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Should I go electric? 5 big questions for car buyers in 2021, tackled by experts

From Brexit’s impact to the best new drives on the market, here’s all you need to know.

Image: Africa Studio

NO MATTER HOW you slice it, buying a new car is a significant purchase, and it pays to do your homework before making any decisions.

Buyers in 2021 will have some additional factors to consider that simply weren’t there a year or two years ago. We can expect to pay more for used cars, for example, as Brexit custom charges make importing from the UK a financially prohibitive process.

Thanks to Covid-19, some of us have more spending power, but some have far less. And even the way in which we interact with car dealers has changed, with many moving online and operating click-and-collect services. 

If I’m getting a new car this year, what kind of car should I go for and what obstacles can I expect? We put some burning car buyer questions for 2021 to a range of Irish experts, from motor dealers to industry analysts…

1. Do Brexit and Covid-19 mean now is a bad time to buy used?

shutterstock_586513808 Source: Shutterstock/Nuttawut Uttamaharad

New car sales dipped by 25% last year compared to 2019, and used imports from the UK plummeted by over 33,000 (around 30%) too, according to DoneDeal’s latest Motor Industry Review. All in all, used car supply is low.

So does that mean buying second hand is a bad idea? Not necessarily. If you like the idea of changing your car again in a year or two, then a used car could be a smart investment right now, says Rob Hume, General Manager of DoneDeal:

Now that Brexit has actually happened, UK imports will drop even further… This loss of supply will keep used values strong in 2021 and likely 2022. Irrespective of the age of the car, it’s not a bad time to buy used.

But if you have your heart set on a premium used car with only a couple of years of use, you might find that the price isn’t far off a brand new model, due to 2020′s dip in car sales:

Fewer nearly new cars are in circulation right now. The price gap between nearly new cars and brand new cars is closing…. so some consumers are seeing the value in making the leap to brand new vehicles.

2. Should I go electric in 2021 or wait a bit longer?

shutterstock_217243993 Source: Shutterstock/Matej Kastelic

When Sean Finn launched his used electric car dealership, Ecocars, in 2013, the range of EVs available for Irish buyers was incredibly limited. The tech was fairly basic too, but all of that has changed for the buyer of 2021. Finn explains:

At the beginning, the Nissan Leaf was the most popular electric car… it only had an average range of 100km. Today the average EV will do about 350km per charge and some will do much more.

More competition in the market and a range of SEAI grants means that buying a new or used EV is fairly cost effective. But despite all the plus points, going ‘full electric’ won’t suit every buyer out there, at least not yet.

The electrification of the Irish car fleet will take “a number of years”, says Brian Cooke, Director General of SIMI, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry. His advice to 2021 buyers? Do your research:

“Different drivers have different driving needs. Your choice of engine and fuel type should ideally take account of where you live and the mileage that you drive, and of course the environmental and cost benefits.”

3. I want to buy used. What are some second hand models to keep an eye out for?

shutterstock_1537647632 Source: Shutterstock/Halfpoint

Now is a popular time of year for trade-ins, and while we already know supply is more limited this year, there are still some great value used cars to be found. We asked Dave Humphreys, Road Test Editor with Complete Car, to share two models that won’t let you down…

“If you’re looking to pick up a relatively new crossover, the Skoda Karoq makes for a sensible buy. It has good looks, and while it isn’t massive over all, there are generous amounts of space inside, making it suitable for smaller families.

“Another talented family car is the Kia Ceed, which in its current guise came out in 2018, and made a big improvement over its predecessor. Many of these will also still be under Kia’s seven-year/150,000 km warranty too, so that should help keep maintenance costs down.”

4. I want to buy new. What’s a great family car to check out?

shutterstock_782114518 Source: Shutterstock/StockMediaSeller

The classic hatchback is still the most popular car type in the Irish market, accounting for 30% of sales in 2020, according to DoneDeal. Citroen’s C4 hatchback/SUV launches in the coming few months, and gets Humphreys’ pick for the best new family buy in 2021:

The all-new C4 is a stylish and sporty crossover with decent space inside, plus one of the most comfortable suspension setups in the business. It should also be keenly priced, making it one to consider this year.

5. What are some really handy tech features to look out for in a new car?

shutterstock_1706998768 Source: Shutterstock/Jirsak

Enhanced safety requirements for Euro NCAP testing mean that the majority of new cars now have features like emergency braking and lane assistance as standard. So safety tech aside, what are some other smart features manufacturers are adding to set their models apart from the competition?

“Years ago, ‘tech’ meant aircon and bluetooth. Now it’s possible to genuinely communicate with your car,” says Jamie O’Callaghan, Sales Manager at Blackwater Motors in Fermoy, Co Cork. He uses Volkswagen’s WeConnect app as an example:

At any time, you can see where you’ve parked your car, if all the doors are locked, if the windows are closed, how much fuel you have, and if it’s an EV you can see how much range you have.

V2X, or vehicle-to-everything communication, has been on manufacturers’ radars for a few years now, but O’Callaghan says we can expect to see more of it in the next 12 months and beyond. 

It allows cars to speak to one another. If one car is up the road stuck in a huge traffic jam, it’ll notify all other nearby cars of the same make or model, meaning they’ll know to take other routes.

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