I’ve been looking to buy a new car for some time. The Civic SiR hatchback that I have is fantastic but it’s just too small. On too many occasions lately it’s been such a pain in the arse to move stuff around that I am splashing out and buying a Subaru Legacy GTB station wagon.
I’m pretty pedantic when it comes to cars. My Honda Civic is probably one of the best examples of it’s kind in New Zealand. The interior is near on perfect and the exterior still looks great once it’s been washed. So, when hunting for a new car, it’s presentation was always going to be the deal breaker. I found over 12 cars on trademe.co.nz that matched my criteria (1996 - 1997, white, manual, reasonable kms, and in good condition).
Good condition is just so hard to convey in a photo. Many of the cars that I eventually viewed looked fine in the photos on trademe but looked pretty average in real life. You can usually tell a lot about the life a car has had by the small things that people overlook. Yes, you need to have straight panels, a flawless interior and all that other big stuff, but you also need to look at the small stuff. Grooming of cars these days makes this harder since years and years of gunk can be steam cleaned away - they don’t get everything though.
For example, car groomers will often miss areas where a car fanatic would always keep clean. They’re only getting ~$140 to clean the car so they aren’t going to try to get it back to showroom cleanliness. They’re just going to clean it enough that only the most stringent purchaser is going to notice. Bits that they might miss or do quickly are areas like the painted bits on the inside of doors. If these aren’t clean, then chances are the car never really got a regular clean by the owner. Also, the painted area around all the door hinges (don’t forget the boot) can be a good indicator. If these areas have just had a once over by the groomer there will still be cruft in the bits that a quick wipe can’t reach.
Other things to look for are superficial parts that have gone rusty. One of the cars I looked at was pretty good except that it had heavy rusting of things like the window wipers, the ends of the rear gas struts (which hold up the boot), and the small clips on the front bumper where the number plate would be attached. Perhaps this isn’t a big deal, but if small components like this are heavily rusted then it’s likely to have lived in a reasonably harsh environment, i.e. in some seaside town in Japan. Look carefully to see whether the exhaust is rusted out anywhere with problems like this.
Moving on, I eventually found a likeable dealer with a car that was in really good condition. I payed more that I was oringinally intending too, but I’d spent several days worth of time looking at average cars that I wouldn’t be happy with long term in the price range I wanted. Actual purchase price isn’t really the main issue with cars these days anyway. I’ll own the car for 3+ years in which time I’ll probably put in over $7k worth of petrol, $5k worth of insurance and weeks and weeks of time spent driving. Spending an extra $1k or $2k for the car that I really wanted wasn’t really that big of an issue for me.
It almost seems like fate that I was supposed to buy the car. I’d found one in the morning that had great potential that was more than I wanted to spend so I said I would carry on looking. I then went to another dealer that had one in poor condition, and then onto this dealer. I was looking at the GTB they had advertised when they mentioned they had another one just arrived. Seemed too good to be true: great condition, good mileage, new tires, tints, Recaro drivers seat (the standard seats don’t have very good lumber support and not as bigger bolsters as I would like), twin air bags, and they were willing to do the cambelt change. After a bit of haggling (which I’m not great at) we ended up with a price that we were both happy with. Sign some forms, pay a hefty deposit and voila, I can stop spending time looking for a new car.
So, with a brand new car (well, second hand really) on the way all I have to do is decide what to do with the Honda…
At this stage I’m leaning towards spending a little bit of cash on it to do some club days at Pukekohe Raceway.