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Advice: Buying the perfect performance car

July 9, 2011

So you’re in the market for a performance car, but you don’t know what to buy? Before you go and make a rash decision at ‘Joe’s Super Best Buys’, there are some things you’ll need to consider…

To make sure you get yourself the best possible car, one that you can enjoy, afford, and live with everyday, we’ve come up with a quick set of points that you should consider before making the final purchase decision:

What are you going to use the car for?
There’s no point buying an Aerial Atom if you drive long distances, or you have to take your dog to the vet once a week. Ask yourself how practical it’ll be. If you play golf, make sure it’ll fit golf clubs. If you need room for passengers, then don’t think ‘ah, this Mazda RX-7 will be fine’ – it won’t, and you’ll be stuck with an expensive problem. The car should match your lifestyle, not your lifestyle match the car.

How big is your budget?
Have a look at how much money you can commit to, and go from there. Cost up things like insurance, servicing, tyres, rego etc. Don’t go in over your head, it’ll only make you look at the car as a burden. One reason people sell their performance cars prematurely is because they couldn’t afford to maintain it. That they ‘didn’t realise’ the sports variant often costs more to maintain than the lesser equipped models.

Surprise yourself
After you’ve figured out a budget, don’t jump online and look up your favourite manufacturer, instead, search by price range. You might find that model you once loved isn’t as expensive after all.

Assess where you are keeping the car
Be wary about buying something that’s prone to theft, especially if you live in a neighbourhood that is notorious for having a high crime rate. Reassess where you are storing the car as well. Obviously, you don’t want to buy a HSV Grange if you only have a garage big enough for a Mini. If you’re going to own a nice car, you want it to be safe.

Understand your driving ability
Unless you want to look like a hard-parker in the event you attend a track day or a skidpan session, it wouldn’t be wise to buy a 350kW Nissan Silvia if the fastest car you’ve driven is your mum’s Camry. It’s a fairly serious matter and you could put yourself or others at risk, or to a lesser extent, you could end up in an embarrassing pickle. At any rate, you want to be able to enjoy the power of your ride; not be afraid of it.

Do some research about the cars you’re interested in
Ask yourself, can I get parts for it? Will it be expensive to repair? Does this particular model have a history of mechanical problems? Will it cope with my driving style? And if it’s great fuel economy you’re after, then pay close attention to fuel consumption – nowadays it’s possible to find a car that can perform well and still return figures of less than 7L/100km.

If you still can’t make your decision, visit the particular forums or websites of cars you like, talk with the owners and get their perspective of what they love/hate about their ride. It never hurts to know too much.

In the end, it’s you who has to be happy with your performance car, not anyone else. Given you’ll no doubt spend a lot of time and money on its upkeep, you want to make sure it gives you back that feeling of enjoyment you’re looking for. If it can’t do that, then what’s the point?

Josh was one of the original co-founders of PerformanceDrive. His expertise is car culture and aftermarket performance. He was the editor at Hot4s Magazine for a few years, and has since worked at Fast Fours, Zoom, and as a journalist for The Project Group.