New Or Used (Or Drive Vs. Tube)?: A Brazilian Goes To The UK

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used or drive vs tube a brazilian goes to the uk

Autobraz writes:

Hi, The company I work for is transferring me to their headquarters in the UK. I wonder if you could help me by using the collective intelligence of the Best and Brightest for suggestions on which car should I buy once I get there. My knowledge of the UK auto world is limited to watching Top Gear episodes and an Aston Martin, Jaguar or Pagani Zonda do not fit my budget. What I am looking for: Space: enough for weekend trips with my wife and 3 year old son. I currently own a 1.6 Ford Focus (1st Gen, made in Argentina) and has been good enough. So I guess a hatchback is enough for me. Power: Economy is more important.

Again, my 1.6 gas (should I start saying petrol?) is enough for me. I am not sure which size of Diesel engine would compare or if it is worth to choose one instead of a gasoline powered engine. Status: couldn’t care less. Second hand options are welcomed but not being versed on the country and its people I would be worried to buy one. I feel comfortable enough buying second hand in Brazil, but I know the culture here and so I can avoid bad deals. Thank you very much for the help!

Steven replies:

While the Brazilian government has a love/hate relationship with car owners, the UK version is a bit more hate/hate. Your registration fees will likely be much higher. Gas will be about 30% higher… and the government’s ravenous hunger for revenues has resulted in a level of traffic surveillance that would make Syria and Iran proud.

If your neighborhood is in an area that is pedestrian friendly I wouldn’t bother. You would be far better off renting a car for the times you really need it, and relying on the well cultivated subsidies of public transport. There is a reason why Britain is no longer a global player in the auto industry. Their cars pretty much sucked almost as bad as their regulations.

But then again… if you’re willing to invest in the ownership experience (brave soul you are) I would stick to a simple plan. Look at what interests you, have it inspected by an independent mechanic’s shop, and do the numbers before you buy. If you want more background on the car, just go to and the other UK car owner sites that can provide you with a real straight answer on good or bad cars.

Sajeev Answers:

In a previous life, I was a contract IT project manager for BP. I lived in London for a month. Which sucked, but not because of the location: much love to that pub that was a mere block from my hotel at Heathrow. Here’s the point: I never missed owning a car, even when I saw some UK drag racing hoonage in the suburbs. So I agree with my esteemed colleague: you only need a pass for “The Tube” to go anywhere.

If you are living in a more rural/suburban environment, definitely go with a small hatchback with a stick. Even with disappearing subsidies, a used diesel mini is still easier on the wallet, especially if you leave the country before it needs servicing. But, for occasional use, I’d run a petrol motor to redline to make the most of my precious time on the road. If you like the Focus, by all means get another: they are everywhere in the UK and (from what little I’ve seen) command the brand loyalty common in Corolla/Civic owners in the US.

Not to go all Mike Brewer on you, but I’d buy a used Focus or Fiesta if you want to stick with Ford. I suspect they depreciate like crazy and you’ll have no problem finding one in good “nick” because of their popularity. If you want something sportier, perhaps a German Supermini fits the bill. But if you want basic transportation, stick with the used cheaper brands and enjoy the one fiscal pleasure of UK car ownership: depreciation.

Paul Niedermeyer jumps in too:

Autobraz specifically said he wanted something to drive on the weekends with his family. And he didn’t say he was necessarily going to London. From my experience in going back to Austria for extended visits, cars suck in the city proper, but if you you like getting into the countryside on the weekends, a car is the only way to go.

That’s the main reason most European city dwellers have cars: to get out of it! Oh, and Ikea and the hypermart on Saturday. The UK has an infinite number of beautiful places to drive and sights to see, so please take advantage of it, get a car and go see it! The choice: Sajeev largely covered it, but if you like Fords, they’re certainly very popular there.

Since you’re anxious about buying used, avoid private party sellers, and stick to reputable dealers with some kind of warranty. I wouldn’t sweat the diesel vs. gas issue much if you’re just wanting something with which to get away on the weekend. Stick to popular engine/trim combinations in order to ensure a decent resale value when you’re done with it. Happy motoring!

Join the conversation
2 of 24 comments
  • StevenJJ StevenJJ on Mar 06, 2010

    You will need: - A car - Driving license - Insurance - VED (Tax disc) - MOT (Annual test required for all cars over three years old) My street has a 'residents parking' scheme which is not uncommon. Residents have to pay the local council £25pa to park on our own street with outside offenders being ticketed. When I last filled up yesterday petrol and diesel was the same price - £1.15 a litre which is US$6.60 for a USGallon.

  • Splateagle Splateagle on Mar 08, 2010

    Lots of good advice here already but one detail that seems to have been overlooked: the "Golf class" segment is far and away the most popular here. If you don't *need* a medium sized hatch, consider going for something larger or smaller (depending on your needs) as your money will go further. The Panda is certainly worth a look - they're frugal flexible little cars and happily cope with long distance journeys. Alternatively depreciation on some of the unfashionable executive cars will net you a lot of car for a small initial outlay, just remember to factor in the insurance/tax etc. If the relocation is long term, then small and sensible would probably be the way to go, if you're expecting to be here for less than a year I'd be tempted to pick up something fun but cheap with 12 months MOT and run it into the ground.

  • Jeff S I don't believe gm will die but that it will continue to shrink in product and market share and it will probably be acquired by a foreign manufacturer. I doubt gm lacks funds as it did in 2008 and that they have more than enough cash at hand but gm will not expand as it did in the past and the emphasis is more on profitability and cutting costs to the bone. Making gm a more attractive takeover target and cut costs at the expense of more desirable and reliable products. At the time of Farago's article I was in favor of the Government bailout more to save jobs and suppliers but today I would not be in favor of the bailout. My opinions on gm have changed since 2008 and 2009 and now I really don't care if gm survives or not.
  • Kwik_Shift I was a GM fan boy until it ended in 2013 when I traded in my Avalanche to go over to Nissan.
  • Stuart de Baker I didn't bother to read this article. I'll wait until a definitive headline comes out, and I'll be surprised if Tesla actually produces the Cybertruck. It certainly looks impractical for both snowy and hot sunny weather.
  • Stuart de Baker This is very interesting information. I was in no danger of buying a Tesla. I love my '08 Civic (stick), and it feels just as responsive as when I bought it 11 years ago with 35k on the clock (now 151k), and barring mishaps, I plan to keep it for the next 25 years or so, which would put me into my mid-90s, assuming I live that long. On your information, I will avoid renting Teslas.
  • RHD The only people who would buy this would be those convinced by a website that they are great, and order one sight-unseen. They would have to have be completely out of touch with every form of media for the last year. There might actually be a few of these people, but not very many. They would also have to be completely ignorant of the Hyundai Excel. (Vinfast seems to make the original Excel look like a Camry in comparison.)