Before I start, this article isn’t full of pretty pictures or fishing stories but it is about what I researched and my opinions about a number of cars that potentially would be my next tow vehicle. Over a month ago now, I commenced my quest to find another vehicle after mine drew its last breath and went to a better place. As a recap, I have been looking at a few new and second hand vehicles which hopefully meet most of, if not all the criteria I have set for the next vehicle I will own. They were:
I had no set intention to buy a new or second hand vehicle, after a little research I had drawn a shortlist for both. In the second hand market I was looking towards a:
– Chev Silverado
– Ford F150 or F250
– Toyota 80 Series
– Holden Commodore station wagon
After quite a bit more searching, this second hand list quickly dwindled to only a couple of options. The Ford F-trucks and Chev Silverado turned out to be quite difficult to find with lower kilometres and at what I thought was a reasonable price, this quickly eliminated the Ford and Chev from my short list, however I did leave it in my search just in case one came up. The Toyota 80 Series has to be one car I have a very soft spot for. This is one of the vehicles I “cut my teeth” with as a mechanic. I think I could still get around the majority of one of these vehicles with a blindfold on and they have a phenomenal reputation for reliability and performance. The down side to this is that there are very few turbo diesels around with less than 400,000km’s and trying to find one of the rare multivalve turbo diesels is near impossible. In the second hand market the remaining contender is the Holden Commodore station wagon. For as long as I have had an interest in cars, I’ve said a lot of bad things about Australian made vehicles. How I ended up with my last vehicle that was a 2002 Commodore wagon, I’m not really sure. Truth be told, it’s been one of the most reliable cars I’ve owned and I definitely put it through its paces. Back in 2007 I purchased that 5 year old car for $7000. Today, 5 year old Commodores with 80,000kms are selling for around $13,000 – $15,000. Can I justify spending that much money on a second hand car which will depreciate to almost nothing in 5 years?
In the new car market the choices were:
– Ford Territory
– Ford Ranger
– Mazda BT-50
– Toyota Hilux
– Volkswagen Amarok
As I mentioned in part 1 a few weeks ago, the Ford Territory was an unlikely contender, not because it didn’t fulfil the criteria set but because of the chassis construction. I don’t have anything against monocoque style chassis, I just have a personal dislike toward them as larger tow vehicles, and because of this the Territory was removed from the list.
This left 4 vehicles in the new car list, all dual cab utilities. To be clear, the vehicles I was looking at are all 4×4 with the BT-50 XTR model, Ranger XLT, Hilux SR5 and Amarok Highline. Of these remaining vehicles I actually had a few preconceived ideas. I initially saw myself buying the Ranger thinking it would be the best value for money. The Mazda I thought would be less refined in the finish and detail but price wise would probably look better for my bank balance. I know the Hilux is a good product but the ride quality of the Hilux’s I’ve been in have been a little agricultural and I expected it to be one of the two most expensive. As for the Volkswagen, I thought this vehicle had everything going against it. Firstly, it is European which spells dollars, secondly the influence of my colleagues when I worked in the industry was “If it ‘aint Jap, it’s crap” and lastly, I’ve probably said more bad things about European cars than Australian made cars in my life. The hardest part of the new car search was putting aside these preconceived ideas I had and focusing on the facts I could gather.
To avoid jumping all over the place, I’ll compare the vehicles on a number of different levels.
Looking at the finish and aesthetics of the different vehicles, in my opinion the Mazda ranked the lowest. Inside, the vehicle felt quite cheap and outside; aesthetically the vehicle just seems unfinished. Surprisingly though I rated the Hilux next. Not that the quality isn’t there because I know it is, but maybe I’ve just seen too many of them around. The Amarok came in at number two. Inside it feels so much more like a car than a commercial vehicle and I think the fact that they are relatively new and there aren’t a great deal of them out there appeals to me. At the top of this list though was the Ranger. Inside is nothing ground breaking, probably on par with the Hilux, but outside, they look like a mean machine.
