First used car for motorway commute advice - Anon301

Hi all, first time buyer here.

My new job involves a ~100 mile daily commute (might not be five days a week down the line but will be initially). Reading around, this to me says diesel, however I can't help but take notice of general media uncertainty over rising costs and new legislation etc., as well as potentially some very costly repairs.

I wondered if given that I may well move closer to work in the future, and might not end up commuting five days a week, whether a petrol would work and be less hassle, or if diesel is still the way to go.

Finally, if anyone can recommend some cars for around £3000-3500 that are cheap to insure and run that would be great. I've read good things about the following:

VW Polo Mk5

Ford Focus

Ford Fiesta 1.25

Ford Mondeo Mk III 2.0TDCI

Toyota Yaris 1.3

Skoda Fabia 1.4 tdi

First used car for motorway commute advice - SLO76
Your usage suits a diesel but sadly your budget doesn't so stick with petrol. Your shortlist isn't far off but I'd favour the following.

Mazda 2 1.3
Ford Fiesta 1.25
Suzuki Swift 1.2/1.3
Toyota Yaris 1.33

The Focus is a good car with the Yamaha 1.6 petrol but realistic economy will be around 35mpg which would be heavy for your mileage. The Mk V Polo isn't great in 1.2/1.4 petrol form with wheezy performance. The diesel Mondeo at this money would be a money pit. Above all keep it simple.
First used car for motorway commute advice - argybargy

As long as you aren't regularly pulling a full load of passengers up hills, I'd recommend the Fiesta 1.25.

I had a newish one for a day whilst my own car was being repaired, and I have to say I was surprised at how nippy it was in town, and how comfortable and competent on the motorway.

Decent ride, smooth engine, and great driving position.

First used car for motorway commute advice - Theophilus

One consideration I never see mentioned, or tested in reviews, is an indication of how noisy the cabin is at motorway speeds. Most small cars are relatively noisy ( I could never hear the radio at 70mph in my wife's 1.3 petrol Yaris - now she has a Honda Jazz its noticeably quieter).

I appreciate that there are many variables - eg tyres, gearing, etc., but surely it shouldn't be beyond the wit of reviewers to come up with a standardised measure of internal cabin noise.

I find intrusive noise the most tiring factor on a long drive - and if you are anticipating 100 mile motorway journeys 5 days a week I suspect you will too (to say nothing of the fact that you will want to be able to listen to the radio to while away the miles).

If you are test driving a number of cars I suggest you make a point of trying them on a short motorway run, not just around town.

Edited by Theophilus on 27/09/2017 at 17:39

First used car for motorway commute advice - Engineer Andy

Indeed - often choosing a mid-range model with tyres that aren't too wide and have a profile of at leat 55, and for Fiesta-sized cars of 65-70 over a 45-50 profile will make a huge difference in noise and ride quality, plus having them will help get better traction in snowy conditions when skinny tyres work far better than wide, low profile ones. And, of course, they give increasingly better fuel economy, cost far less to replace, put less strain on the car's suspension (letting the extra air in the tyres do more of the work) and last longer - much better for the cost-conscious driver.

I once used an almost identical car to mine (Mazda3 1.6 petrol) but in TS trim instead of mine in TS2, which meant it had 195/65R15 tyres instead of the 205/55R16s on mine. I definitely noticed a difference in ride comfort, not huge, but enough to convince me never to go for low profile tyres next time around I replace my car. I'm sure driving 100 miles a day 5 days a week would reinforce this view.

I would advise the OP to not go for a high specced car either, i.e. not a 'Ghia' model or suchlike, at least of the non-Japanese models. Higher insurance premiums in addition to the cost price, plus if they go wrong, more costs, and , of course, most of those higher spec models have low profile tyres...better to keep it simple and go for the minimum you actually need (not what you'd like to have).

