My Focus is no longer with me, but it has been like a good dog, always there and never complaining. For all its blandness, this car was really, really good on all parameters on which I needed it to be.
This car has been a warrior. It was used hard and was beginning to show it. I have had daily commutes of between 8 and 20 miles each way. It carried my daughter’s bicycle in the trunk to school every morning for a long while. Before that, my son’s pram for even longer. For the past couple of years it has not spent a single second under any kind of roof but instead been parked outside with the road salt dripping from its undercarriage.
When I bought it, it had a dented rear fender which was handled under the previous owner’s insurance. A front fender was damaged when someone hit it with a van. The driver left a note and was a really friendly guy who just flat out accepted responsibility and was sorry for the inconvenience he caused. Solid dude. In August 2019 that same fender was hit when a guy changed lanes in front of me – right into my car. This dude was less solid, however. He has still not accepted responsibility and the case is not yet closed. It resulted in only minor damage, though.
Meanwhile the other front fender had rusted through and the windshield suddenly had a long crack that I don’t know how got there. But it just soldiered on.
However on April 30th 2020 it all came to a crashing end. Literally. A car slowly pulled into the road and me while I was creeping along on a school road. Her fault, but really not due to any real irresponsibility on her part, just bad luck. The car was scratched from the driver’s side front wheel past the front fender, both doors, both wheels and rear bumper. It was quickly evident that this would cost more than the legally dictated 65 percent of the car’s value to fix. So it was done. Totalled.
This came with both excitement at having to get another car as well as an onset of melancholia as the car brought back my son from the hospital when he was born. It took me home from the other end of Denmark, when I knew I had seen my mom alive for the last time. And it carried all our earthly possessions inside and in a trailer over several runs from our apartment to our first house. This included 11 boxes containing several hundred books inside the car at one time. It carried I don’t know how many loads to the dump and various tools and products for the light renovation we did on the house when we moved in.
It was also with this car that I realized a teenage dream of building a proper car audio system. The car was featured on the official Phoenix Gold Instagram and website (all installs removed now, it seems). As you may recall, I wanted to install a stereo system in it, and I did. If any of you were into car audio around the turn of the century, these components will make your mouth water. I bought them used and cheap over the past three or so years. New prices would be in excess of 5,000 USD and the sound quality matches it. While I did appreciate the significantly improved audio quality, it did not match the time and effort put in. I built it because I enjoyed doing it, and I was clear with myself about that. The effort did not match the improvement in sound quality, but if you enjoy the project, it all evens out.
Other than the audio system, I added ISOFIX car seat mounting brackets in both sides in the rear, I had a dealer install an airbag kill switch for when I put a child seat in the front passenger seat. In the trunk I put a rubber mat. I bought a late model gear knob off eBay and I believe that’s about it as far as modifications go.
I am very pleased with the overall cost of ownership. As you may know or recall from my previous posts. Cars are taxed up to 180% of the cost of the car itself in Denmark, so one car for the price of three. This impacts resale value as well – even used cars are relatively expensive in Denmark. Furthermore, there is an ownership tax based on the fuel economy. And diesel is generally around 5.50 USD/gallon, so it’s expensive.
The car cost 39,900 DKK when purchased on November 20th 2016 with 212,190 km (131,849 miles). The insurance company paid me 20,000 DKK for it this May with 269,219 km (167,285 miles) on the clock. I paid 19,000 in ownership tax and 17,000 in insurance. Total cost of maintenance and repairs just over 31,000. And fuel comes out at 39,000. To reinforce mobility, you can get a deductible for longer commutes in Denmark. I was eligible for this during part of the ownership. This comes out to 20,455. So, total cost of ownership comes out at 106,927 DKK (15,729 USD). This may seem high to Americans, but it makes for a monthly cost of 2,586 DKK/380 USD – this is two dollars short of the monthly lease of a new base Ford Fiesta to which you have to add the initial fee, fuel, insurance and ownership cost.
Overall, I’d say this car has been very economical compared to the alternatives and it has not required any repairs that cannot be excused by its age and mileage. Definitely a great argument against those that claim new cars make better financial sense because they require fewer repairs. It is just not true.
So I would recommend this car as a reliable, space efficient workhorse with better handling than you would expect. It does not stand out, however. I would rarely go for a drive without seeing another one – meaning same body shape and color.
So, as the scarred warrior died on the battlefield, we were left looking for a replacement. As always, we would like something bigger, newer, more powerful and more fuel efficient – at a low cost. My wife and I can afford to finance a new car but neither of us are particularly crazy about the idea as that’s just a lot of write-off – very little return of investment if you will.
Stay tuned for how that search turned out.