Car Choice: It's good to inherit an estate

You'll get much more for your money by choosing an estate option than a similar MPV, says James Ruppert

Pete Davidson and his wife are looking for a mid-size estate car or small multi-purpose vehicle that will fall within their budget of £6,000. It needs to be a decent day-to-day drive with enough room for their two children and space for the camping gear too.

Pete knows that he has lots of options when it comes to comparing MPVs and estates. However, he is worried that he will have to buy a high-mile car, especially as he plans to keep the vehicle for at least five years.

Peter is concerned about mileage. Obviously the more miles a car has on the clock the cheaper it will be. Most used car buyers are faced with a dilemma - trading off a high mileage for newer model or enhanced specification.

If Peter needs some reassurance, I almost always buy cars with six-figure mileages. My latest purchase had 105,000 when bought and a car I bought last year with 100,000 is now up to 115,000. Personally, I don't have a problem with high mileages provided that the vehicle has been properly maintained. The truth is that cars are better built and can withstand very high mileages.

Buying a high-mileage car will mean that certain components will need replacing, and it can be very hard to predict which ones are likely to fail first. From experience it tends to be suspension components, automatic gearboxes and exhaust systems that need replacement or overhaul when a car is coming up to the 150,000-mile mark. Maintenance is the key though, and Peter needs to invest to keep a higher-mile car running more sweetly.

When it comes to choosing the type of vehicle, then if Peter does not need seven seats it will be rather pointless buying one. MPVs can attract a premium over an estate car and I would suggest that a spacious estate could be much better value and even a more practical option.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

One of the most capacious estates you can buy is the Vauxhall Vectra. Since it was launched, the Vectra has been the most spacious estate car in its class. Not surprisingly, it has a very large load area with a low loading sill and, unlike many fully loaded MPVs, you will get passengers and their luggage inside the vehicle.

I reckon for a summer camping trip you may well be surprised to discover just how much you can put in. The specifications have always been very comprehensive and there is a wide range of engines.

However, Peter may not be able to afford the most appropriate engine unit. Everyone wants the diesels - 1.9 and 2.0-litre turbodiesels, while the 3.0V6 would cost a fortune to run. But if Peter is happy to change gear a tad more often then the 1.8 petrol would probably do.

Without trying too hard I managed to find a 1.8LS at a dealer that had covered only 26,500 miles, which should please Peter.

Even more likely to put a smile on Peter's face is the fact that this 2003 model was on sale for £5,995. That was good value as a 2004 with 49,000 miles was £6,495, but with a bit of negotiation Peter could get that down. The 2.0DTi diesels routinely have 80,000 miles, but they are built to take large mileages, so perhaps he could think about those too.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

Although the Vectra is good looking, the Mazda 6 has more style. Like the Vauxhall it has a well thought-out load bay. The boot is exceptionally practical, being large, free from any intrusions and with a low floor.

When Peter needs more room, a one-touch action means the rear seats easily fold flat. Again, like the Vauxhall, it has a good level of standard equipment - alloy wheels, air conditioning and four electric windows. All the engine options are very good, but the one big problem is that the Mazda 6 is more rare than the Vectra and so prices are on the high side, and the mileage can be too.

It is difficult to find any model below 70,000 miles within the £6,000 budget, and if Peter wanted a diesel then it would have at least 100,000 miles.

The Mazda, though, has a great reputation for reliability, as does a Nissan Primera, which is another alternative and could be better value. It has a spacious boot and good standard equipment including climate control.

A 1.8SE, with a reversing camera and with 44,000 miles will be just under £6,000, like the one I found near Bury.

CAR CHOICE

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and contact telephone number, as well as details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested as well as your budget.

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