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Help - what car to buy?


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I have been reading with great interest the thread concerning petrol versus diseal engines - alas my lack of car knowledge has caught up with me and I got lost! So I desperately need help to sought out about buying a car - but in real simple terms.

We are moving to France in a couple of months for 2 - 3 years. I am a 'desperate housewife' with two little babes and a husband that works long hours. (translation husband is as clueless as myself when it comes to cars!)

I want/need a car that is SAFE (very important with two children), easy to drive (manual or automatic is fine) and doesn't need any repairs etc and I wont be afraid of it breaking down in the middle of nothing in winter. I'm used to a station wagon (estate) but I have been warned that the streets are very narrow in the village where we are moving to. I will need to fit two baby car seats in and I'm assuming that on occasions we will have to fit someone between the seats. (orginally I was looking at a people mover but was told that they would be to wide??)

Any suggestions? I have no idea what my life will be like in France. Currently I spend ALOT of time in the car everyday (1 - 2hrs). Do SAHM in france spend as much time in the car as we do?? I'm assuming not.

Thanks so much in advance.


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"That dosn't need any repairs" - Absolutely impossible to say with the standard of driving in France that someone won't hit you or you them. As for type and make of a small car, France is the small car country of Europe - every manufacturer has small cars for sale including the Japanese ones here. You don't give a budget price to spend so can't really help with costings but remember even brand new cars are not without their faults. Friends currently in court battle with local Ford dealer over a brand new Focus car they bought there last year - 6 months down the line the engine has seized twice and no one will take responsibility for the fault or replacing it. Their avocat has warned there could be no financial settlement for two years or more and meanwhile they have to borrow cars or hire one when needed as they have no money to buy another. We have both diesel and petrol vehicles and this is a case of economy with the utilitaires and more performance from the petrol cars regarding speed etc. Petrol and diesel are currently the most expensive they have been in the last sixteen years that I have been buying it here and it seems to go up daily. If you are worried about safety have a look on the internet at the tables of the performances of cars in crashes and see what suits you, basically I think most cars today are a whole better  construction than ten years ago where safety is concerned. As regards spending time in cars here, remember we have further to go to do the shopping that we would in the UK especially into the large cities and towns where people live out in the countryside so time spent is probably relative.
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I think you should keep it simple, and here's my advice for what is worth.

France intends to increase the tax on diesel to same level as petrol and in the next two or three years you may not get a benefit from diesel especially if you have to pay a premium for the car, personally I don't like the emissions from diesel cars, I would rather have lpg from an environmental point of view, and this is available at most Supermarket fuel pumps in France.

Most cars are safe enough these days but I would rather be in a medium size car than a small car especially with two children, an estate is not significantly longer or wider than its equivalent saloon equivalent and can be driven through every village I have driven through in France. Spending time in a car I thought my second hand Mercedes was more reliable and comfortable than my new Renault, (and for less money).

Importantly, if you buy it from a garage up the road (route!) then it is more convenient for your maintenance, they will remember that they sold you the car, and in two or three years might even buy it back from you.

So to recap, look for a used, petrol, quality, estate car with a guarantee, from a garage near to your new village, and if you are keen on environment or fuel savings, ask them about lpg.

Good luck, wear sunscreen.

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LPG availability. Provided you are going to drive past a station once a week no problem but there are very few stations in the Haute Vienne which are not either in Limoges and or on the A20. I would check out my Department before making the commitement. Driving and extra 40 kilometres each time you fill up eats a fair proportion of the savings.




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If you can afford it just buy a new car from the nearest dealer to where you live. It'll come with a three year manufacturers warranty (probably) and as you'll be leaving after three years that should suit your needs perfectly. These days all new cars are safe and reliable, but no car is 100% 'foolproof'.

As for the narrow roads: I brought our old (and huge) Land Rover over with us and you just get used to driving incredibly close to the edge of the road when a big high speed truck approaches! Our village is terrible for parking but (like many things in France) we seem to find an equilibrium - nobody moans when I occasionaly half block their gate out of neccessity, soon as there's a better space available I fill it: like a vehicular merry go round..

Tyres tend not to last too long on French country lanes and you should swap them around now and again to even out the wear pattern - just pop into any of the supermarket garages and they'll do it (properly) for peanuts. One reason for this premature wear (and the need to 'rotate' the wheels) is that when you are pulling over to give a speeding coach a wide berth your right hand side tyres are running on the raggedy edge of the road surface - French roads are either very good or very crap.

Winter in a snowy village can be pretty treacherous, four wheel drive etc can be great but don't be fooled into thinking that wide wheeled cars will provide more grip (as they do on 'dry' roads) - skinny tyres with plenty of tread will dig through the snow: so some grip from skinny tyres is better than minimal grip from wide tyres (think snow shoes and ice skates - poor analogy
I know...). 4x4's with road bias tyres are hardly infallible either, if your considering buying a 4x4 PM me for advice if you like. Snowchains are compulsory in some places. Decent properly inflated tyres are the best all year round safety feature on ANY car.

Oddly, ABS can be a hinderence in the snow and on any loose surface (it can induce skidding - a parodixical effect), but there are so many other electronic safety features these days that it's hardly worth getting into; under normal conditions ABS is a lifesaver. 

Diesel is good for big 4x4's, many petrol versions are v8 or v6 and they have a terrible consumption rate (think 15mpg for an old range rover v8), our land rover is a diesel and returns about 29mpg. If you get a modern small car the savings from choosing diesel can be negligable.

Good luck.


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