Well the day I’ve been dreading arrived yesterday when my younger brother announced his intention to purchase a car for himself. Although he is only 17 months younger than me and also passed his test when he was 17, his only experience at car ownership has been the non-running Nissan Micra which has sat on our driveway for the past 4 years. Last summer my mum added him as a named driver to her Jazz and he has gained some decent experience there, but the time has finally come for him to make his own purchase.
I guess it is a little unfair to say I have dreaded his decision to buy a car and in fact I am hoping that I may get some input in the decision making process, but it only serves to remind me about my own failure to buy a new car and may also have some annoying implications for the parking situation outside our house.
Nevertheless I have decided to dip a toe in the water to see what kind of cars he could buy, and although I am pretty sure he won’t be interested in reading this post I may at least try to summarise my findings verbally if he ever bothers to listen! As he is not somebody who has any real interest in cars or any prejudices towards different marques/types of vehicle, the only real restrictions he has relate to budget – which at a mere £3500 (including insurance) is pretty low! However a new car could present an interesting alternative on a competitive finance deal. For the moment then I am only going to keep this brief and not look into (many) specific models.
When looking at new cars on a limited budget there are several things to look at; the deposit needed, monthly payments, interest payable, any servicing deals and how much a final payment would be. As a family with no experience of buying a vehicle on finance I am the only one with any idea how this works, but it seems important to focus on the deposit and monthly costs to begin with.
It is possible to get a car for under £100/month if you are willing to go for a relatively basic city car such as the 107/C1/Aygo and UP!/Citigo/Mii trios, or maybe something Korean. These may be the most realistic option as the deposits are usually quite low and sometimes they come with bonuses like free insurance or 0% interest. However they may not be ideal for somebody who intends to use the car on the motorway semi regularly…this is something that needs to be discussed.
For around £150/month the options open up to include base models of superminis such as the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo, more substantial cars for sure but also ones that command a higher deposit and still lack engines with any nominal power. For that you need to step up in terms of monthly payments or in class of car…
At around the £200/month mark you start to see the serious competitors emerge; MINI offer their hatch with a 5 year servicing deal included, whilst Ford are offering a Focus to anyone willing to pay £184/month with the same amount up front! Another interesting choice is the aptly named Vauxhall Adam which is on a 0% interest deal. However it is possible that £200 a month is a little much when the person in question just wants a car to get from A to B.
The world is your oyster on the used car market and my brother could buy virtually any type of vehicle with his budget. If it were my cash I’d be seeking out a 2001/2 BMW 330Ci with which to race up the M1 in, but given that fuel costs and insurance are likely to be high it probably isn’t the best option for him.
Perhaps a more sensible option would be to look at used versions of some of the cars we were looking at brand new. His budget would quite easily stretch to a 2007 example of the 107/C1/Aygo trio with reasonable spec and mileage; they are simple and reliable and the car would be his! It’s definitely a strong choice even if the power issue still exists, as is an older supermini such as the Renault Clio/Ford Fiesta/Vauxhall Corsa…a 1.4 petrol version of would shuffle along at a reasonable pace and still offer affordable insurance/running costs, and I would guess his money could buy a 2007 car with average mileage.
However if he wants something interesting there are some tasty vehicles which manage to be both relatively affordable to buy and run. There are quite a few earlier examples of MINI’s which can be had for under £4k, and for not much over you can just about run to the updated 2007 model. Again pushing the budget would score a 10 year old Audi TT, whose rear seats are even worse than the MINI’s but which would make a great first car in 1.8 guise. There are of also plenty of larger cars which fall into focus here too (including the Ford!) and one of these might be a little more suitable for motorway duties; 2004-06 family hatchbacks present a reasonable alternative but I think anything larger would be too much. Stand out candidates include the all rounder Ford Focus, reliable Honda Civic (potentially the space-age last generation car) and the value centric Hyundai i30, a 2008 version of which can be picked up for just outside budget!
Of course with any of these used cars there is a risk of the unknown, and the older/higher mileage a car is the more risk there is that something will go wrong, and at a price point such at this it seems possible that a car has been neglected unintentionally by a former owner. Obviously the choice is not mine to make and the power issue is something that needs to be assessed on a test drive, but new-wise I think my brother could do a lot worse than a MINI…a car which is cheap to run, good to drive and for a monthly cost which gives a well specced variant with servicing included. On the used market, probably a previous generation Fiesta (like the car we both learnt to drive on) is a nice motor and a 2007 1.4 meets his requirements well. I will keep you updated on any progress, he wants to buy one relatively soon but he is not one to rush things either!