Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - OXiky

Hello all, I'm new here on the forum!

I recently got my license and want to buy my first car soon. I am looking for something that is very cheap to buy (probably <£500) and to run. I don't really care about age or mileage (I like old stuff anyway), just for it to be a nice cheap starter with some character. I've gained an interest in the following cars:

  • Renault Clio (1991)
  • Nissan Micra (1993)
  • Nissan Micra (1998)
  • Fiat Cinquecento
  • Toyota Starlet (1996)
  • Vauxhall Corsa (1993)
  • Citroen Saxo/Peugeot 106 (1996)
  • VW Polo/Seat Ibiza (1994)

I seem to really like the Clio but the problem is all the ads I've seen for it was the 1.4L model, and I'm looking for a smaller engine that is cheaper to run. The Polo/Ibiza are also 1.4. Will these 1.4s be significantly more pricier to run? Starlet is 1.3 only. The Cinquecento looks very small and cute but does anyone know if it may be a tad too underpowered (with just 0.9L)?

As for reliability I already know the Japanese are best, but is it true that the French ones are bad? If any of the French ones in my list are unreliable it can be a deal breaker, as I don't really want to face faults and failures.

Ford Fiesta didn't look good enough to put on my list. Also I saw an ad for the old Fiat Panda - should I consider that? .. doesn't it look a little too blocky? Oh and that reminds me of Fiat Seicento, is that any good?

Edited by OXiky on 29/01/2017 at 23:58

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - elekie&a/c doctor

All these cars are pretty durable on the mechanical side,the Nissan and Toyota will probably run for ever.Your biggest problem at this age is going to be body condition and corrosion underneath the car.It is possible to buy a Focus for this money,a far superior and modern design with plenty parts available new and used.I bought a Focus 2001 3years ago for £400.It is still going strong.My only failure has been a coolant pipe fpr £25.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - daveyjp

Probably no need to go as old as that. Check out roadside sales, supermarket boards, gumtree etc and you may pick up a car 10-15 years old for the money.

I recently saw an 03 Nissan advertised on the roadside - 67,000 miles £600.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - OXiky

Thanks for the reply. I know that I can get newer cars in that price range but I personally have a highly likable taste for older stuff including cars. For instance I probably get more excited seeing an old Saab convertible than a Porsche driving on the street.

My personal liking aside, what would be a good early 2000s car then? Probably the 2003 Micra?

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - kiss (keep it simple)

I can comment on the 1.4 Polo. We have a 1996 model which has just gone over 70k. There is very little rust, just a patch at the bottom of one rear wheel arch where it joins the sill. Only MOT advisories to date have been driveshaft gaiters. Starts every morning no trouble as long as you can get into it. The locks freeze up; no doubt a strip down and re-lube will cure that, but it's easier not to bother locking it. The main problems are really age related, door seals, trim, window winder mechanisms etc. Performance is remarkably good but fuel economy is a bit disappointing, low 40's mpg on a long run. I don't think insurance was particularly cheap.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - OXiky

Thanks for the reply. As you say fuel economy on your Polo was disappointing, and I'm thinking that's because you had the 1.4L model. Surely economy would be better with a smaller engine right. (then again I've never owned a car so I might be wrong?). That's the reason I'm trying to look for a smaller engine like 1.0 or 1.2.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - gordonbennet

Welcome OXiky.

Sensible thoughts for a first car, but as ElekieDoc points out rust is the biggie with any of these so take your overalls and a sheet of carpet to lie on and get poke nosing.

I'm a great fan of the Starlet, these can still be found with one or two owners kept and looked after well...unfortunately some of the very best of these were lost in the idiotic scrappage scheme devised by some half wit...and one that has been kept clean of salt underneath by someone sensible would be as good a bet as any.

That and Micra the best mechanically in my opinion, and 106/Saxo can be good bets too being a relatively rust free design (check under floor in front of the rear axle), the 1.4/1.5 unblown Diesel versions of these can be really good on fuel and run (noisily) for years on end.

