Very cheap car suggestions - r_welfare
Wise men and women of the Back Room,

I know that this subject has probably been done to death, but a mate needs a hand getting his significant other another car, on a tight budget. Less than £500, ideally £200-£300.

She's a nurse who works nights (so it must start reliably), doesn't do long distances, and has 4 kids aged 6-12 (but rarely has them all in the car at once) so needs something with a bit of room, but is easy to drive (she's a mere slip of a thing).

The last two cars she's had have been Volvo 340s. The first, an F-plate 1.7, cost £300 privately and lasted a year before failing MOT on rust and brakes. The second (and current) one is a 1.4 on an H-plate, cost £200 from a dodgy dealer, looks very presentable from a distance but overheats, refuses to start now and then, and the MOT is due at the end of the month. We both doubt it will pass.

Neither of them know much about cars, and don't have access to a decent, trustworthy mechanic (they live in Solihull by the way - anyone know someone decent local to them?). I'm no ace mechanic, but have run a few ropey motors.

Now, I suggested Nissan Bluebird (my mate has one at the moment and is dead chuffed with it), but apparently these are quite thin on the ground in Brum these days. He's suggested an early Primera - I wasn't aware they were that cheap, but I've told him to watch out for ex-taxis.

I've also suggested Rover 216/416 (Honda engine), VW Jetta, perhaps also a Nissan Sunny.

I've recommended they avoid dealers and go for private sales - neither of them have any auction experience. It would be nice to find something that will last longer than a year.

Any other suggestions from the assembled? She's expressed an interest in a Renault 21 Savannah but again I'm not convinced one at this price level will be much better than a boat anchor.
Very cheap car suggestions - bazza
Check out the Bangernomics web-site - very useful for this type of project.

The old Nissan Bluebird is one possibility, simple to work on, apparently incredibly reliable but watch for rust. I've heard Primeras are pretty durable too.

You ideally need something as simple as possible but durable. I'd be looking at mk 2 Golf/Jetta and old Polos. Also the Citroen ZX is a bargain, look for a careful owner and service history.
I could go on and on but others I'm sure will contribute their ideas. Steer clear of the Renault 21! An old Passat estate would be far superior, they're very cheap as well. In fact this might be best choice if you can find a good one.
Baz
Very cheap car suggestions - Richard Hall
A friend of mine has a very immobile Renault 21 Savanna taking up space in his drive. Still solid and presentable, but so many minor faults that it just isn't worth paying someone to sort out. I might yet take it off his hands for nothing, as a replacement for my amazingly ancient Polo.....

There are so many cheap cars around right now that you're spoilt for choice. I still favour the old Germans (Polo/Golf) with the biggest engine available. I don't altogether trust old-shape Micras (mainly because I owned one, and it was a dog) but I'd be looking at Sunnys and Corollas, possibly Mazda 323s, provided they still have all their original bodywork and no big holes. Cheap ZXs are a good idea in theory, but seem a bit thin on the ground in practice.

If insurance group is not a problem, Audi 80s ('new' shape F-plate onwards) seem pretty strong and dependable even with intergalactic mileage. Rover 216/416 (Honda engine) also worth a look (Toad - how are you getting on with yours?)





Richard Hall
bangernomics.tripod.com
Very cheap car suggestions - r_welfare
Thanks for your comments gents. I am indeed a big fan of the Bangernomics website, even put a reader's story on there; Richard, will it be updated soon?

The Bluebird I owned was an excellent car, which is why I got my mate into one - very reliable and cheap to insure. I'll be watchful for the rust - my mate's H-reg needed some welding at the end of a sill for it's last MOT, but my G-reg I owned in 1998/99 was fine. Suunys don't appear to offer much of an advantage as the parts/insurance prices tend to be dearer, as they were exclusively Japanese-built.

I favour something German or Japanese. Insurance shouldn't be problem, so I'm also tempted by the Audi 80, as they are of course galvanised. I also used to own one of the older "square" shape which would also do the job if it's in decent nick.

I've told him to keep a close eye on the small ads to find something mid-80s and Japanese, as some real minters come onto the market from time to time, often bought new on retirement and are then sold once the elderly owner passes on.

