Used Car Advice: Something Cheap and Reliable Please!

Looking for Something on a Budget – and dependable

Continuing our popular series – Used Car Advice – we want to start 2012 by helping Helga and her husband Gerry buy a vehicle. They contacted us over the holidays:

“We heard through the grapevine that Cartell does case studies on people looking at buying second hand cars?? And that you give recommendations…? Gerry and I know absolutely zero about cars so we would be so grateful for any recommendations from people who know about cars.

We are looking just to buy a good, cheap little motor run around – something like a Ford Fiesta (little, zippy, older, reliable, runs on the smell of an oil rag). We had one once and I loved it but other cars of this calibre would be fine too. We only want to spend around €4000. Oh it would have to take carseats – but sure they all do these days right?”
Helga (mum of two)

Ok, so, lets quickly deal with the child seats issue first: The safest child seat is iso-fix for group 0-1-2 (Babies up to 2/3 years old). However these came into being around 2006/7 so it would have to be assessed which vehicles fitted them in our price range: €4,000. In other words, it’s something Helga and Gerry are right to take a closer look at when they’ve picked out a few options for their next vehicle!


Helga and Gerry are looking for something reliable – that’s the key concern here. They have €4,000 to spend and they want this cash to go as far as possible. What they don’t want is to spend the money on an unreliable vehicle that causes countless trips to the garage, stress, money down the drain…that’s the worst possible scenario here because the capital they invest is completely wasted in that case – they can’t even sell the car onwards until it’s repaired – a real nightmare.

Service History

The most important thing for Helga, regardless of what model she goes for, is that a full service history comes with the vehicle. We’ve all heard about ‘one lady owner’ which is a phrase thrown around in showrooms around the country – but the reality is often quite different. Lower-value-vehicles often have several previous owners so the most recent one, whether she’s a lady scooting around town or not, doesn’t matter so much. What does matter is that the vehicle has a service book with full set of stamps – that’s the vital consideration. Also, look to get a solid warranty from a dealer. Getting a dealer close to home would facilitate any fixes that might occur within the warranty period. Obviously you’d like to get a warranty from a dealer that survives the recession…otherwise you’ve lost cash…but then it’s hard to know these things…and anyways we like to think positively at Cartell!

Low Mileage

Buying a lower mileage vehicle is more preferable if you’re looking to stretch your cash further in terms of longevity. Helga doesn’t appear to be too worried about the style, or even the size, of the vehicle, and that’s a good thing: it means she can opt for a cheap and cheerful low mileage vehicle instead of looking for a higher mileage, snazzier, alternative.


Helga mentioned the Ford Fiesta so lets begin with it. For €4,000 she could buy something like a 2005 Fiesta Steel 1.25l petrol, 5-door. We’ve spotted one on the market at the moment for €3,999 and with 52,383 miles on the clock. That’s exactly the type of vehicle Helga might like to test-drive. The Fiesta for that year is considered a pretty reliable car – provided it’s been well maintained – and there’s plenty of space in the boot for shopping and other bits and pieces. The 5-door gives easy access to the rear seat – an important consideration for children.

Another option in this price bracket is the  VW Fox. This vehicle is not as popular in Ireland as the VW Polo but there are some bargains out there. We spotted a 2006 VW Fox 1.2 litre with 45,000 miles on the clock for €3,850. This could be a decent shout if it’s been well serviced. The draw-back will be the number of doors. In that price range Helga would be looking at a 3-door option: so if access to the rear seats is paramount then the Fiesta is still a better bet.

Finally, we recommend she considers the Toyota Yaris. This was generally a popular vehicle with its owners when it was first launched in Ireland – and included many innovative cabin features. On the downside, the popularity of the vehicle reflects in the relatively high residuals: bottom line: Helga would have to drop down to a 2003 Yaris if she’s looking for a 5-door or 2004 if she’s prepared to settle for a 3 door.

Cartell Recommends…

Faced with these three choices Cartell would opt for the 2005 Fiesta – it’s a newer vehicle and provided it’s been fully serviced it should be relatively trouble-free. Dropping from registration year 2005 to 2003 for an equivalent Yaris is probably not a wise move. Good luck!

0 thoughts on “Used Car Advice: Something Cheap and Reliable Please!

  • Whoo! You guys rock! Thanks for all the advice Cartell – I hadn’t even thought about the whole service and stamps thing. And it looks like the fiesty Fiesta is still top choice for me. We will let you know we go….

    Helga 🙂

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