buying 156 sportwagon
I went through this over the last several weeks. Pretty similar circumstances to you. I wanted a 156 sportwagon, budget of £2000, was interested in both 2.4 JTD and 2.0 TS. Was initially sceptical about selespeed.
Iíve bought a silver 2000 year selespeed, 2 litre twinspark, red leather, 48,000 miles, full service history, including cambelt at 36k, £1800.
You say that your budget is tight, so my first question would be Ė exactly how tight? I identified several things before I bought the car that needed doing, including the 48k service. A few more things have come up since then, maybe because I wasnít looking closely enough pre purchase, but also just because you find things as you get to know a car. So I have now spent an additional £700 on 48k service, fixing airbag ECU, replacing thermostat, replacing brake fluid, replacing rear stub axle bushes, and putting standard wheels back on it instead of the silly aftermarket ones that it came with (one of which I found a crack in after Iíd bought the car, otherwise I would have left them).
Iíd budgeted around £500 for work over the first few months to bring it up to standard. I know most owners wonít spend anything on a car when they expect to sell it in the near future, and Iím fussy about getting things right anyway, so always count on spending something like this much. Usually I do my own maintenance, but since moving to London I have to work on the street outside my flat, so need to get professionals to do more than Iíd like.
My point with all of that is Ė if your budget is tight, donít spend all of it on the purchase price. Leave some money for things that will come up over the first couple of months.
Petrol v diesel: I found that 2.4 JTD sportwagons are rare beasts. Particularly at this price. And the mileages are high. At £2000, I was looking at 60k mile 2.0 TSs, and a couple 100-120k mile 2.4 JTDs. Longevity of the engine notwithstanding , at 100-120k miles, you need to be looking for a good service history over the whole of the suspension, and you might want to be thinking about a clutch job at some point. Also travel costs. I was going to go look at one in Cornwall, and another up north, just to be able to see one. That could have been £100 in train tickets. Both sold before I could even book train tickets. Petrol cars I could look at a dozen or more within a tube ride in London.
And comparing similar mileage 2.4 diesel cars to petrol cars, I was looking at prices £2000 for petrol, £3000 for diesel. I figure £1000 pays for a lot of fuel. Maybe my calcs are wrong, but I think that means at least 30k miles mixed urban/highway to make the difference in price back. More if you do a lot of open road, less if all your driving is urban
Selespeed I was apprehensive about. It seems to be an added complexity that is unnecessary. I talked to a number of people Iíve known a long time, and didnít find any problems. The internet forums are full of selespeed problems, but that may well be reporting bias: no-one goes to an internet forum to say, ďHelp, my car is working perfectly, I donít know whats wrongĒ.
After a couple weeks I still donít think that selespeed is any better than full manual, but I didnít rule my car out because of it. I was looking at a low mileage selespeed with full service history and a colour combination I really liked vs a few higher mileage manuals with partial service history and colour combos I was less keen on, so I went with the selespeed.
So far, I really like my car. It looks good, the interior is a nice place to be, it drives well. I miss the torque and sound of my V6 164, but, you know, things change.
Hope that helps, at least a little.