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Steve May

TRL Helpdesk - buying a car

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Righty-ho, the Stevemobile is dead. Therefore, I need a new car. But I know little about cars and, frankly, I care even less.

I do 4-500 miles a week for most of the year. Basically a couple of 4 hour motorway journeys every week plus a bit of trundling around.

For reasons of the environment, but mainly my wallet, it needs to be cheap to buy and cheap to run.

In terms of other requirements, it needs air conditioning, satnav and to be quite smart - I may have to give clients a lift every now and again.

I'm thinking some kind of diesel, second hand medium sized thing, along the lines of my other car - which is a basic 2006 Golf, but probably a bit newer. I'd plan to run it for the next four or five years.

Any recommendations? I'm baffled by the choices and irritated by the Alan Partridge writing style of car reviewers.

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Not really car buying advice but I wouldn't regard not having a sat nav as a deal breaker. Sat navs such as Tom Toms are usually better than those installed in cars and easy to update. Most of the time when I need a sat nav I just use my phone.

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I'd always recommend a diesel, not least because the needle doesn't seem to plunge like you have a leak in the fuel tank.

To avoid Alan Partridge reviews find sites that are aimed at women. Once you're past the over-reliance on pink there's normally a fair bit more sense and the comments tend to talk about practicality.

The brother-in-law has a few years old Audi which seems to be insanely reliable, cheap to maintain and both practical and 'impressive'.

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You already have a VW, so I won't bother questioning their reputation for reliability.

Mine's been a disappointment.

I've had numerous vehicles over the years. I'd have a Vauxhall or Nissan again tomorrow.

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Righty-ho, the Stevemobile is dead. Therefore, I need a new car. But I know little about cars and, frankly, I care even less.

I do 4-500 miles a week for most of the year. Basically a couple of 4 hour motorway journeys every week plus a bit of trundling around.

For reasons of the environment, but mainly my wallet, it needs to be cheap to buy and cheap to run.

In terms of other requirements, it needs air conditioning, satnav and to be quite smart - I may have to give clients a lift every now and again.

I'm thinking some kind of diesel, second hand medium sized thing, along the lines of my other car - which is a basic 2006 Golf, but probably a bit newer. I'd plan to run it for the next four or five years.

Any recommendations? I'm baffled by the choices and irritated by the Alan Partridge writing style of car reviewers.

Budget?

If you're not particularly bothered about what you're driving, I'd be inclined to set your budget, and other requirements, such as max age/mileage, then look on autotrader using those criteria and see what it throughs out.

I'd be looking for something along the same lines as your Golf; Focus/Astra, etc. Japanese is probably best in terms of reliabilty (think maybe a Honda Civic or a Nissan Quashqi) and to be honest, I don't think you really need to worry too much about something not being "smart" unless you don't look after it. if you want a little more prestige, the maybe an Audi A3 or BMW 1 - series, though the BMW is likely to be a bit more cramped in the back for giving lifts. They're also likely to be more expensive, so you'll either pay more or get less car for your budget.

Other ones to consider might include a Hyundai i30 or a Kia Cee'd. Maybe not that exciting, but should be reliable, cheap to run, and may well still be covered under a manufacturers warranty.

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Budget?

If you're not particularly bothered about what you're driving, I'd be inclined to set your budget, and other requirements, such as max age/mileage, then look on autotrader using those criteria and see what it throughs out.

I'd be looking for something along the same lines as your Golf; Focus/Astra, etc. Japanese is probably best in terms of reliabilty (think maybe a Honda Civic or a Nissan Quashqi) and to be honest, I don't think you really need to worry too much about something not being "smart" unless you don't look after it. if you want a little more prestige, the maybe an Audi A3 or BMW 1 - series, though the BMW is likely to be a bit more cramped in the back for giving lifts. They're also likely to be more expensive, so you'll either pay more or get less car for your budget.

