Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Versatile workhorses... chosing the right second car

Eddie Cunningham and Aidan Timmons weigh up the second car options for farm families

The Dacia Duster is becoming a popular budget option.
The Dacia Duster is becoming a popular budget option.
Toyota Auris
Ford Focus
VW Golf
Seat Leon
Renault Megane
Volvo V50
Skoda Octavia
Peugeot 308 Estate

A lot more is asked of the 'second' car on farms than is the case in most other settings.

As well as normal family duties, Car No 2 is often called on to ferry bags of calf nuts, collect the spare parts for the tractor, divert to the garage to pick up a spare wheel, do the school run and so on.

So taking all those multi-tasking needs into account we have been asked to come up with a list of cars that can do the job and still be worth a few euro when you change it in a few years. We have been 'given' a budget of €15,000 which, from experience, is the sort of money many people are working with.

One of the first things we agreed upon was that, where possible, we would pick cars with good boots - for obvious reasons. Some are better than others in that respect.

The second criterion we had to decide on was engine size and type. We reckon, given the amount of going and load-lugging these cars are likely to undertake that diesel, where feasible, would be the overriding choice.

That's not just because it is more economical and will cover more ground per litre, it is also a nod in the direction of reality because a lot of the cars we will be talking about have far more diesel options than petrol.

But that doesn't rule out petrols - we see a bit of swing back to them. It is just that right now in our budget bracket there is a much bigger choice of diesel.

Just be aware that diesels need a bit more minding than petrols; you need to change oil and filters more frequently to get the best return on your investment.

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And the third criteria was a good track record; a history of reliability and decent residual values. The good thing is that by the time most of these cars are coming into your €15,000 budget zone they will have lost a good bit of value anyway.

Still it is important and you'd like to think you'd have a few euro in the trade-in tank when you come to upgrade in two or three years.

And so after much deliberation we've come up with what we reckon are the Top 12 used cars to fulfill the role of the second motor, the run-around and the workhorse on a busy farm.

By the same token they will do a great job as the main mode of private transport on farms where budgets are tight.

We have, in the main, gone for what we call small family cars because we believe they give you more flexibility and breadth of ability to meet your demands.

As well as that the €15,000 budget means if you wanted larger cars, you'd have to go further back the years. And that involves higher mileage and potentially stiffer repair bills. So we've opted for what we reckon is the best compromise between outlay and practicality.

Here's our list (in no particular order) our main reasons for choosing them and just the odd little thing to look out for.

Toyota Corolla/Auris

We've lumped these two models together because one is a hatch while the other is a saloon.

If you have a Land Cruiser or Hi-Lux then either of these would make the perfect accompaniment. Expect good fuel economy from the dependable 1.4 D4D engine. Values can vary quite dramatically depending on mileage and condition. Toyota dealers tend to offer a more comprehensive warranty but require a premium for it. They are also hugely competitive among themselves so a main franchise dealer should be the first port of call. Toyota is only beginning to match rivals with interior kit so unless you find a Sport model, the base Terra cars could feel a touch bare. Expect to buy a 2012 model of either at this price. In some places, the Corolla can hold a slight premium over the Auris but for the most part values tend to track alongside one another.

Ford Focus

A new model was released mid-way through 2011 but just like the Corolla/Auris, 2012 models are within reach so no need to fret about whether you are getting the last of the old or the first of the new shapes. The differences are easily spotted anyway.

The 1.6 TDCi engine remains unchanged from the old model and it has been in circulation for so long that any initial kinks have been well and truly ironed out. Entry-level Edge models sometimes come with something called an 'Edge Pack', which brings the specification closer to Zetec. Still, you can expect to pay €500 more for Zetec models. Estate versions are rare but would be a great purchase for additional practicality.

The interior remains modern looking with lots of chrome and leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob.

The Focus is a solid buy at this price.

