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Bad-road buy? Jump-start risk? Import from UK? 5-seater road tax?


Our simple advice could help you make the right choice when buying your next car

Our simple advice could help you make the right choice when buying your next car

Our simple advice could help you make the right choice when buying your next car

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 am retired and in a position to buy a car. I currently drive a 7-year-old Saab 93, 2-litre turbo (175bhp, bought it new). I adore this car. I live in a rural area with lots of poorly surfaced roads. After driving a friend's Hyundai Santa Fé recently, I realised these vehicles have much more suitable suspensions for roads like this. Also, I found it so much easier to get in and out of than the Saab.

I am thinking of buying either a Land Rover Evoque Sport, Audi Q5 or Volvo XC60. What do you advise? Comfort on bad roads and a zippy performance are the two things that appeal to me. I would spend up to €45,000 in addition to what I'd get for the Saab.

Aidan: Do you mean Discovery Sport instead of Evoque? I drove the Disco Sport for a week recently. I fell utterly in love with it. It had the old 2.2 diesel engine but funnily, with the 9spd ZF automatic gearbox, it was quiet and refined.

The car is spacious, practical, looks great, drives brilliantly and handles corners and bumps competently. The newest ones arriving later this year will have a two litre diesel engine that is supposed to be even more refined. It is always nice to have the newest thing but don't rule out buying an ex-demo 2.2. The auto box is an expensive upgrade at €5,000 but you say you don't need the gizmos so maybe it is best to go for a lower specification and the fancy gearbox.

The Audi Q5 holds its value like nothing else. A new 2-litre quattro SE 190bhp S Tronic is over €50,000. The quality of the interior is lovely. I think the Volvo XC60 is too often overlooked so I am glad you have honed in on it. You will get a lovely two-wheel-drive SE Lux Geartronic for under €50,000. I know you don't need the bits and pieces but at that price you may as well have them. What about the BMW X3? The 18d two wheel drive version came out in 2013 and reduces the price to under €50,000. Don't let that one slip past you.

Eddie: Do you need to spend so much? I notice you mention the Santa Fé. Would you consider that? You'd have a new car and money left over. It has a hell of a lot of room too. Also Honda's CR-V which has just been upgraded and improved. You'll get crisp performance from it too. I completely concur with Aidan's suggestions, I think you might get more car for your money by looking at the likes of those two.

I'm 62 and my children have all moved on and I am in the market for a small economical car. I have a budget of STG£6,000 and am thinking of going to the UK to buy a Renault Megane 1.5 dCi convertible. They typically retail for about £5k with 50k miles, service history and HPI clearance. I'm interested in a 08/09 model (post 08 for road-tax purposes). I do not like the model from late 09 onwards. I believe I will get a higher spec and better quality car over there. I understand I will not have much use for a convertible with our weather but it will be different. I currently drive a 00 Ford Focus 1.8D which is not worth much. I typically drive 14,000 miles a year. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Aidan: Have your wits about you if you go the UK route. I don't want to put you off. It may seem to be the case that everyone who goes across the water gets a bargain. I can tell you from my experience in the motor trade, that such happy stories are not always the case. Before you go, do your homework and factor in the appalling exchange rate, VRT, flights, ferry home, fuel, accommodation, food, fuel, and of course, your time.

If needs be, find a good one in a dealership over there and pay the extra for it. Have you tried asking dealers here for one? Maybe they know of one. It is worth asking anyway. If you don't think you will get the roof down then maybe look for a coupe or fashionable hatchback instead. Something like a MINI Cooper D or a Kia Pro-cee'd. You could also find that the Ford Focus cabriolet comes in on budget.

Eddie: I think you've picked the wrong time to go looking for value across the water with the current strength of sterling. And I'd be concerned about buying a used Renault convertible over there. Sorry, but electrics for the convertible roof etc can give a lot of trouble if you are unlucky enough to be tempted by a 'good value' deal.

If you have your heart set on one, then buy from an Irish dealer and get a decent guarantee. I'd just be concerned by going to the UK on your own you'd be buying somebody else's trouble. Aidan is right on this. You need to be ultra careful with the finance and the car. You are correct in saying you won't get much use for roof-down driving. I just have a bad feeling about this. My blunt message would be: stay home and buy something else. A nice little Mazda MX5 sports car, perhaps?

I drive a 141 Citroen C4 Picasso. I have always carried jump leads in case of emergency. Can jump starting a car damage the computer? If so does the same apply to battery boosters?

Aidan: I have to admit, I have never heard of an ECU (Electronic Control Unit), being fried because of a correct jump start but I suppose if you connect the leads incorrectly (that is, to the wrong poles) you could do the car and yourself some serious damage. The ECU is voltage sensitive so it isn't advisable to send a shock to it.

There are a fair few steps involved in correctly jump starting a car and lots of things that can go wrong. I won't get into them here but your question is an excellent one and anyone who thinks they know how to jump start a car should familiarise themselves with the routine to be absolutely certain.

If you have to consistently jump start a car then it usually means the battery is knackered. Sorry for avoiding a step-by-step process but I don't want to run the risk of being litigated against because I ran out of space. And you would be surprised at just how fidgety the process can be on a cold, wet, and dark December night.

Eddie: I have to tell you that you need to check with your dealer about how to do it properly. This is not a cop-out but the devil is in the detail and not following strict guidelines could wreck your right to a warranty replacement or insurance. Great question. Hope this is of some use.

I am not registered for VAT. Does that mean I can't tax a 5-seater Commercial for €333?

Aidan: My reading of the situation is that you are entitled to tax a qualifying N1 (5-seat commercial) vehicle at the commercial rate of €333 even if you are not VAT registered. You only need to register for VAT if your self-employed income, or the amount of goods and services that you provide, is above a certain threshold. See the excellent 'Citizens Information' website for details on these thresholds and for any documents, which "might" be required when taxing the vehicle.

That answers your question but there are other caveats. Strictly speaking, if a vehicle is taxed under a commercial rate then it is to be used solely for the conveyance of goods and services and should not be used for social, domestic and pleasure purposes. Effectively, this means that you can go the wholesaler to pick up some goods but you can't bring your child to school along the way.

Anyway, the general advice seems to be that if you want to use the car privately, then tax it privately.

However, just to add a sprinkle more confusion, you won't pay private motor tax on the vehicle's CO2, but rather its engine size.

Eddie: The Department of the environment told Motors: "Classification of vehicles are set out by the Revenue Commissioners (http://www.revenue.ie/en/tax/vrt/revised-vehicle-classification.html).

"It is up the individual motor tax office to satisfy themselves that the vehicle will be used for goods purposes only. The form RF111a is completed in respect of goods declaration usage.

"This effectively means that the vehicle cannot under any circumstances be used for social, domestic or pleasure purposes."

Indo Motoring