Other ones to consider might include a Hyundai i30 or a Kia Cee'd. Maybe not that exciting, but should be reliable, cheap to run, and may well still be covered under a manufacturers warranty.

I had a Quashqi as a courtesy car for week and wasn't impressed. Build quality was poor, underpowered for the size of the car (I did have a 1.6 model though) and didn't like the style (pretending to be a 4x4). Civics on the other hand are brilliant cars.

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Once you have narrowed your field down a bit check out www.whatcar.com they have some reasonably straight forward reviews. Also search you tube, again some decent car review videos on there.

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I had a Quashqi as a courtesy car for week and wasn't impressed. Build quality was poor, underpowered for the size of the car (I did have a 1.6 model though) and didn't like the style (pretending to be a 4x4). Civics on the other hand are brilliant cars.

I agree. I had a lift from a friend in a Quashqi not too long ago. I wasn't particularly impressed (though I was far to polite to tell them). Same goes for its stable mate the Duke. Don't see the point in pretend 4 x 4s, all the downsides of a 4 x 4 without any of the advantages.

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Once you have narrowed your field down a bit check out www.whatcar.com they have some reasonably straight forward reviews. Also search you tube, again some decent car review videos on there.

Or even better, get out and test drive, because what a reviewer likes, you might not.

Never been in a Quashqi, so I can't comment too much. I do drive it's stablemate though, an X Trail (same underpinnings) and I've been very happy in the 18 months I've had it. Personally I find a higher driving position is good at times, although being low to the ground in my old MX5 has advantages too. Horses for courses though, it's what the OP likes which is the key.

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Honest John is pretty good too. http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/ IT has a crowd-sourced fuel consumption section that allows you to compare real MPG with manufacturers figures.

Strictly speaking , diesel is only really cost effective if you do over 15,000 to 20,000 a year. here's a calculator: http://www.parkers.c...sel-calculator/

"driveability" is better in my view with a diesel because of the torque characteristic, though diesels are probably a bit rougher and noisier than petrol but not by much these days.

Petrol engines are simpler and they cost less to mend if they go wrong. Turbo diesels if they break (turbo especially) can be horrendously expensive.

Sold my X-trail in December. Great vehicle but brakes discs are treated as consumables. I have a Ford C-max 1.6 diesel and its great. , you can't put the wrong fuel in it. it has hands free phone and DAB. it does 50 mpg, Vehicle excise duty is £30 a year, and the car has the technology to find a parking space and then park in it. External sat nav cos I use it on the motorbike and when route finding in cities on foot.

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You already have a VW, so I won't bother questioning their reputation for reliability.

Mine's been a disappointment.

Really? My Golf appears to be completely indestructible.

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What you do decide on, or ones, check owners' forums for reviews but also common problems. My little Corsa had a leak and found where it came from thanks to a Corsa forum.

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Steering column instrument stalk ... ca £1000 inc fitting

Fuel Injector Assembly Unit ... ca £900 inc fitting

Electrical Sensor fails so it won't start ... £300 to repair (including delivery by heavy-duty van-transporter) because the dashboard has to come out to verify whether it's the sensor or the central computer unit that's the problem. Got a local repair garage to sort it because the only dealership for twenty miles refuses to come out and diagnose the problem.

Service includes £80 for special lubricating oil for the engine. A few days later, oil light comes on ... oil needs topping up.

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What you do decide on, or ones, check owners' forums for reviews but also common problems. My little Corsa had a leak and found where it came from thanks to a Corsa forum.

The problem with that is that you'd never buy anything. A company can sell 100,000 perfectly good cars but if two people on an internet forum have the same problem, you'd imagine that the every single car was a deathtrap not fit for human use.

There is also the "Top Gear" problem. Go on a car users forum and it's all Alan Partridge ######. I don't give a stuff about optimising the "regen" of my diesel particulate filter. I just want the damned thing to look nice, drive well and be reliable and economical.

