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'.
Question: I make return trips from Kerry to Louth every Monday and Friday but do little mileage other than that. I have a high spec 2009 BMW 520D with 95,000 miles with 12 months warranty remaining. Should I get rid of it now or wait? The car is a bit big for me. What other options should I consider?
Aidan: Your vehicle's mileage doesn't sound overly excessive to me, certainly not for a soon-to-be six-year-old BMW 520 diesel.
Its odometer translates to fewer than 20,000 miles per year, which is arguably lower than typical mileage for a diesel.
And its value shouldn't be so drastically affected by topping the 100,000-mile marker that it warrants changing immediately.
It could be argued that whatever you lose in value for added mileage in addition to the normal falls for the turn of year is largely negligible anyway.
I would be encouraged enough by the remaining 12 months warranty not to see a pressing economical reason for changing.
If you feel that the car is too big for you then that's another matter altogether but it's a personal choice to change on that basis.
Options that I think are worth pursuing if you decide to change include the BMW 3 Series and Audi's A3 saloon.
A BMW dealer would most likely be interested in trading an own brand model against another BMW product.
The A3 saloon won World Car of The Year and is a lovely machine. If you want to stick with an automatic, then the 2.0 TDi S'Tronic in SE spec is a fine choice and is priced around €36,000 depending on what other goodies are added to it.
Eddie: That's a fair old journey even if it is only once a week.
I think you need the room and substance of a fairly big motor under you.
I'm just wondering why you are thinking of changing because your annual mileage isn't high, really. Not with a diesel which I presume you have had regularly serviced.
Kerry to Louth and back is a heavy trek.
I would agree with Aidan's suggestions - but I do feel you will miss the extra bit of space in the 520d.
Anyway here are a couple of other possible choices that I think might fuse some of your needs.
Would you consider a Volkswagen Passat (there is a new one in January)? It has good room and an excellent cabin.
Or a Ford Mondeo (also new)? They are down in size on the 5-series but not that much and you won't lack for comfort.
Both companies are looking at PCP deals that will cost you upwards of €300 a month. Not bad for a new car.
Another worth looking at given the distance you travel might be the Volvo V40.
Now this is much smaller but solidly built, sturdily comfortable and packed with safety stuff.
I'm tempted too to mention the Mazda6, a fine car that is now less costly.
Or would you consider a Skoda Octavia, Toyota Corolla?
I'd just say a bigger car can take a lot of the strain out of a long journey; don't underestimate that element in your decision.
Question: I've got a 2008 TSi Passat with 164,000kms. It's a family car that does a 32km daily commute, the odd trip to the West of Ireland and a visit to France every two years. How much is the new Passat? Most people are buying diesel cars? Should I consider it too?
Aidan: With an average daily commute of just 32 kilometres (around 12,000 kilometres annually), I would be inclined to stick with a petrol car.
A diesel model would be great for the long trips but those journeys are the exception rather than the rule.
That said, the new model Passat 1.6 TDi Comfortline costs €30,815 (excluding metallic paint and delivery related charges) which is just €1,610 more than the 1.4 petrol model with equivalent spec.
This is a tempting differential to consider bridging especially when the gap back in 2008 was around €3,600.
However, the TSi still makes sense for you from a daily commute perspective, so don't rule out a straight swap, like for like.
Whichever fuel type you decide on, be sure to consider the higher spec models (Comfortline and Highline) as VW Bank are offering some attractive finance rates for those who upgrade to better spec.
That's the nuts and bolts of the finances taken care of but as I've not driven the new Passat yet, I'll have to defer to Eddie to let you know what its like.
Eddie: I'd consider the new Passat to have made a big step towards having the sort of cabin, fitments and finish that owners of the BMW 3-series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class for example would find acceptable.
There is an excellent 1.4-litre petrol which I felt was as good as anything I've driven in that genre for quite some time.
I honestly think you would be mad to bother with a diesel with the sort of driving you are doing.
I'd say if you took a test drive in one of the petrols you wouldn't need my advice on what to do.
But anyway, here's one from left field: with the sort of daily mileage you are covering, would you consider a hybrid (Toyota Prius maybe?).
Chances are you'd get a fair bit of the journey on electric charge alone.
But you have the petrol engine for the rest and for trips to the west and the continent.
It is worth thinking about in your case in particular because of your relatively short daily commute.
Question: I need a new small car that's good on fuel. I have €15,000 to spend. My annual mileage is 15,000kms. I need a four-door car.
Aidan: Without knowing what fuel efficiency figures the car is returning or the environment within which it is being used, it's impossible to say whether or not its consumption is worse than what could be expected by its competitors.
What's more, I'm not entirely persuaded that the cost to change for a different car will prove economically advantageous.
Be sure to do the maths before jumping ship.
Your annual mileage doesn't dictate you need a diesel car but if you cover all of your mileage on motorways then perhaps consider a diesel supermini.
However, they are rare. If you like the Corsa in all other respects, then the 1.3 CDTi might suit. I happen to quite like the VW Polo 1.2 TDi and the Kia Rio 1.4 CRDi.
The petrol Ford Fiesta 1.25 is as good as ever. The new 1.0 Ecoboost engine is great too.
I've driven the new crop of 3-cylinder petrol engines from Opel and found them frugal and quiet.
Whatever you choose, perhaps ask a dealer for an extended test drive to see how it fares.
Eddie: As usual Aidan is on target with his suggestions but, as usual, too I will add my tuppence worth.
So I'll ask you this: why not look at the new Skoda Fabia (1-litre, 3cyl or 1.2 4cyl - see review on Page 3)?
Those engines are well capable of giving 45mpg in real-world town driving. And the car marks big progress on the old one. Prices start at €13,995 but you don't get a lot of kit for that. I'd say you're into €15,500 territory for a well-specced version.
Or save yourself some money and buy a Dacia Sandero - big car and a good deal less expensive than other superminis.
Okay it lacks sophistication and can feel a bit basic but overall it is a decent package.
You might have to spend a bit more on fuel but you'd have plenty of cash to spare with what you'd save on price.