I'm not wholly convinced by French cars on the whole, having said that I'm encouraging him to keep an open mind and go for something with an FSH. Even a "bad" car can be a good one if you find a nice example!
Very cheap car suggestions - bafta
r_welfare, I admit to being a Mazda fan so I am biased. I currently have a 626 2.0i Executive which is very reliable and good to drive so it will not surprise you to know that I am also recommending a Mazda 323. There are some good cheap ones about (my neighbour has one) and they start when you want them to. In all reliability surveys, including warranty they come out near the top.
Barry
Very cheap car suggestions - r_welfare
Agreed, the 626 is a good old bus. Nearly bought a C-plate 2.0i Coupe myself in 1999, a nice looking car, but I was let down by the car not being "immaculate", as it was described (a whole new Discussion topic in itself!). Ended up buying a Prelude instead, which was also good. If a nice 323 from the mid-80s came up, I'd certainly steer him in that direction.
Very cheap car suggestions - KB.
In view of your liking for German stuff and your familiarity with the Bangernomics site, I'm surprised you haven't narrowed it down to the car identified on said site as the "New Morris Minor" i.e. the old shape Polo.

Solid and as reliable as most, cheap and still quite a few on the road. Dreadful brakes and 1050cc a bit slow and lacking any of the luxuries found on later cars. Spares available from 'non VAG' sources quite readily, cheap road tax (under 1549cc), cheap insurance, fairly good on petrol, excellent visibility all round (including ability to see end of bonnet), a range of trims and engine size from 'extremely spartan and slow' through to 'not quite so spartan and quite nippy'.

Can't think why you haven't shortlisted it and searched for a decent one - maybe they're a bit too dear - in which case I've just wasted 10 minutes. Oh well never mind :-)


KB.
Very cheap car suggestions - KB.
One final thought - Particularly observant readers will have have spotted that I've just sold my (unusually clean and totally reliable) 104,000 mile, 1300cc, '88 Maestro for £475 and bought another one (14,000 miles) for similar money. Look on the classified advert section of the Maestro/Montego Owners site and you may well find a reasonable one there. Most are pretty rusty, but there are a few decent ones about and motoring doesn't get any cheaper ( search this site for details).


KB.
Very cheap car suggestions - Toad, of Toad Hall.
Rover 216/416 (Honda engine) also worth a look (Toad -
how are you getting on with yours?)


Mines brilliant!

No major ugly problems have raised their head after 2 1/2 months and 4000 miles. It's had a new cam belt and new oil and that's it.

Only thing I've found really wrong are green rust and missing fins on the rad. It loses a quarter of the expansion tank volume over 1000 miles. I won't deal with that until it actually bursts. ;-) Loses *no* oil at all! Unique for a car in my ownership.

The MFU works almost 100 per cent which for this model is incredible. It's also the tidiest car I've ever owned. In and ex terior! ;-)

Best 400 quid I've ever spent.
--
These are my own opinions, and not necessarily those of all Toads.
Very cheap car suggestions - Andrew-T
R-W - I reckon the idea of buying from a dealer is a non-starter. Any dealer could not spend anything on a car costing £300 and still make a profit - except perhaps a v.dodgy one selling giveaway cars. You are limited to auctions and private sellers, but there should still be decent stuff available.
Very cheap car suggestions - r_welfare
KB: Agreed the old Polo is an excellent car, but may be a touch small for carting the kiddy stuff around. Although it's rare all four children are in the car at once, from time to time this does happen. Still, a 1.3 Ranger or similar may fit the bill - the "breadvan" shape may be commodious enough! I think I've impressed her with my previous Germans (1984 Audi 80 and 1987 Jetta) from a durability perspective.

Andrew-T: I agree the dealer idea is not a good one (see original entry). The current 340 came from a dealer and they paid £200 so who knows what he originally bid the previous owner (£50 probably, and I'm not sure which way the cash changed hands!). Either the radiator or head gasket are gone, it does OK on short journeys but it's not a practical alternative for the longer trip.

