Here, we take a look at how swapping models in five of the most popular car categories – supermini, small family, MPV, executive and 4x4 – can impact how much you pay in running costs, as well as how a compromise in specification doesn’t necessarily mean compromise in performance.
First of all though, some general tips on what to look out for when buying a new car…
Thinking of buying new?
Unfortunately, buying a new car is not as straightforward as walking into a dealership and driving away in the car of your dreams, at least not unless you happened to have won the lottery that week.
It also takes a lot more consideration than simply deciding on the colour and the number of cup holders you require. You also need to factor in things that affect the basic running costs such as fuel type, fuel consumption as well as road tax and car insurance.
Watch our video for more things to look out for when buying a new car.
It’s also worth checking out Kevin Pratt’s essential checklist for buying a new car.
But what of the specific four car groups and the difference that compromising on models within each will make to your pocket? Here we take a closer look.
What…Supermini should you buy?
Audi A1 2.0 TDI Sport vs. Audi A1 1.6 TDI SE
The Audi A1 was the winner of Best Supermini in the What Car? Car of the Year 2012 awards; its combination of compact dimensions, low fuel consumption and premium spec put it ahead of the competition.
And, although this means the price tag is higher than many other superminis on the market, its high-end spec also means it holds its value better than rival models, an important consideration when buying new.
You may be tempted to go for the top-of-the-range 2.0 TDI Sport model but by opting for the 1.6 TDI SE instead, you could make a considerable saving without compromising too much on performance or specification.
The first, and most obvious, saving is in the purchase price with the 1.6 TDI SE coming in at around £3,500 cheaper than its sportier cousin.
However, when it comes to equipment, the two cars are identical with all of the same features, such as alloy wheels, air conditioning, MP3/iPod connection and alarm, alongside many others which come as standard on both models.
Opting for the 1.6 TDI SE can also save you a fair bit in running costs. Its average return of 74.3 miles per gallon (mpg) is marginally better than the 2.0 TDI Sport’s return of 68.9mpg and it is also seven insurance groups lower; this alone could save you £139 on your annual insurance premium.
Road tax is free for at the first year as both models are in tax band B but, oddly, the servicing costs are marginally more expensive on the 1.6 TDI, coming in at £222 per year compared to about £218 on the 2.0 TDI.
When it comes to overall running costs, which factors in such things as fuel consumption, insurance and maintenance costs, the 1.6 TDI SE costs around 34p per mile whereas the 2.0 TDI Sport costs 40p per mile.
And while this may not sound like much of a difference, if you cover 12,000 miles per year then you stand to save £720 in running costs, on top of the £3,465 you save on the purchase price.
Total saving with Audi A1 1.6 TDI SE = £4,185
|What’s the alternative?|
|It’s worth noting here that the supermini most favoured by MoneySupermarket users, according to our recent research, is the trusty Ford Fiesta. The Edge Econenetic TDCI 1.6 model comes with typical insurance costs of £495 a year and the car covers a very impressive 86mpg. This will equate to roughly £912 in fuel costs based on 12,000 miles usage per year.|
What…Small family car should you buy?
Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TSI GTI vs. Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI BlueM Tech GT
If you’re after a small family car, then you might not look much further than the Volkswagen Golf – and while the boy, or girl, racer in you may want to plump for the 2.0 TSI GTI model, if it’s a family hatch that you’re after then you could save enough for a family holiday by going for the 2.0 TDI BlueM Tech GT.
The biggest saving comes via the purchase price, the TDI GT coming in at over £5,000 cheaper than its TSI GT counterpart – and when you factor in the running costs you’ll uncover further annual savings.
For instance, the TDI GT racks up an average of 65.7mpg compared with just 34.9mpg for the TSI GT and where the TSI GT costs around 70p per mile, the TDI GT costs just 46p per mile to run. So, if you cover 12,000 miles per year, taking the TDI GT would save you about £2,880.
The difference in servicing costs is negligible but when it comes to insurance costs, the TSI GT is in group 35 while the TDI GT is in group 24 and this alone could save you a whopping £218 on the price of your annual premium.
The TSI GT comes with some better features, such as climate control and heated seats, as standard and is also around three seconds quicker off the mark. However, unless that injection of pace is really important to you, a saving of around £2,880 coupled with the £5,355 saving on the purchase price can’t be ignored.
Total saving with the VW Golf 2.0 TDI BlueM Tech GT = £8,235
|What’s the alternative?|
|Our research also found that Ford also manufacture the small family car most favoured by MoneySupermarket users. The Zetec TDCI 1.6 Econenetic TDCI 1.6 model comes with typical insurance costs of £528 a year and with around 67.3mpg, annual fuel costs should be in the region of £1,116 for anyone covering 12,000 miles.|
What…MPV should you buy?
Seat Alhambra 2.0 TDI 170 SE Lux vs. Seat Alhambra TDI 115 Ecomotive S
A small family car may be too small to accommodate your kids and the all of the paraphernalia that goes along with them. If this is the case then you may be considering an MPV.
