How much money do you actually need today to buy a really decent used car that will serve the whole family, will work reliably every day, will not require anything extra apart from routine maintenance, and will also take you on vacation to the sea and the mountains at least twice a year?

The time when he went to buy a Focus station wagon like that for a hundred thousand and you were taken care of for a few years is long gone. Today, a decent used car costs 150 to 200 thousand crowns, so that it does not immediately threaten outrageously high repair bills and promises a few more years of reliable operation with only routine maintenance. And of course we are talking about ordinary cars, not luxury German premium cars with air suspensions and electronics more complex than the control center of the CERN research institute.

It is not true that the Czech Republic is the junkyard of the West and that only old hams are sold here. Although there are less than six thousand advertisements on the website in the price range of up to CZK 75,000 (in which you can really find everything possible), the much higher offer is for slightly more expensive cars. For example, there are currently over 7,000 offers in the budget of 150 to 200,000 CZK, of which over 800 are cars up to 10 years old, mileage up to 150,000 km and engine power of at least 75 kW. Probably no one will consider the ten-year-old Rapid, C-Max or Peugeot 308 as bad and old cars. Even such modern and safe cars can be bought in this price range. Today you can buy a very decent Octavia III and many competitive family cars of the same category for under 200,000 CZK.

More complex technology scares everyone

Above all, it is the demanding requirements for the purity of engine emissions that are behind the enormous complexity of modern cars. Since September 2010, diesels have been equipped with solid particle filters in our country as well, many imported cars have had them for even longer. Particle filters, often parts with a price of several tens of thousands of crowns, are among the biggest scarecrows of used diesel vehicles. While you can drive with a humming bearing or a malfunctioning rear window washer even at the cost of reduced comfort, you may not even start a diesel with a damaged or clogged DPF, or you may not drive anywhere with it.

Photo: Paradise of veterans

The simplicity (and reliability) of the old diesels cannot be matched by the new ones. Extremely complex and delicate emission control systems simply take their toll in used cars over time. New engines after higher runs already require extremely careful maintenance. However, it is no different for gasoline engines.

But even gasoline engines don’t have it easy. Complex turbocharging systems, expensive direct injection injectors, as well as high sensitivity to handling and meticulous maintenance make even some gasoline engines bazaar scarecrows that are sometimes best avoided altogether. Especially when you don’t have thirty to fifty thousand on the side for the first necessary service to keep the car running at all.

Not that younger and less used cars are not at risk of repairs either, but if we leave out the known troublemakers, modern cars are quite reliable and with regular maintenance they usually manage 300,000 km before expensive complexities like the aforementioned particle filters start to go bad. In short, we have to come to terms with the fact that the days of Felicias and other technically primitive cars that people repaired themselves using ordinary tools (and with parts for a few hundred crowns) are long gone.

A cheap car is not always cheap

We don’t forbid anyone a cheap car. An acceptable carriage can easily be purchased for fifty to seventy thousand crowns, and it can be a perfectly adequate car for short trips around the chimney. But it is worse with the usability of such a car as a full-fledged family car for regular longer trips.

In short, old technology has its limits, and even if the buyer of a used car comes to terms with the fact that he is buying a used thing, everyone always rekindles a glimmer of hope that the car will not immediately start to fall for him. And indeed, a lot of people are lucky and apart from routine maintenance and minor repairs, they don’t deal with much on their cars. When the technique is simple and reliable, not much breaks either.

Photo: Dalibor Žák

For example, a Volvo V70 is an icon of reliability. The legendary five-cylinder diesel can handle more than half a million kilometers with only routine maintenance, and if you give the car at least basic care, it doesn’t have to rust even after years and kilometers.

Unfortunately, with increasing age and kilometers, even otherwise reliable cars reach the limits of their capabilities, and no one can avoid the necessity of further repairs and investments. In addition to consumables such as tires and brakes, necessary suspension repairs, replacement of a corroded exhaust, and more and more repairs are added to make the car even pass the “technical test”. And as soon as the wiring starts to go bad, operating fluids leak from the car and corrosion appears, which is not an exception for fifteen to twenty-year-old cars, but rather the rule, it’s bad.

