Aidan Timmons helps you make the right choice with your 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.
Toyota Auris 1.33 Terra
Background: Depending on your outlook, a petrol Toyota is boringly reliable or just plain boring.
When the motor tax and VRT systems changed in July 2008 it caused a wave of buyers to park their petrol cars in the dealerships and instead opt for diesel alternatives.
However, school runs and children's activities involve stop-start driving and quite a bit of sitting in traffic - two things that Toyota petrols are perfectly comfortable doing.
Engines: This one requires your utmost attention. For €12,000 you should easily buy a 2010 model. However, there are two engines to choose from - a 1.4 and a 1.33. The latter came in August 2010 and has lower motor tax than the 1.4. Don't shy away from the 1.4; just be sure to haggle that bit harder to cover your extra tax costs.
Residual values: The Auris is an A+ student. Petrol cars have come right back into fashion and the Auris and Corolla lead the charge.
The values of petrol cars suffered terribly in the past few years but most of the hurt is over and, at this budget, a petrol Auris will only fall as much as its diesel cousin.
Cabin: If you opt for the more common entry level Terra model you won't be spoilt with creature comforts. Strata and Luna models are better but rarer. The materials used are hard wearing and the seats are comfortable.
It's a child friendly environment that will withstand a thrashing better than some other interiors.
Choice: Unfortunately availability is pretty thin on the ground but you shouldn't have too much difficulty finding a clean Auris from a Toyota dealer who will usually know the history of the car and the previous owner. If you can't find a nice Auris, broaden your search to the Corolla. It's a practical saloon and indistinguishable to drive from the Auris.
Watch out for: Nothing majorly untoward. Try to find a retirees' Auris. These will usually have low mileage and virtually undisturbed interiors. Don't rest on your laurels with Toyota's reputation for reliability. All cars need to be well cared for.
Renault Grand Scenic 1.5 dCi
Background: Keeping with the school theme - it can be difficult to shake a reputation. Rightly or wrongly I still associate certain qualities or attributes to old faces I see. The Grand Scenic is the same. Renaults once had a troublesome reputation and unfortunately that has stuck with the brand. Shame, because the Grand Scenic makes a lovely purchase at this budget.
Engines: Despite the physical size of the Grand Scenic, the 1.5 dCi engine is a capable little unit. It's also fuel efficient and cheap to tax. It's been going for donkeys years and is still the most prominent engine used in Renaults today. It's noisier than some rivals engines, though.
Residual values: This is where you can capitalise on the suffering that Renault has endured in recent years. It's marginally cheaper than some competitors but shouldn't lose any more ground to them.
You will have your work cut out for you to get a 2010 model but persevere if you can as dropping back to a 2009 plate puts you into the older version.
Cabin: Really tasteful, especially in TomTom trim; which as the name suggests, comes with Sat Nav. This will certainly stretch the budget beyond €12,000 and push it closer to €13,000.
Still, even the entry-level Royale model has an uncluttered dash. Lots of flexibility with seating arrangements but boot space is lessened when all seven seats are in use.
Choice: Grand Scenics find their way into many different dealerships but your first port of call should be a Renault garage.
Even if they don't have a suitable one in stock, the chances are that they will know where to find one or they might even have a trade in lined up.
Salespeople love a challenge so ask them to get their thinking caps on.
Watch out for: Renaults window regulators can sometimes be a recurring problem.
The seat folding mechanism takes a bit of getting used to and although you can remove the middle row of seats, they are heavy and cumbersome and don't fold flat.
Opel Insignia 2.0 CDTi SC
Background: The Insignia is widely regarded as one of the most stylish family saloons.
However, it's not all form without function. It's comfortable, spacious and has a brisk 2.0 diesel engine. It fell victim to some rather unfortunate timing as it was launched in the midst of the economic collapse.
Still, availability isn't a major issue but there are some things you need to be aware of.
Engines: The 2.0 CDTi engine is spritely and frugal. It has a variety of power outputs but 130bhp is the most common.
It makes bit more noise than some competitors' engines but it's vastly superior to Opel's 1.7 CDTi engine. It's capable over long journeys, too.
Residual values: The Insignia is popular in the used car market. Imports aren't uncommon but immediately recognisable by the Vauxhall badge.
If you are considering an import be sure to carry out the necessary provenance checks first. Insignias don't necessarily make as strong residuals as market leaders but the differences are negligible.
Cabin: I find the dash a little cluttered but it's perfectly robust and clearly arranged.
Boot space and rear passenger head room is a little impeded by the sloping roofline and tapered rear quarter.
But you will still fit school bags and sports gear in with minimum fuss. The seats are hugely comfortable and withstand a lot of abuse and mileage.
Choice: At this budget you are resigned to the very earliest 2009 models. Opel experienced some niggles with the first batch of Insignias.
Some had leaky boots and others suffered electrically. These problems were ironed out and a service record should show proof of any remedial work having been carried out.
The SC is most popular. The S is the entry level model and is worth less.
Watch out for: The Insignia has always been a firm favourite with rental companies so be sure to check for signs of wear and tear.
It is prone to using front tyres more frequently than other models.
Don't skimp on the cheap compounds, though.