With three small children, we had a very long period where money was tight and the idea of a nice shiny new car was just that; an idea. We went through a slew of used cars, ranging from SEATs to a Ford Focus and then a Vauxhall Zafira. You can’t be too precious with small kids and have to assume that your car will take a bit of a battering, so this makes it all the more important to know what you’re after, do your research properly and make sure you check any specific models for potential issues.
Take our Zafira for example. We knew we wanted a 7 seater with a large boot and research had shown that the 1.6 petrol was cheap as punters thought it was under powered. I’d read people on car forums genuinely suggesting that pulling onto a motorway in a 1.6 Zafira would see you taking your life into your hands if there was even a slight incline as the car was so under-powered. People are stupid though; a car weighing 1,403kg outputting 113bhp isn’t massively different than my old SEAT Ibiza Sport, which weighed a little over a ton and had 100bhp and that was a hot hatch back in it’s day! The power to weight ratio was definitely better than plenty of cars of the same age but we live in a world where Jeremy Clarkson shouts “MORE power!” at the top of his voice and derides sports cars that only have 500bhp as being anaemic, so I suppose we’re to blame for listening to him and his ilk.
The first Zafira we looked at from a dealer in Luton depressed us. It was expensive and the dealer had been using it to transport his 5 a side football team around it. A dog had also taken a bite out of the dashboard! But we persevered and found a well rated independent dealer about an hours drive away who specialised in selling ex mobility vehicles that tended to be low mileage and well looked after. This taught us the lesson that the dealership is almost as important as the car itself!
Now the kids are a bit older we’ve replaced the Zafira and when it came to looking for things to replace it with, it was definitely time to update my knowledge a bit. Interestingly the MPV is pretty much dead now, a lot of manufacturers have either dropped them or morphed them into SUVs- take the Peugeot 5008- 1st model was an MPV, the current model is a BIG SUV. Leg and headroom still aren’t the biggest issue for us, we’re looking at width (stop that sniggering in the back!) because with 3 kids, one of whom is still in a booster, the amount of elbowing that goes on is an issue. One of the models we’ve been looking at is Nissan’s Qashqai, we did look at the Juke but that’s really too small. It turns out the Qashqai was a very popular car among company car users, so there are plenty of well looked after second hand models around, you can even book a Nissan Qashqai Acenta with just a few clicks from KAP Motors if you want a test drive today.
When it comes to looking at a second hand car after you’ve decided on the model you want, there are a few specifics I also do:
- read up on sites like Parkers or Honest John. They both have extensive used car review sections that might highlight issues with your particular choice and give you things to look out for on potential purchases when you test drive them.
- if you organise a test drive, ask the dealership in advance for a cold start- that way if there is an issue starting it you’ll see it. Most garages will warm the engine up before hand if you’re not careful
- if you’re buying from an independent or privately, make sure you do a finance check to ensure that there are no outstanding debts on the car. The same goes for accident checks– the AA and RAC both provide a checking service
- Be open to finance deals, although the biggest savings are on new cars, you can get mad savings on used approved cars. My dad recently saved £1,750 on a Volvo by taking out 3 years 0% finance- that doesn’t make sense!
- a number of small dents in an older car are inevitable wear and tear but make sure the dents i) don’t break the paint exposing metal and ii) aren’t an indication of more serious damage- checking the door alignment is fairly easy, and uneven gaps in trim are a good indicator of something more serious.
Most of all though, stick with it- if a guide tells you a decent guide price for a particular car, don’t be afraid to walk away from something that’s overpriced!