Currently reading: James Ruppert: Used market finds for five grand
£5000 gets you some surprising bangers, including a Skoda Octavia vRS
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4 mins read
11 August 2020

Most of the press releases I get are utterly irrelevant, but one from a supermarket called Imperial Cars piqued my interest, because it claims to have seen sales of cars costing less than £5000 rise by 36% on average so far in 2020 compared with the same time last year. I found this interesting, because for many years, with no adjustments for inflation, we’ve had £5000 as the default ceiling for buying a half-decent motor.

As the world looks for a way to stay mobile, £5000 is quite possibly the best place to start. So let’s do some price-point shopping, because there are some incredibly good motors out there.

Everyone seems to love a hot Skoda, and for £4895 you can get yourself an Octavia vRS from 2010 with a not-outrageous 75k miles. It’s a 2.0-litre turbo petrol, so it’s ULEZ-friendly, and you should get late 30s to the gallon overall. They’re handsome and subtle old things.

Staying in the Volkswagen Group orbit, I spotted an Up for £4900 at a car supermarket. That bags you a 2013 1.0 High with 48k miles.

For three-door budget fun, the trendily utilitarian Fiat 500 is difficult to beat. Around £4800 will get you into a great example – in this case a 1.2 S from 2015 with 46k miles on the clock. The one I spotted is a private sale, but there seems to be a pretty comprehensive service record and it looks nice in the pictures.

Families want much more space than that, though, and a Mazda CX-7 is a good place to get it. For £4700, you can buy a 2011 2.2 TD Sport with 82k miles, three previous owners and history. It’s an SUV that doesn’t look like all the rest, and the dealer was offering it with lots of warranty, which is reassuring.

If all of those models seem dull and worthy, £5k gets you the sort of BMW that is, well, still pretty. Dodging past the oh-so-tempting 645 CSi, a 2010 330d SE coupé with 130k miles looks like an interesting way to travel. Quick, of course, and apparently fairly rare, it will get you within a whisker of 50mpg if you’re diligent enough.

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Obviously, you can buy Alfa Romeos, and I was hugely taken by a 2007 Spider 2.2 JTS for £4995. Cars like these are going to become proper rarities as they drop off most manufacturers’ ‘to do’ lists. Fresh air has never been more important, and what a wonderful way to travel around. The mileage was 70k and it was from a caring tifosi owner; that’s exactly what you want.

So, you see that £5k is really is all you need, opening up a whole vista of interesting choices, from small to big, slow to fast and very much beyond. Aren’t used cars brilliant – and affordable?

Tales from Ruppert's garage

BMW 320, mileage - 84,578: I would very much like to thank you for your interest and patience when it comes to the Baby Shark. Solex surgery has been avoided, and a richer fuel-air mixture and warmer weather means it starts second or third time now.

Meanwhile, the radio has given up. Reception is pretty awful anyway here in the sticks, but I can’t even play anything through it into the mono speaker. I’ve been thinking about fitting a 10-stack CD player from a previous BMW, just because. The Shark was bought for longer journeys, and although I use it every week, it might be surplus to my real-world requirements.

Reader's ride

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Triumph TR40: Richard is back with his latest brilliant purchase, a Triumph TR40. “Something to bring a smile to your face – or not,” he says. “I couldn’t resist it. A very well-sorted car, it drives superbly and is very fast indeed. It makes a TVR sound tame.

“It’s possibly the most Marmite car ever, but I love it. It has a 3.5 V8, Edelbrock carb and five-speed gearbox and attracts more comments than any other car I’ve owned, not all complimentary. But most people love it, although absolutely no one knows what it actually is.”

