Saturday, December 4, 2010

Prescription Motor Oil

The next car I buy will burn regular gas and not require prescription motor oil.

BMWs are a lot of fun, but they can be an expensive pain in the ass to maintain, even, if like myself, you do all the maintenance at home.

In addition to requiring 93 octane gas, they require special motor oils, and you will void the warranty or cause unknown "engine damage" if you do not use such oils.  And as you might guess, finding these oils on the shelves of your local discount store is difficult.  You might find Mobil-1 in SM grade, but it can be hard to do, sometimes.

As for other basic parts, like oil filters, these can be catch as catch can.  Sometimes you find them in the most plebeian parts stores, other times, you have to mail-order them.  In most cases, you end up mail-ordering parts.  And parts, of course, are not cheap.

Want your car serviced?  Well, none of the big chain stores will touch them, of course, and chances are, you don't want them touching them, as they will probably cause more harm than good.  So you have to go to a dealer or to a "foreign car specialist" whose only business is basically BMW and Mercedes  - the Japanese makes are no longer considered esoteric.

And so on, down the line.  Want tires?  They will be high-performance jobs, $250 apiece, mounted, if not more.  Brakes?  Don't expect that $39.95 brake job at the chain store - don't even dare going there, as they will mess it all up!

But after a while, you start to think, "Gee, why can't I own a car that can run on regular gas, use good old 10W30 or 10W40 oil?  Why can't I own a car that I can take to Jiffy Lube and not worry about them 'screwing it up'? or take to some chain store for a simple brake job?  Or find parts at the local parts store or oil filters at Wal-Mart?"

In short, why own a car that is such a pain in the ass to own?  Of course, they are wonderful cars.  They handle well, drive like stink, and turn heads.  And they have status.  But all of that is fleeting, when they get older and break down more often - and are just used cars.  Suddenly, you are the proud owner of a used car that is very expensive to maintain.  And one that, should it break while traveling, will put you at the mercy of a limited number of repair facilities.

Like with the NEV posting I made earlier, with an esoteric car, you are stuck with limited numbers of repair facilities, so they have a monopoly or near-monopoly power over you and can charge whatever the market will bear.  So you pay, and oftentimes to people who aren't very nice.  Which is why I do all my own work on my BMWs.

But if you owned a Chevy or a Toyota, you have a choice in repair shops, and not surprisingly, these types of cars can be repaired fairly inexpensively.  Parts are readily available and almost every shop works on them.  If you break down in Iowa, chances are, the local gas station can fix your Chevrolet.

As I get older, things like status and performance driving are less and less important.  I live on an island with a 35 mph speed limit, so the idea of 1.0 g cornering is nice, but in theory only.  Most times, I hardly get out of second gear.

Think hard before you buy an esoteric marque car.  While a Toyota Camry may be "boring" to own, it has a comfortable ride, gets good gas mileage, and you can get parts for it anywhere - and get it fixed anywhere, too.

Sometimes it is better to own consumer-grade products than "cutting edge" technology.

This is not to say I am going to dump my cars and buy another right now.  That would make no financial sense, either.

Just that in the future, when the time comes for a new car, I am going to buy one that you can get parts for at the local Autozone, and oil filters at WalMart.  No esoteric engines, parts, systems, or maintenance routines.  No fancy tires or rims that cost hundreds of dollars apiece.  Cheap parts, and cheap to repair!

UPDATE:  Sold the M Roadster and had enough money to nearly buy outright, a loaded KIA Soul.  Nice car, we've had it nearly a decade.  It has 36,000 miles on it.  Comfortable and it flies under the radar - quite literally!