I'd suggest going for a 1.3/1.4 version of any of these petrols instead of the smaller engines, running easier tends to better fuel consumption and longer life, if you find an old Diesel that tempts you then up to a point size doesn't matter and old Diesels are nothing like as temperamental as modern versions, but be wary of previous ownership because if its got a Bosch pump its entirely possible second/third owners have been running it on Mazola instead of proper fuel.

These are all getting on now so be prepared to get down and dirty and learn to maintain your own, we have a regular poster (Liam) who runs a 106 who does all sorts of work on his own car and posts pics here regularly via a hosting site (tinypic i think), so it can be done, and on that front even though parts won't be as widely available i suggest the Toyota will be the nicest car to work on, being a quality build in the first place, DIY is very cost effective and also satisfying.

Nothing wrong also with going a size up, as suggested with Focus, which brings you into the world of Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic as well as other cars which have proved to be some of the best small/middling cars ever made, though in all honesty i'd avoid the somewhat overrated German car marques for this search (exceptions as always, Lupo brilliant) and you really don't see many ageing Italian mass production cars either, though keep an open mind for anything that comes up at the right price with the right history, some makes/models can make right bargains for much newer cars when they go out of fashion and it sounds like fashion is refreshingly missing from your requirements, excellent.

I'm a great fan of 80's/90's designs, which were still valid right up till around the mid noughties depending on maker, though it must be said they won't protect you in the event of a crash like a new car will, but then the newer stuff won't be under £500 and they won't be around in 25+ years either.

Edited by gordonbennet on 30/01/2017 at 09:17

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - OXiky

Thanks for the reply. Both the Starlet and Micra should be most reliable in the list I assume.

Can I ask why you suggest a 1.3/1.4 over a smaller engine? I'm trying to save fuel/money, and won't those engines be in a higher insurance group? I would have to end up paying more, which is unsatisfying for me. As for diesel, they're quite rare for old small cars. Starlet does have a 1.5 diesel which is a larger engine but it's diesel so it should be more economical, or am I wrong?

I'm not really looking for a larger size car - whilst Focus and Civic do look great I really would prefer to start with a little one.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - craig-pd130

Buying a 10 - 15 year old car is less about the specific make and model, and more about condition and evidence of history. Also, look at the person sellnig the car - do they look like the type of person that will have spent money maintaining it?

As said above, you can get an early 2000s car for around the £500 mark, so you've got plenty of choice: just trust your instincts. If something smells fishy, just walk away.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - SLO76
When buying at this money forget having any particular brand or model in mind. Buy on condition above all else and stick to simple basic petrol engined hatches and expect to live with a few minor faults.

I totally get the desire for something a little retro, it's a blast from the past for me too since I used to sell all these wee cars in the 90's but you don't have the budget to be fussy. It is however possible to buy a reliable motor for under £500 but while I'd normally point towards Japanese metal I wouldn't walk by a well kept Clio to get to a tatty unserviced Yaris or Micra.

Neglect is common at this money with the bulk of owners doing only the bare minimum to keep the cars on the road due to the low value and most will be long overdue a service possibly a timing belt if it has one.

Look for something that's been owned longterm, a car that wasn't bought as a bargain bucket runabout by someone with no money and that long ownership signifies they've been happy with the car. Best bet is to look for an elderly owner who's giving up driving or cars for sale due to bereavement. In both cases you're usually getting a well maintained car that wasn't up for sale because it's knackered.

If all things were equal at this money and the cars were all solid and running well I'd have the K11 Nissan Micra which was very well made, reliable and a hoot to drive with lovely chain driven free revving twin cam 16v engines and tidy handling. Plus they have the added bonus of not appealing to the boy racer brigade so few are ralleyed to death.

Look out for rust rust and more rust, listen for rattling timing chains on cars that haven't been serviced regularly and throttle bodies are a weak point so make sure it pulls evenly through the full rev range and watch for worn and slipping clutches as most are owned by elderly drivers for mostly local running.

