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Mallory

Thinking of joining the club, have some questions

17 posts in this topic

Just under 20 years ago I was a kid in Europe where I saw the smart cars for the first time. Being the miniature-obsessed child, I asked my mother if that was a real car, and when she told me it was, I said I was going to buy it when I grow up.

 

Well, I guess I'm at this point in my life now where buying a car is on the financial horizon, so I'm starting to look around. The problem is... I really like the original 450 build, and I'm a fan of the newest redesign (453), but the more I look at all of the 451s, the more lukewarm I feel about them. I've looked at some new ones, and with my partner in school again I can't really swing a new car plus the highway robbery of ICBC insurance per month on my single salary (never gotten into an accident, but I've never insured a vehicle before and I'm getting quoted some really charming numbers because of it). I mean I probably could if I got a long-term loan but I am really not interested in getting into more debt after finally paying off my student ones.

 

So I guess that leaves me with the little 2005-2006 era smarts, and I'm wondering whether it's something I would regret in the long run. I've done my own maintenance on a scooter, but aside from that I don't have a ton of mechanical experience. I don't mind learning. How realistic would it be for me to learn to do most of my own maintenance on the old CDI's? Because I'm not going to lie, part of it the reason why I'm considering the old ones is because they are so cheap - I can pay them off in full in a couple months and start putting money away to savings instead. But if the car is gonna be eating a hole in my wallet due to it's age and frequent trips to a mechanic for things I can't handle... Then I might as well just forgo having the car for now and wait a few years until the new models age out to something I can afford without feeling stupid about it.

 

I would be driving it to work, errands and volunteering (which I've had to stop because getting there by public transit was a nightmare and taking a carshare was quite costly), which is about 10 km each way, mostly main streets, a bit of highway and then the madhouse that is downtown traffic specifically for work. All-in-all, the estimate of the distance I'd be putting on them per year would be in the 5-10k km range. We'd still have our carshare membership for long-distance driving. Would the 450's be happy with this kind of driving? I'm looking now and most of them have a pretty decent chunk of mileage on them - there's a few with under 150k but that usually doubles their price and I'm not entirely certain whether low mileage on an old car is actually worth the extra price.

 

I know they're pretty, uh, quirky in terms of driving and I am reserving judgement on that until I can sit behind the wheel, but I'm not a fussy driver and I can probably live with it.

 

So... yeah, I guess, my question is, can I frame this crazy childhood desire as a rational decision of buying a mode of financially-prudent personal transportation? :)

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Welcome to the club!

 

As the owner of two 450's, I can tell you from first hand experience that they are, indeed, a fun car to drive, however, they can be costly if you get a bad one. 

 

Having no experience in working on a diesel, you could spend a lot of time trying to learn the in's and out's of the quirks of this little car.  They have issues that can crop up such as intercooler or turbo problems.  Very costly to replace at the $tealership and even if you are lucky to find a used one, installing it is not really something a newbie to mechanical repairs should be attempting.  

 

Buying a 12 to 13 year old car is basically a crap shoot.  You could end up with a real beauty with no issues for the entire time you have it, or you could end up in the poor house after a month due to repairs. 

 

Although I wouldn't trade my smarts for anything at this point, if you are looking for a low maintenance, high reliability car, I would suggest something along the lines of a Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris hybrid.  Yeah, I know ...... maybe not what you were hoping to hear, but I would suggest getting yourself settled financially first and perhaps meet up with others in your area who own diesel smarts.  Learn all you can before taking the leap. 

 

The newer gas model smarts have one big draw-back IMHO, and that is that they require premium fuel.  That, combined with the fact that they get about the same mileage (fuel consumption) as most of the smaller Japanese and Korean imports.  I must admit though, they would fair better in stop and go traffic than the diesel smart.

 

On the other hand, if you chose to buy a 450 anyway, make sure that someone with knowledge about smarts takes a good look at it before you buy.

 

I'm sure others will chime in later in the day, but I hope this has given you food for thought.

 

Good luck, whichever way you go.

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Hmmm......I'll agree and disagree.......and this is from all of 3 weeks of ownership of a 450 cdi.    I'm very mechanically inclined having restored many many vehicles but.......if you can do a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle in under lets say a week then you can fix a car if you have the tools required to take the piece off the vehicle and put them back on again, ....just saying.  IF 6you can't hit a nail with a hammer then you shouldn't buy anything mechanical at all....lol. But you did say you can service a scooter....well just add two more wheels to that scooter and you now service a car.....same thing.  It's all how you look at it.

