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My First Car

Our search ends here.

This morning I signed for the purchase of my very first car, the Chevrolet Optra Magnum. The least-expected decision is a result of a latest market situation of a COE price drop, as I had been inclining to get the Nissan Latio. On National Day, we visited the Chevy showroom and saw the attractive-looking body-kitted Optra (the old model) but there wasn’t a car for test drive. Subsequently, we got convinced that Continental cars are generally more petrol-consuming and maintenance in terms of spare-parts replacement is more costly. Besides, the Optra then was similarly priced with the Latio, which has much more gimmicks. Our decision was thus generally inclined towards the Japanese car models, and I was quite convinced that among the models, the Latio is the most value-for-money spacious sedan, with the drawback of a not-so-attractive exterior design.

On 22 Aug, I found out that the COE for Cat A dropped almost half price to $8000+. Angie’s cousin who works in Nissan SMSed her that the price of the Latio dropped $3000. My dad wasn’t impressed with the price fall, since the COE price fell almost $8000. But the decision seems to stay on course as we needed to grab this price drop or else car price will increase again after the next COE bid is out.

2 days back, I was sharing my decision with a friend, and she strongly voted against Latio, citing “underpowered engine”. She recommended Honda Fit/Jazz that her boyfriend bought, claiming that it is roomier than Latio. With that in mind, I planned to visit the Honda showroom on Sunday to give it one look. I also thought of revisiting the Optra option since it is the cheapest Continental car in my choice (I still haven’t given up my preference for Continentals). My view is that if both cars aren’t attractive, I would head down to Nissan at the last stop to make the purchase for the Latio.

Last night, Mum told me that she saw the Latio Sports (hatchback) and was impressed with the look. When I told her it costed $4000 more than the sedan version, she opted to sponsor that extra. It was a decision struggle: I was glad Mum supported me, but wasn’t convinced about paying $4000 more for a smaller-boot car, although it does look more trendy and young than the sedan.

Then around 11pm, I decided to check out the price of the Optra via SGCarmart, and was pleasantly shocked to find that the Optra costs only S$55588, almost $3000 cheaper than the Latio. Naturally, I was elated. What’s more, there is a new 2008 model named ‘Magnum’. So I thought I am paying less for the latest car model. Wow.

Next thing I found out is that Chevrolet has 2 dealers, and both have different service centres. Alpine Motor has a service centre at Sin Ming, near where I stay. I also did a comparison on the service packages and found Alpine cheaper than Starsauto, so I decided to get the car from them.

So this morning, with my Dad and Angie, we drove to the Bukit Timah showroom after Sixth Avenue and walked in to an empty showroom. A sales guy approached us and helped us with all the questions. I test-drove the Optra Estate (station wagon) because the sedan was out for a road show. After some thoughts and procrastination, we placed a deposit for the Optra Magnum with some freebies – even without testing the actual model. What’s fascinating is that the sales guy only requested for a deposit of $100. That was unheard of even to my dad with decades of car experience. We really liked the casual service of Alpine as compared to the follow-by-law attitude of the other dealer

Anyway, after we left the showroom, we drove down to Leng Kee to take a peek at the actual Optra sedan at the Starsauto showroom and checked out the colour. Initially I wanted the grey colour, but Angie said she had seen the colour and looked like “a dead lizard”. And so I saw the colour: well, not exactly looked like a dead lizard, but it’s not as attractive. The silver colour wasn’t that outstanding as well, so probably we’ll be settling for the black colour. I also managed to test drive the sedan and is quite happy with the car.

And so ends my month-long car-search expedition, and soon a beginning of a new responsibility. My wife asked me what made me decide on the Optra, and I told her that Optra has the obvious pros of a Continental car but what’s crucial are the cons and how I eliminated them.

– Fuel consumption higher: we don’t drive as frequent, so it’s not as dire.
– Costly maintenance: we were told that Optra uses parts made in Thailand where it is assembled, so we should not expect the replacement parts to be too expensive. We do hope that the 3+2 year warranty covers some of the expensive parts, which we won’t know until we see the actual T&C.
– Low resale value: we are not expecting to sell the car, especially when Continental cars are known to be durable. We are more likely to trade-in or scrap the car for a new car when our family grows.

So I sort of decided from a Latio to an Optra and purchasing it in a span of 12 hours. That’s quite a feat. Reminded me of my colleague who switched his decision from a Toyota Wish to a Nissan Latio at the eleventh hour while on his way to place deposit for Wish.

3 comments
  1. purple

    great choice! me to0 rather prefer the cheaper ones with of course good performances as well as standard parts..chevy has been always delivering a go0d job in terms of their cars..so i knew it was all you got to celebrate on having OPTRA..that was a great car! you should remember that proper maintenance just like with warn performance parts should be done.. it’s a responsibility so good luck!

  2. Anonymous

    Haha..Oh my god! Your story is similar to mine. I’ve been contemplating between the Jazz and Altis for the past 3 months. Not to mention checking the best deals on SG.carmart.com everyday. Finally when Chevy came out with the new Optra Magnum, I take a look at it at the showroom and immediately fell in love. Especially the luxurious interior. Wow! And with COE at $8k, I grab the opportunity. I actually earn $10k. Coz I won the bidding for $18k. Woohoo..I feel like the luckiest person on earth! I’m now waiting for the car. Supposed to collect it this weekend 🙂 So excited! My first car mah…. And it’s black too! It just stands out in the crowd. My husband test-drove the car and he was estatic. The best car he’s driven so far! Good choice man! Chevy needs this kind of good quality car to boost it’s image. Thks for sharing. I really enjoyed reading your car hunt story.
    Sincerely, Ms Nor.

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