I am 25. I have €15,000. Am I too young to buy a used BMW X5 or Range Rover Sport?'
This week, 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, each year, 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: Aidan, Loads more enquiries this week. I've taken two fairly typical ones. Here's the first:
Reader question 1: I am 25 and will shortly be buying a car as the guy who gives me a lift is moving to Dublin. It is a 40km round trip. I'd love something big. I have €15,000 saved and can borrow €10,000 more. Am I too young for a secondhand BMW X5 or Range Rover Sport? What would you suggest?
Aidan: This really isn't a question about your age. It's about affordability and only you can properly ascertain whether either car is feasible long term. It is worth spending some time calculating the total cost of ownership of vehicles of this nature. I reckon an annual cost of around €8,000 to cover fuel, insurance, tax and maintenance isn't grossly inaccurate.
Vehicles are depreciating assets and these particular SUVs will lose around €5,000 each year for the next couple of years at which point the rate of depreciation slows but doesn't stop.
You should also consider the cost of repairing faults whose price tags are amplified on high end vehicles. Prices for turbos, gearboxes and suspension parts dwarf the reconditioning costs of standard saloons and hatchbacks.
With savings totalling €15,000, I wonder if you would be better redirecting your attention towards some vehicles that protect your financial prudence. Here are two options.
A: Use your savings to buy a car for €15,000. You own the car outright and do not require finance.
This way, if your circumstances change, you are not financially exposed by a car loan. If they do not change and show no signs of worsening, then perhaps trade up to a newer vehicle and take a loan to cover the difference.
The cost of this exercise will be whatever you lose in depreciation, which should be minimal on a car costing €15,000.
B: You borrow around €10,000 as originally intended but you buy a vehicle which has a much lower cost of ownership: €25,000 should buy a 2010 plate BMW 520 diesel.
Get one from a BMW dealer who offers it with two-year warranty under the Premium Selection banner and you've protected yourself from excessive maintenance costs for at least 24 months.
Depreciation is much less than on an X5; tax is around €270 (depending on spec) and it costs a fraction to fuel than an SUV.
Eddie: Let me come at it from another angle altogether. What about a Dacia Duster? Yes, it's bargain basement stuff (though not nearly as sparse as you'd think) and nothing like the two posh cars mentioned in the question. But you'll get one new - yes NEW - for little along with the €15,000 you have saved. That gives you a decent-sized Crossover, three-year warranty, low running costs and not a bad driver into the bargain. I take it you are single. Why do you need an X5 or Sport? Please consider what you are letting yourself in for.
Okay then, how about a snazzy Audi A3 sportback? Not cheap on the used market but it will hold its value better than most and it's ideal for someone young and single.
Want something bigger? How about the previous Mazda6? Good value; big car; excellent drive. Think outside the box please.
After all that, I still think the right options are a used BMW 520d, an Audi A4 Avant or a brand new Dacia Duster (never thought I'd see those two in the one sentence). Time enough for the big SUVs when you're rich. And you won't get rich funding them now.
Reader question 2: Our seven-seater Mitsubishi Grandis diesel has nearly 200,000km on the clock and is always on the road. It has served us well and only let us down once. But we will have to change as it is beginning to have niggles. We don't need as much room any more. What five-seater would you recommend?
Aidan: How about going a route that an increasing number of Irish families are opting for and buy an estate? I reckon Citroen's C5 is too often overlooked and generally under appreciated. The 2.0 HDi in particular is a massively capable engine. It's the same as that used in Ford's Mondeo and that car is widely regarded within the motor trade as a gem. Find a C5 in Exclusive trim and you'll not be wanting for creature comforts. It has leather, Bluetooth, air con, cruise control and a huge boot. It is frugal and refined and for around €17,000 you should find your way into a 2011 model. Another good choice is the Kia cee'd SW.
The 1.6 CRDi engine is a little less refined than some European counterparts but it's no less economical or reliable. From 2010 Kia offered the seven-year warranty. However, not all vehicles qualify so ensure the one you are considering conforms with Kia's warranty criteria. EX (or TX from May 2010) is the trim level to look for here and a 2010 model will fetch circa €12,000. It will come with half leather, Bluetooth and a multifunctional steering wheel.
The cee'd is spacious, comfortable and handsome and with warranty on 2010 models not running out until 2017, it's a risk averse buyer's dream.
Something a little more upmarket is Volvo's V50. It's the estate version of the S40. Most buyers chose the 1.6 diesel but the 2-litre diesel (essentially the same engine found in the C5 and Mondeo) should be the preferred option.
Space is a little compromised compared with other estates as it's got a sleek design but its switchgear and comfortable seats are the V50s redeeming qualities. With €15,000 you shouldn't have much trouble finding a 2010 model.
Last week Eddie recommended the Qashqai+2 to another reader and I think it merits mentioning here for your own requirements. As the name suggests, it's a Qashqai with two extra seats. In reality, the two seats are more in name than in practicality. Essentially it can be thought of as a hugely spacious Qashqai.
The 1.5 dCi engine feels ever-so-slightly underpowered with maximum occupancy but it's fine for most other occasions. Qashqai+2s are common in the highest trim level called SVE.
2010 models will fetch more than €17,000 and they sell quickly. It is now discontinued as the new X-Trail takes the reigns so values are expected to remain firm for some time to come.
For this reason the Qashqai+2 should represent a sensible purchase.
Eddie: I think the Qashqai is worth a look. It's the least SUV looking of these crossovers. Definitely worth a look too are the Skoda Yeti, Volkswagen's Touran (bland but rock solid) and the Toyota Verso (often overlooked but will go forever). Here's a thought from left field: Honda Accord estate.
It's a big car, few enough around, great 2.2-litre diesel and you should get a reasonably fresh one for decent money. It is so big, you'll hardly notice the step down from the Grandis.
Eddie/Aidan: More next week folks. Keep the enquiries coming.
JUST TO SAY : We can't reply to all queries in as full a manner as this due to obvious time and space restraints but we try to deal with as many as possible via email.