These are cheap as chips now so you should be able to get a decent one for £500-£700, even a later K12 is possible. These resist rot a bit better and are newer but suffer the same timing chain and clutch issues. Believe the throttle body problem isn't common to these though, I've certainly never encountered it with any I've sold. Again great fun to drive if a bit girly to look at.

It's worth finding a bit more money if you can though, a few hundred quid goes a long way at this end of the market. For example, I sold an immaculate 55 plate Micra 1.2 SE with 50,000 miles and a full history to a long standing punter a couple of months back for £1,200 and I've full confidence this wee car will run for years.



Edited by SLO76 on 30/01/2017 at 10:48

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - skidpan

A couple of years ago I sold some car bits to chap on E-Bay and he came to collect them in his 52 plate Proton. Said his next stop was the garage 50 yards down the road to see what he would give him for it, if not it was off to the scrappers that afternoon. I could not believe it. OK it was a Proton which is not the most desirable brand but the car was pretty much unmarked in and out with only a small patch of flaking black powercoat on one of the window frames. It needed a good polish as the metallic red paint looked a bit dull, but it was the same all over the car with no obvious repaired panels. One previous elderly owner with just over 30,000 miles on the clock.

He only wanted £200 for it but there was no interest. The tyres were the originals and at 12 years old were badly cracked, that was the only problem I could see.

So for probably £350 someone could have got themselves on the road with a decent Proton with a few years life left. If it had an expensive failure that would be the time to scrap it.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - SLO76
Good solid old cars at that stage too, mostly just an old Lancer/Colt underneath. You can buy and run a car for peanuts if you don't care about image.
Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - OXiky

Thanks for the reply, a lot of helpful info here.

It seems from your message that you're suggesting the two Japanese ones to be the best? My dad owned a K11 and it was a nice little car, plus they are fairly common on the roads.

May I ask your opinion on the Fiat Cinquecento, Seicento, and old Panda, if you know about them? I don't know much about Italian cars, are they reliable enough?

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - SLO76
Although I should know better I do have a fondness for old Fiats. I sold loads of Pandas, UNOs, Tipos and Tempras in the 90's and always enjoyed their eager nature. Tipo 1.8 twin cam and later 2.0 16v were favourites.

With the exception of ancient ohv 903cc unit in the Cinquecento and Seicento (robust but noisy and gutless) they were all free revving and fun to hammer to within an inch of their lives. More reliable than you'd expect too as long as you avoid the diesels. The 1.0 & 1.1 Fire units as used in the UNO, Panda and Punto was particularly good but they really do fall off a cliff reliability wise at around 70,000 miles with head gasket failure very common.

The origional Panda was very rudimentary, as simple as 4 wheeled transport got, later facelifted cars from 86 ride and handle vastly better and use the excellent Fire engines in 750, 1.0 and 1.1 capacities and you can even get a 4x4 but these are cult classics and fetch much more money. There's not much on them to go wrong but again head gaskets fail and rot has killed almost all of them. There's zero crash protection, quite simply you're dead if anything hits you.

The Cinquecento and Seicento strangely mostly used the older 903cc engine the first Panda used and it's very dated, noisy and slow. The 1.1 Sporting models are developing a bit of a cult following and are quite good fun to drive, not fast at all but love to be revved and they handle very nimbly. They're also popular as tow cars among the mobile home community so there's always someone willing to buy a tidy low miler. Safer than the first Panda but then so is a paper bag.

The MK II Panda is a much safer option between £500-£1,000 and is a great little car if you can take the boxy Gran's shopping kart looks. Avoid the fragile diesel and find a low mileage 1.1 and it's not a bad wee wagon. Again head gaskets and shonky electronics thanks to poor quality corroding electrical connectors will cause a few issues no doubt but they're better made than any other small Fiat.