Readers' questions

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Question: I’m trading in my four-year-old Audi A1 S line. I want a good-quality car, but ride and seat comfort are now paramount. Any ideas? Incidentally, I used to work for Autocar as a secretary in another life! Adrienne Saunderson, via email

Answer: Always good to hear from Autocar alumni. The most comfortable choice that’ll still give you a smart interior is a Volkswagen Polo. We’d suggest a 1.0 TSI 95 SE. It’ll have much more compliant suspension than your S line A1 and its smaller, 16in wheels and tyres with fatter sidewalls mean it’ll be a bit more squidgy. The latest A1 would also be in with a shout, because it’s the only small car with adjustable lumbar support if you choose Sport trim. MA

Question: I want to buy a nearly new sports SUV with about 300bhp, but I’d like one that cost less than £40,000 new, so I don’t have to pay the ‘luxury’ road tax surcharge. Can you suggest anything? Ian Keen-Smith, via email

Answer: We’d recommend the Cupra Ateca. You can get a good used example with the optional Comfort and Sound Pack (which includes an electric tailgate, heated front seats, Beats audio and extra driver aids) and it’ll have been well under £40k when it was new. MA

READ MORE

Skoda updates Karoq, Kodiaq and Superb with new tech 

New 2020 Skoda Octavia: UK prices and specs revealed 

New 2021 Skoda Karoq spotted for first time, hybrid likely

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LP in Brighton 11 August 2020

Starting first time

I'd suggest that if James' BMW only starts at the second or third attempt, then it still needs fixing. I don't think that I've ever owned a modern car that would not start first time, unless the battery was flat. 

Good to read advice on how to spend £5k on a used car. To my mind this is a sensible budget which allows the purchase of something newish, without impending bills and with the prospect of some remaining factory warranty.  

gagaga 11 August 2020

LP in Brighton wrote:

LP in Brighton wrote:

I'd suggest that if James' BMW only starts at the second or third attempt, then it still needs fixing. I don't think that I've ever owned a modern car that would not start first time, unless the battery was flat.

My thoughts exactly.  Last car I had like that was a mini in the early 90s.  The 2 Metros that followed it from 1993 were a few years old but had the fuel injected k series - never had more than bog standard servicing and always started instantly.

gavsmit 11 August 2020

£5k plus costs of something probably going wrong

All the cars we've had from new that we've sold after 4 or 5 years have had something needing imminent attention or replacement that, outside of warranty, would've cost us hundreds or even thousands to sort out.

There's so much 'tech' in cars now, as well as sensors that cost almost as much to replace as the part they're protecting, that a budget of £5k will quickly spiral out of control, sometimes even if you check the car out thoroughly before buying.

With new cars costing a ridiculous amount of money now, buying nearly new, especially a car with a long warranty, seems the sensible way forward. 

artill 11 August 2020

gavsmit wrote:

gavsmit wrote:

All the cars we've had from new that we've sold after 4 or 5 years have had something needing imminent attention or replacement that, outside of warranty, would've cost us hundreds or even thousands to sort out.

There's so much 'tech' in cars now, as well as sensors that cost almost as much to replace as the part they're protecting, that a budget of £5k will quickly spiral out of control, sometimes even if you check the car out thoroughly before buying.

With new cars costing a ridiculous amount of money now, buying nearly new, especially a car with a long warranty, seems the sensible way forward. 

I agree, £5k is a dangerous area to buy an older car. At that price it will be old enough to have plenty wrong with it, and yet you probably cant afford to throw it away. I would suggest either nearly new, or nearly a banger. The nearly new car probably still has warranty, the nearly banger can be thrown away if repair costs get too much

Jon 1972 11 August 2020

5k as a price  point is

5k as a price  point is psychological like all price points, but  in the 'new normal an interesting one. We have gone from doing a combined 30 000 miles a year to around 4 and even allowing for a hybrid return to the office we see our milage probably dropping to around 12 000 between us. We now see a situation where we dont need 2 big cars for covering long journeys. A 5k UP or similar makes sense if we are going to be using it for runs under 10 miles. There will be more than a few deciding £350 a month  could be better spent on leisure or clearing the mortgage faster.

jason_recliner 11 August 2020

Chick Magnet

That TR40 probably gonna get some serious gash.

jason_recliner 12 August 2020

Is Ruppert Trolling?

Autocar should change the name of his regular contributions to 'Used VW Report'.