Why do people buy horrible cars?


I spend too much time questioning peoples’ motives. I shouldn’t though. It isn’t very productive and peoples’ motives are none of my business but sometimes I just can’t help it…

For example, why would an otherwise ordinary sane person buy Crocs, or anything gluten free if they’re not suffering from celiac disease? Why do some people think it is a good idea to drive like an idiot at rush hour or completely forget how to drive when it rains? Why do people eat couscous or peas? What could possibly motivate them to do these things? Now I know these are all fairly pointless things and have no real bearing on the world. I also wonder about more serious things but I’d rather not touch on those today, lest I get angry and post defamatory things about Daesh and politicians.

Most of the time I come up empty and put it down to personal preference or just accept that some people have no taste.

When it comes to cars though, I can’t… I just can’t put it aside like yesterday’s bacon and for the following reason. A car is a big purchase. It is the second most expensive thing most people will buy in their life, after their house, if they can afford either, which many people can’t. So when I see someone driving around in a new Etios Cross or a Smart Car I’m struck with a certain measure of both sadness and intense frustration.

Why would you buy that? Why! Why would you spend good money on something so awful? You’re going to be stuck with it for at least five years of your life. Most people only live to about seventy five, so that is 6% of your life, spent owning an awful car that you spend at least an hour in every day. People will throw out things like, “oh, it’s economical” or “it is good for the environment” but the truth is it makes little difference to the environment if you drive a little three cylinder car with a juicer for an engine or a big V8, because factories will manufacture, foresters will keep chopping and mines will keep mining. Your little four cylinder saving won’t even make a dent.

People also say, “but I can’t afford anything better” which is also nonsense. There are many, many great used vehicles for sale. You can get an Audi A4 from 2011 for the same price as your Aygo, and you can get an extended warranty for it as well. For that you get to feel great for an hour a day instead of just existing in your little car made of plastic that has the horse power of half a dead donkey.

So please put a bit more thought into the cars you buy. I bought a Renault Megane 1.6 hatchback a few years ago, and while it is a decent car and it looks alright, it still isn’t the best car I could have bought for the money I paid. I could have found myself an older Mitsubishi Pajero or a Golf 4 Gti perhaps. I could have bought a Citroen C4 2l hot hatch, but I didn’t. I was too impatient.

A year ago I bought a 1989 Toyota Land Cruiser 4l petrol 4×4. I think it’s the best car in the world, sure it may be old, but what a machine. Once the Renault is sold it will be my only car. Sure it may be old, but what a nice place to be! When the engine starts it sends a tingle down your spine. It grumbles for a few minutes after getting wrenched from peaceful slumber, much like its owner. A pull on the choke sorts that out, like a strong cup of coffee; it is just the kick it needs to get going. You might only be going to work, but the fact that, if you want, you can drive it to Sani Pass and get up without too much trouble, or to Mozambique for a bit of fishing, makes it something different. It’s the possibility of the thing that makes it special. To me car needs one of three things, it either needs to be fast, capable off road or interesting in some other way in terms of design or technology or even just history.

There is none of that in an Aygo or Nissan Micra. There is no fizz about an ordinary Hyundai or a middling 1.4 Golf. Maybe people who own these cars care about other things or have other interests. Maybe they’re interesting in other ways. Maybe they ride fast motor bikes or fly airplanes. Maybe they’re artists who take lots of drugs on weekends at trance festivals. Maybe they’re parents who’ve given up on their own joy to concentrate on the joy of their children. Maybe they actually like small horrible cars with no power. Maybe they’re aliens with questionable driving skills. I’ll question all of that but I’ll do my best not to judge them because that would make me even more of a hypocrite than I already am.

I don’t know.

What I do know is this. Cars are a major part of our lives and it makes sense that one should buy the best, most capable vehicle for the money you have to spend, and I’m sorry, that is not a Nissan Qashqai or an Opel Astra diesel.

1988 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ62


“You’re buying a what?” My logical and risk-averse father asked me in a mild panic.
“A 1988 Land Cruiser”
“Did I hear you right? It has three hundred and ninety thousand kilometres on the clock?” He cried
“Yes” I said calmly.
“But why?” He asked.
“Because it’s the best car in the world”
Okay, so that may be stretching it a bit. The best car in the world is one of the Ferrari La Ferrari, Porsche 918 or McLaren P1. Top Gear was going to find out which but that looks highly doubtful given their recent fracases. So in the absence of that information, I’m going to stick with my original assessment. The best car in the world is a 1988 Land Cruiser, more specifically, my 1988 Land Cruiser with its three hundred and ninety thousand kilometres on the clock.

Old cars are generally written off as being unsafe, uncomfortable and unkind to the environment. I will now refute each of these in respect of the Land Cruiser.

Unsafe – Sure your new BMW may have satellite navigation and twenty airbags, and a whole whack of abbreviated technological marvels to keep you from killing yourself, but, I ask you, if you get stuck on a muddy hill whilst trying to escape from a marauding troupe of bloodthirsty, slow, zombie Greenpeace activists, will it get you to safety? No it won’t. You’ll get stuck and they will eat your brain as long it is organic and pesticide free. The Land Cruiser will get out of there with no trouble at all. It is renowned for being able to go anywhere, and back, no matter what gets thrown at it. The zombie Greenpeace activists wouldn’t stand a chance.

As for speed, they all say speed kills! My 1988 Land Cruiser maxes out at about 105 downhill on the freeway with your foot flat after taking a good fifteen minutes to get up to speed. It’s not fast, so speed won’t be able to kill you.

Uncomfortable – It just isn’t.

Unkind to the environment – New cars have to be manufactured, obviously, and to do that the car companies use energy. The raw materials for the new cars, need to be transported all over the world by heavy ships that dump all sorts of pollution into the air and water, then by diesel trucks from the harbours to factories, then by truck again from the parts factories after being processed into the form required, to the assembly plants, where more energy is consumed in the form of electricity, gas and water when the parts and raw materials get assembled into cars. I could go on but you’re probably getting bored. The Old Land Cruiser has long since paid back its environmental dues. Your new Renault Dustbuster will take a hundred years to do that, especially since it isn’t really designed to last more than 10 years and has lots of plastic in it. The Land Cruiser will still be going strong in 2035.

I love the old Land Cruiser; it is tough, reliable and cooler than Samuel L Jackson with an eye-patch. I wouldn’t swop it for anything… I love the noise the straight six truck motors makes, the mechanical feel of the gear change. I love chugging up and down rocky, muddy roads in low range. I love that it is one of very few cars in the world that can actually look cool in brown. I love that there are models out there with more than a million kilometres on the clock that are still going strong.

Buying a car is not a logical process for most people. If they’re anything like me it is an emotive one. I get swept away by the choice, the possibility, the places the car can go and the stories that it can become a part of. It’s why I’ll never buy a new Hyundai sedan or hatchback (unless they do a 300kw fire breathing rally version).

We spend so much time in our cars, driving here and there, dropping kids off, going to work, shopping, going on holiday, visiting friends and family and escaping from zombie Greenpeace activists. Why would you want to spend all that time in a Honda Brio or a Hyundai i10 when for the same price you can get a used 5.7l hemi Jeep Grand Cherokee or an older model Mercedes CL500?