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Choosing the right car for me

One of my resolutions for 2019 was to get my driver's license and go on a road trip. Well I succeeded in getting my license and have begun planning a trip so the only question that remains is what vehicle am I going to use? Should I rent something or finally buy my first car?

Since I have never owned a car I was not entirely sure as to what I wanted. I slowly started to piece together what was important to me and decided that the best idea would be to write everything down to ensure I thought everything through. The result is the list below this paragraph. It isn't a ranked list per se because it was really hard to objectively say some things are more important than another. Some are only important when grouped together, others are in a complete bubble but what can be said about each and every one of them is that they must be considered when deciding to purchase any car.

Can be imported from the United States into Canada

I naively thought that I could purchase a car in the United States and drive it across the border but nothing could not be further from the truth. I don't want to get bogged down with the details (the Registrar of Imported Vehicles website has all of that information) but the most important thing to know is there is a list of cars that are allowed to be imported into Canada. If your car is not on that list then you are shit out of luck.

Costs less than $60,000

I don't want to spend more than $1,000 per month on my car and even that is pretty ridiculous. By my estimations it would cost $300 per month for insurance and parking which would leave $700 for loan payments. Assuming a loan with 4% interest over 60 months the largest amount I could borrow would be $38,000. If I dropped that amount down to $30,000 my monthly payments would be around $560 which would give me a total cost of $860 per month.

These are nice round numbers so there is a lot of wiggle room but if I stick to my guns I should be able to end up with a car that costs $800-900 per month easily. I have set aside $30,000 for a possible down payment which means that I could purchase a car that is worth up to $60,000.

Electric

I am really having a hard time writing a justification for this but there is something in my bones that loves the idea of electric cars and it has nothing to do with the environment. All of the maintenance associated with an internal combustion engine (ICE) car seems archaic to me. Why drive around in a vehicle that is essentially trying to tear apart itself with controlled explosions when you can generate more torque from a quiet and sterile electric motor? Gone is having to change the oil or worry about the engine overheating or the battery dying (in the traditional sense). An electric car just seems so much more reliable to me that even if it had the same environmental impact I would always choose it over an ICE car.

Electric cars are cheaper to own due to the cost of electricity and various tax credits that can usually be applied. They are also safer because of the whole "not relying on controlled explosions" thing. When you don't have to worry about an engine it turns out that you can greatly reinforce the frame of the vehicle. In addition, all of those batteries give the car a low center of gravity which not only makes it harder to roll over but also makes it more aggressive through corners. One pedal driving is exclusive to electric cars because of their regenerative breaking and the idea of waking up every morning to a "full tank of gas" is something I find difficult to put a price on.

I know that petrolheads are going to say the noise and vibrations you feel from an internal combustion engine is what makes driving a car fun and that stopping to recharge can be a bother. I agree with them 100%. But from what I have experienced I would gladly trade those things for what what an electric car gives me.

400+ kilometers on a single charge/tank

I just spent three paragraphs trying to justify why an electric car is great but I have to call out its greatest shortcoming: the range. You would have to go out of your way to find a car with a gas tank and fuel economy that couldn't go 400 kilometers.

Electric vehicles that able to do 400 kilometers on a single charge are just barely becoming the norm in 2019. I came up with this benchmark by looking at the Hyundai Kona Electric with its range of 415 kilometers. When I tried to quantify what was a "long day of driving" in my life I came up with going 100 kilometers away from my home and then back. Sure there were longer road trips that lasted for several hours but they were much rarer and I would still have to stop for gas then. So if the Kona Electric could do double what I needed that should be enough of a safety buffer that I should never find myself stranded assuming I start the day with a 100% charge.

With respect to charging on longer road trips, electric cars are able to charge to 80% of their maximum relatively quickly (usually under an hour with a level 3 charger) which means you could get over 300 kilometers in that time. Charge for like 30 minutes and you'll get close to the 200 kilometers we set as our average for a long day so this truly does seem like a sweet spot.

Adaptive Cruise Control

I know the pain of stop-and-go traffic on the 401 and I will do whatever I can to ease that pain. Adaptive cruise control (or whatever each manufacturer brands it as) is a necessity in my books.

All-Wheel Drive

As someone who has driven through Canadian winters I understand the benefits of all-wheel drive. Even though I learned to drive on heavy rear-wheel drive cars my experiences with all-wheel drive SUVs has lead me to worship at their alter and it is difficult to imagine purchasing a car that does not have it.

Fast Acceleration / High Torque

I am by no means a speed demon. The fastest I have ever gone in a car was probably 160 kph and that was by accident. I don't need a car that can go 200 kph. I need a car that can go 0-100 as fast as possible which means I want acceleration and torque.

