The pros and cons of owning a used luxury car

Thursday January 07 2021
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The secret is to have a mechanic you trust inspect the car and take it for a road test before payment is made. PHOTO/net

By Mustafa Ziraba

Joseph Mukasa who lives in Ntinda, Kampala, was excited as he searched through the Japan used car websites. He was set on getting himself that Mercedes Benz S Class series from the late to early 2000s. About Shs32 million later, Joe was driving, at the time, thelatest and greatest car machinery Mercedes produced, the fourth generation 2002 W220 Mercedes Benz S Class.

I must admit, the car looks the part and is quite imposing on the road. Two months in, the rear right suspension broke down and required replacement, the battery too was warning eminent failure. And the 19-inch low profile tyres on the sport rims cost Shs1.6m each. It was a revelation for Mukasa and many uninitiated buyers of cheap luxury cars.  

Cheap is expensive

As the saying goes, “There is nothing as expensive as a cheap Mercedes.” After all, while the price of entry might be well within reach of the average individual, maintenance expenses can often be reasonable only to those who could afford to buy a new car. If something goes terribly wrong, repair costs can sometimes eat into much of the savings you achieved. Things that are typically cheap in any other car suddenly became oddly expensive.

Repair costs

The main problem with buying a seemingly cheap used German car is simple, maintenance and repair costs. Although the car itself may have depreciated to the point where you can afford to buy it, the car’s parts are not any cheaper than they were when it was new. In other words, do not be fooled by a used German car’s Shs30 million price tag. A Shs12m transmission or the Shs5m air suspension is still just as expensive 10 to 15 years later as it was when the car was originally sold.

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Reliability

Used German cars often become less reliable than normal cars as they get older because they are often fitted with a wide range of complex parts and cutting-edge gadgets, which are great when the car comes out, but not so great 10 or 15 years later when they start to break down. An air suspension, automated features and advanced engine management systems are all excellent options initially but not so excellent if they break later, costing millions of shillings to repair.

But then again you shall find that people still buy these cars, for the most part to look the part behind the wheel, but also for the goodies such cars come with. The foremost reason to buy a used German car over a typical car is the simple fact you get more car for less money.

According to Edrisa Matovu, an expert car importer, one can find a good clean now very popular 2003 through 2009 Mercedes Benz E Class for Shs40m. You shall pay about the same for an even cleaner Toyota Crown.

Anyone who has ever driven a Mercedes E-Class will tell you the experience is considerably more special than driving the Toyota. This is perhaps the most compelling reason to buy a used German car.

Cost

If you are interested in buying a used car, you have probably noticed that used luxury models are often tremendously cheap to buy.

For a lot of buyers, this is enticing. Why buy a 2006 Toyota Harrier for Shs40m when the same amount of money will get you a cool used Mercedes-Benz C-Class? Unfortunately, there are good reasons why many used luxury cars are cheap to buy.

Just because you can afford a Mercedes or a supercharged Range Rover that is 12 years old does not mean you should get one.

Some people get lucky with old age high mileage German engineered superior driving machines, but more often than not, you are just living on borrowed time. The one thing worse than buying a Shs40m used luxury car is putting another Shs10m to get it to run.  Worse still is you not driving it because it has broken down or you having fear of it breaking down on the roadside every time you get into it.

Costly service

Given that these cars come loaded with latest technology and electronics, the facilities needed to service them are expensive and the mechanics need to have greater knowledge as well. They also need higher grade fluids and more expensive parts, right from the air filter to the brake parts. All these expenses show up when you give your car to the authorised dealer or even the recommended one man mechanic for its periodic maintenance treatment.

Pros

Once you have experienced the smoothness, power, and feature set of a good German car, it is very hard to go back to driving a more economy-oriented car. You will miss the comfortable ambiance of the interior, the seamless power, the broad array of luxurious convenience features, and of course the bragging rights.

The vast majority of safety innovations we take for granted today in mainstream cars were introduced first in luxury cars. Seatbelts, airbags, reverse cameras, smart cruise control, even keyless entry and push button start were featured on luxury cars first. In many cases, a 10-year old luxury car will offer more safety features than perhaps a newer economy car at the same price.

Resale value

Luxury used cars lose their market value rapidly and depreciate quickly. This is a good thing though. This gives opportunity to many to have a chance to own these cars where they otherwise could not afford them new. All you have to clearly understand is that a used S-class might be a Shs30m car when you buy it, but it is still a Shs300m car when it needs repair.

Note

Compared. A used luxury car will be nicer overall, but the fuel and repair costs will be higher than those for a non-luxury sedan. A new non-luxury vehicle may not be as flashy, but it will have the newest technology and be less expensive to maintain

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