Saturday 21 April 2018

Why can't I sell this car? VW - petrol or diesel? Why are repair bills rising?

Our simple advice could help you make the right choice when buying your next car
Our simple advice could help you make the right choice when buying your next 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 best-seller 'Clever Car Buying'.

I've been trying to sell my 2004 Ford Focus for months. It has 145,000km on it but is in good condition. Three people 'bought' it only to cancel at the last minute saying they were concerned about the mileage. What should I do? I have a 2012 Toyota Auris and the Focus is idle in the garage. I've dropped my price but people seem suspicious.

Aidan: That is rotten luck. I presume you included the mileage of your car in your advert, which makes the last-minute forfeiting from the deal even more incomprehensible.

Anyway, your mileage does not sound exceptionally high considering the age of your Focus. It is only 90,000 miles in old money and your car is nearly 12 years old. That is just 7,500 miles (12,000 kms) per year. I presume it is a petrol model as a diesel with that mileage would fly out the door.

Try updating your advert to include the mileage breakdown. It should marshal prospective buyers' thoughts a little better. If that does not work then you need to find another angle.

Be sure that you structure your ad in such a way that you are providing a realistic and honest explanation of the car's various attributes. Perhaps buyers are citing the mileage as a means to get out of the deal for some other reason.

You have to manage buyers' expectations by alerting them to any damage or outstanding work required on the car. It might sound silly to highlight something people could potentially miss but trust me, honesty is the best policy with car sales.

Sooner or later an interested buyer will find out all they need to know. You could also purchase a vehicle history report and display it within your advert. This should assuage any fears over insurance claims, prolonged absences from NCT or failure to tax the car properly.

Oftentimes, the history check can tell you more about the owner than the car. Failing all of that, drop the price some more. In the UK, cars are advertised only negligibly higher than their actual selling price.

It seems to be peculiarly Irish to advertise one price and then expect hundreds off before we even get to the real bargaining. Drop your price to an amount that you would be happy to take, give or take a few quid, and then dig your heels in.

And one last thing; please, please, please do not use "re-advertised due to time wasters" in your advert; it's a major turn off and will make prospective buyers question why others have not bought the car.

Eddie: The problem is the longer it is off the road the less saleable it becomes. People are right to be suspicious if it has been lying up for a long time. So you are going to have to cut your losses.

So long as you can stand over your word that there is nothing wrong with it - 'any inspection welcomed' - I think you should advertise it as a 'genuine car being sold for genuine reasons at a rock-bottom price'. You've got to shift it. You will end up selling it for a rock-bottom price now or in six months. Cars are like that. It can be tough.

Just one other point. Is there no one in your wider family who could do with a well-priced car? I'm sure you've checked. Check again with the rock-bottom price. It will get them thinking.

I am going to buy in the new year but with all the Volkswagen hype I'm thinking of changing to petrol. I do 18,000km and drive a Golf diesel hatchback now.

I might stick with Volkswagen but will the petrol be as economical over that mileage? I'd like a frank answer because I'm being told all sorts.

Aidan: The new diesel Golf is not affected by the prevailing emissions situation. Only certain models manufactured between 2009 and 2014 will require some remedial work.

The new model conforms to Euro 6 emissions standards and Volkswagen has made assurances that nothing nefarious has been used to achieve the required levels of efficiency. So, as far as I am concerned there should be no reason to shy away from a new diesel Golf.

Your mileage is hovering on the cusp of necessitating a diesel, particularly if you cover most of your ground over motorways. However, at a cost of €2,000 less, the 1.2 TSi petrol engine would have a nice headstart on any diesel's efficiency. There are some components unique to diesels that can render the total cost of ownership slightly less economical; this goes for virtually all modern diesels.

Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) require changing at various intervals depending on how the car is driven. A DPF is part of the exhaust and traps soot and noxious materials.

When the filter becomes blocked it needs to be removed and replaced at quite a cost. A new additive called AD BLUE is now also being used by manufacturers to improve efficiency. You need to factor in this cost, too.

However, some modern petrol engines can be finicky in their own right with timing chains becoming a new nuisance. If you mostly drive undisturbed by traffic on motorways then go for the diesel. Anything else and petrol is the best choice.

Eddie: Your question is being echoed by thousands of others all over the country, I'm sure. Aidan is absolutely spot on and I agree there is a case to be made for both.

I would say this: it is easy to make a rash decision based on prevailing emotion and preconception. You have plenty of time so wait and think a little bit more before doing anything.

The new Golf isn't any less a car because some of its predecessors had questionable-motive software. By the same token, the new 1.2-petrol engine is a fine piece of work.

I would still go with the diesel. You are just about covering enough miles to justify it, I feel. Maybe the petrol next time, ok? If you do buy the diesel Golf please make sure you get it serviced regularly and change filters on schedule.

Yes, there are costs associated with diesels, as Aidan points out, that maybe should be highlighted a bit more. But they are there for a reason.

One is to keep the car at its mechanical optimum; two, consequently, is to make sure it is working at its cleanest. Any car operating below a certain level is going to emit more tailpipe gases. So keeping a motor mechanically sound is important on a number of fronts.

Ye motoring experts never tell us about the cost of getting things like headlights repaired. Ye always talk about new technology that makes lights brighter. But do ye ever think of the real world where, like in my case, I had to pay €250 for a simple repair but the whole section had to come out. You might also highlight how much labour costs have risen too - for mechanics - but I don't see any rise in my pay packet.

Aidan: Sure, we're an awful shower altogether. And don't get me started on those wealthy mechanics calling themselves technicians all of a sudden. I'll remove my tongue from my cheek now and tell you that the reason we harp on about new light technology is partly because increasing visibility in the dark happens to be an important safety development that helps to save lives. And who can put a price on potentially saving someone's life? All I know is that it's more than €250.

Eddie: Nothing we can do about your pay packet which, if I'm reading the tone of your query correctly, is the root cause of your complaint. Join a long queue.

You are correct about labour costs; they have risen because there is a shortage of technicians.

Many of their counterparts left these shores for work elsewhere in the recession and don't feel like uprooting to come back. Some do, but while there is demand they can command more money.

That is how things are. Repairs can be costly, no doubt. But they are part and parcel of the deal we all silently adhere to when we own a car. I'd like to echo Aidan's sentiment: you can not put a price on safety.

Indo Motoring

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