Something to suit both your lifestyle and your wallet
Is that used car a pre-loved bargain or a money pit on wheels? Understanding the automotive DNA of a car can help. Shane O'Donoghue does the science bit
WITH the help of Merlin Car Auctions, we've chosen a cross-section of the biggest selling used cars on the market to take a closer look at. There's something here to suit all budgets, from as little as €1,000 up to the heady heights of €20,000.
BMW 3 Series 1998-2005
This 'E46' generation 3 Series spanned seven years, so expect a wide variety of cars with prices from as little as €1,000 for a tatty early example to as much as €10,000 for a really late model in great condition with acceptable mileage.
The most popular models were the petrol-engined 316i and 318i, though there are plenty of 320ds on the market as well, along with 320is.
This version of the 3 Series has proven to be quite reliable -- though we'd shy away from really high mileage examples, as that's when expensive parts start to wear out on Beemers.
Ford Focus 2005-2011
Here's the second iteration of the Focus, only replaced last year. It was sold as an estate as well as the popular hatch and saloon body styles and now prices range from about €4,000 to as much as €19,000.
You'll find more diesels registered after the changeover to emissions-based taxation in 2008, with 1.6 and 1.8 TDCi models quite common. Before that, the 1.4- and 1.6-litre petrol engines dominated.
Older diesel engines are known to give problems so only buy one that has been well maintained. All examples of the regular Focus are cheap to maintain.
Hyundai i10 2008-2012
Admittedly, the i10 is still a relative newcomer on the scene, but small cars are big business right now and the i10 is a much underrated hatchback, providing simple, basic motoring for a reasonable price.
The oldest examples go for about €5,000. Though admittedly there isn't much choice in terms of engine. You can have either a 1.1- or a 1.2-litre with manual or automatic gearboxes. All are cheap as chips to run and decently equipped for the class of car. The latest ones are covered by Hyundai's five-year care package too.
Kia Rio 2005-2012
We believe that you should still be able to find unregistered examples of this car in Kia showrooms, though it has been replaced now by a new version -- Irish Car of the Year no less. Its predecessor wasn't as impressive, but it did have value on its side. Buyers could choose between a five-door hatchback (below) and a rather oddly styled saloon.
Bank on prices ranging from under €4,000 to as much as €14,000 for the very last of the breed. Virtually all of the early examples were powered by a 1.4-litre petrol engine, while the 1.5-litre diesel gained popularity after 2008.
Merc C-Class 2000-2008
There's a big price difference between the cheapest of this generation C-Class (€3,500) and the most expensive (€20,000), reflecting not only the life span of the model but also the depth of the range, though we're not including the relatively unpopular estate in this.
The supercharged C 180 dominates used car listings and it's still a nice car to drive. Most will be automatic, and when driving a car you like the look of make sure the transmission is not jerky. In general the C-Class is quite reliable, if not quite as trouble-free as the BMW of the same era.
Nissan Note 2006-2012
As you'll read elsewhere in the paper today, Nissan is about to replace its Note mini-MPV with an all-new car. That should be to the benefit of buyers, as a new arrival usually means values of the old model will start to fall.
You'll find examples from about €4,000 up to well over €20,000 for the latest diesel models. Virtually all cars sold before 2008 have 1.4-litre petrol engines, though there are some 1.6-litre versions with an automatic gearbox. After that the 1.5-litre diesel dominated.
Surprisingly, the Note has its fair share of niggles, including electrical gremlins, but nothing serious.
Opel Astra 2004-2010
Opel offered buyers a massive choice of engines and trim levels in this Astra, so you'll find something to suit, including 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol engines and 1.3, 1.7 and 1.9-litre diesels.
The latter gives a lot of trouble, especially if it hasn't been maintained carefully, while suspension components are known to cause problems too. The five-door hatch was very popular, though Opel did introduce a four-door saloon halfway through the car's life cycle. The three-door GTC is still attractive. Expect to pay from €3,000 to €13,000.
Peugeot 307 2001-2008
Although Peugeot sold the 307 in coupe-cabriolet and SW estate formats as well (the latter being particularly useful), the vast majority on the market are five-door hatchbacks from €2,000 to €10,000.
The relatively tax-friendly 1.6-litre HDi diesel form was a popular choice, though there are as many 1.4-litre petrol examples for sale now.
They're a little underpowered. Keep an eye out for the facelifted model brought in from the end of 2006 and check its history, as this car was the subject of more than a few minor recalls.
Renault Megane 2003-2008
Prices range from under €2,000 to €11,000. The most popular engines were the 1.5-litre dCi diesel and a 1.4-litre petrol, though there are a few 1.6 petrol versions around too. The Megane is well equipped and comes full of safety systems for its age and class. It is troubled by dodgy electric window and keycard issues.
Toyota Avensis 2003-2008
The Avensis is a favourite of the Irish taxi driver for a reason: reliability. That means prices stay relatively high. Don't expect to find one for much less than €3,000, while the last of this shape model is priced at about €15,000.
If you can find one, the Avensis Tourer estate will make a reliable family wagon, though obviously there are significantly more saloons around. Most of the later examples have the frugal 2.0-litre diesel engine, while the 1.6-litre petrol unit was preferred on earlier cars.
VW Golf 2004-2009
The Volkswagen Golf is nothing short of an institution in Ireland and it's not difficult to understand why.
It offers hassle-free motoring in a well-made and comfortable package. The VW badge on the bonnet also adds a little prestige. That rubs off on the basic 1.4 and 1.6 petrol versions as much as it does on the GTIs and it explains why you'll not find a Mark 5 model for less than €4,000. Excluding the GTI and GTD, you could pay up to €16,000.
It's not as bulletproof as you might believe, though usually nothing major fails.
• The information in this feature is a guideline only. The very nature of used car sales is that there are major differences from one car to another. We've done our utmost to ensure the information is correct and up to date. And thanks to Merlin Car Auctions www.merlincarauctions.ie
Sunday Independent Supplement