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These Used Cars Might Be Deemed As Risky Purchases, But Are Well Worth The Gamble

Risk / reward ratio pendulums can swing either way, but fortune always favours the bold, right?
Gerald Yuen
Gerald Yuen
05 May 2023

One need not possess the ability of a rocket scientist to ascertain how expensive cars in Singapore have become. Multi-layered taxes that can cost more than the car itself are often enough for us to look for car ownership alternatives like car leasing, short-term rental and even public transport. We might even be swayed to sell our car and hope for current COE tides to subside.

But if your financial situation allows you to venture into the depths of car ownership, there are some worth exploring even if they are not the most obvious choices. Imagine a scenario where your ideal car pops up on classifieds and you monitor its progress. Weeks and months tick by - state of affairs remain unchanged and you wonder why it hasn't been snapped up given that you deem it rather desirable.

What if the only fly in the ointment is also a potential dealbreaker? When it comes to signing on the dotted line, a gush of rationality-laden queries hamper the final step. Reliability of the product itself often hinders used car purchases, no matter how enticing annual depreciation levels are. Granted, you can treat these cars as longer term build projects. But is it still too risky a gamble? It’s a question you’ll have to consider seriously before committing. But remember, given their relative “rarity” in Singapore’s context, you might not get a second bite of the cherry!

Alfa Romeo 159 3.2 Q4

Depreciation: S$11,100 per year

Talk of the towns can come in two forms in car world speak - it can turn heads either because it’s achingly handsome, or it possesses so many negative quirks we can't help but make fun. The Alfa Romeo 159 straddles both corners of the spectrum. Call it a blessing or a curse, based on first impressions it looks extremely sexy, especially in trademark Alfa red. But beneath the skin of this particular unit lies a potent, but notoriously fussy 3.2-litre V6. Cam chains might stretch after prolonged usage, and if you intend to keep it for the long haul, the subframe will need constant care as it’s prone to corrosion. And although it weighs 1.7-tonnes, a figure that doesn't sound overweight in today’s world, it’s known to devour tyres, which indirectly means that suspension components require more regular care. Are these pain points worth it for one of Giugiaro’s best efforts?

BMW 335i sedan (E90)

Depreciation: S$12,200 per year

Some, especially millennials, would argue that BMW peaked in the noughties. E85/86 engineers made the Z4 larger, yet more dynamic. The E60 5 Series polarised opinions at launch with a Chris Bangle-led design, but time has been kind for it to claim modern classic status soon. And then we have the E90 3 Series - the go-to luxury compact sedan that accommodates both casual drivers and petrolheads. For the latter, their eyes were fixated on the 335i, powered by a N54 or N55-coded inline 6 turbocharged motor. The engine itself is bulletproof, but issues lie around external accessories - no surprises given that a simple stage 1 remap is rated at 380bhp, a pronounced 80bhp jump from stock tune. Beware of the water pump, thermostat, carbon deposits on the intakes, fuel injectors and oil pan gasket amongst others. If you can get these bugbears sorted, a healthy 335i is bound to set your heart on fire - all for an annual depreciation comparable to a Suzuki Swift.

MINI Cooper S (R56)

Depreciation: S$10,700 per year

The R56-coded N18 MINI Cooper S received a 10bhp boost over the pre-facelift variant launched three years before - just an incremental step in today’s world, but a monumental leap for the MINI with a wheelbase that rivals a puppy’s footprint. With less metal to lug you’d be swayed to believe that it comes tagged with fuss free ownership. In fact this MINI’s logic runs parallel to that of small, well-used mechanical watches - servicing cycles can be frequent and labourious. Watch out for oil leaks around the cylinder heads and rocker cover, cracks on the thermostat housing and rattles on the timing chain. There are plenty more to list but if you’re lucky enough to secure a good unit or willing to spend time for a full refresh, there’s nothing else left to ponder with a Nissan Note-rivalling annual depreciation.

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William Teng
2 weeks ago
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William Chan
3 weeks ago
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