Parts for a Ford Figo are among the cheapest for entry level cars. Figos are favourites among economy-minded customers.

When you’re in the market to buy a car – new or used – there are a lot of numbers to consider and compare: price, fuel consumption, resale value, load area, power output…

Seldom does the price of the spare parts come into the equation, partly because these numbers generally aren’t bandied about, mainly because few people consider the parts prices to be worthy of consideration.

It’s true that the cost of servicing and engine repair parts is irrelevant to car owners if the car has a service or maintenance plan, which applies to most cars these days.

But it’s a major factor in the case of budget cars that aren’t sold with plans to cover these costs, as well as older cars which are not covered by these plans.

When it comes to crash parts, though – light assemblies, bumpers, windscreens, bonnets, grilles etc – buyers of all cars should pay Close attention to their replacement prices before signing on the dotted line.

Because, as South Africa’s much-acclaimed parts price guru Malcolm Kinsey points out, the cost of body parts “can hit you, literally, from day one”.

INSURANCE IMPLICATIONS

“In the event of an accident, irrespective of who is to blame, the costs will affect your pocket either in the size of the excess you have to pay, or where the write-off point is reached,” he says.

So how do you go about finding out what the various cars’ bits and pieces cost?

Well, for decades Kinsey has been sparing the rest of us this laborious process by sourcing the prices of a range of cars – from cheap-and-cheerfuls to luxury sedans – and compiling charts with individual prices as well as the sum of their parts, revealing at a glance the models with the most and least expensive parts baskets.

Luckily for consumers, the motor industry takes an extremely keen interest in Kinsey’s numbers, not wanting to be seen on the wrong end of comparisons, which goes a long way to keeping a lid on parts prices and showing up anomalies.

Kinsey sources his parts prices from dealerships, not the manufacturers, in order to get prices which reflect the consumer experience.

And here’s what he’s learnt by doing that: because the manufacturers may not set definitive prices for their goods – this is considered anti-competitive – they give the dealerships “recommended retail prices”, so the dealerships are free to mark the parts to whatever they think the market will bear.

IT VARIES BETWEEN CITIES

“We found one brand which had parts prices in Durban about 10 percent above the prices in Johannesburg and the same parts were as much as 20 percent higher in Cape Town than in Johannesburg,” Kinsey says.

So don’t assume that dealerships selling the same vehicle brand will charge the same amount for the same part. “When buying an older vehicle, all the figures on the charts are significant because there will not be a maintenance plan to absorb the costs of servicing and repairs,” Kinsey says.

“It makes sense to shop around, ask for discounts, even check two different franchise dealerships to see if one has lower prices than the other. “Most will give some discount and it all helps to stretch that beleaguered rand a bit further.”

Kinsey’s just-released 2013 report covers the biggest car sample to date – 69 vehicles, the biggest category being the fast-growing “crossover” segment, with 15 models.

As always, he has grouped the parts into three categories: service parts, including oil, air and pollen filters, brake pads and wiper blades; repair items, which are more expensive and needed less often, such as brake discs and drums, shocks and clutch components; and crash parts.

Then he tallies all the numbers and comes up with the winners, “losers” and in-betweeners.

It’s impossible to do justice to all those numbers in this space, but here’s a taste of what Kinsey’s 2013 number-crunching reveals, taking into account the cost of all the parts, in total – service, repair and crash parts.

CITY CARS (nine sampled)

These small and often “mid-tech” cars are normally aspirated and all are sourced from the East – India, Korea, China and Japan. They Cost an average of R120 000.

Cheapest parts basket: Nissan Micra, followed by Suzuki Alto.

Most expensive: Chev Spark, followed by Kia Picanto.

Example of how the prices vary: The bonnet of a Micra costs R1 688 and the same part for a Spark costs R3 781.

ENTRY LEVEL (four sampled)

These are the older technology vehicles, stalwarts which have become favourites with economy-minded customers who prefer larger-bodied cars which will comfortably manage four solid passengers and have engine sizes of 1.4 or 1.5 litres. Average price: R125 000.

Cheapest parts basket: Ford Figo.

Most expensive: Toyota Etios.

Examples of how the prices vary: The rear windscreen of a Figo costs R953 and the same part for an Etios costs R2 694.

SUPERMINI (11 sampled)

This is the second-largest category, comprising 11 vehicles, and produced a surprise winner.

Cheapest parts basket: Peugeot 208, followed by Fiat Punto.

Most expensive: Opel Corsa, followed by Honda Jazz.

Examples of how the prices vary: The aircon condenser for the Chev Sonic costs R8 443, while the same part for the other cars in the category costs between R2 300 and R3 900.

FAMILY FAVOURITES (10 sampled)

Nissan Tiida once again takes the glory in this group, again by a large margin. Kinsey says the Tiida has taken over the mantle of the old entry-level Citi Golf, which retained its low parts price glory until it was discontinued in November 2009.

Cheapest parts basket: Nissan Tiida, followed by Toyota Corolla.

Most expensive: Honda Civic, followed by Mazda 3.

Examples of how the prices vary: To replace the grille of the Tiida will set you back just R491, but the same part on the Civic costs R6 487.

COMPACT CROSSOVER (four sampled)

This is a small section catering for the under-R250 000 family runabouts; the ideal mom’s taxi with lots of space and few frills.

Cheapest parts basket: Toyota Avanza.

Most expensive: Daihatsu Terios.

Examples of how the prices vary: The wheel rim on an Avanza costs R814, while the Terios’s rim costs R4 684.

CROSSOVER (15 sampled)

The popularity of these versatile vehicles has continued to grow enormously. The range is pretty wide and so is the price – from upwards Of R250 000 to R500 000.

Cheapest parts basket: Toyota Fortuner, followed by the Kia Sportage.

Most expensive: BMW X3, followed by the Land Rover Freelander.

Examples of how the prices vary: The left-hand headlight assembly on the Chev Trailblazer costs R2 475 to replace, while that part costs R5 692 on the X3, R8 744 on the Honda CRV and R10 460 on the Kia Sportage.