In my late 20s and early 30s, I bought a hell of a lot of second-hand cars. That may be because I hadn’t gone through that phase when I was younger and the experience - and cost - of real-world buying, renovating and selling is useful even in this job.
You never forget days like the one when you told the missus not to take your ancient, lumbering, Audi 100 Avant into the mid-summer traffic in central London for a day’s ‘research’ and then, when she gets back, find she’s partially seized the engine.
Or, at least, you don’t forget the cost and hassle of sourcing a decent 2.0-litre, 5-cylinder, Audi motor and then getting it fitted.
I’ve always been pretty hot on safety and build quality, so I was usually searching the classifieds for what used to be categorised as ‘Prestige’. I had some really interesting stuff and some junk. A one-owner BMW 325i E30 Touring (one of the first registered) was a dream and perfect in town. Terrible on country lanes, though.
I also stumbled across an ultra-rare Audi 90 20v quattro Sport, which had bespoke forged suspension components. I owned it alongside a long-term 1998 Impreza Turbo and I swear there wasn’t much between them for driving pleasure.
If I remember rightly, every decent car I bought cost around £5000 in 1999 money. And they were pretty well used, as well. Recently, I’ve been trawling through the classifieds and have been struck by how much cheaper - in actual and real terms - a quality car seems to be today, as opposed to a decade ago.
Ok, so today’s mainstream used cars are of a far better quality, but even the quality metal seems to be well-priced.
I stumbled across an ad for a 2003 Mondeo 2.0 LX. Full history and 50,000 miles, just £2250 from a dealer. It ticks all the spec boxes (I’ve been long cured of badge snobbery in used cars thanks to parts prices…) and is likely to be highly reliable. My brother did 125,000 miles in a pair of Mondeos of this generation with just a broken spring and broken exhaust. Which is more than can be said for the reliability of his year-old Citroen C5.
And since when was it possible to buy a go-anywhere, do-anything, one-owner, Golf Mk 5 2.0-litre FSI with 69,000 miles and a full history for £4800?
Surely car lovers have never had it so good? Or have I missed something in my years away from being a classifieds crawler?