Walking to Sainsbury’s at Saint John’s in Worcester, I passed a brand new Mercedes Benz estate car. Sleek and shiny, there was not a speck of dirt on it, despite the wet roads of the past week. Inside, the driver sat typing a message to someone. Perhaps the price of driving a brand new Mercedes is having to deal with e-mail at eight o’clock on a Saturday evening.
I pondered for a moment how much money you would need to earn to drive such a car, would £100,000 cover it? Probably not, by the time you had paid tax and national insurance, and then paid your mortgage and other bills, there wouldn’t be much left for the masterpiece of German engineering.
Janis Joplin’s lyrics came to mind:
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends.
So, Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
“Skip, you wouldn’t be able to afford the tyres,” said the voice of my late Dad.
He was right. A salary of £24,373 wouldn’t cover the maintenance and insurance of such a car, let alone the first month’s repayment.
I have never driven a Mercedes Benz and even if I had the money, I can’t imagine I would ever buy one. Dad would ask me, with good reason, why I would need such a car.
Dad believed that the function of a car was to take someone from Point A to Point B. The only car he ever said he would like to own was called a Chord. I think it was an American car from the 1930s. Dad’s philosophy of motoring was typified in the fact that in 1976, he bought two Renault Dauphine cars, one for £30 and the other for £25. From the two, he made one car that ran. (That it was 1976 is clear from the logbook of one which is still in a drawer of the desk on which his computer still stands).
My present car, a nine year old Peugeot diesel, was bought a year ago, when it had sixty thousand miles on the clock. In the past year, because of lockdown, it has only clocked up another eighteen thousand miles. I hope it will keep going for another four years, by which time it will have totalled around 140,000 miles (only half of the 280,000 miles covered by my last car).
A Mercedes covering such a mileage would leave me broke. All the same, it would be nice to have a chance to sit in a brand new one.
You can buy a lovely used Mercedes from between £2,000 and £6,000, those being arbitrary limits. I took £6k bank loan for something similar a few years ago and it was about £100 per month repayments (I have a very bad credit score). Take the loan over a longer period, and it becomes cheaper.
It’s not the same as buying new though, but I’ll never know, as I reflexively shun the idea of paying an extortionate amount for something which depreciates by 40% before you’ve left the forecourt.
Your Mercedes driver probably did the same (loan/finance), assuming it wasn’t leased. Personal Contract plan (aka hire to buy) as a convenient, albeit expensive way to own a car. Mercedes themselves offer such a plan, a quick random search turned up a new Estate car for £350 pcm.
I’ve had two Mercedes in the past. One was an A class, hired for me on long term contract, the other a really old type, big and wallowy, with real wood interior. It was freely given, as it was 18 years old and it’s previous owner couldn’t bear to scrap it. I had it for about 2 years.
Although convenient, I hated driving them both; I much prefer BMW.
Btw, I like your writing. Very concise and restrained, yet still evocative.
The car your father yearned for was probably a Cord. Very avant-garde styling for the time.
I had occasion to borrow the boss’s new Mercedes one day about 10 years ago, when he forgot to bring the humble Renault company car to work, so that I could visit a customer. It was used with enthusiasm!
Dad used to say the Cord had full electronics before anyone else had thought of them. He was born in 1936, so having Googled the car, I can see why it left British cars in the shade.
I am not sure I could be trusted with a Mercedes. I have a propensity for clipping kerbs, driving to close to hedges, and reversing into bollards.