One of the reasons for the popularity of MotorMartin is the desire to put forward opinions regarding ‘real life’ motoring, after all, we have surely all thought about our top 10 favourite cars that we’d have in our dream garage that will be built one day and I’d guess that some of those cars may be coming in at around the £100K mark. Certainly the first car on my list would be the all new Ford GT, a car that you needed to apply for and that’s if you have the many, many pounds with which to complete the purchase.
But what about those of us that are not in the rarefied position of being able to select and buy whatever car that takes your fancy? Those of us that live, work and drive out in the real world rather than worrying about the latest 0-62mph times or which high end saloon can lap Brands Hatch three tenths quicker than the competition, have a dilemma. With the proliferation of used cars for sale, which will provide the best value for money? Which car will offer a modicum of performance and style whilst remaining reliable and cheap to tax and insure? Which model will make for an ideal second car? Difficult questions to answer, especially if you haven’t the time to do your research or search the internet for that all important bargain.
And this brings me, rather nicely, onto a new series of articles specifically designed to help you along the way when it comes to finding the right car for you for the right money, proper bargains if you will. I’ll be looking at the cars available for £200, £500, £1000, £1500 and maybe even £2000, discussing the pros and cons of my top choices and hopefully, directing you towards your next bargain. I hope that you’ll join me along the way, it’s going to be fun.
What to look for.
Fo the next few weeks there are a few things that you need to understand when you’re looking at your next motoring bargain. All of the advice that you’ve previously consumed regarding buying a second, third or even fourth hand motor is still relevant but not as important as it once was. At this price point things like a Full Service History, unblemished bodywork and a working stereo are not that important as what you want is a long MOT, preferably 5+ months and, if possible, a recent service. After all, there’s a strong possibility that once the MOT’s run out, it won’t be economically viable to get it through the next one. This is all dependant, of course, on your ability with a set of spanners or whether or not you have a friend who can. I would certainly recommend that your first purchase once you have your car is a Haynes manual and whatever you do, don’t pay full price as there are plenty to be found on a particularly popular auction site as well as second hand on another popular internet shopping site that might just remind you of a winding South American river.
So you’re on the phone and ready to buy, what questions should you ask to make sure it’s a car worth travelling to see. No point wasting time or money travelling if the cars going to be a heap.
1. Does the car have a current MOT?
2. Does the owner have the V5? (logbook)
3. When was the car last serviced? Receipts?
4. Any leaks?
5. What doesn’t work? (As opposed to ‘does it all work’ as the seller will invariably say yes.)
6. Is the mileage genuine? Does it match any old MOTs?
7. Any rust or bodywork issues?
8. What state is the suspension in?
9. Tyre tread?
Once you’ve had a chat with the seller, and remember to be realistic as this is a £200 car we’re talking about, you’re off to view. There are, of course, a few more things to remember. Always take a friend, definitely someone with experience and mechanical know how. Always ask to view at the sellers home address, or the dealers forecourt and never agree to view at a neutral venue. If possible, don’t view when raining or just after rain as water can mask all sorts of body and paint defects as can going to look at a car in the dark. Once stood in front of your prospective purchase, I would always place a hand on the bonnet to check if it’s warm. If it is, then it’s more than likely that the car has been started prior to your arrival and if that’s the case, ask yourself why? E.g. Is the car a poor starter from cold? For further information, checkout the article accompanying this series regarding handy hints to consider when standing in front of a potential bargain.
MotorMartin’s top 5 £200 bargains.
1. How about a Ford Focus Mk1 Zetec for £195? MOT until April. With a Focus you’re getting a do anything car that should run and run, decent space, decent car, MotorMartin loves them. The joy of a Focus is that there are so many places offering parts extremely cheaply that almost anything can be fixed for next to nothing. There are plenty of Focus out there for around £200 so whatever you do, look around first and be patient.
2. The ubiquitous Vauxhall Corsa, a sound, if slightly worthy used buy. Think about an early 1.2 on a W or X plate with around 100,000+ miles on the clock and 4-6 months MOT. Don’t worry though as with regular maintenance these early Corsa just keep on running and are decent enough to drive with a comfortable driving position and a reasonable boot. Look out for rotten floors and sills as always and check around the front window for rust. If in doubt, walk away. There’s loads out there as long as you’re willing to travel.
3. For those looking for a bit of class then why not search out an R plate Rover 400 with 120,000+ mileage and an MOT until May? £200 places you at the top of the pile when it comes to this middle England favourite. Let the neighbours know that you’re doing OK at the bank/office thank you very much. As with all of the cars on the list, rust is going to be an issue, but any Rover of this age and condition will need extra attention spent on the bodywork before purchase. Don’t let that put you off though as Rovers from around this era were basically Hondas in retro clothing so are more often than not, mechanically quite sound and well developed. A potential bargain.
4. The Ford Ka everyone. For £200 you’re looking at a 2000 car with around 80,000 miles on th clock and 6 months MOT as well as some issues, but nothing that an afternoon in the garage won’t be able to sort, and sort very cheaply. There are loads of Ka sat quietly rusting away in breakers yards up and down the land so parts supply is not an issue. Check for rust behind the large faded plastic wheel arches and bumpers as they can often hide a multitude of sins, beware. Overall the Ford Ka should give you plenty of fun for your money as they are cheap to run and insure.
5. The final choice is perhaps a little left field, but one that you shouldn’t dismiss straight away as you’ll be missing out on a potentially fine motor vehicle. Yes, the 1.8 Vauxhall Vectra from around 2001, Not the most exciting car in the world but if you’re in the market to travel long distance and wish to do so for peanuts, then you really can’t do much better. Again you’re looking at 100,000 miles or more but you have a massive choice, even at this level of expenditure as Vauxhall built and sold so many of them. The good thing will be to find one that started it’s life as a fleet car as it will have been regularly serviced and looked after, accruing most of its miles on the motorway along the way.
So there you go people, five of the best cars you can buy if you’ve got £200 burning a hole in your pocket. Set aside some more cash for suspension bushes and an oil and plug change if necessary and don’t worry about bodywork blemishes or fashion. My choice? I’d go with a Rover 400 and live out my middle management dreams…
Where will you go?