Car for commute? Diesel doubts? Ugrade my Golf? Buy here or north?

The Peugeot 208

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 live in the midlands. I am 23 and have just been offered a job on the west side of Dublin. The public transport is not great so I need a car because it would be too costly to rent. Another girl from the town would be travelling with me some days and would chip in for the fuel. Could you advise me on what would be my best buy?

Aidan: You don’t provide a budget so your first consideration is for how long you intend keeping the car. If moving to Dublin is unlikely to be feasible in the short to medium-term (say, within two to three years if at all), then I suggest you invest in as fresh a used car as you can comfortably afford. Typically, with budgets under €10,000, price differentials between registration plates are very tight.

Spending an extra €1,000 or €1,500 will often bring you up another registration plate and, all things being equal, into a car with less mileage and in better condition. However, ensure that you don’t fall into the trap of buying the registration plate. The strategy here is to find a clean, low mileage, well maintained diesel car from a dealer providing warranty. Get the balance right between budget, age, mileage and condition right on the first day to avoid costly repairs further down the line. The Peugeot 208 was popular with a 1.4-litre diesel engine. The closer to €10,000 you can get, the more likely you can get into a 141-plate. Also, look out for a low mileage 14-plate Dacia Sandero Stepway. It’s a tidy package for the money. Good diesel engine and looks a bit smarter than the other models in the Dacia range. Considering your commute, you might benefit from something a little bigger such as the Ford Focus. The 1.6-litre TDCi engine is sturdy and reliable. You should just sneak into a newer shape 2011 model in Zetec trim. Style models are perfectly fine, too.

Eddie: Brilliant advice from Aidan there. I know you are only starting and I don’t want to burden you with debt but you need a safe, comfortable car for the long winter mornings and evenings. So I think you also need to look at a Toyota Auris 1.4-diesel or a Volkswagen Golf 1.6-diesel to name my two top priorities. I’m hoping you can manage to get €15,000 to keep you well up the years and start with low mileage. Good luck with your new job.

Should I be concerned about buying a diesel (Volkswagen Passat) over the next year? I travel 35,000km a year around the country. I will not be trading in as I intend selling my current car, a Mondeo, privately. But should I be concerned about buying a diesel and will it affect my trade-in price in three years?

Aidan: You cover 35,000kms annually around the country and that makes diesel the most sensible option for you today. Much of the conjecture about plummeting diesel values, the likes of which you are concerned, is worryingly vague and sometimes from sources with no background in residual values whatsoever.

Many of the arguments I have read, fail to recognise the ‘contagion effect’ that falling diesel values might have on the values of other fuel types in the short term. If the premium for diesel is eroded to the point where petrol and diesel values operate on parity, that is one thing.

However, it is quite another for diesel values to drop below petrol, especially if the new price differential means diesel models remain a more expensive variant brand new. If such a situation was to transpire it could be reasonably argued that the market would subsequently see value in diesel cars and demand might swallow up supply, thereby holding residuals steady for diesel cars once again.

I can count on both hands and have fingers left over, the number of EVs available on the market, whereas fossil fuel engines are prolific. The question you have is; what do you buy if you don’t buy a diesel car? There is no better alternative for you today.

The Passat sounds good to me. The next variable is the government and any extraordinary legislation that negatively isolates diesel cars but the ruling parties would do well to learn from the mistakes of the government in 2008 and treat diesel cars and their owners with a smidgen more consideration.

Eddie: Aidan and I feel a huge responsibility in this whole area and do not lightly advice on what to do, considering the heavy expenditure involved. But as I see it, your mileage makes diesel the outstanding decision.

Maybe, just maybe you could look at a Toyota Prius hybrid. Toyota claim outstanding consumption. But I have found that to be the case primarily in urban driving. The petrol engine works much more on longer journeys. You are correct to be worried about future trade-ins but that doesn’t mean there will be a major fall in diesel values as some alarmists are suggesting.

The Prius is an option but I’d go for the Passat – on one condition. I’d wait another few weeks to see what happens in the Budget.

I am looking to upgrade my car. I have a 142 Volkswagen Golf TSI petrol with 46,500km on it. I bought it as new in June 2014 so my average annual mileage is 15,500km. I have a budget of €15,000 plus my car as a trade-in. I don’t require many seats as I travel alone on most journeys on rural roads. I think I should be able to get something new with high specifications but I just don’t know what to pick. My preference is for a Volkswagen.

Aidan: If your preference is for another Volkswagen, then don’t complicate things. Buy another Golf. The Mark 7 was upgraded this year with some subtle design changes (it didn’t need much to be fair), and a new instrument cluster and touchscreen. It comes with a 1.0-litre TSi engine but the 1.4-litre version is still available if you opt for the Highline model, which sounds like your cup of tea. Petrol cars are all the rage again so you should be well looked after in your local dealer when trading in your own car.

Also, keep an eye out for the new Volkswagen T-Roc. It’s VW’s latest SUV/Crossover and it looks promising. It hits showrooms here in December. I don’t see any reason to change brand so if you are happy to wait and test the T-Roc, then do that; otherwise buy a Golf.

Eddie: It ain’t broken, why fix it? Golf it is all day long. Your car is worth a nice sum with such low mileage so you’ll do well.

I want to ask you about buying a 2009/10 Volkswagen GTD in the Republic versus up the north or UK. Which would be better spec versus price difference or is it worth doing any more?

Aidan: There are GTDs and there are 2.0-litre diesel Golfs. If you are not too hung up on the GTD badge, then you might save a few quid by getting a regular 2.0-litre in Highline trim. It is still a seriously tasty motor.

I usually prefer the DSG gearbox in VWs but the GTD is stunning with a manual transmission and I would encourage you to go that route.

Quite a few Irish models are previous UK imports so regardless of where you buy, ensure that you purchase a vehicle history check to guarantee the car’s credit background and roadworthiness. It also means that there probably isn’t a world of difference in specification either.

In any case, you are looking at a near eight to nine-year-old car so I would pay less attention to such things and concentrate more on the mileage, service history, and overall condition of the car as those are the bits that will hurt your wallet if they go wrong.

Eddie: All the anecdotal evidence suggests you’ll get a better deal from a dealer who is importing a car – or if you go north yourself.

Spec levels vary with the years but the trim for GTD here means there is plenty of equipment. There is a price premium for the GTD because it is really quick and has impressive fuel consumption figures. I don’t think there will be such a massive selection back the years. Also, I don’t think you’ll get back the premium price you’ll pay, either here or up North, on lower fuel bills or prestige value for a long time.

Unless you are covering phenomenal mileage. So my instinct is buy yourself a nice Golf diesel (1.6 or 2-litre) wherever you can find the best deal.


WE love getting your enquiries and try to reply to as many as possible here or via email. The ones dealt with here often represent a cross section of individual questions. You can help us help you with our free, independent, advice by including the following in your queries:

* Budget (including trade-in).

* Annual mileage (in kms).

* Size of car required (number of seats).

* Present car (make, model, year and mileage) if relevant.

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