- Image: Saab

An Ageing Dilemma

Should a daily driver be old and simple or modern and techy?

I'm still undecided whether to write up an article on my beloved old Mercedes W123; we've had it in the family since I was nine-years-old and for the majority of its life, it served as every owner's daily driver.

It was picked up from a little Mercedes dealer in Derby in the summer of 1985 and was kept on a driveway outside. It wasn't until my dad bought it in 2009 when it rolled into my life. I remember the day we bought it very well: there it was, gleaming its Astral Silver paintwork while parked between another Benz - an SEC coupe - and a brown BMW E28. None of those three were what you'd call showroom condition.

Nonetheless, it was still kept outside and was used everyday by my dad to commute to and from work. It then suffered quite a few minor accidents... all of which got easily repaired of course, but you just have to feel sorry for the poor girl for being bashed a few times - she's far from a garage queen! (Mainly because she's never actually seen one).

My dad then retired and only began to use it sparingly. It was only earlier this year that, as a graduation gift, the fabled Merc was handed down to me. Naturally, I needed a bit of time to process the news!

But there's a problem: I love that car to the point where, in my heart, it only sits one place behind family and friends. In effect, it's been a 5th family member to me: whenever I've had emotional days or just needed to escape a stressful situation, it's always been there for me. It's always started up on the key and being an old Mercedes, rarely thrown up any trouble. Because of my love and devotion to that car, I'm actually quite anxious to use it outside of my comfort zone.

I went on a weekend party with friends to Liverpool recently and as much as I wanted to take it on a road trip, I didn't have the balls to leave such a special car on the street where our Air B&B was. Its sentimental value completely overtook my confidence.

My friends probably thought I was being silly for not driving up despite having a car and licence, but I just thought it was better safe than sorry. And given my friend had bought a new VW Scirocco that week, I didn't think it was fair that I left my Merc at home and allowed her to risk having the VW harmed.

It was from that point on when I decided that at some point next year, I'm going to have the Merc refurbished in a few areas before dry-storing it with a classic car storage company. That means one thing: what will be my new everyday car?

In many ways, there's too much choice

Image: Volvo

Image: Volvo

The criteria isn't difficult in theory; my maximum budget would be around £10,000 although that could stretch a bit if something absolutely exceptional comes up. Given the state of the used car market at the moment, I feel that's a sensible threshold.

The necessities are practicality, at least 4 seats and decent reliability. But I'm also a bit of a knob in the sense that I'd like something with a bit of brand kudos. My generations' elders all had Fords, VWs and Vauxhalls and for some reason, that level of sensibility doesn't appeal to me - probably for all the wrong reasons.

With that said, I love the idea of a Swedish tank. A Saab or decent-sized Volvo immediately takes my interest, but BMWs, Jaguars and Mercs of varying types and ages aren't off the table either. Heck, I've even toyed with the idea of a Jaguar XK (which I'm probably going to get talked out of quite quickly...)

But that leads me onto another issue: do I go for a classic or something more up-to-date?

New vs old?

Image: BMW Group Press

Image: BMW Group Press

See, with a newer car (i.e. from 2004 onwards) you get all the great amenities that my W123 doesn't have; such as proper heating and air conditioning, heated seats, a decent audio system, amazing gadgets and mechanical parts which are likely to be less worn-out than their elders.

The trouble is that when an electrical fault happens, getting the car to a garage where it gets plugged into a behemoth of electronic diagnostic tools, the repairs can be extortionate and if unlucky, quite frequent. This is where the appeal of a classic comes in.

With an older car, you don't have to worry about plugging in its brains or programming one of ten million computer things, because they're mostly analogue! But with a classic car comes a classic car mindset - and generally speaking - you have to be more mechanically alert.

Parts like suspension bushings, pipes, seals and even engine parts were never designed to last 30+ years in constant use. So, if you're like me and prefer a non-minter, you have to be prepared for many compromises. But the trade-off is that if you keep on top of things, you have a car that can last longer than yourself!

If we're taking one of my top contenders, a BMW 5-Series, would it be a smarter idea to go for a simple, analogue E34 or the modern, objectively-superior F10? I just don't know.

What do you have as a daily driver - and has it worked out well for you?

Let me know in the comments!

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Comments (86)

  • old and simple

      3 days ago
  • You gotta get the basics working on the daily. I mean, if you experience true 4 season weather, having a vehicle with basic heat and a/c is a must. Otherwise, everything else is a luxury/bonus. When I mean heat, I’m talking the basic venting from the vents. Not heated seats with heated steering wheels. 😂

    I daily my RX8 R3 for the past 3yrs now. Before it was an 08 miata PRHT. I’m very well versed in not having all the “modern electronics” to keep me going. Which I much prefer. I have an aux port in the RX8 so i can get my tunes going from the phone. Otherwise, I don’t need anything else.

    A lot of people get too comfortable with their dailies and quickly forget how to properly drive. They start to worry more about their damn phones than the task of driving!

    I can’t drive anything boring. Life is too short. 😉

      2 days ago
    • You're the first person I've seen who dailys one of those - credit to you!

        2 days ago
    • Agreed. If I'm driving, I am trying to have a good time behind the wheel. It's more than a means of conveyance.

        2 days ago
  • Why bother with a used car? Get a new Dacia Sandero, it's still simple but also nicely equipped and you get 3 years warranty (or even more at some extra cost).

      2 days ago
  • My daily drive is a bike for now, it is super minimalistic, and I love it. Even our cars are minimalistic and yet I'm happy cuz they give only what we need and nothing extra showy-like stuff

      3 days ago
  • Describe your daily driver! @tribe

      3 days ago