An 'ordinary car'? Money for wedding or PCP? Clutch slips through NCT
Aidan Timmons and Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham team up to help readers make the right choice with their next car. Aidan visits dealers all over the country to produce a monthly guidebook on the values of used cars. He is co-editor of Motor Trade Publishers, who supply a car-valuing service to the motor trade, insurance companies and finance houses. Eddie is author of former best-seller 'Clever Car Buying'.
I'm tired of you guys talking about hybrids and people carriers and SUVs week after week. I don't want to be too hard on you, but why can't you recommend some ordinary cars for ordinary people like me?
I drive a Toyota Avensis with a diesel engine that is after covering nearly 200,000km. It is going like a bird, but I'm going to change. I'll sell it separately. What ordinary car would you advise? Or should I hold it for another while?
Aidan: We recommend cars to suit individual readers' explicit requests and circumstances. Besides, SUVs are ordinary cars, and like it or not very soon hybrids, electric cars and hydrogen fuelled cars will be the new norm. I will leave it at that.
Now, to your own requirement. First, you don't mention your budget, so all I can do is talk in generalities. The more information you provide, the more detailed a reply we can give.
We can narrow things down to facelift models, run-out specifications, model year changes, and such like.
We have access to a wealth of data from the motor trade, so use us to your advantage. I'm not quite sure what more I can do without better information, so how about instead of recommending the volume sellers that most know about, I offer up some credible alternatives?
Start with the Peugeot 508 launched in 2011. A budget in the early teens will buy you one. Having driven it on a few occasions, I reckon its sales figures don't quite do the car justice. It is every bit as good as the top sellers.
I have a particular soft spot for the Mazda6. The last of the old model Premium or Sport versions are a good buy. Look for a 2012 Sport in a five-door hatchback (saloon shape, but better boot). Such a brilliant car with a lovely 2.2 diesel engine.
You need to service it properly with the right grade of oil and the proper filters, though. Too many people get it wrong and then feel the wallet-pinching wrath of a blown turbo.
The Kia Optima is a nice machine, too. The newer you can go, the better the car. Good 1.7 litre diesel engine and if you get the Platinum model you will have all the trimmings. Loads of warranty left with fresher plate models, too.
Either buy now or wait until next year when dealers have better supply from trade-ins against the new 171 registration.
Lastly, if you have around €25,000-plus (model dependent), ask your local dealer about returning hire-drive vehicles.
These cars come out of rental companies and onto forecourts and can represent good savings.
Eddie: Why don't you go and buy another Avensis? If you have got such great service from the one you have, why not change to a newer one? It's exactly the sort of 'ordinary' car we recommend here on a weekly basis. In terms of when you should buy, I reckon you'd do well to budget for a January purchase. But start the process now.
I know you've covered PCPs before, but no matter how I look at them I can't get my head around how they would be of use to me.
I've €20k in the credit union. I've a daughter's wedding coming up. My car, a 2004 Mondeo, is clapped out and looks awful. I half-thought of getting a new one on PCP and using most of the credit union money to help towards her big day. But every way I look at PCP I lose.
I could use some of the money as a deposit, but in three years I'd need more to buy the car. What would you advise? And what car would you suggest? I'd like a car of Mondeo size.
Aidan: The line in your question that struck the loudest chord with me was when you said that you would need more money to buy the car at the end of the PCP deal. If your frame of mind is that you ultimately want to own the car outright, then perhaps stick with a regular hire purchase or personal loan.
Of course, one of the options of PCP is to purchase the car outright at the end of the loan. That is what makes PCPs so flexible. You can kick that decision to touch for three years. Nice one.
But it does not seem to sit well with you. And above all else, you need to be comfortable with such a financial undertaking. That goes for any loan.
PCP is a tremendous financial bridge to help people with cars as old as yours make the leap over all of the used registration plate gaps, and get into a new car.
Operated properly, PCP is an effective product in this regard. The age of our fleet is pretty old, so the more people who buy new cars, the better it is for everyone (especially from a safety perspective). However, I think that you can still come up a good few years and simultaneously help your daughter.
What about using the majority of your savings, but not all, to purchase a new car? You are obviously in a position to save, so repaying a few hundred quid over three years shouldn't be too tight a financial squeeze. If you buy something for around €25,000 and finance around 50pc to 60pc of that amount, then you still have a decent chunk of change to put towards your daughter's wedding.
As with the last reader, look at the hire-drive market. Look at cars like the Toyota Corolla and Skoda Octavia. The Octavia is a popular fleet car as it is efficient and cost-effective; they represent excellent stock for dealers when they return to the market.
My advice, in short, is to use around €12,000 to €14,000 against a 161 plate, six-month-old hire drive Octavia and finance the rest on a personal loan or hire purchase agreement, whichever has the best rate.
Eddie: You want to own the car. May I suggest you use your money to buy it? Buy another Mondeo; trade in your banger and save yourself as much hassle as possible. But what about your daughter's wedding? Borrow from the credit union when the time comes at as reasonable a rate as possible. That way you have a decent new-ish car which you own. Talk to your credit union and tell them that's what you want and ask what is the keenest rate they can do for you given your excellent savings record.
Three weeks after putting my car, a Ford Focus, through the NCT the clutch went. How can that be the case? Are they not supposed to check my car? Why am I paying them money? It's a disgrace. Can they not be held to account?
Aidan: The NCT tests the roadworthiness of the car on the day that it is presented for testing. It quite rightly issues advisory notices when tolerances for tyre depths or brake pads are near their legal limit but still just about pass.
The NCT does not predict the failure of a wear-and-tear part like a clutch if there is no significant sign that it is wearing on the day of the test.
I have some problems with the NCT, but not diagnosing a clutch fault three weeks prior to its failure is not one of my gripes - particularly if the clutch wasn't slipping.
Usually, before the clutch burns out it begins to slip. If you accelerate through the rev range and then the revs drop suddenly only to pick back up again, then it is a tell-tale sign that your clutch is on the way out.
The clutch can also smell as though it is burning and it is more noticeable when the car heats up and is driven for a long period.
Did you notice this beforehand? If so, did you bring the car to your mechanic for a pre-NCT check? If you did, then did the mechanic notice the slippage? It could also be that the clutch simply failed after you got the car tested and it is an unfortunate coincidence.
Eddie: Sorry to hear that, but a clutch can be 'going' for a good while. I'm afraid there is nothing you can do. Imagine the furore if the NCT could be held accountable for mechanical parts failing within weeks of the test.
But your case highlights one of the reasons some people favour having their car thoroughly prepared for the test rather than subsequently attending to the failures detected by the NCT.
I've got a feeling your local garage may well have detected clutch trouble had you brought it in for a pre-test run-through.