The problem my mate and I have in convincing his girlfriend is that while the £200 car may initially cost less, it's a poorer investment in the long run as it generally only lasts as long as it's MOT. At least this is what has happened with the last two Volvos - the original one is still slowly rotting in the drive, the house is turning into a Volvo scrapyard...!
Very cheap car suggestions - KB.
Ranger's - very rare. More likely a CL with a 5 speed box. At this price I don't think you'll get much choice of whether it's a Ranger or not - condition versus price will be the deciding factor. Luckily it's the sort of car driven by 'more mature' individuals and you'll stand a better chance. Had one myself once and thought it was fine at the time and know an elderly lady who really punishes hers (so deaf she doesn't hear the screaming engine burning the clutch away) yet it still keeps going.

I reckon it's your best bet at that sort of money. Other than that it would have to be a Nissan, Toyota or Mazda.

KB.
Very cheap car suggestions - r_welfare
Interesting stuff. I don't think she'd be too bothered with spec (especially as nothing much still works on either Volvo!), even a 1050 with the four-speed might do it.

I must admit I'm biased towards the Jetta, a bit bigger for the same (there or thereabouts) money, but a Polo would probably be easier to find. Do they suffer rust problems? Am I right in thinking earlier ones are German-built, but later cars come from Spain? Any difference in build quality? (the difference between UK/Belgian-built low-spec Sierras and high-spec German built ones comes to mind).

Wonder if it's possible to get a facelift (90-94) one for the money. Learnt to drive in one (1.3CL) with the AA in 1994. Nice little car...
Very cheap car suggestions - J Bonington Jagworth
We have an '89 Audi 90 (80 body with 100 engine) and a '90 Mazda 323 and would recommend either. Both have done about 120k and still feel taut and are pleasant to drive. Neither has any visible rust and the Audi in particular seems indestructible.
Very cheap car suggestions - mab23
Mk II Golf.

If maintained properly, it'll run for ever.
Very cheap car suggestions - Cliff Pope
There's an interesting price distortion I have become aware of recently right at the bottem of the market, caused by the scrapping charge. Anything with a year's MOT is worth about £100, but once that has expired the car's value suddenly becomes about minus £40.
Fine if you are collecting old wrecks for spares - suddenly friends keep offering you cars for nothing.
Very cheap car suggestions - Toad, of Toad Hall.
Rover 216/416 (Honda engine) also worth a look (Toad -
how are you getting on with yours?)


Mines brilliant!

No major ugly problems have raised their head after 2 1/2 months and 4000 miles. It's had a new cam belt and new oil and that's it.

Only thing I've found really wrong are green rust and missing fins on the rad. It loses a quarter of the expansion tank volume over 1000 miles. I won't deal with that until it actually bursts. ;-) Loses *no* oil at all! Unique for a car in my ownership.

The MFU works almost 100 per cent which for this model is incredible. It's also the tidiest car I've ever owned. In and ex terior! ;-)

Best 400 quid I've ever spent.

--
These are my own opinions, and not necessarily those of all Toads.
Very cheap car suggestions - Mark (RLBS)
Toad,

MFU ?
Very cheap car suggestions - Toad, of Toad Hall.
MFU ?


Multi-Function Unit. Works the 'lights on' alarm interior light, rear windscreen heater and others. Been badly misfunctioing in all the rovers I've seen.

Know to the other Rover drivers in my end of the pond as the Mother F£$%&$£ Unit.
--
These are my own opinions, and not necessarily those of all Toads.
Very cheap car suggestions - Dan J
Multi Function Unit :)

Trigger finger today Mark?
Very cheap car suggestions - Mark (RLBS)
>>Trigger finger today Mark?

No, I really didn't know. although I have to say that having read Toad's answer I think I've not only asked that question before, I think it was Toad I asked.

