Focus on petrol? Bigger mileage? SUV for work? €10,000 to spend?
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 own a 2004 Ford Focus saloon with 160,000 miles on the clock. I am at a loss as to what to do. I have paid a lot in maintenance over the last 16 months and feel it is time to change.
I recently changed job and will need a car to travel to and from work on a regular basis. I believe that I will be doing approximately 12,000 mile a year.
My car is 1.6-litre and I would like to keep it at the modern equivalent of the old 1.6L. I have been advised I should buy a petrol vehicle. However, most garages have few petrols. I have looked at a few new models: Ford Focus, Seat Ateca, Opel Mokka and Opel Astra. I need five seats.
Maybe I should buy a new petrol? If I do decide to buy new, what is the best method of finance? I would be able to pay a deposit of €10,000- €12,000 and would be able to afford monthly repayments of €250. We have two adult children. Should I buy in the UK?
Aidan: The dealers you spoke with offered sound advice. You need/should buy petrol. I think the best route for you is to buy as fresh a car as possible - certainly nothing older than a one-year-old.
You don't have an interest in cars, so buy a young model that will stand the test of time and will not require changing for a few years. There are loads of good options on 2016-plates with low mileage priced under €20,000, so your deposit goes at least halfway there and your finance repayments on a regular loan should be manageable.
Petrol engine technology has advanced since the 1.6-litre in your car was developed so don't judge an engine's power by its size. The output from Ford's 1-litre turbo EcoBoost engine is surprisingly sprightly. I think a 1-litre Focus should be on your list. Don't settle for less than a Zetec model. The same goes for the Toyota Auris with the newer 1.2-litre turbo engine. Shop for a 162-plate at a minimum. Most were Luna models.
I was massively impressed by the 1-litre petrol engine in the Opel Astra, and you mention it being on your list. Your money will go a little further in one, so you might find a 171-plate SC model is within easy reach at under €20,000.
Honestly, I don't think you need to overcomplicate this. Any of those three would be perfect.
Eddie: As an alternative, might I suggest the Skoda Octavia with a 1-litre turbo petrol? Loads of room, good to drive and excellent engine. I agree completely with Aidan: forget about size of engine. Today's one-litre powerplants are yesterday 1.6-litres.
I have a 12-year-old Toyota Corolla T3, 1.6 petrol engine, 89,000 miles and a great spec level for a car of its time. I had a job where I was living only 15 minutes from work, so I could justify the high tax and thirsty petrol engine, as €20 would have got me by most weeks. I have recently changed jobs, and will now be doing 28,000km a year, so as my ageing Toyota is costing €70 a week in petrol, the time has come to switch to diesel.
The cars I am considering (with a budget of € 11,000/12,000 plus my own car, which isn't worth a lot) are a 1.6 diesel Honda Civic (12-reg, or 13-reg) a 13-reg 1.4 diesel Toyota Auris. I would consider a Corolla only they seem to be €1,000 dearer than an Auris or a 13-reg Ford Focus 1.6 diesel.
Do you think there is something else out there that I have neglected to consider? I would intend keeping this car for four or five years if going well.
Aidan: Perhaps I am mistaken, but weren't all 1.6-litre petrol Corollas of old automatic transmission models only? You don't mention that you need an automatic, so I am working on the assumption that a manual will be fine. You have already created an excellent shortlist. There are some interesting offers on used cars this year, including such things as minimum trade-in allowances and scrappage offers, so your old Corolla could work in your favour as a trade-in.
Concentrate on buying something with the lowest mileage and with the best service record because you are going to rack up a lot of kilometres. Just be careful to compare like with like: 2013-plate 1.6-litre diesel Civics at your budget tend to have high mileage, so perhaps the decision is more between the Auris and the Focus.
I rate the Toyota 1.4-litre D4D engine highly. It's reliable and fuel efficient, which is exactly the combination you require. The Ford diesel engine is a relatively cheap motor to maintain and parts for the Focus are readily available. It's tried, tested, and proven to go the distance.
If the car was a UK import (as some Focuses tend to be), ensure it has been properly vetted and that it comes with a clean provenance report.
The aim of the game for you is to maximise your budget and reduce your risk of buying something that will cost you money in repairs, so stick to the basics and find a low mileage Auris or Focus with a lengthy warranty from a reputable dealer.
Eddie: Simple for me: Auris 1.4-litre diesel.
I drive a 2012 Discovery 4 with 220,000km on the clock. As I do 50,000km/ 60,000km a year (much on poor country roads), it's time to change. I drive a lot for commercial sales work and have to carry bulky goods from time to time. One weekend a month all five of us will pile in to visit relatives in the country. I've narrowed my choices down to the new Audi Q5, Merc GLC or VW Touareg. With my mileage reliability is a big factor as well as comfort and a bit of power. From my previous experience with Mercs, I am concerned about recurring engine and especially gearbox problems, which I encountered on two occasions.
Aidan: Was your Discovery 4 one of the five-seat, N1-classified machines? The new Discovery is not available as an N1 vehicle, but the Touareg is. That alone would perch it at the top of my list. It also ticks your other boxes of being powerful, spacious, comfortable for five and capable of tackling bad roads. Start there.
Also, look at the Toyota Land Cruiser. It's built with your type of driving in mind. The interior is not the same standard as the others, but aesthetics should rank low on your list of priorities.
The new Q5 190bhp quattro S-Tronic is no slouch, but you are coming from a 3.0-litre diesel V6, so only you can tell whether or not it will work for you. Eddie has more experience driving the GLC than I do, so I'll let him field that one. I think you should seriously consider the Touareg and the Land Cruiser.
Eddie: There is a huge difference in size and carrying capacity between some of the cars you are thinking of. The Q5 is a lot smaller than the Discovery, for example. I've gone through your question several times, and I think the car that'd suit you best - single occupancy and occasionally full - is the Mercedes GLC.
I currently drive a 2004 Fiat Punto. I have €10,000 to spend. We have two young children and I do about 12,000 miles a year. Please give me three options of what to buy because I get confused and worried if there are too many.
Aidan: Okay, simple as this - Toyota Auris 1.33-litre petrol because it is reliable, frugal, cheaper to tax than the 1.4-litre version and they are plentiful.
Second, look at the Hyundai i30 1.4-litre petrol because you might just sneak into the fresher faced 2012 model in Comfort trim. Good, sturdy, reliable machine, but make sure you don't buy something with an absent service record or with high mileage.
Nissan Qashqai 1.6 petrol. You will probably have most choice with XE models. Buy the one with the best history, lowest odometer, and with the most warranty as you can. Great car for visibility, passenger room, and boot space for shopping, school bags, and sports gear.
Eddie: I'd go the Auris route too for the same reasons as Aidan. I'd go Qashqai as well, but I'd also look at the KIA cee'd station wagon. It is an impressive car.
Problem might be getting a petrol and, really, your mileage doesn't really justify diesel. It goes without saying you should dispose of your Punto privately to give yourself whatever bonus there will be to buying a car without having a trade-in to complicate and reduce your prospects of driving a better deal.
JUST TO SAY
We love getting your enquiries but can't reply to all queries in as full a manner as this due to time and space restraints. We try to deal with as many as possible via email. But you can help us help you if you make sure to include the following critical elements in your query:
* Total budget.
* Annual mileage.
* Size of car required (number of seats).
* Present car (make, model, year and mileage).