German vs. Japanese Cars

I am being pressured into selling my beloved 10-year old VW Cabrio because my mom thinks that if I get a Honda or Toyota, I won’t have to spend $600 every time some little thing goes wrong and they have to special-order a part. Is it true that German cars tend to have more expensive parts?

Yes, German cars tend to have more expensive repairs, but why does it matter what your mother thinks about your next automotive purchase?

Who’s going to drive the car; you, or your mother?

Ha. When she knows that I am really broke and that my car is sitting in California for a year doing nothing while I"m in an apartment in DC (so basically I’m paying insurance for nothing), so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep it. Also, she tends to always be right about everything, but then someone else told me that replacement parts are just expensive no matter what the make, so I needed to make sure that she really was right.

I don’t know that the repairs are really all that much cheaper on a Japanese car, they’re just much less frequent.

For what it’s worth as a “foreign car” tech for a number of decades, I guarantee you that the Asian cars break, suffer premature problems, Recalls, and Technical Service Bulletins just as often as anything else made.

From mostly turning wrenches to handling warranty claims to service writer/manager, I’ve had a hand in the entire process.
In every shop at any given time there were just as many broken Asian cars in the shop as there were European ones.
(And I would add that the dealers I worked for carried Fiat, VW, SAAB, Honda, Nissan, and Subaru with Nissan being the only stand-alone dealer. The others were multi-line.)

As I’ve stated before, anyone who thinks they’re infallible should actually go to work turning wrenches on them for about 10 years. At the end of a decade post back and let us know what it’s like.

I’ll also admit that of those cars that I’ve personally been involved with, I have to say that Nissan and Subaru are my favorites. Why?
Simple. Maintenance heavy and problematic and this translates to more flat hours which means a fatter paycheck.

I do admit the Japanese have won the PR battle because many people who swear by (fill in the name) are not involved with the cars at all or they’re basing it on their experience with their own car.
Your mom says get a Honda or Toyota. Should I ask how many Hondas or Toyotas she’s owned?

She’s right,especially if you compare Honda and Toyota to VW/Audi. Why are you keeping it insured? If you know you’ll not be using it you can stop the insurance for a while.

If it’s going to be out of service for a year and has been routinely requiring other than routine maintenance, I agree with your mom that your best move is to sell it. But not for the reasons you’re mentioning.

It just simply makes no sense IMHO to keep a 10 year old vehicle of questionable reliability if you wonn’t need it for a year. There’s no savings here. It’ll depreciate, and at this point it’ll probably cost you more to keep it then it’s worth.

I have had 3 hondas, 1 volvo and more recently 3 pontiacs(2 bonnevilles & now a Grand prix SI) I drive to Canada twice /yr. Remaining driving local. Hondas were very reliable an d reasonable to maintain. Now the local honda dealer is so Pompous and arrogant,I wouldn’t buy anything from them.Volvo sucked in the winter, and couldn’t get out of its own way on a green light AND the maintanance was expensive,even when there was nothing wrong. The dealer was abknockious. I would not buy another one.I have been tickelled pink with our Pontiacs,the only thing is that the transmitions die at 100,00 miles

Honda and Toyota cars are expensive to maintain. They do not break quite as often, so they are slightly less expensive to repair. Let’s choose a 2006 Golf, 2006 Corolla, and a 2006 Cobalt as examples:

	           Golf	          Corolla	   Cobalt
maintenance	 $5,377.00 	 $5,355.00 	 $4,775.00 
repairs	 $2,960.00 	 $2,194.00 	 $2,561.00 

Clearly, maintenance is high on both the Golf and Corolla, and lower on the Cobalt. Repairs are lower, but only slightly, for the Corolla. The source is the Edmunds true cost to own feature, and prices are for 5 years of ownership.

Unless you plan to return to Cali soon, sell the car or remove the insurance. It’s not worth it to pay for nothing. If you sell, you might consider buying a Toyota or Honda, but don’t make repairs or especially maintenance the reason. Costs just aren’t that different these days.

The questions that I was going to ask were these: 1) What kind of driving do you do? 2) Do you depend on thecar to get you where you are going? and 3) How many miles do you drive a year?

Well, in looking at your response to another question, you aren’t depending on the car since you live in D.C. and the car is in California and you are drivng zero miles a year. The best solution would seem to be to sell the car and purchase another car when you need one.

When you are ready to purchase a car, then consider the type of driving that you are going to be doing. If your driving is for pleasure, then you may want a car that is fun to drive which may not include the Toyota or Honda cars. On the other hand, if you need a reliable car, then a dull Asian car might be just the ticket.

My dad used to say “There will always be cars”. Don’t waste money keeping a car that you won’t be using. Don’t buy a car that you don’t like just because someone else says that it is a “sensible” car. A car that you enjoy driving and fits your needs is the sensible car.

All the Nissans I owned were very reliable,what was the problematic issue?Of course I owned D21s a Frontier and Sentra the used Hondas I own are very reliable if you dont over maintain them, some of the domestics are very good,some are very poor(the dealers have something to do with this-our local Honda-Nissan dealership has a very good service dept and some of our domestic guys will drain your wallet-they lost me as a customer}.-My experience with used European cars has not been very pleasing-Kevin P.s owner bias is pretty darn prejudical too-remember the correct maintenence will solve many issues

“beloved 10-year old VW Cabrio”

Hard to put a price tag on that.

