You’ve seen a bargain online. How far would you travel to view it?
20 November 2018

Autocar readers are, of course, awesome, and it is fascinating when they let me chip in on their quandaries. Andrew has been in these pages several times with excellent rides, including Mercedes-Benz W124-series and Ford Focus estates. Anyway, he saw an advert for a Volkswagen Transporter T5 Kombi with a good MOT and an odometer reading of 199,000 miles. The high mileage was one consideration, but the other problem was its location on the other side of the country to him, in Exeter. 

I’ve had the same conversation with other used car buyers, which amounts to how far you are willing to travel to buy a used car. Because I live in a fairly inaccessible part of the British Isles, I almost always have to travel an hour or so to collect one. The plain fact is that the internet has turned the whole world into a car showroom and forecourt that sits on our laptop, tablet or phone. Because we love cars, there is therefore no distance we won’t travel to look at a motor. I have friends in Scotland who say that they don’t have a huge choice of used cars, especially if they want a bargain, so they always pack their sandwiches and winter coat to travel. 

That might explain why I would travel 128 miles to buy a 2002 Subaru Impreza 2.0 GX. It looked clean in the pictures and this would be a useful and cool saloon to run this winter at only £995. Just the two previous owners as well. It was at a dealer, so they would hold it for me and they would have done the all-important background checks. 

Distance does become an issue if you are buying something cheap and cheerful as a stop-gap banger, so best make sure you don’t travel too far. For me, cheap means less than £995. In that case, I wouldn’t cross the Irish Sea to see a 2002 Fiat Punto for £200 and a short MOT. But the ad said it had done 720k miles, so I’d love to see that if it wasn’t a printing error. On the way there, I could stop in Wales to see a 2001 Honda CR-V with 180k miles at £250. A couple of months’ MOT, but really not worth the effort unless it is down the road and you can accept or reject it after a once-over and then move onto the next cheapie. 

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Back to that earlier consideration about buying a higher-mileage car: of course we would and we’ll go into that topic soon. In the meantime, if you have made an epic journey to buy a used car, I am sure the Autocar community would love to hear about it through the usual channels.

What we almost bought this week

Volvo S60 R: Volvo likes pulling rabbits out of the hat. Remember the 850 T-5R of 1995? The S60 R of 2003 made slightly less impact but acquired a discreet following for its 300bhp turbo five-pot motor, four-wheel drive and underthe-radar looks. One seller has a rust-free import with 83,000 miles up for £6000. Worth it for its burnt-orange interior alone.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Porsche Cayenne, mileage 99,360: What the MOT test uncovered was some tyres with only a few thousand miles of tread left. The front near-side one was particularly bad, but I am just a bit tyre obsessive. I prefer the correct donuts for the job, so what to get and from where? 

I spoke to the good people at Falken Tyres and they have developed the FK510 SUV, a tyre specifically for SUVs. Obviously, it’s important to use a tyre with the correct load and speed rating and not use an everyday car tyre, so let’s get these fitted and then I can tell you what they are like.

Reader’s Ride

Renault Mégane CC: We are indebted to Kenny Smith for yet again persuading a relative to show off their bargain purchase: “Steven Smith wanted a fun occasional car for high days and holidays, one that was well equipped, a convertible and roomy enough for his children. 

“He spotted a 2008 Renault Mégane CC 1.6 Dynamique S for sale privately with only 63,000 miles and a full main dealer service history plus lots of receipts. It had had a fresh MOT and service two months earlier. It was dusty, damp free and £950.”

Readers’ questions

Question: Which cheap new car has a heated windscreen? Julia Cornfield, Bicester

Answer: It's not exactly cheap but check out the Fiesta Zetec. It has what Ford calls a Quickclear windscreen and it’s precisely that. No more starting your engine, running indoors while the blower melts the frost and risking your insurance cover. John Evans

Question: When is a nearly new car a new car? Tom Harris, via email

Answer: It never is but some dealers insist on describing late-plate cars with delivery mileage as ‘new’. To be so, there should be no former keeper on the V5 form (log book). A nearly new car will most likely have been registered by the selling dealer. John Evans

