The need for wheels

It’s amazing how a change of conditions makes you suddenly realise how much you want something isn’t it? Case in point me now starting work in the wee hours of the morning instead of regular office hours and a couple of weeks in, I’m really missing having a vehicle to ferry me around…

On a positive note, I’m the fittest I’ve ever been

A fact that was noticed at a recent birthday party. I’m 73kg currently and have never really been on the larger side of life but even I chuckled when the brother in law wondered out loud if I’d lost weight. Truth be told it’s thanks to the full year and a bit of walking to and from work daily. When the Stag ran out of rego back in September it didn’t change anything either, I was rarely using it and had no dramas being car free.

But now with a walk trip to work in the dark and back round noon and with my wife back in full time employment, a walk trip to when school ends and back with the kids, yeah a set of wheels would really come in handy so I don’t have to borrow the better half’s Lancer when it’s not in use. If only all the ones I was keen to check out weren’t so far away or snapped up before I even have a chance to negotiate…

I’m doing more homework than I did back in high school

I’ve read a lot of articles, a lot. I’ve spent plenty of time on Reddit (R/whatcarshouldibuy has been incredibly helpful) and car review sights. I’ve read owner reports and perused the complaints section I discovered earlier while The Wizard waxes lyrical in the background. If you’re looking to buy second hand, I strongly urge you to do the same – especially when you’ve finally decided on the two or three models you’re considering to buy next, reading up on what could go wrong, what does go wrong, how expensive it can get to own a particular model and things to look out for during inspection could save you thousands.

By doing this, I’ve come across some very handy little nuggets: (Also please note this is just what I’ve read in my research, obviously your results may vary considerably.)

-Avoid Nissan CVT gearboxes. Apparently it’s not a matter of if, more a ‘when’ they’ll need a replacement. And since we’re looking for another automatic this time, that rules out things like the Nissan Murano

-Avoid early Captivas

-Check for head gasket replacements on 90’s/early 2000’s Subarus when buying

-Avoid high mileage European cars. They may be comfy but you’ll never get them back to 100% operation before something else goes bang.

-Researching insurance costs is something you’ll also need to factor in. Car ownership cost extends further than the cash you just ponied up for your latest ride.

-If you find something you’re interested in, get onto to it asap. Or be like me, wait and watch someone else snap it up..

There’s a lot of junk out there

Make sure you read everything and I mean everything in a car add. Save it, come back to it later, read it again. It’s amazing how many people start off with a wonderful write up only to bury a pretty nasty problem or fact about the car somewhere down the bottom where from experience with my own car ads, very few people bother to look.

-There was a Murano available recently and locally that started of with a lovingly written run down about how reliable it had been, how much it would be missed, etc etc. Then towards the bottom was the $2000 engine out problem you’d probably have to address if you had any hope of getting it a roadworthy on it, something broken that was dripping fluid into the exhaust and causing a fair bit of smoke for a few minutes each cold start. Yeah that sounds like great fun, where’s my chequebook?

-What about the Forester that appeared on Facebook with this? – needs new front right oil control sensor( its faulty and not running the injectors on that side which throws a engine code) – Rear diff light cable isn’t long enough so it falls out and throws a light on the dash but oil’s have been replaced and when plugged back in it goes away. Apparently the ad’s been up for almost half a year now, maybe it’s time for a long rear diff light cable?

-The CRV with the dog hair drowning the back was nice. I had dogs, I get it. I also have a vacuum that works too. Just a thought?

And scams..

If it seems too good to be true, click on the name and have a perusal.

facebook car scam

I mean if this was genuine, I’d be down there in a red hot minute ready for a look over. However when you click on the seller’s name…

Oh look, same car, same ks and magically all over Australia!

(If you come across a car ad and the seller is in ‘holiday/vacation mode’ it’s a scam. Avoid like the plague. Oh and report them too,  the community will thank you.)

I’ve made a list

And while it’s not the most exciting checklist in terms of automotive ownership, here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Either another wagon or an SUV preferably. My wagon was stupidly useful while I had it and an SUV should have slightly more space than the Lancer sports back we own. However that’s not to say I won’t look at something like a Toyota Aurion or Honda Accord Euro as options as both of them are great and if treated right, highly reliable. A 2004+ Subaru Outback is looking pretty good covering all these camps so far.

  • Non turbo. Sad days I know but I had to grow up sometime.

  • A little bit more economical. I know whatever I’m going to buy won’t come near the Lancer in terms of petrol frugality but as long as it’s not up there with the Stag when things got spirited or worse the Rx7 come every 400kms, then that’s a bonus.

-Leather interior. More a bonus than essential but it’s been a while since any car we had came with the option.

-Automatic. Sports shift a bonus.

-Something I can work on. With enough time, patience and Youtube on hand I can tackle a few things without mechanical supervision but the less complicated servicing, the better.

-Available parts and repairers. If I get a ‘what’s that?’ from a mechanic when I book in for a service and they’ve just asked me what I’m driving, I’m in trouble. Luckily most if not all of the options I’ve been looking at have plenty of examples around. The trouble is they’re not around me currently..
(Oh and affordable parts. I’m wary on some of the Volvo options like the S60 and S40 because of this even though they seem very appealing.)

