What Used Car for £16k? - pete&hisgolf
I've got some spare cash (and am due a mid-life crisis) so, having driven cheap and cheerful machinery for most of my life, I'd like to get a decent car. Key criteria are (a) reliable (b) good performance and handling (c) a bit 'special' (d) small enough to go in my small garage (d) not a convertible (e) a good local dealer ( I live in Sheffield).

I currently have a 1999 Mazda 323.

The shortlist so far:

Nissan 350z - though hard to find one for this price, and likely to be too big for garage.

Mazda RX8 - seem to be a lot around, but would need to find one that has had the required tlc (ie, not used for short journeys). Local dealer has a terrible reputation.

Subaru Impreza - good reliability and nice to drive (I should imagine) but not that 'special' unless you go down the hardcore STi route (which I don't want to do).

Volvo C30T5 - current favourite, though there seem to be very few about. HJ gave it a stonking review, but I've not heard much other feedback.

Skoda Fabia VRs - nice, but not 'special' enough.

Any comments or suggestions? I thought about an Alfa, then looked at the Alfa owners club forum and was put off by the reliability issues.


What Used Car for £16k? - smokescreen
Mazda 3 or 6 MPS?
What Used Car for £16k? - Saltrampen
Used Honda S2000? (Is it a convertible?, never seen one with the lid off)
(RX8 - don t forget it needs to be topped with oil every time you refuel)
What about a Lexus? Don't think they are that big...

What Used Car for £16k? - movilogo
Hyundai Coupe [you should still have good amount of cash in your pocket after that]

Or buy 2 cars at £8k each :)

Used Mazda RX8 could be picked up from £9k.

Mazda 323 is one of the most reliable cars on the planet.

Edited by movilogo on 21/04/2008 at 16:48

What Used Car for £16k? - welshlad
why no convertibles i though that would be standard for a mid-life crisis
What Used Car for £16k? - Optimist
My twopennorth.

Subarus always look a bit too lairy to me and the Hyundais have blue lit instruments which, stupidly or not, puts me off.

Wouldn't you get a fairly decent Merc or Jag for that money?

What Used Car for £16k? - Roger Jones
I would spend a lot of time and care seeking out an MB W124 Coupe (up to 1996) with moderate (but not short-trippy) mileage and a six-cylinder engine. It would be hard to spend more than half of your budget, the rest of which you could then tuck away for the reasonable running costs that would arise (interest on £8000 would cover most of them). It meets your first three points in style. Given that "small" cars keep on getting larger (e.g. today's Polo is larger than yesterday's Golf), it might fit your garage fine, being of a width similar to the "smaller" of today's models.

There are enough around for a real good 'un to be out there, and there are plenty of regular shopping places (MB Enthusiast magazine, MB Club Gazette, etc.) where careful owners advertise. Stay away from dealers as vendors and servicing points; tap into the many good independent specialists for servicing. Ownership isn't half as costly as many imagine (including insurance); MB parts prices are surprisingly reasonable, and there's always Euro Car Parts and GSF. Some are saying that Coupe prices are bottoming out now; its convertible sibling commands a hefty premium as what now appears to be an established classic.

But I'm hardly impartial, having done that eight years ago (my second Coupe), and there's no prospect of my parting with it; it still feels nearly new. And I'm glad to have a really classy car that pre-dates the proliferation of electronics and other complications that characterize new cars these days; it also pre-dates the sharp decline in MB quality between 1997 and 2003. If you warm to my suggestion, I can give you a ton of further information.
What Used Car for £16k? - Mapmaker
Roger. Sane words. But OP is desperate to blast every last penny of cash he has.

I'd suggest an early ('97) Audi A6, V8 quattro for well under £1,000 and the rest to be spent on petrol...
What Used Car for £16k? - ForumNeedsModerating
I'd suggest an early ('97) Audi A6, V8 quattro for well under £1,000 and the rest to be spent on petrol...

I'd suggest that if the OP's mid-life crisis wasn't quite upon him, that choice would soon bring it on ;)

Why not a 'boring' MkV Golf GTI? All the fun, reasonable size (as per OP criterion), a bit special - (esp. with leather, DSG, xenons added etc.) - and practical to boot!

What Used Car for £16k? - nick
Would a Legacy Spec B fit your garage? Or an Impreza WRX with a prodrive pack? I can recommend Monty's of Sheffield, the Subaru main dealer.
Don't test either unless you can afford to insure and fuel them because it's likely you'll be hooked. :-)

Edited by nick on 21/04/2008 at 19:30

What Used Car for £16k? - Billy Whizz
Pete, in your situation, the first car I would look at would be a Porsche 911. I believe you could get a nice 1990 one for 16k.

My mother once bought a 12-year old 911 and sold it 4 years later for £4k profit. It was as reliable as the new car she had preceeding it and the new car she had after it.

