Monday 20 January 2020

Meet the teen that causes no trouble

You don't have to buy new or even break the bank for a secondhand car. Joyce Fegan tells of her experiences with her €700 internet bargain buy

My demands were modest: I only wanted a Mini, an M3 or a 6 Series. Maybe even a Jaguar XK. I settled for a Volkswagen Polo 1.4 (secondhand).

As a first-time car buyer, you must take some bare essentials into consideration. You are more than likely in your 20s, early 20s, and could be faced with sky-high insurance costs -- especially if you are male. This fact taken into account, we then begin our search for a one-litre, a 1.1, or even a 1.4, vehicle.

Reality number two: if you are in your early 20s, you are probably not in a financial position to become the proud new owner of the said XK -- which narrows down the search further. We are now on a mission to locate a car with a small-sized engine and, pushing our luck, for under a grand.

This luck-pusher did just that, and two years later still drives a flawless Volkswagen Polo purchased for €700 that came with 58,000 miles and two years' NCT approval.

The search began with a narrowing down of possible brands and their types. I was searching for Opel Corsas, Ford Fiestas, Kas and Renault Clios. Never did I consider searching for Polos because they had a larger engine size, so I assumed I would be crippled with high insurance.

After having my father test-drive and thoroughly inspect three cars with me -- none of which gained his approval -- I decided I would have to go it alone, because nothing short of a brand-new Japanese offering was going to satisfy him. Although he had built his first car at 14 years of age, and replaced gear boxes in his cars after that, I said 'sure what would he know?' I then moved on to my boyfriend's uncle, six foot-something, and asked him to test drive a Ford Ka for me.

Fifth-time lucky, and nestled in the back hills of Wicklow I struck motoring gold one Friday evening when, accompanied by my test-driving cousin (this time), I first set eyes on what was to become my debut car. I had nearly cancelled the viewing, thinking there was no way any decent car could exist at a sale price of €850, yet a 13-year-old, bottle-green Volkswagen Polo, posted on both DoneDeal and Gumtree, became my first car. I even managed to get the asking price dropped from €850 all the way down to €700. Save for four new tyres and a service, it has not cost me an extra cent in maintenance or repair since that fateful Friday evening.

Whether I was just lucky or not, it is possible to find a used car online from a reputable source and not fall prey to a scam.

For a first-time car buyer, or anyone buying online, there are a few checks to cross off. Know the brand you want to buy. Has it a reputable name? What size engine are you looking for? You can insert your prospective car's details into www.insure.ie to ascertain how much it will cost to insure. Finally, you may be the one purchasing, but ask someone with substantial motoring knowledge to accompany you on your test drives.

My faithful companion has driven me the length and breadth of the country, clocking up 25,000 miles, and it has not complained once. Its NCT is nearly up and as much as I would like to get it through its next test I think I shall call it a day and move on to flashier things.

My €700, 15-year-old, 70-something thousand miles motor has served me well. Post first-time buyer syndrome leaves you with a taste for something just as reliable but maybe more fashionable. Next stop is www.autotrader. co.uk for a 'vanilla' Mini Cooper, but I must remember to avoid the recalled 2006/2007s.

My search has been narrowed down for me already. I will be learning all about VRT on this next expedition.

Sunday Independent

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