My Cars Through The Years

Usually young men try to get their driving licence immediatelly when the age allows it. I did not. I chose to get a computer, instead. During my first year at university I did, anyway, go for it. I believe it was due to having too much spare time or something. One of my strange activities was to travel through all the bus routes of Helsinki. When I had done that, I began to check the bus routes of Espoo and Vantaa. So I was not really that interested in a driving licence, but why not. Ok, after a few months I had the licence but I did not have a car. Public transport worked really fine in Helsinki downtown where I lived, so this was quite natural. Besides, I was quite tight on money.

Then in February 1990 I bought my first car. It was a Nissan Cherry year model 1980. For some reason that I can't explain, I began my car costs book keeping habit that still continues. I write down practically everything: the price of the car when I bought it, the price I got when I sold it, fuel, repairs, insurances, accessories, even parking, etc. The notes of this car were, however, lost for quite many years. Then in early 2015 I coincidentally found them when searching for papers related to a broken Samsung phone. Well, the total cost of ownership this car was only 70 pennies per kilometre. Note that this was before Finland joined the European Union, this was before euro was in use. Finnish currency was called markka and it was divided into 100 pennies. When euro came, the exchange rate was just a little less than six markkas to one euro. When I departed from this car, it ended up in newly independent Estonia. They bought a lot of dirt cheap old cars.

Nissan Cherry 140Y ym 1980
Owned 1990-1992
Drove 59288 km with it
Gasoline consumption 8,1 l/100km
TCO (total cost of ownership): 12 c/km

The car in the next picture was not actually mine. I traveled to USA with other students. We visited New York for a week, San Francisco area for a week, and, for the third week, we split up and everyone went to whatever place seemed interesting. I flew to Florida and rented this Pontiac Sunbird to drive around. While in the driver's seat it didn't feel special in any way. Everything worked but so what, that is how it is supposed to be. It, of course, had all the accessories that were in American cars already then, like automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, and what have you. To drive it was nice but you get used to good things quite rapidly. You understand their value only when you lose them. When I was back home, the engine of my own car barely started and the seats felt like sitting on rocks. I finally got it. My Nissan Cherry was a piece of junk. It took me several weeks to get used to my own car's troubles and lack of comfort. It took me even longer to get used to the terrible fuel prices of Finland. And I still miss the American way of driving. It was calm and smooth. When you switched on the blinker you always got room on the other lane. People actually stopped when there was a stop sign. People drove calmly in a lane or in several lanes, if there were many, and they did not bypass the others like crazy inmates.

Except once. I was driving somewhere in the countryside. The sun was shining and I was listening to the local rock radio. It was a small road. The left and right sides of the road had trees in dense rows. Behind the trees I saw huge fields growing something I didn't recognize. Obviously farming is big business in Florida. I had never before seen such enormous farms anywhere. The road was straight to eternity, I think. There was no traffic except a semi-trailer truck coming towards me on the other lane. Then another semi-trailer truck came onto my lane beginning to bypass the first one. I could not pull out of the road to avoid a collision because of the trees that were too close. For a fraction of a second it came to my mind that have I really travelled all the way across the Atlantic just to die. Then I stepped on the brake pedal and begun rushing out of the car. Nothing really happened. The bypassing truck returned to it's own lane and I was grateful for being alive.

Pontiac Sunbird, rental car in USA

Having driven a small Nissan for some time, I came to the conclusion that I want a bigger car. Money was still an issue, it always seems to be, so I had to look for something cheap. In fact, I have never bought a new car so far.

According to the statistics, Saab proved to be a car that loses value fast. For some, this is a bad sign. For me, it was a good sign. This was my first Saab. It was more thirsty for gasoline than the Nissan. However, the total cost of ownership was still pretty low, at least if one compares it to current times. Those times rust proofing was not as effective as it is nowadays so it was not surprising that I had to do some welding to keep this car alive. For a young man low on cash that is not any problem. Welding by oneself is cheap and easy, though I cannot claim having done pretty looking job.

