Sunday 25 March 2018

How investing in a €5,000 'car for college' can be a good alternative to sky-high rents

Buying a car is a good alternative to renting near college
Buying a car is a good alternative to renting near college
Investing in a car for college could save you a fortune on rent

Eddie Cunningham and Aidan Timmons

Or maybe you should consider doing a €150-a-month PCP deal on a new small car? We examine the money-saving options - and pick the cars to go for.

Used car options

Rents are high, public transport is costly, money is tight and part-time work dictates you need a car.

These are the realities for thousands of students starting their college life this year.

They are also of concern to parents who, inevitably, have to foot some, if not all, of the bills associated with third-level education.

So we thought it would be a good idea to help students and parents pick a car for under €5,000 that would allow you to:

* Commute from home - cutting out savage rents and high bus/rail fares.

* Give you a better choice and chance of part-time work. A recent study found that students are not getting jobs because they can't drive, or don't have a car or driving licence.

* And maybe get some return on your money by giving a lift to others in return for sharing the motoring expenses.

It goes without saying that ownership of an older car, as inevitably our choices will be on a €5,000 budget, demands care and attention and completely rules out consumption of alcohol while in charge of a car.

We also suggest you do the following to get an idea of what cars are out there and what they are costing:

* Check the newspapers and their websites

* Check online car sale sites

* Check local garages.

So here we go, in no particular order, with what we think would suit you:

Hyundai Getz

It might not ooze street cred but it has a reliable 1.1 litre petrol engine and came mainly as a 5dr hatch, so there's no need to hop out and pull the front seat forward for rear passengers. Lots of models came in Deluxe specification which added a sun roof; 2009 models should come in on budget. Not the roomiest but it will do the business.

Ford KA

There was a change in model in December 2008 and the styling of the revised version has held up pretty well. It is Spartan inside but the 1.2 engine is good and 2009/2010 models are easily within reach. The KA only has three doors but is perfect for squeezing into tight college car park spaces and zipping around campus. Pity it only has three doors; it would be great with five.

Mitsubishi Colt

Like the Getz, the Colt has a 1.1 litre petrol engine. Good ones can fetch big money so with this budget, expect to shop around the 2007/2008 registration plate mark. Stories of unreliability are unheard of with small Mitsubishis so nasty surprises should be kept to a minimum. Five-door models are more readily available and the interior is still quite modern. This is one of those cars you can realistically expect to sell on, when you have your degree, and still get a good few euro for it. It's a big favourite of ours.

Toyota Yaris

You will have to settle for the last of the old-shape 2005 models, but who cares? It's a Toyota and it will go forever. We know of one which was bought new in 1999 and is still going strong after enduring learner drivers, children, grandchildren, mucky football boots, spilled fizzy drinks and some patchy service history. Cheap to run, cheap to maintain and will get lapped up if well minded when the time comes to sell it. Be careful with Japanese import models, known as Vitz, as insurance premiums might be higher.

SEAT Ibiza

Ibizas are excellent but they can be pricey. A 2007 model is probably the youngest achievable at this budget. Like the Yaris, well-minded Ibizas can fetch a really good price. Some Costa models came with sun roofs, a multi-functional steering wheel, and a corker of a 1.2 petrol engine. This one is for someone who might have a bit of motorway driving on their route. It's a little more substantial than some of the others. Don't get carried away with the extras; try to get one with low mileage for the same money.

Opel Corsa

With €5,000 you might just sneak into one of the first of the 2007 models. The 2006 old model is fine but the styling difference between the two is like night and day. A little 1.0 litre Club model would be ideal. Opel tends to build solid cars and while the odd niggle sneaks into the range, the Corsa is virtually trouble free. Some young lads might consider a few of the previous options to be too 'girlie' but a Corsa is universally acceptable. Anyway, if you are a parent you are probably thinking "they'll take what they're given". Like with all cars, have someone give it a good checking over, especially the boot area.

VW Polo/Ford Fiesta

Let's lump these two together because they are probably the most immediately recognisable options at this budget and their reputations tend to precede them. The Polo is a firm favourite with many Irish households. The build quality of VWs is typically the outstanding feature that sways buyers' decisions. The Fiesta is just a cracking little car. End of story. You won't go wrong with either but you will pay a decent price for good ones. Neither interior is sparkling so be prepared for functionality - not a bad complaint considering what you are looking for.

Nissan Micra

Don't knock it. These cars go forever. Just look at the numbers on the road. Great little engine and the 5dr is far roomier than you'd think. Always worth a look.

Renault Clio

Smart car with a bit of driving verve and touch of style in the interior. Peppy little driver too.


Vastly underrated small car with the engineering to keep it going when others will have thrown in the towel. Not that great a choice, however.

Peugeot 207

Popular with young people - as is the 206. You get a lot of car, plenty of room, nice engines and there should be decent choice out there.

Skoda Fabia

Can't have a list without this. One of the best-value little cars out there and in demand. Bigger than most of the others, it could fit your bill if you are going to carry a passenger or two.

PCP options

ON the face of it, the prospect of driving a new car to college when you can hardly afford a fresh pair of jeans appears ludicrous.

We thought the same thing until we began to look a bit more closely at the bottom line of a Personal Contract Plan (PCP).

After doing some homework on it, we've changed our minds and reckon this route could help some of you. Here's why.

With a Personal Contract Plan (PCP) you don't own the car (well you can eventually, but that's for another day). You get to lease it, for so much a month.

First off, you could use your €5,000 (or less) as a deposit and then pay from €150/€175-a-month or so in repayments.

Compared with an older car you will save on fuel and benefit from a far higher degree of safety because of the giant strides in that area in recent years.

And if anything goes wrong, the car is under warranty for three years in many cases.

A lot of manufacturers provide three-year servicing packs as part of the package too.

One of the options at the end of the three-year PCP deal is disposal.

Essentially, you hand the car back and the world is your oyster.

Or you can choose to buy it for a pre-determined amount or use the equity in it to do another three-year deal.

Or, with your primary degree under your arm you can start dreaming of Beemers and Mercs.

And we will be just as happy to answer your questions then, too.

Here's some of the smaller cars worth considering if you decide to go down the PCP route: Volkswagen up! Hyundai i10, Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 108, Citroen C1, SEAT Mii, SKODA Citigo etc, Kia Picanto, Fiat Panda, Opel KARL, Mitsubishi Space Star.

Do's and don'ts of buying

It is imperative you get the car you are thinking of buying thoroughly and professionally checked over.

Try to speak with the former owner(s) if possible. Should there be any hesitancy on this from the current seller, you are entitled to feel suspicious. Walk away.

Buy from a reputable dealer in your area if at all possible. Proximity brings accountability.

Pay more heed to a well-minded, low-mileage car than the registration plate.

Get a six-month warranty - even if it means paying a little more. You don't want your first winter at third-level ruined by breakdowns and costly repairs.

Shop around extensively for insurance. Premiums are rising substantially and there is little sign of them reducing so it is a bullet you might as well bite now as later. There is no doubt insurance will be a big cost factor for you.

Make sure you can legally drive on your own (have an N-plate).

Never, ever carry more passengers than the number of seatbelts provided. No matter how 'stuck' a pal is do not succumb to carrying anyone without being belted up.

Be especially careful driving at night/in the early hours. That is a killer time for many people.

If you are going to a party and if you are likely to have a drink LEAVE the car. Do NOT drink and drive under any circumstances.

Enjoy your car

Indo Motoring

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