Voices

What’s the best piece of car advice you’ve ever been given?

It was Oscar Wilde who wrote, “I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”

MY MUM HAS never driven (barring a few exciting years riding a scooter in her youth) so growing up, my Dad was the go-to guy for advice about cars and driving.

And he is a very trustworthy source, having spent most of his life as a professional driver – ambulances, Commonwealth cars, hire cars, taxis, you name it.

Like any true enthusiast, he can chart the milestones of his life by the vehicles he’s owned (I came along during the Triumph years), and his – very crowded – driveway is currently home to no fewer than three of his beloved Holden Statesmans.

I’m sure he’s shared many, valuable pieces of knowledge with me over the years, but there are two that really stick out.

First, that fuel is the least of your worries when it comes to running costs. Now, I’m not sure I actually always agree with this. But it is worth considering.

This advice came at a time in my life when, as a young woman, I was consistently drawn to small hatchbacks. While my driving confidence was still increasing I found them easy to drive and easy to park.

Whenever I was in the market for a new car, Dad would point me toward safe and reliable Commodores, Falcons, Camrys and the like; but I would always resist, citing the increase cost of fuel for a larger engine as the key reason.

Patiently, my Dad would point out that many of those larger cars actually had better fuel economy.

Even moreso, he’d highlight the ready availability of affordable parts, and that these were likely to save me more money that the few cents in fuel I’d save in my short daily commute.

I didn’t really listen (my Toyota 86 and its 2L engine is the largest I’ve ever owned), but it was good advice nonetheless.

Interestingly, a straw poll among my friends reveals many of their parents and mentors offered this same advice.

Second, re-treads just aren’t worth it.

This advice also came at a time early in my driving career, and while I was putting in the hours at an entry level job while studying and working my way up in my career.

At my annual registration inspection, I learned I needed a couple of new tyres, pronto. Sadly, I wasn’t expecting this news, and neither was my budget.

Convinced by a (probably well-meaning) tyre salesperson, I opted to install a couple of re-treads at a much lower cost.

Conveniently, while they were being changed over, I had a chat on the phone to my Dad and casually mentioned my recent purchase.

Whoa. Dad is usually a pretty easy-going guy, who doesn’t generally force his opinions on anyone. On this occasion, however, he made it immediately clear that no child of his was going to be driving around on re-treads.

He wasn’t angry at all – he understood my position and didn’t expect me to know the difference that well. But he insisted on calling the shop and stumping up the extra cash to put all new tyres on, no ifs or buts about it.

He said – as I now know better – that those few centimetres of rubber are all that lies between you and the road, and they’re sometimes the only thing between you and disaster.

It’s not an area where you want to cut costs.

Reader participation for this one, so over to you – what’s the best piece of driving or car advice you’ve ever been given? Who’d it come from? Did you take it?


Jane Speechley

Jane Speechley

Jane Speechley is an experienced freelance writer whose natural curiosity means she knows enough about cars to hold a decent conversation. While happily admitting her Toyota 86 makes promises her street driving can’t quite keep, she’s relishing the opportunity to review some of Australia’s most interesting new vehicles from an ‘everyperson’ perspective. She’s on a mission to understand and explain how all those features and gadgets actually impact upon your driving experience. http://www.charismaticcommunications.com.au