Wednesday 21 March 2018

Car to take elderly mum? Car-van: new or used? Buy now or wait til July?

A reader requires a car which suits the needs of an elderly mother.
A reader requires a car which suits the needs of an elderly mother.

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 have a Volkswagen Golf but I need something bigger now that my mother has come to live with me. She is elderly and I need to drive her to town and to medical/hospital appointments. Could you suggest something please? As she often has a walking aid I'm thinking of something with a decent boot as well.

Aidan: If you like your Golf and had intended upgrading for another one then take a look at the Golf SV. It's even more practical, stands a bit taller than a regular Golf so it should make entering and alighting much more comfortable for your mother.

There is a lot to be said for familiarity, especially with high-quality products. The current VW price list shows there is a premium for the SV of €1,300 over a regular Golf. If you are financing the car, check what rates are being offered by VW Bank. They are competitive and it might make the difference of quite a few quid every month, which would be a lovely saving considering your fuel costs might go up a tad with the extra driving.

There are some other options. Take look at the Opel Meriva. It's got a clever rear door arrangement that might suit your mother. The rear door hinges are at the back so they open outwards from the B pillar (middle of the car).

It's a great solution for anyone with mobility issues. In effect, the rear aperture is a lot wider than on many other cars with regular doors. There is even a grab rail to hold onto and the seats slide forwards and backwards, which makes manoeuvring in and out easier. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the 1.4 petrol but if you are racking up kilometres then opt for the 1.6 diesel in SC trim. It's listed at €21,745 (excluding metallic paint, delivery).

The Peugeot 2008 is a solid choice, too. Good seat height, great range of engines, lovely interior, loads of practical space, and a bit of a looker too. I don't think it will be too small for you but only you can determine that. If you need something bigger than the Meriva and 2008 you are into the crossover segment.

Be careful the height isn't too lofty for your mother here. It is worth checking out a few of them (Sportage, Tucson, Qashqai, Rav4, Kuga, Tiguan, Kadjar etc). If they turn out to be too high shop around for a Ford C-Max. It's overlooked a lot but it would suit you. Get the 1.5 diesel in Zetec trim and expect to pay mid-20s for a new one.

Eddie: The car that sprang immediately to mind for me was the Ford B-MAX 'people carrier' which, mysteriously, has just not caught on. It has NO pillars at all in the middle, so you can see why I thought of it as being particularly suitable for your mum. I liked the car but obviously not too many agree with me. But I'll stick my neck out and advise you to take a long look at it.

I'm asking about buying a 'car van'. There is only myself so I don't need a car and with a part-time job and small farm to look after a van would come in handy. My old Corolla has been a great asset but it is now nearly 10 years old. What would you advise? I have €15,000 to spend but I'd rather keep it to €12,000.

Aidan: If you are VAT registered then try to creep up the years to a new van. The price differentials between plates in car vans is paltry and the cleaner, lower mileage, better equipped model you can find the better. A new van might work out cheaper in the long run.

The biggest problem you are going to have is with choice. Car-derived vans have sold in relatively small numbers but I think it's worth fixing your gaze on the big players such as the Ford Focus, VW Golf, Toyota Auris, Opel Astra, and Hyundai i-pro.

Start with the Auris; the 1.4 D4D engine is a peach and frugal. With €12,000-€15,000, I'd expect to see you in a newer shape 2013 model. I would love to give you a firmer indication of the age of the van you should expect for this money but throughout my research, I hear lots of different values in this segment. It's all down to condition and mileage.

A tired van is worthless. A stellar one is priceless.

I seriously advocate paying premium money for a top class van. It will stand to you.

The Focus van can do no wrong. It's a no-brainer option. Get in, turn the key, and drive it on. Great chassis, too. The Hyundai i-pro is a stylish van if that's your sort of thing. There was also, on and off, a five-door station wagon version if you want even more space. The regular passenger car Golf is hard to beat and the commercial version is no different. The quality of car vans is excellent, finding a clean one is the tricky part.

Eddie: Whatever about buying a used car, buying a used van is a really tricky undertaking so I have no difficulty in urging you to consider buying a new one if you can. I'm stating the obvious when I say a used van has, most likely, slogged it out for its previous owner. You may inherit something that was perfectly well minded or given dog's abuse. It's a lot to gamble €15,000 on. You deserve better. Buy new if you can, please.

Am I right in saying I'd be better off waiting until July now that the first three months of the year have nearly gone? I've not decided yet between the Lexus GS, BMW 5-series, Audi A6 or Mercedes E-Class as I intend this to last me a long time. I currently drive a seven-year-old C-Class but I am semi-retired and my wife and I have always wanted a bigger car even though the family is up and gone. It would be nice to have the extra space for the grandchildren and for our own comfort. I have €50,000 to spend.

Aidan: You raise an interesting topic that continues to prompt different reactions within the motor trade. That is: what is the cut-off point when buying a first-half of the year registration plate? It's a contentious one.

Ordinarily, at this time I still advocate for a 161. I am not convinced that there is sufficient financial benefits to be gained by waiting to buy a new car from now until July.

I study values constantly and even I find it tough to differentiate on plate for anything other than odometer readings. Sure, there are exceptions when it comes to better equipment between two similar models on different plates but those instances are rare.

In your specific circumstance, I think you should wait but only because there is a brand new Mercedes E-Class on the horizon and I am unsure what delivery will be like. I've not driven it yet but Eddie has (last week) and his verdict has been it could be a game-changer for Mercedes.

What I have driven plenty of are Audi A6s. I reckon I know my onions when it comes to equipping one just right. For me, I would have the 2.0 TDi 190 S'Tronic SE Business or S Line (with SE suspension) and quattro (four wheel drive). The list price is €54,200. I can't argue that quattro might not retain a huge amount of its €2,700 premium but it won't lose it all either. And there is something reassuring about quattro.

If you disagree, then spend the money on other items from the optional extras list. The S'Tronic gearbox is slick, though. One of the best around.

The BMW 5-Series is always a solid choice so I won't labour on it. The Lexus GS is an interesting choice. Hybrid technology suits far more people than the sales figures suggest. At the very least, take one for a spin. It's nigh-on impossible to figure out if a hybrid is for you by staring at the numbers on paper because no matter how hard you look at it, a large petrol engine will never look frugal in black and white. See if a dealer will give you one for a long spin one afternoon.

Eddie: I'd wait. Simply because you are restricting your choice if you don't. The E-Class is due to arrive in April. It's a big improvement. So why would you cut it out of the equation? Even if you don't like it or buy it, you will know you'd sampled all choices. We will also - probably - know a bit more about the new 5-series by then too (it will roll out later in the year) so maybe you might hold off until next year, never mind July. The new A6 is due in 2017 as well. However, if you have made your mind up to buy this year, I suggest you wait until July. I like the GS. Underrated. But I would add the new Jaguar XF to the menu too.


We love getting your enquiries but can't reply to all of them in as full a manner as we'd like due to time and space restraints. We try to deal with as many as possible via email. But you can help us help you if you make sure to include the following critical elements in your query:

* Total budget.

* Annual mileage.

* Size of car required (number of seats).

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

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