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 need a 7-seater people carrier but I cannot afford to buy it new. I have around €8,000 to spend. I know it is a small budget but that is why I am turning to you to see if you can help. I don't need seven seats all the time. Indeed five will be ok most of the time but I need the option of seven.
I won't be doing big mileage so a small petrol engine would do. Your advice please?
Aidan: Revisit your need for a 7-seat MPV to make absolutely certain you require one.
If you do then start with the Toyota Corolla Verso. Before diesel ruled the roost, the Corolla Verso sold healthily as a 1.6 petrol. The engine is solid and almost all models came as high grade Luna versions so you can look forward to a fashionable silver dash, steering wheel controls and alloy wheels. However, best of all is that a good one should drive like a much newer car and hold its value well.
The motor tax is a little saucy on the Mazda5 1.8 petrol but the engine is tough as old boots, so what you spend in tax you could save on repair bills.
The Mazda5 has sliding rear doors; a surprisingly rare attribute in MPVs. You should find some 2008s within reach. The Citroen C4 Grand Picasso is a firm favourite for MPV buyers but be careful with high mileage diesels and always look for a service record.
Eddie: Bigger options might include a SEAT Alhambra. It is an excellent machine, vastly underrated and the price was always competitive.
It's a cousin of the Ford Galaxy or Volkswagen Sharan. They might be large but they are real options if you need room. I know the smaller Ford S-MAX is popular too. I'd also scour around for a well-kept KIA Carens. It's a bit big and boring and pre-dates the seven-year warranty, I'd say at that money, but it has the room and the seats. Good diesel and there should be a few around.
Also have a look around for a clean Chrysler Voyager. The problem is at your budget road tax could be heavy regardless of whether you go petrol or diesel.
I am going to buy a new car. I have my mind made up it will be a Mazda3. I will do 12,000km a year. I do not want to do one of those PCPs and can get a good deal from my credit union. I have two questions. Am I crazy paying more interest to the credit union? And what will the Mazda3 be worth in three years time?
Aidan: PCP is a great finance tool for customers who regularly change their cars. Low cost of credit is just one benefit.
The ability to engage in seamless trade-in transactions that are essentially pre-determined is another. Always owning a car in warranty also holds its sway.
As one shrewd dealer told me, you can always opt to buy the car once the finance term comes to an end. And what better used car to buy than the one you have owned from brand new? The one that you know inside and out. Slam dunk in favour of PCP, right? Well, not really. If you are heading into the deal with a large deposit (in excess of 30pc), then you might find a regular loan performs better for you.
Everyone is different. Do the maths and determine whether you are likely to trade the car in after three years under normal conditions.
As for future values; well the guaranteed future value provided by the dealer/lender should be positioned sensibly enough to allow you enough equity to roll into a new deal after the term has ended without having to put your hand in your pocket or increase your repayments. That is in an ideal world. Nice choice with the Mazda3, though.
Eddie: The one drawback, if I can call it that, with a PCP is that your deposit becomes subsumed into the deal and you never really get it back.
For many that means permanent use rather than ownership of a car. If you can get a good deal from your credit union why not try to see if you can get an even better one?
It's a competitive lending environment out there now and they may respond favourably when you show them the alternative business you can do. My head and heart say, in your case, go the credit union route. Make absolutely certain you can meet those repayments. On the value of your Mazda3 after three years - impossible to say but if you own it and are trading in expect a ballpark figure of 50pc of its new price if well minded with decent mileage.
I am a female in my seventies with painful arthritis in my knees so I need a high-ish seat to make it easy to get in and out. I am driving a Kia Rio which I bought new in 2005 and my mileage is 16,600. I really only need a smallish car. I got this car new and changed from a stick shift to an automatic, which helps with the knee problem so I would like an automatic again this time. You can see my mileage is low; this is because my husband has a bigger car and when we go out together we use his. My budget is approximately €15,000 to €16,000. I would like a five-seater. I would like one with air con as I have this in my present one. I liked the Kia and wouldn't have a problem getting another one except for the seat height.
Aidan: A 2005 Kia Rio with 16,600 on the clock! First things first, don't buy a diesel.
It's such a shame your arthritis impacts on your comfort in the Rio because in all other respects it is ideal for you.
I hesitate recommending a new car to you because it seems like a huge outlay for such small mileage.
Nevertheless, you need to be comfortable and mobile so try the Kia Venga. Automatic transmission is only available in the 1.6 petrol version. Enquire with Kia dealers to see if they can source a used one for you.
There should be a few automatic Skoda Roomsters about the place. It should suit you. You could look at a 1.2 petrol Peugeot 2008 also. However, as with the Kia, automatics will be rare unless you decide to buy new.
Eddie: I wonder would a little fairly-new Honda Jazz suit you? It's a nice height, has good room and is so easy to drive. Same goes for the Toyota Yaris. Both have excellent petrol engines and there are automatic versions around.
I'm trying to keep options focused for you but I think the Hyundai ix20 and the Mitsubishi Colt might fit the bill for you as well.
Can you give me a straight answer? Should I buy a new Dacia Duster or a second-hand Toyota Avensis? I have the choice and I'm not sure. I'm selling my old Ford Mondeo separately. I have about €15,000 of a budget and do 14,000km a year.
Aidan: Straight answer; I don't know, but €15,000 won't buy you a new Duster.
The entry-level Alternative model costs €16,190 ex works. Dealers are pinned to their collars with the prices as there is virtually no margin for them so the price advertised is often the best they can do.
Still, the Duster represents value for money. You get a brand new car made from some of the good bits from Renaults and Nissans and some other bits unique to Dacia for the price of a 2011/2012 Avensis. But does that make it better? I'm not sure. Take both for a spin and see which you prefer.
The new Avensis has just arrived so keep your eyes peeled for loads of nice trade-ins.
Eddie: As Aidan says you'll have to stretch to €17,000 or so for a new Duster. It is an awkward comparison with the Avensis to be honest because each brings something totally different to the table.
I've just driven the newest Avensis and it really does put the old one in the shade big time. The Duster, in contrast, is 'new' (providing you can manage the €17,000 - be careful don't overstretch), you get a three-year warranty (five if you cough up a few extra euro) and it isn't half bad to drive.
The Avensis may hold its value better and has lots more rear room, but the new one has dated the old one a fair bit. The practical Duster is a good price but if you can't reach it the question is academic. But I think I'd be tempted. There's something about a new car.