So, the latest used car sale figures are out. And, frankly, the results are a little disappointing. No one, it seems, is buying interesting second-hand cars. Isn’t that the whole point of the second-hand market – expensive cars that depreciate until we, the great unwashed, can get our grubby mitts on them and be ruined by the costs of servicing and upkeep? It’s probably the most-fulfilled dream in the Top Gear office.
It’s not that we’re entirely keen to advocate the hyper-capitalist ideal of happiness through purchasing. It’s more that we want to riff on (or rip off – you tell us) the Marie Kondo-esque idea of doing away with the banal and everyday items as much as possible and embrace a very small – and purposefully curated – list of joyful objects.
Think about it this way: modern life has many appurtenances that are necessary, yet bring us little to no joy. Using your washing machine, for instance, tends not to be a life-affirming experience, and making toast while bleary-eyed and steeling yourself for the day ahead is unlikely to instil a sense of joy and wellbeing.
But we’ve long held the belief that, in specific cases (like the car), it’s entirely possible for ownership to be a rewarding and genuinely joyful experience. It’s a harder path to take than the ‘see thing, buy thing, use thing and throw thing away’ mentality that props up any number of consumer product retailers (i.e. stores), but we’re adamant that the rewards are worth it.
And, to repeat ourselves a bit, your time here is limited. When you work, you’re trading away your time for money. So it stands to reason that everything you ever buy costs more than the number on the sales sticker – it also costs an irrecoverable amount of your time. Now, considering the true cost of everything you buy, doesn’t it make sense to extract the largest amount of pleasure and satisfaction you possibly can? And, not to stray from the point too severely, but when was the last time you were truly silly? That, dear friends, is its own reward.
So, let’s address the four-wheeled elephant in the room – your boring car-buying habits.
It may not be you specifically. You might have an interesting second-hand car and, if so, tell us about it so we can live vicariously. Even so, you’re in the minority. Case in point – the five top-selling used cars of the last three months are the Ford Fiesta and Focus, Vauxhall Corsa and Astra and the VW Golf. And the most-popular colour choices are black, silver, blue, grey and white. Not exactly pushing the boat out, are we?
Sure, the Fiesta and Golf are fine cars and hard to fault, and it’s entirely possible to have fun with them on a twisty back road. But we’re talking about more than intermittent fun, had every other month when you get the time to find a quiet back road for a spot of sporty driving. We’re talking about everyday joy – whether you’re stuck in it in traffic, looking at it or merely thinking about it, tucked away in your garage, while you fill out TPS reports.
So, being the thoroughly helpful consumer advocates that we’ve always been (even if you live on Guam!), we’ve decided to make a few simple suggestions to help you find your own joyful objects. None of them’ll break the bank (to buy, anyway; servicing is another story) and all are a damn sight more interesting than a grey Vauxhall Astra. We’ve also decided to get scientific with it, breaking each car down by how it delivers joy. Yeah, science!