M.
Very cheap car suggestions - Nick R
In the past few years I've owned a B-plate and a D-plate Bluebird, followed by a K-plate Primera, which I bought new. Nissans are extremely reliable. Apart from tyres and 2 exhausts, the Primera had only 1 major fault in 10 years (catalytic converter) that cost £400 to put right. It started to rust a little on one of the rear doors just before I passed it on to my son. Neither of the Bluebirds rusted at all (that was a Sunny problem, rather than a Bluebird problem, I thought?) and the D-registered one had done 145,000 miles and was still a pleasure to drive when it met a sticky end on the M3 in a thunderstorm!
If you get a good one, a Bluebird can be an excellent way to spend your limited budget.
Nick

Very cheap car suggestions - r_welfare
I'll be suggesting an early Primera if possible (H/J plate) so we don't have to worry about catalytic converters and suchlike. My mate mentioned in an e-mail today that there are quite a few J-plate Primeras for sale in Brum, so that sounds like a good start. He did also mention his significant other's decision in the end is final, and the 340s both arrived before we had a chance to vet any potential cars, so who can tell? :)

Ideally I'd recommend something with overhead valves or a camchain so that the cambelt doesn't break, it's happened to me before and it wasn't pretty (for all those who are thinking of saying "I told you so", bear in mind I'd had the car for a day and had done 20 miles on my way to the garage to get it done!)
Last car I ran in the UK was a 1978 Fiesta with a genuine 21,000 miles that I bought for £100 with 8 months MOT. Did 3,000 miles in 2 months with no problems. Then sold it to a mate for £75, he told me yesterday it failed the MOT needing a day's welding, but neither of us spent any money on it and he racked up a fair mileage too.

That car was a Rover 214, not a bad car once it was fixed, no problems with the Multi-Function unit. Toad, is yours a 216?

mab23: I agree the Golf Mk2 is a fine car, I don't know about a £200-£300 example though. Presume that would be a B/C-plate 1.3 or 1.6. How do they hold up? My £500 "D-plate" (no age-related plates here in Guernsey) Jetta 1.6 is reliable and rust-free, having said that it's only done 53,000 miles and we have no MOT here (plus half-price road tax and fuel, but you can only do 25/35mph here and it's all town or narrow country lane driving).
Very cheap car suggestions - r_welfare
Whoops, lots of garbled lunchtime typing. What I meant to say was that the car in which the cambelt snapped was a Rover 214.

Going off on a tangent, there are lots of big dealerships near to them in Solihull which offer the infamous "use your old car as a deposit/guaranteed minimum part-ex" arrangement. Has anyone actually bought one of these trade-ins (I've read about doing this in magazines). How easy is it to do?
Very cheap car suggestions - Toad, of Toad Hall.
That car was a Rover 214, not a bad car once
it was fixed, no problems with the Multi-Function unit. Toad, is
yours a 216?


I've had a 416 & a 414.

Rear bushes and MFU's ar ethe key flaws. I've heard the stretch bolts on the K series are a weak spot and mine *did* die due to a suspected head gasket fault.

Personally I reckon both engines are great!

If yours doesn't have MFU problems I'd be amazed. Does the interior light delay work properly? Lights on alarm?
--
These are my own opinions, and not necessarily those of all Toads.
Very cheap car suggestions - No Do$h
Bit of a wild card, but an early (j plate?) 416 auto will have the Honda lump and gearbox and should be in your budget. Less prone to probs than the k-series.

Likewise, Honda Concerto can be had for little dosh and go forever.
Very cheap car suggestions - Toad, of Toad Hall.
Agree Honda lump is less risky.

That 1.4 K series is great though. I loved it, you could actually get enthusiastic about it. It love to be threashed and revved like a bike.

I imagine the 1.4i metro is a scream.

Is an auto really a good idea?
--
These are my own opinions, and not necessarily those of all Toads.
Very cheap car suggestions - No Do$h
I had the Auto 416, buying the car at 60k with only the first service under it's belt in 58k, 3 years. Two ATF changes done in the next 2k, then every 12 months. Just moved it on with 100k and the box is as solid as it comes. Only shifted it as it was a fully specced one and was starting to get the electrical gremlins a little too often.

Also had a 1.4Metro a few years back. It IS a scream. As long as you get the suspension pumped-up regularly, they are an absolute hoot and very bangernonmical.
Very cheap car suggestions - r_welfare
Interesting comments re the 416 - not sure we'd be able to bag a decent auto for under the £500 limit, but certainly a manual one would come into the frame. I'll steer towards an Si or SLi spec - mind you, my mate is biased against Rovers (coming from Birmingham, this *may* be understandable, but you should never allow pride to come between a good deal I say!).

