Matthew Osmond's company car is due for replacement soon. It is a four-year-old Renault Laguna Sports Tourer Privilege 2.0-litre petrol automatic with 70,000 miles on the clock. His wife's R-reg Daewoo Lanos automatic doesn't cost much to maintain, but is very tired and battered from carrying the children around. The lease company is offering the Laguna for £4,500. Matthew asks whether he should take the opportunity to buy the company car.
Firstly, let's look at the money issue. According to the price guides and on the basis of the information that I have been given, a 2002 Laguna with that mileage will retail - that is, sell at a dealer - with a warranty, for £4,850.
Possibly we could add a bit for the automatic gearbox and that means it should be a £5,000 vehicle, at the very most. The trade value is actually much closer to £3,000, which is what the lease company would get if they put the car through an auction.
On the face of it then, Matthew is not being offered a brilliant deal. However, there is a lot to be said for taking on a car that he has owned since new, which has been comprehensively serviced by his company and carefully driven. Unfortunately, the Renault Laguna has not been particularly reliable.
According to the Reliability Index ( www.reliabilityindex.co.uk) the Laguna scores poorly with a high incidence of suspension and electrical faults.
As Matthew knows, there are a lot of electrical gadgets just waiting to go wrong and the Index says that the average repair cost is a substantial £311.
At £3,000 and to run for another three years it might be worth the risk, otherwise I reckon Matthew could get a safe and reliable family car for less than £4,000.
A CAR FOR THE HEAD
The Daewoo that Matthew has is a good example of a basic, but tough and undemanding family car that has been cheap to own.
He needs something more modern and much safer. I don't think that Matthew would go far wrong with a Ford Mondeo. It scores a decent four-star Euro NCAP rating, it has plenty of airbags, three-point rear safety belts for the children, plus it is nice to drive.
Above all, though, being a Ford it is easy and cheap to fix. According to the Reliability Index it is the fifth most reliable make of vehicle on their survey, with very low repair costs.
Depreciation on what is a mass-market vehicle is substantial and I was surprised to find a 48,000-mile estate version with a 2.0-litre engine and comprehensive Ghia specification, with one previous owner, on sale at a dealer for £3,500. So it would also have a full warranty, which buying direct from a leasing company it would not. I picked an estate version and 2.0-litre petrol because it is the equivalent of what Matthew has now.
He could buy more simply and cheaply by going for a 1.8 Zetec estate. The Mondeo is an honest and hardworking vehicle with a massive load bay, but again, Matthew could save even more by choosing a standard hatchback, which is also more widely available.
A CAR FOR THE HEART
If Matthew wanted the family to feel a little bit special then he should consider the smaller Volvo estate.
The badge still stands for solid family values and the previous generation V40 is a sturdy vehicle, which is safe and has proved pretty reliable over the years.
For £4,000, Matthew could buy a year 2000 example with a fairly low 50,000 mileage, 2.0-litre petrol engine and air conditioning, essential to keep the family cool. It isn't the cheapest option, of course, and if size isn't an issue then I have always liked the Volvo 850 estate. A lot of car for hardly any money which is substantially child-proof.
With a budget of £2,000, I turned up a 1996 2.5-litre automatic which had just been expensively serviced and had just over 100,000 miles on the clock.
The dealer selling it would put a warranty on it. These large estates still look great and will take lots of punishment. The fuel consumption is not brilliant, but if it is only used for knocking around locally that won't matter.
What's most important is that everyone is safe - the car is practical, easy to fix (there are a lot of Volvo parts/service specialists around) and virtually unbreakable. That's the 850.
Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail James Ruppert at firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your age, address and telephone number, details of the type of vehicle you would like and your budgetReuse content