I saw a survey once where Porsche were the most reliable manufacturer of cars over 10 years old.

What Used Car for £16k? - jaffa
How about a 406 Coupe V6 with the uprated 210bhp engine, Beauty, comfort, and power all in one package. Under 6k will get a good example.
You will need the change to fix all the electric problems as they arise.
What Used Car for £16k? - Avant
I'd suggest you should think about two distinct options:

Either go for something nearly new - I agree with the suggestion of the Golf V GTI (your nom de plume would suit it!), or if that isn't special enough, an Audi A3, Skoda Octavia vRS or SEAT Leon / Altea with the same engine....

...or go the Roger Jones route and get something older but becoming a modern classic. Roger's Mercedes is a fine example, although it may be too big for a garage that won't take a 350Z. Audi TT, perhaps? Or something from the BMW stable.
What Used Car for £16k? - Roger Jones
W124 body width (excluding mirrors) 1740mm.
What Used Car for £16k? - Mapmaker
W124 body width (excluding mirrors) 1740mm.

Roger doesn't bother putting the mirrors in the garage. Actually, he has no use for anything he can see behind him...

What Used Car for £16k? - Roger Jones
Ho, ho, ho.

And the tricky bit is that the RH mirror is 50% (?) wider than the LH mirror.
What Used Car for £16k? - pete&hisgolf
Thanks for all the really useful suggestions - loads of cars I hadn't considered. I agree that the choice is between something relatively new (RX8, Volvo C30 etc) or something older-and-interesting for half the price. The midlife crisis theme suggests an unblemished young model but I'm intrigued by the idea of a W124 coupe. Must admit I can't quite imagine myself in a Merc (never driven one), partly because I like a manual gearbox and I'm assuming these are autos, but also because I have, a totally unfounded, prejudice that it might be a bit of a barge. Is the handling really good?

I'd love a 911 but I suspect I'd blow all my budget just to purchase an oldish one and then have nothing left for the inevitably expensive bills.

Thanks again for all the suggestions.

What Used Car for £16k? - Jono_99
I was in a similar position to you a couple of years ago - opportunity to change car, and wanted "something different". My budget was a bit less, about £12k. Considered a 911 for a bit, but was put off more by the likely age of a car in that budget, rather than reliability.

Ended up with a Porsche 968 - fantastic car, 12 years old, but built (like a Merc of that era) by engineers before the accountants got hold of the company). It was great - handling fabulous, but safe (let go progressively, rather than in a big snap, like a 911 might), reliable, comfortable on long runs (though AC is rare), and sufficiently practical for my needs - could get a worthwhile amount of stuff in the back, and 2 kids in the rear.

Got rid, as I was doing more and more motorway miles, and seemed like a waste. Replaced with a E46 330D, which is less fun, but just as impressive.

Enjoy the problem....

What Used Car for £16k? - augustman
How about using the 323 for couple more years,by which time,hopefully,you could get the latest model C class mercedes.I would advise c220 cdi auto.Once you drve the latest autos, you will not want to go back to a manual.In any case,avoid sports suspension in any car you buy.Always have a long test drive of any car you choose.I used to drive mostly Mazda 626s, and now cannot find any car on the market to match the reliabiliy.Good luck with your quest.
What Used Car for £16k? - Roger Jones

The handling of the standard W124 is anything but barge-like; it is said by some to be the best chassis ever built.

If you are that concerned, what you should do is look out for a Coupe with Sportlline suspension (plenty out there). I have the first generation of Sportline on my W124 twin turbo saloon, and it runs on rails, if somewhat harshly. On my Coupe it is the second-generation variant, which is still noticeably stiff but far more forgiving and perfectly comfortable (apparently, MB redeveloped it in response to customer complaints about the first generation, which couldn't have lasted more than a couple of years around 1990). It's stiff enough to surprise passengers who, like you, think that MBs are all wallowing barges, but it's not harsh.

You'll be lucky to find a manual transmission.

For me, the Sportline Coupe is the perfect combination of performance, handling, practicality (four seats, large boot) and comfort. Sportier cars are not very practical (friend with new Porsche couldn't take in on holiday for want of luggage space) and distinctly less comfortable. I'm not that far from retirement age, so I suppose that comfort comes to the fore, but I can't say my views and values have changed for the best part of 20 years.

If you want more information, e-mail via the mods (not something I suggest lightly, but they have been happy to forward the occasional message in the past). I have a ton of stuff to share.

