Is it always a good idea to buy a new small, inexpensive car, because maintenance and repair costs will be lower than on a more upmarket used vehicle? Sadly, not.
My epiphany came about when my Daihatsu Sirion 1,3’s air-conditioning packed up in March. I sourced a rebuilt compressor and condenser for R8 300, then called the agents for new prices. The compressor alone, for a budget car that cost R99 999 new, would set me back R27 311.00, and the condenser another R7 852.18, without labour, filters, oil or gassing. You could buy six brand new 14 500 BTU split-unit air-conditioners for your home, installed, with heating and remote controls, for less than R35 163. The fact that the steering rack and front brakes had already been replaced under warranty (cost of about R25000) also gave me pause for thought. Where do they come from with these prices?
The problem of parts pricing way out of kilter with the value of the car doesn’t apply to Daihatsu alone. Hyundai equips their 1,4 litre i20 with alloy rims that cost R5779.81 each to replace, and a sump for the Nissan NP200 sells for R11 000. Toyota’s Auris 1,6 XR sump costs a more realistic R1 076, but the gasket, at around R500, is dearer than the Hyundai i30's oil pan that costs a mere R418. Hyundai owners may be pleased to hear that the i30 doesn’t use a sump gasket, but the bad news is that a small tube of the goo that helps keep the oil in costs R872 if you’re foolish enough to buy it from the agents – or have your car serviced by them.
Even allowing for variations in technology and quality, there are countless alarming aberrations in parts pricing. An engine sub-assembly (block, crankshaft, big-end and main bearings, pistons and rings) for a 1,3 litre Toyota Auris will relieve you of R60k while Ford will sell you a fully-assembled sub-assembly for their 1,3 and 1,6 Rocam engines as used in the Figo, Ikon and Bantam, for under R12 000. That’s a third of the price of the dodgy Daihatsu aircon components and 20% of the cost of an Auris engine.
Parts prices are hardly dependent upon the price of the vehicle. Where the Daihatsu aircon condenser costs R7 852, you can buy condensers for a BMW Z4, an Audi A8, a Mercedes SL 500 and a Land Rover Discovery for R7 152, R 5 431, R6 411 and R2 908 respectively. Honda charges R10 100 for a 2001 model motorcycle fuel pump that is available from Bosch for R640, while the price of a 2012 Honda Accord 2,2 diesel pump is a more reasonable R2 574.
The franchised dealers give myriad reasons why customers should buy parts from them rather than look elsewhere because they’re required to sell only their own branded components, but these can often be sourced from the OEM supplier at a fraction of the agent’s price. The industry should really take notice of what happens in the real world where the customer is supposedly king. While a vehicle is under warranty owners may reluctantly pay outrageous prices for parts because they need to retain the protection of the warranty, but when pricing goes as mad as it has that’s rapidly going out the window.