Saab 900 ym 1980
Owned 1992-1996
Drove 106499 km with it
Total mileage when sold 326775 km
Gasoline consumption 10,1 l/100km
TCO: 16 c/km

Surprisingly enough, at one point of time I had an apartment in Helsinki - and some spare cash as well. It was time for car upgrade. This green Saab was the first car I've bought from a dealer. The price was just right. I spent every single penny I had in my account. It had automatic transmission. In a way that was a good thing as Tuula had just got her driving license, and for her it may have been the single most important feature that encouraged her to drive in Helsinki downtown right after getting the license. And boy, automatic transmission is comfortable. But, and there is a big but, it does increase maintenance costs and fuel consumption. I found it the hard way when some years later the automatic transmission broke. To fix it would have been so expensive that it was cheaper to replace it with manual transmission. Gasoline consumption went down something between half a liter to liter per 100 kilometres. During the years that difference makes a lot of money. Besides, a specialist in transmissions told me that it is normal to fix automatic transmissions every 200000 kilometres. That explains why the price of this car was so attractive compared to other Saabs with similar mileage.

Saab 900 ym 1986
Owned 1996 - 2002
Drove 154525 km with it
Total mileage when sold 310373 km
Gasoline consumption 9,64 l/100km
TCO: 20 c/km

We also had a caravan. I never towed it a single metre. It was used as storage and as a place to rest when building our house. My friend Maukka towed it to our property and when the house was ready I sold the caravan to a team that installed fireplaces in the area.

Caravan

The years fly. Anna was born and Tuula stayed at home for some time. She wanted to have a car for herself as public transport in suburban Espoo is not too good. Well, it's not bad, either. It's kind of something in between, but that's another story. We had found a really good Saab specialist who did his job fast and his prices were quite reasonable, so it was easy to continue with the brand. This grey Saab was some years with us and provided trouble free miles.

Saab 900 ym 1985
Owned 1999 - 2002
Drove 58215 km with it
Total mileage when sold 350900 km
Gasoline consumption 9,68 l/100km
TCO: 18c/km

Our trusted Saab specialist convinced me that Saab 9000 is substantially better to drive than Saab 900. I tried one and it was true. Thus the next upgrade was to this dark blue Saab 9000. It didn't have any fancy features, but the 2.3 litre engine made it a joy to drive. When the car was to be dismantled it had about 374000 km in the meter. It had let me down twice but otherwise it was good bang for the buck. The fun part is that both times it was the alternator that broke. The official Saab repair shop in our way to our summer cottage did not change the broken alternator but tried to fix it. That was good only for a year. Unfortunately, our favorite repairman was in an accident and he cannot continue working any more. So maintenance costs went up and quality went down.

Saab 9000 ym 1992
Owned 2002-2008
Drove 141496 km with it
Total mileage when decommisioned 374600 km
Gasoline consumption 9,04 l/100km
TCO: 25 c/km

Just for the sake of completeness, I include a picture of another rental car. This motor home was one of the three that we have rented to travel around Finland with the children. It is quite handy. Whenever you want to take a break, just pull over and take your time. Someone wants to sleep while the others visit the castle? No problem if a little traffic noise doesn't bother you. Are you hungry? Stop where ever and make your meal right on the spot. I think I could like having one of these myself, too.

Rental motor home

We had two children and Tuula wanted to have a smaller car than the green Saab. Ok, car prices had been going down as the European Union laws forced Finland to adopt lower taxes for imported used cars. This also reduced the prices of all other used cars. It was time to do some shopping. This Nissan Almera was chosen basically because it had four doors and it looked nice. In addition, it was a surprisingly good car. It never gave us any trouble whatsoever. Not a single failure of any kind. So far, this has been the most reliable car I've ever owned. The gasoline consumption was low, too. In a way, I regret having ever sold away this one. With this mileage the interest charges and yearly decreasing of reselling value dominate too much. Costs per kilometre would have been significantly lower had I kept this car longer.

Nissan Almera ym 1998
Owned 2002 - 2006
Drove 66633 km with it
Total mileage when sold 134812 km
Gasoline consumption 6,48 l/100km
TCO: 28c/km

There was, however, a good reason to sell the Nissan Almera. We have now three children and we travel often with relatives to Tuula's home farm and elsewhere. Tuula wanted to have a seven seater with air conditioning. My decision criteria was to have manual transmission and a diesel engine. Gasoline powered minivans usually need about 12 litres per 100 km or more, depending on how and where you drive, and diesel engines run with 7 to 8 litres. Considering my yearly mileage and the Finnish fuel prices the difference is significant. My first thought was that it would be Toyota Previa. I did not find a used one with diesel engine so that option was out. The most popular minivan in Finland seemed to be Chrysler Voyager. I tried one but I did not like the driving experience at all. So came Volkswagen Sharan to our family. Nissan was traded because it still had some value and because it was too small for our child seats. Sharan was a nice car and a good choice for our family for the fairly long time we used it, but it was awfully expensive to fix and maintain. It is ok to change the tyres and brake discs once in a while. They are parts that you expect to wear. But I am quite disappointed for having to fix the diesel powered heater, air-conditioning, and engine's belt tightener in a short time. There has been a major repair of the air conditioning, the clutch and the dual mass flywheel. Even the wipers cost double what I have been used to paying. To summarize, the reliability of this car has not been what I expected. Fuel efficiency was good, though, and as we kept this car to the very end of it's technically feasible life, it's total cost of ownership became reasonably low.  

