Motoring: Your new car holds the road. But will it hold its price?

Finding a car you're happy with is one thing, knowing whether it's going to sell five years later is another, as James Ruppert discovers
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The Independent Online
A FEW weeks back we told you what new cars to avoid, but how do you go about choosing a car which will be easy to resell?

It isn't easy. Get it wrong and you could lose a fortune in depreciation. Worse still, the wrong model will mean that it remains unsold in the classifieds.Ordering the wrong options could also prove to be a costly mistake, wasting money and failing to tempt buyers. So we have spoken to the editors of the CAP Black Book Guide - trade experts whose business it is to predict future values - for guidance on what makes a good used car and what options it should and shouldn't have.

Badge: it is all about image. Without it, even the best car in the world can struggle, and it can take a lifetime to acquire. Mercedes has it, with a reputation for building prestigious, high-quality cars. Honda also has quality on its side. BMWs are well-built and sporty. Peugeot's diesel models have legendary durability.

In contrast, Nissan makes high-quality but uncharismatic cars. Rover has had identity problems in the last few years. So choose your badge carefully.

Universal appeal: used-car buyers are a conservative lot, so put yourself in their shoes. They don't necessarily want what you do. A bright colour or body kit may suit your style, but they frighten away future buyers.

It might not be much fun, but ordering a conventional-looking car is safer in the long run. Also, used-car buyers don't take risks. New cars are mostly bought by companies, not individuals, so a radically different model might frighten off buyers.

For instance, Ford's Ka looks too different and Alfa Romeos are still regarded as eccentric, especially the 145/146; the dealer network is small, too.

Versatility: buyers want one car that can do every job. So a hatchback, rather than a saloon, will appeal to more buyers.

Running costs: good fuel economy, reliability, low servicing costs and low insurance are important buying factors. Depreciation is not such a big issue on the used market as its effects are not so keenly felt.

Simplicity: main-dealer servicing is not even a consideration for many used buyers. What they want is an uncomplicated car, which is going to be cheap to service and easy to repair: for instance, the humble, four- cylinder Volkswagen Golf, perceived as being a simple car which rarely, if ever, breaks down.

The best options: metallic paint is easier to keep shiny and it retains its sheen several years down the line. Ideally, the colour should look the same in all lights.Silver and red are safe, but dark colours, which look dirty quickly, are not a good idea.

Power steering is still not a standard feature on all cars. For instance, on entry-level Vauxhall Corsas it is a pounds 350 option.

Air conditioning was once only found on the most luxurious cars, it is now a must-have on even the humblest hatch. In five years' time, selling a car without it may prove very difficult.

The sun may not shine too much in the UK, but when it does used-car buyers want to see it. A requirement for a long time on executive models, sunroofs are now de rigueur across the board.

Alloy wheels are not essential, but they do help cheer up most used cars and are so much better than a set of scuffed plastic wheel trims. The proviso is that they must be the ones fitted by the manufacturer. Wide ones that a teenage boy might choose from the local accessories shop never look right.

The worst options: liquid petroleum gas, or any other dual-fuel facility which allows a car to run on petrol and gas for that matter. It is a nice idea, but still at the experimental stage. Although Ford, Vauxhall and Volvo all sell vehicles that run on gas, the appeal is to a cost-conscious company fleet. Great if they have a gas tank on site, but of no use to the majority of used-car buyers who live nowhere near the handful of gas pumps in the UK.

Satellite navigation is another nice idea, except that it is prohibitively expensive new and not worth anything used. As an option it is pounds 2-pounds 3,000 and standard on only a few luxury and executive models. Used-car buyers would rather use a map.

Automatic gearboxes only make a marginal difference to the asking price for the majority of vehicles. On all luxury and some executive cars they are essential, but for the majority of models, buyers prefer manual gearboxes.

Leather upholstery is essential on all luxury and some executive models, but very expensive on a new car (rarely less than pounds 1,000); it looks and feels out of place in "ordinary" cars and attracts no seller's premium.

Body kits are ugly and undignified. Attaching plastic wings and skirts is always in questionable taste, often expensive and ultimately gives out the wrong signals to most buyers. They will either think you are an adolescent boy racer, or possibly a drug dealer. Don't fit them.

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