Cars with staying power

Posted on August 27th, 2014 by GEM Motoring Assist

GEM Motoring Assist’s road test editor David Motton re-visits three cars he reviewed when new, to see how they shape up as second-hand bargains.

However expensive the weekly fill-up may be, fuel isn’t motoring’s biggest cost. In fact, the priciest part of running a car can go unnoticed for years. Only when you come to sell a car does depreciation really bite. The invisible expense of a car losing value as it ages can easily reduce a £20,000 new car to an £8000 one in just three years. The worst hit of depreciation is usually in the first 12 months. So buy a nearly new or used car, and someone else will have borne the brunt.

Yes, there’s something special about seeing your name first on the logbook and there is the reassurance of a new car warranty to consider. But, from a financial perspective, used cars make more sense than new ones. Buy a nearly new car and you’ll enjoy the remainder of the original warranty, but at a price that will make new car buyers jealous. Buy at three years old and most warranties will have expired, but a typical modern car will have years of use left in it and you can always buy an extended warranty for greater peace of mind.

The most desirable new cars don’t necessarily make the most canny used buys. A strong image, an upmarket badge and limited supply can contrive to keep used car prices up. But if you couldn’t give two hoots what the neighbours think, have no interest in fashion and are happy to buy from a mainstream brand, you really can drive a bargain.

Ford Mondeo

Ford Mondeo usedFirst reviewed in GEM’s member magazine, Good Motoring: February 2008

What we liked The Ford Mondeo is a car that provides an enjoyable driving experience, with excellent steering and good handling.

What we disliked: Ford claims a high degree of refinement in the Mondeo. The diesel engine was partially successful here with acceleration being fairly noisy.

Cost when new:  £15,695-£24,045

Update report: When the fourth generation Mondeo first arrived in 2007, it was good enough to see service as James Bond’s company car in ‘Casino Royale’. From these glamorous beginnings, the Mondeo settled down to life as one of Britain’s most popular company cars.  After a few years of ploughing up and down the motorway network, these cars hit the used car market in numbers, pushing prices down to the benefit of canny used car buyers.

It may be getting on a bit, but the Mondeo remains a very capable family car. It’s very roomy inside, with lots of space for passengers and their bags. It’s also great fun to drive, with sharp steering and agile handling which belies the Ford’s size.

For the most part, a Mondeo that’s been well looked after should prove reliable. Independent data from Warranty Direct bears that out, with fewer problems reported than with the Volkswagen Passat. However, some owners complain of problems with the injectors on diesel engines.

Our estimate:

Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 140 Zetec 5dr (2010/60-plate, 40,000 miles): £8995 from a dealer but more like £8800 for a private sale.

Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris usedFirst reviewed in Good Motoring: Winter 2011

What we liked: The Yaris proved to be a very capable and attractive small car. It’s not particularly cheap, but it is competitively priced when examined as an overall package.

What we disliked: The 1.3 engine required some pushing to give much performance.

Cost when new: £13,680 (Price for 1.3 TR)

Update report: If you want a small car you can rely on, the Toyota Yaris is for you. It may not be the most stylish supermini or the most exciting to drive, but few cars can match the Toyota’s well-deserved reputation for piling on the miles without fuss or complaint.

According to Warranty Direct, the previous Yaris is the fourth most reliable car on its books. There’s nothing to suggest the latest model is going to spoil that record. Even if something does go wrong, Toyota has offered a five-year warranty since June 2010, giving added peace of mind for new and used car buyers alike.

Choose from petrol, diesel or hybrid models. The petrol’s are far more common on the used market than the diesels, and with over 50mpg possible with petrol power, why choose the diesel? The Hybrid has its fans, not least GEM Assist member Mary Piercy, who sang its praises in the Winter 2012 edition.

Our estimate: Toyota Yaris 1.33 VVT-i TR 5dr (2011/61-plate, 30,000 miles): £7750 from a dealer or £7095 for a private sale.

Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai Santa Fe usedFirst reviewed in Good Motoring: Autumn 2010

What we liked: It’s fantastic value, it’s strong and flexible, it feels great on the road and it swallows enormous amounts of luggage.

What we disliked: One gripe is that the indicator and wiper stalks are round the ‘wrong’ way. As a result, I was forever flashing people with my washers and cleaning the screen with the headlights, much to the consternation of other drivers.

Cost when new:  £20,775-£26,165

Update report:  As we wrote when we first drove it, the Hyundai Santa Fe “is a bit of a lump”. But it’s also roomy, well equipped and great value for money. That applied when the car was new, and goes double on the used market.

The 2010 facelift greatly improved the Santa Fe. This was more than just a mid-life nip-and-tuck, with the highlight being the addition of the barrel-chested 2.2-litre diesel engine. Power, torque and fuel economy all improved. That’s good news whatever use you plan to put your 4×4 to, but helps make the Santa Fe particularly well suited to towing.

There’s a choice of five or seven-seat versions. If fitted, the third row of seats folds into the floor when not needed, giving the Santa Fe MPV-like practicality. We’ve heard of some cars developing electrical gremlins and reports of trouble with the air conditioning. Warranty cover would be a sensible precaution against a big bill when you least expect it.

Our estimate: Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Style 7st (2011/11-plate, 30,000 miles): £13,895 from a dealer or £13,600 for a private sale.

Don’t buy a lemon…

Do your research: There are plenty of customer satisfaction and reliability surveys. Use them when deciding on a shortlist of suitable models. The results don’t necessarily tally exactly, but if a car is near the top of the league table in most surveys, then it’s a pretty safe bet as a used car.

On the test drive: Don’t chat with the seller on the test drive. You need to concentrate on the car. Does it smoke when it starts? Are there clunking noises from the suspension? Does the car pull to one side unless you grip the steering? If the answer to any of these is ‘yes’, then don’t buy.

Check the history: Don’t buy a used car without carrying out a history check first. This should only cost around £10 to £15.  A thorough history check will tell you whether a car has been stolen, written off or has any outstanding finance on it.

Ask an expert: A few decades ago, home maintenance was common, but these days many of us would struggle to do anything more complicated than top up the oil or check tyre pressures. If that sounds like you, consider having a professional mechanical inspection carried out before you commit to a purchase.

Take your time: It’s easy to rush into buying the first car you look at, but unless you are looking for a rare model or an unusual specification, it pays not to be hasty. Take a close look at two or three cars at least before you part with your cash.