/ Motoring

Do you forgo appearances and buy unpopular cars?

Cartoon car

Buy a popular car and you’ll have to stand in line and pay a steep price. Choose an unpopular model and you can find big savings on cars that are pretty much identical under the skin. Where do your priorities lie?

Supply and demand is key: if you’re looking for something that everyone else wants you’re going to have to dig deep. Pick an unpopular product and you can bag a bargain, whether you’re buying sunglasses or a car.

And with cars sharing so much technology under the skin, you don’t even have to sacrifice on reliability, engines or space. But would you do without a little style for the best value?

Pick a less popular model for maximum value

Volkswagen, for example, owns brands from Audi to Skoda. Go for an Audi and you get a lovely car for a hefty price. But choose a Skoda and you can often get the same engines, gearboxes and equipment at a much lower cost. But which appeals to you more?

I’ve just played this game by buying a BMW 3 Series Compact. Look at any classifieds websites and you’ll find thousands of similar age 3 Series saloons and coupes. Even though it shares an engine, interior and most of its equipment with the saloon and coupe, the 3 Series Compact is less popular due to its unusual styling.

By choosing a Compact, I probably saved more than 10% compared to buying a similar saloon or coupe – all because the Compact is less popular.

Do you focus on image or a better value package?

If you’re willing to buy a less desirable model you really can save a huge amount.

When I was looking for my second car I wanted a Volkswagen Golf, due to its reputation for quality, solidity and general desirability. However, as I’d only recently passed my test, insurance would have been hugely expensive. So I looked for alternatives and in the end I went for a VW Bora (a saloon based on the Golf).

Though this car is based on the Golf, prices were drastically lower for the Bora (due to British buyers’ preference for hatchbacks over small saloons), the insurance was much cheaper and the car had extra equipment too. It also had a larger boot.

On paper it seems a no brainer to go for a similar but less popular model if you plan to own it for several years. But how much of a concern is your car’s image to you?


I’ve bought two Honda Legends. They are, perhaps, the fastest depreciating car in the UK market. My first cost £28,00 new, I got it at age 3 for £5,000
My second fell from around £30,000 to £12,000 in a couple of years. Unfortunately, it continued to depreciate, and I’m now struggling to get £6,000 for it two years later.
Cars like this make an excellent “keep it for life” vehicle. Unfortunately, I got early retirement, so I’ve replaced the Legend with a Nissan Leaf.
The Honda Legend can hold its own against Mercedes and BMW, except in terms of “cachet”.

David Young says:
16 March 2014

3 yrs old is a little young to be buying cars. How do you reach the pedals.

NukeThemAll says:
16 March 2014

Actually, I’m not sure of the point that that’s being made here. Surely it’s blindingly obvious that unpopular cars’ used values are disastrous. So, as they say, “do the math” and stay away if you’re buying new, go there if you’re buying used at the ‘correct’ time ie when most of the rapid depreciation has occurred. It’s not rocket science!

But surely the question you should be asking is…. why is the car ‘unpopular’? If it’s merely styling, that’s fine, but if it’s known to be abysmal to drive, has a terrible reliability and/or rusting record with very expensive spares and apathetic dealers (some 4x4s tick all of the above) then you should re-consider. Or you’ll likely be sorry. Very.

I was talking about the Honda Legend… the top of the range from one of the most reliable manufacturers. It’s beautiful to drive (unless for some bizarre reason you were expecting sports-car like handling). It almost never goes wrong (one repair across about 15 years ownership, two vehicles). What’s rust?
The only reason it’s unpopular is that it doesn’t have a Mercedes badge. It’s far better to drive than the Mercedes car I had (560SEC)
And that was my point. Find a car which is unjustly unpopular and you’re onto a winner.