Currently reading: James Ruppert: Don't spend more on second-hand cars rising in value
The nearly new market isn’t great right now, so look to bangers
5 mins read
28 September 2021

I know there’s an awful lot of hustle and bustle around rock-hard and rising used car values.

Autocar has noticed, commented and advised, but that ‘nearly new’ end of the market is fairly irrelevant in my view. The really interesting area to behold is the banger one. That’s because cheap cars are under attack. If it isn’t cars being expelled from the ULEZ, it’s now the petrol ones that can be killed by E10 fuel and just about any old diesel.

A lot of cars from the early 2000s are becoming worthless, while so many from the 1990s are not just obsolete but almost extinct. So there are tons of cheap motors to buy right now. 

That all explains the £300 1999 Volkswagen Polo 1.0 I stumbled across in west London, which had to go because of the wicked ULEZ. It represented the very best small hatchback purchase, being a welllooked-after family runabout. It’s always important to read the advert in full. Doing so here revealed the Polo to be another catalytic-converter theft victim. But don’t worry: there are plenty of other cheap shopping cars available. 

Click here to buy your next used car from Autocar

There’s no shortage of Nissan Micras. These are great little things, not to drive but just to own, which is the way it should be. Searching through the examples on offer, I was drawn to an 89,000-mile 2003 1.0 being offered by a dealer (which explains the slightly higher price of £550). It came with a year’s worth of MOT, so there was a certain amount of reassurance, even if the cosmetics were compromised by a few inches of gaffer tape on the front bumper. I suppose that improved its looks somewhat.

Cheap small cars are easy but cheap family hatchbacks are even better, because they get you more square footage for not much money. That’s why a 2007 Vauxhall Vectra 1.8i with 99,000 miles at £400 was so tempting. It was a private sale, but it seemed honest enough, right down to the scraped front bumper, which the seller reckoned knocked £200 off the asking price. That’s his loss. 

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Those in search of even more room should like a 2005 Ford Mondeo 2.0 Estate Zetec with 153,000 miles to its credit for £500. There were pictures of its surprisingly main dealer service history (assuming it really did relate to that particular car). For some class, a really quite immaculate 2000 BMW 523i with 194,000 miles and an MOT that took it well into 2022 was £795. Even after all those miles, its beige leather was magnificently intact. It also had a towbar, which could come in handy. 

Finally, you could go mad and blow £1000 on a dumpy but pretty 2005 Alfa Romeo GT 1.9 JTD with 150,000 miles from a dealer. Overpriced used cars? Nahhh.

What we almost bought this week

Skoda Superb 1.8T Comfort: This Superb has done a heroic 190,000 miles, but not because it has been abused as an airport taxi. In fact, it has had just one owner and – get this – it has a full Skoda service history, with no fewer than 18 stamps in its service book. The selling dealer is asking £1100 for this 2002 turbocharged petrol saloon.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

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Land Rover Series 3/Kia Optima: Let’s do a brief fleet update for housekeeping purposes. First, the Lorry. After looking long and hard at the indicator stalk and identifying the obvious fault (that a bit of almost 40-year-old plastic has broken off), I screwed it back together and left it alone. The Kia Optima that’s nominally part of our garage was imported from the US, so its sat-nav is permanently convinced that it’s in Texas, but I’m not going to shell out for an update disc. Meanwhile, I’m half-heartedly getting my two Minis ready for MOTs, as I’ve brilliantly moved the logjam of inconvenientgarage visits from the beginning of the year to the end.

Readers' Ride

Rover 420GSi Tourer: Thanks to Matthew for saving this wonderful motor: “A friend bought a rare Rover 420GSi Tourer a year ago but never used it, so I took it off their hands for a princely £750. I fell totally in love and spent £1100 on a major service, cam cover gasket replacement and battery and part-exhaust replacement, slightly scuppering my Bangernomics plan. The car is so great to drive (fast and smooth) that I’ve sold my daily-driver MG 3. It’s only 90,000 miles young but honestly feels like a 30,000-miler, and it has a full service history.”

Readers' Questions

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Q. My 1987 Jaguar V12’s central locking doesn’t always work. I’m trying to find its fuses, but the workshop manual is no help. Do you have any ideas? Frederick Young, via email​

A. We dug around and found a possibly helpful thread. Users indicate that you might find what you’re looking for under the driver’s side of the dashboard, above the fuses. Apparently, there are two thermal cut-outs: one for the door locks and the other for the windows. The door-lock breaker is easy to see, but you will have to pull away the dashboard’s face to get to it, so be careful.

Q. I have £10,000 to buy a reasonably sized hatchback that can take much more than my weekly shopping. What do you suggest? Gavin Newsome, via email 

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For years, the Skoda Octavia has been sticking the boot in with the biggest business end in its class. The previous-generation model (2014-2020) has a 590-litre boot that grows to 1590 litres when the rear seats are folded down. We found a 2015 2.0 TDI SE auto with 40,000 miles for £10,000. Fancy something classier? The BMW 3 Series GT has a 520-litre boot that expands to 1610 litres. A 2015 320i Sport with 63,000 miles is up for £10,750.

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si73 29 September 2021
@567, tyres yes, brakes, less so, most EVs use regenerative braking so use their discs and pads a lot less.
@ Deputy, why would you leave your car idling outside a school, turn it off surely.

Agree, I would love to see an article highlighting the pros and cons of life time co2 in an old car compared to a new, is running an old car as bad as it is vilified? Is changing to a new car really that great when all the co2 in manufacturing is considered?

Deputy 28 September 2021

@567.  On the contrary, more than happy to be proved wrong.  But Ruppert presents his opnions as facts. So if he has data to show that a 2003 diesel with 175,000 miles sat idiling outside a school is better than a newer hybrid car (and a discussion on global CO2 in manufacture vs localised air pollution would be a useful article) then by all means call it a "wicked ULEZ".  Let's assume brake dust/tyre emissions are equal for old car vs new one so that is equalled out. 

567 28 September 2021

@Deputy - Run back to your safe space if you're trying to get an opinion you don't like canceled. By the way electric vehicles still create particles from their tyres and brake discs which could harm children. Also if people have the money then they can pay the fines in the ULEZ zone therefore it's really about money for London and not about protecting children.