Adrian Hoffman, 41, a graphic designer from Surrey, is looking for an estate, preferably Saab, Volvo or VW Passat with less than 50,000 km on the clock. He says the engine should be at least 1.8 litre, preferably fuel but Turbo-diesel is a possibility.
Estate cars are often overlooked by used-car buyers and that is a pity. They are spacious, practical and can be good value. But the executive market that Mr Hoffman is looking at, with the Saab, Passat and Volvo, can often attract premium prices over saloons. That does not mean Mr hoffman cannot save money on this type of vehicle provided he is prepared to shop around.
Buying from main dealers is the most expensive way, although the vehicles are often of the highest quality and come with a comprehensive warranty. At the other end of the used-car scale there is the auction option. We have covered this before and it gives buyers the opportunity to get a car at wholesale prices, but it requires a lot of confidence, experience and research to avoid a mistake.
Or there are car supermarkets, which offer a compromise in price and service between dealer and auction. And Mr Hoffman should not rule out classified advertisements for private and trade sales. Provided he gets a professional inspection, the cars bought from these sources can be great value.
A car for the heart
If Mr Hoffman wants an estate he can love, the Saab 9-5 fits the bill as a stylish and spacious package. The carrying capacity is 1,498 litres and on some models a clever, sliding floor arrangement to make loading easier.
On long journeys, the Saab is in its element, quiet and refined with a real air of quality in the cabin. This model is on the pricey side, but specialists can supply good examples. Saaben (01753 647 657) had a 2000, 2.0 litre model with beige leather and an 81,000 mileage which, for a Saab, is only just run in, at £9,750. We also found others in classified advertisements with higher mileages and a year older at £7,995.
Mr Hoffman might also like to consider the Audi A6 Avant. This is a handsome and well-built model with a wide range of engines and a spacious interior. Again, prices stay reasonably firm but at Car Giant (0208 969 5511) in west London there is a good selection of models. A 1999 T-registered 1.8 SE was £7,499 and a similar model from 2001 was £10,799.
A car for the head
Mr Hoffman should consider other mainstream models that offer real value for money. The most obvious is the Citroën C5, which is not pretty but is huge inside and comes with a huge amount of kit as standard.
And he could find C5s as cheap at his local Citroën dealer as anywhere else. A two-year-old, 2.2, Hdi SX estate, with an excellent diesel engine, will be £9,000 to £9,500. Also, Mr Hoffman ought to look at the German-built Vauxhall Omega estate. This has a massive load area and long equipment list that depreciates markedly in the first few years.
D K Car Sales 01635 865610 specialise in Omegas and always have a good selection. When I checked, their stock started with a 1999 2.0 litre CDX automatic estate for £6,995 with 38,000 on the clock that cost £25,000 new. For £12,995, there was a year-old 13,000-miler, an as good as new 2.2 CDX automatic which was a saving of £10,000. The Omega is a comfortable car to drive and incredible value.
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