Which Car? 'Want a luxury car at a bargain price?'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

David Sumner, 41, a freelance PR officer from Buckinghamshire, wants a bargain. His car could be £1,000 or £15,000 but all he wants to the bargain of the moment. It might be an G reg Jaguar XJ6 in good nick he saw for £1,000 in a classic car magazine, a new Rover 75 at a car supermarket for £12,000 or maybe a two-year-old Mondeo. So what are the best bargains?

We all want a bargain and now the time has never been better to buy a new or used car. In particular, the executive and luxury car market has a disproportionate number of great-value buys for many reasons.

Depreciation is a major issue because of the high initial cost and future running costs of these vehicles and it is the models with large petrol engines which can suffer the most. Also the wrong specification (no alloy wheels, non-metallic colour and no satellite navigation system) and the wrong badge (Alfa Romeo, Saab) makes a difference. Image is everything in the new and used car market.

The oversupply of new cars market means manufacturers are becoming more desperate to shift stock. Dealers are being forced to preregister cars to boost sales figures and many are turning up at car supermarkets around the country. There are also a huge number of incentives being offered on new cars, from insurance and finance packages to cashbacks and Citroen even offering to pay the VAT element of the retail price. In turn, this has placed pressure on the used car market and has resulted in low prices.

A car for the head

It certainly pays to keep in contact with what new car brokers are offering on the web. Recently, I found what a difference a piece of plastic makes.

A UK broker had a handful of Volkswagen Passat 1.8T Sports, which were 2003 models but for one tiny specification upgrade: it had old black strips on the bumpers rather than new chrome ones. That meant it cost £15,630 rather than £18,185. But Mr Sumner also has the pick of some great family saloons.

The conventional choice remains the Ford Mondeo which is easy to buy nearly new with big discounts, but the early 2000 models offer better value, with most available at £6,000 to £6,500. A classier badge belongs to a Saab, and for £6,000, Mr Sumner could buy a big 1998 Saab 9-5, or slightly smaller 9-3 with full history and every extra from specialists or the one previous caring owner.

Rather than a possibly troublesome classic Jaguar, Mr Sumner should consider a hi-tech 1990s Lexus LS400. Although £50,000 when new, a good 1995 example is now in the £6,000 to £7,000 bracket. It will not break down and specialist servicing will not break the bank.

A car for the heart

Alfa Romeo is a charismatic marque, but a slightly tarnished one these days. At the top end of the executive market, Mercedes and BMW are the default choice which explains why unsaleable Alfas are starting to turn up at car supermarkets. These are UK-supplied cars, registered with full three-year warranties.

At Motor House 2000 (01543 462300), we have seen the 166 2.0 Tourismo at just £12,799 which is a phenomenonal saving over the original retail price of £20,750. Enthusiasts who prefer the sonorous V6 can make an even larger saving, paying just £14,799 for what was a £24,250 car.

If Mr Sumner does not want to pay that much, the beautifully styled Alfa Romeo 156 is becoming a great used bargain. The older, pre-facelift examples that have fallen out of favour and represent the biggest bargains. The 1998 and 1999 2.0 TS models are £5,000 now, with full history files and warranties.

Significantly, if Mr Sumner was brave enough to go to auction, but played safe by bidding for only one-company-owned 156s he would pay just £3,500 to £4,000. With his savings, he could also buy a 1971 classic Alfa 1750 GTV for £4,500.

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