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Like most people looking for a new car, you’re probably after something that’s not going to hurt your bank balance too much. Every penny saved getting you to and from work is a penny towards getting as far away from work as possible. When it comes to buying a car it’s generally a trade-off between what you want and what your bank account will allow.

But what are the options when it comes to picking an affordable car? Most assume it’s a simple case of buying a cosy second-hand car with a small engine.

  1. Microcars

Somewhere in between a car and a tricycle lies the microcar. There’s no legal definition of a microcar but a common definition, and the one used by the Register of Unusual Microcars (an organisation we’re all lucky exists), is “economy vehicles with either three or four wheels, powered by petrol engines of no more than 700cc or battery electric propulsion”.

These tiny automobiles get some incredible mileage and are usually pretty cheap to buy. You will have to make peace with the idea of driving around in something that looks like a modified Cozy Coupe though.

  1. Hybrids

Hybrids have been growing steadily in popularity since Toyota launched the first of the hybrid cars, the Prius, in 1997. Owning one will not only allow you to drive around with a completely justified air of superiority as you save the planet one fuel tank at a time, it will also mean you get an economical 40-50 mpg, significantly cutting down on your trips to the petrol station.

Due to their typically low CO2 emissions, hybrids will also have lower car tax and there’s also a good chance you’ll be eligible for the Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle rating meaning you’ll be eligible for a grant from the government worth 25% of the cost of the vehicle (up to £5,000). It also means you’ll be exempt from the congestion charge if you’re driving in London.

  1. Fuel Efficient Cars

A hybrid might be out of your initial price range, or perhaps just not your thing. Luckily, automakers have been going hammer-and-tong to produce even more fuel efficient petrol-only cars.

You might not be able to go down to your local dealer and pick up a Volkswagen XL1 (301 mpg but only 250 in production) but you can find some impressively efficient vehicles. The Renault Clio dCi 90 Eco claims to get 78 mpg, the Hyundai i20 1.1 CRDi Blue boasts 88.3 mpg – many manufacturers offer vehicles with similar levels of efficiency.

  1. Low-insurance

One of the biggest costs of running a car is insurance. If you’re a young or new driver, insurance premiums can often amount to multiple times the value of the car. And it’s not just young men who can expect heavy premiums. Due to the EU anti-discrimination directive that came into force last year, insurers are no longer allowed to charge different rates based on gender, so young women can expect to see their premiums shoot up.

If you’re a young driver, you’ll struggle to get insured on any car for under £1,500 but picking the right car can mean the difference between paying under £2k and the nationwide average of £4,000. Small hatchbacks and city cars with a 1 or 1.2 litre engine are the ones to look for – Confused.com recently said the Ford Ka2 offered the lowest average insurance premiums for 17-18 year olds.

Like most things in life, picking a car will involve a series of compromises. If price and efficiency is the only thing you’re concerned about then maybe a microcar will be a genuine option for you. If you’re looking for something a little more practical then one of the many fuel efficient super-minis and city cars on offer will be more suitable.

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