If you want to keep your car out of the workshop constantly, avoid 5 Series, buy Punto. In theory

I like it when companies tell us how much cars cost to fix and which ones break down. So thank you to the whocanfixmycar.com people, who have crunched the numbers to reveal which cars cost a bomb to repair and which don’t. In theory, this should be our banger buying guide. 

The criteria is how much each car costs to maintain at different ages, from brand new to 15 years old, and there’s an average cost for each car per year. Each figure includes servicing, MOT and any unexpected repairs. 

Well, here’s a favourite of ours, a BMW 5 Series, which sits at the very top of the ‘most expensive cars to fix’ list. There does not seem to be any qualification, but certainly recent-era ones aren’t a cheap fix. Indeed, a Bavarian specialist once told me that the E39 generation was the last truly fixable 5 Series. With that in mind and ignoring the fact that E39s are more than 15 years old now, let’s get ourselves a nice one for just £1500. That will bag you a 2003 520i ES with 120,000 miles. It’s got those nice star alloy wheels and automatic ’box, and being a petrol, I think it will be pretty reliable. The stats, though, say it will cost £585 a year to sort out. You might get away with it, but I’m not so sure about a 2006 530d Sport with 185,000 miles at £1950. It was a dealer part-exchange and even they admitted that it needed some TLC. 

Not far behind at £557 per year is the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. They look small, cool and unfussy now and a 100,000-mile 2007 C200 Kompressor Sport Edition with a fresh air-con condenser is £2490. 

Our Verdict

BMW 5 Series

The BMW 5 Series has been the go-to mid-sized executive saloon, and G30 generation brings 7 Series luxury limo quality to the class, but is it still the best?

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Then there is the Volkswagen Passat, with a £543 bill. That’s a surprise because they seem to gobble up huge mileages with not too much bother. Certainly, the estates are wonderful luggers. A 2002 1.8 Turbo SE with 100,000 miles, a proper old-school petrol estate with a full year’s MOT, is just £900. 

After the Passat, it is more BMWs, with the 1 Series costing £518 to fix and the 3 Series £486. We’re running out of space here and obviously should have been focusing on the five cheapest cars to maintain. A Fiat Punto is at number one (£255) although, in my experience, every single used one needs at least that to struggle through an MOT. 

After the Fiat comes a Peugeot 206, then a Mercedes A-Class, Citroën C4 and Renault Mégane. Actually, those French cars always seem to need a lot of fettling after the first year of ownership. Maybe, though, it didn’t amount to more than £250. 

What we take away from this is avoid premium-brand used cars.

What we almost bought this week

Reliant Scimitar: Some people sell their car because they fancy a change, others because they’re worried it’s about to go pop, but the seller of this 40,000-mile, 1982 X-reg Scimitar 2.8 GTE auto, on which “thousands of pounds” have been lavished, claims he’s selling simply because he’s “unable to get in or out of it any more”. It’ll happen to us one day.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

BMW 320, mileage - 83,195: Just in case you wondered, the Baby Shark failed its MOT. The horn didn’t horn. That was it. But that really didn’t matter as it’s remaining in situ at the garage to have rather a lot of other things attended to. Not the least the fact that it is not keen on starting. At least I have a spare Weber carburettor to donate. 

Also, the fact that 16-year-old tyres passed the MOT should be a concern and I have decided to replace them all at no small damage to my bank balance. Contributions, please, to the usual channels.

Reader’s ride

Audi A8: Here’s Ross Neil’s latest buy. “It’s a 2012 A8 L 4.2 TDI SE Executive, 61k miles, full service history, £15k from a BMW dealer who took it as a trade-in. 

“They had already advertised and sold it, but when that customer’s finance fell through, it meant it was hanging about the forecourt longer than they wanted. I stepped in and got, to my mind, a cracking deal. “The alloys need repainting. I used that as a bargaining tool and got £500 off. I traded in my 2006 Jag XJ diesel and got £1800 for that so I’m delighted.”

Readers’ questions

Question: I’ve been declined motor finance but am convinced lenders are mistaken about my situation. What can I do? Nick Rowntree, via email 

Answer: Ask the last lender you dealt with which credit reference agency they use. There are three: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. Contact them asking to see your credit history. Ignore their request for payment: it’s a free service. You only pay for extras, if you want them. Check your file for errors or misunderstandings. If you find any, inform the agency and have a note attached explaining why you dispute them. Lenders must take this into account. Finally, don’t make multiple applications because they’ll count against you. John Evans

Question: I’m in the happy position of being able to afford a new car but should I buy nearly new instead? Sophie Whittingham, Rickmansworth

Answer: Autocar sibling title What Car? recently reported that to drive sales of new cars, dealers are offering discounts averaging 7.9%, or £2595. They come on top of finance contributions, subsidised servicing and everything else, which makes that new car look even more tempting. Except that discounts and incentives come home to roost in even heavier depreciation than usual. On the flipside, they also drive down the prices of nearly new cars. Or that’s the theory. If you do take the nearly new route, ensure the car’s price reflects the impact of those big new car incentives. They don’t always. John Evans

Read more

Used car buying guide: BMW M5 (E39)

Failure is an option: what changes in the MOT test have meant for drivers​

Do easily repairable cars make better buys?​

Join the debate

Comments
14

9 July 2019

The repair figures are averages for each car. A more useful set of statistics would be repairs per 1000 cars, median repair cost and the highest bill per model. After that it's going to depend on what goes wrong. When the air con on my mum's Corsa gave up the ghost it was left untouched, whereas the wipers failing were fairly obviously repaired.

