Niall’s virtual diary archives – Monday 25th July 2016

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Monday 25th July 2016: 1.04am. Link shared:

Been thinking about a newer used car than our sixteen year old Focus as the time to make a decision is drawing nearer - basically, if DTS decide to renew my contract after September, I'll need to decide quick. Here is what I need in order:

1. Needs to be July 2008 or later to get the dramatically lower Irish motor tax (Jan 2008 if importing from the UK) saving maybe €300/year.

2. Needs to be diesel as diesel is 30% cheaper than petrol in Ireland, and living in Mallow means it costs €6 in petrol every time you go to and from Cork. That would only be €4 in diesel, saving maybe €400/year.

3. Needs to be big enough to fit our bulky rear facing child seats. C-segment cars can make it (our Focus Mk 1 does just about), D-segment they're a cinch.

4. Needs to be very reliable and low maintenance cost at 10-15 years old.

5. Budget is about €7000, so capital depreciation over an eight year expected lifespan will be about €800/year.

6. Needs to be not painfully large as it makes driving and parking painful in rural Ireland. The Focus Mk 1 at 1.7m x 4.175m is already large enough for roads around here.

7. It would be nice if the newer car was safer than the Focus Mk 1 which was class leading back in year 2000, but is not great at side collisions particularly.

I've been subscribed to all the used car websites last few months with these criteria and I can't say there is much going which isn't a Fiat, Peugeot, Renault nor Citroen all of which are not reliable with a diesel at ten years old, and BMW, Lexus, Mercedes etc are all well over the 10k price. You're basically down to another Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf or SEAT/Skoda clone thereof, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic in the C-segment and Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat or SEAT/Skoda clone thereof, Honda Accord in the D-segment.

Of all those, by far and away the best and most reliable diesel engine is the Honda 2.2 litre N22A i-CTDi which was the first diesel engine Honda ever made. Generating 140 bhp over a much wider curve than usual and with minimal turbo lag, it has been unusually reliable and it's a relatively simple engine, lacking a DPF or fancy software to reduce emissions. The N22A became illegal in new European cars from 2011 onwards, so Honda made the N22B i-DTEC which has much more computer control and a DPF, though it has still been more reliable especially at age than most other diesel engines, though not like the N22A. As with all ECU and DPF managed diesels, it's a good 7% less fuel economic than the N22A too to meet tighter emissions.

This N22A engine only appears in Honda cars, so that gives me two options, the Civic 8th gen or the Accord 7th gen which ran 2006-2011 and 2002-2008 respectively. The Civic is preferential for its smaller size (1.76m x 4.249m as against 1.76m x 4.665m) which is one and a third foot shorter (BTW US readers, the Euro Accord is vastly smaller than the US Accord, we owned a 7th gen Accord in Canada and it's like 40% larger than the Euro Accord).

So go for the Civic right? Well, the Civic, despite being a smaller cheaper car, is disliked by insurers due to being a favourite of the boy racers. Insurance quotes €890/year for a Civic. The Accord on the other hand is €677/year, so €200/year less which isn't a trivial amount, however motor tax is €100/year higher so you're only saving €100/year.

There is also the question of availability of cars with excellent service history as one must insist upon with an older diesel - there are plenty of fleet maintained Accords around with high mileage but perfect service history. This is not the case with the Civic which is relatively rare in Ireland, and indeed seems to be about a thousand euro more expensive than I think it should be probably due to rarity. Indeed, you can get an all leather Executive Accord with 100k on the clock for the same money as a bottom trim Civic.

Finally, I keep mentioning UK imports for a reason. Ireland unlike the UK doesn't keep a lot of metadata on its cars which makes it hard to track what has happened to them over their lives, and dealers add a good €1500-€2000 to a €7k car compared to private to cover their warranty and provide margin. A UK import via an auction broker sits somewhere in risk terms between a private sale and a dealership sale, so whilst finding a car with perfect service history is straightforward when importing from the UK, like with a private sale you're on your own if it's a lemon, whereas with a dealer you get maybe six months to claim before you're on you're own. With Brexit causing a drop in sterling, right now I could import via an auction broker a low mileage good service history 2008 Accord Executive for around €6,500k, best I could find with a similar spec and service history in Ireland was €9,900.

Choices, choices :(. Roll on more sterling depreciation!

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