Fuel increase: Five sensible tips to buying a car


Buying a car – even a second hand one – boils down to budget and needs (photo credit: myevercarmat.com).

Buying a car – even a second hand one – boils down to budget and needs (photo credit: myevercarmat.com).

By Palau Shavin

Suryani Mahanum is in a quandary. Her 10-year old Kia Spectra is proving expensive to maintain, and, with the recent fuel price hike, the petrol guzzler is no longer economical to use for her daily commute.

“I send my children to school in the mornings before heading to my office in Glenmarie near Shah Alam,” says the mother of two who lives in Seri Kembangan.

“My petrol bill used to be about RM550 to RM600 a month, but with the hike in fuel prices I am now shelling out close to RM700 a month. Add to this, the cost of maintaining my car has gone up, with repairs bills mounting,” she complains.

After much discussion with her husband, Suryani finally decided it was time to replace the Spectra with a more fuel efficient car. But which car? It all boils down to your budget, and your needs.

Here are five tips to buying a car in Malaysia.

  1. In all things, you will be constrained by your wants and needs. If you want to be practical, forget the wants, and concentrate on the needs. Latha, a managing director with an advertising agency, always envisioned herself behind the wheel of a sporty, red hot Peugeot 308. But when she finally got her dream car, six months of struggling with the heavy steering wheel while trying to park in the city convinced her to trade it in for a more utilitarian (and easier-to-steer) Honda CRV instead. So decide – is this a vanity purchase? Or is it for practical reasons?

    If you are going to be driving an hour to and from work everyday, and being stuck in traffic jams, then you should opt for an auto.  Likewise, if you are going to be hauling the kids, maid, and in-laws around every weekend, perhaps an MPV should be on your radar.

  2. Fuel consumption – this is the clincher for most households these days. In this regard, cars with lower engine capacity use less fuel. There’s a noticeable difference in petrol consumption between a 1300cc and 1600cc vehicle. Ask yourself if you need the extra power. If you are always carrying a full load (kids, luggage), then maybe opting for the bigger capacity would be a good idea. But then again, some MPVs (such as the Toyota Avanza and the Perodua Alza) do all right with a 1.3 engine. But if you are always travelling long distance, a bigger engine capacity car would be more comfortable.

    Another factor in fuel consumption is whether or not the car comes with a new improved engine. New engine technologies tend to be more fuel efficient than older ones. Familiarise yourself with acronyms such as iVTEC, CVT, VVT etc. and what they mean.

  3. Hybrid or all-electric vehicles – hybrid cars that run on both petrol and electric motor are now a common sight on our roads, especially since the government announced incentives and exempted these cars from duty and excise tax in Budget 2012 (these exemptions are only until year end) to make them more affordable. Many of the major car manufacturers have come out with hybrid models (Nissan even has an all-electric model, Leaf), and sales have been slowly picking up. They are very economical, in terms of petrol consumption –for example, a Honda Jazz Hybrid can run 21.3km/litre compared to 15.8km/litre for the Jazz petrol version. That’s quite a savings. But there are some drawbacks. Most of the hybrid batteries use regenerative braking to charge the batteries, but manually plugging in the car’s battery to an electrical outlet to charge overnight ensures a more complete charge. This is fine if you are staying in a landed property, and can park your car in your porch and connect the battery to the electrical outlet. But if you are staying in an apartment, then you are out of luck.
  4. Safety considerations – with the number of accidents on our road, any car you get should have at least front airbags, and if you have a family, the more airbags the merrier and safer you will be.  Check the safety rating of the car – how does it fare on the Euro NCAP or Australia’s ANCAP? Also, check the rear safety belts – some cars have rear belts that are difficult for passengers to access and use. Also, ensure the car has a good, working reverse sensor; if possible, get one with a reverse camera which is a real boon when you need to park.  Women drivers may want to check if there’s room under the driver’s seat to stuff your handbag to deter smash and grabs. In the same vein, consider getting shatterproof window film for your car.
  5. A new car can set you back between RM35K to well … the sky’s the limit. After you’ve decided on your budget, narrow down the vehicles that fit your needs and test drive them (many manufacturers allow you to book test drives online). The month before a major festival will usually have manufacturers offering promotions for their models, so you might want to time your purchase till then. Also, if you are getting a car that is not a Proton or Perodua, check with the banks for the best interest rates.

If you plan on getting a second hand car, check out http://www.carlist.my or www.motortrader.com.my.  It will give you a general idea of the resale value of the cars. This should have a bearing on your purchase if you plan to sell your car after five or six years.

And while on the subject of your budget, don’t forget maintenance costs – especially spare parts. You don’t want to end up paying RM3,000 to replace a side mirror. Many car manufacturers now offer anywhere between three to five years warranty. Take advantage of this.

In the end, whatever choice you make, enjoy your new vehicle and be sure to follow the maintenance schedule to ensure a smooth ride for years to come.

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