Used car buyers guide: Practical problems

Used car buyers guide: Practical problems

So you're looking  to purchase your next used car. You want practicality, economy and even style. Its a tough choice we agree but luckily for you there's a huge amount of variety on the used market right now. From the classic estate car to the modern crossover today we're going to take a look at your options and the pros and cons of each type of car.  Read on for our complete practical used car buyers guide.

Practical buyers guide skoda

Used car option 1: The estate.

Lets start with the estate car. Estate cars are more often than not  based on similar saloon models and used to be the car of choice for the family on the move. The practical benefits of estate cars have contributed to their popularity and their sustained production over the years. The most obvious benefit is the boot space with estate cars having some of the largest boot spaces on the market, out performing most SUVs, crossovers and even small vans when the seats are folded. If you need a space for longer objects (think skiing or fishing) then the estate is likely the car for you although cabin height can be limiting. Most estates come with plenty of roof space too meaning you can get plenty of luggage on a set of roof rails.

One advantage of the estate car from a drivers point of view is the fact that they are often based on saloon variants. This means that although the car is physically longer than its counterparts, its often the same width and so not as difficult to get through tighter gaps as the big and bulky options. The whole setup is very similar to driving a saloon or hatch from the drivers seat forwards, meaning its a familiar feel to most other cars. 

Another benefit is the low ride height which means that heavy loads are much easier to get on board. The low ride height and by extension lower centre of gravity also means that estate cars feel much more planted and generally handle better than anything else on this list.

Of course these advantages do come with a flip side, the lower ride height won't be ideal if you suffer from mobility issues for example and will see the estate struggle in serious off road situations (though some do come with higher ride heights and all wheel drive like the Audi All road variants).

Pros: big boot space, lower ride height, sportier feel & based on standard cars.

cons: Lower cabin height, Lower ride height not suitable for everyone. 

Lexus RX450H Practical buyers guide

Used car option 2: The SUV

If you're looking for off road capability or need a vehicle with a higher ride height then the SUV may well be the car for you. SUVs are often very spacious in the cabin and packed with useful features. They come with much softer suspension than the more sporty estates in most cases and the higher driving position  allows for greater visibility on the roads.  Its also arguable that the SUV is a much safer car due to its size and thicker 'armour' than the other vehicles on this list. 

Off road capability is where SUVs really shine. The high ground clearance, big chunky tyres and four wheel drive systems can make light work of the more treacherous terrain. If you're likely to do a lot of driving on rural roads  an SUV could be a very useful tool to have, especially in the winter.

Despite their size, SUVs don't always offer a generous amount of boot space. While they often boast spacious and luxurious cabins, the boot space can be lacking, particularly when compared to that of an estate car. 

The other BIG factor when buying an SUV is fuel consumption. With such a vast amount of weight to lug around the fuel economy in an SUV can suffer even with an efficient diesel engine. 

While the SUV is an excellent practical choice it should be noted that it's generally overkill for people who do light travelling and don't intend on going off road. If this is you perhaps you should consider the next option in our list.

Pros: Medium boot and cabin space, Higher ride height, THE choice for rough terrain, four wheel drive, excellent towing ability.

Cons: More tax & Bad fuel economy.

HRV Honda practical buyers guide

Used car option 3: The crossover

 The crossover has soared in popularity in recent years thanks to its hatchback feel with the ride height closer to an SUV.  We're now seeing more of these than ever in our car service and repair centre in Southampton. 

The crossover certainly has its benefits with slightly more room in the cabin than most hatchbacks and a higher ride height too. They're also fairly easy to manoeuvre compared to the bulky SUVs.

Whereas an SUV is a body on frame setup, a crossover uses a unibody which means it handles a bit better and feels less likely to topple over going into a corner. On road then, the Crossover is much easier to drive and manoeuvre with better fuel economy thanks to its lighter weight. 

Most crossovers are front wheel drive with a small turbocharged engine as their powerplant which is great for city driving but not so good in rougher terrain where four wheel drive and a more rugged set up is a must. Although a light gravel track won't be a problem, a crossover simply cannot compete with a proper SUV in terms of sheer off road ability.

The question you have to ask yourself when deciding between an SUV and crossover is simple. Do you need the utility advantage an SUV offers or do you just want to cruise around town a little higher than everyone else?

Pros: Easier to drive, high ride height, Car based, smaller turbo engines, lower tax band than an SUV.

Cons: Smaller cabin & boot space, not as good as an SUV off road.

Practical buyers guide

Used car option 4: The Minivan

While the Minivan  is certainly a different approach that many motorists overlook, we still feel that it should be  a strong contender for anyone wanting a practical used car. 

The minivan is an excellent choice of vehicle if cabin space is your concern. They're tall all the way to the back thanks to their raised roofs offering plenty of head space and they also have ample leg room even in 7 seater form. When it comes to cabin space, the minivan is the undisputed king of practicality.

When it comes to boot space, Minivans  offer a large area for your luggage. While an estate car has the outright length advantage in 5 seat trim, the minivan will still have a fairly large luggage capacity and has a much higher cabin roof.

In terms of handling, minivans can be somewhat unwieldy, yet they typically have good road adherence. For those seeking a smaller, sportier option at the cost of some practicality a compact MPV such as the Ford C-Max, which utilizes the Ford Focus platform, is recommended.

So what are the drawbacks? The main drawback with an MPV is it's versatility. A van wouldn't be ideal for tackling the rougher roads and for the same reasons the MPV should be your last pick on this list if that's what you're after. They're also not as good on fuel as a comparative estate car or crossover vehicle.

Pros: Plenty of cabin and boot space, can double as a van, sliding doors, 7 seats.

cons: Unsuitable off road, fuel economy won't match lighter cars.

What should YOU choose?

After reading this practical used car buyers guide, we hope you have a better understanding of the pros and cons of each type of vehicle in the family sized sector. As for what you should choose, the decision is yours. If you're still struggling here's what we suggest.

Choose the estate if you like the feeling of a more traditional car but want a little extra room.

Choose the SUV if you need off road capability and towing power or live in a rural environment.

Choose the MPV if you want maximum space and live in an urban environment.

Choose the crossover if you want a hatchback feel with a higher ride height.

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