Thursday 27 October 2016

Three teens and a commute? Meriva again? The high cost of repairs.

Published 13/04/2016 | 02:30

Premium brand cars are inhereintly more complex to fix.
Premium brand cars are inhereintly more complex to fix.

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'.

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I'm currently driving a Skoda Octavia diesel 2009 with 216,000km on the clock for my weekly 1,000km work commute. It's driving well, is economical, but as our three teens get bigger they are cramped for space. What would you suggest that would give us more room, equal reliability and fuel performance at an affordable price? No idea what a trade-in would be worth. My budget is approx €20,000.

Aidan: If your Octavia has been properly maintained and is in reasonably good fettle, it stands a good chance of making an attractive trade in. Your higher than average odometer might sting a little but you've had great use of the car so the value has been offset in other ways.

Start your search for a Superb with your local Skoda dealer. While the regular Superb in hatch/saloon (the clever boot mechanism makes it thus) is an excellent choice, the Superb combi (estate) is that bit more practical.

No need to go crazy with extras or higher engine capacities. Opt for a 1.6 TDi in Ambition trim and you will still have plenty of motor around you and your family to keep you all safe and comfortable. Rear legroom in the Superb is seldom matched by anything else in this class or even in the premium sector; 2012 models will easily come in on budget. A new model was recently launched and so stock is relatively healthy at the moment. To be perfectly honest, you could start and stop your search right there.

But let's explore a few alternatives. The latest model Octavia is a little roomier than your one and it is worth considering as your money will buy you a fresher plate than the Superb, which should have lower mileage and more warranty left.

Again, go the Combi route if you want to maximize practicality. I recently recommended the Mazda6 to another reader in a similar position and I think that one would suit you too. You might just pick up a new shape 2013 model. Don't be put off by the 2.2 litre diesel engine. If your weekly commute of 1,000km consists of long motorway jaunts, then the 2.2 litres will be fine.

If you like SUVs, then the Ford Kuga is worth considering. There isn't much to choose from in terms of engines and specification but that's not a bad thing. Most, at your budget, will be 2013 plate Zetec models with the excellent 2.0 litre diesel engine and 140bhp. Eddie: I'm a Superb/Octavia fan but as Aidan has covered that area let me try something else. You mention 'three teens' so you are caught between the need for a commute car and accommodating a growing family. On that basis I'd suggest you need a people carrier rather than an SUV. On your budget you won't do badly at all with a good secondhand one. The Ford S-MAX is more like a long, tall estate and with a good diesel engine could be just what you need because it is both a decent drive for your commute and roomy for your family. The Mazda5 is often forgotten about but with its sliding door it's a good package. So are Opel Zafiras and the Toyota Versos. But for your specific situation I'm going to suggest the S-MAX.

I currently drive a 2014 Opel Meriva SE CDTI 1.6 which has just under 26,500km. I am the only driver and bought it new in March, 2014. I bought my first Meriva in 2004 and I've changed every two years since. Could you advise please: a) What is the value of the car now? b) Assuming my kilometres until next year are also 13,000 approx what value would the car have in 2017? c) As a matter of interest how many kilometres is classed as the average per year? d) My budget is between €8,000 and €10,000 so what is available to me in MPV range (I like being seated higher)? e) I've always been wary of buying demo models as I don't think they are looked after as well. If I was to think about a demo model approx how much cheaper are they than buying new?

Aidan: You sound like a shrewd buyer. I work with residual values on a daily basis and your question about future value projections really caught my ear. I am impressed you are thinking that far ahead.

Unfortunately I am going to have to refrain from getting into hard numbers here because they take quite a lot of explaining.

However, I think you have answered some of your own questions. You have a Meriva and you have between €8,000 and €10,000 to spend. Work within these parameters and don't get too hung up on the value of your car. I know it sounds silly but it isn't so straightforward as looking online for what dealers are selling them for and then hoping to get around the same as that. Those prices have a lot of work going in behind them and buyers should manage their expectations that a trade-in allowance will be less than the advertised prices online.

What I will say is that you should try to upgrade on a like-for-like basis for closer to €8,000 than €10,000. It sounds like you have a lovely machine with great equipment in SE trim and which I am sure is well minded; so you should be confident that you can upgrade under good financial terms. Your car is considered to have low mileage on a broader market level but in the context of Merivas, it is probably around average. These vehicles tend to have a profile of buyers who cover less mileage. I don't see any reason to stray from what you know.

Take a look at the Nissan Note, too. Your cost-to-change should be favourable if you opt for a 1.2 petrol model, which might be all the car you really need considering your mileage.

And take a look at the Honda Jazz. The new one has a petrol engine (1.3 this time) and retails at around €20,000 depending on trim level. A demo model might be the option with it as it is new to market. On demo models; dealers are aware of the importance of keeping these in top condition

Eddie: I have two options for you. Stick with the Meriva; I noticed you mentioned nothing about having any trouble with it as you change so regularly. So buy a new/newer one. Or buy the Honda Jazz; I think it is the business. I'm keeping this short because I think you are in a better position than you might think. National average mileage is around 16,000km to 17,000km by the way.

I notice you never mention the high cost of parts and repairs for some cars. I had to pay a fortune to get a small bit of work done on a BMW 5-series last year. I only ever read about new cars and warranties but there is another real world out there too. Why don't you do something on that? (I do enjoy your supplement).

Aidan: You raise a good point but it is difficult to devote too much time to such things because everybody's experiences differ tremendously. Also, our reactions to the cost of remedial work is just as diverse. For instance, I work in the motor trade and so I don't get too flummoxed when I hear of the cost of replacing certain parts. However, I appreciate that not everybody is similarly exposed to the types of costs associated with fixing cars.

Premium brand cars, such as your 5-series, are inherently more complex and therefore the work required to maintain them tends to be more onerous than it is for many mass-market cars. Such is life. A four-bed semi costs more to heat than a two-bed apartment. But I hear you.

Cars are becoming very technologically sophisticated and the cost of maintaining this high level of safety a comfortability comes at a cost.

This is why we constantly advise people to place great emphasis on buying used cars with low mileage, full service records, and from dealers who provide as comprehensive a warranty package as possible. And thank you reader, you have also given us the chance to remind others that it would be prudent to keep a few euro aside each month to pay for the maintenance of their cars. So few people do it and yet it would soften the blow of an unsuspected repair bill.

Eddie: I've had a lot of complaints about this. People feel like captive audiences because spare parts are so expensive and labour is becoming so. I wish I had a solution for you. I don't. My only other comment is to beware the danger of getting work done 'unofficially' on the cheap because your insurance may be undermined in the event of an accident.


WE love getting your enquiries but can't reply to all of them in as full a manner as we'd like 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).

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