The costs of simply keeping such a car in operation will start to rise, and while previously you only dealt with routine operational maintenance for a few thousand crowns a year, suddenly you will spend ten, fifteen thousand for “crap” every six months in the service. Just to drive it and get technical. Then you wonder if you really should have paid more for a younger and newer car, for which all this will come one day, but not right away. But what to do if the family budget is not inflatable and we simply don’t have “two kilos” for a car right now?

Banks don’t want to finance old cars

The logical consideration of many people is some form of financing, most often in the form of a loan for used cars. This is quite common with new cars, for example operating leases are an extremely attractive product for companies. A private buyer, who does not include it in the company’s expenses and does not deduct the tax, sees it a little differently, of course.

Financing a used car is also possible and is a popular way to get a car that is more expensive than what we have in cash. The principle works similarly to new car leasing, but other factors come into play and it is interesting that some companies do not want to finance very old and cheap cars.

Photo: Dalibor Žák

Various financing products are optimal primarily as a tax- and cost-deductible item for companies. But it can also make sense in the private sphere. Those who drive a lot and need a reliable and larger car have no choice but to have the necessary cash.

To put it simply, one could say that banks are pushing leasing companies to finance newer, i.e. less risky, cars. Such financial products are also more affordable from the point of view of the end customer. On the contrary, it is a problem with older cars. Since the banks evaluate them as risky, if they do not directly refuse to finance such a car, the resulting product is more expensive for the customer (higher repayment, higher costs). And as a result, they will overpay so much that it would be better to buy a more expensive and newer car. For example, for a newer car with a price of CZK 200,000, you can get a four- to five-year loan at an interest rate of up to 9% for an overpayment of only about CZK 30,000. For older cars, it is proportionally much worse.

Financing is currently recording the fact that with real inflation still over 10%, interest rates between 7 and 9% are actually very advantageous. However, it is not possible to generalize, because the resulting rates vary from person to person and there are so many products and methods of financing that it is impossible to stick to one model that includes them all.

We’re just giving it as an example. It is understandable that some people reject any form of loans. But if you don’t have all the cash available, there is no other form. And while we can have discussions about whether it makes sense to borrow expensively for unnecessary things, such as vacations or Christmas, a car is something that brings at least some lasting benefit. You can do without a vacation in Thailand, it’s even worse without a car for commuting to work.

A newer car is safer and sells better

It is also necessary to realize that people’s requirements are constantly shifting and buyers are more demanding. For example, today a car without air conditioning or central locking is very difficult to sell. People want comfort features common in more luxurious cars and in used cars, especially modern infotainment with the option of easily connecting the phone to the car and the ability to play popular music formats.

Photo: Dalibor Žák

In modern cars, elaborate connectivity and infotainment systems are very tempting, without which few conservative people can do without in today’s age of mobile phones and apps for everything. But modern cars have one more really important thing…

Although it can be argued that infotainment touchscreens in cars are hopelessly out of date, the same cannot be said about buttons, but the ability to connect a phone or some music media via Bluetooth and USB is already considered a necessity by people today. And we like to be pampered with things like heated seats, parking assistant and camera, cruise control and the like.

Photo: Euro NCAP

… and that is a high level of passive safety. As a result, even a modern ordinary Dacia Sandero offers better protection for the crew in the event of an impact than a twenty-year-old Fabia or any other B and C segment car.

But newer and more modern cars have one more important piece of equipment, and that is extensive safety and support systems. Even if we curse some modern “helpers”, newer cars are orders of magnitude safer, and if the worst should happen, they generally provide better protection for the crew. If someone has to choose, they will always want to crash in a car from 2015 rather than in a car ten or twelve years older.

Of course, even older and cheaper cars have their place on the market and for many people they will be enough for short occasional trips. Alternatively, as a second car in the family, which is not driven every day and in full occupancy. But it is already very difficult to think of the first generation Fabia, as good a car as it was, as a full-fledged family car, which is driven for example 20 to 25,000 km per year. It works, but it’s already about many compromises and accumulating risks.