WHEN I discussed whether to buy a car or a house first in my last article, I received a lot of feedback from friends and readers. Someone even sent me an interesting article entitled “Buying a New Car Is the Single Worst Financial Decision”.
The remark was made by Davis Bach, a self-made millionaire who is also one of the American best-selling financial authors, a motivational speaker and an entrepreneur.
That was a bold statement but not without basis. In the article published by CNBC Make It, David Bach said, “Nothing you will do in your lifetime, realistically, will waste more money than buying a new car.”
He pointed out that a car's value drops 20% to 30% by the end of the first year. In five years, it can lose 60% or more of its initial value. And, most people actually borrow money to buy a car.
“Why would you borrow money to buy an asset that immediately goes down in value by 30%?” says Bach.
His views concurred with the idea I have been sharing in this column over the years.
In my last article, I mentioned the value of my friend’s car dropped 70% from RM140,000 to RM40,000 over eight years. On the other hand, another friend who bought an affordable apartment during the same time, enjoyed a huge capital appreciation as the apartment increased from RM100,000 to more than RM200,000 during the same period.
Both borrowed money to buy their house and car respectively. However, there is a clear contrast between the two items by looking at their long-term values. A house is an appreciating asset, and a loan on such an asset I like to call a “Good Debt”; while a car losses money, and is therefore deemed as “Bad Debt”.
Not only does a car depreciate in value, but owning a car also comes with expenses such as petrol, maintenance, licence, toll, insurance and parking costs. A person who owns a normal sedan car and travels about 1,000 km per month, can easily spend about RM1,500 per month for car loan repayment and other relevant expenses.
With ride-sharing services (such as GrabCar in Malaysia, and Uber & Lyft in other countries) becoming so convenient, and with the LRT and MRT networks being more developed, we can now choose to be car-loan free. Imagine having your own “driver” and able to use your time productively to read a book or relax when being caught in traffic jam. We are now able to enjoy this with ride-sharing services on call.
For a more economical approach, you can even opt for a "hybrid" transportation mode by combining ride-sharing and public transport services.
Chua, a reader from Muar wrote me an email last month. He shared his experience of not having purchased a property when he was young and only bought one when he was in his mid-30s due to some misperceptions.
“Looking back, how wrong I was! But today, there are just as many graduates who think just like myself when I was in my 20s and 30s. Therefore, your constant reminder to Malaysians is valid and practical. Instead of a new car, get a used car. Buy a medical insurance policy, pay EPF and try to buy a small property. These should be the priority of any young Malaysian,” Chua wrote in his email.
Bach, the self-made millionaire said, “If you’re spending US$500 (RM2,000) a month for that car, well, that’s US$6,000 (RM24,000) a year, not including the car insurance or the gas (petrol). That could be two months or three months of your income. Run the numbers and then ask yourself: Do you really need a car that's nice or could you buy a car that’s less expensive – maybe a little older – but still looks good and runs?”
That’s the sentiment that I had when I wrote about buying a house first before a car.
Buying a car may not be the single worst financial decision for everyone. There are different financial priorities at different stages of life. However, it may be the case if you buy a brand new expensive nice car prior to owning any long-run appreciating asset or investment, like a house!
Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the World president of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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