22 Jan 2013

Are Dacias really the cheapest cars on the market?

On the face of it the 4x4 Dacia (Renault) Duster, at £8995, and Sandero, at £5995, are the car market's mega bargains of the moment.  No-one else comes close in terms of bang for your buck.  The cars are basic but functional, nice to drive and economical.  The engines are tried and tested - a 48mpg, 75bhp, 1.2 in the Sandero and a 39mpg, 105bhp, 1.6 in the Duster.  Both petrol and both Renault.

You don't get much in your Dacia.  The Duster is a two wheel drive crossover with electric windows but no radio.  The Sandero is a hatchback with no radio and white paint.  It cannot be questioned - both these cars are complete and utter bargains and they have received a lot of press to say so.

But the advertised price is the price you pay.  There is simply no room for discounting, whereas other car companies do discount because they leave enough fat in their inflated prices that the dealers can offer prices well below retail.

Take Skoda for example.  Benfield Skoda is offering a Skoda Fabia 1.2 12v SE for £8995.  Now that might not compare well to the Sandero.  It is, after all, £3,000 more expensive but this is what you get with the Fabia that you don't with the Sandero:

  • Silver, grey or blue metallic paint
  • 3 years free servicing
  • CD/MP3 radio
  • Alarm
  • Alloy wheels
  • 51.4mpg (compared to the Sandero's 48mpg)
  • £100 per annum road tax (compared to the Sandero's £120)

These might seem minor but as soon as you start to spec the Sandero to Fabia like levels the difference in price narrows.  A Fabia spec Sandero, the Laureate, costs £7995 - and it doesn't get the 3 years free servicing.

The same is almost true of the Duster.  It's two wheel drive, crossover counterpart in the Skoda range is the Yeti.  The base model 1.2 TSI E Yeti has a list price of £14,995, whereas the Duster costs £8995.  Game, set and match Dacia then?

Well, not exactly.  You can get a Yeti 1.2 TSI E for £12,600 if you bargain hard enough.  And the Duster's Ambiance 4x4 trim, which has a few options (but not alloy wheels), costs £13,495.  In this case the Duster has four wheel drive whilst the Yeti doesn't.  But if you spec a base Access trim Duster with just a few options to bring it almost up to the Yeti's standard spec it costs £10,205 - and it will still have steel wheels.

The above figures are based on a new car.  Take depreciation into account and Skoda starts to slaughter  Dacia.  Obviously we don't have Dacia's figures to hand so lets use the Renault Megane.  The figures are provided by www.cap.co.uk.  After 3 years the Yeti will be worth 65% of what you paid for it in the first place.  The Megane will be worth 35%.

So if you pay £12,600 for a Yeti now it will be worth £8190 in 3 years.  If you pay £8995 for a base spec Duster now it will be worth £3148 in 3 years.  If you pay £13,495 for the Ambiance trim it will be worth £4723 in 3 years.

Does Dacia still seem the best value brand?  On paper, right now, it is.  But take trim, equipment and depreciation into account and Skoda offers the better package.  Except they can't sell you a brand new car for £5995.  Only Dacia can do that.

Our advice is think of the wider picture.  Think what you need, what you get and what you're willing to  pay for in your new car.  Even better, don't buy a new car.  You can save yourself a huge amount of money simply by buying a 1 year old car - and letting someone else take the depreciation hit.

Have a read of one of our reader's review of his Yeti here.  Speedmonkey will be driving the Dacia Duster and Sandero soon, after which we'll bring you a comprehensive review of each.