Regarding the Metro my mother still runs a 92/J 1.1S with 40k from new which I spent a lot of time behind the wheel aged 17-19 (probably about 8,000 miles!). A small car hero in my book but not a viable option for my mate, as the 214 isn't - I just refuse to be convinced the K-series can take neglect/abuse the way the 216/416 Honda engine can.

Someone mentioned the Concerto as an alternative - I wasn't convinced they were thick enough on the ground to provide a viable alternative, but my own personal good experience with Hondas means I certainly would not discount them!
Very cheap car suggestions - r_welfare
Toad: Forgot to say, owned the 214 for 3 weeks (!) two and a half years ago. 1992/J 214Si 16v 3-door with 93k miles, all on the original cambelt (ouch!). Cost me £750 which in those days was quite cheap going in the south-east, spent another £750 on 16 new valves and a cylinder head (two valves embedded in the old one), plus associated engine rebuild etc. Nice car, roomy, no PAS but OK, very nippy for a 1.4, quality interior. MFU OK, but having said that can't remember if lights on buzzer worked!
Very cheap car suggestions - HF
RW - you spent over £1400 on this car just to drive it for 3 weeks????! Truly???? Hope your selling price was good!
HF
Very cheap car suggestions - r_welfare
HF - long story (aren't the best ones always?) so I'll keep it short: bought car very cheap from workmate who was emigrating. Cambelt snapped so was in a quandry - thought best to get it fixed because I hoped to sell it for more than I paid. Still had another car so transportation no problem. Then I got promoted at work and decided to jack in driving bangers for a while, so traded in the other car (very old Honda Prelude) on a nearly-new Civic. Garage only wanted to give me £700 part-ex on the Rover, so I sold it privately for a grand.

So I got my fingers burned, but learnt from it. As an accountant I'm certainly not in the habit of throwing money away like that every day...!
Very cheap car suggestions - Dave_TD
I suggested Nissan Bluebird / early Primera - I've told him to watch out for ex-taxis.


Sometimes ex-taxis can make the best buys, I've had two different ones for SWMBO in the last 3 years. They have to be fastidiously maintained to pass the taxi test, imagine getting your own car MoT'd and inspected for body damage/rust 4 times a year! As long as you're not too bothered about appearances they can keep going for a long time.
For the last year we've had a P-plate Peugeot 405 TD, 370,000 miles, £250 to buy, rattly as hell but keeps going. Before that there was a K-reg Cavalier TD, 180,000 miles, seats all slashed so no good for the taxi plate test. But the girls were both small enough to need car seats then, and some seat covers in the front looked OK. Again, 100% reliable.
My first cab, a Bluebird 1.6 Premium which I sold 4 years ago for £400, is still going as a cab today! The guy that drives it now has changed the battery and radiator, nothing else other than normal service items. Nudging 400,000 miles in the ribs now, still looks and drives as good as it did at 150,000!
I advised someone else on here a few months back how to find the better ex-taxis, should still come up on a search.
Very cheap car suggestions - r_welfare
It's horses for courses I think Dave, some taxis are well-run but others tend not to be - it all depends on the operator. Same thing I suppose with ex-police and ex-hire cars. For example, the guy who used to run the local band I played in, the village accountant no less, bought a T-plate Omega 2.5V6 which had been used for private hire, runs to Heathrow and Gatwick etc, and despite 160k over 2 years still looks and runs sweetly.

Something like that would be fine that's been run with care by a single operator, but a lot of the older Cavaliers and suchlike have led hard lives through uncaring operators and drivers who maybe run them for a year or less. Will certainly be looking out for a Bluey though - I ran my 89G 1.8GS in 1998/99 from 80k to 100k in 8 months and it was faultless. Likewise when my mate mentioned was looking for his first car in Christmas 2000, a 60k 90H 1.8GS auto (the proverbial one-elderly-owner from new who only took it out to wash it and go to church on Sundays) was the ticket for £900. The mention of "Bluebird" will still make most cabbies go misty-eyed, the ones here on Guernsey hold them in reverence!

 

Value my car