Question: I buy and sell antiques. Which estate will take my old Chippendales? George Benjamin, Oxford

Answer: A Volvo used to be the car of choice for the nation’s Lovejoys, but since the manufacturer went all Scandi on us, its wagons have shrunk. What you need is a Skoda Superb estate. You could hold an auction in one. John Evans

Read more

Used Car Buying Guide: Volvo S60 R

Skoda Superb Estate long-term test review: final report​

James Ruppert: why I've bought a used Porsche Cayenne​

 

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Comments
17

27 November 2018

There's only one problem with buying cheap cars on line: they tend to look much better in pictures than close-up in the metal. I've noticed this both when viewing cars and when selling my own - plus the fact that pictures don't convey those annoying rattles and squeaks, water leaks and sundry intermittent faults that are rarely described yet can be hard to track down and rectify.

Conversely when buying newish cars from reputable dealerships, I've travelled hundreds of miles to save large amounts of cash - easily justifying the travel expense.   

27 November 2018
LP in Brighton wrote:

There's only one problem with buying cheap cars on line: they tend to look much better in pictures than close-up in the metal. I've noticed this both when viewing cars and when selling my own - plus the fact that pictures don't convey those annoying rattles and squeaks, water leaks and sundry intermittent faults that are rarely described yet can be hard to track down and rectify.

Conversely when buying newish cars from reputable dealerships, I've travelled hundreds of miles to save large amounts of cash - easily justifying the travel expense.   

I bought my last 4 cars online and had none of those problems. "Those annoying rattles and squeaks, water leaks and sundry intermittent faults" can seen/heard when you pick the car up.

XXXX just went POP.

27 November 2018

Never brought a cheap'ish car from a dealer for 3 reasons:

1. You probably could have bought it cheaper from the person direct.

2. If it goes wrong you won't have any recourse and lose you mind trying to pursue the dealer, especially if he's some distance away as per article.

3. Speaking to the current owner will give the best indication as to how the car has been treated.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

27 November 2018
xxxx wrote:

2. If it goes wrong you won't have any recourse and lose you mind trying to pursue the dealer, especially if he's some distance away as per article.

Wrong advice. Buying private you have little or no recourse but if the car goes wrong buying from a trader you're protected by law. See consumer rights act 2015.

27 November 2018
scotty5 wrote:

xxxx wrote:

2. If it goes wrong you won't have any recourse and lose you mind trying to pursue the dealer, especially if he's some distance away as per article.

Wrong advice. Buying private you have little or no recourse but if the car goes wrong buying from a trader you're protected by law. See consumer rights act 2015.

You buy a car for £1,000 from a dealer 200 miles away and the clutch goes one week later you try may well spend the next 6 months of your life (and reduce your life span due to stress) trying to get something back. 

If it was private (bearing in mind the other points) you just accept it and get on with life! 

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

27 November 2018

I guess if you buy it and it turns out to have been Cat C/D (or whatever they are now - R/S?) you have comeback from a dealer, whereas a private seller will laugh in your face.

27 November 2018
WallMeerkat wrote:

I guess if you buy it and it turns out to have been Cat C/D (or whatever they are now - R/S?) you have comeback from a dealer, whereas a private seller will laugh in your face.

^ to which I should've added - always get an HPI check before travelling any distance!

27 November 2018
WallMeerkat wrote:

WallMeerkat wrote:

I guess if you buy it and it turns out to have been Cat C/D (or whatever they are now - R/S?) you have comeback from a dealer, whereas a private seller will laugh in your face.

^ to which I should've added - always get an HPI check before travelling any distance!

Insurance write of, you can check private and dealer cars. £5 well spend

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

27 November 2018
scotty5 wrote:

Wrong advice. Buying private you have little or no recourse but if the car goes wrong buying from a trader you're protected by law. See consumer rights act 2015.

Actually you DO have recourse if buying privately, although it is more hassle than going back to a dealer.

XXXX just went POP.

27 November 2018
I've bought three cars which have been 300+ miles away. The UK is only small... It's impossible for a trip to be too long for purchasing something as important/expensive as a car. Just make sure you do a tonne of research before you get there!

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