Currently reading: James Ruppert: which used motors do car dealers spend their own cash on?
Surely, someone who deals exclusively in the purchasing and selling of used cars knows what to fill their own garage with

The simple truth is that if you really want to know which cars you should be buying and running, you need to check out what a decent car dealer is steering.

That’s why I had a quick chat with Bradley Mitchell, who runs Hunter’s Lodge Cars in the Midlands. Indeed, his opening line to me was that he had “bought a couple of high-mileage cars this year in the name of Bangernomics”. 

That’s nice to hear, especially from someone who pretty much has the pick of whatever is passing through. Except that old Bradders isn’t so old school that he’s only going to smoke around in whatever has the longest ticket and fullest tank. He buys cars because he loves them. Not all car dealers do. 

Lead xc70

He says: “The first Bangernomics purchase was a family wagon and also a dog-carrier: a 59 plate Volvo XC70 D5 auto with 125,000 miles, full history and the all-important cambelt change at 100,000 miles. I paid £5700 for it a few months back. It has now done 130,000 and hasn’t cost me a bean apart from some new tyres on the front. I think if you are talking fitness for purpose, then it’s one of the best cars I’ve owned.” 

They are pretty good and a cursory glance at the classifieds certainly proves that they are funky to look at. Dial all the way back to 2009 and £4995 gets you a 2.4 D5 SE Geartronic with 140,000 miles. Sorted out by a dealer, it looked more than ready for winter. 

Then there are Minis, finally affordable, but caution is advised when you are paying a grand or so. They are also perfect to be mucked about with, as Bradley has proved. 

Drop in mini


Read our review

Car review

The Volvo XC70 is a rugged version of the V70 estate with mild off-road ability. It is well built and refined but otherwise fairly dull

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“The second Bangernomics buy was a toy for me, a 2006 Mini Cooper S with 120,000 miles and in a pretty sad state,” he says. “Got it in the trade through a Vauxhall dealer in Bristol. It hadn’t been serviced in 50,000 miles and hadn’t had much, if any, love. It did, however, have an unusually high spec, including heated leather Recaro seats, sat-nav and a limited-slip diff. I’ve had the engine uprated to 230-240bhp and all the paintwork and wheels done, plus four new Avon tyres. So after buying it for £1500, it owes me £2800. That’s two great cars for £8500.” 

He’s right, of course. That’s the whole point of used cars: they deliver value for money. There is a bit of effort required on your part usually to sort them out, but I am continually pointing out Bangernomics isn’t just buying cars for pennies: it is also finding ones that work for you. Be like Bradley.

What we almost bought this week

Maserati 3200GT: Almost bought? That’s right: we chickened out. After all, it’s a thirsty old 1999-reg GT but at least it’s the original and sought-after banana-tail-lights version. It’s the four-speed automatic, too, which suits the 3.2 V8 better than the manual. It has done 72,000 miles and has full main dealer service history (cambelt changed last April). 

Maserati 3200 gt 1

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Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Land Rover Series 3, 29,392 miles: The Lorry really needed its MOT and eventually it passed. A long time ago, I may have mentioned that the nearside indicators were on the blink. I investigated, of course, but nothing seemed to work. Instead, I used hand signals. 

Rupperts garage 1

The garage had to do an awful lot of digging into what must be one of the simplest electrical circuits in automotive history. They also rebuilt the carburettor. I had spoken to a specialist a while back and they said don’t bother with it. So-called specialists are often wrong. It has never run better.

Reader’s ride:

It is nice to catch up again with Jake Belder, who has bought a rather wonderful Subaru Outback

Readers rides

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“It looked great on paper, with a full history, new MOT and good photos,” he says. “It has the 3.0-litre flat six and auto gearbox. The mileage was just under 140,000. I put in a low bid and the seller accepted. 

“I gave it a service and have replaced the inner CV gaiters, anti-roll bar links, ball joints, tie rod ends and a rear wheel bearing. Other than that, it’s been 4000 miles of effortless (if slightly thirsty) cruising.” 

Readers’ questions

Question: Is there a good family saloon for £8000 or have SUVs killed them off? Darren Nuttall, Folkstone

Superb 2013 a

Answer: Sadly, the new Peugeot 508 is out of your price range but a low-mileage 2013/13-reg Skoda Superb 1.8 TSI SE should do nicely. You won’t believe the interior space, equipment level or the performance from that sweet-revving 157bhp motor. John Evans

Question: Why have I been sent a road tax reminder for my zero-rated car? Sally Kirkup, Bodmin

Answer: A car can attract no road tax but is not exempt from it. So no car can be driven on the road without it being taxed, whether it costs £800 or zilch. The alternative, a £1000 fine, should clear up any confusion. John Evans

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Question: Is a timing chain more reliable than a timing belt? Scott Dawes, by email

Timing belt

Answer: Not necessarily, as a colleague who owned a chain-driven Vauxhall Zafira is fond of saying. However, it wasn’t his car’s chain that let go but the tensioner. Whatever a belt’s merits, at least there’s a requirement to replace it and the tensioner at intervals. John Evans

Read more

Peugeot 508 review​

Company car tax: what you need to know​

Subaru Outback review​

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Add a comment…
RonVanHugendong 4 December 2018

Car Dealer?

Any dealer with any sense will drive something that will barely depreciate in value and will need no immediate mechanical work. Usually this puts you in a diesel costing upto £2,000. A year on and that will be sold and similar car would be purchased. Would I buy an old Mini with all the expensive possible faults and spend money keeping it on the road? No, because the industry has taught me that buying a Mini of this generation is like buying a shredder as a piggy bank. Oh and a 'good' car dealer buying a car that hasn't been serviced for 50,000 miles? Okay Autocar

Flembo1821 4 December 2018


In july I bought a 2005 Audi TT with 125000 miles and 11 months mot. It cost £1900 and to be on the safe side I had a cambelt,waterpump and pulleys changed for £280. The car is almost immaculate inside and out has no oil leaks and in 3000 miles I have not needed to add oil. It starts instantly has great acceleration and although the road tax, £290, and fuel consumption , under 30mph, are wuite high, depreciation will never bother me. My neighbour paid over £25000 for his Mazda 5 years ago and now its worth £13000 in part exchange for a new one.
Some years ago my son bought a ford for £50 and he ran it for nearly a year without spending anything for repairs.
Rollocks 4 December 2018

Instant karma

Dealers should be forced to drive the same cramped, underpowered and over-priced rubbish they foist on so many of their customers.