Thursday 17 August 2017

What should I downsize to? wheelchair taxi cost; two-year change?

The cost of wheelchair accessible vehicles is very high.
The cost of wheelchair accessible vehicles is very high.

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'.

We have three children and two cars: a petrol 2007 Peugeot 307 from new and a diesel 2010 Skoda Octavia. We own both outright. One son is a qualified driver and a second is just starting off. The Peugeot is now the designated learner/novice car, so we are planning on holding onto it.

I have recently changed jobs and am on the road two days a week so I need an economical, reliable and safe car. We no longer seem to need a big family car and are planning on trading to more of a mid-size young secondhand or maybe new option. Could you please advise on options?

Aidan: Be careful how much you downsize from your Octavia. Sure, your young adult men are probably less frequently in the car together but downsizing can take quite a bit of readjusting for the driver. Go too far and you can wind up missing the space and comfort.

You don't provide a budget but considering you are looking for a fresh used/new car I can draw some logical conclusions. The 162 registration period kicks off soon and there are some tasty offers throughout the market. However, if you can't stretch to a new model then there is a broad selection of 151 and 152 plate vehicles. It is a good year for customers looking for high specification, clean, low mileage used cars.

Start with the Nissan Qashqai. It's got a solid 1.5 diesel engine and many drivers prefer the tall seating position. Opt for SV trim for some niceties. A lot of models also have a Safety Pack with a Lane Departure Warning and front and rear parking sensors. If a traditional hatchback is more to your liking then look at the Honda Civic. It is underrated and the 1.6-litre diesel engine is highly fuel efficient. Executive models might stretch your budget but the cheaper Sport versions are handsomely equipped. Look at the value for money too in a new VW Jetta. Don't rule out the Golf, either.

The current crop of family hatchbacks are all top class so you won't go wrong with a Focus, Auris, Astra, 308, SEAT Leon either. If you really like the Skoda product then maybe take a look at the Rapid, too. And although they are bit smaller, look at the Renault Kaptur, Mazda CX-3, and the Honda HR-V.

Eddie: I'd like to persuade you to stick with the Octavia albeit as a new/newer one. The 1.6-litre diesel is economical and the car is solidly built. Aidan is spot on: You never miss the room in a car til the space runs dry. I'd be worried about that. I believe next time around would be a better juncture to downsize, not now. If you do change brand/model I'd agree with Aidan's options list but I'd cut it to a straight choice between the Ford Focus, Toyota Auris or the new Opel Astra.

I am currently in the market for a wheelchair accessible vehicle to use as a taxi. I can't get over the prices of these vehicles. You can apply for a grant which can give you up to €10,000 off a brand new van. It looks to me the suppliers/ garages have just added this onto the price. Why would I spend almost €30,000 on a Peugeot Partner? The government say they need and want more wheelchair accessible vehicles on the road but it's been made so unaffordable.

Aidan: I haven't the foggiest notion about the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Grant Scheme (WAV) but from my reading on the topic it appears as though the allocation for grants has now ceased for 2016.

You might investigate this further but if it really is the case then it seems to me that there is a degree of underfunding here, especially with a new vehicle registration period about to begin. But maybe there is more to it. I wasn't aware until you prompted me to research it that the number of wheelchair accessible taxis and hackneys fell by 35pc between 2008 and 2015. I would encourage you to re-read the National Transport Authorities literature on licensing a wheelchair accessible vehicle.

It does not appear to be the case that once a WAV reaches six-years-old that it can no longer be licensed as a taxi. My reading of things is that initially when you exchange your licence for a wheelchair accessible licence, the car must be six years or younger.

However, you can then drive the car until it is 15 years old. As for the price of wheelchair accessible cars, again I am a bit confused. You said that a particular van costs €30,000. In fact, while the model you refer to is based on a van, it actually has seven regular seats (five when it is converted for wheelchair accessibility) and so it qualifies for VRT at passenger car/CO2 rates, which inevitably impacts on the cost.

And the wheelchair ramp and various fixings and other changes required for qualification probably add a decent amount too. I hope you find a way to make it work though because it's an excellent but obviously under-serviced facility.

Eddie: You are not the only one who feels aggrieved; I have received other complaints too. The big thing, as I see it, is the passenger-car VRT element. That is something, given the government's desire for more wheelchair accessible taxis, I think you should take up with your local TD. I won't insult your intelligence and hold out immediate hope but you certainly can state a strong case.

Perhaps you may be able to give some guidance. I change my car every two years and buy new. My annual mileage is around 20,000 miles. My current car is a BMW X3 xDrive 20d X line. My two previous cars were a Mercedes E200CDi and a BMW 520d SE. What vehicles would you choose in terms of having the best residual value after two years. Should I be looking at pre-owned vehicles?

Aidan: In the premium market I think you've chosen wisely so far and similar choices next time around should see you in good stead. I wouldn't have strayed much from your thinking. Nicely kitted Audi A6s and Q5s perform strongly, too. Values depend on a number of factors: from mileage, condition, specification, supply and demand etc.

What I can say is that my research of values consistently shows that the X3 is one of the best performers in the premium SUV market. Global demand for X3s meant values have held extremely strong, especially for xDrive auto models with nice trim like yours.

So, whatever you have to spend to trade up you can rest assured that you've done well by driving the X3 for the last two years.

As for a new car versus a used car; the first year's depreciation tends to be the greatest so you insulate yourself from that drop if you buy a one-year-old. But the saving is not really the entire first year's depreciation as many people like to think because your one-year-old car will also fall in price as it ages.

The real difference is how much more it costs you to change a two-year-old car for a brand new one rather than a three-year-old for a one-year-old. Obviously, if the rate of depreciation slows as the car ages, then your total depreciation expressed as a yearly average over the term of your ownership lessens the longer you keep the car.

If you want a one-year-old car then you might be better to hold off for another year and go from a three-year-old to a one-year-old rather than a two-year-old to a one year old ie: the two-year cycle that you are currently in. Price around and see. However, I think the new-car market has a lot to offer you. There is a lot of new metal either already released or soon to be launched including the new E-Class, 5-series (due 2017), and a peachy Audi Q5; not forgetting the new Jaguar F-PACE. Typically the first of a new generation will retain strong residuals as there is a natural lift to account for the change in a model as well as the change in plate ie: the price difference between a 151 and a 161 is usually more than normal if the 161 is also a new model. I hope all of that makes sense.

Eddie: For a start, buy new. There's no reason to change tack on what you've been doing. I notice you've had two saloons and an SAV (BMW insist it's a Sports Activity Vehicle). All Aidan is saying makes great sense but I'll stick my old neck out again and steer you towards something else altogether. I have an inkling you'd love the new Jaguar XF. It's an excellent drive and it's different.

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