Should I buy a new mass-market car or a used premium car model?

There are many temptations lurking in the mass of classified ads these days. Premium-badge cars, even proper full-on luxury models, for the same price as a new ‘mass-market’ car. Instead of having a Ford, Toyota or Opel badge on your driveway, mounted to a humble family hatchback, you could have a proper, prestigious, leather-lined, posh-mobile instead.
This isn’t like the old days either. There has always been the option of buying a zillion-miles, ten-careful-owners Rolls-Royce and trying to make it pay for itself with wedding hires, but the problem there is that as soon as something mechanical (or worse, electronic) goes pop, you’re into second mortgage money to get it fixed.

Servicing used premium cars is often not as expensive as heretofore

With premium-badge cars touting for business from mass-market buyers (especially company car fleets) that equation has changed a bit. A modern BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus or Jaguar has to be able to compete with the mainstream brands in terms of running costs, or at least to balance any extra servicing and repair costs with lower depreciation. If they couldn’t do that, they’d be off the company car buying lists pretty quickly.
Of course, you need to be careful. A posh badge does not necessarily mean total reliability, and there is no question that main-dealer servicing for a premium brand is pricier than that for a mainstream model. You can save a bit by tracking down a good, independent marque specialist (and there are many, especially for BMW and Mercedes) but you still need to buy carefully. A full service history (preferably a main dealer service history) is a must, and if you’re being really careful you should think about buying an approved used model from a main dealer, as that will come with a useful warranty should anything go wrong (BMW’s two-year used car warranty is especially impressive in this regard).
After that, as long as you budget sensibly and keep up the maintenance and service schedule, there’s little or nothing to stop you having the posh wheels instead of the humble ones.

So, what should you buy?

Premium used car 2013 BMW 316d Touring estateWell, for the price of a new, basic Ford Focus hatchback (€21,000 approx) you could have that icon of German sports saloons, the BMW 3 Series. We found a  for €21,995, being sold by a BMW main dealer. It comes with leather, 17-inch alloy wheels, a DAB stereo, and rain sensing wipers. Plus, coming from a BMW main dealer, it will come with a two-year warranty which is only one year less than it would have had when brand new. A 316d diesel can average at least 50mpg and has Band A3 emissions, so will cost only €180 a year in motor tax, keeping your running costs down. Just make sure you budget for servicing at least once a year (the dashboard display will tell you when you need to) and remember that new runflat tyres are expensive should you get a puncture.
Is buying the Focus a more sensible option? Obviously, you’re getting a brand new car with a full warranty (as much as seven-years on some models) and it’s a practical, frugal and reliable family car. The BMW is rather tempting though, isn’t it?

Can we do better? Can we go bigger? Oh yes…

Premium used car Lexus RX450hA basic Volkswagen Passat costs €27,900 and comes with an excellent 1.4 TSI turbo petrol engine. It’s a hugely well-made and reliable car, and is comfortable and refined too. However, for the same money, you could have a 2012 Lexus RX450h hybrid SUV. We found one for €26,950, from a main Nissan dealer, fitted with an automatic gearbox, sat-nav, cream leather and much, much more. OK, so it’s a five year old car, but thanks to being a hybrid, it has affordable €390 a year tax, should do better than 35mpg even around town and you’ll cut a sharper dash driving one than you will in a Passat. Prepare for jealous looks on the school run.

Can we do better again? One last try for posh-car glory? Yup, we sure can…

Premium used car Audi A8A new, top-spec Nissan Qashqai SVE model will set you back €32,820 and is the epitome of the modern family car. Spacious and smooth, there are more seen at school gates on a Monday morning than there are grains of sand on a beach. Probably. What could we possibly offer you for the same money to tempt you away?
How about an Audi A8? We found one, from a SIMI registered dealer, for €31,950. The most subtly-styled of big luxury cars, the A8 combines masses of space, seriously luxurious cabin, four-wheel drive for shrugging off bad weather and a 3.0-litre TDI V6 engine that manages to be quiet, powerful and still return 42mpg. Tax is a bit pricey, at €750 a year, but then again anyone driving a pre-2008 1.8-litre Ford Mondeo is paying the same, and they don’t have full leather interior, xenon lights, sat-nav, parking sensors, heated seats, Bluetooth and much more. Not to mention one of the best-looking four-door saloons ever built. Worth a punt? You’ll need to budget lots for servicing, and if that aluminium body gets bashed, it can be pricey to repair. Plus, as my dad would have said, there’s a lot to go wrong. Still, Audi build quality is rock-solid, so look after it and the costs can be kept under control

Fancy taking the affordable luxury car plunge?

It can be worth it, as long as you buy with your eyes open. And of course, we’d suggest making sure you get a full history and background check from Motorcheck before even thinking about buying one…