Repairs & Reliability: The Finances Of Car Ownership



Cars are a delight, a passion, a hobby… and an expense. Whether you’re buying a new car or just trying to keep your old favourite running, one thing is for sure: you’re going to spend a lot of money. When you factor in the costs of buying, running, insuring, and caring for a car, there’s no doubt that life with four wheels can be a costly one.


Weighing the cost


Studies have shown that owning a car costs a small fortune every year. When all of the expenses are factored in, you can usually expect to pay around R133,640 just to stay on the road. This is an incredibly high amount– and the amount is so high, it can lead drivers to make poor decisions.


The high cost of maintaining a car can cause people to…


  • Avoiding paying their car insurance, in the hopes they won’t get caught. This is, of course, illegal, but there are a huge number of uninsured vehicles on the road nevertheless.
  • Fail to make repairs after an accident, even if the accident was so severe they found themselves needing to obtain more info on dealing with the legal ramifications. A failure to repair crash repairs, due to the cost, can mean that a further crash is almost inevitable, as the car simply isn’t fit to drive.
  • Making the decision to hire rather than buy a car. This might seem like a good financial option, but it’s actually money down the drain– you pay a large amount of money and, at the end of your lease, have nothing to show for it.


The repair problem


Perhaps the most worrying financial aspect of car ownership is the potential for large repair bills. Unlike insurance and standard maintenance, repair bills can’t be budgeted for– they just happen. One minute your car is working well and the next you’re on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.


If you have an old or second hand car, you’re likely to be all-too-familiar with the feeling of being presented with a huge repair bill by your mechanic. The cost of repairs can be extortionate; sometimes even severe enough to make the bill not worth paying, and scrappage the only option. Repairs are a huge toll on the finances of any car owner, but you need to balance that cost with the importance of having a vehicle.



The reliability factor


Due to the endless expense of repairs, it comes as no surprise that many of us see reliability as a huge asset when choosing our vehicles. If a car has a reputation for being reliable, we foresee a future where we can save our cash rather than spending it on endless repair bills.


If you’re looking to save yourself cash and avoid a long list of repairs on your next car, then buying a car with a reputation for reliability is going to be an important factor for you. Below are the makes which, according to public surveys, are the most reliable and economical to run.


#5 – BMW


BMW come fifth in the list of most reliable cars, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever owned a BMW. The only surprise here is that BMW are fifth— most car lovers would likely have expected them to be higher.


#4 – Audi


This may come as a surprise to dedicated car enthusiasts, as Audi do not have a reputation for the best reliability. However, it appears this reputation has become outdated, and modern Audi cars are more than suited to the rigours of modern driving requirements.


#3 – Kia


Kia are a relative newcomer to lists such as these, but it looks like the company has hit the ground running and produced cars that are as reliable as they are attractive.


#2 – Lexus


As a luxury-styled brand, it is perhaps no surprise that Lexus find themselves in second position when assessing reliability. Their cars are built to high specifications, which helps to ensure they stay on the road in full working order for as long as possible.


#1 – Toyota


Toyota have a reputation for producing cars that are next to indestructible, and it looks like that reputation is still merited. What is all the more impressive is that Toyota retain their status as the most reliable car brand despite the fact so many of their cars are SUVs and 4x4s; cars that don’t always have the easiest of lives.



So those are the good guys; now let’s examine the other side of the spectrum.


Cadillac are considered to be the least reliable car brand. Hot on their heels are GMC, RAM, Fiat-Chrysler, and Volvo. The latter is particularly intriguing, given that Volvo have seemingly dedicated much time and effort to cultivating a reputation of reliability– a reputation that seems to be little more than smoke and mirrors according to Volvo owners.


How useful are these lists?


Lists of reliable and non-reliable cars and brands are popular online, but it’s worth thinking about how useful these lists are. If you’re concerned about repairs, should you go and buy a Toyota and avoid a Cadillac at all costs? Or can these lists hide certain truths?


One aspect to consider is the type of car. Most manufacturers produce dozens of different vehicles; there is almost certainly a Volvo car that is more reliable than one of Toyota’s offerings. So it’s important to research the exact car that you’re considering buying; don’t just rely on the brand name.


It’s also important to note that the reliability is assessed on consumer surveys, which are always going to be limited in their scope. So while these lists are useful, they don’t provide a guarantee that choosing a car based on their findings will reduce your repair bills.


Ultimately, reliability is never guaranteed


The only thing you can really do to prepare for the cost of repairs to your car is… set money aside to pay for any unexpected bills. It’s the boring answer, but it’s also the right one. Make a good purchasing decision, absolutely, but having a fund set aside for repairs is always going to stand you in the best possible financial position.


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