Used car buying guide: Aston Martin Vanquish

Twenty years ago, the first customer received the keys to their new V12 Vanquish. Without extras, the two-seat coupé (there was also a 2+2) cost £158,000. By the time production of the model and its sister car, the more powerful V12 Vanquish S, ended in 2007, just 2600 examples had left Aston Martin’s Newport Pagnell factory. This modest number helps explain why, today, prices for good used Vanquishes start at a solid £60,000. At the other extreme, the best cars cost at least twice that.

With a monster 5.9-litre V12, in a choice of standard 460bhp or 520bhp S forms, heroic thirst and even more heroic servicing bills, you would imagine it’s a rich person’s occasional toy. But a surprising number of cars advertised have done close to 50,000 miles, while one we found, a 2003-reg manual, has done 94,000 (it costs £55,000). Its owner has had it for 15 years, during which time it’s had what he calls a few ‘Aston Martin moments’ but nothing serious. “Cars like the Vanquish need to be driven regularly, and mine proves they can take it,” he says. His experience supports what Terry Couzens of Vantage Engineering says about the Vanquish being reliable and easily up to the rigours of daily driving, even if you must nurse the clutch in town.

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The model marked a new chapter in Aston Martin’s story. It was a very modern sports car with a bonded aluminium chassis built around a carbonfibre transmission tunnel. Elements of traditional craftsmanship remained in the hand-finished aluminium body panels and the engine, which bears the name of its builder. Of course, this hand-built aspect means no two Vanquishes are quite the same, and all require painstaking examination to establish their condition. If you don’t feel up to the job, consider having an independent Aston Martin engineer such as Rikki Cann (rikkicann.com) inspect the car for you.

Both regular and S versions (the latter was launched in 2004) send their power to the rear wheels via a semi-automatic gearbox. It’s a reliable ’box, apart from gear position sensor issues on early cars, but nevertheless, quite a few owners had their cars converted to manuals, a job Aston Martin Works, among others, was happy to perform. As this was written, around half of the Vanquishes we found advertised had a manual ’box, so it’s popular – but we’d prefer a car with the standard automated manual gearbox.

You can tell regular and S models apart by the latter’s aerodynamic splitter, revised grille and spoiler and a leather-covered centre console. Regarding options, the Sports Dynamic Pack, launched in 2003 for 460bhp cars but standard on S models and which comprised uprated suspension and brakes, is worth seeking out. The Linn sound system of 2003 is desirable, while the few 2+2 cars fetch higher prices.

Production ended with the Vanquish S Ultimate Edition, a 50-off special with unique paint and interior trim. Whichever version tempts you, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience.

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■ Body and chassis: Check front and rear subframes for corrosion. Galvanic corrosion on aluminium body panels can occur where they have been repaired badly or there is paint damage. Check the small steel bracket at the end of each sill for corrosion.

■ Electrics: If the car has trouble starting, inspect the starter motor cables for corrosion. On early cars, some other electrical problems were caused by the wiring loom chafing on the bottom of the bulkhead.

■ Interior: Check the soft-touch coating on the door tweeters and steering column for evidence of melting.

Also worth knowing

Depending on the age of your Vanquish, Aston offers two types of extended warranty. Premium covers cars up to 20 years old, with a £350 initial inspection and then £3810 for the 12-month warranty. Classic covers cars older than 20 years. The inspection is the same but the warranty, which is less comprehensive, costs £2017. Visit astonmartin.com for more info.

How much to spend

£55,000-£66,999: Cars up to 2004-reg and with up to 94,000 miles.

£70,000-£79,999: More of the above but fewer miles.

£80,000-£89,999: Early (2005-reg) Vanquish S with about 35k miles; early, low-mile 460bhp cars.

£90,000-£109,999: Mix of regular and S, with low mileages and the last 2007-reg cars.

£110,000-£130,000: The best late and low-mileage Vanquish S models.

One we found

Aston Martin Vanquish, 2004, 36,000 miles, £69,950: A Vanquish is too expensive to get wrong, so here’s one of the best, straight from Aston Martin Works. It has been thoroughly vetted, so you can enjoy it without fear or compromise.