Edited by Roger Jones on 23/04/2008 at 11:49

What Used Car for £16k? - madf
I drove a Mercedes 260E for two years. As Roger says a lovely drive. It was auto and the engine was very smooth .. 4 speed auto iirc and it went fast. Barge like? Nope. You can drive like a hooligan in one altho' it looks odd:-)

Edited by madf on 23/04/2008 at 11:49

What Used Car for £16k? - Bagpuss
I have a 1994 W124 E320 Coupe. It handles very well (my previous car was a BMW M3), but to be honest I never feel like driving it like a sports car. It kind of encourages you to drive in a more relaxed manner and it makes a fantastic long distance cruiser (which the M3 definitely wasn't). It also has practical advantages like a very large boot and a small turning circle which is useful where I live for parking in the rather cramped underground car park.

I looked around for 6 months before buying mine as I was choosy about spec and history. The Coupes are not quite as hardwearing as the saloons, with the laminated rear screen, the pneumatic seat tilting mechanism and the seat belt delivery system being areas that do expensively wear out. I really like mine though, it has a feeling of invincibility as well as that lovely straight six engine that Mercedes sadly ditched in favour of the V6 in the W210.

It's worthwhile looking for one with the 5 speed automatic transmission as it makes a big difference to fuel consumption. Also note that paint finish on the 94 - 96 models is not as good as earlier ones as Mercedes switched to water based paint for model year 1994.
What Used Car for £16k? - Roger Jones
Further to the well informed comments from Bagpuss:

* The rear screen does delaminate at the edge, a problem shared by large coupes. I'm choosing to live with it, as it hasn't spread for years. I saw somewhere that there is a product/company that can disguise it very discreetly.

* Mine's 12 years old and the seat-belt presenters are fine.

* When I changed an M-reg for the present P-reg, I noticed the difference in paintwork, but thought it was attributable to better polish. Haven't had any problems, though, after the selling main dealer fixed corrosion on the edge of the bootlid before I took delivery (it was four years old then).

* I've had no problems with the five-speed box, but there are those who prefer the four speed for its relative simplicity (there's an electronic part of the five speed). I get 27 mpg as a long-term average, with mixed use and generally gentle driving.

* It is a great cruiser, but Sportline does let you treat it like a sports car if you are so inclined.
What Used Car for £16k? - pete&hisgolf

Thank you very much for your offer to email you for more information on the W124 - it's much appreciated.

I really like the idea of a 968. I think it's time to find some W124s and 968s at dealers, have a sit in them, go for a test drive and see which feels right.

What Used Car for £16k? - tintin01
Had you thought of a Saab 9-5 Aero? Great value used, all the toys, not too flash. You would get a 2003/4 one for around £6k. May be too big for the garge though - but it will look so nice you'll want to leave it out for the neighbours to see.
What Used Car for £16k? - Group B
Have you checked the dimensions of a Nissan 350z Pete; is it the length or width of the garage that is the problem?

They always look quite small to me when I see them on the road, 4" longer and 4" wider than your Mazda 323. A Mazda RX8 is 4" longer than a 350z but it is a little narrower. This site has dimensions: www.carfolio.com/specifications/

Was going to suggest a TVR Chimaera but you specify the need for reliability and dont want a convertible..

What Used Car for £16k? - steve
you can also buy a good merc w124 e320 convertible for less than 16k and that will be a depreciation buster.
you should try one - they drive superbly; definitely NOT a barge.
What Used Car for £16k? - Mapmaker
>>and that will be a depreciation buster

You mean depreciation will be high? For luxury cars with a good life, Mercs rapidly sink to being worth only a few hundred.

What about a MK ii Jaguar. Within your budget, VED-free and depreciation will be low.
What Used Car for £16k? - Roger Jones

There's a potential cracker of an W124 E36 AMG on eBay. If I weren't already satisfied with my mini-fleet, I'd be taking a very close look:


That would see off a good many cars with more obvious sporting pretensions. I wouldn't be surprised to see it approach £10k. The vendor quotes a previous one that went for £9k. This one has 72k on the clock, which is the sort of mileage I had in mind in my first post.

On the Cabriolet front, the stability and buoyancy of their prices over the past five years confirm that they have depreciated little if at all.
What Used Car for £16k? - pete&hisgolf
Thanks again for all the helpful suggestions.

The issue with the garage is the width of the doorway. I can squeeze my 323 in, but it's a bit tricky. Part of the reason for wanting to garage it is to avoid it being nicked. I'm assuming that 'older' cars are less likely to be pinched, though I seem to recall stories of older Mercs being stolen then shipped off to Africa.

Mark 2 Jag sounds very appealing, but I'd be using the car for business and need something very reliable.

The Ebay E36 AMG looks a cracker, but as a complete novice car buyer I think I'm going to have to go down the dealer route, or at least do a lot more research on how to check out a used car before taking the plunge on something like a W124 or a 968.