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I'm no Clarkson but.....I got my car when I worked far away. Someone said 'if you want reliability get a Mitsubishi'.

Its not missed a beat in 7 years.

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... you'd imagine that the every single car was a deathtrap not fit for human use.

Well if the proliferation of anything else had killed as many people, directly and indirectly, we'd all be calling for it to be banned.

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How much do you want to pay? Do you want to lease or buy?

Buy it. I want to keep it for perhaps five years and I'll pay in cash I would have thought. Can't see leasing being economical over that period.

£7-10k I'm thinking.

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Well if the proliferation of anything else had killed as many people, directly and indirectly, we'd all be calling for it to be banned.

Always there with the happy thoughts. We can rely on you...

It has always amused me that the man who invented leaded petrol also invented CFCs. He killed millions, destroyed the atmosphere and unleashed a seventy year long crimewave. Good work!

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The problem with that is that you'd never buy anything. A company can sell 100,000 perfectly good cars but if two people on an internet forum have the same problem, you'd imagine that the every single car was a deathtrap not fit for human use.

There is also the "Top Gear" problem. Go on a car users forum and it's all Alan Partridge ######. I don't give a stuff about optimising the "regen" of my diesel particulate filter. I just want the damned thing to look nice, drive well and be reliable and economical.

If you buy a diesel, you might want to gain an interest in your Diesel Particulate Filter, and it's regeneration. Most modern diesels have them to reduce emissions, and they regenerate (clean themselves) to keep working, otherwise they block up. To regenerate, they need to be run regularly at full operating temperature. If you do plenty of motorway miles, not a problem, but lots of short journeys will mean they will clog up. Blocked DPFs generally mean either a bill of several hundred to get a dealer to clean them out or a bill of thousands to replace them.

This is an issue across most manufacturers, so worth considering subject to the journey types you do.

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One thing I'm not going to do again is buy a car from new, much better buying an older decent make. The deprecation on a new car is a killer and you soon get over that new car feeling. I fancied driving a decent car so I traded in my 3 year old Vectra for a 11 year old Boxster (pretty much a straight swap). I've had to spend a bit to get it through its MOT but they seem to keep their value more than the cheaper makes and its much more fun. When I bought my car there was an 8 year old S class Mercedes on the forecourt going for 7 grand.

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The problem with that is that you'd never buy anything. A company can sell 100,000 perfectly good cars but if two people on an internet forum have the same problem, you'd imagine that the every single car was a deathtrap not fit for human use.

There is also the "Top Gear" problem. Go on a car users forum and it's all Alan Partridge ######. I don't give a stuff about optimising the "regen" of my diesel particulate filter. I just want the damned thing to look nice, drive well and be reliable and economical.

Well no you would, it's about finding out what they are like to live with. I struggled to find the leak in my car but it turns out it was a common problem and I could fix it near enough straight away. x might have issues that y doesn't, or with stories in the last few years of recalls, people have to talk about those issues so they are dealt with.

I don't want to sound obvious but you're asking on a forum for advice yourself...

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If you liked your Golf have a look at a Skoda Octavia, same underpinnings but cheaper to buy and service.

I don't do a lot of mileage so my petrol Octavia vRS suits me and is a great car to drive with a good selection of toys and gadgets.

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Can't really go wrong with VW Golfs as a mid-range car, usually dependable, but nothing flash.

I have a 2011 2.0 Bluemotion and sometimes its up to 75mpg on the work run, whilst still having 140bhp of grunt if you need it.

Before that a Honda Civic 2.2dcti. Again reliable, good mpg with plenty of power. A better looker than the Golf, a 'different' cabin and some of the styling doesn't appeal to all. Small 45 litre tank though, so not a huge range between fill ups.

Was glad to get rid of it in the end after being shunted for 200 yards up the M25 stuck on the front end of a Bulgarian 40 tonne artic. It wasn't written-off so makes you think its a little weak after being in a major shunt.

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