The Seat Alhambra came out on top of the What Car? 2012 awards, so could a slight compromise on spec make you a significant saving? Let’s take a look…
The top of the range Seat Alhambra is the 2.0 TDI 170 SE Lux but it appears that some of the cheaper versions do the job just as well and it’s basically the SE Lux trim that pushes the price up.
So, if you can forego such things as cruise control, heated seats and an integrated satellite navigation system then you may be better off going for the TDI 115 Ecomotive S model which comes in at almost £7,000 cheaper.
Another feature that is standard on the SE Lux that is not standard on the Ecomotive S is powered sliding doors. However, these can be added to the Ecomotive S for £995 which means that even if you did have them fitted, you’d still save you around £5,573 on the purchase price.
The performance levels of both vehicles is pretty much the same, the SE Lux being slightly quicker from 0-60mph – though this shouldn’t be a real concern if you’re looking at an MPV – but is slightly less efficient on fuel, covering around 48.7mpg compared with the Ecomotive S’s 50.4mpg.
The Ecomotive S costs around 51p per mile compared with 65p per mile for the SE Lux, representing a 12,000 mile saving of £1,680 and it is also eight insurance groups lower meaning that the annual premium price is around £161 per year cheaper.
Overall, this equates to a first year saving of around £1,680 and an additional £6,000 or £7,000 saved on the purchase price, give or take a set of powered sliding doors.
Total saving with the Seat Alhambra TDI 115 Ecomotive S = £8,680
|What’s the alternative?|
|MoneySupermarket customers favour the Vauxhall Zafira over the Seat Alhambra and the Exclusiv 1.7CDTi ecoFLEX compares favourably, delivering 55.4 mpg. This works out an annual fuel spend of around £1,404 with average insurance premiums coming in at £554.|
What…4x4 or SUV should you buy?
BMW X5 4x4 xDrive35d M Sport vs. BMW X5 4x4 sDrive18d M Sport
The BMW X3 was voted best in the 4x4 and SUV category and a simple drop in engine capacity could bag you a significant saving.
The list price of a brand new BMW X3 4x4 xDrive35d M Sport model is £42,530 while the less powerful sDrive18d M Sport model will set you back £31,275 – both have all of the M Sport spec (apart from metallic paint) and so if you’re willing to lose on power you could really save on pounds.
Purchase price aside, the sDrive18d is 12 insurance groups lower than the xDrive35d – group 28 as opposed to group 40 – which should net you a saving of around £237 on your insurance costs.
As for fuel costs, the sDrive18d covers 55.4mpg compared with 46.3mpg for the xDrive35d so significant savings can be made at the pump and when it comes to overall running costs, the sDrive18d costs £7,680 to run for 12,000 miles instead of the eye-watering £10,800 that the xDrive35d will cost to cover the same distance.
The major downside is a loss in performance; the xDrive35d engine gets from 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds compared with the sDrive18d’s relatively sluggish 9.9 seconds, but with an annual saving of £3,120 on top of the £11,075 saving on the windscreen price, the smart money is on (relatively) slow and steady to win the race.
Total saving with the BMW X5 4x4 sDrive18d M Sport = £14,195
What’s the alternative? The Nissan Qashqai is the SUV of choice amongst MoneySupermarket users and not only are the insurance and petrol costs a lot cheaper on this model than the BMW X5, there’s also a massive saving to be made on the purchase price.
What...executive model should I buy?
BMW also topped the Executive category with the 3 series brushing aside the competition and, once again, a change in fuel type and a slight compromise in performance can lead to some substantial savings.
If you put the BMW 3 Series Saloon 335i Luxury head to head with its 318d Luxury counterpart then, once again, the first saving you’ll notice comes via the windscreen price as the diesel is over £7,500 cheaper.
The difference in engine size, as well as the change in fuel type also makes a notable difference when it comes to running costs and insurance as the diesel covers 62.8mpg compared to 35.8mpg and is in insurance group 25 whereas the petrol model is in group 38.
And when you look the overall running costs, this means that you’d save a whopping £3,120 over the first 12,000 miles.
When it comes to trim, the only difference is that the 335i comes with metallic paint as standard while this costs £610 to be added to the 318d. And although the 318d is noticeably not as powerful as the 335i, you do have to weigh up whether or not you can turn your nose up at a saving of over £10,000 for a little extra oomf
Total saving with the BMW 3 Series Saloon 318d Luxury = £10,680
What’s the alternative? MoneySupermarket users who favour executive models tend to go for the Vauxhall Insignia and the SE 2.0CDTi ecoFLEX model covers 65.7mpg, equating to annual fuel costs of £1,188. And although the BMW's slightly better fuel efficiency means that it would save you around £60 per year in fuel costs, this could be offset by insurance costs. The average cost on annual insurance premium is £623, which is £84 lower than the £707 it costs to insure the BMW.
So, what car should you buy?
The answer to this obviously depends on exactly what you’re after from a car, but it does appear that you can often make a significant saving by simply swapping models and compromising slightly on specification and performance.
For more ways to save on new cars visit MoneySupermarket’s new car channel and for ways to save on car insurance check out our guides to buying car insurance.
And visit our poll to tell us if you're planning to buy a new '62' registration vehicle
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.