Currently reading: James Ruppert: Why you should swap your subscription for a banger
Not only are finance deals fiscally irresponsible, but you're missing out on some prime used buys

Im not at all sure whether I fancy a ‘subscription model’. I mean, what colour is it? Does it come with low-profile tyres?

According to recent research by Close Brothers Motor Finance, old dinosaurs like me will continue to favour buying outright while the kids (17- to 24-year-olds) don’t care and would rather sign up to a finance deal. Take the mobile phone contract route and flop into anything with four wheels. Is that fiscally responsible? Well, they don’t care, but maybe they should. Here are our not-very-smartphone recommendations: some bricks that youngsters can buy and own cheaply.

The ultimate cheap early car has always been the Fiat Punto, so upgrading to a Grande version would be a smart thing to do. I rather like the look of a 2009 1.4 Active for £700 from a private seller. It has 84,000 miles on the clock but looks like a clean and easy-to-look-after runabout. It’s also in insurance group 6E, incurs just £150 annual road tax and gets official economy of 37.9mpg. Oh, and it can sneak into a ULEZ for free. The added benefits are four doors and that it looks prettier than most current hatchbacks.

Then there’s the French Punto, otherwise known as the Peugeot 207. I would prefer one of the diesels. A two-owner 1.4 HDi S will do one hell of a job of saving a young buyer some serious cash, provided it doesn’t go wrong. Looking to buy from a dealer for some warranty protection, I saw a 2006 car with 120k miles. It will return a staggeringly wallet-friendly 62.8mpg overall, its annual road tax is just £30 and its insurance group is a lowly 5E. It is a bit of a risk but, at £899, it could well be worth taking.

9 Skoda fabia front

The question is, what about a real Billy-basic, Citroën 2CV-like, wheel-at-each-corner four-door? That answers so many budget banger questions, and it would have to be the Skoda Fabia. With £999 to spend, a 1.2 petrol beckons. A 2004 Classic with plastic wheel trims and 83,000 miles is absolutely perfect on running costs alone. The insurance group, which is the real bottom line for early years car ownership, in this case is just 2E. So the £165 annual road tax has to be dealt with, but that little four-pot engine will return a steady 45mpg overall. This is a two-owner example and ULEZ-friendly, plus it comes with a full year’s MOT.


Read our review

Car review

Decently spacious for a supermini, with a good range of engines, but the Punto's driving dynamics are less-than beguiling

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The Renault Clio is another go-to early car, because it has always been cheap, safe and frugal. A 2008 1.2 Extreme with just 60,000 miles for £1000 is all that any youngster would need. Insurance group 6E and 45mpg. Again, simple petrol power and minimal running costs will be better than any long-term, not-so-smart subscription commitment.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

8 Bmw 320 wheel

BMW 320, mileage - 84,650: The Baby Shark doesn’t have that many gadgets, but I do quite like the tyre pressure gauge, which beeps reassuringly at me when we go out. It was a bit more persistent last time, indicating that the offside front was just a couple of bars down. I looked at the cool tyre a few hours later and discovered that, yes, it was visibly deflated – although not by much. This served as a reminder that it’s basic observation that ultimately keeps a motor fit and well. Although the Shark doesn’t do as many long journeys as it once did, actual full tyre replacement remains on the agenda as a lot of garage budget-shuffling goes on.

A-to-Z Bangerpedia

7 Fiat idea front

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I is for Fiat Idea: Here’s a little boxy thing you had probably forgotten about: the not-unattractive Fiat Idea, which was on the price lists from 2004 to 2007. It was a Mercedes A-Class wannabe but actually more of an alt-Vauxhall Meriva without the performing seats. Well actually, the back bench reclines and tumbles forward, but that’s about it, and the boot lip is a bit high. There’s an unremarkable 1.4-litre petrol or a livelier, 62mpg 1.3-litre diesel. There are just handfuls around now, but you won’t need more than £1295 for a 2006 Dynamic.

Readers' questions

6 Audi a2 rear

Question: Are Audi A2 prices on the up? I’ve just bought a mint 30k-miler (1.4 petrol Sport) and wonder if it’s worth preserving as an investment. Jon Thacker, via email

Answer: Just a few years ago, the A2 was a maligned oddity that many overlooked in favour of the conventionally styled A3 and, more recently, Audi A1. But prices are slowly climbing today, because numbers are getting thin on the ground, and its innovative packaging solutions still seem the height of modernity. Couple that with pleasing fuel economy readouts – your 1.4-litre car should be good for 47mpg – and you have a quasi-classic with none of the usability compromises of a ‘proper’ classic. FP

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Question: The gentleman who bought my car texts me about every fault and niggle. It was cheap and I didn’t hold back any information. What can I say? Rose Hegerty, Dunstable

Answer: You should always be honest when selling a car, but really it’s the buyer’s duty to make sure it’s as described. The standard buying practices – a long test drive, poking around underneath, feeling for damp carpets – aren’t just traditions, they help uncover any underlying faults that the seller might not even know about. If you didn’t give or imply a warranty when you sold the car, the buyer has to accept that cheap old cars often have little issues, so he must live with them or pay to have them fixed. FP


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Deputy 27 October 2020


Ruppert, it's not the 1970's any more.  The concept of needing to own things has died off with the Boomers.  I expect you still buy books, magazines, CD's and DVD's?  Hourly/daily/monthly car clubs are the way forward, not owning bangers, PCPs or 3 year lease deals.

BenzinBob 27 October 2020

terrible examples

The reason the kids want something new is because they think their only options are haggard old Clios and battered mid-2000s Skodas with £165 road tax.
what about a lightly used Aygo? Seat Mii? Suzuki Swift etc etc
IainS 27 October 2020

PCP and subscriptions

I'm sure plenty of people who no longer have regular employment will be moving away from PCP and subscriptions.