Monday 20 May 2019

A €35,000 budget; need a car; old LEAF? Import insult; where next?


Opel Astra
Opel Astra

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'm a 45-year-old single woman. I have a four-year-old MINI. I wish to change to something larger for personal and recreational reasons. I have a budget of €35,000 including trade-in, and I'd like something sporty.

Aidan: Your trade-in is likely to be considered favourably by most dealers of premium marques, but start with your local BMW dealer and enquire about a new 1 Series.

In terms of its suitability for your new requirements and the deal's overall cost effectiveness, it is entirely possible that you won't need to venture any further. The 1-Series has been tastefully and subtly revised throughout its lifecycle, and it's a highly accomplished premium hatchback. Go for an automatic version - the slick gearbox adds to its sportiness.

The Audi A3 is a worthy contender, especially so in S Line trim. You don't specify which fuel type you need, but the A3 has a variety of engine sizes and power outputs to satisfy all demands.

The Mercedes A-Class is being updated this year, and it's one of the pioneers of Mercedes' new, angular design. It looks great.

If you want something on special offer from Mercedes, you will get a good deal on an existing model A-Class right now. Go for Urban specification. Again, petrol or diesel, the world is your oyster.

If you need something even bigger than those, look at the BMW X1.

Eddie: Great choices there from Aidan. They would be my priorities too, but here's a left-field thought: How about a really well-kitted Volkswagen Golf? Okay, it's not as posh as Aidan's suggestions, but it's a great car to drive and they've significantly updated the interior and connectivity. I think it would make a great buy and leave you a few euro over as well.

Another worth thinking about might be the Volvo V40, even though it's a bit dated now.

I have €15k to buy something - I just need a car. My current one, a Fiat, is off the road for months and won't be returning. What would you advise? I need a reliable car because I will be doing 120km a day to work and back; sometimes more, sometimes less.

Aidan: Concentrate on, and prioritise, the following attributes above all others: Diesel, low mileage, warranty.

Anybody covering your mileage is advised to start with an odometer that is far below average. You need a diesel car, so ignore much of the hype that diesel is going to be worthless in a few years.

I work with residual values, and a lot of the negative commentary pervading the fuel type debate is unsubstantiated.

Finally, you need something with warranty because you admit that you are generally dispassionate about cars.

Sometimes that's a good thing because you have a broad selection of cars and can choose the absolutely right car for you rather than compromise because you fancy something that isn't necessarily what you need.

Look for a 2014-plate Toyota Auris 1.4 diesel, a Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi Edition or Style model (Style is newer and there are loads around) or a Hyundai i30.

The i30 isn't setting the used car world alight, so it actually represents an excellent opportunity to buy something keenly priced and with loads of warranty left.

Eddie: I'm going to suggest you buy a Dacia Sandero, and a new one at that. Why? Because you can get a 1.5-litre diesel new for your budget (or as near as makes no difference) and you have no concerns about a major repair bill should something go wrong.

Just think about it, you'd have a new car, a three-year warranty (you can get two more for a couple of hundred euro) and zero mileage to start with. For someone on your mileage, that's important.

If I buy an old Nissan Leaf, what will the situation be as far as battery is concerned? If it packs up, where will I get one and how much? I am told many Leafs have come in from the UK and are cheap. I only do 5km per year, so I am thinking about spending maybe €5,000k on a good fresh one.

Aidan: Battery degradation hasn't been a major concern for Nissan, but I am more concerned that you want a fresh Leaf for just €5,000. I don't think that is feasible.

You sound like an ideal candidate for an EV, but you need to determine if you can afford spending a good bit more and having something that is more likely to last the pace.

Eddie: Maybe with luck you might have got to buy a fresh LEAF last year or the year before for €5k, but things have changed and their residual values have firmed up, I'm told. You will find one, but it won't be as fresh as you might like.

As far as the battery pack is concerned, check what warranty is left. It can be quite costly to buy and have a new/fresher pack fitted.

You always seem reluctant to support people trying to save money by importing cars. Are you in the Irish dealers' pockets? I saved €5,000 on a BMW 5 series. Can you beat that in Ireland?

Aidan: I resent having to defend such a scurrilous accusation, but you've pushed a button so let's dispense with it.

As a country, we imported 95,000 used UK cars last year, and cross-border activity has been a factor of Irish motoring life for years now.

I work with thousands of data points concerning imports and registration figures every month, so I am acutely aware of the viability of the route.

However, not all brands, models or registration plates are 'swimmers'.

The UK is not a panacea for the used cars. Last year, almost 20pc of all imported vehicles showed mileage discrepancies. Basically, they were clocked. And those are the ones that were checked.

That's not a scare tactic, that's simply a fact of the matter. There are pitfalls, but there are also opportunities, and some dealers (not all) import from the UK to plug gaps in stock.

Such is the nature of a free market. It's typically a good thing if it can be properly regulated.

When a reader asks us about imports, I critically examine the appropriateness of that route for each individual person's circumstances.

If I favour buying locally, it is because I am offering my best judgment based on years of experience, much of it unique in the Irish market.

You are one of the 95,000 who bought abroad, and fair play to you. But around 10 times that number of people didn't, and they equally made the right decision for them. I won't apologise or make excuses for being prudent with other people's money.

Eddie: I don't think anyone reports as much on imports as Independent Motors. You're entitled to your opinion, but you've got it all wrong. We're only here for the consumer. Simple as that. Your mud won't stick.

My Opel Astra has been a good servant. It is seven years old and has big mileage. Should I sell separately and buy new, or trade in against a new one?

Aidan: I think you will be better off selling privately and pursuing the best deal possible with cash.

Stock availability has freed up within dealerships, and the used car market is healthily supplied with fresh, average mileage, clean metal. Yours might struggle in that company.

Be as descriptive as possible in your advert and take loads of photos (warts and all) in order to manage buyers' expectations.

If all of that sounds like hassle, then trade the car in. The new Astra is a lovely motor and underrated. The 1.6-litre diesel engine is also quieter than your model (irrespective of whether you have the 1.3 or 1.7-litre version). Get the SC version.

However, since you might have cash, you can look around at other models, too. Perhaps check the Kia cee'd or SEAT Leon as interesting alternatives.

Eddie: I'd trade it in against a fresher Astra. There is a lot of hassle and time-wasting with privately selling.

It might, just might, pay you to try a Ford garage for a newer Focus too, seeing as there's a new one here later this year.

Help us help you

We love getting your enquiries and try to reply to as many as possible here or via email. The ones dealt with here often represent a cross section of individual questions. You can help us help you with our free, independent, advice by including the following in your queries:

* Budget (including trade-in).

* Annual mileage (in kms).

* Size of car required (number of seats).

* Present car (make, model, year and mileage) if relevant.

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