I liked the origional Punto too but hated the look of the MK II and don't rate either in the same league as the Micra to drive.

Another fun option (although it looks dull) is the MK IV Ford Fiesta 1.25 16v Zetec. These are an absolute hoot to drive, offer Japanese reliability (Yamaha engine) and European dynamics. I bought one off an elderly customer recently for £300 with a short Mot and it flew through without a single advisory. Wee thing had everything, from PAS to electric windows and a heated front screen. Loved driving it and sold it to a local cafe owner who's son destroyed it in no time. Rust is the killer again along with neglect and don't get it mixed up with the ancient ohv 1300 in basic models which is awful.
Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - OXiky

The 'zero crash protection' of the Panda sounds scary. The Honest John review also noted 'Very high 9 point death rate from accidents in this model.' as a bad point. What's the context in this 'death rate'? That figure is scary enough anyway to put me off the Panda. I need to know what other cars in my list are unsafe like Panda.

It seems for reliability reasons it may be better to avoid the Fire engines of Cinquecento/Seicento. You did say the 903cc engine is very 'dated', but then again aren't all my cars on my list 'dated'?

As for Punto, I feel like I want something of the smaller size than that. And yes, the Fiesta does look dull indeed which is why I didn't consider it. Which sucks now that you say it is reliable.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - S40 Man

If it was me I'd be looking for a size up at least. For £300 -500 you can get a focus with 12m MOT. That would be a lot safer.

Your probably not planning on crashing but statistically this is the most likely time on both your driving career.

Check out ncap ratings and crash tests.

Check out https://m.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3D8ceEh7R1KYA&ved=0ahUKEwjz1t62terRAhUGM8AKHWsiB4cQtwIIJTAD&usg=AFQjCNEl6xfugSVqkiqYdylaq7gmWAnrAw&sig2=ZfHQaFc6q7XTrZYDp-w4gw

And compare to focus

m.youtube.com/watch?v=4oPVESVlhPU

I know where I would rather be.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - John Boy

There's something awry with your first link, S40 Man. Are you able to correct it?

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - KB.

Personally, I'm 100% with the previous comments regarding safety.

Years ago we all got our first (and subsequent) cars and none of us gave much thought to it. (Mine was a very rusty1952 Morris Minor with all the structural integrity of a paper bag).

I think we've moved on a bit and at least NCAP exists even we don't necessarily followit to the the n'th degree.

But at least do as is suggested above and look on the NCAP site to seee what you're considering scores in terms of safety. And if getting something safer means means moving up a class, away from the very smallest of old cars, then do that.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - KB.

PS .... HJs adverts are really getting on my nerves!

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - galileo

PS .... HJs adverts are really getting on my nerves!

Agreed- the last few posts are badly obscured by a column of HJ ads so unreadable.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - SLO76
Not missing them but I don't seem to be getting these adverts.
Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - skidpan
Not missing them but I don't seem to be getting these adverts.

Fekkin Richard Branson

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - SLO76
"Fekkin Richard Branson"

Must realise I'm skint...
Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - Andrew-T

PS .... HJs adverts are really getting on my nerves!

Agreed- the last few posts are badly obscured by a column of HJ ads so unreadable.

Yes. I guess they can be blocked, but they are a total nuisance. What's the point of obscuring the best part of the website? Do they go away if one waits long enough?

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - OXiky

I've taken a look at the cars on the NCAP database. All have a adult occupant rating of 2 except Fiesta and Polo having 3 and Seicento a 1.5 (?) rating. (Though there was no Starlet, 106, Panda, Ibiza or Cinquecento on the database.) Seems like anything is safer than the old Panda at the end of the day.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - SLO76
Bear in mind ncap results are relevant only to the time they were carried out when comparing cars. For example the massive new model Ford Mustang only scored a two star ncap recently but is clearly a much safer car to be involved in an impact than an old Micra...
Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - RaineMan

A friend has had good service from two (early style) Ford Ka's. Both were brought at lowish mileage and went well past 100k. Their current one is a 2008 model and came with air con and PAS. Insurance is relatively cheap compared to many other cars and servicing/maintenance has been inexpensive. Even the latest ones are not a lot of money to buy.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - SLO76
The MK I Ka was great fun to drive and good examples will become classics but the later Fiat Panda based model wasn't anywhere near as much fun. The MK I is hideously rot prone though, like taking a trip back to the 1970's.
Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - brum

Wouldnt buy any car under about 8 years old, especially if I didn't know how to fix them myself.