OK, I own both of the above mentioned best pics, a 2005 Toyota Echo which is the precurser to the Yaris and you'll be hard pressed to beat that car in any way shape or form!  Mine has 540,000kms on it and still gets 50mpgs and has had zero go wrong with it minus usual maintenance issues.....but it's not a smart car!  I now own a 2005 450 cdi and love it as I do the Echo but better.....lol. I have never owned a cdi before and know there are issue dealing with diesels I need to deal with. But it's just a different jigsaw puzzle, not a rocketship going to mars.  It has all the same mechanical bits and pieces your scooter has sort of, it's an air pump of some sort when you think about it as is all engines....air goes in and air goes out....if that isn't happening it won't run. in a nutsell  in the simplest terms. Yes there is many little issues inbetween theose two states but you get my point.
Back to the smart car......some say and they are probably correct about deisels do not like shorter distances to be driven due to not being alowed to warm up etc etc resulting in poor performance etc etc, but, think back to England, we didn't do large distances back there either and they did their jobs, just allow more time to warm them up, and maybe run them on the weekend for a good run....maybe that'll help it out some.  But here in Canada we travel far off locations regularly or have the oportunity to do so........that is unless you live nextdoor to your employment and never wish to go anywhere. Then I'll ask, why own a car in the firstplace...? lol

I also agree that all used cars etc are a total crap shoot and you must look harder at the owner and how they treat their other stuff more than the car you are purchasing off them as that other stuff and their personal apperance will tell you far more than the condition of the car you are trying to purchase off them!......It works and has never let me down yet!    I can't remember all the cars and trucks i've bought over the years and they were all bought using this technique.  That is why I just drove 3 hours to buy my smart of Glenn, Smart142 here on this site.  I would also suggest it would be worth the extra to fly here and buy one off him here in London Ontario if he had another to sell as he works on them and would know everything ablout it before making the sale etc. But that's just me.....it's something I would do if someone suggested it and I didn't know anything about the thing I was going to purchase etc. Just a thought?   I do not know if he has another for sale or not, but it's something to concider...imho.

I also likie the quirky smaller cars etc and would go after a smart over a typical car if given the choice and I'm sure you know it's a family decission at least it was for me until this one I just bought as it was replacing my bike. We have many vehicles that my wife can drive. She isn't comfortable driving such a small car yet, it'll come I know. But if you are both comfortable on a scooter then I doubt you have this issue to help make this decission. Oh also, seating capacity, it's a 4 wheeled scooter remember, no passengers......which imho is goo, but not in other's opinion. The Echo has 4 seats and goes twice as fast ...lol.

 

Sorry to go on, ....hope this helped.....remember it's just a big jigsaw puzzle, once you have taken it apart once you'll understand it enough to do it again next time if need be.  The same as anything mechanical.

 

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I would suggest that you go and test drive some cdi's that are for sale and familiarize yourself to the smart.

Remember that the smart has a standard transmission that takes getting used to. If you drive in ''auto'' it can be a jerky ride. Better to learn how to shift to have better control, and this is easy because you don't have to push in a clutch - the smart does that for you.

 

After a number of test drives, and if you find one you like, ask to take it to a mechanic of your choosing. If the seller refuses this request you will know to keep looking.

 

Good luck with your search!

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I absolutely loved my 05 cdi, but they can get a little needy in their old age. I sold mine once everything major had been done, but didn't want to go through another round of maintenance and repairs. They're surprisingly tough little cars in some ways, and unexpectedly fragile in others. As much as I adore those little cars, there's no way I'd buy another one at this point. They're just too old, and parts are getting scarce.

 

I've driven many of the 451 generation (as loaners while my cars have been in for service, and through Car2go), and the transmission is awful, and the fuel consumption is mediocre for a car of its size and power (that also takes premium fuel). My opinion of the 451 changed 180° when I drove the Electric Drive version. Loads of torque, a blast to drive, and no transmission at all! If the ED might fit your life, it might be worth considering.

 

The 453 is really nice, but its days are numbered. There are really nice small cars you can get in the same price range... Nissan Micra, Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit. 

