I'm afraid of my next car being repossessed if I do the wrong deal; I need a new micro-mini
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 2002 BMW 318i automatic. I need a new car that is reliable, cheap to tax, has low running costs, is stylish and can accommodate my friend who has limited mobility. I need a good boot for golf too. I've got between €10,000 and €13,000 (max).
Should I buy new or used? Are there any new car deals that might suit me? I am fearful of the car being repossessed if I can't make the repayments.
Aidan: It's going to be tricky to find a used car that ticks all of these boxes; comfortable for your friend, stylish, automatic, low tax, low running costs, not too big and for a maximum of €13,000.
A Toyota Prius would be ideal. But for a clean, low mileage, 2010 or 2011 model you will need to fork out closer to €15,000.
That leaves you with a small loan but a larger one than you might prefer.
Perhaps consider taking a personal loan from a credit union. This way, the car stays in your name.
The Consumer Help website is an excellent resource for the legal implications of using different sources of credit for buying a car.
Familiarise yourself with all of your options before making a decision. The alternative is to use about €5,000 of your budget for a deposit on a new car bought on low interest rate PCP (Personal Contract Plan) and use the remaining €5,000 to pay off the balance on a monthly basis.
This route buys you time. If the monthly repayments work out close to €200 then you essentially have 25 months before you need to pay anything again.
You have two years to save in order to meet the final repayments.
Put the €5,000 into a new account and let it drip feed the payments so that your current account doesn't have a large amount sitting in it, which might otherwise skew your impression of wealth (I have first hand experience of this).
Be very careful about over stretching yourself, though. At the end of the finance term you need to make one of three decisions - buy the car from the bank, give it back (rendering you car-less) or trade it in and continue with your finance repayments.
I have a feeling the latter two are not palatable for you, so this means you have to come up with another lump sum in three years in order to buy the car or refinance the remaining balance.
I reckon stretching yourself today to the tune of another €2,000 and buying a Prius is probably the most prudent option.
Eddie: Great advice on PCPs. Buying new is a major commitment, but you know what?, in addition to Aidan's idea, if you factored in lower road tax and running costs (all new cars are much less expensive in those two areas), you might not be far off the money at all.
But please, I beg you, be absolutely certain you can meet repayments. Get someone to go through it with you in detail. Err on the side of caution but do take tax and running costs into account too.
At the other end of the scale, I have a sneaking suspicion you'd get a decent Nissan Qashqai back the years for that sort of money. It would solve a lot of problems.
Okay it may not be the style icon you are looking for but it is accessible, has a good boot, low running costs and easy to get around in.
I need a small car - not as big as a Fiesta or Polo - to just get around. My boyfriend has a BMW 3-series which we use at weekends but I want something to get me to work (10kms) and have for general use during the week. My budget is €8,000. What would you recommend?
Aidan: I tended to favour superminis over city cars, regardless of the nature of their usage. While my reason for this was primarily motivated by the obvious safety benefits of a bigger car, I also firmly advocate future proofing one's motoring needs.
Should a time come when a city car proves inadequate, a supermini might just tick the right boxes.
However, I have driven a cocktail of city cars recently and I've been smitten by them.
They are not just frugal, zippy, fun and affordable but they are a little bigger (and safer) than the city cars of old.
I quite like the SEAT Mii. €8,000 will buy you a 2012 model.
It has a broadly appealing design. It's not polarising or daring but it is stylish. It has a robust interior too. Skoda and Volkswagen have their variations of the Mii, known respectively as the Citigo and up!
It doesn't matter which one you buy; they are all the same.
They have a 1.0 litre petrol engine with either 65bhp or 75bhp and three or five doors.
I recommend opting for the latter as it exposes you to a wider market once the time comes to sell it or trade it back in with a dealer.
The Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 share the same DNA with one another but each model is now new and so for €8,000 you will have to settle for an old-shape version.
However, this could mean that Toyota, Citroen and Peugeot dealers are trading in their fair share of city cars and so they are probably an eminently sensible first port of call.
Eddie: I'm a big fan of the Kia Picanto, I must say. It's not one to set the world on fire by any means but I just think it is a great little city car; smart and frugal.
If you are looking for something a bit different there is the FIAT 500 which has a a high profile and its own band of followers.
Also worth mentioning that there are a decent number of Ford Kas still out there.
We are going to buy a hatchback to replace our 04 Astra. We are looking to spend €10k to bring us up to 08 or 09. We mainly cover town driving and two hours up to Dublin would be as far as the car would be driven. What would you recommend for this?
Aidan: Since 2009, around 75pc of all new car sales have been diesels.
Extract city cars and superminis from the petrol models' market share and unfortunately you are left with a limited choice of petrol family hatchbacks.
This is a real shame because they actually suit more people than the new car sales figures over the previous six years might suggest.
Nevertheless, the Toyota Auris still sold in relatively moderate numbers and is an excellent place to start.
The 1.4 petrol engine is solid, reliable and frugal. The 1.33 litre engine from August 2010 onwards costs less to tax than its predecessor but you will need to spend quite a bit more in order to bridge the gap between a 2008/2009 model 1.4 and a late registration 2010 1.33 model.
Most Auris models were sold in entry level Terra specification which can feel slightly Spartan compared to rivals from European brands.
If you can find a higher grade Luna spec model with low mileage, then you are onto a winner.
But for €10,000 it is best to concentrate on sound mechanics and low mileage rather than fancy gadgets.
And the potential for finding a really low mileage Auris is quite high as anyone who bought a petrol car in 2009/2010 must have done so based on a firm acknowledgement that they were covering small annual mileage.
The Honda Civic 1.4 petrol is an excellent buy at this price, too.
The interior is a little more modern than that found in many of its competitors and the rear seats perform a wonderful trick of folding upwards in a 'cinema seat' fashion to accommodate large or bulky items.
I find that it is great for trips to the recycling centre or for carrying sports equipment or even pets; 2009 models fall into your budget.
Here's one you don't hear about every day; the Mitsubishi Lancer.
It's not a hatchback but it is roomy, frugal and you can get a 2010 or even a 2011 model for this money. It has a reputation for being virtually indestructible too.
Eddie: I agree with you on the Lancer, Aidan. Goes forever and is vastly underrated.
I think the point Aidan is making is that you don't really need a diesel because of your mileage but your choice is limited because of how diesel has proliferated.
I'd look at a Ford Focus petrol because there should be a decent few of them around. There should be a reasonable array.
The Mazda3 was a stylish car in its day too and is another option though it never quite took off.
Skoda had a good 1.4 petrol in the Octavia (shock, horror I've mentioned it again) and you'd get a choice of VW Golf 1.4 litres petrols too.