Stephen Williams 

Now, please don’t accuse me of a Hockeyism when I say: “Old people don’t drive cars ...” I’m adding the word “much” to the end of that sentence, which makes it true.

Australian drivers cover an average of 15,000km a year but the distance tails off as we age, the factors including retirement and health.

And by the time people are in their 90s, I read recently, the sturdy types who are still driving average only about 3000km per annum.

That news prompted me to think up some car-buying advice for people who cover no more than 7500km a year — half the national average.

Some of the advice also would be applicable to younger drivers.

Perhaps their low mileage might be because they live close to work and leisure facilities or maybe due to heavy use of public or bicycle transport.


If opting for a brand-new car, I have some sobering news: when you sell the vehicle, perhaps in five years, the low kilometres on the clock probably wouldn’t lead to a windfall sale price.

That’s because the market sets a ceiling on a particular model’s resale value largely because of its age and dated features, regardless of kilometres driven.

There also could be suspicions of mechanical downsides to a car that had been run irregularly or driven for short distances only.


With that in mind, you could save a packet by buying a car that already has kilometres on the clock.

And when the car was later sold it would probably be in a resale-value sweet spot.

The kilometres covered could be below average but not extremely so.

If a motorist had a budget of $30,000 for a new model, they could save about $5000 on a less-than-one-year-old demo with 10,000km on the clock.

On a two-year-old model with 30,000km they’d probably save about $8000.

A four-year-old car with 60,000km would save about $15,000.


Another appealing strategy would be to spend the full $30,000 budget on a second-hand car.

That way, perhaps the buyer could afford the top-spec model with all the comforts and high-tech driving aids.

Or they might go for that European luxury model they’d always desired.

For example, $30,000 would easily get them into a very good two-year-old Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz B-Class or BMW 1 Series.

If the car was four years old they could be looking at an A4, C-Class or 3 Series from these brands.

That’s a salubrious way to get about.

Of course, buyers should make sure their budget could handle the higher running costs of a luxury model.


Another option is tailor-made for low-mileage drivers.

It’s ex-fleet cars offered with heavy discounts.

Typically these cars are a year old and may have done up to twice the average kilometres — about 30,000km.

And, as we’ve discussed, that’s not such a problem for low-mileage drivers.

At resale time the distance travelled will still be below average or normal.

Usually provided is a guaranteed minimum trade-in figure of $2000 or $3000 provided the vehicle is registered and running.

A retired teacher couple I know undertook this strategy last year.

Each bought a one-year-old Hyundai i30 auto for a changeover price of $13,990 per vehicle.


There are reasons why taxis keep on keeping on — they are kept warm and serviced on time.

So low-mileage drivers should still try to drive the car regularly and include some longer runs.

Perhaps that could mean asking family members to take it out sometimes.

Maybe, for people in a retirement village, two or three people could share a car.

It’s also important to service a low-km car according to time and not distance travelled.

So, if the car has a six-month/10,000km service interval it should be taken in at six months, even if it’s only been tootling to the shops.


OK, I’ve argued for buying a pre-owned car but some motorists simply prefer the idea of a shiny, new model.

A well-deserved treat.

And these days, new cars are fantastic value, especially since their prices have stayed pretty much unchanged over two decades.

So, if new is your preference, just go for it anyway.

Either way, you cannot really go wrong.


Speaking of warranties, a disadvantage of buying pre-owned is the car will have fewer years, if any, of coverage remaining.

So to increase the odds of buying a reliable car, buyers should have used vehicles independently checked by a body such as the RAC.

They should look for free, factory-backed extended warranties, provided the coverage is not hidden in an inflated price.

Many luxury brands provide such warranty-extension deals for their later-model used cars.

Other brands tend to offer warranty carrots during end-of-financial-year and Christmas sales.

It also can be helpful to buy a used car from a brand that offers a longer warranty than the industry-standard three years.

When my aforementioned friends bought their one-year-old Hyundais, the cars still had 80 per cent of the brand’s five-year warranty remaining.

Other brands providing generous warranties include Lexus (four years), Renault (5), Mitsubishi (5), Proton (5), Citroen (6) and Kia (7).

However, double-check the warranty length remaining.

For example, Kia extended its warranty from to five to seven years just a year ago.

So earlier Kias would have only the balance of a five-year warranty remaining.


© The West Australian

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