I am a 67-year-old man. I live in downtown Montreal. In the last five years, I drove about 3,000 km per year, and my 2003 Malibu has only 80,000 km. I am thinking of buying a new car as it will be the last car I shall buy before I either die or am unable to drive due to old age. What kind of car should I buy, or should I not buy another car? – James, Montreal
Leeder: Well, James, you’ve positioned us at a bit of a fork in the road to start here. I vote that we take the optimistic path and assume you’ve got at least 10 to 15 good driving years left. However, your Malibu does not. So heck, yes, let’s get you a new car.
Richardson: Hang on a minute, Jessica. That’s a low-mileage Malibu and if James keeps driving as he does – and drives until he’s 80 – it’ll only see another 50,000 kilometres. That’s well within the car’s lifetime if it’s in good condition and he changes the oil every year. Even driving to 100 is well within reason – most well-maintained cars built in this century will last easily to 200,000 kilometres.
How much do you like your Malibu, James?
Leeder: Since James can’t speak for himself, I’ll chime in and say that James must already have a bit of a wandering eye (in the automotive department) if he’s considering giving up this dinosaur. Sure, Mark, you make a good point on the low kilometres and James’ driving patterns. What that tells me is he can expect great resale value.
Richardson: But it sounds like he’s on the fence, and if he’s happy with his car, why sell it?
Leeder: Technology has come a long way since 2003. As James ages, maybe he has a little trouble with neck and shoulder mobility. A blind spot sensor, park assist feature and backup camera could be valuable safety features that might keep James on the road – safely – longer.
Richardson: It’s true that modern cars are considerably safer than a 14-year-old Malibu, though there’s something to be said for familiarity. If James is happy with his Malibu, he should keep it. But if he wants to live a little, get some extra protection from technology, has the money for a major purchase and maybe even wants to enjoy the drive, then now’s the time to make the switch. We don’t know a budget, but I usually recommend $25,000 for a compact car with technology unheard of a decade ago.
Leeder: Another fork in front of us now: should James be downsizing to a compact? Or is he in the market for a mid-sized sedan replacement? Given age and stage, I do think it’s not a bad idea to consider downsizing particularly given how little James drives. Plus a smaller car means a bigger piece of the budget pie can go toward that safety tech we want him to have.
Richardson: The size of your car has nothing to do with your age, but everything to do with your circumstances. Maybe James needs the extra room of a mid-size for any number of reasons. However, if all his driving is in the city, he’ll find it easier to be in a compact car. If that’s the case, I’d say no muss, no fuss. Trade in for a Chevrolet Cruze or a Ford Focus, or a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. They’ll all keep their value, last till eternity and come equipped with as much optional fancy technology as James could ever want.