Welcome to our new Q&A series How to Car – From those ‘In the Know’, I am James Batchelor and I am here to answer your questions on ‘Finding the right car for you’.

– Need some help finding a car that fits your exact needs and lifestyle?

– A car that covers everything on your ‘must have’ list?

– Don’t know where to start and some help is what you need?

If this sounds like you, then please do drop ask me a question askjames@motors.co.uk or if you want to find out more about our Q&A series and our other panellists please click here

Finding the right car for you – answers December 2021:


Hi I would like to buy a used car circa £17,000 budget and I am looking to keep it for around three to four years. I have no way of charging an electric car at home so that is not an option for me. I do around 14,000 miles a year, and that is mostly on motorways. I’d ideally like a car with at least 180bhp if possible. Any ideas what I should look for ? Many thanks.

I receive many questions like yours and I love answering them as it allows me to dive into the classified adverts on Motors.co.uk! You’ll be buying your used car at a time when prices and demand are at record levels but, despite this, your budget and requirements actually open up many options. 

You haven’t been specific on the type of bodystyle you’re after, so I’m going to recommend an assortment of used cars which I think will be ideal for your needs. All the cars I have selected are diesels, based on you saying you’ll be covering mostly motorway miles. 

Despite diesels coming in for a lot of criticism lately, cars that drink from the black pump still make sense for an awful lot of people, especially those who frequently use motorways. However, all the cars I have selected come with equivalent petrol engine options. 

My first recommendation is the good old Volkswagen Golf. Your budget of £17,000 puts you into the heart of the used Golf market, and you can go for super-efficient Bluemotion diesels and posh SEL 2.0-litre diesels that combine a high specification with stylish looks. 

However, I’d opt for a Golf GTD. The GTD was – and is – essentially a diesel version of the Golf GTI hot hatchback, and came with similarly discreet sporty styling and stiffer suspension for better road holding, but was powered by a more efficient engine. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel packs 181bhp, and will be fun to drive on a country road but also hushed and refined on a motorway. For a bit more practicality and to get that undercover cop car look, you could also check out the mechanically identical Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI.

If you want a car with a boot, you could do a lot worse than the classic executive motorway mile-muncher – the BMW 320d. There are tonnes of them in the classifieds and it’s easy to see why they’re popular – they’re fun to drive, built well and have a desirable badge. But be picky though – hunt out the best you can find with a full service history and make sure you do a proper provenance check.

Two cars which are worth considering are the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport and the Ford Mondeo. What they lack in badge appeal they more than make up for in usability – they are supremely comfortable on the motorway, fun to drive and packed with tech. For this kind of money, you’ll also get the current generations of these cars – they’re very good value for money on the used market.

If you want more of a high-riding car, the BMW X3 20d is a good choice as is the first-generation Volvo XC60 D4. For around £17,000 you’ll be getting an X3 in desirable M Sport trim or, for the Volvo, an R-Design model with the very reliable 2.4-litre five-cylinder diesel engine.    

Hi I am looking at an SUV – either a Jaguar F Pace, Mercedes GLC/GLE or maybe a Range Rover Sport. Ideally with some good performance and reliability. What should I consider?

The F-Pace was – and remains – a very important car for Jaguar as it finally meant this much-loved British brand had a car to compete in the luxury mid-size SUV segment. It arrived at a time when Jaguar was on a roll with styling and handling, but build quality and reliability often came second best. 

There are plenty of F-Paces on the market so choosing your ideal specification isn’t hard, but while there are many happy owners who have enjoyed trouble-free ownership, there are many who haven’t. Aside from some patchy reliability, the F-Pace still looks very handsome and hasn’t dated like many of its rivals, and it’s a real joy to drive. Try and go for one that came with an extended warranty pack and the later cars – 2019/20-onwards – had a better built interior.

The Mercedes-Benz GLC unfortunately showed up the F-Pace’s weaknesses, namely in the reliability and quality department. Like Jaguar, Mercedes hadn’t offered a car of this type in the UK until the GLC’s arrival, and it’s proved to be very popular since it arrived in 2016. 

While the V8-powered AMG GLC 63 model is a real hoot, most GLC models are comfortable, laid-back and serene to drive. What it lacks in outright thrills, it makes up for in technology and interior quality. That’s not to say the GLC offers fault-free ownership – there were quite a few recalls, so make sure these have been done. The same goes for the GLE – it’s a slightly older model than the GLC and offers much of the smaller car’s appeal but in a larger body shape. 

Like the F-Pace, the Range Rover Sport heralded a new-found confidence for Land Rover when it arrived in 2013. It offers all the off-road ability of the larger Range Rover, but in a more fun-to-drive package. Even the oldest models are still stylish and ooze desirability. Land Rover reliability isn’t the strongest so be picky on history and don’t buy the cheapest you come across.

Find an F-Pace in good condition, average mileage, full service history and proof of being lavished upon by previous owners, and you’ll have a great car.

Hi I’m looking to change my Golf R, and thinking about a 10/11 plate low mileage Porsche as I’ve just been landed with a big bill due to a timing chain issue. Is there anything that I need to be wary of which might put me off this particular model?

At this kind of age, you’re going to be looking at the 997-generation 911. It’s generally considered this version of the 911 is very reliable with gearboxes and other mechanical items proving to be very tough, but there are a few things to look out for, though. 

Early 997.1 Carrera engines can suffer from bore scoring and intermediate shaft bearing failure, so later cars can be a better buy. Watch out for a ticking sound when the engine is idling, and sooty left-hand and clean right-hand exhausts – it could mean an imminent engine replacement is needed.

Boxsters and Caymans were once considered a poor man’s 911, but that isn’t the case anymore. The 987-series of these cars were very reliable, with the Gen 2 (2008-2013) of these cars deemed to be even better, but there are many ropey Porsches out there which you’ll need to be aware of. For the Boxster and Cayman, make sure you find one with a fully stamped service history, taking special note of regular oil changes. Don’t be tempted by low mileage cars either as lack of use can be worse than super-high miles; check for suspension knocks and slipping clutches, too. 

Bagging a good Porsche will be a decision you won’t regret so do consider getting an independent inspection on any car you’re interested in.