ltr of oil for 1000KM, even if on the Autobahn can't be right. And these 800+, highway KMs or urban?
    Official manual states that as upper limit... Which many forums on the internet claim is quite high.

    Those last 800 km were mainly highway. I've checked oil level a couple of times, and it has stayed at the level since adding the last oil. It almost makes it look like a one-time event...
    Today I'll get the diagnosis.


    Quote Originally Posted by UtwigMU View Post
    Could be Germans might have additives and bio-fuel. The VW diesels of the era are some of most reliable engines (gasoline not so much).
    My car is gasoline. I'm careful to fuel E5, even though the engine is said to be E10 capable.
    Engine has not let me down at all, except for failing ignition coils (this is quite blocking as you cannot drive, but it is a quick and cheap fix - three were replaced in the last 2 years) the engine has not given a single issue. It is well maintained (regular service) but the car is always parked outside in quite harsh conditions (Warsaw summers and winters, during which it sometimes is not driven for a week or more).
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    Super MURCer UtwigMU's Avatar
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    I always use 98 octane in Honda and previous cars.

    Try oil with higher viscosity like 15w40.

    With Polo I always had a can of oil and ATF-3 because at some point the servo was also leaky.

    Meanwhile Honda 12 years, 170k km: hatchback air pistons not holding up, 50 EUR to replace, mirrors don't always fully retract, sometimes some text missing on radio/air conditioning display. This is from period of introduction of lead free solder. Engine nothing replaced out of ordinary service.
    Last edited by UtwigMU; 25th August 2021 at 06:50.

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    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    Just got back. They confirm it is not leaking oil and don't see any issues: all seals are fine, engine diagnostics are also fine.
    The suggestion is on the next oil change (in April) to change to an oil with higher viscosity.

    At least it gives me piece of mind; there should be no issues taking it for long drives.
    pixar
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