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Buying and selling a car

Which do I choose – old car or new car?

Running a car that's 10+ years old has many benefits. It's not very nickable; you're less likely to mind when someone dings your paintwork in the gym car park (always own up guys, don't be that person); and you can take it to practically anyone for a service.

BUT while your insurance premium eases pleasingly downwards, those service bills creep up, and they're unpredictable. It's like really crap roulette: will it be the service package and a wee bit extra for screenwash? Or an inventory of interventions that leaves you with barely 2 fivers to rub together for the rest of the month?

Polly vs. Aggy: my car dilemma

Polly the trusty, rusty 2003 Polo is my first car. We've been together just over 2 years, and I love her lots. But (don't tell Polly) I've had my head turned by a shiny 2015 Toyota Aygo. We'll call her Aggy.

The design makes her look like she's sponsored by X-Men (Evolution cartoon, if you're into that, which I am). She has snazzy little LED daytime running lights, and she exudes a general aura of cool.

Polly's wheels aren't falling off or anything. But it would be nice to have remote central locking and air conditioning. It's 2016, after all. Cars are driving themselves these days and I'm still opening doors with a key.

I'm locked into a pros and cons vortex and I’m taking you down with me. Let's look at one thing at a time.

  1. The whole money thing

    I've never leased a car before, but as Polly gets more and more erratic in her high maintenance habits, I kinda like the idea of a car that costs a predictable amount of cash. I'm OK with debt (oh hey, student loan), and I probably can afford the extra cost every month.

    The tricky thing is balancing mileage, deposits and final cash payments. The small car retail deals that seem really tasty - like £99 a month - aren’t ideal for me because my mileage is quite high. They usually have an annual mileage limit, with pence-per-mile fees if you go over (eesh). But they can also include nice perks like insurance, road tax, and servicing. This applies to newish approved second hand cars too.

    If I had lower mileage and a bigger deposit to play with, I could totally get into the trading-in cycle, and switch up for another model after a couple of years, using the original Aggy to trade in for Aggy mark 2.

  2. Insurance (duh) and vehicle tax

    Polly technically sits in the supermini category (lol) and for various reasons like engine size she's way up there in insurance group 4.

    Switching to a city car like Aggy definitely has benefits from an insurance point of view - with her tiny engine, she's in car insurance group 1!

    These groups are very closely linked to cost so aiming for low groups is a very good idea.

    I would love to be in group 1 because it usually means low or even zero vehicle tax because these little nippers have low emissions, which is way better for the environment.

    Yup, that was ZERO road tax vs. Polly's £140 vehicle tax = Aggy wins. Hands down.

    Car insurance groups
  3. The teeny, tiny car thing

    Interior space: could I cope with the boot size? Not sure. It's nice to be able to put Polly in minivan mode... So it's big spacious booty vs. teensy tiny city butt.

    Engine size: a 1.0 engine doesn't sound like much. But a much newer, lighter Aggy probably feels way nippier than Polly regardless. Fuel economy would be AMAZING. No arguments there really.

    Safety: without a doubt, Aggy the Aygo is a step up safety-wise despite her size, most notably in terms of pedestrian safety ratings. That's always a good thing.

    Driving experience: it would definitely be a change. Polly is very steady on the road, very reliable, I feel like I can hold my own on the motorway with a 1.2. Reviews suggest that Aggy would be a bit more skittish at high speeds and worse in the wind...but she’s so snazzy! If I do seriously consider it, I'll book a test drive to get a proper feel for it.

    Sound system: entry-level Aggy only comes with 2 speakers - you have to pay extra for the 4 I’m used to. And I really do love to crank it up and sing loudly on my country commute.

  4. Something completely different?!

    Now I'm throwing a spanner in the works.

    Because I've been driving for nearly 4 years, insurers will cut me quite a bit of slack on account of my experience and No Claims Discount.

    Although I'm still YOUNG, thank you very much, I'm no longer considered a new driver - and 4 years with no claims will grease the wheel a lot. Even your first year's NCD could mean up to a 40% discount according to

    So I *could* have something even fancier like my other secret crush, the SEAT Ibiza. Mmm. Tasty.

    If I'm honest, I'm still undecided. But it's exciting to be at the point where I'm not a newbie any more, looking around at what I might be able to drive next.

    No Claims Discount

5 tips for making up your mind

  1. Think about where you drive

    City cars, though manoeuvrable and easy to park, aren't the be all and end all when it comes to fuel economy.

    It could be worth holding onto Polly for a little longer, 'til I can afford to splash out on something in the supermini class for better MPG and a more comfy ride.

  2. Be upfront about your upfront budget

    At the moment, my choice is limited by my deposit, and the bigger your deposit, the cheaper the credit will be. It's tempting to go for what's cheapest right now, but you'll be paying over the odds in the long run. Save up.

  3. Know yourself...

    And not in a mindfulness kinda way. While your gender doesn’t affect your premium, your age and driving experience do. If you've got a few years' no claims under your belt, you might be pleasantly surprised by the premiums on slightly bigger cars.

    Find out what makes your insurance cost what it does.
  4. Book a test drive, dammit

    I might get behind the wheel and find that Aggy handles like a tea trolley on windy roads, and is just as wibbly on the motorway. And I might forgive all for the sake of her dashing good looks, but I won't know until I try.

    Yeah, I'll feel a bit like I'm cheating on Polly to take Aggy out for a spin - but at least I'll know whether breaking up with Polly is worth it.

  5. Don't rush into things

    I'm fortunate to have a car that's still ticking over OK, so I've got time to look about me while still enjoying Polly's many benefits. Eventually, the time and circumstances will be right, and I'll find the perfect match.

    I hope you do too, but it takes time. Don't jump at the first car that comes your way - it's rarely the best one.

If you're debating a used car, find out what you need to know about buying second hand.