Volkswagen Golf

This is an interesting one. The Golf starts life a bit dearer than the rest of its rivals and so a 2012 model might be a little bit of a stretch; and certainly if you want something with a bit of spec and low mileage. In 2012 the Comfortline became known as Match and it was a higher grade than the entry level Trendline model. Drop back to 2011 and you need to look for Comfortline instead of Match. Top specification Highline models are not unheard of but they are fewer and further between. The Golf has a 1.6 TDi engine that performs similarly to the others in this class. Where the Golf excels is in overall package. It is hugely refined with a great interior that is largely free from road and engine noise. The quality of the instruments and switch gear are top class.

Seat Leon

Work hard enough on the deal and you could find that the first of the newer shape  Reference models come into budget.

That means you get a much improved chassis and deceptively big interior space.

There are also a few older models with 2013 registration plates and the shape still holds up well.

Unfortunately, the Leon did not get an estate version until 2014 so you are left with the hatchback. The 1.6 diesel engine is practically the same unit that is found in the Golf but the cabin insulation won't quite be as good.

Still, you can buy a much fresher registration plate for the same money so it provides food for thought.

Renault Grand Megane

Renaults have been written off many buyers' shopping lists because of a previous history of unreliability but in reality, since 2010, little has gone wrong with them. The Grand Megane is the estate version of the hatchback and among its peers it represents some of the best value for money. A 2013 model should come within reach. And not just any old run-of-the-mill model either. GT Line models with half leather, sat nav and parking sensors aren't uncommon. The 1.5 dCi engine is a peach and if your priorities lie in buying something up the years and with a handsome level of kit, then this might suit.

Volvo s40 and v50

Now obsolete models, the S40 (saloon) and V50 (estate) are rare commodities so now is the time to capitalise on any decent ones left before they rack up big mileage. In 2008 the S40 cost over €32,000 but by 2012 the new price dropped to under €28,000. This might not seem significant but the quality of the car was not hampered by the price drop and so what you end up with, if you buy a 2011 or 2012 model, is a car that is very nicely decked out with extras and a superb 1.6 diesel engine that costs little to tax, fuel and maintain. The V50 is a better prospect in terms of space and practicality but it makes €1,000 more in the used markets.

Skoda Octavia

It's hard to imagine there used to be a time when many people turned their noses up at the Skoda badge but that is not the case anymore.

The Octavia is a fine car. It has a lot of the underpinnings from the Golf so you can expect an excellent engine producing 105bhp and refined road manners.

The boot is big enough in the standard five door model but if you can get an estate then you really are laughing.

Ambition models are most common but Elegance versions are not needles in haystacks either.

Models from 2012 should come in on budget but you will have more choice shopping for low mileage, perhaps better maintained 2011s.

Dacia Duster

This one is a bit of a Marmite car; you either love it or hate it. But whatever your opinion, you can't argue that it's not value for money. There are a few used models finding their way back into the market and at this budget you can buy a practically new one.

It has the same 1.5 diesel engine as the Grand Megane (and Nissan Qashqai for that matter) but in all other areas it is very much a budget end option. Still, out of the box it comes with a three-year warrant that you can extend to five for little enough extra. And it's not a bad old motor to drive either.

There is much talk about whether the residuals will hold up but when a car starts life at such competitive new price, as the Duster does, then it is unlikely to plummet as time goes by. Even if it is only to rule it out, the Duster is worth a look.

Kia cee'd SW (Sportwagon)

Kia started capturing some serious market share by offering seven years' warranty with their new cars. That is all well and good but if the overall package is sub-standard then fat lot of good a long warranty does anybody.

Thankfully for Kia, and for you, the product is solid. The SW, estate, version is the best buy in the cee'd range. It comes at a premium of up to €1,000 above the equivalent hatchback but it will lose little of this extra value over the duration of your ownership so the real total cost is much less.

The 1.6 CRDi engine is not exactly noisy but the cabin is not quite as well insulated as some other cars.

To entice people into the brand, Kia crammed their cars full of goodies so if you find an EX model then you will be treated such as cruise control, a multifunctional steering wheel and Bluetooth.

Don't shy away from an entry level TX model if the mileage and condition stack up.

Peugeot 308 estate

Peugeots have always been big sellers in the countryside. It probably has to do with the excellent diesel engines they have had since the year of Dot. The 308 estate is the one we're plumping for here because of the luggage and lugging ability it offers. Entry level Access models are most common.

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