Newer cars, even if they are larger and have more oomph are cheaper to insure than their older counterparts, because they are safer with more saftety kit as standard.

A 1st time driver needs to look at total cost of ownership.

And yes those random popup ads now appearing on HJ are b***** annoying.

Edited by brum on 31/01/2017 at 17:58

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - Andrew-T

All the advice above is good. One comment about 90s Clios - changing engine coolant wasn't on the service schedule, so often was overlooked. Can be VERY rusty. If you are trying to minimise costs, it is very slight economy to go for the smallest engine - the 1.2 is about OK, but you may find the 1.4 has only a small penalty but worth paying.

In their day (the day you are talking about) the Pug 306 was regarded as a brilliant car, developed from the 205, and pretty much the same, just a bit bigger. Not many still running, but the body lasts well and it's great to drive.

Loads of cars out there under a grand, but at that price you need to buy with care, preferably privately from someone who has chosen to stop driving, and can tell you all you need to know about the car. You won't get a warranty, but you wouldn't anywhere else either.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - mss1tw
The last shape 306's still look great now, and getting rare as you say.

Definitely one to try and save as well as a use as a daily driver.
Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - OXiky

When searching online I think I only found ads for the 1.4 Clio, so therefore it's unlikely I'll end up with the 1.2. I reckon the 1.4 Clio's economy will not be as good as the Micra or Fiats I mentioned. Perhaps the 1.3 Starlet too?

Interesting that you noted the Peugeot 306, it certainly is a car I didn't think of. Seems like a decent car. Are phase 1 (pre-1997) models as good as you say or do they only apply to the facelifts? Do you think it's an overall better car than the Clio?

Edited by OXiky on 31/01/2017 at 20:45

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - brum

I imagine most 20 year old french or italian superminis would struggle to make the trip to the scrapyard under their own power and a road legal state.

Surely for a couple of hundred more say £700 - £800, you can look at cars that are only 10 to 12 years old. Youll certainly have less problem insuring them for a sensible sum, and if you are careful/lucky, youll be able to run them for a couple of years without major surgery/breakdown/expense and sell it on for very little loss.

Edited by brum on 31/01/2017 at 21:57

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - SLO76
Pug 306 was and still is one of the best handling and riding small cars ever made. Body lasts well, mechanically simple and even the 1.4 is nippy enough. Low insurance group and buttons to buy but few good cars left.

Phase 2 cars are more reliable mostly thanks to removal of the daft keypad immobiliser but again any 306 you find is likely to have been run into the ground as a cheap runabout. Very occasionally you find an elderly owner selling one they've owned forever and the 2.0 8v HDi is a joy if you can find a good one. Flys, does 50mpg plus and it'll do 250k no bother.

Gearchange is the worst part on these especially on cars with cheap aftermarket clutches. Interior is cheaply made and rattle prone but I've done many happy miles in several of these over the years. I'd still say a MK I Focus is a better bet for the money though.

Edited by SLO76 on 31/01/2017 at 22:01

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - OXiky

Hmm. From the looks of it it may be best to go Japanese then. Both the Micra and Starlet should be reliable, and I haven't heard particular negativity to them compared to other cars. I've also discovered a Mazda, the 1998 323, though the design isn't as exciting.

Still I do like the design of the Clio and the cuteness of Cinquecento. Looks like I'll have to sacrifice these in favour of reliability. 306 seems to be quite nice, but how does it compare to these and the Micra and Starlet?