Volkswagen Sharan ym 1998
Owned 2006 - 2019
Drove 304685 km with it
TCO: 31 c/km
Diesel consumption 6,5 l/100km

Ok. Gasoline prices went up and ABS brakes of the Saab begun to show problems that nobody was able to fix. To the junk yard it went. It was time to get something smaller as we were able to cope with smaller child seats. This Peugeot 307 was chosen basically because of it's low price. It had all the gadgets you want and in addition a lot of stars in NCAP crash tests. In other words, it is heavy. Looking at it's size, you wouldn't believe it's actual weight. This is likely the reason why the idea of a smaller car doesn't really materialize in low gasoline comsumption. In fact, 56% of the total costs were about gasoline. Much of our driving was in a city rather than in highways so I shouldn't really complain, I suppose. It was a good car to drive. But be warned. The tests of German AutoBild magazine are true. This car model does have electrical problems and these were the reason to finally get something else. It took only one week to find out that occasionally the horn did not work and there were some other spurious anomalies related to the engine and the doors, too. However, considering all, this car was worth every penny we put into it.  

Peugeot 307 ym 2001
Owned 2008 - 2014
Drove 107676 km with it
Total mileage when sold 278176 km
Gasoline consumption 9,8 l/100km
TCO: 26 c/km

When you live in a suburban house it is a good idea to have some other vehicles in addition to cars. This trailer that I owned for almost ten years with three ex. colleagues has paid itself back many times. In 2010 I did not have any hook to tow it so I gave away my share.

Trailer

The newest car we have is this Toyota Corolla Verso year model 2009. The basic idea was to buy something that is sold in millions, so that all the problems have been fixed before we buy the car. As Toyota seems to be the leader in basically all reliability statistics I have seen, the idea was refined to get a Toyota. In addition, I thought that VW Sharan is getting so old that we'd better have a backup plan to carry a few other friends or relatives in addition to our children if VW were to brake down, so it would be a seven seater though it could have a smaller trunk than what VW has. There would be many years and many miles with the car-to-be so it would be a diesel engine.

A good plan. However, when I had bought this Toyota I found out by reading the internet that Toyota has had some serious diesel engine problems until November 2008. Well, our car was sold in June 2009 so there should be no worries, right? Wrong. When I checked the manufacturing date at a Toyota service in Helsinki I found out that this particular car had been made in June 2008. Oops.

Toyota is extending the warranty of these diesel engines up to seven years and 180000 km and they fix the engine by replacing the upper half of it. Unfortunately, I need more. I took a four year loan to finance this car and I expect any car I buy to run without major faults much longer than that. Toyota service in Helsinki told me that pretty much all of the failed engines they have replaced have been manufactured in 2006 or 2007 and that usually the engines break between 100000 and 150000 km, if they are going to break at all due to manufacturing problems. Just as a note, my neighbour drove over 300000 km withouth any troubles with an earlier Toyota diesel engine, i.e. one manufactured in 2006. He had to get a new car only because of a traffic accident.

And so it turned to be, that coolant begun to leak at 158000 km point. Toyota made the half-engine replacement promptly and without any costs or hassles whatsoever. Kudos for that. At least in Finland, Toyota is considered to take good care of their customers. My experience supports the idea that this good reputation is based on facts.  

Toyota Corolla Verso (diesel engine) ym 2009
Owned 2014 onwards

After more than 420 000 km in the meter of our Volkswagen Sharan it finally became obvious that we do have to get a somewhat more modern car. It would mainly be for Tuula's use so there would not be that much mileage to expect and a diesel engine would just add to the costs due to the horrible taxes we have in Finland. As I was happy with Toyota Corolla Verso, I bought another one and here it is.  

Toyota Corolla Verso (gasoline engine) ym 2008
Owned 2019 onwards


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