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Ask HCWD: Mini Moke = Ideal First Car?

Dear HCWD,

I am a young uni student starting out in life and I am looking to buy my first car. I have always been attracted to the Mini Moke, and was thinking that this would make the perfect minimalist city runabout while being cheap to run, with the added benifit of standing out from the swarms of bland-boxes that hog our roads. Would this be a good car for me?

Regards, Idealistic Youngster

Dear Idealistic Youngster,

I appreciate the attraction you have to these vehicles. They are certainly unique, and are a refreshing contrast to the overweight and over-equipped cars of today. I understand that a car purchase need not be entirely rational and I would be the first to confess to allowing a little emotion into the car buying process. Having said that, allowing my emotions to get involved in the car buying process has not necessarily served me very well (see my Saab 9000CS review), and I supsect that in this case you may not be fully apreciating this vehicle's shortcomings.

Firstly, they are actually not very practical. They have almost no secure luggage space to leave your bag or jacket, and even with the soft roof in place I supect that the inside of a Moke would not be a pleasant place to be in anything more than the lightest of rain. Secondly, they are not good value for a car that you are actually going to drive regularly. Thanks to their rarity and the cult status that has no doubt contribited to your attraction to these cars, any example that is in reasonable roadworthy condition costs as much as a very comfortable used vehicle with many fewer years under its belt and many more conveniences. While the Moke has potential to retain its value, it will only do so if you are able to maintain it in its current condition, something which is very difficult to do for a car that is driven on a daily basis. Thirdly, the newest Moke you will find in Australia will be thirty years old, and like any car of that age mechanical reliability cannot be expected. Were you to buy a Moke, you would need to either ride a steep learning curve of car mechanics and be willing to put many hours into regular maintenance or become very friendly with a local mechanic and unattached to the contents of your wallet. Finally, Mokes offer about the least occupant protection in the event of a crash that you will find in anything this side of a Vespa. The statistics are that as a young male driver you will crash into something at some point. If you're lucky this will be minor, but if I were you I woulnd't make the chances of a crash translating into an injury for you or your passengers any more likely than it needs to be.

My recommendation is that if you actually want to buy a car, buy a proper one. You could get a well-looked after used vehicle for half the cost of a decent Moke with bucket-loads more utility. If you are really looking for basic trasport with a bit of quirky style, then buy a motor-scooter. At least that would be reliable, and while it still leaves you exposed to injury it reduces your ability to put passengers at risk. If you really want to fill the Moke-shaped hole in your heart, at least wait until you can afford to keep it as a hobby car. If you play your cards right, that time might not be too far away, but in the meantime get your sensible cap out when considering car purchases.



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