Replacing an old car may be a hassle, but replacing two need not be as daunting as it sounds, says James Ruppert

Arun Arora has always driven hand-me-downs from family members, from his mum's old Volvo 240 to his uncle's Mercedes 190 and, most recently, his aunt's 3-Series BMW. Arun reckons his wife's 1993 Fiesta is on its last legs, with a recent MOT bill of £700. What he needs is at least one hatchback with folding rear seats that is able to make trips around the UK and France.

Arun has been offered a tidy four-year-old Vectra for £5,000 to replace his BMW but thinks the petrol bill will be too steep for his 50-mile commute.

run has a complex question and a costly one, which involves replacing two cars, but he is by no means alone. Before everyone starts getting moral about the green implications of running two cars, in certain parts of the country it is a necessity for a hard-working family who need to work, get to school and simply keep operational.

From what Arun has told me, the £700 has been spent on the Fiesta, which is pretty much what it would be worth anyway. So Arun either has to get his money back or stick with the Fiesta until it drops.

Regarding the petrol Vectra, yes, it is possible to get more economical vehicles, but Arun should not be too obsessed by going for a diesel. A high-mile diesel car might need fixing and running repairs before a cheaper, much lower mileage and tidier petrol example such as that Vectra.

Better to get a reasonably economical petrol car than go into debt finding a pricey one which, over Arun's modest commute, may not make much difference. However, as Arun has indicated a budget of £5,000, I will see if it is possible to replace both vehicles within that figure and get some rather more contemporary ones.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

I like the sound of the Vectra, a very reliable, comfortable, safe family car. But I found a 2001 44,000-mile 1.8 with full history, an RAC inspection and warranty for £3,000, so he can save some money here.

I also think he should look at Ford Mondeos, which offer the same levels of value for money as the Vauxhall, are very nice to drive, and are practical. A 2.0-litre LX from 2001 with 40,000 miles was only £3,350 at a dealer with a full warranty. That's not a lot of money for a car which is going to last a good few years yet and work well as family transport.

When it comes to the Fiesta, I think Arun needs to think about a vehicle that is a lot more durable and reliable. It has to be the Nissan Almera. Probably one of the dullest cars ever launched. For that reason alone they can be sensational value for money.

Indeed, a 1997-98 example, in decent condition with a service history and a reasonable 55,000 miles, need be no more than £1,200. I know because I found a couple at this price. As a back-up car this would be perfect, and the 1.4 petrol engine is reasonably economical, too. When it comes to reliability surveys, the Almera scores well, so I don't expect too many bills.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

What does Arun really want? It seems like he wants a car he could have bought fairly new. For that reason I would suggest buying a more recent, but rather more obscure vehicle, usually from the Far East. OK, so there is not so much prestige, but you get lots of equipment, and as the vehicle has usually been privately- rather than company-owned, the mileage is low and it has usually been well looked after.

So, perhaps, if Arun does not mind driving a Daewoo, he might have a family car that will fit the bill. The Tacuma is a compact people carrier and comes with a reasonably frugal 1.6 or 1.8 petrol engine. It would be possible to buy a 2003 example with 28,000 miles and a high level of equipment on an SE model for just under £4,000 from a dealer, fully warranted. For trips around the UK and Europe it would be perfect.

I also know that, ideally, Arun wants a Golf to replace the Fiesta and that would be an excellent choice. It would be a Mark 3 model with a 1.4 or 1.6-litre engine from 1996-97, which is unremarkable but fairly solid and reliable if looked after, and a better vehicle than the old Fiesta.

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