Motoring: More metal for your money

The used car trade has got the January blues, and if you can afford to, now is the time to take advantage of those poor lonely blighters shivering on the forecourt. James Ruppert shows you how.

The car trade is highly seasonal. From the buoyant early spring it goes through to a strong summer and a gentle running down as autumn turns into winter. Then, come November, things get a little bit chilly. On the run-up to Christmas spare cash is being diverted to other spending. Not only that, but kicking tyres on a sub-zero forecourt is hardly a popular pastime.

Canny used buyers with about pounds 3,000 to pounds 5,000 to spend know that this is the time to go shopping. Welcome to the January used-car sales.

Superminis: If any type of car is going to defy the seasonal downturn, it will be the smaller hatchback which is perennially in demand. Everyone wants an economical, practical and reliable small car. One car which surprisingly fits the bill is the Fiat Punto. It's a thoroughly modern supermini which has led the company's Nineties renaissance. The Punto is well built and cheap to buy and run. Prices start at pounds 3,000 for a high-mileage, 1994, three-door 55S.

Hatchbacks: The second group of cars least likely to be on special offer will be in the so-called Golf class. Once again, practical and reliable cars never go out of fashion. VW Golfs aren't that cheap. Even the arrival of the all-new Golf means that only a high mileage and underpowered 1992 1.4 would be within budget. However, a Seat Ibiza 1.4 is effectively a rebodied but lighter and perkier version, built to VW standards. You can even afford a 1995 model.

Off-roaders: In theory 4x4 vehicles should be by far the strongest sector at this time of the year. Snow, ice and torrential rain are ideal conditions to show off. That was a few years ago, when they were fashionable. Sluggish performance, poor mpg and top-heavy handling has put them out of fashion.The only reason to buy a 4 x 4 is for work. Try a handy-sized 1992 Daihatsu Fourtrak, or, if you want loads of room, then a Nissan Patrol is cumbersome, but brilliant value at less than pounds 5,000.

People carriers: The Espace was the first and arguably best of the breed, in 1984. An early one would still cost pounds 3,000; pounds 5,000 puts a 1988 model within reach. Trouble is, they're not always in perfect nick. Toyota took the van-with-windows concept and applied it to its reliable and capacious eight-seat Space Cruiser; pounds 5,000 buys a well-cared-for '90 model.

Executive cars: Any time of the year is a bad time for big cars. Middle- management drivers traditionally opt for Ford Granadas and Vauxhall Carltons, but there is a classier alternative. The Saab 9000 has all the luxury trimmings. The absence of a BMW or Mercedes badge makes all the difference; high-mileage examples can be bought at giveaway prices right now: 1992 2.0 CD saloon models with automatic transmission, air conditioning and an unfeasibly big boot, cost an easy pounds 5,000.

Luxury cars: These depreciate heavily, even with a BMW badge on the bonnet. While 3 and 5 series seem to defy gravity, pounds 50,000 spanking new 7 series tumble to used-car reality at an alarming rate. Of course, lots of expensive things could potentially go wrong, but one that has been maintained regardless of cost by a plutocrat should not let you down. Try a 1990 735i for size.

Family cars: The size of the fleet-car sector means that it is sensitive to oversupply all year round, and even more likely to yield bargains at this time of the year. Best medium-sized hatch and saloon of the Nineties has been the Ford Mondeo, and they make great used buys, cheap to run and nice to drive. Cheapest is a '93 1.6, nicest a '95 2.0.

Sports coupes: Not the time of year to go looking for a frivolous sports car. So a good time to find a Nissan 200SX. Naff badge, but it looks the sports car part. Has good 2+2 accommodation, is very quick and utterly reliable because it is built by the same company that makes Micras. Underrated, fun, and a 1990 model is yours for less than pounds 5,000.

So when you go shopping this January, bear in mind that dealers are eager to do deals during their bleakest months. Also, any private advertiser is going to be pretty desperate to sell. Get a price guide such as Parker's from the newsagent and haggle around the trade (not retail) valuation.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Chelsea are interested in loaning out Romelu Lukaku to Everton again next season
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

    £600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

    BA/PM,EMIR/Dodd-Frank,London,£450-650P/D

    £450 - £650 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

    Senior Analyst - ALM Data - Banking - Halifax

    £350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Analyst, ALM Data, Halifax, ...

    Java developer - Banking - London - Up to £600/day

    £500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Java developer - Banking - London - Up to £600/d...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series