Help choosing and buying a compact family car in Germany
June 8, 2020 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to buy a first car for my small family (1 child), in Germany. I need some help choosing and also trying to understand how this works in Germany.

The situation is a bit odd because a family member wants to buy us a car, and we talked about a price range of 20-30K Euros. We don't want to max out at 30K, but we want to use this opportunity wisely, spending more upfront for something durable and reliable with lower maintenance and running costs etc.
Other priorities are safety, economy, environmental friendliness, and size (big enough to be safe, small enough to use in a European city). No need for speed, but it should not be extremely underpowered.
Also, we have lived here without a car for 10 years, and ride bikes to work and school (1-2km). We might use the car for one long trip to southern Europe each year (so pure electric not an option), otherwise maybe for occasional day trips (max 100km) and maybe a couple of long weekend trips. We don't really like driving, but want to take advantage of the surroundings just a bit. Also, we haven't been on public transport since the Covid 19 pandemic.
My default was to get a Toyota Corolla hatchback hybrid, which apparently one can get for about 25K here. But I am wondering what else to test drive and, since I have never bought a car and rarely driven in the last years, I am not sure.
1) Germans certainly prefer German cars, and while they are not as expensive (relatively) here as in the US, the nicer ones (BMW, Audi, Mercedes) are too expensive, and my impression is that they are not more reliable than Japanese /Korean and servicing them will be more complicated and expensive if travelling in southern Europe e.g. The VW Golf (about the same size a corolla hatchback) seems solid and economical and I'm considering it. And my family used to have Volvos. The only affordable and small one is the V 40, which can still be found, but it has been discontinued.
2) I've also had a look at the Ford Focus and Mazda 3, which I guess are comparable. Both are a bit less roomy in the back apparently, which could be unpleasant on a longer trip.
3) Also noticed some small "SUV"s if you can even call them that, like the hybrid Kia Niro and the Toyota C-HR, Volkswagen T-Roc and Mazda CX-30. One advantage might be a bit more roominess. I'm tall!
4) And for something a bit bigger the Hyundai Ioniq. I'm unsure how Hyundai and Kia compare in quality and durability to Toyota. The Prius, which is great, is a bit too expensive here.
5) Other issues: Both parents don't have great backs and would like comfortable front seats. A rear camera for backing up would be great. I would do without the touch screen thing if I could.

About cars in Germany: It seems that most of them are built to order. We'd love to have something sooner so I am trying to see what's available now. Can one just walk into a dealer and expect to be able to get a good deal? Does one negotiate these things? Apparently sales have been slow recently so there are some discounts, but I'm a bit unsure about how to go about this. First thing of course is to narrow it down to 2-3 choices.

Very grateful for any help!
posted by melamakarona to Shopping (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you consider a VW Golf, take a look at the equivalent models by Skoda (Scala) and Seat (Leon), which both belong to the Volkswagen group as well. They are basically the same car on the inside, but cheaper because the brands are less prestigious. I know many people here in Germany who are very happy with their Skoda cars, for example.

If you want to save money and buy a car right away without waiting for it to be built, you can go to a dealer and see if you can buy a car that either has a Tageszulassung (a car which was registered for one day by the dealer, which usually gets you a sizeable discount) or maybe a Jahreswagen (a car that is less than one year old and may have been driven by someone working for the car manufacturer; they often get a new car every year and sell the "old" one). Many people also buy used cars (Gebrauchtwagen), which often can be a good deal.

I'm not really an expert in buying cars, but these are options I would consider since you can save a lot of money. The cars usually have a warranty as well. I don't know if this is common in the US, but here in Germany cars usually come with documentation of all the services that dealers or garages have performed, and many people have their car serviced regularly so they're in good shape, especially if you buy from an official dealer instead of a generic Gebrauchtwagenhändler. Many manufacturers will offer AAA-like services for cars that have been serviced regularly (Mobilitätsgarantie).

Viel Erfolg beim Autokauf!
posted by amf at 10:29 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]

We might use the car for one long trip to southern Europe each year (so pure electric not an option)
I don't want to complicate things when you're already overwhelmed with options, but this is not the right way to think about it in my opinion. You should buy the car you need for 50 weeks of the year, and rent a car for this long trip. Renting a car is not free, but it's not terribly expensive if the alternative is putting the wear and tear on your own car. And you'll be able to rent something big and extra comfy for the long drive (or a sporty convertible, or whatever you like). It's fun!

And yes, you should buy an electric car (unless you don't have a way to charge it at home). Aside from the whole "the planet is dying" thing, buying a gas-powered car in 2020 is simply a bad investment that will have very low resale value when the time comes. FWIW I have my eye on the Kia Soul EV when it's time for me to change. It has more cargo space and headroom than the Niro.
posted by caek at 2:01 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]

Thank you both for the replies.
Regarding electric, no worries about complicating things! I've thought about that too. One thing is that by southern Europe I meant Greece, and as far as I know, German rental cars cannot be driven to Greece (one cannot go through the countries north of Greece). I would be very happy to be corrected about that. Also rental cars in Greece in the summer cost at least 1000 EUR for 3 weeks. I doubt it would be cheaper in Germany. Maybe Italy + ferry, but that is more complicated (and I worry about ferries these days). Also, if I understood, even a trip to Berlin or Paris from Munich (where I am) would require stopping and fully recharging overnight. And I don't have a way to charge at home, though there are charging stations nearby. So I'm leaning towards a hybrid, prehaps a plug-in hybrid. For example, the plug-in hybrid Hyundai Ioniq seems to be just within our price range for a base model. But anyway, to clarify, I think that most of the driving would be for day trips or longer trips.
posted by melamakarona at 2:04 AM on June 9

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