Used tour Opel Astra J

Come with us on a used car tour. We share our experiences from the gravel pitch to the showroom. This time, a used Astra shows the absolute ideal case when buying a used vehicle.

The popularity of the used car search is likely to be somewhere between tax returns and tidying up the basement for many. Even real car fans are always faced with the dilemma of finding the cheapest possible offer and not running the risk of being completely ripped off.

It's different for me. I enjoy roaming around the courtyards of used car dealers and through the endless expanses of online advertisements. In this format, I would like to tell you about some of the experiences I have had during countless used checks, both professionally and privately. Today it is about the best possible purchase; an absolute stroke of luck. Come with me on a foray through the world of used cars.

What would mom say?

Let's assume you wouldn't get your used car tips from us or other inclined enthusiasts, but from your dear mother. What advice would she give you on the way to buying a car? It should be a safe, modern car. Reasonable in terms of maintenance and consumption, not too big and not too small, but still with enough space. A new car? Oh, way too expensive! It should be a used one, but please from a reputable dealer. And with a guarantee. And with low mileage. But please not too fast!

She means well and it's hard to contradict her. With very similar purchase criteria in mind, I went on the hunt for the best, because the most sensible, used car in the late summer of last year. For an article in auto motor und sport, we were looking for immediately available used vehicles that are also suitable for family vacations . That was during the heyday of the used car shortage. There are hardly any typical candidates that were once available in large quantities for little money, and if they were, then mostly at inflated prices.

Dealer tip: Look for a company with its own workshop

It's clear to me: For the given budget (in the case of the article at that time it was a maximum of 15,000 euros, preferably less) I wouldn't find anything in the annual car corner at the authorized dealer. Conversely, it is about procuring a reasonable car and not taking a shady risk from shady origins. So at my first stop, I decide on a dealer in F├╝rth, Franconia. I used to live nearby, and I knew that very trustworthy used cars can usually be found at that dealership. The operators do not necessarily ask for ridiculous prices for their goods, but the previous ownership and maintenance history is usually correct.If you too are looking for a trustworthy dealer, look for one that also runs its own workshop, which is also open to the public for service work etc. There are also significantly more customer ratings for such companies on the Internet than for more dodgy providers. And: Your customers will come back regularly.

The best car in the world has to be a twelve-year-old Astra!

So I sneak across the well-kept forecourt of the equally well-kept Bilge car dealership. In scanner mode, the eyes wander over the sales signs in the windshields. The selection hardly seems smaller than before the outbreak of the corona pandemic. On average, however, the price level is a good quarter higher than what was once usual. I had no intention of exceeding the set price limit with the first candidate. So I change my search: from the monotony of young bestsellers, mostly on a compact VW platform, to the potential underdogs, the less popular and fewer and fewer candidates. So calibrated, a wonderfully ordinary Astra five-door suddenly lights up on me.

"An Astra J. Hopefully not a diesel, it doesn't handle Euro 6 and regularly chips its manual transmission with its torque. Pretty clean, but it doesn't look freshly prepared at all... Almost like new..." These thoughts twitch me through the always very quickly enthusiastic head. "But it was built from 2009 to 2015. It can't be..."

When you look at the price tag, you see: the impression is correct. Only 20,500 kilometers. From a purely visual point of view, I believe this mileage immediately. He should cost almost 8,900 euros. Not necessarily cheap compared to previous years, but nowadays (summer 2022) a real bargain. I hurry through the door to the showroom, ask for the key and shortly afterwards find myself in the passenger seat, studying the neatly filled out check book. The Astra smells like new inside, shows hardly any wear and tear and indicates a not very recent previous ownership. The somewhat meager equipment just above the basic level, the extremely well-kept condition and the low mileage (less than 2,000 kilometers a year) made me think so right from the start. Now the only trace of dirt I can find is a tiny bit of glue, which obviously must have belonged to a metal Christophorus plaque. The top radio station buttons play me the best oldie stations in the region. The lower ones were probably never occupied.

