Currently reading: James Ruppert: What we can learn from used car sales figures
Sales dropped in 2019 and the average second-hand asking price is just under 13 grand. Let's see what that can net us
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5 mins read
10 March 2020

What do the official used car sales figures tell us? I’m no longer sure. On the face of it, they seem to be reassuring and confirm that the nation’s favourite pre-owned model just happens to be the Ford Fiesta. This all comes from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, and they indicate that the UK’s used car market last year was more or less on a par with 2018’s. So that’s 7,935,105 sales in 2019, down a paltry 9935 on the 12 months before.

The reassuring news is that all the diesel-geddon scaremongering hasn’t swayed the real-life car buyer. Diesel car sales were down by just 0.6% and petrol by a teeny 0.3%. Apparently there were ‘surges’ for electric cars but, as a percentage of the overall market, it was a titchy 0.2%. We’ll forget about them for now because they don’t yet count as ‘real’ used cars. Instead, if you’re on this page thinking about something that’s not a supermini, you could make your money go further with a petrol or diesel executive or sports car.

What can we treat ourselves to? This week our budget is based on the rather high average price, which is up 0.6% to £12,800. So how about a great big and very scary 2011 BMW 640d M Sport coupé for a paltry £12,000? It has more than 105,000 miles but the dealer breathlessly announces that it comes with more than £6500 worth of extras. That’s pretty academic by the time any vehicle is nine years old but, even so, here is a lot of continent-crushing car for supermini money.

Then again, if you want something smaller and less aggressive but just as practical, the late, lamented Volkswagen Scirocco is a great model to track down. A 2014 2.0 R-Line TDI DSG Bluemotion with just 40,000 miles is yours, once again, for £12,000. This is a one-owner car and I wouldn’t worry about the automatic gearbox too much. If nothing else, it makes your life easier.

If you want to descend into hardcore wonderfulness, then £12,000 also gets you aboard a 2014 Toyota GT86 2.0 D-4S with a barely run-in 36,000 miles. It’s being sold privately, but I think this is a seller you could trust because I liked all the pictures and the fact that it was black but spotlessly clean.

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But why tolerate a roof? It is incredible to think that a 2016 Fiat 124 Spider Multiair is now just £12,000. That will get you a 35,000-mile example with the full-on Lusso spec, leather and 17in alloys. That’s a Mazda MX-5 with an interesting twist. However, if you are feeling less adventurous, there’s the option of a 2015 Audi A3 Sportback Sport 2.0 with 41,000 miles, again at £12,000.

It’s all proof that you can spend your used car budget on something interesting and life-affirming.

What we almost bought this week

Hyundai Sonata 3.0 V6: We’ve been tempted by a big-engined Sonata before and still they keep coming, tantalising us with their power, comfort, reliability and low prices. This 1997 P-reg has only 62,000 miles and a good history and costs just £650. “Great condition,” boasts the seller. “Rare, sought-after luxury car.” He knows what buttons to press.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

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Volkswagen Golf - mileage, 65,254: Back to the Golf: here is a broken radar surround that was bought a year ago to replace a cracked one. My daughter feels that the world is against her most of the time, but the truth is that she’s a proper road warrior and racks up an impressive five-figure mileage each year. Not only that, but there’s also now a crack in the windscreen on the driver’s side. We will have to monitor it with the MOT just a couple of months away. We will be buying another piece of rectangular plastic soon and possibly a big bit of laminated glass.

Reader's ride

Volvo XC90: Huge thanks to Ian, who is back with us to reveal his latest magnificent purchase, a Volvo XC90: “After the BMW 525i came to a premature demise, I got this XC90 D5. It’s done 157,000 miles but has 15 Volvo stamps in the book. In 30 years (and 30-plus cars) of car ownership, it’s my first diesel and my first 4x4, and I rather like it. It’s the later 185bhp model, so it averages 30mpg-plus and has plenty of kit. I’m a convert! Oh, I can fit my bike in it, too. It cost £3750, including a cambelt change and two front tyres.”