A also agree about the test drive - go for as long a test drive as possible (an hour would be good - a five minute one round the block is useless and I'd avoid buying from people/dealers who only offer that [you can always offer to pay for the petrol at about £5 for private sellers if you feel brave enough to buy from one]) on a range of roads and speeds, and make sure before setting off you get the seat and steering wheel adjusted as best as possible so as to be able to make the best judgement as you can about how comfortable it will be to drive on a 1.5 - 2.5hr journey to work and to determine if the car has any problems. The OP should also read HJ's 'Advice & Tools' section about buying a car for more tips.

First used car for motorway commute advice - RichardW

25k + a year is going to fairly rapidly turn an average 60k mile car into a high mileage scrapper. The savings for running diesel will be £1000 - £1500 a year - 25k @ 35 mpg in a petrol at £1.20 / litre is going set you back almost 4 grand a year in fuel alone. At this end of the market the cost difference between diesel and petrol is not huge, I would go diesel - the fuel cost savings will either pick up any repair costs (unlikely on a duty cycle like that) or go towards the replacement after 2-3 years. You need to go and drive some to see what fits - 25k in a Fiesta if you are 6'2" and well built is not going to be that comfortable....! Make sure you do the sums and can afford the commuting costs of the new job - you are going to be in for £4-6k pa by the time you have fuelled it, put a new set of tyres on it every year, 2 services, MOT, insurance (which will rack up on 25k a year) - plus the financing costs.

If you can find somewhere to charge it at work, a Leaf might be suitable - you can pick them up for about £5k now - which if you are saving £3k a year on fuel begins to make sense.....

First used car for motorway commute advice - pd

I wouldn't go for any of the small cars. Large cars are stupidly cheap used but for your use are ideal.

You need something comfortable with a decent stereo whcih will sooth away the misery at the end of the day.

A Mondeo would probably be ideal. They're good cars and great value. Yes, it might go wrong, but it won't be any older or higher mileage than the smaller cars and they go wrong too. Try and find a Titanium X if you can.

As good as smaller cars are these days (and they are very good) after a long day on a dark miserable winter's night 50 miles of congested miserable motorway 5 times a week in a Fiesta or Polo would probably tempt me to simply steer towards the crash barrier and end it all........

First used car for motorway commute advice - S40 Man

I agree diesel is the way forward at this annual milage. All this diesel bashing recently probably means an even better deal can be found.

Most company cars coming onto the used market are diesel.

Get a 60-80k repmobile. I have mk4 Mondeo 2.0 tdci. It is a great motorway cruiser.

First used car for motorway commute advice - Smileyman

something else to ponder about ....

do you have a favourite petrol station? why do I ask, well with your mileage you'll be there very often, consider the range of the vehicle you purchase, with all the time you spend travelling you don't want to have add to this having to fill up with fuel any more than you can help.I drive 400 miles a week, have just changed my car and made very sure it's not more than one fill up per week!

First used car for motorway commute advice - RichardW

OP needs to do some Insurance research as well. Insurance for 25k a year with no NCB is likely to eye watering at best! If he has been insured on something else without a claim, may be able to persuade an insurer to give an introductory discount against that.

First used car for motorway commute advice - Gibbo_Wirral

You can pick up a 2010 Kia Ceed 1.6 diesel for around £3000 or less

First used car for motorway commute advice - Engineer Andy

If I were in the OP's shoes I'd be very wary about buying such a cheap diesel-engined car, even from a make (such as Kia) that is generally reliable and it might even be still under warranty for 1 year - its rare for the buyer to know exactly how ALL the previous owners treated (including driving style and annual mileage, especially as before year 3 no mileage is recorded unless you get your hands on service receipts) the car.

Modern diesels are, in my view, far less hardy than petrol-engined equivalents and far more susceptible to problems if they are driven incorrectly (e.g. one year of or regular short trips with only sporadic higher mileage trips that might look ok if you just see the headline annual mileage). As such, at 7+ years old, many major parts may be about to pop and will be very expensive to replace, possibly costing several £000s, and that's before any 'normal' wear and tear items need replacing like clutches, brakes and suspension parts.