"Another ten years more", I think to myself, "and the car would be a godsend for Youngtimer colleague Alf Cremers", whose Kiesplatz reports have cult status in our publishing house . Under the extra protective cover of the trunk floor there are relics of a long car life: road maps, a wheel cross, a bandage pad.This long car life must have started many years before this Astra and must have slowly faded away with it.

Dealers are also actively looking for the really good cars.

Before I drift too far into the philosophical, salesman Sebahattin Bilge greets me warmly. He is still friendly when I identify myself as an AMS editor. Some retailers do not like media presence. Bilge has nothing to hide and confirms all my impressions of previous ownership (also first ownership, by the way) of the Astra.

He tells me that such well-maintained specimens rarely end up carelessly in the dealer auctions, through which the authorized dealers often sell off older trade-ins as a package. Conversely, he does not want to tarnish his good reputation with bad goods. That's why dealers like him are currently looking for good private offers every day. He openly describes that there is currently no other way than to pass the increased prices on to customers. But they are still appreciated if the quality is right. Our Astra also comes from a private advertisement. This is the only way dealers can also offer older used cars with a clear conscience and a guarantee.

And why the Astra?

In addition to an insight into the current market situation, this article should of course also explain what makes this find an unconditional recommendation. Because one thing is certain: a bad car does not turn into a good used car even if it is in the best condition.

At its debut in 2009, the Astra J was intended to usher in a new, more futuristic design language at Opel, analogous to the Insignia A introduced the previous year. In the tests, these cars initially stood out due to their relatively high unladen weight, but they were also of remarkably high quality and surprisingly low fuel consumption. With their basic components of sheet metal and drive technology, they can still be described as very modern cars today. Everything works smoothly and quietly, there is enough space and rust is not a real issue here either.

In addition to this future security, our copy shines with the complete absence of potentially problematic special equipment. There are no xenon headlights with expensive bulbs, there is no factory sat nav, which after twelve years looks completely outdated, and there are no real alloy wheels scarred by curbs. The rear windows even want to be cranked by hand. What it does offer is a modern, economical and lively four-cylinder turbo petrol engine that consumes little and is known for its problem-free longevity. If it still mumbles after many years, it usually only costs a few euros for a new ignition coil strip. Achilles heels? No. And as already indicated: what is not there cannot break.

Of course, that doesn't mean that he completely foregoes amenities.Air conditioning is also on board, as are heated seats and a good-sounding radio with an auxiliary input (keyword: Bluetooth receiver).

Admittedly, in the comparison tests, the Astra often lost out compared to the Golf, which was the leader in its class. However, the fact that today it does not have to contend with a higher price level, and above all with the problematic TSI petrol engines, easily compensates for the fact that it may have performed a little worse in individual categories at the time.

Tip: So pay attention to the "eternal second". All too often very good and durable cars hide here in the long run.

How do you find something like that?

If everything were that easy, we would probably recommend such strokes of luck all the time. The problem is that there is no search criterion on the Internet that sorts out the dubious candidates. There are battered specimens of every mass-produced car that you should keep your hands off. Asserting the perfect quality of one's goods is one of the easiest exercises for any used car dealer, no matter how dubious.

The trick, as mentioned in our little digression, is to switch the view from the list view, in which only prices and mileage of individual desired models are compared, to extra-large previews, just like on a computer. Approach the search with an open mind. If you are looking for such a bargain, you should first only set a limit for price, mileage, location and size (or performance) on the Internet. Leave the model selection open, even if you already have the desired bestseller in mind. Sorting out is always possible!

You'll be amazed at how many cars you'll come across that you certainly didn't have on your radar. You can find out whether these models are basically recommendable from our purchase advice here in the used car special section. Below is also an episode of our podcast "ams explains" where I talk to Luca Leicht about tips and tricks when buying a used car.


And the moral of the story? Sometimes it pays to break out of the same thicket of bestsellers - especially when they are anything but cheap. There are still good used cars where the focus is on the seriousness of the offer. If you then don't get a model with a chronic weak point, you usually get a durable long-term car at the absolute best possible price.


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