Currently reading: James Ruppert: Diesel MPVs are top of the stock
You can now pick up a practical Renault Espace for £2000

Well, this is interesting: the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has told us that used car sales have stalled a bit at the beginning bit of 2021, by -8.9%.

That’s hardly surprising and far from the end of our world, because it should result in slightly lower prices as dealers and traders try to lure us back to their lots and showrooms.

If anything, it’s the new car market that’s taking the biggest hit, and perhaps we should be looking 3000 miles away at the US, where there’s a very real shortage of new cars and used ones are at a premium, due to something about computer chips. That could soon affect us as well, so maybe we should be stocking up now. But with what exactly?

Click here to buy your next used car from Autocar

For a start, you should make a beeline for a diesel. Any diesel, because buyers too silly to avoid them and sellers underpricing what they have is a situation to exploit. I found a 2010 Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTi Elite with 145,000 miles, two previous owners, a service history and a tidy MOT record for just £799. That’s a great family hatchback for not much money at all. It’s with a dealer, too, so it has to be sorted.

If you want the best small family hatch of recent times, the Mk1 Ford Focus is still readily available. You need to find a decent one, of course, but why pay through the nose for a nearly new something or other that won’t be as good to drive nor anywhere near as cheap to run?

9 Insignia 2010

This Focus can rust, but I found one that still seemed solid enough, was well looked-after and had just been serviced. For £995, a two-owner 2005 1.6 Zetec 5dr with 66,000 miles was temptingly fresh to look at. Futureproofed with a petrol engine, it should last another decade or two.

Those who need a lot of seats are well catered for as well. What could be more practical than the Renault Espace? Goodness me do these look good, and I found a 2008 2.0 dCi Dynamique automatic with just over 100,000 miles for £2000. What a characterful way to get around.


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Can the latest Scenic live up to its sharp and glossy new look, or has the seven-seat MPV segment matured enough that the competition now has an edge?

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Fun should never take a back seat in serious times, and a 2005 Mini Cooper S would surely be interesting transport. Especially as the 86,000- mile example that I found meets all your ULEZ needs for just £1990. Again it’s a dealer car, so this isn’t a private buyer trying to reverse out of bother. It’s 15 years old, but it should increase in value whether car sales go up, down or sideways.

There’s no shortage of classy used cars like these, so it’s our duty to go out and buy them.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

8 Img 0827

Porsche Caynne, mileage - 111,160: I seem to have joined the 21st century, and it’s all the Flying Pig’s fault. It has been displaying a four-wheel-drive fault code when it seems to be perfectly healthy. The answer might be an OBD II fault-code reader and reset tool, so I thought I had better get one. It’s useless on my old nails but might come in handy with the newer cars that I don’t drive on a regular basis. Incidentally, I was ahead the techno-curve when I got one of those BMW service light reset tools back in 1988. You could turn the red lights green with an artfully inserted paperclip, but it looked the part. Anyway, I had better go and plug and play...

Reader's ride

7 Ford focus st170 ek03olg 134

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Ford Focus ST 170: Thanks to David, who says: “Last year, I went to view two Focus ST 170s with a dealer. One ran badly and was quite rusty, but the other drove well, looked easy to tidy up and showed its engine light on my test drive, which proved a great bargaining point. I bid politely but low and thus secured my best deal yet. I did a few jobs and had a bit of welding done before enjoying 3000 miles in it. Alas, a few big jobs loomed before the MOT, so I sold it to a fast Ford specialist, who then did the required work, securing it an MOT for its next owner."

Readers' questions

6 Readers q dealer

Question: After I agreed to buy a car, the dealer asked for an admin fee. I didn’t recall seeing any mention of this so refused to pay. It threatened to keep my deposit but eventually refunded me. Is this a con? Steven Dodd, via email

Answer: An administration fee is only a con if it isn’t clearly displayed and set out with the car’s price. If what you say about that is true, the dealer should be grateful that you accepted a refund without also reporting it to Trading Standards. Still, even when it’s properly displayed, an admin fee feels to us like a way of advertising a low price before then sneaking in an increase, so avoid dealers who charge one. JE

5 Readers q vw

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Question: I can’t decide between getting a 2500-mile, 21-plate e-Golf at £24,182 on a PCP or buying a new ID 3 at £32,470. Which would you suggest? Sue Steele, via email

Answer: The e-Golf is less powerful (134bhp versus 143bhp), less advanced and has a shorter range (around 150 miles compared with 200) than the ID 3. As the ID 3 is a genuine EV, not an adapted ICE car, we suspect that you would be glad you chose it over the e-Golf. JE


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Deputy 10 June 2021

AddyT.  I meant the urban air quality impact of particulates from MPV diesels, not CO2. Which if you're buying a 10 year old MPV I'm assuming it's for local urban transport and not a car for cruising hundreds of miles a week on the motorway (otherwise yes, a diesel has better CO2 so need to balance local air pollution versus CO2 for global warming). So local urban car go petrol.  Long distance cruising get diesel.

AddyT 8 June 2021

Incorrect Deputy. It depends on how many miles a year that person with the MPV does. If you're doing the miles you're not going to run a petrol MPV of that era doing no doubt a real world mpg around 30. 

scotty5 8 June 2021

I'd rather trust Arthur Daley than listen to James Rupert. Two sentances confuse me.

Any diesel, because buyers too silly to avoid them and sellers underpricing what they have is a situation to exploit.


Futureproofed with a petrol engine, it should last another decade or two.

So is James is calling himself silly for not opting for a diesel Focus?