Monday, March 26, 2012

Zoom zoom zoom

My opinion about cars--that they're expensive to keep and pointless in an urban environment with good public transit--has been validated. It would have been more interesting to see what the Millenials, as they are called in that article (I count myself slightly older, but Millenial-ish enough), have to say about not owning cars, but I do find it cute that GM thinks twenty-somethings watch MTV. Cute, and terribly misguided: it doesn't matter how cool the paint job is, at the end of the day, the damn car still costs half a year's salary for someone just starting out. And half a year's salary buys a lot of girls' nights out, karaoke--or day care.

On this side of the pond, cars tend to be smaller, and the possibility of getting a cheap, new car is far greater, as you have a lot more brands to choose from. Even the luxury cars (the sexy black Opels or the zippy Alfa Romeos) are not more than €30,000--the advertised prices say "starting at €25,000). The "starter" cars, which is what Karel would be getting if he were purchasing a new car (which he isn't), are a scant €6000, and most cars fall somewhere around €10,000 when new. Of course, you have a 14% sales tax that doesn't get factored into the advertised price, plus a "road use" tax depending on the size of your car, plus a tax you pay for the emissions, plus...well, you get the idea. Many Dutch people actually go over the border to buy their cars, thus avoiding the 14% tax, though when they bring it back to the Netherlands, registering it kicks all of the other taxes into motion. Gotta love the one-currency economy.

But Karel is set on getting a car this year, despite the astronomical--even by Dutch standards--gas prices (currently at around €1.80/liter). And I can't say "no" to his wanting to cut his commute time in half. Nor can I argue with the fact that dragging a little bambino on the train is a bad idea. Nor can I argue with the appeal of a long weekend in Luxemburg.

Even so, it is a significant purchase for us, and I completely understand the trepidation Millenials feel at the thought of committing to what must seem like a lifetime of payments--for maintenance, for gas, for insurance (which we also have to pay for, on top of the taxes mentioned above)--when they're already in indentured servitude for their student loans. At this point, it's more of a necessary evil than a burning desire.

People used to buy cars because it cemented their status--as cool kids, as grown ups, as whatever was "in" at the moment. Now, people buy cars because they have to--because status these days is owning an iPhone, writing with fountain pens, and shopping at farmers' markets. Cars, for all the auto industry's progress (or lack) in cutting emissions and becoming more fuel-efficient, are simply at odds with what's cool.


  1. I've done a lease under the business, it still comes in at about 400 a month for a Fiesta with VAT, Road tax, insurance, and maintenance included (I get the VAT back each month through the business though).
    I did a 30K per year mileage limit (do we still call it that if it's in kilometers?) because I have to run back and forth to the UK. I kept the lease term short, at 2 years, which raised the price slightly, but I wanted (dreamed) that I'd be out fo the Fiesta within two years (I was wrong).
    Gas and parking are extra - I was running about 70 euro month for garage space in Maastricht: gas pricing is just terrible everywhere. I balanced out all of the costs and the lease made the most sense for me, but if you check that option ask for several quotes: I found a 100 euro spread among the three companies that the dealer checked.

  2. Thanks for giving us some numbers! We were thinking it'd cost about that much a month. I think we're going to go for a used micro-car (Aygo, Twingo, something-like-that-ish), since Karel has the cash for such a thing.