Auto-mobiles: Can you buy a car for the price of a smartphone?

Steve Jobs is taunting me from the grave. I’ve thrown a lot of money his way over the years, starting with his Apple Mac computer through to a G4 Powerbook, MacBook Air and several iPads. And then there is, of course, his range of field telephones. I’ve had a few iPhones, starting with the first one. As with all Apple products, it’s a battle to get years of use out of them before they write themselves off by being out of date. My G4 Powerbook works perfectly well but can’t run the modern OS and therefore can’t support programs.

My iPhone 5 I’ve had for a long time but I fear it is near the end. Apple would no doubt like me to buy its new iPhone 11 Pro. It has three cameras, apparently, and lots and lots of pixels. And the battery might last beyond tea time. It costs £1049 but I can trade in my old phone and get a discount. Except I can’t because the iPhone 5 is so old tech that they won’t give me a penny for it.

Where am I going with this? Car companies have for years used the cost of a mobile phone as a sort of economic analogy to leasing cars. ‘You can have a new i10 for barely the price of your mobile phone.’ Renault used the same argument for leasing a Zoe’s battery.

This has got me thinking. What if I got the cheapest phone I could and then spent the money that I’ve saved on buying an iPhone 11 Pro on a car. I mean, I’ve always wanted to be a professional racing driver or fighter pilot but I’m not particularly interested in becoming a professional telephone caller.

Well, there you go, Mr Jobs: Argos has just sold me an Alba sim-free mobile for £12.95. It is, I believe, what is known as a burner. It makes telephone calls and can send texts. I don’t think it’ll allow me to become the next David Bailey or let me know how little my Aston Martin shares are worth.

So with my new phone up and running, let’s go shopping with the £1036.05 that I have left. I know exactly where to start and what I’m looking for. Within seconds, we are on eBay and have tapped in ‘Fiat’. Guessed it? A 32,000-mile Seicento Sporting in yellow has grabbed the attention of 20 watchers but I can buy it now for £875. For even less money, although there’s no ‘buy it now’ price and the auction has five days to run, there’s a Sporting Michael Schumacher edition. I’d forgotten that there was such a thing but this red one looks nice at £820.

The Fiat Panda 100HP is a much better car and, sure enough, there’s one for £1000. It’s on a 58 plate and looks quite tidy in the photographs. Minis are excellent value: a photographer friend bought a convertible for £400 a few years ago and it’s still running. He has to keep his typhoid injections up to date because it’s a bit skanky inside but it runs well.

There are loads of Cooper hatches within budget but I’ve always like the eccentric Clubman with its half-sized door of death that’s not on the pavement side in the UK. There are loads to choose from £1000 down and the bidding doesn’t look frantic.

Perhaps I’m being too sensible and should take a punt on this 2005 Cadillac CTS. The infotainment system has bust and it needs an ABS pump for its MOT but there’s a ‘buy it now’ price of £900. One other nutter has bid £495, which is below the reserve. Wonder how much the ABS pump costs?

This is better but still in the slightly risky luxo-barge segment. A Rover 75 V6 manual on Autotrader for £950. MOT until next June as well. My pal Richard Bremner would be terribly impressed: he’s already got one. Ooh, even better, a Rover 800 coupé for £750 with a V6 and automatic gearbox. That’ll be a peaceful ride.

Any one of these old nails that we’ve found will give guaranteed amusement and provide much more of a talking point than a new mobile phone. They might even last longer, too.

Other appliances we could make savings on

Perhaps we get sucked into owning too many devices. We’ve got a Dualit toaster, for example. It looks beautifully retro and I’m sure guests are impressed by our good taste but it cost £150. Our kettle is a designer item, too, and cost nearly 100 quid. It can only boil water.

A TV is a good way to blow a lot of money. I don’t like them as pieces of furniture so we’ve got a small telly. It is a smart one but I don’t think it’s OLED and it cost less than the toaster. I know people who have huge-screen TVs with surround sound that cost more than a second-hand MX-5.

Where would your smart money go? Let us know by emailing autocar@haymarket.com