Peter Rycart, 47, and his daughter, are running a '02 plate Mini Cooper automatic. They've had it for three years and want to sell it, to pay off the finance (about £4,500), and free up some cash. Peter is hoping to get around £5,500-£6,000, but still needs some wheels. However, they do not want to spend more than £2,000. Both of them really enjoy the Mini and wouldn't need much convincing to run it forever. What should they do?

A car for the head

Borrowing money to buy a car, even one you love, is flawed. Always better, in my opinion, to save up and own the car outright . It concentrates your mind when you buy a used car, plus if you borrow money and buy a car that's a nightmare you will be paying off the instalments for years.

My initial thought here then, is that because they like the Mini and have owned it for three years anyway they should keep it, pay off the loan, then run it until it drops. If this isn't an option for Peter, let's find a small automatic car that he can buy outright. When I think small car these days, especially one that is economical and reliable, it has to be the Toyota Yaris. Not the cheapest option, but for £2,000 Peter should just about be able to buy a 1.0 litre 1999 example. I found a V reg GLS with 69,000 miles on the clock, which was just a fraction over £2,000 at a dealer, so it would have a warranty. This is a three-door, like a Mini, and actually has a bit more usable space inside, so Peter could find it more practical. It won't be as nice to drive, though, or look as funky. Sadly that is the trade-off Peter and his daughter will have to make.

A car for the heart

It is very difficult to find a car that will match the fun of the Mini. However, I would suggest that the Renault Clio, pictured below, has the sort of character that Peter and his daughter might appreciate. It is not an outstanding vehicle in any one area, but overall it will do the job in a cheerful and cost-effective manner.

It would cost much less than a similar age Yaris. The 1.2 engine is quite efficient, officially returning 47mpg – though it will be a bit less for the automatic. Again, the Clio should be more practical than a Mini. Although the rear legroom is not huge, the boot is a decent size. The ride is reasonable and it feels very smooth out of town, so on the longer runs Peter should be very happy. The driving position is more of a challenge for some, causing problems to those who are on the tall side and it is essential that Peter and his daughter go for a decent test drive in one to check that they fit. I found a 2002 example, which had covered 74,000 miles, for exactly £2,000. It was in immaculate condition, with few owners, and had the Expression specification, with central locking, sunroof, electric windows, and a CD.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.

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