James Ruppert: a guide to second-hand car adverts

The thing about buying a used car is that ideally you should sell the really old one first. That’s the way it’s supposed to work anyway. But flogging old cars is a huge faff. Here’s the proof from reader Gerry, who got in touch. 

“I am now seeking to dispose of my 2004 black Lexus IS 300 SportCross. It has a full service history and has completed 123,000 miles. I tried to dispose of it as a part-exchange when I bought a new car, but the garage would not touch it and advised me to sell it privately.” 

They are correct, of course, if you can be faffed. To me, it sounds like the perfect no-brainer practical buy, with a luxury twist. We’re all interested in that, surely. The thing is, these sorts of cars are all around us: you just have to keep looking. Gerry simply has to put his Lexus in the right place, wherever that is. Actually, it is as many places as possible. 

If you want something cheap and local, then it has to be the regional freebies. With, say, £500, what runaround could I get with a year’s MOT? I narrowed it down to a straightforward Ford Fiesta and found a 2005 1.4 at £425 with 120,000 miles, almost a year’s ticket and what seemed to be an honest, few-owner specimen. Some of the social media sites have cars like these but the descriptions are often terrible, although at least it makes you go and see the vehicles. 

Moving up to something a bit larger and dependable that could lap up a long journey, let’s spend £5000 on a Mazda 6. I like those. Indeed, a 2010 2.2D Sport with 75,000 miles had at least been pre-repaired because some big jobs had been done, which is one approach to buying wisely. Look for the big bills, and if you are selling, always advertise what you’ve spent. In this case, clutch, flywheel, timing chain, so at least it should do another 100,000 miles with only consumables to worry about. The asking price was £4000. 

When it comes to something a lot more interesting , you can get lucky with a private seller. However, the ratio of private ads in the paid-for ads is falling off exponentially, which is a shame. You can find so many owners who have fabulously well-documented cars like an Alfa Romeo 159 2.0 JTDM with 91,000 miles of full service history and two enthusiast owners. That was up for £5000 and the signs were that this was a proper Alfisti with more than one in the stable. That’s the perfect car and seller. 

Great used cars, especially private ones, are out there – provided the pricing is realistic and allows for the fact that you may have to spend £500 on an independent warranty. If Gerry still wants to sell, get in touch.

What we almost bought this week

Chrysler 300C Estate: Some folk called the saloon version the baby Bentley, to the extent that they even fitted a Crewe grille to it. Not such an effective ploy with the estate but what a looker. This 3.0 CRD is a 2005/56-reg with 110,000 miles for £2995. Oil leaks, loss of power, worn front bushes and air-con gremlins are among the things to look for. 

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Mini Cooper, mileage – 102,487: Yes, the Cooper returns. After many months away, it is back in the garage. I don’t have the full breakdown of the bill yet. I think they liked taking it for test drives, which is fine by me. 

They have done a spectacular job. It runs better than ever and the reason why this happened is lost in the midst of the original rebuild. When I first drove it after a long lay-off years ago, the temperature gauge suggested it was running hot. So the best explanation is that the original rebuild could have been better. Now I can get on with driving it again.

Reader’s ride

Ford Mondeo: Liam Cawley is a good friend of this page and has just picked up a Mondeo 1.8 LX Mistral. “I bought it to transport three lurchers,” he says. “It has done 120k miles with two previous owners and a full, if slightly lapsed, service history. It came with six months’ MOT. 

“The chain-driven petrol engine still pulls strongly and all the oily bits are in good order. The interior still looks modern and has worn very well. 

“It has replaced a PCP-funded car for the price of two monthly payments. I can see it lasting a fair few years.”

Readers’ questions

Question: I want a fun, emissions-free-capable, automatic hatch that’s cheap to insure and costs up to £20,000. What do you suggest? Jonathan Cox, via email

Answer: The Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDI Hybrid will give you up to 30 miles of emissions-free motoring, is fun to drive and, in Premium spec, well equipped. More are coming to the used market and £16,000 will bag you a 2017/66- reg model with 10,000 miles. John Evans

Question: I’m worried about having my catalytic converter stolen. How can I protect it? Bob Wright, Chorley

Answer: Park your car in a well-lit place where it can be seen by you or your neighbours and fit a Thatcham-approved tilt alarm. If your car is an MPV or large SUV, fit a protection device such as the CatClamp Economy (£120). John Evans

Question: I’ve just found a year-old road tax refund cheque I forgot to cash. Am I too late? Susan Tomes, Tetbury

Answer: Six months is the limit for the cheque to be valid but send it to Refunds, DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AR and they’ll issue a replacement. Don’t forget to cash it… John Evans

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