'I have €60,000 available to splash on a sports car'
Aidan Timmons and Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham team up to help you make the right choice with your 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 also author of former best-seller 'Clever Car Buying'.
Q: I have worked all my life and have taken early retirement. I got a large lump sum and intend spending some of it on a sports car. It has been a dream of mine for a long time. I have a 2012 Audi A4 diesel. I have €60,000 to spend. Please advise.
Aidan: You are in rare and enviable company but kudos on your retirement; I'm sure it was well earned. You have quite a few options; some lavish, some sensible. I'll begin with the latter. Seeing as you already drive an A4 diesel, why not consider Audi's new TT.
Your car is in hot demand among Audi dealers so your cost to change is eminently leaner than if you drove a non-Audi product. I'm afraid I haven't any tangible driving experience of the new TT as it won't land on our shores until late this year. However, I did attend the reveal in the RDS a couple of months ago. It certainly looks like a spectacular machine. The clock cluster is one of the most extraordinary achievements in modern car design. It's really lovely. And you know it will stand the test of time.
If you want to stay within the Audi tent but want more seats, you could opt for a new S4. At just over €62,000 you're treated to the wonderful 3.0 turbo straight six with 333bhp and a reasonable motor tax charge rate of €750 annually. It's got a sports car feel but saloon car functionality.
I'm a big Porsche fan and while your budget is a little shy of the new price mark of the Cayman, you should find that a 2013 model could even yield some change. They're a rare beast, so having a word with Porsche themselves or a specialist dealer should be chief among your tasks if you go this route.
Unless you're a real petrol head, the regular 2.7 Cayman is plenty fun. The 3.2 litre Cayman S has tremendous sporting pedigree and is widely regarded as the best handling modern Porsche, save for the totally extravagant semi-track focused models.
Lastly, and just in case you get a real rush of blood to the head; take a look at the Porsche 964 from the early 90s. Specialist dealers in the UK are the most obvious route but you should come home with lots of change even after buying a near perfect example. It's a very niche choice but the 3.6 straight six and classic Porsche styling would make it my top pick with your budget. It's also represents quite a prudent financial move as it should hold it's value regardless of its age.
Eddie: I think your dream machine would be the new Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe - but at around €94,000 it is way, way out of your league. Just saying . . . if you really want to live the dream.
Seriously though, I would concur in great measure with Aidan's choices - I'd share his enthusiasm for each model - so now it is my job to give you something else to think about.
What about sports/performance versions of mainstream cars - say like a well-minded BMW M3?
Or a Porsche Boxster or BMW Z4 convertible in tip-top condition?
A new Toyota GT86 (€41,000 or so) or Volkswagen Scirocco (GTS 2.0 TSI DSG 210bhp - around €40,000) will leave you with a lot of cash to enjoy other things? The Peugeot RCZ R (unbelievable 1.6-litre) is so powerful and different. Or stretch a little - to €69,900 - and buy an Alfa Romeo 4C?
Q: I am 24. I have just got a job. It won't pay much for two or three years but I need a car. As cheap as possible. Can I get something for €2,000? I live in Dublin but I'll need my own car.
Aidan: Congratulations on your new job. You've got to think with a risk-averse attitude with this budget. Firstly, the age of the vehicle shouldn't top your priorities. Instead, focus on mileage and condition.
It's unlikely that you will find a car with a full service record at this budget but if you do, then lend a great deal of weight to this. You need to think about running costs too, so let's concentrate on superminis and ignore larger hatchbacks like the Focus and Corolla.
The Toyota Yaris is an obvious choice. It's got a frugal 1.0 engine and is great for nipping around the city. It's interior is still surprisingly fresh thanks to its digital odometer. It's got a 3-cylinder engine that will run and run once it's minded.
Ford's Fiesta is a smashing little car. It's got a 4-cylinder 1.25 litre engine which is a little quieter than the Yaris and smoother on longer journeys. You should have more choice here too.
Nissan's Micra is a firm favourite with buyers at this budget. Be a little wary of higher mileage models with no service record. The timing chain can cause some expensive issues. Otherwise, it's a great little car.
A less obvious choice is Hyundai's Getz. This is a super little car and represents excellent value for money. Your budget will probably get you a 2005 model Getz compared to a 2003 model Yaris. The interior is the epitome of bland but some models came with a sunroof.
If you can get by without a car for a little while and stretch your budget to nearly €3,000 you should find that your pool of choice expands exponentially.
Eddie: You have covered a lot of ground there Aidan, so I'll try a different tack. I know someone in a similar situation and they got a slightly battered but excellent Ford Focus for under €2,000. It hasn't given a bit of bother despite high mileage. So keep your eyes peeled.
I always think Mazdas are worth a look - an old '2' is a consideration - because they are so well made.
A well-kept Peugeot 206 would be an option as would the unfashionable but resilient Opel Corsa.
The SEAT Ibiza is an evergreen and there are plenty of them out there. Great little cars and they seem to wear well. You might come across a Volkswagen Polo which is one solid motor.
This is a good time of the year to go hunting old bargains but I insist you buy nothing with less than a year's (okay 11 months) NCT remaining.
Please take an 'old head' with you, someone who knows cars. Safety has to come first.
You simply must set aside a few euro for a thorough inspection by your own, local mechanic. At this age you have to expect a fair bit of wear and tear but tyres, brakes, lights and suspension have to be in good shape.
Finally, if you have €2,000 you know you just might swing a finance deal whereby you pay so much a month for three years (PCPs they are called).
Could you afford €150 - €200 a month? If you think you can then you're in a new car. Think about it.