Ride quality is a pretty important aspect for me. I know all too well about getting stuck in the back seat of one of these commercial vehicles with their agricultural suspension on long trips, enough so that I don’t really want to subject my children to this. If they get car sick, I’m the one that will pay with it all through my car. At the bottom of this list would be the Hilux. They always have had a rough ride and I don’t think this will change anytime soon. The Ranger and Mazda were pretty much the same as you could almost expect for two vehicles that share the same chassis and engine. Shining through on ride without question was the Amarok. I’ve never owned a luxury car so I’ll go as far as saying that these feel and drive like a nice car. The cab is well insulated from the road noise and the softer suspension (yes they have the smallest load carrying capacity of the 4) makes it a much more pleasant ride all round.
When it comes to pricing, I definitely thought I knew how this would run. The cheapest would be the Mazda, and then Ford, Toyota and the most expensive would be the Volkswagen. Well how wrong was I. Now I have spoken to other people and they have told me differently, but the two quotes I received from each of the respective manufacturers put it in a completely different order keeping in mind I was looking at the standard vehicles and wanted the tow pack, ute liner and hard lid as part of the package. The most expensive was the Ford then the Toyota, Mazda and Volkswagen were all within a couple of thousand dollars of each other without even trying to negotiate. Surprised? I definitely was.
Then the final measure was value. Value is such a subjective measure which I looked at in terms of what I think depreciation will be, warranty, servicing, running costs and price when you take into account any extras. Way down the bottom of this list I see the Mazda. With 3 years limited kilometre warranty, no fixed price servicing and apart from satellite navigation and the tow pack, there aren’t too many included extras. The Ranger, despite having almost all the extras you had to purchase with the Mazda included, was significantly more expensive than all the other vehicles. They have fixed price servicing but like the Mazda, I think that these vehicles will depreciate quickly and probably like most vehicles these days, they don’t build them to last like they used to. Now this is where it became difficult to split the Hilux and the Amarok. Both are in the same ball park for price. In terms of depreciation, I’m pretty confident that the Hilux will hold value better than any of these other vehicles. The Amarok has 3 years unlimited kilometre warranty including 3 years roadside assistance. The Hilux has cheaper fixed price servicing, but the Amarok only requires servicing every 15,000kms in comparison to 10,000km for the Hilux. Reports show that fuel economy is significantly better on the Amarok.
Where does this leave me? At the negotiating table. It was difficult for me to put aside the prejudice I have for European cars in order to compare what I had researched. But it was hard not to think about how much a Volkswagen gearbox may cost to replace or repair out of warranty or if there are still any bugs being ironed out in this relatively new model. At the end of the day it was coming down to a decision between the Hilux and the Amarok. Until life threw me another curveball that essentially threw most of my research out the window.
Without going into detail, I’m anticipating a need to outlay a sum of money in the next 6 – 12 months and I know that ensuring it is available when needed will be easier than trying to find money at the time. Because of this, the goal posts were quickly moved and my options were drastically reduced. A couple of options now lay out in front of me. Option 1 – I spend $5000 on a car with over 150,000km, most likely a Commodore or Falcon. Option 2 – I inject a couple of thousand dollars into my car to get it back up and running.
Now just to back track, I talked about tossing up between the Hilux and Amarok. Well somewhere in this whole process while I was at the negotiating table, Volkswagen threw down Option 3 to help sway me with some of my concerns and my latest money dilemma. Firstly, 5 years unlimited kilometre warranty including 5 years roadside assistance sounded pretty good. Secondly, zero % finance! This means I can keep my money in my mortgage and have the cash available in the event I need it in the next 6-12 months. Plus, I wouldn’t be putting myself into a $5000 car or spending the value of my existing car on repairs.
After all of this I’ve now purchased a Volkswagen Amarok which I’ve had for a few weeks now. I’m really happy with how it performs in the city so far. With 80 litres of fuel, the trip computer is telling me I’m getting around 900kms to a tank. The real test is coming up though with a trip planned to QLD with the family, kayak and boat in tow.