Estate cars remain a popular choice for families, business owners and people with pets, as they offer a huge amount of room without compromising on the style or feel of their saloon equivalents.
However, just like any vehicle, they can be expensive, so buying second hand can save you a lot of cash. To make sure you pick the used estate car that's right for you, here are ten rules to follow.
1. Is it really an estate car you need?
Estate cars used to be the only option for businesspeople and families, but now there's a whole host of other, similar-style vehicles to choose from. Therefore, before you read any further, you need to ensure that an estate is what you need.
If you have a large family to ferry about, then a people carrier may be more suitable for your needs, as they often come with a lot more seats. Folding and moving the seats is easier than in an estate too, giving you a huge amount of extra room when you need it. People carriers aren't very attractive though. They also tend to depreciate in value faster than estates.
Another alternative is a 4x4/SUV. They are similar to estates, but come with the added ability to go off-road. The bad news is that SUVs aren't cheap - they are more expensive to both run and buy than estates. Do you really need to go off-road?
2. Don't opt for style over storage
If you've decided to purchase an estate then the chances are you're interested in a car with a lot of boot space. Be warned: just because it's an estate doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be big enough for your particular needs. Estate cars vary in size hugely and some models have become more style-orientated over the years.
Take the Volvo V60 for example - its boot is 360 litres, which is actually smaller than the S60 saloon's 375 litre boot. While it's easier to fold down the seats in an estate car than a saloon, an estate car's boot should be bigger. If you're after a lot of space, then we recommend the Mercedes-Benz E-class or the Toyota Avensis.
3. Decide on diesel or petrol
Most estate cars come with a diesel engine, as they are designed to drive long distances and make great towing vehicles. These days, there's a smaller difference than ever when it comes to the cost difference between a petrol and a diesel car. Newer diesel cars now have higher tax, which can cost almost as much as the fuel savings that you could previously made. However, if you're solely looking at running costs, diesel will cost you less.
If you're not planning on covering a lot of miles, then petrol is the better option. Diesel engines are more expensive, and you'd have to drive a lot of miles in order to benefit financially from the improved fuel economy. Studies from Which? even show that it can take between six and 11 years to reap the financial benefits of purchasing a diesel car over a petrol, so it's worth the extra thought!
4. Research which model is best for your requirements
There's a huge selection of makes and models to choose from in the used estate car market, and without proper research, it can be difficult to narrow down which would best suit your needs.
First, decide what the car's primary function is - you could be using it for business, pleasure or a bit of both. If you're a dog owner who plans on taking pooch everywhere you go, then something like the Skoda Superb may be ideal as it has a low loading lip and a huge 660-litre boot. Want something similar but have a much tighter budget? Then the Skoda Octavia might be a better option.
Used car forums can be an invaluable source of help and knowledge - and are free to use. Alternatively, you simply ask us and we can give you all the advice you need. With all the popular options in stock we can definitely help you to find something that ticks all your boxes.
5. Read reviews
Once you've identified a couple of models that sound ideal, it's time to see what other drivers think of them. Look at a mix of professional and amateur reviews, including our reviews here on our blog, as you'll get different viewpoints from each. Again, head to that car forum and ask other owners for their opinions and advice.
6. Check its reliability on the index
Another useful resource is the Reliability Index, which takes data from more than 50,000 current Warranty Direct policies and works out how reliable each model is. The data is constantly updated, but at the time of writing, the Nissan Almera is the most reliable estate car in the UK. You can use the site to search for almost any car and find out how reliable it is and how much repairs cost on average.
7. Go for a test drive
Obviously you're going to take the estates you're browsing for a test drive, but what do you need to look out for? First and foremost, you should feel comfortable in the car. Everything from your seat to the steering wheel should be easy to adjust.
When you're driving around, make sure the ride feels smooth and comfortable.
8. Look up the car's history
According to the RAC, one in four vehicles has a hidden history that could cause issues in the future. Luckily, it's quick and easy to check a car's history. Fortunately, all our vehicles are HPI checked so you will not have an issue with any of our cars.
9. Don't go for a car viewing too late at night
It may be tempting to go and look at your preferred used estate cars after work, which is fine. However, avoid doing so if the light or weather is really poor, as you will not be able to see the car at its very best if you do.
10. Make sure you choose the car you want
At Carbase, we have hundreds of used estate cars for sale at amazing prices. Our expert sales staff will never pressure you in making a purchase and will do all they can to get the best deal for you. If you have any questions about any of our used vehicles, don't hesitate to get in touch. Just call us on 01934 38 40 80 or use the live chat function on our site.?
For more information, see our Estate Car Buying Guides: