Thursday 19 September 2019

Taking back seat; beware balloon payments; Avensis deal; import or not?

Comfortable seats are important in a car
Comfortable seats are important in 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 bestseller 'Clever Car Buying'.

I have been driving a 2011 Astra 1.7 diesel for more than five years. I have loved the solid feel and comfort of it as well as the easy drive it gives on the open road. I do about 15,000km a year, about two-thirds in the Dublin area and the rest on motorways/dual carriageways.

I would like a change but, at the same time, to repeat as far as possible the best features of the current car. In any choice, as we are a couple with some mobility and back issues, quality seats are paramount. I would hope to have about €24,000 overall.

Aidan: Have you considered the new model Astra? The reason you seem to have a fondness for the seats in your own is that Opel invests heavily in the construction of its seats and frequently wins awards from a group of German chiropractors (yes, such an accolade exists). You mention that the Astra is slightly bulky at times. That might be an unavoidable trait and worth trading off against its sure-footedness on the open road.

I strongly encourage you to consider the new Astra with the 1.0 litre turbo petrol engine. It is frugal, feels planted on the road, and is quiet. Motor tax is just €180, too. Go for the SC trim and you will have a very fine car indeed. Once you move into SUVs or even compact SUVs like the Opel Mokka, there is a danger that the seating position might be a bit tall for you.

Look at the Peugeot 2008 with the 1.2 petrol engine as being a lovely compromise on height. I have recommended the 2008 a lot recently and for whatever reason, it always seems like an eminently sensible choice as it straddles the large family hatch/mini SUV segments.

If you want to downsize then the Honda Jazz is worth considering. Great build quality, fresh design, nice seating height and a little bigger than regular superminis. Start with the petrol Astra, though. I reckon it's got everything you need.

Eddie: As someone who has had his share of back trouble over the years, I share your concern about seats. But it also makes my advice simple and clear. Why take a chance on seats in another car NOT suiting you? Don't change for the sake of it.

In both your cases there is too much at stake. Stick with the Astra. There is a good 1.6-litre diesel. At 15,000km you can make a case for diesel. The 1-litre petrol Aidan recommends is excellent but not as frugal.

I'm looking for economic advice on whether to buy a new or used car and really need value for money. I drive an 06 Ford Focus 1.4 petrol which now has 288,000 km on the clock. I spend about €70 a week on petrol as I commute 100km a day and have the children's activities at weekends so I really need to change because of wear and tear etc. But I will have to borrow for the car and don't have much of a deposit. I would need a car for four and would really like an estate but are they worth the extra expense? So value wise, am I better off borrowing HP for a new car with a scrappage deal on my car plus look for a final balloon payment if car dealers still offer this option; or borrow €10,000 for a used car and upgrade again in few years? Also with the sterling value these days is it worth going to the UK to purchase?

Aidan: When it comes to it, will you be able to fund the final balloon payment? If not, then you will have to borrow the amount of the balloon payment and that basically translates into a needing a longer loan term than three years. So, why not look for finance over four or five years? I don't like the balloon payment idea for you.

Scrappage offers are not universal but many big brands are due to offer them in the New Year so you will have some choice if you ultimately decide that this route is your best option. However, I think you would be better off getting what you can for your Focus and buying a Dacia Logan MCV. It is an estate and you will get one with loads of warranty left on it if you buy a one or two year old. It also has a diesel engine, which would benefit you greatly. It's not everyone's cup of tea but you need to prioritise functionality and cost effectiveness and the Logan MCV will do that for you.

As for importing from the UK - yes, imports are on the rise but many people think it is far easier than it actually is. You have got to have your wits about you or you can get stung with a clocked car or costly repair bills.

We often hear of the savings to be made from importing but I can tell you a few horror stories, too. Buy a Dacia from a dealer here and finance it over four to five years.

Eddie: Great idea from Aidan there, though you should know the Logan is fairly basic. But it will get you into a roomy estate. I'd favour an older KIA cee'd SW (estate) to be honest - it will still have a few of its seven-year warranty remaining (you should get an 11-reg in good nick on your budget). Do NOT get into the whole area of balloon payments. Work with what you have as best you can without having a headache waiting for you down the line. Try your credit union for a used-car loan. Make sure you are fully aware of all your loan commitments. Best of luck.

I have a 05 Toyota Avensis 1.6 petrol (400,000 km); offered a trade-in of €2,500 on a Toyota 141 Avensis, 2.0 lit 80,000 km, net cost €18,000. What is your advice?

Aidan: Forget what you are getting for your own car. The only thing you need to determine is whether or not €18,000 sounds like a fair price to come up nine years out of a petrol car and into a diesel with 80,000 kilometres. As a cost to change value, it translates into €2,000 a year. Sounds eminently reasonable to me.

Eddie: On the basis of your current mileage 80,000km is only a warm-up for you. It seems to me you mind your cars well. Technically you are getting little or nothing for your car despite the allowance of €2,500 but €18,000 for a 141-reg isn't bad at all. I sounds fair. Do it.

I am thinking of going up north or to the UK to buy a 2010/2011 BMW 520d. I have looked here and that model comes in at €17k-€20k.

Over in the UK I would pay £10-11k. With the exchange rate the way it is and the VRT costs I am thinking I will save a few thousand. Are many doing this and is it worth it for better spec and value?

Aidan: Cards on the table, I am pro Irish dealers. I research with most of them and I know what volatility does to our market so I tend to advocate buying here. But, this question is valid and timely so let me explain things as I see them.

Funnily, the differences in specification between Irish and UK models are much narrower than they used to be. Optional extras aside, many Irish cars have better spec than UK models with the same or seemingly equivalent badge names. It can catch you out if you don't know what to look for or take the default view that UK cars are always better in every way.

The new 5 Series is coming next year so you will have loads of choice of used ones being traded in. My advice is to sit tight and price around in the new year. Imports are a common characteristic of the Irish market and so dealers here know how to react. Compare like with like (that includes warranty, seller type, mileage etc). Factor in all of your costs of going abroad or up North and make your decision based on a broader range of considerations such as vehicle provenance, convenience, and customer service in the event of problems. Ultimately, if you decide to buy abroad, as is your prerogative, please be careful and go through the proper channels.

Eddie: We're getting a lot of enquiries about imports. I tell people they've got to make the decision that best suits them. There is a risk, of course, and difficulties can arise if something goes wrong. Furthermore the real savings are not always what they are hyped up to be as a recent analysis which we carried in Motors demonstrated. But nearly 60,000 UK imports have been registered here this year - with more than 7,000 last month. So someone somewhere is saving/making money. Factor everything in and wait 'til new year to decide if it's going to be home or away.


WE love getting your enquiries but can't reply to all queries in as full a manner as this 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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