Sunday 18 March 2018

Why is my car so noisy? A C-Class replacement? Why delivery charges?

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 bought an Audi 1.4 A3 TFSI last year and am delighted with it except for the road noise. In your experience, what cars in mid-range segment are low on noise? I drive a fair bit on secondary roads so I think noise is more pronounced because of this but it really is beginning to bother me.

Aidan: I used to notice the littlest creaks and groans from my cars. A mechanic friend offered to help and concluded that I needed to turn up my radio.

It was another way of saying: "If you go looking for it, you will find it". I am not saying your car is louder than you would prefer but had you not mentioned that you drive an Audi A3, I would have recommended one. Sound insulation is usually one of Audi's strong suits. Taking it that the road surface will account for some of the noise, there are still some other things you can check.

First, is your A3 an S Line model? The S Line suspension is set up slightly firmer than regular suspension and can be noisier as a result.

Do you have run-flat tyres (check your ownership manual)? Or do you have budget-end tyres? The compounds (firmness of the rubber) of both are much harder than regular and better produced tyres.

Considering tyres are your only contact with the road, ensure you do not skimp on quality. Look for big brand names, they are worth their premium. Modern tyres come with a decibel rating so check what you have and ask a tyre centre or Audi dealership if they have the rating.

Then check for quieter ones. I could recommend other cars but, honestly, I am not sure that they will be any better and it will be a costly exercise to change for something else that could wind up making the same noises.

Not the answer you were hoping for, I know, but we all have different levels of tolerance to noise and what one person thinks is loud, another could find acceptable.

Eddie: I've been caught out a few times with cars abroad and at home, saying those driven on foreign tarmac were quiet and smooth only to have to reassess on Irish roads and smaller/larger/lower-profile tyres or with different suspensions settings.

As Aidan says, that may be a problem. But I will say I had the Audi Q3 recently and had the same complaint as you; a lot of cabin noise.

The trouble you have now is that no matter what you do, you are going to feel the car is noisy. So you have two choices. Follow Aidan's route and check out the tyres or replace them.

Or buy something else. You'll get a good price for the A3 (they are among the top value-holders in the segment). You could look at the BMW 1-series, Mercedes A-Class, Volkswagen Golf, or Lexus CT 200h.

You'll find somewhere in their brochures that they all claim to be exceptionally quiet on the road. Take them for a spin on your secondary roads and see how you feel about that before parting with a cent.

I am looking to change my car and I really don't know what to go for. I currently drive a Mercedes 2008 C180 1.8 petrol (Auto) and there is about 135k on the clock. I drive 100km in total each day, most of it on the M50.

I am looking to upgrade and pay up to €25k in total (including trade in) and would really appreciate if you could point me in the right direction. I am looking for something that is going to be fuel efficient but, at the same time, I need something that is a comfortable ride as I am in the car for up to two hours a day.

I love my automatic but I know they are not as fuel efficient as manual.

Aidan: For starters, I think you need to opt for a diesel. Your mileage warrants it. Stick with automatic, too. It is what you are used to and it is much harder to revert to a manual than go from manual to automatic. Auto boxes are now hugely fuel efficient. Lots of them have more gears than manual transmissions; some even come with as many as nine gears.

Now comes the tricky part because I know how difficult it is for drivers of premium products to even entertain the idea of buying something from a mass market brand. That is why I think you would do well to look at the Mercedes CLA. It might feel like a step down the Mercedes ladder but give it a fair chance, it is a bloody good motor.

A one-year-old Urban model should come in on budget. The engine is only a 1.5 diesel but with direct injection and more energy efficient turbos you should still have enough power on tap to devour your motorway spin.

Have you seen the brand new Skoda Superb? You can get the new model Ambition model with a 1.6 TDi engine with 120bhp with the always-lovely DSG gearbox for €32,295 plus metallic finish and delivery (see the next question for details on that stuff).

At that price, I think it is excellent value for money for such a properly nailed together product.

Eddie: The CLA is lovely. I'd also look out for an Audi A4 diesel. People underestimate this car. Biggest seller in its class nearly every year. You shouldn't have to go back the years too far to get a good one. Solid and comfortable.

But I think the Volvo S60 diesel might suit you best. Lots of room and a lovely cabin. And you should get a decent deal on a fairly new one.

Or maybe stick with the C-Class? You know the car; you seem happy with it - buy a newer one. At the end of the day it might be the best deal all-round. But I'd urge you to give the others mentioned a checkout too.

I got a shock when I was checking the figures on what a new Volkswagen Golf will cost me. I like the car and have had three or four second-hand over the years. I intend buying a new one this July but the price is a lot more than I expected because they charge €750 for what they call delivery and related charges. I think Eddie has covered this in the past but could you explain and what is your advice?

Aidan: If you read any price list carefully the delivery-charge column usually has an asterisk that corresponds to a caveat informing the customer that the charge is a recommendation by the manufacturer. Strictly speaking, in order to abide with Competition Authority regulations, delivery and other fees are listed separately from the Recommended Retail Price and they are not fixed.

It is not just cars that this applies to, either. Even bars of chocolate have RRPs and prices vary from shop to shop. There are certain charges that dealers, and therefore customers, incur for taking delivery of a new car from the manufacturer and that go towards ensuring everything is properly checked over.

Transport from the docks is one such charge, and believe it or not manufacturers do not provide this service free of charge to dealers so that is why is gets added onto the price.

Another expense is known as PDI or Pre-Delivery Inspection. It is like a mini-service on the car before it rolls out of the forecourt and is actually hugely important. The amount can seem excessive and I do not want to prejudice any sale but my experience with dealers is that they almost always give a discount of some description on a new car.

Margins are tighter than many people think but that's a whole other story. I know it seems like they add something on only to take it off again but for some bureaucratic reasons it all makes sense.

Anyway, have a chat with your local dealer and see what they can do on the final price; I am sure you will strike a deal you are happy with.

Eddie: More dealers are now quoting on-the-road pricing (which includes delivery/related charges). About time. I completely agree with you; it is confusing. Just make sure when you are comparing prices between dealers that it is like with like.

As Aidan says there is wriggle room for the dealer so bargain hard on that front. No one is going to let you go for the sake of a few hundred euro but be realistic as well: someone has to pay for the delivery and PDI.

Irish Independent

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