Name three cars to suit me? New or used? Will downsizing punish me?
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 Motors Publishers, who supply a car valuing-service to the motor trade, insurance companies and finance houses. Eddie is the author of former best-seller 'Clever Car Buying'.
I have a 06 Renault Megane with nearly 220,000km on the clock. I want to buy a 2014/2015 car with low mileage. What should I do with my own and what three cars should I pick from in your opinion?
Aidan: I am going to answer this in two ways. The first is, I am afraid, a little woolly but you will see why. The second, will be more pointed. Here's the first bit. The way that the motor trade has gone, if you catch the right deal at the right time, you might find that financing a brand new car is eminently more affordable than it used to be and it might even work out cheaper than buying a 2014 or 2015 plate car. It's all down to scrappage offers and low rate APR finance deals.
Some popular deals will have run their course by the time you get to read this but it is worth checking them out nonetheless as sometimes there are extensions or replacement offers.
I couldn't possibly mention them all so take an evening off and browse as many manufacturer websites as you can; looking for finance/scrappage deals.
A couple that caught my eye this year came from Peugeot and Nissan. Peugeot had a deal on its 308 (expired 29th February but check for an extension) where the minimum trade in allowance was €3,500, which is far more than your 2006 Megane is worth.
The 308 is a worthwhile choice regardless as it has a frugal diesel engine, great quality interior, and a lovely chassis/suspension setup.
Nissan's website shows that they have extended their scrappage offer of €4,000 off a new car. That brings in a lot of choices.
The Juke, Qashqai, and Pulsar are worth a look. Also, any manufacturer offering 0pc finance should be honed in on.
Now for the more focused reply. The value for money on a 2015 registration plate vehicle is pretty good at the moment as the aforementioned offers on new cars means that one year old vehicles need to be far enough back from a new car to still remain attractive.
If your budget allows, go as high as you can. You won't need a whole pile to jump from a 2014 to a 2015 plate.
Your Megane is not worth a lot, so you might have better luck selling it privately and taking cash into the next deal.
However, lots of people overlook the convenience of everything being covered in one transaction by trading in their car.
With a vehicle of your age and mileage, it might not result in the best deal monetarily, but over the course of a few years ownership of your newer car, the difference could be negligible and this way you get everything sorted in one fell swoop.
Have a look at a newer Megane. They are always keenly priced and they are an excellent machine.
The SEAT Leon is another peach. It's built to a brilliant standard on an excellent chassis and is great value for money.
You can't go wrong with a Ford Focus. Solid engine, good equipment and a consistently top performer.
Eddie: Hard to argue with those suggestions.
I have a sneaky suspicion you'd be better off selling your Megane privately and playing the field as a cash customer.
I think what you will lose on the Megane sale you will more than recoup on the straight deal.
Here's three cars to go look for then (I'm not arguing with Aidan, just widening the perspective). The Honda Civic will give you years of driving without any fuss.
So will the Toyota Auris and I have to include the Skoda Octavia if you want something bigger and roomier with a traditional boot.
I have been debating whether to buy a second-hand car - I do not have a trade-in - or one of those Dacia Sanderos which I've seen on the road as new. I have around €9,000 to spend. Have you any ideas on what I should do?
Aidan: Drive the Sandero first and see how you get on. It's a new car with five years warranty for small money. It isn't everybody's cup of tea, though.
On paper, the used market won't yield as good value for money but there will be more choice this year than in previous years as new car sales are on the up and so trade-ins are more numerous.
Check out the Fiesta, Yaris, Polo, Rio, Clio, Corsa et al. The Skoda Fabia is a humdinger.
Your budget won't buy you as young a Honda Jazz as many of the rest but it has a lovely seating position and is a bit different. Same goes for the Mazda2.
If the Sandero doesn't tickle your fancy, then go for a low mileage option from that lot.
Eddie: This is all about managing expectations. The Sandero is far-from-basic but it does lack bits and pieces of what we'll call sophistication that you will find in some of the cars Aidan has outlined.
The thing to remember is that you will struggle to buy a Sandero new with that money.
You really need another €1,500/€2,000 or so to get into one with reasonable spec.
So I see you going the second-hand route unless you can scrape a few more euro together and go with a new Dacia.
There is a lot to be said for new - and you can extend the warranty to five years for little enough. But there is no point in stretching yourself either, especially when there is a decent choice of second-hand alternatives.
Would I lose a lot of money by trading down my Mercedes C-Class (2010, 2.2 diesel) for something smaller from one of the more mainstream brands? I want something new and have €20,000 with my own car but I'm afraid I'll take a hammering on my trade-in. What would you advise?
Aidan: I don't like giving trade-in value expectations at arm's length because the cost to change is always a far more important measure of value for money; not what the dealer offers you for your car.
To what extent are you downsizing? Are you thinking of a family hatchback?
You could opt for a Mercedes A Class in Urban specification. That is a shoe that might fit.
Or a Volvo V40. It's a lovely car with a beautiful interior, great instrument cluster; and in my opinion is inconspicuously handsome. If you want to go into an even more "mainstream" brand then you will find it tougher to spend your budget. No harm.
Your car is worth less than a new family hatchback but adding €20,000 your budget extends your affordability to somewhere around the early to mid 30s, which is above most family hatchbacks' upper limits. However, having given your question some focused consideration, I think you should go for something like a VW Golf and kit it out just right.
How about this for a machine?
A Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDi DSG Highline with a Technology Pack, Adaptive Cruise Control and an R Line exterior.
Actually, I think I've just spent your €20,000 there.
But I'm telling you from experience of driving extravagant versions of the Golf that one with all the trimmings is damn near motoring perfection.
It's practical, quiet, comfortable, and the 2.0 litre diesel engine complimented by the DSG gearbox, it is an utter joy.
I'd have one in that specification over many entry level compact executives. Some people will think that I have gone slightly mad and claim that the extra kit won't retain all of its initial price, which is true.
But you will have an exceptional car and I'm telling you, coming from a Mercedes Benz C Class, you will want something that still feels premium.
Eddie: I think you should stick with your C-Class even if you have to go back a year or two.
You will miss it, I've no doubt, and it has been my experience that downsizing can penalise the larger vehicle.
You have €20,000 to play around with. That's a nice sum along with the value of the car to have in play.
Gone are the days when the C-Class was viewed as a big car. It's not any more. And the newer ones have a lovely 1.6-litre diesel.
My instinct is to stay with the marque.