AA Motoring Buyers' Guide: Vehicle size matters
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Is bigger better when it comes to vehicle safety? Will it save me more money if I downsize my vehicle?
These are just a couple of key questions we get from AA members looking to replace their car with something smaller.
Downsizing from a larger car has the potential of putting you in a better financial position, and allowing you to free up some cash to put in to other investments.
However, it is entirely dependent upon what you’re selling and what you’re looking
If you are able to free up enough cash from your trade in to buy a new vehicle, you should benefit from more safety features and this can result in lower registration charges.
But be aware that the requirements for high safety ratings have evolved over time, and not all new cars entering the market get top marks.
By putting in time to do your research, you can often find more compact vehicles that have better cabin integrity and more safety features than vehicles that visually appear more structurally sound.
If you’re looking to trade your current car in for another from a similar year of manufacture, then find out its ANCAP or Used Car Safety Rating, what safety benefits it has and how they work.
Smaller vehicles often benefit from lower daily running and repair costs.
Items that wear and tear over time, such as tyres and brakes, tend to cost less to replace. However, the availability of the parts will also play a crucial part in their affordability. For example, the ease of sourcing Japanese model parts makes these imports cheaper to repair and service.
If your driving requirements have changed and you’re doing more inner city crawling, downsizing to a smaller engine model can be a smart move when it comes to fuel economy.
Some vehicles now have extremely low figures such as the Citroen Cactus C4 e-HDi which offers 3.6L per 100km.
This, coupled with its protective Airbump system, will prepare you for the city roads.
Typically, larger cars make journeys a more pleasant experience as they offer more room to carry everything you might need. When you’re thinking about downsizing, try to avoid going too small straight away as you may end up finding that your new car just doesn’t meet your needs. It’s better to gradually downsize, rather than instantly jumping from a large SUV to a small hatch.
Small cars are often built for the budget-conscious. Some of the bells and whistles, such as seat warmers and leather trims that you’ve become accustomed, to may not feature in smaller vehicles. When it comes to driving, a smaller, lighter vehicle will feel different at first, which could be a shock to the system if you’ve been behind the wheel of a larger vehicle for many years.
Smaller cars usually have more simply designed suspension setups, which are particularly noticeable in the fixed beam, rear axle assemblies, that may not be for everyone.
However, if you have difficulty manoeuvring or parking your current vehicle, downsizing to something smaller could be beneficial. This is often the case for motorists living in the city as townhouses and apartments don’t tend to cater for those with larger cars.
Downsizing isn’t the answer for everyone. Some of us just can’t imagine getting behind the wheel of a hot hatch. But, if your vehicle no longer fits your lifestyle and takes the fun out of driving, you may be surprised at what’s on offer in the small car market.
We’d recommend venturing out and having a look at some of the smaller vehicles available.