Car Buyers' Guide: Reliable car for a surfer
Surf may be up but you need a reliable vehicle to get there
Kelvin's Subaru has finally expired and he was told it's not worth spending the money on repairing it.
"I'm not surprised; I haven't really looked after it if the truth was known and it's lasted a lot longer than I originally thought. I do need a car for work as public transport is not good where I live, but the main reason I need my own vehicle is to go surfing," said Kelvin.
"The west coast beaches around Auckland are where I spend most of my spare time. It's a harsh environment for any vehicle and if I was being totally honest the surfing gear gets first priority at clean up time after a day's surfing," says Kelvin.
The money he will earn from handing the car over for scrap is a pittance and with not a lot of spare cash in the bank put aside for a replacement, Kelvin really does have a dilemma on his hands.
The budget: $3500
Hopefully there are a few lessons learnt from this past experience Kelvin. While your passion is obviously surfing the reality is you do need a reasonable set of wheels to take you on that journey to find that perfect wave.
Yes, while the salt air environment can do a lot of damage to any vehicle over time, a quick hose down once you have arrived home is a habit you need to adopt with your next vehicle.
For the cost of a pie, doughnut and a drink you should think about the occasional Wash-N-Wax at the local petrol station or standalone carwash site.
Finding out just where the bonnet opener is located is another good idea as is learning to do a few of the basic checks yourself such as drive belt condition, oil, water, windscreen washer bottle and if applicable battery water levels.
If you own a vehicle that uses a wee bit of oil and water it's best you know about it and while it may not be ideal at times, at least you can keep tabs on things and top up as required.
Security may be another thing to consider with an older and cheaper car. While you may think they are not worth stealing the reality can be the exact opposite. The more modern fleet are much harder to break into, start and drive away so for those simply looking for a quick joyride, the cheaper cars can make a much easier target.
In addition, you can't pack all your valued possessions into a wet suit, so once again the older cars with few security features can become easy pickings for the phone, wallet and branded clothing snatchers.
Try to find a vehicle with an alarm and/or engine immobiliser already installed or find out the cost to install and allow for it in your negotiating price.
A very basic and simple motor vehicle is where your head needs to be focused and if you can drive a manual all the better. Safety is also not going to feature high on the specification list in your price range so at least look for a vehicle with a decent set of tyres fitted.
Oh and don't forget to measure the rear space to ensure it will accept the surfboard.
Toyota Corolla 1997
In this price bracket it's hard to go past the Toyota badge to start your search. But you still have to be a little careful. A well-maintained, NZ new manual 1.6-litre, 5-door hatch with less than 180,000km on the odometer would be like striking gold. Paintwork can suffer a little from fading depending on colour. The engine runs a cambelt which is not a huge job to replace but better to try and find out when it was last replaced.
Honda CR-V 1998
Along with the Toyota RAV4, the CR-V set the SUV world alight when introduced into NZ in the mid 1990s. It has the high ground clearance and a simple four-wheel-drive system that may appeal and at times suit the road conditions you may encounter. A manual transmission removes some risk as automatics aren't cheap to recondition. The engine is fitted with a cambelt also so use the same precautions as the Toyota.
Nissan Pulsar/Sentra 1998
Another sedan or hatchback known for its reliability rather than startling features or performance. This engine runs a cam chain so a past service history is definitely worth checking out. Chains can suffer from dirty oil and are not cheap to replace.
Insist on a new Warrant of Fitness as being a condition of sale and look at when the relicensing is due for renewal as it could add costs a short time after purchase. Try and get the lowest odometer possible but be realistic and use the 14k average per year as a guideline. And learn to show the vehicle a little bit of love and attention during ownership as it will definitely pay long-term dividends.