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.
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.