Despite living in an age when big isn’t perceived as environmentally beautiful, the level of demand for cars in the exec saloon category is still strong

It could be argued that the large executive saloon is an anachronism, a hangover from an era when the aspiring company manager was judged by the size of his or her car and the badge on the bonnet.

“These days the used buyer is looking for practicality and cheaper running costs in the family car, while younger buyers are firmly entrenched in the supermini sector. With increasing concerns about green issues this could leave the large executive car out in the cold as too big, expensive and impractical,” explains Simon Henstock, BCA’s UK network operations director.

“However, the used saloon sector generally has enjoyed a renaissance in terms of price performance over recent months. There are relatively fewer examples coming back from fleet and lease sources these days, and while it could hardly be called a scarcity, there is plenty of demand for the best examples.”

Increasingly price is the defining factor for the used buyer and running costs are being taken into the equation. For any executive saloon, a great specification with all the bells and whistles is taken as a given, so mileage and condition really come into play. Buyers will look closely at service intervals and if a car is being offered needing a major service very soon, this can be a real turn off. It could well be worth getting the work done in advance and getting this declared when the car is sold.

“To really get the buyer’s attention, these big saloons have to look great value – depreciation is steep in this sector and used buyers expect a lot of car for the money,” says Henstock.

The purchasers

So who is buying the large executive car? “Many will go back into small company ownership where the lower acquisition cost means the business owner can get good value for money,” says Henstock. “Similarly, self-employed professional people will see the benefit in buying an executive saloon once the first major slug of depreciation has taken place. In short, anyone in an offset tax position can find great value in this sector. Outside of the business sectors, well-heeled older buyers like the quiet elegance of the BMW 5-series, Mercedes E-class or Jaguar S-type.”

When it comes to specification, don’t scrimp at the front end. While you will never get all the added value of the extras back, it will make the car more saleable at remarketing time. In terms of the basics, leather is a must, as is climate control – preferably with individual settings – alloy wheels, a good CD/radio, memory seats, cruise control and a high degree of safety features such as stability, ABS and all-around airbags. Satellite navigation is almost universal these days and MP3 and Bluetooth compatibility is increasingly expected.

However, according to Manheim, executive cars are not highly desirable in the used market. “Whether adding petrol or diesel executive models onto the fleet, make sure they are automatic,” advises senior group auctioneer Andrew Shepherd.

Manheim’s statistics for May suggest, that diesels still retain more of the cost new price than executive petrol models.

“Executive diesel cars are worth 17% more than executive petrol cars. Executive diesels returned 44% (37 months/67,000 miles) with an average sale price of £12,380, whilst executive petrols averaged £7530, representing a return of 27% (57 months/75,000 miles),” says Shepherd, who adds that condition is also important: “A very tidy executive car with all dents and dings taken out and alloy wheels repaired can easily make £2000-£3000 more than an untidy car.”

Heavy on metallic

Finally, with all larger cars, take care when choosing colour. BCA’s Henstock explains: “Metallic shades work best such as silver, blues, greens and greys. Dark colours tend to make large saloons look ‘official’ or even funereal and are not to everybody’s taste. And be very careful with lighter colours – with the best will in the world, any large car in cream or beige looks like a taxi after three years.”