From knowledge of friends and relatives I would agree that BMWs can go expensively wrong, the 1.5 Renault DCI ALWAYS goes wrong and Honda's don't seem to break. What is surprising is that the PSA 1.6 diesel (supposedly a disaster) is running in the cars of around 6 people I know all into 6 figure mileages and running without major fault.

9 July 2019
SamVimes1972 wrote:

The repair figures are averages for each car. A more useful set of statistics would be repairs per 1000 cars, median repair cost and the highest bill per model. After that it's going to depend on what goes wrong. When the air con on my mum's Corsa gave up the ghost it was left untouched, whereas the wipers failing were fairly obviously repaired.

From knowledge of friends and relatives I would agree that BMWs can go expensively wrong, the 1.5 Renault DCI ALWAYS goes wrong and Honda's don't seem to break. What is surprising is that the PSA 1.6 diesel (supposedly a disaster) is running in the cars of around 6 people I know all into 6 figure mileages and running without major fault.

The old 1.6hdi 2006 odd to 2011 was a disaster in some circumstances with leaking injectors and turbo failure because of design flaws. 2011 it was greatly improved to fix these issues - updated engine is an 8v the old one is 16v.

A lot of them failed though because of poor maintenance as well - they needed regular oil changes and the injectors properly clamping down! 

10 July 2019
SamVimes1972 wrote:

The repair figures are averages for each car. A more useful set of statistics would be repairs per 1000 cars, median repair cost and the highest bill per model. After that it's going to depend on what goes wrong. When the air con on my mum's Corsa gave up the ghost it was left untouched, whereas the wipers failing were fairly obviously repaired.

From knowledge of friends and relatives I would agree that BMWs can go expensively wrong, the 1.5 Renault DCI ALWAYS goes wrong and Honda's don't seem to break. What is surprising is that the PSA 1.6 diesel (supposedly a disaster) is running in the cars of around 6 people I know all into 6 figure mileages and running without major fault.

 

"1.5 Renault DCI ALWAYS goes wrong"? (in context of F's & R's)...how many of a sample does this come to, in the context of the MILLIONS produced, used also by Nissan, Daimler and still running very well with proper attention?. Inc my Clio, 2010, 55K, annual service, consumables only.

9 July 2019

The difference between the most expensive (£585 pa) and the cheapest (£255 pa) works out at £6.60 per week, hardly a King's ransom!

 

Just buy whatever you like on that basis.

9 July 2019

I'd hazard a guess that the only reason for the Fiat Punto's appearance at the top of this list is that owners don't bother wasting money on repairs, prefering to scrap their cars instead. The opposite is probably true for the bmw 5 series. Whatever, who can fix my car, whoever that company is, has got its name in print. 

I prefer the common sense approach which tells me that expensive, complicated and older cars are more likely to go wrong and cost a lot to fix than cheaper, simpler, newer ones. 

9 July 2019
LP in Brighton wrote:

I'd hazard a guess that the only reason for the Fiat Punto's appearance at the top of this list is that owners don't bother wasting money on repairs, prefering to scrap their cars instead. The opposite is probably true for the bmw 5 series. Whatever, who can fix my car, whoever that company is, has got its name in print. 

I prefer the common sense approach which tells me that expensive, complicated and older cars are more likely to go wrong and cost a lot to fix than cheaper, simpler, newer ones. 

A little harsh. Between myself and my wife we've had our 2007 Punto for nearly 9years and 90k miles and it's been very reliable. There's been the odd electrical gremlin (boot latch and indicator stalk pack) and the air con compressor is noisy but (genuine) parts are dirt cheap and so is franchised servicing. The body, engine, gearbox etc are all as good as the day it was built.
It could just be that Italian cars aren't anywhere near as bad as their reputation, and shock horror!, German cars are no better than average (but cost a lot to fix).

9 July 2019

I bought it 3 and a half years ago, an 59 reg, (09), ex factory demonstrator with one owner after that, (an elderly couple), FFSH and only 25k miles on the clock for £3.5k.

As soon as I got it, I had it remapped, (a high tourque remap rather than for power), and since then I've done over 120,000 hard driven miles in it, (35,000 miles a year), and all it's cost me in this time is:

1. 3 full sets of tyres, (the current 3rd set are less than a month old)

2. 2 sets of front brake pads

3. A pair of rear shockers

4. A pair of anti roll bar drop links

6. A rear spring

and

6. Various bulbs

Plus routine servicing every 20,000 miles, oil & filters changed.

As I've said, I don't hang around in it either, it gets driven hard around the hilly winding country lanes where I live in the Scottish Borders with regular 200 mile plus motorway thrashes where it will sit on the motorway at 90 mph all day if you wanted and I can't get less than 60 mpg out of it, no matter how hard I drive it and it still drives like new, no rattles or shakes and goes like the preverbial clappers, especially considering what's under the bonnet.

The cheapest car I've ever had to run, the problem I have now being what to replace it with as whatever I get has a hard act to follow...

Landie

9 July 2019
I'm currently driving a 4 year old X5 that I've owned from new. My plan is to keep it for another 7 or 8 years then downgrade to something Japanese. So far it's been very reliable but I know that once the repair bills start coming they'll be on the hefty side. I think the old adage rings true, the more you spend on a car, the more you'll lose

9 July 2019
I am sure that Japanese cars are really at the bottom of this list. They hardly need repair costs. The Punto mentioned here is probably horse drawn.

9 July 2019
sabre wrote:

I am sure that Japanese cars are really at the bottom of this list. They hardly need repair costs. The Punto mentioned here is probably horse drawn.

Unless it's a Nissan Qashqai, or Pulsar, or Honda civic, or HR-V

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

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