What car for four children? For four golf bags? Why is metallic so costly?
Independent advice centre...
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 am currently in the market for a seven-seater, with the impending arrival of our fourth child. We have looked at various models including the Seat Alhambra, Volkswagen Sharan, Ford Galaxy and Ford S-MAX. I would appreciate your advice in this area. We are in the second-hand car market - a new car is out of our budget, I'm afraid. We would hope to buy a 2012/2013 model. Our budget is €25,000.
Aidan: You're in the right ballpark with those choices. The Alhambra is comfortable and has sliding rear doors so it is worth pursuing a clean, low mileage SE model. If you can find an automatic version you are really laughing.
A 2013 plate 1.6 diesel S-Max in Zetec trim comes in on budget and it is arguably the most stylish of the lot. The 1.6 diesel is adequate for most families but if you want more poke there is the rather excellent 2.0 TDCi engine also.
You won't be massively penalised on motor tax with the larger engine.
The Galaxy starts life a tad expensive and typically holds a premium of around €2,000 to €3,000 above an S-Max.
Measure them both for your own needs and see if the extra outlay is worth it. I've harped on about the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso umpteen times over the last few months so suffice it to say that it should appear on your shopping list.
You can get the first of the new shape model from 2014 at this money.
A lesser spoken about option is Kia's new-ish Carens. You could find that an ex-hire drive 151 plate EX model comes close to your budget. Platinum models have more goodies but with a new price tag in excess of €30,000 you are into 132 plate with one of those.
The Carens comes with seven years warranty, which could be worth an awful lot once your new bundle arrives. It has a 1.7 litre diesel engine that does the rounds in loads of other cars so it's tried and tested.
The Mazda5 is another super choice. It is well worth bumping to the top of the pile. Track each model down in dealers close to you and take a day to or two to go see them all.
Bring buggies, bags, children's seats, and whatever you usually carry to make sure they fit. You want to make sure that your sleepless nights are caused by your new arrival and not your car.
Eddie: Aidan has brilliantly corralled all the options for you there. The Alhambra is possibly the best on the money and has withstood the test of time admirably.
The only thing is that the Carens should have a good chunk of its warranty still left. I also think it is bit roomier and with your expanding family that is a consideration. For me it is between these two.
I have a budget of €20,000 cash. I will most likely 'hand down' my existing car, a Toyota Avensis (2004 , D4D Linea Strata, 197,000 miles, ticking like a clock). My annual mileage is around 10,000km. In addition to local driving in Cork there will be the odd visit up to the midland region. I need something to take four adults in comfort. Boot space is a major consideration. I'm a keen golfer.
With both my wife and myself due to retire shortly, I do see us playing more golf, hence the need for a decent boot. It would need to comfortably accommodate two golf bags and two buggies. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Over the years I have driven most of the top brands (family saloons) with the exception of Ford and Volkswagen.
Aidan: I too, am a keen golfer so I know exactly the types of annoyances caused by an awkwardly shaped boot.
Two golf bags and two buggies is a fair amount of cargo and oddly, lots of boots aren't wide enough to take golf bags without requiring the removal of drivers and fairway woods. If it is just the two of you then you can always lie the back seats flat and put the bags in lengthways but that's a faff.
With your annual mileage and the nature of your driving, I think petrol is your best bet but if you can regularly give the car a decent blast and the price differential to a diesel model isn't extravagant, you can broaden your horizons.
Let's stick with petrol first, though. What about a Corolla? It is a big car now and you will get a 1.33 litre in a 141 plate for this money. If it is too small and you want diesel then look for a Skoda Octavia estate. It's a fine, big car with loads of room.
The 1.6 TDi engine is quiet and lots of higher specification Elegance models have been sold over the years so you will notice a giant leap in terms of refinement over your old Avensis. Same goes for the SEAT Leon ST or VW Golf Estate. There is a petrol version of the regular Octavia hatchback, which could work, too.
A reader recently brought to my attention that I don't recommend Renaults enough and they had a point. The Grand Megane is value for money and the 1.5 dCi engine is capable and nowhere near as plagued with problems as older Renaults.
Lots of people in your position are trading out of saloons and into crossovers; €20,000 will buy you a good 2012 reg Kia Sportage. Look at the Hyundai ix35, too. If you want to stick with large family saloons then take a peek at a 131 plate Peugeot 508 in Active or Allure trim. Massively underrated car, that. Try the Corolla petrol first and take things from there.
Eddie: I agree that boots can be hard to get at; the space is there but, often, the aperture is not.
Which is why I'd like to suggest you go the estate route if you can. With rear seats capable of folding 60/40 or 70/30 you get great length to accommodate more awkward items too. Estates generally are far more flexible and are often smarter looking than saloons and hatchbacks.
The only problem is there are fewer of them to choose from as Irish buyers don't like them that much.
The upside it that you'll most likely get a fair bit more car for your money if you do come across something you like.
As well as Aidan's excellent suggestions, also think about estate verions of the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Opel Astra and Peugeot 308. I think you'll be surprised at the amount of space for passengers and golf accoutrements.
How come metallic paint is so costly and what are the benefits of having it? I found when I was shopping around recently that between the delivery and so-called 'related' charges and metallic paint I was faced with a car that was going to cost me another €1,500. I thought metallic was more or less standard now. Any advice?
Aidan: Not sure why metallic paint is so costly. It has fragments of metal in it, which presumably isn't overly expensive.
However, it takes a few coats to get it on the body, plus a top coat of lacquer; and you would be surprised at the mixtures involved to make a colour as plain as something as black (green and blue often used to get the right results).
It also wears a good deal better than a flat colour and the reason for its prevalence is to give a broader colour palette. Delivery and related charges are there to keep the Competition Authority happy as they don't like those costs being absorbed into the Recommended Retail Price. It's all very bureaucratic.
The charge comprises delivery of the car from the plant and a Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI) to make sure everything is okay before you drive off. Have a chat with your dealer. I don't want to prejudice a sale but I am sure they will be somewhat flexible on the overall deal.
Eddie: The thing that annoys me - and seems to have prompted your correspondence - is that the price of metallic paint options can vary so much.
I'm also irked when it is barely mentioned in the small print. And don't get me started on delivery and related charges.
They should just be included in the on-the-road recommended price.
End of debate.