Edited by Pugugly on 26/04/2008 at 09:38

What Used Car for £16k? - Roger Jones
Whatever car you go for, you need an inspection by an independent specialist with experience with the marque. My technical knowledge is extremely limited and and I buy/sell very infrequently, but I see as much risk in purchasing from a dealer as from a private vendor, and don't imagine that a warranty company is going to come to your rescue unless it can't be avoided. A tidy array of mani-dealer stamps in the service book may comfort many, but I don't trust them. I would even go so far as to suggest that any faith in dealers is misplaced; I suggested to someone on another thread that they should get an inspection on a car at a dealers, and no sensible dealer would deny you the opportunity. The last car I bought from a dealers had all tyres 10 psi under pressure -- enough said? It's not that difficult to find a specialist and the job is unlikely to cost more than £200. I'd use one if I were going for even a very basic car.
What Used Car for £16k? - pete&hisgolf
Thanks Roger. Presumably I'll unearth some MB/Porsche specialists via the owners forums? Do you know of anyone you would recommend for the W124? I'm based in Sheffield.

What Used Car for £16k? - GroovyMucker
>>I'm assuming that 'older' cars are less likely to be pinched ...

they're easier to steal, certainly.
What Used Car for £16k? - Grahamy
If you are looking for good handling, performance and reliability then go for the Focus ST.
Some people complain the suspension is a bit soft, but Volvo's version the C30 is even softer.
I love it. Not missed a beat in 11K miles and does turn heads.
It will blow your socks off.
Fuel consumption is a bit of a bugbear, but it is a 2.5, 5 pot turbo.
What Used Car for £16k? - Pugugly
But you do get decent soundtrack - far nicer than the Golf's !
What Used Car for £16k? - Roger Jones

Try searching:




If you find nothing helpful, sign up to one or more of them and I'd be surprised if you didn't get a helpful response with local knowledge.

One easy half-day trip you could make is to Cheshire Classic Benz near Macclesfield:


My online exchanges with one of their managers suggests that they would be helpful. Actually, they are probably one of the better specialist dealers, dare I say.
What Used Car for £16k? - pete&hisgolf

Thank you once again! I like the look of the Cheshire Classic Benz website, and Macclesfield is an easy journey for me. I'll get in touch with them and arrange some viewings.

You mentioned that you had extensive knowledge of the W124 Coupe. Is there anything in particular I should bear in mind when choosing a particular car? I'm not thinking of technical stuff - as you say, I shall need an independent expert inspection. I'm thinking more along the lines of what year? what specific model? engine size? which automatic gearbox etc. Stuff like colour and upholstery I can choose for myself!


What Used Car for £16k? - mare
Subaru Impreza - good reliability and nice to drive (I should imagine) but not that
'special' unless you go down the hardcore STi route (which I don't want to do).

I have a '55 Impreza WRX wagon and it's a hoot. Pricey to run after a 323 though, insurance is £850 per year, and you're lucky to get 250 miles to a tank, say mid 20's mpg. Mine does have turbo lag, and you need to keep the revs up, but once you're there you fly. Took me three month to get used to the acceleration.

That said, the drive to work is much more interesting. Very fast, very grippy, and a reasonable boot and four doors. Should fit in your garage easily. I love it.

Edit - given your budget, I bought mine for £11k last October from a car supermarket (it's ex lease) with 50,000 miles on the clock. At the time add £3k for same car from local Subaru dealer.

Edited by mare on 27/04/2008 at 12:25

What Used Car for £16k? - Roger Jones

Easy one first: go for the six-cylinder engine, whether it be the 3 litre M103 or the later 3.2 litre M104. I have both: the latter is perceptibly smoother and more torquey -- lots of smooth grunt lower down the rev range. There is also the 2.8, which is an M104 too, but only in the last variant (1994-96) but I don't think that it was available on the Coupe. All have a top speed more than twice the UK limit. The smaller engines would disappoint you, I'm sure, unless sedate cruising is your preference. My overall MPG with the 3.2 is 27+.

Next, I would always get the latest version, hence my early change from a 1994 (4-speed box) to an early 1996 (5-speed box) and one of the last ones to be built. However, there are those who favour the 4-speed over the 5-speed because of the former's relative simplicity and robustness (it's all mechanical; the 5-speed has a bit of electronics). That said, the 5-speed is more economical, and I've had no problems in 7.5 years of use.

Overall though, it is condition that matters most. Note that MB switched to water-based paint in August 1995.

I imagine you have checked out HJ's Car-by-Car Breakdown. Rather than bore others with lots of further info, send me an e-mail via one of the mods, so we can have direct contact.
What Used Car for £16k? - TurboD
Stick with your car, but get a decent motorbike. That is the real way to have fun for a reasonable sum of money. After all, the cars that people have been discussing here are a liability, most of the time, but a nice Fireblade will tuck into a corner of your gargae and come out when you get the 'crisis' come on. A couple of blasts to 150mph will get you over a crisis, believe me.


Value my car