Car Buying Advice - Shop sMart for Used Cars

Secondhand surprises

If you can’t quite stretch to a new car this Autumn, then don’t worry. There are plenty of tempting options in the used car market. Motoring Correspondent Jonathan Crouch looks at some of the current movers and shakers in the secondhand sector.

Jonathan CrouchJonathan Crouch

September 2016

Motor industry experts will often point out that the smart way to buy your next car isn’t to buy it new. A late, low mileage used vehicle could prove to be much the better bet and the best time to buy one of those is often to focus on a model recently updated, then find yourself a ‘last of the line’ example of the pre-facelift version. With that in mind, let’s look at what might be worth considering this month.

This month’s affordable used car choice: Fiat 500

Fiat 500

If you’re interested in a really small citycar, Fiat’s 500 has long been a favourite choice. The ‘Cinquecento’ was substantially revised at the end of last year, so that’s meant that earlier models from the 2013 to 2015 era have become very affordable. You’re looking at between £7,000 and £8,000 for a base 1.2-litre petrol model from the 2014 to 2015 model year period.

Don’t pay appreciably more for fancy special editions. The preferable 0.9-litre turbo petrol TwinAir versions are worth about £1,000 more than their 1.2-litre counterparts, so you’re looking at between £8,000 to £9,000 for model 2014 to 2015 models.

As for what you should look for, well the 500 has earned a decent reliability record, helped in no small part by its reliable engines. The biggest reported issue to date has been premature ball joint wear and pressure plate issues – but these had mostly been sorted by the time of the 2013 to 2015-era model year models we’re recommending here.

Check for upholstery damage caused by child seats in the back, typical supermarket dints and scrapes, slipping clutches on the manual cars and ensure all the electrical functions – which can get surprisingly sophisticated on up-spec models – work as advertised as these can be expensive to fix. The 500 isn't bad on consumables like brake pads and most people should be able to park it without nerfing the extremities.

Used Fiat 500 cars for sale


Want a tip for something a little trendier? Vauxhall Mokka

Vauxhall Mokka

Want something a little larger but still fashionable? Well what about one of those little Nissan Juke-style crossovers? The Juke’s an obvious used car choice but this month, we’re also going to suggest you look at one of that car’s key competitors, Vauxhall’s Mokka. The Griffin brand is about to launch a heavily revised version of that car, the Mokka X, so now’s a good time to search out a lightly used version of the original design.

The cheapest Mokka models you’ll find will be early 2012-era versions fitted with the relatively undesirable 113PS 1.6-litre petrol engine. For one of these, you’re looking at around £10,000, with prices rising to around £12,500 for a later 2014-era car. It’s better though, if you can, to stretch to a 1.4-litre petrol turbo.

An early 2012-era example of one of these in base ‘Exclusiv’ trim would cost around £11,800, with prices rising to around £15,500 for a later 2015-era model. To these figures, add on a premium of around £1,200 for plusher ‘SE’ trim. And if you want a Mokka 1.4 with 4WD, then work on a premium of around £800 over the 2WD version.

Most Mokka buyers will want a diesel though. The 128PS 1.7-litre CDTi unit used on early models starts at around £11,500 for a 2012-era variant, rising to around £16,700 for a later 2015-era car. Add on around £500 if you want 4x4 traction.

As for what to look for with this Vauxhall, well most Mokka owners we’ve came across have been very happy with their cars. We’d merely council you to check out all the electrical functions and on the test drive, look out for steering wheel vibrations and a tendency to stick in 5th gear, both known issues with this model.

Used Vauxhall Mokka cars for sale


And if your used car needs to have a premium badge.... Volvo V40

Volvo V40

For a premium choice this month, what about Volvo’s V40 compact hatch? It’s been around since 2012, but the Swedish brand has just launched a facelifted version, so earlier 2013 to 2015 examples are now affordable and well worth seeking out.

Most buyers are going to want a diesel V40 and in this part of the line-up, prices for a 2014-to-2016-era model in base D2 ‘ES’ diesel form with the brand’s latest ‘Drive-E’ 2.0-litre engine start at around £15,500 for a ’15-era model, rising to around £16,500 for a ’16-era car. Go for the more powerful 150bhp D3 variant and prices start at around £17,400 for a ’15-era model, rising to around £18,400 for a ’16-era car.

The final V40 diesel option is the 190bhp D4. Here, you can get the 2.0-litre ‘Drive-E’ engine a little more cheaply as it was introduced earlier in the model life in 2014. For such a 2014-era car on ‘SE’ spec, you’re looking at paying around £15,800, that figure rising to around £19,100 for a ’16-era car. If you’re looking for a petrol-powered V40 model from the 2014 to 2016 era, prices start at around £15,500 for a T2 variant in ‘ES’ spec, rising to around £16,300 for a later ’16-era model.

As for what to look for with a V40, well the reliability record here is as good as you'd expect from Volvo. The underlying mechanicals are tried and tested parts and shouldn’t give cause for concern. The interiors are also more hard wearing than most, but do try to avoid the paler coloured upholsteries, many of which suffer from staining from denim jean dye transfer. Check for parking bumps and scrapes, especially on the R-DESIGN models. The big alloy wheels are very susceptible to kerbing.

The more powerful versions have quite an appetite for front tyres, so check there's some life left in the rubber. There was also a ‘Cross Country’ body style with SUV styling tweaks. Don’t expect these to be much good off road as only the range-topping T5 petrol model (i.e. the power-plant nobody would choose for off-roading) got all-wheel drive. The more practical-looking diesels are, in fact, front drivers and almost useless when the going gets slippery.

Used Volvo V40 cars for sale