Monday 18 December 2017

My AdBlue shock; newer car for my promotion; €5,000 budget for a 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'.

Man buying a car in dealership sitting in his new auto; they are shaking hands to close the deal
Man buying a car in dealership sitting in his new auto; they are shaking hands to close the deal

I have had a terrible shock with my Passat diesel because I was not aware it needed this thing called AdBlue. My dealer has been great. In my research I discovered that you have written about this before. But surely my dealer should have told me when I bought the car last year? Have you any advice for people because I got a real shock and thought I was in big trouble. Can dealers not put a sticker or something in the car?

Aidan: You have raised an interesting feature of modern diesel engines and I hope a lot of people benefit from your little scare. I need to be careful when I have only one side of the story but AdBlue is becoming an essential additive and so I would like to think everyone buying a car with it is informed as such.

For those reading this who haven't a clue what I am talking about, AdBlue is an additive used to treat exhaust gases before exiting the car's tailpipe. It is a liquid, has its own special tank and is filled separately to diesel. Basically, AdBlue splits nasty nitrous oxide (NOx) into its harmless individual components; nitrogen and oxygen. With ever-increasing restrictions on the pollution of engines, AdBlue is becoming more popular and necessary for manufacturers to adhere to emissions laws. Just like your fuel gauge, there are systems on board to tell you when you need to refill AdBlue.

When the car runs low on AdBlue you should get an alert and maybe an audible warning or even a warning light. If the car runs out of AdBlue, there is usually a safety feature that prevents the car from being restarted.

From my understanding, because the additive isn't mixed with the fuel (it goes straight from its own tank to a special part of the exhaust), no damage is caused by running out of AdBlue but it's a requirement of the car to run efficiently. Depending on what car you buy, access to the AdBlue filler varies. Some have it right beside the diesel nozzle. Others are in boots etc. You will use way less AdBlue than diesel but your driving affects how much you actually use.

Eddie: I am surprised you weren't informed. That is basic stuff. Sometimes such knowledge is taken for granted. I hope your experience helps to highlight the issue but it does underline the need for buyers to ask as many questions as possible when buying.

It is easy to overlook apparently minor matters - a s you have discovered.

I have just got a promotion with my company and after many years of getting by with my 2002 Opel Corsa petrol, I have decided I want to buy a smart small car. I only travel about 200km a week and I don't always take it to work as I have good public transport service. I have €15,000 to spend. I could spend more but my boyfriend and I are trying to save for an apartment as well. The reason I want a small car is because parking spaces in apartment blocks can be hard to manage. I would love to get your advice please.

Aidan: Congrats on the promotion; €15,000 is a healthy budget but I think you can trim a bit from it and still come away with an excellent car. Every bit saved now can be used towards your new apartment. It's worth repeating that the gaps in prices between different registration plates is quite narrow, and especially for superminis. So you could find that as little as €1,500 is all you will need to climb up another year if you so wish.

Now is a great time to look for a used car as the market is adequately stocked and a new registration period is just about to begin, which will bring a lot of trade-ins to dealerships around the country.

Honestly, I don't think that there is a bad car in this segment. Start with the Mazda2; a great little machine that still looks fresh against newer opposition. You should find a good, low mileage 2011 'Sensu' model for under €10,000.

The Toyota Yaris is a consistently top performing car that holds its value really well and represents cost-effective motoring. The little 1.0-litre engine will be fine for your low mileage and most models from 2010 onwards (there was a change in model in late 2011 for early 2012) came in high-grade Luna trim.

A Dynamique spec Renault Clio or an Active trim Peugeot 208 would suit you too. The Clio is a 1.2 4cyl engine that zips along really well. The 208 also comes with a 1.2 but it was most popular as a 1.0 litre; still a nippy little unit.

The VW Group (VW, SEAT, Skoda) all have high performing models with the Polo, Ibiza and Fabia but your money will go furthest in an Ibiza. It starts life a little cheaper than most others in this class and you could find that a good 131 SE (Special Edition) is within reach for a shade under €11,000.

With a much bigger investment coming down the line for you I firmly advocate you should get a car with a warranty from a dealer. Reducing your risk as much as possible and cutting out unforeseen large expenses is the name of the used-car game. That is true at this and any other budget level so bear it in mind for when you get your next promotion and upgrade further.

Eddie: I'd take a long hard look at the Ford Fiesta; it isn't a big seller for nothing. The Honda Jazz is a great little car too and I'd check the Hyundai i20. There is a lot of choice but I think for you the Fiesta would be the pick of the bunch.

You two give a lot of advice about expensive cars but what about people who have no car and are trying to scrape €5,000 or €6,000 together to get started? I am in my mid-20s and have never had a car of my own. My wages are small and I pay €600 a month to share a house with four other lads. Two of them have a small car and I am trying to save for one because I have to get two buses to work. My company has plenty of parking space. Can you advise me please?

Aidan: We only answer the questions that are posed but I really feel for you.

The cost of motoring for young people is prohibitively expensive and unfortunately it leads to many people using up their hard-earned cash on tax and insurance; leaving them with little to purchase a car.

You want something that will go about its business without asking you to put your hand too deeply into your pocket. It might not be to a younger persons' taste but the Hyundai Getz is a terrific little runner if you can find one in good nick.

In fact, some Deluxe models came with sunroofs. It's got a frugal engine and will run and run.

The same goes for the little Mitsubishi Colt. It's got a 1.1-litre engine and you could find a 2009 model is within reach. They rarely give an ounce of trouble. Just like the previous reader, a SEAT Ibiza is a sound choice. It has always been a steady little machine. The Skoda Fabia driver of old tended to be a bit older and wise enough to know the value of maintaining a car properly.

I am sure Eddie will agree that no matter what you should have a mechanic give the car a thorough going over before you buy. And it's always a good idea for anyone buying a car privately to park a couple of hundred euro aside to give the car a full service; €200 now could save you much more down the road.

Eddie: I would buy a Mitsubishi Colt if I were in your position and could get one. Goes forever and rarely gives trouble. A well-minded Ford Fiesta would fit the bill as well. Nissan Micras last the pace too, though they mightn't be everyone's cup of tea. And if you can get a Mazda2 you'd be doing well because they are so well made; similarly for a Toyota Yaris.

I'm picking cars that may be quite old but have the longevity because my big worry for you is that you buy something that starts to give trouble within a few months and costs you money.

There are so many pitfalls, I seriously recommend you bring a mechanic friend (beg, borrow or steal one if you have to) along to look at any car you are seriously interested in. There are just too many risk factors at this level. Please take great care.

Just to say

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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