The beginning of the search
My brother rang me recently to tell me his friend was trading in his 12 month old car and asked if I was looking to buy a new car. He thought that if I offered his friend the trade in value of the vehicle, I would probably get a bargain.
Now my current car is 5 years old and still does what I want it to, but, I began to think about what I would want in a new car. The value of the time of acceleration to 100Km/Hr has long since passed me by as has the size of the motor, the gearbox ratios and a thousand other things in the brochures. I’m not even too fussed about the colour options nor the wheel sizes which seem to be a big part of car websites. But there is one thing that I think is vitally important to me. In fact, I think it should be important to every retired bloke who may consider purchasing a vehicle.
A quick look on the web at this Victorian government article will give you a clue as to what it is. That article points out that compared to the safest group of drivers, drivers over 75 are 4.7 times more likely to be killed per distance travelled (I’m not in that category yet but I’m headed that way). Now that article does point out that because our bodies aren’t what they used to be, the possibility of injury or death is higher from the same accident severity. So there are some factors that effect these statistics. But even so, my possibility of having an accident is certainly rising as I get older. I’ve noticed that my driving is not what it used to be. I wander more within the lane than I used to and my reaction time is not what it used to be. Then every week or two there is another story of a 70 year old driving into a shop or worse, into pedestrians. I’m sure if I asked those drivers how much they would pay to undo what they have just done most would reply “a whole lot”. I’m saying that because it effects the way I think about the cost of a new safer car.
Passive Safety Features
It’s no surprise that many safety features will not make the car safer to drive and unless you have an accident, they just sit there waiting. Things like the number and position of airbags for example, only help you if you have an accident. They don’t change the possibility of an accident at all. But there are some features that do help you drive and avoid accidents.
The most obvious safety feature in this category is radar based cruise control. Some call it “adaptive cruse control” or some other fancy marketing name. But it involves a small radar unit fitted in the front of the car which monitors the cars ahead of you. If you are using the cruise control, and the car in front slows down, then your vehicle also slows down automatically. Most of these systems also come with the ability to warn you and then brake the car if it thinks you are headed towards an accident with the car in front. I think this is the greatest advance in accident avoidance that’s come around in the last 10 years. I’ve had this in my car for the last 5 years and can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sneezed or looked away only to find the car in front is stopping and my dash is screaming a warning to me. Of course it sometimes get it wrong – especially if the car in front has pulled off the road and stopped, but I’d rather have that situation than have no warning when its needed.
Then there is driving in the rain. I drove yesterday for about 15 minutes on the highway in pouring rain in reasonable light traffic. But on several occasions the radar unit could see the cars ahead better than I could and it adjusted the speed of my vehicle to compensate. Of course, my radar unit is 5 years old and its ability to see ahead is limited compared to a more modern vehicle. In fact my radar has a range of about 80m where as the Tesla model three has a 160m range for its radar. I doubt that either radar works that well in the rain (I know mine doesn’t – yesterday it had a range of around 50m) but that’s better than not having it.
The Tesla Option
Which brings me to the question, if I buy a new car, should I buy a Tesla? They have forward facing radar and side radar too so they have better information about other vehicles around them. As a result they claim in this report that the number of accidents they have with their “autopilot” engaged is only about 10% of the accident for other vehicles per million miles. Even without autopilot engaged, their statistics are still only 25% of the average car. That is certainly with considering as I get older. But the price is eye waveringly high – roughly $100K. I’m not too fussed about the carbon emissions nor the 0-100 acceleration, nor even the recharge range since I think around 400Km would get me by, but its hard to overlook the safety statistics. I don’t ever want to be sitting on the side of the road after I’ve hit a pedestrian waiting for an ambulance to come and wishing I had spent the money to get a safer car.
A Cheaper Alternative
However, I’m still researching how many accident avoidance features I can get in other cars at a lower price. The Mazda 3 for example can come with radar cruise control and auto stop features if the car in front stops. They also claim to be able to stop for pedestrians. They have lane centring and blind spot notifications and a few other features. Unfortunately, they have ignorant online chat hosts who only want to take your name and address and know nothing about the stock the dealer is offering. I’m yet to see if they have improved their training of the sales staff because the ones I came across in the past of whatever dealership, really knew little about the vehicles they were selling and annoyingly only knew about the way to pressure you into signing up to a deal. The reason I’m still waiting to find this out is because I went to my local dealer the other day and waited around ½ hour to see a salesman but they were too busy to speak to me so I left. Buying cars can be a frustrating exercise!