Buyers Guide: Have happy holiday motoring
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Don't let the pressure of Christmas push you into making a bad buying choice
With Christmas coming up, it's the worst possible time for something to start going wrong with your car. The holidays are already an expensive time, so it is bad timing if there are costly repairs on your vehicle. The closure of workshops or skeleton staff working through the festive season also adds to the inconvenience as repairs may take longer.
This recently happened to one of our AA members, who had a station wagon with a seemingly never-ending list of problems - the straw that broke the camel's back was the head gasket failing, causing the engine to lose water and overheat.
In search of a reliable, medium SUV for about $10,000-20,000, our member found a wide range of cars that met his requirements, leaving him perplexed. For about $14,000 he found a 1995 Toyota Surf with 200,000km on the clock, as well as a 2007 BMW X3 with just over 100,000km for the same price.
Day-to-day reliable choices
If you are on a limited budget and looking for a serviceable model with good space and reliability, there are plenty of good options. Manufacturers such as Honda, Suzuki and Toyota offer vehicles with a reasonable amount of space, reliable power trains and their parts are widely available.
There are also a few newcomers such as Mitsubishi and Hyundai that offer even more space. Some of their models are available as seven-seaters and the rear seats can be folded to allow for a large loading capacity. They make great holiday vehicles and some have a reasonable towing capacity, too.
You may also find that you can afford luxury brands, but what's the catch?
Although the initial cost may seem comparable to more common models, consider the cost of repairs as they can be more expensive.
Some European SUVs have safety features over and above other models so, if comfort, style and safety are a priority for you, one of these vehicles may be a good choice.
Before you buy
Always get a car checked by a professional and inspect its service history to make sure you aren't buying a lemon. Also consider protecting yourself when buying a used car by taking out warranty insurance. Bear in mind that this will be more expensive for European vehicles.
Popular, used models can still come with a high asking price, but it could be an extremely reliable vehicle. Cars that appear to have been to the moon and back will have a lot of wear, particularly on suspension components, bodywork and finishing, so keep an eye on the clock.
No matter what you choose, take the time to make a sensible option.
Don't let the pressure of the Christmas holidays rush you into making a poor choice. If you can't find what you want, hold tight and look again in the New Year. With so many cars in the market, you'll eventually find the right fit.