Car-value expert Gillian Keogh teams up with Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham to help you make the right choice with your next purchase. Gillian is Editor of a monthly guidebook on the values of used cars produced by the Motor Trade Publishers team. The team supplies a car-valuing service to the motor trade, insurance companies and finance houses.
Q My Skoda Octavia is nearly three years old and I'm considering changing. I have a grown-up independent family. My husband has his own car and I'm based primarily in one location. I'm thinking of downsizing and I'd like to go as 'green' as possible. Of course, value for money is important. Your advice?
Gillian: Downsizing would mean going with a Fiesta, Yaris, Corsa; and you are looking at a low CO2 figure.
The Yaris comes as a hybrid too so that might be the way forward. You could also go electric. The compact Renault Zoe is an option. I'd go for the Yaris. It's a new model; prices start at €20,070 and will hold value well.
If you wanted to stick with Skoda, the Fabia is an option. It's not hybrid but its CO2 figure isn't far off the Yaris. New prices start below the Yaris hybrid.
Eddie: I must say a Toyota Yaris hybrid came straight to mind. Gillian has trawled other excellent options. I would add the Nissan Leaf electric car too - bit bigger than the Zoe but not as roomy as your Octavia. Final answer: Yaris hybrid.
Q Which is the better value in secondhand 4x4s/SUVs - three years old or five years old?
Gillian and Eddie: This is a tricky but brilliant question. A five-year-old is obviously cheaper but does that make it value for money?
Being older will most likely mean out of warranty and more miles up so it might need more maintenance.
But cars are built to last now and that wouldn't be a major concern for a five-year-old. How long do you plan to keep it, how much driving you will do and how much money do you have to spend?
Cars depreciate most in the first couple of years. The drop between years three and five are pretty similar and then start to ease after that.
You could find a low-mileage five-year-old with high spec a better choice than a high-mileage, standard spec three-year-old. Our advice is: find the car that's right for your budget now without overstretching, make sure it has mileage corresponding to its age, buy from a reputable dealer, get a warranty and do a history check.
Q I have a 131-reg SEAT Leon FR 2.0 diesel (I love it) but it has a heater problem likely to cost up to €1,000 to fix. I had intended getting a new car next year but would I be better advised to trade in "as is" now rather than pay so much to keep it going for another six months or so. My budget is up to €30k. I'd be looking for another five-door hatch as that suits our needs best (definitely no SUVs). I suppose electric or hybrid would be one way to go but none of the ones I've seen reviewed seem to offer anything like the kind of performance I'm used to. I'm inclined to another Leon or the Mazda3.
Gillian: My advice is to put it on the net and see if you have any takers for what you think it's worth. I can only see this type of stuff suffering more in terms of the number interested in buying it. If there are no takers, I would trade it in "as is" and upgrade. It will eat into some of your budget but you can afford to do that a little to cover your losses. The new Mazda3 is a good choice. It comes as a 2-litre mild hybrid or 1.8 diesel. Take it for a spin.
Eddie: A new Leon is a lower-cost option especially as I feel you will be trading in 'as is' with a SEAT dealership. If you get lucky and dispose of your car privately, then I would still try a Leon but extend your search to include the new Mazda3 diesel and, certainly, the Honda Civic 1.6-litre diesel.
Q I've been searching for a used Skoda Yeti. I had one before and liked it. As they are in short supply in Ireland I have been checking UK prices. I located a 2014 model through a UK main dealer, with all of the specification I want: one owner, low mileage. After paying VRT etc it will cost me £1,500 less than I'd pay here for an inferior model.
I note you have been rather negative on people buying imports, but in this case would you advise me to proceed?
Gillian: You've done lots of homework. That's what you need when buying especially from the UK. If you buy the import, you will lose out on being able to drop back into the dealer if a window won't close or a there is a "funny noise" etc.
For some the £1,500 saving would not be worth the absence of that sort of peace of mind. But if you're happy with your deal, then go for it.
Eddie: You could approach a dealer (or dealers) here who import cars and put your proposition to them. If they can get you something comparable for good money I'd be prepared to sacrifice €500/€1,000 for peace of mind.
It that doesn't work, and providing you carry out all the history checks, go buy it.
Q Eddie has been rattling on about it being a good time to buy a good used car because dealers want to shift them. But would I not be better waiting until January? I have a Ford Focus diesel 2014 and will go the same way again for a 17-reg.
Gillian: Eddie doesn't rattle on (much) but I do have to agree with him. We are in the second half of a slow year so there are deals to be done. If you want to change now I would advise shopping around for the exact model you want. You are not in any hurry so you have the luxury of waiting for the right next car. You also have a great car to trade in. You can, of course, wait until the New Year. But if you have itchy feet you should save some euro now.
Eddie: There are deals out there and footfall is low so you can still do well, I believe.