And no thanks, I honestly don't want to size up to a Focus, supermini is where I want to start.

Edited by OXiky on 01/02/2017 at 12:22

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - SLO76

Hmm. From the looks of it it may be best to go Japanese then. Both the Micra and Starlet should be reliable, and I haven't heard particular negativity to them compared to other cars. I've also discovered a Mazda, the 1998 323, though the design isn't as exciting.

Still I do like the design of the Clio and the cuteness of Cinquecento. Looks like I'll have to sacrifice these in favour of reliability. 306 seems to be quite nice, but how does it compare to these and the Micra and Starlet?

And no thanks, I honestly don't want to size up to a Focus, supermini is where I want to start.

Pardon the pun but I think you're focussing too much on what type of car you want and not enough on looking for something that's been well maintained and is still viable at the money you're talking about. You're in bargain basement here, one step from the scrap yard. Forget size, make etc and look for something that's solid and been serviced regular that has a decent Mot. If you find anything you like the look of post the link to the advert here and we'll give pointers regarding what to look for on that particular model but don't go hunting with a fixed shortlist with this budget. You could walk by a good Focus only to land a worn out Micra... you can be fussy when you've more money to spend. As for not wanting to go up a size, well the 306 and Focus are in the same class and if you drive a nicely maintained Focus you'll be amazed how good it is.
Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - OXiky

Well my highest priorities are 'cheap to buy', 'cheap to run', and with satisfactory reliability. I do think Micra and Starlet fit that bill best, and because of high reliability I should be able to find more 'well maintained' ones around than, say, a Clio.

Thanks for the info anyway. I may post a link here to a listing that interests me.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - corax
306 seems to be quite nice, but how does it compare to these and the Micra and Starlet?

And no thanks, I honestly don't want to size up to a Focus, supermini is where I want to start.

306 is in the Focus sized class, but they are getting very old. You say at the beginning that you don't want to face faults and failures but you're going to have to be good with the spanners or have a friendly mechanic because these cars are going to have a few hiccups at this age.

You should try a Focus at least. I wasn't keen on them until I drove a boggo 1.6 courtesy car and was amazed at the ride/handling combination which is far better than it has any right to be for that sort of car. And the parts are cheap and easily obtainable if the worst should happen.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - OXiky

I'm susprised 306 is in the same class. To my eyes it doesn't look as big and muscular as Focus.

Anyway, I'll strongly consider Focus in the future when I feel like sizing up, considering what has been said here and the fact I really like its design too. But I'll stick with starting off small first, - and due to fault risks that you've said about 306 and others have said about certain other cars, I think it's best to go with a Micra or Starlet, what do you think about that?

All I have in my mind right now is if Starlet's 1.3 engine will be more pricier to run than a 1.0 Micra.

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - SLO76
The difference in economy between a 1.3 Starlet/Micra and 1.0 Micra is negligible but the difference between a tatty car that costs money for repairs every other week and a tidy well looked after old smoker can be huge. Again, focus on condition rather than 1-2mpg and £10-£20 a year difference on insurance otherwise you're going to end up buying a scrapper.
Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - corax

I learnt to drive in a Starlet 29 years ago!

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - OXiky

Makes sense, thanks for the info. If it is negligible indeed then both should be satisfying. Disappointed not to have gone with Clio or Cinquecento due to a higher risk of faults. But I'm all right with Starlet and Micra. And yes, I will definitely check if it's been cared for and MOT'd.

Mind you, if I find a Clio or Cinquecento that has been cared very well, with only minor or no body rusts or other issues, and it's cheap, should I still consider them? (apologies if I'm asking too much but my mind is just spinning)

Which of these cheap 90s cars as my first car? - SLO76
It's all down to condition. I'd sooner take a well cared for Clio over a rough Micra but the wee Fiat is very limited both to drive and with regards to crashworthiness so it's not something I'd buy or recommend but personal choice combined with a tidy car may overrule.
 

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