Don't forget that the OP has indicated they are seriously considering moving closer to their new workplace if things work out, meaning that they probably wouldn't get much of a fuel saving over each year after they moved, meaning they'd only have (say) 6 months to a year or so worth of fuel savings (less so if they go for a larger diesel car like a Mondeo than with a Fiesta/Polo sized car) but which has the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over it unless they have 100% of the car's history to hand before they buy.

I agree that for longer journeys, a larger car (with a longer wheelbase) is preferable (all things being equal) for comfort, but as I stated earlier, having the right tyres and comfortable/ergonomic driving position can make just as much of difference.

First used car for motorway commute advice - Anon301

Hi all (again),

Thank you very much for your replies, some really useful advice and a few things I hadn't considered. My circumstances could well change with location, or it might even end up that I train it/liftshare after getting started. This is probably why I'm leaning towards petrol initially, which appears simpler in my mind and less risk (realistically I suspect there isn't a huge difference and the end result will be similar). I certainly won't discount diesels altogether though.

As suggested a test drive is a must before any firm decisions, so that's the next step for me. Please continue to post if anything else comes to mind, I appreciate the help and humour!

First used car for motorway commute advice - SLO76
Don't buy an old diesel unless the prospect of a four figure repair bill isn't a worry to you. I've seen people who've insisted on buying diesel at this sort of budget left high and dry by large repair bills. Do yourself a favour and stick with something simple, preferably running a normally asperated Japanese engine.

Value condition and service history over age and mileage and If you're confident enough private sales are a good option at this money. Main dealer part exchanges are also worth sniffing round. Smaller backstreet dealers are all too often rogues however with all their stock auction bought which at this age and money means someone else didn't want it for some reason.

Poor paint repairs and faked service records are also common at the dodgier end of the market. It's too much of a risk for bigger dealers but watch out for previous owners fiddling history stamps also. If in doubt look up the dealer who's stamp is in the book to see if they actually exist and call them to see if they've ever seen the car. I've at least two friends I know of who fake the history on every car they own. This is particularly important on turbo diesels and chain driven motors.

People would be genuinely horrified by what I see on a weekly basis at auction. Cars rough as a badgers with no or next to no history running (barely) through the ring needing paintwork and with a dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree which then reappear on Autotrader or Gumtree a few weeks later at some backstreet Joe's with full history and cheap paint repairs. Be very wary buying from smaller dealers, I know plenty of them and I wouldn't buy a packet of crisps from most of them.
First used car for motorway commute advice - RichardW

I've looked at a few of those SLO76 - 2 grand was little better than the 150k car I was thinking about replacing!

I've been browsing recently as the 307 is now up to 135k and needs a few bits and pieces, but withouth spending 4k there is not really anything better, so I just need to find time to break out the spanners. It is starting to look rusty underneath, but I reckon another 18 - 30 months is possible, which would take it to 155-170k, provided the 'diesel of doom' doesn't self destruct!

First used car for motorway commute advice - SteveLee

The citroen c3 is a surprisingly refined motorway cruiser, dirt cheap and cheap to insure.

First used car for motorway commute advice - carl233

Agree RE the comments of petrol over diesel however there is one exception to this and it is the 2005 - 2011 Kia Rio 1.5 diesel, no DMF, no timing belt and proven to go beyond 150k miles. Ok still a turbo and other bits but they do not have a reputation for giving trouble. Within your budget a fairly low miles example with history is possible plus money left over. 50 plus mpg easily possible and 110bhp. I understand a DPF came in at the end of 2010 so get one without for sure. As you would expect the gearing is very much for the motorway and it will sit at 70mph all day long.

The Ford options such as the 1.25 and 1.6 Sigma engines by Yamaha still have timing belts and whilst officially 100k change intervals they need doing a little earlier in my opinion it is also an expensive and time consuming job to do. Have also seen the water pumps leaking on these at higher miles which again is an expensive job.


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