Working out the right spec for your new car without hassle

Want to buy a new car but find the options confusing? As a parent, I don’t have time to learn the language of car manufacturers, so to help those like me avoid ending up with the world’s worst car, here’s my easy tips to help you choose the right spec for you.

What are a car’s spec points and how can you work out what you need?

Big questions

Get these points straight first, they will help you determine what spec you need: what are your specific needs, such as a larger or smaller cabin and boot? Do you need something suitable for a lot of motorway driving or do you mainly zip around town, kids and dogs in tow? Maybe you’ve reached those kids-and-dogs-free years and are looking for a luxurious car? And, most importantly, what’s your budget?

So what are we looking for?

  • Engine size and type – petrol or diesel, and how much power
  • Trim levels (what you get with the car as standard) and what these do to price
  • Running costs and resale value
    • Reliability
  • Optional extras

Estate, saloon, hatchback, SUV, MPV? Start with that first big question because, yes, size matters. Do you, like me, take long car journeys needing space to keep the kids entertained and the dog safe? Or do you just need somewhere to stash the picnic champagne? Consider the cabin, boot and, if you have to regularly park on a sixpence, the overall dimensions. Have a quick recce round a few showrooms and eliminate models that are too low, too small, lacking sufficient visibility etc. And while you’re there you can start to get a feel for deals on offer.

Variation between specs: watch out for this, e.g. some Range Rover Sport versions don’t all have seven seats. Think about the various trim levels – can you really manage without electric windows in the back? Are you more in the market for Bond-style extras including a teasmaid in the front? You get the picture.

What do you need from the engine? Are diesels really still cheaper to run, given the more recent developments in petrol engines? They’re generally cheaper to tax and insure but more expensive to buy and service. As a general rule of thumb, if your mileage is high, a diesel will probably save you money. Check out the facts and figures.

Resale value: the higher the price of the car, the larger the depreciation. What do I mean? Well, a £9000 lean run-around losing 50% on resale costs you £4500. But that’s a lot less than the £22,500 you’d lose on a plump £45,000 luxury car.

What car options are available?

So here’s my top recommendations, with their spec detailed, from makes and model types at a range of prices that will have an option for everyone:

Dacia

Dacia Duster
The Duster entry level price of £8995 reflects the value for money offered by this company:

  • Be aware that’s a basic spec and doesn’t include a radio
  • 2 engines only, a 1.5 litre diesel or 1.6 litre petrol
  • 3 trims. For air-conditioning and front and rear electric windows go for the top-level Laureate spec, which chucks in a leather steering wheel.

Ford

Ford Fiesta
Not only one the nation’s favourite car but built by the world’s most ethical company:

  • 6 petrol engines and 3 diesel. Try the 1.0-litre Ecoboost of 1.6 TDCi Econetic
  • 6 trims starting with the basic Studio, with Zetec the more sporty
  • Food for thought : you can get a similar spec in a cheaper 3-door version
  • Options include metallic paint and Bluetooth hands-free phone and voice control system.

Nissan

Qashqai
Oozing style, this chunky SUV makes thousands of UK buyers smile:

  • 2 petrol and 3 diesel engines. The 1.6 dCi diesel gives a lot of power for your pound
  • With the looks of a 4×4 but the option of a cheaper two-wheel drive system
  • 5 trims – all with a reasonable level of equipment, starting with entry-level Visia
  • Options include sat-nav, CD player and integrated Bluetooth.

Mazda

Mazda 6
Estate or saloon? Take your pick from this lighter, more efficient model from Mazda:

  • 33 litres more capacity offered by the estate, although pricier to buy and run
  • 2.0-litre entry level petrol engine gives 143 or 163 bhp
  • 2.2-litre diesel engine provides more power and a lower CO2 tax band than Ford Mondeos – useful if you’re weighing it up as a company car
  • 3 trims which can all be bumped up to include sat nav
  • Consider the bling option of metallic paint.

Land Rover

Range Rover Sport
Premium luxury from the company carrying the Rugby World Cup Trophy in a uniquely designed Defender 4×4:

  • 5 versions, all well equipped, but only some with 7 seats and a four wheel drive
  • Higher powered 187 bhp diesel engine fits most tickets; the automatic provides a more efficient and relaxing drive
  • SE trim includes sat-nav, or you can jump up to pricey HSE for a full-leather interior
  • High resale values prompted by the company’s reputation for quality and reliability

Well, I hope that’s simplified things a bit as to your options for your next car purchase! Hone your choices down further by test-driving these cars at your local Perrys dealership. They’re always great to talk to for more advice.