Readers' questions

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Question: I have an old Mercedes that has failed its MOT and is too expensive to fix. I want to scrap it responsibly. Who can do that for me? Gavin Secombe, St Austell

Answer: The Vehicle Recyclers’ Association, which represents what were once called car scrappers, advises people to sell old cars to an authorised End of Life Vehicle Authorised Treatment Facility (ELV ATF). These firms satisfy proper environmental standards and are the only ones permitted to issue Certificates of Destruction (CoD). VRA members are the safest route, but you can also check the Environment Agency website for quality companies. Ask for a receipt when they take your car. You should receive a CoD within 14 days. JE

Question: My 22-year-old son has never had points or an accident but has just sold his Ford Focus ST because the insurance was £1000. He has a same-age Focus 1.8-litre diesel but the insurance is only £200 less. Why? Kevin Morgan, via email

Answer: Your son is proof that who is driving and, more important, how old they are matter more to insurers than the car itself. It’s hard to imagine anything more docile than a Focus diesel, but fortunately there is a solution, at least in part. Assuming you’re over 55, have a clean licence and no recent claims, put yourself on his policy as a named driver. You’ll save your son around £250. JE

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289 11 March 2020

@ James Ruppert

These forward facing radar on Golfs are a pain. A good friend of mine has had two complete uits taken out ....both by Pheasant strikes.

Very expensive insurance claims and sure to effect policy costs.

This tech is not robust enough for rural roads with huge numbers of  Pheasants and Partridges in the roads.

Just Saying 10 March 2020

435d 2014 £13k with 80k

The 640D Sport is an awful lot of car for the money, Rubert is right.
However, running costs do apply.
Enter a 2014 435D. £13k with 80k into the discussion. In my view the most car money can buy, period. With similar money for the 3 Series...
I drive a 3.0ltr Merc diesel with FSH and 205k on the clock.
I've owned it for eight years and will be looking to buy the above and keep for at least five years...
P. S. Off to wash my hands now.
Lol.
johnhg 10 March 2020

640D

As ever, LP, it depends how fastidiously it has been looked after and serviced. I have had a 635d followed by a 640dGC over the last 10 years and, although my mileage in the two of them has not been much more than 80,000, running costs have been pretty moderate. Decent tyres are about £220 each, insurance (for me) in the region of £500 and annual servicing has been less than that. The 635d averaged 38mpg and the 640d has avareged 43.5 - including plenty of short journeys. Yes, there are people on here who rail about BMW reliability but I have run diesel BMWs for the last 17 years without a hitch. The only downside of the 640GC: length and width. (One of the several reasons I won't be migrating to an 8 series.)

si73 10 March 2020

johnhg wrote:

johnhg wrote:

As ever, LP, it depends how fastidiously it has been looked after and serviced. I have had a 635d followed by a 640dGC over the last 10 years and, although my mileage in the two of them has not been much more than 80,000, running costs have been pretty moderate. Decent tyres are about £220 each, insurance (for me) in the region of £500 and annual servicing has been less than that. The 635d averaged 38mpg and the 640d has avareged 43.5 - including plenty of short journeys. Yes, there are people on here who rail about BMW reliability but I have run diesel BMWs for the last 17 years without a hitch. The only downside of the 640GC: length and width. (One of the several reasons I won't be migrating to an 8 series.)

But Rupert is referring to the BMW as available for fiesta money, even citing your experience a BMW 6 will surely cost considerably more to own and run than a fiesta. Even the diesel Scirocco will cost more no doubt.

si73 10 March 2020

si73 wrote:

si73 wrote:
johnhg wrote:

As ever, LP, it depends how fastidiously it has been looked after and serviced. I have had a 635d followed by a 640dGC over the last 10 years and, although my mileage in the two of them has not been much more than 80,000, running costs have been pretty moderate. Decent tyres are about £220 each, insurance (for me) in the region of £500 and annual servicing has been less than that. The 635d averaged 38mpg and the 640d has avareged 43.5 - including plenty of short journeys. Yes, there are people on here who rail about BMW reliability but I have run diesel BMWs for the last 17 years without a hitch. The only downside of the 640GC: length and width. (One of the several reasons I won't be migrating to an 8 series.)

But Rupert is referring to the BMW as available for fiesta money, even citing your experience a BMW 6 will surely cost considerably more to own and run than a fiesta. Even the diesel Scirocco will cost more no doubt.

Sorry, Ruppert, spelled his surname wrong.

289 10 March 2020

@ si73

....the expression  BMW (or any other premium car), for Fiesta money refers to cost to buy NOT cost to run.

You can buy Maserati Quattroporte's for Mondeo money - I have been tempted myself - but no one is suggesting you can run a Quattroporte for Mondeo money!!

LP in Brighton 10 March 2020

Impressive

But did you buy them when 9 years old / 100,000 miles for £12k?
johnhg 10 March 2020

640D

Neither was new when bought (although clearly not 10 years old) and I recognize that hardly anyone looking for a small hatchback is suddenly going to veer of and buy a 6 series. My point is that, as well as being a hell of a good car, they're not that expensive to run, provided they have been looked after. The usual big BMW depreciation works wonders for the used buyer. You could buy a 13 reg car with less than half the mileage James Ruppert has highlighted for not much more than his £12k.