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Yes i didn't think of electric.....seeing as you are so close to where you want to get to. I had a drive in Smart142's electric and I will say, it's FAST!  REALLY FAST!!!!   He also said it was relatively inexpensive to lease one if you were thinking that way.....but I think he gets a deal or something so I shouldn't say?  But fast Damn it went well.  Not sure about range but for a city vehicle I can't see why not...     It all comes down to fundage as usual.   I hate the thought of leasing as the way I look at it, you are basically renting it and get nothing for your money. But many many people do it now a days!   To each their own.   Just not for me.  I like holding something in my hands for when i give you my money. Borrowing a key just isn't my thing.

Did i say it was fast!   Very nice inside also....but i didn't pay much attention to that compared to my smart 450....felt the same besides going warp 9....!   You could get yourself into some trouble for sure with one...lol.

I will say do not test drive one unless you can afford to get one, it will destroy the enjoyment of a slow slug of a machine theyare if accelleration has and meaning to you.......lol.

 

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You can only lease new, but the 451 EDs do come off lease, and if people give them back (like I did), they can be had for about $10-$15,000. 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Unless the engine is running for at least 25-30 minutes per drive to and from work, it's probably not going to be at its best.  The little diesels enjoy a good long run but suffer in the shorter ones, reliability-wise.  I wouldn't get rid of my 450 cabriolet except under extreme duress and it is fun to drive.  I have spent $3000 unexpectedly in repairs on mine over the past 4 years.  So budget for $1500 in repairs every 3 years in addition to regular oil and filter changes every 5000 km.  Get your car serviced at a trusted location, and in your case I would recommend Flying Tiger in Richmond.  Three Point Motors on Van. Isl. are good but not realistic for you.

Edited by MikeT

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If my math is correct, driving 5-10k km per year in a cdi you might save $400-$500 in fuel over something using about 8 L/100km.  My cdi cost me about $1500 every year in maintenance to keep it on the road for 4 years / 134k km.  My 451 has had about $2000 in maintenance over the last 184k km, 6.5 years.

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Yup, I was budgeting at least $1000 to $1500 annually for maintenance and repairs on my cdi over 9 years and 180,000 km. My 451 ED was 1/10 of that.

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Just a question......how many triple "A"s are in one of them ED's......as that is my biggest fear from owning an electric car....what happens when that battery finally dies?  How much to replace it...?   But a lease if you can swallow the concept would be the way to go on one for sure.  Plus living in the city is key.....I'd get to the local foodstore twice before having to recharge...lol.

 

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There are no single cell batteries in an ED...<_<

So, you're saying your "local" food store is

twenty or more km's away?

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The battery triple "A"'s was a joke, but not the grocery store...lol   warming car up as we speak to get there....lol.  I live in the fresh air....rural  Ontario, nice and peaceful.....

 

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The battery packs are incredibly advanced, and have extensive software that conditions them and optimizes them. 

 

Not an apples-to-apples comparison, but my brother had a second-generation Prius, and it’s battery pack worked as well after 8 years as it did when new. 

 

The concerns people have over battery longevity are largely overblown, in my opinion. These aren’t laptops or cellphones. 

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Our office's two Civic Hybrids (2008, 2009) have had battery pack failure after 5 and 9 years respectively.  Cost for these tiny packs is $6500 for the part alone.

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Wow thanks for all the replies guys!

 

Electric is actually the ultimate dream, but unfortunately I do not live in a place I can charge it, and I think there might be a few stations near enough to my workplace to work but I don't want to have to rely on them. I do hope to transition to electric eventually but that's just not in the books for the next 5 years or so.

 

Funny enough I did look at some Toyotas as well (and some other little cars) but I figure I don't really want to have a car just for the sake of transportation because it's a boatload of money and I don't strictly need a car. If I get a car I want to get one that I can enjoy looking at, owning and working on. I do know that it's an older car and a picky one, but I guess my main concern was whether there are specific weaknesses in its build that are bound to give out prematurely and require expensive parts and experienced mechanic hours to fix (i.e. Fiat 500's clutch wear issues, etc), and if there if there are any surefire ways of figuring them out while doing a car inspection (of course I hope to take it to a mechanic before buying to look at as well, but I'd rather not waste the time if it's something I can diagnose myself).

 

Anyways, again I really appreciate all of you replying, it's given me a lot to think about and consider.

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