Apple CarPlay or an amazing infotainment system

Even though it is 2019 infotainment systems continue to suck with the lone exception being Tesla. The smartphones we carry in our pockets are more powerful than every infotainment system out there so as long as the car I chose has Apple CarPlay with a decent sized screen (say 8") I think I will be happy. It doesn't matter what features the car manufacturers build as long as I can pair my iPhone, get directions from Google Maps and listen to Apple Music.

Cargo Space

Since I don't have any children and am not planning any trips to IKEA I don't really need that much cargo space. As long as I could fit a cat carrier in the back seat and two sets of luggage in the truck that should be plenty. With this criteria I believe that my range starts at a coupe and goes all the way through to a crossover. I would say large sedans and large SUVs are out because they are way too much vehicle for what I need. I'd rather focus on performance than cargo space.

To put it in concrete terms I think the lower end is a Subaru BRZ, the mid-range is a Tesla Model 3 and the high end is a Hyundai Kona EV.

360° Cameras

The pain of trying to park by putting your hand behind the passenger headrest and cranking your neck is all too familiar for me. This is 2019 and we have the technology so ideally my car would have a 360° parking camera system to make things as easy as possible. I'm not gonna push my luck and say the car has to parallel park itself because I still don't fully trust those systems yet.

Completely digital dashboard and speedometer

This is the techie in me but I love the idea of my car's dashboard and speedometer being completely digital and customizable. Gone are the days where it was literally light bulbs sitting behind little cut out icons for the "check engine" light. It would be especially useful when I have to change the speedometer from miles per hour to kilometers per hour.

Security Cameras / System

Since San Francisco is a hellscape full of crackheads who can steal things without any fear of being arrested, security is always in the forefront of my brain. I know that most cars aren't going to have a built in security system but I'm putting this on my list because it would be a major bonus if they did. Otherwise I'll probably end up buying some aftermarket system.

Dashcam

This is another no-brainer purchase so if a car has one built in then that is just pure gravy.

Heads Up Display

Again this is the techie in me and goes well with my completely digital dashboard and speedometer. I love the idea of not even having to look down at the dash or center console because my speed and the next turn I have to make are projected onto my windshield.

Survive the Canadian winter

I would like to think most cars have no problem with this but it is on the list to ensure I do my due diligence. Even though I'll be buying a car in the always sunny state of California I need to make sure I read some reviews from some east coast people who have actually seen some snow. Everything is all fine and dandy until you hit black ice at 70 kph and then shit gets real quick.

Cross border warranty

This was another sobering fact I came upon when researching the consequences of importing a car from the US into Canada. From my research you should treat your warranty as null and void if you try to move your car across the border. That's not to say that you are guaranteed to lose it but the odds are heavily stacked against you. No manufacturers seem to have a concrete public policy about honoring warranties when you cross the border. The best advice I have seen is to check with the dealership that sold you the car, directly contact the corporate headquarters in both countries and even a dealership where you plan to move. If across all four contacts you can get some consensus that the warranty will be honored then you can have a little bit of confidence. But there is nothing stopping you from driving across the border, talking to some random new employee, and having them tell you they don't honor warranties from another country.

Over-the-air Updates

This only applies to Teslas but it is something that I love so much that I want to ensure credit is given where it is due. Software is ubiquitous in modern cars and yet you still need to take them to a certified mechanic to get the software updated. Meanwhile Tesla is increasing the range and top speed of their cars and even adding dog mode using over-the-air updates.

Final Thoughts

When I started writing this article the top four cars I was looking at (in order of preference) were:

  1. Tesla Model 3
  2. Hyundai Kona Electric
  3. Genesis G70
  4. Subaru BRZ

I'd only buy the Kona over the Model 3 if I was sensitive to the difference in price. The Genesis G70 was the top choice if I didn't buy an electric car. The Subaru BRZ rounded out my picks because it gives you the most bang for your buck if you're just looking for a fun, sporty car to drive.

Now that I have written this article and broken down everything I want out of my car I can say one thing with absolute certainty: buying a car with the expectation of importing it to another country in a year is one of the stupidest things you can do. First, you should never expect that the import process will work. Assume you will be forced to sell your car and lose a lot of money. Second, even if the process does work you will have to pay a lot of tax and the odds are that your warranty will be null and void.

Using that logic I should only buy a new car that I hope to export if I am willing to lose 20% of its value in that first year. Out of the four cars on my list only the Subaru BRZ would be remotely possible since it is "only" $30,000 and that would mean I'd be all but guaranteed to lose $6,000 of it.

I still aim to write a follow-up article to this one where I grade the vehicles I was considering getting but honestly at this point I think I'm either going to get a 2019 Subaru BRZ or purchase a used car. A 2017 model would already have lost the majority of its value and if I cannot import it to Canada it won't be that big of a loss.

#Cars

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