Saturday 24 August 2019

Should I buy a small van? Car for daughter? Why bias against Renault?

Used vans are in short supply.
Used vans are in short supply.

Aidan Timmons and Eddie Cunningham offer the best advice on your queries about what cars, new or used, you should buy.

I know ye don't normally give advice about vans. I have a little business that is beginning to grow and my Corolla is no longer suitable for carrying the stuff around. Should I buy a little van? I don't have much money and I need the Corolla for my partner and two children. Where would I get a secondhand van? I would value your advice.

Aidan: We are more than comfortable giving advice about vans so if there is anyone else out there in a similar position feel free to exercise our brains on the matter.

Used vans are in short supply in dealerships because the commercial market has been woefully under-supplied in recent years. This is no surprise really as the construction trade was arguably the worst hit and van sales fell accordingly. A lot of what has returned to the market is either too fresh for your needs/budget or in fairly knackered condition and not considered saleable at retail level. So, you might have to go the private route.

I always encourage exploring the dealer channels first and advise that you check in with some local dealers in case they have something coming to them. Unlike passenger cars, the van market is still active right the way up until the year's end.

I think a little three-seat cargo van would suit perfectly; something along the lines of the Citroen Berlingo or Peugeot Partner. There are also two-seater versions of both but the extra seat gives you more options with passengers. I should make you aware there are rules for what passengers you can carry so be sure to look them up. I personally think the rules are too restrictive. If you don't mind having a green van with a bit of mileage you could always look for an ex-An Post Kangoo van in a Renault dealership. I also have a soft spot for the Fiat Doblo Cargo because I think it is massively underrated.

The 1.3 diesel engine is surprisingly efficient and capable. You will pay more for a Ford Transit Connect and VW Caddy but they are typically the market leaders.

If this all sounds confusing and you can make do with just one car for family and the business for another while until business growth means you can take the plunge into a newer van, then consider upgrading the Corolla for a family estate.

It will serve your dual home/work purposes for long enough to give you time to strategise your next move. And don't forget, if you are VAT registered and buy a van with a VAT receipt then you can subtract this amount from the sale price. Run everything by your accountant before you do anything and see what other purchases you can write off.

Eddie: As Aidan says there is a shortage of good used vans. I think you'd be better off with a new one. Number-crunch with your accountant and I think you'll see the benefit. Why? Because you'll have peace of mind; you will be able to buy what you need as opposed to what is available but in limited supply. And from listening to experts work out figures on lease deals when you take all factors into consideration, not least fewer worries about repairs etc, the argument stacks up in favour of a new purchase. That puts you in the frame for every marque on the market and Aidan's choices are excellent. Take your time. Work out the net cost and I think you will be surprised. It is a really competitive marketplace.

Hold on to your Corolla for the family work. Horses for courses.

My daughter has returned from abroad and is after getting a nice job down the country even though we live in the west side of Dublin. She is not keen on staying down the country but it is a 60km commute. She needs a car but we don't have a lot of money and she is only starting out. What would she get that would be good for around €10,000 - even that is stretching it?

Aidan: If your daughter's commute is 60km one way then she absolutely needs a diesel car. Even the 60km round-trip, five days a week for around 50 weeks means that she will rack up around 15,000km travelling to and from work alone; and so diesel is probably the preferred choice.

The dilemma here is that she needs something with low mileage so the car is still worth something when the time comes to sell it again. For this reason I suggest you don't make any knee-jerk reactions and buy a car under time duress. Cars bought under pressure can work out being more costly in the long run. Focus your attention on getting a diesel supermini. This in itself will be tricky because superminis sell best as petrol versions but a good place for your daughter to start her search is "down the country". Look for Renault Clio 1.5 diesel. Forget specification. If it is the entry level Expression model but it has low mileage and has been serviced regularly then that is the one to go for. She could sneak into a 2012 model for this money.

She might not find its shape particularly appealing but the Kia Rio diesel is a hidden gem of a small car. The diesel engine practically fills back up when you drive past a petrol station. They are incredibly frugal and brilliantly built so a good one that has been minded should continue to perform well.

An Opel Corsa 1.3 CDTi would make a sensible purchase. The engine is featured throughout the Opel range and so serving and parts should be relatively cheap enough at this stage. I hate to sound like a broken record but ensure that you place greater emphasis on the mileage and condition of the car than the registration plate. Sure, the engine in high mileage cars can still be reliable if they have been properly maintained but other bits, like suspension, bushings and mounts can begin to wear out with age and cost a bit to put right.

Eddie: The more I went back over Aidan's excellent reasoning, the more I formed a different opinion altogether. I think we're into PCP territory here. While the cars Aidan mentions are excellent, your daughter is going to have to wait and still not get the car she probably needs.

You say it will be a struggle to generate €10,000. Let's say you can manage €6,000. That is a more-than-decent deposit on a new car. As Aidan has pointed out your daughter will do 15,000kms just getting to and from work. That will be reflected in the monthly repayments, no doubt about that. But I think it is an avenue worth exploring because she will have a car that is safer for her over the wintry months especially, and better on economy. I suggest you make one foray into your local dealer and see what sort of figures emerge.

I have owned and driven a Renault for the best part of 35 years and I can't say a word against them. Yet I notice you hardly ever recommend one. I would like to ask why. As I have supplied my name, address and phone number you know I am not sending this in on behalf of Renault.

Aidan: The timing of this question is apt as I have just recommended two Renaults in the previous two questions. Even still, this is not the first week we have recommended the French brand. Perhaps you missed the weeks when we recommended the rather excellent Renault Grand Megane. Or the times we offered the Clio as a lovely little urban runaround. I am certain that the Grand Espace has been mentioned on a few occasions, too. Typically, the questions we get come from people driving other brands. That's just reflective of the way the market is divided. And sometimes the best choice for the reader is to stick to what they know.

The relationship people build with their dealer over time is important and should not be underestimated. We are sure you feel the same about your own relationship with your local dealer. We are glad you are enjoying your Renault and we will be happy to advise you about what new Renault you should buy if and when the time comes. And if you fancy a change we can help with that, too.

Eddie: I wouldn't recommend some Renaults of certain vintage. The same goes for some other brands too. Our only concern is to advise buyers on where their hard-earned money is, in our opinions going to get best value. It is as simple as that. And that's that.

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