According to the AA, the average cost of running a small family car over 10,000 miles per year was £5,611, up from £5,534 in 2006. Depreciation is the main cost issue to consider, accounting for around half the annual running costs.
Fixing your annual costs by renting a car for up to two or three years is becoming more and more popular, according to Ling Valentine (34), the extrovert Chinese immigrant owner of LINGsCARS.com.
This method of financing a brand new car, (commonly referred to by the catch-all phrase “leasing”) avoids increasing interest rates and APRs, by fixing the monthly rental of a new car in a simple, clear figure. This monthly payment can then be compared on a like-for-like basis across a wide range of new cars, something that is almost impossible with the many different “offers” surrounding traditional finance.
“The monthly cost depends on several factors”, says Ling, from her Gateshead ‘World Headquarters’. “First I take the discounted price of the new cars I get from ordering in bulk, often from dealers who need to shift volume to hit targets. Then, I check around a dozen different contract-hire finance providers, who will each value the residual value differently, guessing what the car will be worth to them at the end of the lease term. Finally, I package this together, making sure my own overheads are dramatically less than those of other providers, including the franchised car dealers and car companies themselves. I do not have dozens of expensive glass-palace showrooms to run.”
The result is that LINGsCARS provides, at the touch of a button on a web-browser, a price list of over 400 different brand-new makes and models of cars, all with an easily comparable monthly rental figure. Ling even does something which is unheard of in the new car trade, and lists every car in price order, allowing visitors to her website the ability to compare cars from a £111 a month Chevrolet Matiz to a £735 a month Range Rover. No car dealer in the UK allows that “street-price” comparison, across such a wide range. She lists prices based on annual mileages of 10, 15 and 20,000 miles, suiting most peoples’ use; “You are rewarded for driving less, a very Green way of doing things”, she claims.
New car dealerships often require you to put down a large deposit and then take out a finance deal on a brand new car, or the alternative is to take a loan and write a large cheque. Ling’s argument is why tie up large amounts of your capital or borrowings in a car? “I only ask for three-months rentals as an initial payment, followed by a direct debit payment every month. For a nice new car costing around £300 a month, such as a SAAB 9-5, or a Kia Sorento 4×4, or an Alfa GT or the latest Honda CRV, that means you only have £900 invested, and you are paying the rest month-by-month as you use the car. At the end of the agreement, the car is simply returned to the finance company, you can’t keep it. You have just paid for the use of the car. It is impossible to fall into negative equity, and there is no lump sum to pay at the end.”
“I would suggest you put your spare cash into your house or your savings, not into a big deposit on a new car, which is a depreciating asset”, says Ling.
The necessary oil and filter servicing is cheap, Ling insists, as the cars are brand new and never fall due for an MOT and are unlikely to need major items like brakes and tyres. She says road tax is fully included for the term; “I deliver these new cars to your door, all you have to do is insure them, service them and put fuel in them”.
Breakdowns, which are unlikely on new cars, are fully covered by the manufacturers’ warranty. Some AA or RAC type cover is included for at least the first year. A big benefit is safety; …new cars have the highest safety ratings and the latest safety equipment built in, an important consideration for families.
Talking about traditional new car ownership, the AA says: “As most owners come to pay their motoring bills, each is more expensive than last year’s – undermining claims that cars are getting cheaper to run.”
Ling insists she can change that; “As long as you are credit-worthy and you look after the car like it is your own, you can release the equity in your current car and get into the cycle of changing your car for a brand-new one. You can do this very cheaply, every two or three years”, Ling says.
It is no wonder that in 2007, LINGsCARS rented over £28m of new cars, and that Ling has been awarded “Best non-franchise motor industry website of the year*”. In this Beijing Olympic year, this is one Chinese who is already winning medals – in the UK!
* Automotive Management Awards, Feb 2007.