In our extended family, we have a late model Lexus and a late model BMW (both sedans). The Lexus is extremely reliable and predictable and practical and comfortable and, frankly, boring. On the other hand, we love the BMW.

For Americans, particularly Californians, car ownership is not necessarily a decision based solely on practical considerations.

I would call my insurance man and lapse that insurance until you get the car going again.

I really question those numbers…I’ve never come CLOSE to those numbers on maintenance or repairs on any vehicle I’ve owned in the past 20 years…and that’s not over a 4 year period…that’s over 9-10 years…NOT EVEN CLOSE…In fact those numbers are higher then my wifes (87 Accord, 96 Accord, 90 Pathfinder and 98 Pathfinder)…COMBINED total maintenance and repair costs. I’d really like to see how they got those numbers.

I dunno, an S2000 might be pretty fun to drive, then there’s the Celica/Supra. However, used versions of those would be a gamble on riced out turds, or under-maintained and ready to die.

This discussion confirms my devotion to the simpler domestic models. If I had paid full price at an independant shop for repairs and maintenance for the past 40 years on all my vehicles, mostly domestic trucks, none would have cost me over $1,000 in any 12 month period. Even when I contracted and drove 70,000 miles/year. My pragmatism begins with the realization that if my Ford or Chevy truck failed for any reason in any area of the country, the most basic shop with an intelligent novice and basic tools could diagnose and repair it with readily available parts. And there have been few failures.

Agree with Mike; in THE REAL WORLD maintenance and repair expenses are a fraction of what you indicate. jt, over what period would this amount be spent?

My 1994 Sentra reached $7456 total for maintenance, repairs and tires at the end of 2006, after 12 years of driving!!! and 120,000 miles. My 1988 Caprice reached the $7500 point in MID 1999, after 11 years and similar mileage. That’s $621.33 per year for the Sentra and $714.29 per year for the Caprice!

I suspects JT’s figures are from the company that published all this data based on extended warranty repair costs!!! The figure would be what repair shops WISHED people would spend on M & R.

As a general rule, if you keep a car forever, until it is literally finished, you will spend about its purchase value on R&M and tires, For a Toyota and Honda that would be at least 25-30 years, for other cars much shorter.

“I suspects JT’s figures are from the company that published all this data based on extended warranty repair costs!!! The figure would be what repair shops WISHED people would spend on M & R.”

I attributed the data to Edmunds; you can see that above. As you both might recall, it is derived from extended warranty data. They divide by two and assume that the actuaries who developed the data know what they are doing. The actuaries make money doing this stuff. You and I make conversation. While we might like to think we know what’s really going on, we are only guessing an the extremely small population in our driveways. Our future decisions are based on that, and that’s OK. But don’t think you know more that the experts. If you are an expert, what are your qualifications?

In fleet mangement (cars, trucks, busses), companies budget about 5% of replacement capital cost (RCC) for maintenance and repairs. These figures square with the SAE maintenance management handbook.

On a $20,000 car that would be about $1000 per year on an ongoing basis. Of course a new car has less of this, and an older car more. The company has to apply full cost to the maintenance, since the driver is not paid to do any maintenance. Companies also do not patronise small, low overhead shops.

To put this into perspective, buildings allocate about 1% (excluding hotels), large ocean liners 1-1.5% (excluding cruise ships), oil refineries and chemical plants 1.5-2.0%, manufacturing plants about 5%. In the car manufacturing business, GM used to spend 12-14% while Honda and Toyota did the same work for 4% or so.

Surveys, such as AAA and others, show the average US driver spends abut $1100+ per year on maintenance & repairs. The average US car has a replacement value of about $24,000, 5% of which is $1200. The average car on the road is also somewhere between 5 and 6 years old.

A few years back, Consumer Reports did an article on very long lived cars. The average driver only spent $400 per year or so on keeping it running. The reasons for this are the age of the survey (inflation since that time), and the fact that many were senior who drive less.

Hope this gives you some perspective as to how manintenance budgets are arrived at and why Mike and I spend as little as we do to keep our wheels totally reliable.

I spend very little, too; far less than the amounts quoted above. But we drive a Buick, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, and Honda. As I understand it, the tool that Edmunds provides is meant for comparison purposes and not as an absolute amount that you might expect to spend. And I chose 2006 to make sure that no major factory warranty would still be in effect. The data tells me that the Corolla does have the fewest repairs, but the others are not that far behind. Other than that, I would not use the dollar values.

Quote "As a general rule, if you keep a car forever, until it is literally finished, you will spend about its purchase value on R&M and tires, For a Toyota and Honda that would be at least 25-30 years, for other cars much shorter. Unquote

That depends on your personal definition of “finished”. Mine varies a lot, depends on how much I like the car and how it is used. Is it completely vital that it not leave you stranded? Do you use it close to home or use it for long trips? Can you repair it yourself or must you farm the work out? As one example, when a car is rusty enough, I am no longer interested in repairing it or paying someone else to repair it to keep it running.

In addition, your statement regarding 25-30 years needs proof as it otherwise sounds like a number simply grabbed out of the air. It does not sound at all consistent with what ok4450 said and what jtsanders posted.