-Working air con, cruise (amazingly for all the Stagea had, cruise wasn’t an option), enough room in the back for a 7 and 10 year old

-No more than a couple hundred thousand kms worth of mileage and if its at the higher end, a service history is a must. The budget isn’t on the large size but on the occasion something gets close and that’s what I’m hoping for very soon.

-Something I don’t have to travel more than an hour or two to view. Life is busy, petrol is expensive and if my daughter keeps getting invited to school friends birthday parties like she has been of late, I’m never going to find the time to go car shopping..

Possible options – from likely to less so

Subaru Outback

SUBARU OUTBACK – Currently on top of the list because I was just days away from going for an hour long drive with the family to check out a luxury 2008 model in a small country town in great nick. Very clean, service history, all the features, good mileage. Only to find out this morning it’s just been bought. Then I found a 2006 one also with service history and even with cloth seats, it too looked in fantastic condition turns out that too didn’t last long at the price and sold a couple of weeks back.

Fortunately/unfortunately (however you want to look at it) now I’m seeing similar models all over town. Every fifth car now passing me is an Outback. The universe seems to be teasing me at the moment and it’s not the first time it’s had its fun at my expense.

Hopefully soon one of those ones I’ve seen will hit the classifieds.

The good: I like the beefy wagon look of the 2nd gen models far more than the first. Plenty of space, AWD, plenty of parts if things go wrong

The bad: Not the most economical, snapped up pretty quickly, 2.5 litre non turbo not the zippiest in this frame, Subaru head gaskets (although the earlier models suffer a lot more than these ones do.


TOYOTA AURION – When on the Gold Coast I built a big list of available Aurions ready to inspect once the wagon was sold. Unfortunately after a lot of stuff around, the wagon didn’t sell until recently and as a consequence I am now in an area where there aren’t so many available, especially with the luxury trim I’m looking for. Still if one pops up soon..

The good: Plenty of support, Toyota reliability, Sportivo options, popular engine choice, V6

The bad: Sportivo options don’t seem nearly as common as base trim AT-X model, most local ones have 300+ kms. I mean that’s okay for a well kept Toyota but still..,  FWD, can look a bit bland


HONDA ACCORD (EURO) – Civic no, Accord yes. Especially one with all the fruit. Not as much space as the Aurion but looks good and if kept well, will last a long time. 4 would be nice, V6 would be great, I’m open to see what’s available.

The good: Honda reliability, a sporty option, one of the better looking choices depending on the angle

The bad: None near me currently.


SUBARU TRIBECA – Look I must have been asleep when this one came out originally because only when I was searching for possible Outbacks did this pop up. It’s a Subaru SUV in 5 or 7 seat setup, H6 engine and they finally made it look okay for the second generation. Haven’t come across any in the wild yet but classifieds tell me they’re out there.. (Also considering a Forester of this era)

The good: Well know H6 Subi engine, plenty of seats

The bad: Nobody has heard of one, I’ve never seen one in the metal, all available models are far out of reach, according to one insurance company most owners and 50+ and female (well that bodes well for me finding one in good condition), 1st gen ugly as sin

LEXUS IS250 – Again, I’ve moved from an area where this one prominent car was everywhere you parked, to a place where they’re a rare beastie. And if the prices on Facebook are any indication, don’t drop in price very often. But it’s a Lexus so you’ve got Toyota reliability and as long as it hasn’t been left in the sun too long for the insides to start melting away.. Once upon a time it was high up on the list but unless one goes up for sale near me soon..

The good: One of the best looking options, I love the styling. Apparently great to drive, popular, luxurious.

The bad: Not the most spacious choices, melting dash, uncommon here.

LEXUS IS200 – No not the imported version, the Australian delivered version. The predecessor to the Is250, the trouble would be finding one that hasn’t been driving to the moon and back nor one thrashed the the nines (or modified beyond existence) as a lot of them are. The chances of one appearing near me soon? Astronomical.

The good: While not as good looking as the 250, it’s still a stylish Lexus. Lexus reliability. Toyota parts, fun to drive.

The bad: Not the cheapest to insure, not a great amount of space, rarity, condition


LEXUS RX330/RX350 – A Lexus SUV? Why not. They’d be one of the more reliable options out there, especially if I could find an affordable Rx350 ready to go. But I don’t live in Sydney where they all seem to congregate nor am I willing to take a punt on one through a car auction because strangely that’s another place they like to show up..

The good: Space, super reliability, creature comforts, Toyota parts, interesting look

The bad: Wife hates the front, high insurance costs (compared to others on this list and the plan is to spend less than what I was insuring the wagon for), not the greatest fuel economy, not a common choice around these parts (Vic/NSW border)

VOLVO XC90 – It’s big, it’s safe as houses, it’s a Volvo tank..

The good: It’s big, it’s safe as houses, it’s a Volvo tank, lots of them, plenty in good condition, can carry the world.

The bad: Insurance high, expensive to fix, terrible economy for short blurts around town, European.


Right so that’s the list as it stands, an update on this car buying adventure hopefully coming soon – wish me luck!


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