Friday, 28 December 2012

End of year motoring thoughts

1. Don't own a car.
2. If you really must own a car, buy a small one.
3. If you really must have a larger one (many children), buy an economical one.
4. Drive it as little as you possibly can.
5. Invest the money you have saved by following the above precepts.

[Having the use of a company car gets round Point 1, and significantly upsets the delicate equilibrium of the market. A 'free' car, 'free' petrol and free office parking alters the way people consider car use.]

Considering car costs, you need to minimise them. Drive slowly and smoothly to save on fuel and on engine wear. (Plus it's safer.) How many drivers do you see accelerating towards red lights only to brake sharply? Coast towards the red, then accelerate smoothly and gently as it turns green.

Warsaw's public transport gets more expensive in the New Year, with the price of my quarterly travel card going up from 220zł to 250 zł (from £44 to £50). In the past two years, it's gone up by 26%, and is now some 50zł more expensive than tanking up a small car like a Toyota Yaris (a full tank's good for about two week's commuting). Still, as long as Warsaw's public transport continues getting better (which nobody can deny), the quarterly travel card remains excellent value.

This Christmas, once again, we've hired a car to get around England visiting family. Eddie, Moni and I with our three suitcases and ancillary baggage can fit into an A-segment city car, so again I hire a Hyundai i10, one size smaller than our Toyota Yaris, a B-segment supermini. No problem with comfort. The hired i10 comes with a 1.2 litre engine, which is perky, but less fuel efficient. A tiny 25 litre tankful lasts from Beaconsfield to Duffield via Manchester, a mere 255 miles.

My point is that we (Poles, Brits, North Americans) all tend to buy (or be sold) cars that are larger than we really need. Americans go to extremes, but then they've only recently become aware that fuel actually does cost money (even if it's still Mickey-Mouse prices). Corporate fleets will no doubt downsize over the next few years, with reps driving B-segment Fiesta or Corsa-sized cars rather D-segment Mondeos or Insignias. A lot of vain people feeling smug about how important they are as they sit in traffic jams in their over-sized cars will get their come-uppance, mark my words!

We'll all get out of this global recession having discovered something that my father taught me over a lifetime - the virtues of frugality.

This time last year:
Hurry up and wait


student SGH said...

Great stuff, to be supplemented with a few remarks.

1. Company car policies change as well. In my company employees who use company cars from the beginning of 2013 will be paying for fuel from their own pockets and only costs of business trips will be reimbursed (you'll have to prove where you drove and why, submit several requests, spend a lot of time on it, get it all approved and checked by someone which is another idiocy), the company will cover only car maintenance expenses (plus will take depreciation on books).

My boss just had his company 2005 Opel Astra swapped for a brand-new Opel Insignia, trim version with 2.2 litre turbocharged engine. Imagine his delight when he was told he would have to pay petrol for this guzzler (12 litres in town) on his own.

2. Glad you don't advise what to invest in. Otherwise you'd do with a disclaimer :)

3. Not owning a car is not really practical, but it comes in useful too often to renounce it at all.

4. Today I checked my car's computer and learnt I drove 3,558 kilometres since the annual overhaul on 22 June this year. And this includes three longer trips. Sparingly used as it ought to be. I last visited the petrol station on 10 November and have not run out of petrol!

5. I think I mastered the art of eco-driving. Users of other 1.6 litre engine car declare their vehicles consume 9 - 10 litres per 100 kilometres in town. Even in the winter I easily make it below 9, in the summer below 8 (producer declares it should be 8.8). But eco-driving doesn't have to mean driving slowly. If you really want to economise on fuel, drive: smoothly (your passengers will appreciate it), dynamically (the shorter you accelerate, the shorter is the time when throttle is fully opened) and predict what will happen on the road.

6. Just bought a 90-day ticket at old price and plan to buy another one on Monday. Will be using public transport at cheaper prices almost by the end of June 2012.

7. Full tank is good for two weeks of commuting? If I don't drive anywhere else (hardly ever happens, but sometimes it happens) I cover less than 100 kilometres per week on commuting and hardly ever visit a petrol station more than once a month (see my average mileage of 600 km per month)

8. I have a car bigger than I need for a simple reason - it would be anything but reasonable to sell a well-maintained car that'd been with my family since it left dealer's showroom below its intrinsic value. Next car will be smaller, but hopefully the purchase won't happen soon

Michael Dembinski said...

@Student SGH:

How can you buy a second 90-day contract on your named travelcard? I thought that one contract had to expire before you topped up - otherwise you'd lose the balance...

Everything you've written on the subject of motoring is most praiseworthy - eco-driving, minimising car use, size, company car policy etc.

student SGH said...

Michael, it is possible, tried it out in 2011.

Guidelines in Polish are here. It's simple - you can have two identical tickets recorded on your travelcard, if so the old doesn't expire, but its validity is extended by a new one. My last 90-day contract expired on 28 December. I recorded and activated a new 90-day contract yesterday, it is valid until 28 March 2013. On Monday I'll buy and activate another ticket and effectively it will expire on 26 June 2013.