You can pick up a car that will go on forever for £500 or less
2 October 2018

I knew I was onto something a few hundred years ago when I suggested that used cars were great value and ideally should not be thrown away.

I am glad some readers agree with me about the whole Bangernomics thing. They also tell me how disappointed they are about how unfixable and expensive modern used cars are.

In the past, I’ve made reference to ‘cockroach cars’ – in other words, used motors that just run and run and are seemingly invincible. Yes, buying any used car is something of a risk and it is always easy to go wrong, but I’ve had a run of previously expensive new vehicles that continued to be utterly reliable. Luxoroaches might be my thing, but I think there are still some basic bangers out there that might do a job.

My default destination for contemporary bangers is always Japan. The Corolla is a legend, of course, and somewhat long in the automotive tooth, but it is reassuringly basic. There are tons around. I looked on a free ad website, which is the only place to look, and there were 500 of them. A few hundred pounds or less gets a dented but reliable 1.3 with the ‘guppy’ face from 1999. The word ‘reliable’ cropped up in every single ad, even the expensive £450 ones.

Find a used Toyota Corolla on PistonHeads

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Then there are the forgotten Suzukis. The Baleno is anonymous and the originals are almost all gone from the classifieds, but I did see a 1998 1.6 GS, with a full service history no less, and all for £500. Sounds pricey, but it won’t let you down. Actually, for that money, you can get one of those famously reasonably priced Lianas. A £500 1.6 GL from 2004 is just as boring as a Baleno. Then again, a mint 2006 1.6 GL is £1000.

Mazdas are quite magnificent when it comes to not breaking down – and if you want a bit more room, the 626 is a multimillion-miler. I found a bunch of 1998 2.0s with full MOTs and none of them was more than £300.

Next up, I would look towards Korea. They used to build Japanese cars, after all. Kia Picantos and Rios from 2004/5 can be picked up for £300 pretty easily. The Rios are not great to drive but keep on going.

Now, I may be confusing cheapness with longevity, but really the 1990s was the last time major manufacturers made truly fixable cars. That’s why I mention Citroën ZXs from time to time. Peugeot 406s were okay, too, and you’ll even find Fiat Marea fans out there. Best to stick with fixable Far Easterns, which are great value.

If you have any nominations for cockroach cars, then please let me know.

What we almost bought this week: 

Honda NSX - We’re fans of a good, fast Honda and the NSX was one of its fastest and very best, mainly because you could genuinely use it every day. Many did, which means that a full service history with a main dealer or a specialist is a must. Also, ensure there is no accident damage because the NSX’s aluminium panels are expensive to repair or replace.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage:

Porsche Cayenne - Mileage 98,751: It is amazing just how much the Flying Pig’s pong has amused and entertained you. For me, it has been a bumpy and rather smelly ride. I’ll pass on one top tip, though: please, don’t ever be remotely tempted to put a box of freshly cut grass in the boot of your vehicle. What you end up with is a stink that rivals Glastonbury on a damp and muddy Sunday morning in front of the main stage.Thanks, then, to the Autocar reader who suggested Valeo ClimSpray. You set the air-con to recirculate and maximum fan, press the button and retire for 15 minutes. Pong gone – we think.

A to Z bangerpedia:

Vauxhall Astra Mk4: The Astra Mk4 was never the prettiest or most distinctive car in its class. It is, however, unpretentious and unashamedly practical. For keen drivers, the good news is that extensive work by Lotus turned the previously dull Astra into an entertaining drive.

The steering and handling are superb, being direct, yet fluid. The ride is smooth and well-behaved too. When launched, it had the roomiest interior in its class, never mind the drab colours or diesel engines.Just £250 buys a 2004 SXi 2.0 DTi with 174k miles.

Readers’ questions: 

Q. I need to replace my Range Rover 4.4 Vogue. I am considering a new Volvo XC90 or a two-year-old Range Rover Sport 4.4, each priced about £60k. Which is the better investment? Michael Lynskey, via email

A. As you probably know from your Range Rover ownership, a luxury SUV is no investment and often haemorrhages money. However, the popularity of the Range Rover Sport has helped it to maintain its value better than the XC90. For example, a year-old D5 Inscription Pro XC90, £60,000 when new, is worth £44,000, which is quite a scary drop. Also, a used 2016 4.4 SDV8 Sport will cost you £315 a year to tax versus the £450 of the new XC90. Max Adams

Q. My car’s alternator has just gone and the garage wants £350 to replace it. Is there a cheaper alternative? Martin Finch, via email

A. Usually, it is the voltage regulator that wears out in an alternator, but these are getting increasingly hard to find as a separate part in this country, with many motor factors preferring to offer off-the-shelf reconditioned units. However, it can be done if you’re prepared to devote some time to searching for the part on the internet. I bought a voltage regulator for my Volvo from eBay for £50 and fitted it myself, saving £285 over the cost of a reconditioned unit. Max Adams

Read more

Used car buying guide: Honda Integra Type R DC2

Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 28 September

James Ruppert: the used cars that can be upgraded with a phone app

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Comments
4

2 October 2018

Old volvos are usually dependable from the 340/360 to the 940/960, they all keep going and are mechanically relatively simple, less around now, probably been part exchanged in scrappage schemes.

2 October 2018
I still see a lot of old Honda Accords working as Taxis, I know they are not that old but the mileage on some must be astronomical.

2 October 2018

May I nominate the Skoda Fabia, Toyota Yaris and Honda Logo as candidates? I think that if you're going for economy motoring, you may as well buy something which is cheap to tax, insure and with good fuel economy too. 

But it's worth bearing in mind that nothing built in the last 20 years is truly basic. All have ECUs, fueel injection, catalytic converters, airbags and ABS brakes, any one of which could fail randomly and cost a fortune to fix.

It would be interesting to see Autocar run one of these bangers long term and compare the economics against say a nearly new small car with relatively low depreciation and zero repair costs.  

mb

2 October 2018
What mug pays list price for a new car?
Why do all journalists quote list price when quoting depreciation on used cars, no one pays full list price and therefore the £16,000 loss on the quoted XC90 (£60,000 when new and worth £44,000 a year later) is yet more fake news. As an example, VW recently offered £5000 off some of their new cars on a PCP and it would also be possible to get a discount off list price. Also I recently heard of a £10k discount off a new £25k car, so the depreciation on that Volvo would be more like £6k and possibly less, not £16k.

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