James Ruppert: comfortable bangers for under £500

There seem to be all sorts of stats showing that the car buying world is about to turn green.

The AA is at it now, revealing that half of us plan to take measures to go green this year. Changes to how we drive and own cars top the list.

Well, that’s a good thing. I would always encourage car buyers to make decisions that result in adjustments to how they drive and quite possibly what they drive. Then again, there’s a YouGov report that shows the prospect of taking public transport is still less appealing than cadging a lift in a car. Of course it is. It’s more comfy. So let’s just go for a comfy journey.

I’ll do the green thing next time. Right now, we want an automatic gearbox, sound deadening and an unfashionable saloon format. A 1999 Honda Accord 1.8 i-VTEC SE would seem to be rather unsaleable these days, but with 116,000 miles, service history and a few months of MOT, this seems like a nice way to travel for £349. You should get a full year out of it before you get bored.

Rather cooler would be a Vauxhall Omega, and a 2.2i CD from 2003 with 145,000 miles is just £1 more than the Accord at £350.

Oddly enough, I seemed to have stumbled across a £350 sweet saloon spot. Unsurprisingly, a 2005 Volvo S80 2.4 D5 SE with 277,000 miles for £350 looked solid enough. Oh, but the gears aren’t great, there are issues that are going to cost a lot, and it always pays not to get excited about previously costly cars.

Deeply unfashionable is good and worth sacrificing an automatic gearbox for. Which brings us to a 2003 Volkswagen Bora 1.6 SE with 160,000 miles, six months of MOT and an asking price of £450. A Golf with a boot, then, and you won’t see many others.

Also what you don’t see very many of is a Mazda Xedos 6. Indeed, what are the chances of seeing two of them on sale together? Both 1999s and called Ted and Mabel. Mabel had 126,000 miles and Ted was up to 133,000. It really was a BOGOF situation as well: you could pick up both the odd, old couple for £450. The Mazda badge ought to be the guarantee of reliability. These may well be the bargain buy of 2019 so far. You’ll kick yourself if you don’t buy two rare, functioning 1990s Japanese legends.

It is funny, but we never see surveys that explain why some of us would gladly buy a long-forgotten saloon and be perfectly happy and even look forward to it. At least we are still honest enough to admit that we still want cars.

What we almost bought this week

Remember Daewoo’s no-haggle prices? Happily, we’ve found a way to beat that little ruse with this Leganza 2.0 CDX. New, the fully loaded motor cost £15,000 but without haggling we got the price down to just £695. It wasn’t difficult since the car is 20 years old and has done 88,000 miles, but remarkably it has had just one owner from new.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Volkswagen Golf, mileage – 46,985: The other week, we were checking air pressures on Gordon the Golf because my daughter likes to keep an eye on these important things. Many thanks, then, to the people at Fit2Go, who posted me a Michelin Tyre Pressure Checker set (£39.95).

I really like the idea. You just screw them in and they allow you to instantly check tyre pressures, rather than thinking one of them looks a bit down. I am going to fit a set of the upmarket Michelin TPMS with a readout (£79.95) to the Baby Shark and will extend that upgrade to the rest of the fleet if all goes well.

A to Z Bangerpedia

S is for Saab 9-5: These are big old wagons that are tough, distinctive and absolutely massive inside. You can still get parts so it isn’t obsolete yet. Saloons are better value.

Electrics, starter motors, suspension and brakes can be troublesome. Diesel power isn’t that impressive, but a 2.2 TiD can manage just over 40mpg, which is important to some. They can start at below £1000, but double that will unearth a 3.0 V6 TiD, which will do 38mpg, or the more rapid 2.3 HOT, probably in estate format, which is the best of all possible worlds.

Readers’ questions

Question: What does the ‘admin fee’ cover that some dealers put on a used car, in addition to its screen price? Sandra Slater, Chichester

Answer: Where charged, the admin fee is typically £99. Dealers who charge it say it covers costs such as the HPI check and a mechanical inspection. You might reasonably expect these to be offered as part of the deal because a dealer who doesn’t check a car thoroughly is laying themselves wide open. However, worse than an admin fee is one that’s sprung on you at the last moment, in which case tell them about the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. John Evans

Question: Which compact estate, preferably nearly new, can you recommend for around £14,000? Doug Cartwright, Ripon

Answer: You don’t say whether outright space is important. If it’s close to the top of your list, then the Skoda Octavia is the obvious choice, with a seats-up boot space of 610 litres and seats-down of 1740. You’ll get a 2018/18-reg 1.6 TDI CR 110 SE with 15,000 miles for £14,000. If space is your number one priority, then with figures of 660 and 1775, the Peugeot 308 SW is the car for you. You’ll get a 2018/18-reg 1.6 BlueHDi Allure with around 5000 miles within your budget. Our pick? The Octavia. John Evans

Read more

Used car buying guide: Saab 9-5

Skoda Octavia review

Peugeot 308 SW review

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