Tuesday 24 October 2017

Stick or twist with Clio? Best estate for family? Why PCP thumbs-down?

One reader is looking for a large saloon or estate car for his family (stock photo).
One reader is looking for a large saloon or estate car for his family (stock photo).

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 12-year-old Renault Clio. I have no choice but to spend €500/€600 on gearbox and clutch work. It passed its NCT last summer but I am wondering if it is going to cost me too much to keep it on the road. As I don't earn a lot I can't afford to buy anything over €6,000 - and I would have to get a loan to make up that amount. I'd really appreciate any guidance you can offer.

Aidan: Clutches, and to a lesser extent gearboxes, are wear-and-tear items, so this type of repair bill is not uncommon in 12-year-old cars, especially if they have been driven a fair bit. Here are some options worth putting on the table.

You will need to upgrade sooner or later so you might entertain the idea of selling the car with a disclaimer that there is work needing to be done to it. That will mean a short-term hit in your pocket but reduces the risk of further pain down the road. Advertise it online and see what interest there is.

Alternatively, you could put the money into the car and see how long you get out of it. You could easily get another 12 months of trouble-free driving. And it won't depreciate by a lot in that time.

My main concern, is that you will begin needing things, like front brake discs and pads and suspension parts, with the repair bill outstripping the total value of your car.

The difficulty is that with €6,000 to spend you are never entirely immune from inheriting problems from previous owners.

So, make sure that if you buy something now you get it from a dealer who will give you a decent warranty and show you a full, clean bill of health with a well documented service record.

There is nothing wrong with upgrading to another Clio, they are great little machines. I just happen to like small Japanese cars at this budget. Something like a Toyota Yaris or Mazda 2. If you can, hold out for one with low mileage, even if it means buying one that is a year or two older than what your budget seems to afford you. If you don't mind having a 1.4 petrol engine, then the old Kia Rio is a good choice because it is virtually bullet proof.

Eddie: I know of several younger people who face a similar dilemma. I'd gamble for another year or 18 months with it in the hope nothing expensive breaks down. The reason I would do so, is that you may be able to save a few euro to turn that €6,000 into €8,000 or €10,000 with a bit of luck. That will put you into a different category of car you can buy and get you onto a higher level of change. I think by then there will be a bigger selection of better used cars. Your Clio is not going to command a lot of money now or then but you'll get a bit more for it as a trade-in if the gearbox is in tip-top condition.

We have just returned from Australia and are looking to buy a family car with plenty of room for ourselves and our two children (aged 9 and 12). We see a lot of SUVs and, what you call, crossovers but we would prefer a large saloon or estate. We have a budget of €30,000. We've looked at most of the 'candidates' but would like to get your verdict as we intend keeping the car for at least five years.

Aidan: I think an estate would suit your needs perfectly but with two children you might find a crossover represents better value for money considering the strength of their residual values. Don't rule them out entirely.

Estates have been getting more interest recently so there should be a healthy mix of new and freshly used models. Start with Skoda. The Octavia Combi is a great choice and potentially is as substantial a car as you will need with two children. Since you've been in Australia, Skoda has shot to prominence in Ireland.

You will understand why when you drive an Octavia Combi. If you prefer something bigger, then stick with Skoda but opt for a Superb. I can't see you outgrowing that in a hurry. Both have the same 1.6 or 2.0 litre diesel engines. My preference is the 2.0 TDi with the automatic DSG gearbox but that bumps the price up quite a bit. Keep your eyes peeled for the last of the old shape Superb in Elegance specification.

Having come from Australia, you probably saw quite a few Mazda6 Tourers on the roads. The 2.2 diesel engine is sprightly but refined. Interior space is generous and specification levels are usually healthy. Try to find a Platinum model. The latest Mondeo is worth a close look, too. It looks good, has loads of room, and it is priced well. Same goes for the VW Passat. There is something about it that feels slightly more upmarket than some other models. Perhaps it's the interior and its noise suppression.

I know I am listing a few models but I think the standard in this range is incredibly high, to the point that I couldn't legitimately argue against the decision to buy one over the other. So how about one more? Peugeot's 508SW is a humdinger. Get the 1.6 or 2.0 litre diesel with manual transmission in Allure spec and rest assured you have a fine machine. I drove one for a week from Dublin to Galway and around Leinster, using it to work and play a few rounds of golf. I bombarded it with equipment and launched it down motorways, back roads and around town and it never once flinched.

Eddie: Not much to add there except, perhaps, to note that there isn't the same sort of used-car market for estates as there is for saloons, hatchbacks and crossovers. I'm not saying they are better or worse; just not likely to be as many customers. And we still think of them as load luggers that have been pounding around the country absorbing all sorts of hardship. That's not the case but it can affect perception of used estates. My blunt suggestion to you is: go get yourself into a Nissan Qashqai or something of that ilk and you'll be every bit as well off.

You two talk a lot about PCPs and how easy it is to get credit but I haven't found that. I was nearly laughed at by a salesman in a big country dealership recently. He told me PCPs were for people who do 15,000km to 20,000km a year. He told me after (level of mileage) that the repayments get heavy and I couldn't afford it. My credit union gave me the money and I bought elsewhere. So don't go shoving PCPs down our necks. They are not the answer.

Aidan: I am aware that "when you are explaining, you are losing" but in case anyone reading this page for the first time is under the impression that we force-feed our readers with misleading financial advice, let me state it plainly that such an assertion is utter rubbish.

Eddie and I consistently express the need to fully investigate the terms and conditions of every finance deal and to assess each deal in the context of every buyer's circumstances. In fact, I advised a reader as such two weeks ago. We know that PCP means Personal Contract Plan. The 'Personal' part never strays from our conscience. When we receive an enquiry about financing cars, we would be utterly remiss not to mention PCPs as an option worth considering if the circumstances sound right.

This is especially true when the reader regularly upgrades their car every three years or so; or is thinking of buying an Audi. Audi's PCP penetration accounts for circa 80pc of all of its new car deals. That's a lot of cars sold through, and a lot of people qualifying for, PCP. You fell into the 20pc of those who either don't qualify or prefer to finance/purchase the car some other way; as is your and every buyer's right.

However, PCPs are typically offered with lower APR, resulting in lower monthly repayments. Not that it hasn't already been stated on these pages before but for the record; PCP works for some, but not for others. Always read the terms and conditions and familiarise yourself with the end of loan term options. Investigate every finance offering thoroughly. But most importantly, spend your money as you see fit.

Eddie: I think you are disappointed because someone told you a finance deal wasn't suitable for you. I agree completely with Aidan. PCPs don't suit everyone and you are one of those. I'm glad your credit union took care of you and we wish you safe driving. You have helped us highlight, once again, why people need to be careful when looking, or signing up, for finance deals.

Indo Motoring

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