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Buying a very cheap car

'Old Bangers' and 'Run Around' Cars

The scenario usually is that you've either downshifted or changed your career and the money is tight. You need a car (or it would certainly help), but can't afford what you're used to.

Maybe that's the call for buying, what I call, 'A Disposable Car'.

With depreciation, a brand new car will lose in excess of a £1,000 per year, most of that as soon as you've driven it out the Showroom!
So, you go to the local Car Auction or look through the 'Cheap Car' sections of the local papers and find out you could get yourself going for well under £500 - and safely as well!

I've purchased two cars in the last five years, both with brand new MOT's, reasonably low mileage, clean and reliable; a Nissan Micra (10 years old) cost me £200 and the other, a Fiat Cinquecento (8 years old) for £375!

I brought the Nissan off a chap I know and was aware of the full service history. This car took me to Southampton and back (300 miles) on a dozen occasions and to North Wales twice (700 miles).
Mechanically, nothing was wrong with it in the two years I had it. Sadly, like many older cars, the rust got the better of it and to fix it would have cost over the price I paid for it - which I didn't have, so it was a 'spares or repair', but I finally had to scrap it = 2 years = £200 !

I brought the cheap Fiat Cinquento at the local Car Auction. With the brand new MOT and only 69,000 miles on the clock, this seemed a snip, but I had to have a new Radiator at £80 though. Even so, I was glad because I thought it was the Head Gasket. I would have cried!
It's a very clean car, drives and steers really well. The only thing which is dodgy is the starting, but, like most Italians, it like's to take life at it's own pace!

They say that a car starts to increase it's Carbon Footprint when it's 13 years old (source BBC), so you shouldn't feel that you're being 'anti-eco' for a start if you're looking at something 10 years old.
If the engine has been relatively well looked after, the miles per gallon will not be far off the original specification.
But, if you can afford not to have a big car - don't get one. Most of the time, the better reliability will come from smaller models.

Also, go for the bigger brands like Ford, where second hand car spare parts are easily obtainable from ebay and elsewhere.

I've known a few people who go by the same principle as me with cars, you either buy a brand new one every two years or buy a £200 one and see it out

Best not to call it a 'Cheap Car', say it's 'A car I brought cheaply'. Much better for status purposes !!

Some tips from my experiences at Auctions

Watch the other buyers. They know what's what. If they're not interested in bidding, there's a reason.
Stand around the car before it comes up and listen in on what other's are saying about it.

Be at the Car when they start it up for showing.

Usually it's engine is running for some time so see if there's any sign of overheating.
Read everything on the label and look inside. This often tell's a story of the previous owner (cigarette stains etc)

The most expensive part of a car is the Petrol Tank!

The Micra in North Wales

A Ford Fiesta kindly given to me by Alan at work

My little Fiat, going strong after 7 month's

The £650 Mitsubishi Van I brought from Auction when I downshifted. Went for 2 years and sold it for £200

Ashford Car Auctions; Monday's and Wednesdays

I even had one of these once. Great engine, when you started it, the window fell down!


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Eddie was driving down the road and a met a car coming the other way. Although there was room to pass easily, Eddie forced the oncoming car to slow down and wound down his window and shouted 'Pig' . The other driver looked in his rear view mirror and swore at Eddie. Then his car hit the pig.