Having just spent hours pouring over my first BMW, I have spent a half decent chunk of the bank holiday weekend imaging what it might be like if I bought a second to sit alongside it!
Owning a second car is something I have mulled over in the past, and I just need to say now that it’s not really a serious consideration at the moment, but with summer and sunny days looming on the near horizon it seems incredibly tempting to forego my senses and spend a chunk of my savings on something a little less bulky than my X5 to weave around the streets of North London and beyond.
This post had originally been intended to be me gushing over the BMW 3 Series convertible, but to try and dissuade myself from taking the plunge and to seem a little less repetitive (I have spoken about this before) I thought I’d look at a few options as well as some of the practical aspects of owning another car.
What to buy:
Audi A4 Convertible:
Although I am a BMW boy at core, the A4 cabriolet’s timeless looks are probably the most serious contest to the universal appeal of the 3 Series. The A4 manages to look more modern than the 3 both inside and out, although the engines are probably a little thirstier and it doesn’t drive as well either. Still prices start under £3k which isn’t awful and bears food for thought.
BMW 3 Series Convertible:
Far and away my favourite car here, and in bigger engine forms is a car that will permanently reside next to the X5 on my dream driveway. The E46 generation 3 Series has many fans, but despite this because of a large supply of used models prices stay manageable. Classic looks outside and functional inside it is the best of both worlds, and on the whole the 3 Series is a reliable vehicle and a worthy candidate for my car. You can pay anything from £2.5k to secure one but a little more would get a spicy 330Ci or similar, even if that would mean high running costs.
BMW 3 Series Coupe:
The Coupe version of the 3 is on the whole, cheaper to buy, cheaper to run and better to drive. It shares all of the strengths of the cabriolet too, and with the roof up it looks better resolved if I am being brutally honest. I could get a half decent coupe for well under £3k, but I can’t help thinking that I would be wistfully looking at the roof and wishing it opened up if I bought the hard top model.
A Z4 is sort of the real weekend alternative to the 3 Series, ie a less practical version which handles a little better and could comfortably fit in a much smaller parking space. However I have never been enamoured with the little BMW roadster – the angles are a little odd and harsh and although the interior has always been relatively nice, it is also very snug with essentially no space for anything besides a shopping bag.
Ford Fiesta ST:
Probably the least likely car here I would buy, but a sporty previous generation Fiesta still draws my eye at times as a nod to my inner boy racer. £3k would buy a half decent model and is likely to be the cheapest car here to keep and easiest to park, but is easily the least inspiring.
Whenever you ask American car forums a car question, the saying goes that the answer ‘is always Miata’ (the American name for the MX5). I can’t personally say that the little Mazda has ever appealed to me but as a reliable and fun to drive car for the summer I imagine it takes some beating; price wise the original models start at well under £1k but the current (due to be replaced) generation can be had from around £4k, which isn’t awful for a model which is still on sale.
Mercedes CLK Cabrio:
The CLK was once the darling of the middle classes, a sort of hybrid between the E Class and C Class but in 2 door form, it has always had classic looks with frameless windows and nice curves. £4.5k would just scrape the much more modern second generation vehicles, which besides looking nicer don’t drive like they are about to fall apart, but on the whole the CLK comes off as the girls alternative to the 3 Series Coupe/Conv if I’m being honest…just with a worse interior.
The MINI is surprisingly cheap and cheerful in this company – £3.5-4k would fetch a reasonable Cooper model which has both a fast turn of speed and handling like a go-kart. The problem though is that the MINI is still a MINI, and despite all it’s great attributes it is still not a car that really appeals if I am brutally honest.
The 350Z comes in both Coupe and Convertible forms, but it’s the hard top which is the only one which falls in toy territory price-wise. Avoiding Japanese imports means that the price is still bumped up to around £6k, which is bloody pricey but I guess the Z would still be reliable…
Half decent Boxsters currently start at around £5k, but with the way things are going prices are only likely to climb. When it was launched the Porsche received near universal acclaim and that continues in it’s old age…but yeah it’s old age that is a bit of an issue here as those Boxsters are well over 15 years old! Repairs may be a problem too, and Porsche specialists aren’t cheap.
Where to keep it:
Besides initial cost, this is probably the largest issue to me getting a second car; there are already 3 vehicles in our household and it’s only at a push that we are able to park them. Actually that’s a lie, because there is a 4th vehicle in our household, a beaten up old Nissan Micra that lives on the hard standing in front of our garage – it’s a non runner which has been there for the best part of 6 years, but hopefully not for much longer. If/when the Nissan eventually goes it is that little bit of land which would be the most likely home for a second car, but the awkward angle of our driveway and narrow gap would mean I would seriously need to get my measuring tape out because the biggest car which has been down there in recent history is a Vauxhall Astra.
Because the land in front of my house is short and not particularly wide, it only fits 2 cars on comfortably (and a third ends up half on the pavement). Therefore the alternative to a driveway home would be to park my second car on the road…something which is not a particularly easy thing to do given that my brother already does so with his car and there are always at least 5 other vehicles competing for 4 spaces, not counting the other random cars which pop in and out over the course of the week (often staying for days!). Parking on the road is also a little risky, as being a tight turning puts cars at risk from refuse lorries and other large vehicles, just ask my brother and the hassle we had with getting his (my old) Astra repaired!
As relatively cheap as buying a weekend toy might be, there are always other costs with vehicles and by rule of thumb the older (and cheaper) the car is, the more expensive it will be to run! Petrol aside, the main cost for me will likely be the insurance which as a young driver will still be mighty expensive…I had naively thought that having 7 years no claims bonus on my insurance wold mean that prices would be cheaper, but I forgot that it is only applicable to one vehicle and can not be used on more than one policy! That means that for a 3 Series (for example), insurance would be circa £850…higher than for my X5 despite only likely being driven a few thousand miles per year. Road tax is similarly frustrating, as older petrol cars often fall into the same tax category as my X5, meaning yet another £300/year being paid out – madness considering that somebody who drives 20,000 miles/year in something like a Prius or diesel supermini won’t have to pay anything at all!
Other things are a little more subjective on specific vehicles and like I said, how far I drive in it. A relatively powerful petrol engine is not going to return more than 30mpg if driven by me, more likely 25mpg considering it’s going to be more for bombing around country and town roads as opposed to motorway cruising. But then we also have maintenance and servicing, which as I’ve said because these cars are going to be cheaper, older and higher mileage will likely mean quite a bit has the potential to go wrong. I think my best bet would be to buy a well cared for example – possibly even privately, rather than a rough looking model, of which I’m sure will be plenty.
So what should I do? Well for the time being it would not make sense financially for me to buy any of the cars I’ve been looking at, but who’s to say that in a few years I may have the space (and disposable income?) to indulge my little fantasy, and for the time being it doesn’t hurt to look around at cars which are only going to get cheaper!