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DEKRA analyses average costs of new, almost new and old vehicles


Clever driving with young cars

LEIPZIG. - Many motorists believe that they can save a lot of money if they keep their car for as long as possible. A cost analysis conducted by DEKRA has now revealed surprising results. According to the analysis, driving a car until it is only fit for the scrap heap can also prove to be an expensive luxury. Motorists who take too long to switch to a newer vehicle must accept high repair and maintenance costs, which, however, are usually forgotten when the motorist considers running costs. The introduction of environmental zones in numerous regions in Germany will also have an effect: A whole range of older cars will soon become uneconomical due to a lack of exhaust purification system or to the relatively expensive process of retrofitting required of the owner.

The DEKRA cost comparison of new, almost new and old cars discovered that switching from an old car (8 years) to a newer used car (4 years) for small cars, compact cars and vans, brings with it cost advantages. In the case of small cars, this is still even true if the motorist switches to a new car. For compact cars and vans the new car can be had on average for an additional cost of between 48 and 99 euros a month. Drivers of medium-sized cars and premium intermediate cars are advised to switch from old to new for a moderate supplement of between, on average, 22 and 57 euros a month. In the medium-sized car and van segment, the step towards a new car is also not a great one, the extra cost being 109 and 98 a month.

As a result, for the similar costs of an old vehicle or for a moderate supplement many motorists could enjoy the higher safety standard, the optimised environmental friendliness and the improved comfort of an almost new or even a brand new car', said Dr. Gerd Neumann, Member of the Board of Management of DEKRA Automobile GmbH, speaking at the traditional DEKRA Press Breakfast at the car show 'Automobil Messe International' (AMI) in Leipzig.

Dr. Neumann went on to say that 'The figures clearly show that it hardly makes sense to keep a car for as long as possible. It is more economical to switch in good time to a newer used car or a new car. Furthermore, the driver is going without the life-saving safety standard of modern vehicles, such as, for example, the skid protection system ESP or optimised occupant cells. To put it succinctly: anybody driving his car for too long is damaging the environment, endangering his own life and that of other road users and is frequently also burning a hole in his wallet.'

In the past few years the vehicle stock in Germany has become increasingly older. According to calculations made by the Federal Office for Motor Traffic, the average age of cars on 1st January 2007 was 8.1 years, a new record. Only after an average of 12.0 years (as of 1.1.2007) do cars find their way to the scrap yard or are sent abroad. Adding everything together and considering the fixed costs (purchase price, loss in value, tax and insurance), the variable costs (fuel, repair, maintenance and upkeep costs), the length of use (four years, 15 600 kilometres/year) and taking the average market prices for new and used cars, there does not remain a lot of difference, in most cases, to the assumed cost advantages of older cars.

The running costs for relatively new small cars, for example, of 43.91 cents per kilometre for a four-year-old vehicle are significantly below the old car figure (eight years) of 47.87 cents per kilometre. This means that drivers of newer cars nevertheless save in comparison to the older ones 618.28 euros a year. Another surprising finding: the running costs of an old small car (eight years) are even slightly above the figure for a new car with 46.12 ct/km, so that the driver of a new car pays 273.52 euros less a year than the driver of the old car, and at the same time enjoys the 'luxury' of a brand-new car, which boasts the absolutely latest standards in safety, environmental protection and comfort.

In the compact class, too, the relatively new car with 49.24 cents a kilometre is the first choice as far as economy is concerned. Here, too, the driver of the old vehicle (50.62 ct/km) still has to pay 215.28 euros a year more for the lower standard in safety, environmental friendliness and comfort than for the four-year-old used car. If the driver is prepared to pay an additional 47.49 euros a month, he would already be able to afford a new car equipped with the most up-to-date safety, environment and comfort standards. Merely the drivers of old compact class cars, who would be prepared to do without repair and maintenance (7.09 ct/km) and collision damage insurance (6.72 ct/km) can drive for considerably less (36.81 ct/km) - although they do this at the cost of safety and also the environment.

A similar picture is to be found with vans. Here the new used car with 56.11 ct/km is 519.48 euros a year cheaper than the old vehicle with costs per kilometre of 59.44 cents. The new car here is to be had for a monthly supplement of almost one hundred euros (98.41 euros).

The overall costs of old cars (eight years) in the medium-sized car segment are 57.59 ct/km and thus lower than the new used car (59.30 ct/km); however, the cost advantage is merely 266.76 euros a year or 22.23 euros a month. Investment in the new car would cost 1313.52 euros a year or 109.46 euros a month, which is still worth considering.

Even in the intermediate premium segment, i.e. where the Audi A6, BMW 5 and Mercedes E Class are at home, the differences between the overall costs of old vehicles (72.80 ct/km) and new used cars (77.16 ct/km) are still quite clear. The motorist can drive the newer version for 680.16 euros a year or 56.68 euros a month. The supplement for the new vehicle (89.01 ct/km) is, however, 210.73 euros a month.

Greater accident risk in older cars

Safety considerations also definitely make a timely switch to a newer car advisable. A DEKRA study revealed that the risk for vehicles leapt dramatically with increasing age. The evaluation of 6,000 accident assessments shows that cars between nine and eleven years old had three times more potential danger than a three-year-old car. The periodic main inspection led to similar findings. In 2006 the fault quota rose from 16.4 per cent for three-year-old vehicles to 66.9 per cent for vehicles over nine years of age. The vehicle safety campaign SafetyCheck 2007, in which the cars of around 14,000 young drivers were inspected unprepared and on a voluntary basis, discovered a fault quota for vehicles over eight years of age of virtually 80 per cent. Safety-relevant components such as brakes, chassis and lights were disproportionately affected.

New vehicles also provide the motorist with the latest safety technology. According to Bosch, 48 per cent of cars were fitted with the anti-skid system ESP in 2001; in 2006 the figure was almost 77 per cent. Furthermore, exhaust and engine technology has made considerable progress in the past few decades, as the development which has improved the maximum exhaust emission figures from Euro 1 (1992/93) to Euro 5 (2009) amply demonstrates.

For the cost-conscious car buyer, one-year-old cars, day registration and almost new used cars represent a worthwhile alternative to a new car. These cars possess a high safety standard and a favourable exhaust classification approaching that of the new car. They have the high loss of value which kicks in at the start of a car's life already behind them in some cases and are therefore considerably cheaper to buy than a new car. According to the Schwacke Car Index, the residual value of two-year-old cars in the small-medium-sized car segment which have clocked up 35,000 kilometres is around 30 - 35 per cent below the value of the car new.

Calculations made by DEKRA economy experts tend to suggest, however, that irrespective of the results of the present cost analysis, every motorist must precisely study his own individual situation when buying a car to come up with the variant that proves most inexpensive for him personally. For instance, the purchase of a car that retains its value, such as, for example, the BMW Mini, has a favourable impact on the cost calculation. Anybody wishing to optimise their vehicle costs, must, however, also pay attention to the particularly considerable differences in accident free discounts and type class classification as well as the small things such as the class of particulate sticker, DEKRA experts stress. The annual insurance costs for a new Opel Astra, for example are more than 200 euros less than for a new used car.

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