Friday 17 January 2020

Real price of a car? Passat or change? A car van for my two little dogs?

Ford Fiesta van.
Ford Fiesta van.

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 notice that when some car retailers advertise they show the price clearly at the top of their ad but down at the end of further information showing a list of the goodies they state the price shown is on a cash basis whereas a trade-in price is much higher. I have seen a car advertised at €21,300 and then €1,650 is added to the price. Worse still was an Astra quoting €18,750 and the trade-in price of 20,550 (an increase of €1,800). What do you think?

Aidan: I appreciate this looks odd but there is nothing untoward about it. It is just a little complicated. Cars are unusual in that they are an asset we must manage and sometimes factor into transactions when upgrading. We don't do the same when it comes to upgrading refrigerators, hoovers, bathrooms, floors, sheds, etc. But cars are different. And no two are the same.

Don't be too put out by what looks like a hike for trading a car in. I notice you considered the retail price as a value being added to the cash price. In fact it's the opposite. The cash price is a discount from the retail asking price. Dealers don't expect to sell every car to a cash customer.

To provide for this they might use two values; one being the trade-in retail price and the other a cash price. If you have cash in your pocket then the exchange is simple and clean for the dealer.

If you are trading something in, then the calculation gets trickier as they need to offset the cost of buying your car and selling you theirs. Inherent in this transaction is an element of risk. Plus, they have no idea what is being traded into them off any particular car. Instead of focusing on the retail asking price; everyone should concern themselves with the amount of money they need to spend to buy the new/newer car. In the end, that is really the only number that matters.

Eddie: I used to get quite heated about this and argue against a car having 'two values' if you like. As Aidan has outlined that is not really the case.

Every car on a forecourt is costing money in some shape or form - finance, upkeep, length of time to disposal, possible loss of value at a particular juncture in the prevailing market. So your trade-in will cost. Hence the difference in price. You know what though? I would prefer to deal with an outlet that makes such clear distinction between prices than have someone find out later. At least you know where you stand. I would go so far as to suggest that before you begin detailed discussions with a dealer about a car you should ask to be told about any costs that are not immediately apparent. A good dealer will supply these in clear, and concise fashion.

I am driving a Passat 2.0 TDI, 140bhp Highline automatic, 2007 with 116,000km on clock. Bought new. It is still an excellent car and has been a joy to drive. I am thinking of changing early next year. The new Passat with similar spec to above (possibly 190bhp) would obviously be the natural successor. I know it is an excellent car. But I was also toying with the idea of going for a one or two-year old BMW 5-series 2-litre diesel automatic or similar Jaguar XF. Do you think I would notice much difference in driving and in comfort levels with the more upmarket models over the Passat?

I was also wondering about the possibility of going for a mid-size SUV such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport with the new 2-litre diesel engine or the Hyundai Santa Fe which looks terrific. As you can see I am a bit confused.

Aidan: You say you bought your car brand new back in 2007. So, one way of looking at it is that you have been driving a used car for good while. It might be nice to treat yourself to another new one.

On budget, that might rule out the larger/premium saloons and SUVs but I want to come back to that because there is a slight contradiction in your question.

First, the Passat. The latest model is quite upmarket. You will definitely notice a positive difference in refinement and ride quality. It's got a bigger physical footprint and cabin. A like-for-like specification upgrade from your existing car would put you into a fine machine. The premium for 190bhp over 150bhp is around €3,000.

As for the alternatives, all good choices but you are going to have to spend a bit more. I notice you are looking at a two-year-old BMW 5 Series but considering a brand new 2-litre diesel Discovery Sport. There is little between the cost of these brand new so don't rule out a new 5-Series if you can stretch to it. There is a new model on the horizon so your decision to hold until 2017 will give you time to see how it turns out.

However, if around €50,000 is where you can focus your attention then certainly don't look past the new Mercedes E-Class.

The only way to know for sure whether or not you should buy an SUV is to drive one as extensively as possible. If the height tickles your fancy then you won't fail to be impressed by the 2-litre litre diesel Ingenium engine in the Discovery Sport. The ZF automatic gearbox completes a potent package. Still, I have a suspicion that if you make the leap to around €50,000, the new E-Class will cause you a lot of pause of thought.

If your budget is lower, then I think the new Passat is the way to go.

Eddie: You don't give me any clue that you really need an SUV. I think your heart is with a saloon. As I see it you have loads of choice. But I think you should go for the new Passat. It's not a world-beater on all fronts but it does so well on so many. You say you love your current one. So why move away? Sure the new 5-series is imminent, the new Mercedes E-Class is a quiet revolution in itself; and I'm a serious fan of the new Jaguar XF. But I notice from your mileage you are doing little more than 11,000km. That suggests to me a nicely appointed new Passat (150bhp) is all you need. Sure, we all love to treat ourselves at some stage but who says a new Passat isn't a treat?

I drive an 07 Audi A3 petrol 1.6 108,000km. I do on average 10,000km and am looking to buy a new petrol car van. The only one I have come across is the SEAT Ibiza. I will be taxing private but there is an 8-to-10 week delay.

The salesmen reckon I'd be mad buying petrol. I have driven a SEAT diesel model and am to test drive Hyundai I30 in next few days. Size doesn't matter once my little dogs Rotti, Roxi can stretch out inside.

Aidan: At first, I thought you might find a used 1.4 litre petrol Honda Civic a better alternative to a small van but with the safe restraining of dogs in cars not being my forte, I think a little car van is probably the way to go.

There was some noise a few years ago surrounding dogs having to wear harnesses in cars. It might be worth double checking this. Regardless, the rear seats in the Civic operate in a "cinema-style" fashion (the base folds upwards to the seat back), which is an innovative approach to accommodating precious cargo. Worth a look.

The Ibiza van, as you may already know, has a 1.0 litre MPI engine with 75bhp. If you can make it work for you and think you will hold onto it for a few years then go for it. It's a relatively low-cost way of getting exactly what you want. I can appreciate some dealers' scepticism of the desirability of a small petrol van but SEAT has given the Ibiza a compact petrol engine precisely for people with your requirements.

The Hyundai i30 is bigger and has a diesel engine. I am not sure the premium you will pay for a new one will be recovered over the term of your ownership.

Eddie: Buy the Ibiza petrol car van. I'm more concerned, frankly, that you address the safety of your 'passengers'.

Doing 10,000km a year is ideal for a little petrol but have you, or can you get, the proper protective harnesses for your dogs? I'm sure you are an excellent and careful driver. It is the drivers and circumstances you meet that raise worries. If you have to suddenly brake or swerve at even moderate speed your two doggies are liable to be injured if not restrained in proper fashion.

Double check what you need to safely ferry them around. That, and not the engine, should be your priority.


WE love getting your enquiries but can't reply to them all 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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