Monday 23 April 2018

To import or not? Car for a 25-year-old? Best car for my return to driving?

There are a lot of factors to consider when buying a car.
There are a lot of factors to consider when buying 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 valuation service to the motor trade, insurance companies and finance houses. Eddie is the author of best-selling book 'Clever Car Buying'.

I was going to buy a car of three years of age but I'm hearing about cheaper imports and think I might go that way now. I am looking for a three or four-year-old Audi A4 or Volkswagen Passat, something fairly big and strong because I cover about 20,000km a year. What would you advise? Or should I wait and see? I was thinking of buying this month.

Aidan: This is the first of what I suspect will be a wave of questions on imports. Once Sterling weakens, we tend to see a shift in attitudes towards privately importing cars. With a weaker Sterling, we buy younger cars and the data I receive on a consistent basis supports this. Values and availability in the UK also play their role in determining the cost too. I work in the residual-value market with dealers and I know first-hand the damage that can be done when large volumes of cheap imports come in. I equally appreciate that none of this is your concern but I encourage you to wait a while and see what happens.

Dealers here have to react to changes in prices and if the savings for imports are significant enough then you will see them being changed here too. If you decide to go across the border or the water, then have your wits about you. Ireland has become a dumping ground for UK write-offs. Eddie has consistently highlighted this. Buying in a UK auction requires skill and knowledge. Buying from a main dealer is better. And factor in all of your costs such as flights, fuel, accommodation (if needed), hire car or train, the boat back, VRT, NCT; all of that stuff.

Eddie: We often forget that several excellent dealerships and garages bring in imports, stand over them, guarantee them and are there when you need them. That would be my preferred route if you have a mind to buy an 'import'. I'm just concerned that, as Aidan has said, you could find yourself trying to get across the water, check out cars, pay transport, VRT etc and end up with something below par.

On a personal level, I'd be cautious. Obviously lots of people are going that route. There is a forecast of 60,000 imports this year so someone, somewhere, is doing the business. Yet I'd wait a little while and see how things settle. Used-car prices are levelling off anyway with better home supply. But if you do decide to take the plunge will you please get the car thoroughly checked over before parting with a penny? There are plenty of horror stories out there.

What is the best car for someone like me who is female and 25 with €10,000 saved to buy a car? I have an old Clio that my garage told me is not worth much and says I would be better off getting rid of first. I travel 40kms a day round trip to work and a fair bit of socialising at weekends so I'd say my yearly total is 15,000kms. I would value your advice.

Aidan: I agree with that dealer. Sell the car yourself. Virtually every car in the Clio's segment is recommendable. However, there are some models that might be more functional than stylish and I reckon you probably want a bit of both. At least I know I did when I was 25. Start with the Kia Rio. Never mentioned this one in detail before. Go for a 2012 model but don't expect change from your budget. You might even need another few hundred euro or so if it's low mileage and from a reputable dealer. The Rio changed model in 2012 and is worlds apart from its predecessor. The 1.25 petrol engine is zippy and strong enough not to feel wimpy if you are carrying some friends on board. Look for EX models in particular, they have better spec than LX models. If the car has been maintained properly, it should have the remainder of Kia's 7-year warranty. This is a huge selling point. Better to have peace of mind with your car and use the money you might otherwise spend on parts, on enjoying yourself.

Two more choices are the Peugeot 208 and the SEAT Ibiza. The Ibiza is great value for money.

It's a stylish little motor with a great track record for reliability and you could find your budget will get you a 131 registered SE model. The Peugeot 208 changed model in 2013, and prices are a little higher than your budget, but the car is a honey. The interior is good with lots of high gloss "piano black" details. Look for active models in particular.

Eddie: I'm not mad about the signals coming from your dealer. Sounds like he/she couldn't be bothered with the hassle of your car. They should at least have offered. I think you should buy something like a Ford Fiesta for which there are plenty of parts easily available - I get the impression you are not overly endowed with dealerships/garages.

A Toyota Yaris is a good buy too but you will pay a premium because they are sought after. And here is an 'outside-the-box' suggestion. Take a look at a Dacia Sandero. It's a 5dr supermini at the bargain basement end of the scale, has lots of room, does the job and will still have some of its three-year warranty intact. A lot of car for the money - and your friends.

I need your help. I had an accident a few years ago and haven't driven much since. The cost of insurance now is shocking but I have to start driving again because I have a new job and it will mean, if I take it, that I have to travel to work 30kms away. What would you advise? I'll have €12,000 to spend. I haven't got a car at the minute.

Aidan: I know you are not asking us to address your insurance problem, but I have to tell you that I switched my own policy last week for less than I paid in 2015, and for far less than what I was being offered to renew (25pc less). I shopped around and ensured I was comparing like-with-like policies. Some insurers have different minimum rates of excess. Some charge more for driving other cars. There is also a big difference between Third Party, Fire and Theft, and Comprehensive cover. There can also be a big difference between Step Back Protection or Full No Claims Bonus Protection.

Perhaps a broker would be a good starting point because they should recommend the best policy for money and not just the cheapest. By paying more now, you could save down the road.

Anyway, I make your work commute to be 15,000km. Let's say you cover another 2,500km for leisure (50km/week). So your total yearly mileage is around 17,500km.

You can buy a petrol and be happy enough that your fuel costs shouldn't put you at a disadvantage over a diesel. Or you could look for a diesel supermini (to get the best value for money) if your commute means you get to open the taps and give the car a good drive, because that's what diesels need. If you can, then look at the Renault Clio 1.5 diesel from 2013. That year is the first of the lovely new shape and if you get a Dynamique model you will have some goodies to play with.

I am going to have to bring in the Peugeot 208 from the last question again, because if you look at the profile of supermini sales by fuel type, you will see that the 208 diesel outsold loads of its competitors and so it is more readily available. No point in me advising you to buy a car that doesn't exist. If you want a bigger petrol car then buy a Toyota Auris. Simple as that. I frequently recommend it because it's a bit of a goldilocks car; not too big, not too small, not too fancy, not too mean; just right for doing most things.

Eddie: Great advice from Aidan there. I think you should buy something bigger than a supermini. There is a certain reassurance in bulk. As well as that, you are putting up a fair few kilometres so the extra space and comfort will be no disadvantage. The only problem is you'd have to go back the years a bit and that might be counter productive. But a well-minded Auris with a 1.4-litre diesel engine is still a good buy. A good Volkswagen Golf is another to consider. If you can pick up a Mazda3 in decent nick, I'd nearly opt for that, because their cars last the pace so well.

My 'outside the box' recommendation, however, would be a Mitsubishi Lancer diesel (if you can get your hands on one). Bland and boring it may be, in some people's eyes, but it is made to last forever. As ever, and especially with your experience, only buy from a reputable dealer and get a lengthy warranty. Safe driving.

Indo Motoring

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