Is this Britain’s cheapest car?

Published 24 March 2017

Feast your eyes, for a second, on this beauty. A fine piece of British automotive engineering, the car in question is a 2000 Rover 45 1.4iE, a base model, with keep-fit windows, a 1.4-litre engine, plastic wheel trims and no air conditioning. 

A desirable second hand car it isn’t. But what if we told you we’d bought it, fully road legal and MoT’d, for less than the price of a motorway service station coffee? At the princely sum of £3.19, we purchased a perfectly functional car for less than the cost of a tube ticket or most bus journeys.

And apart from the fact it’s an old Rover with a cheapskate specification (and, if you’re on a budget, this isn’t always a bad thing, as it means less to go wrong), there’s hardly anything wrong with it. Indeed, it drives surprisingly well.

Imagine my surprise, then, on waking up on Christmas Eve to find that I’d accidentally bought myself a present.

It came about when idly browsing eBay a couple of days before Christmas. The Rover was listed as spares or repair, with poor photos and precious little detail. A quick online check revealed that X735 GAJ had a valid MoT through until August the following year, passed with no advisories. Surely, then, it couldn’t be that bad?

Ebay 319

By sending the seller a message, I was able to ascertain that the car had been running fine when parked up, but hadn’t turned a wheel in two months as the owner had bought something newer and more luxurious.

The Rover was parked up behind his flat, out of tax and uninsured, and therefore had to go before the landlord got aggrieved by its presence. He couldn’t start it as the battery was flat, and he had no means of getting it up and running...

With 12 hours left to go, the car was at just 99p with one bid and no reserve. So on the basis that it would be perfect for parts for my other Rovers (if nothing else), I cheekily jumped in with a maximum bid of £10.01. For this, I wasn’t expecting to win even a scrap car, but, in for a penny...

Imagine my surprise, then, on waking up on Christmas Eve to find that I’d accidentally bought myself a present. My counterbid had raised the Rover’s value to £3.19 but beyond that there had been no more interest.

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Expecting to pick up a heap of scrap, when I went to collect the car after the festivities had finished, I was pleasantly surprised. Having sold the car for so little, the owner had simply filled out the V5 online and left the key in the glovebox while he went to work, leaving me (and my long suffering other half) to collect it from a village 40 miles away from home.

A quick jump start from the family Discovery and some air in a couple of soggy looking tyres soon had it up and running again. And the deal was made even sweeter on the realisation that there was enough petrol in the tank to get it home – well over £3.19’s worth, indeed. Result...

The downsides? Well, it was filthy and for the first few miles of driving it, I did think it was destined to be a breaker - although it ran well, the heater was refusing to generate any warm air.  

Given the K-Series engine’s reputation for head gasket failure, my automatic mindset was to think the worst. It was also somewhat frustrating, as on a damp and cold day, the only way to see out of the blinking thing was to keep wiping the windscreen clear and drive with the window open.

Then, just as we joined the M11, the Rover decided it wanted a stab at redemption and as we accelerated down the slip road  a gurgling noise kicked in from beneath the dashboard, followed by instant hot air. An airlock or a block in heater matrix, which cured itself as the car’s soul realised it wasn’t destined for the scrap heap after all, and its time on earth wasn’t through...

319 Side Left

Two months on and there’s still plenty of life in the old dog. It has covered a shade over 77,000 miles, backed up by MoT history, it starts, stops and steers as it should and I’ve swapped one of the wheels over with the spare from one of my other cars, as it was borderline legal.

Other than that, all it has needed is petrol. It’s presentable, too, now I’ve hacked all the moss out of the window channels, cleaned off the leaves and given the interior a thorough scrubbing. Indeed, it almost passes for presentable.

So, what now for the 45? Well, at the moment, it’s serving a very noble purpose as occasional station transport, as well as being a dutiful second car for running errands locally. It’s perfectly pleasant to drive, in a simple sense and is surprisingly comfortable.

Indeed, we’ve bonded and having rescued it from an almost certain death, my inner miser wants to eke as long a life out of it as I possibly can. So it’s staying indefinitely. Indeed, I’m that bloody minded that I may keep it going until it’s a classic.

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But why so cheap? Well, there are a number of factors at play. First up, people often don’t want to bother with selling cheap cars. The hassle of advertising, staying home and waiting for people to come round and kick the tyres can be a massive frustration.

As, indeed, can selling the car via eBay or similar, where there’s no guarantee that a buyer will turn up. If it’s only worth £200 to £300 - and even in this kind of condition - it’s just not worth the hassle.

Scrap is currently at an all-time low value globally, to the extent that breakers’ yards aren’t actually paying for scrap. And in some cases are charging to take it away. For cars like Rovers, 12 years defunct, there’s very little brand desirability.

A Rover 45 today is what a Lada was 15 years ago, but with even less desirability. Ironic, really, because the 45 really isn’t a bad old thing to drive. It’s not great, far from it, but as a comfortable and dependable banger to get you from A to B, there’s not much wrong with it. Especially not for £3.19...

Comments

Adrian wagstaff    on 25 February 2017

Great article but I would add that relative to its peers, they are great to drive. You don't get IRS on a new Astra or Megane but you do on these thanks to Honda. The sophisticated suspension gives great ride and handling and they rarely rust much. My 400 is 18 years old, has no rot and rides amazingly well. Very underrated cars, even if the door trim and headlining go all baggy!

jm1    on 25 February 2017

"You see dear wife, there is a bigger cheapskate out there than me"
...Use it for a year then sell it for a profit

Falkirk Bairn    on 25 February 2017

I bought the "same car" but with a Honda badge & engine for £10K brand new but "old model" in 2000. It was great & sold at 100K miles with no repair bills apart from servicing, tyres, brake pads in the 5+ years of ownership.

My DiL had the Rover sister car to the one featured - bought NEW in 2000 it was horrendous, poor reliability - engines, electrics, brakes, heater............ a money pit.

glidermania    on 26 February 2017

Massive gamble buying the car without inspection. Worked out well but it is not an advisable strategy.

Daniel Joseph    on 26 February 2017

£10.01 a massive gamble?

wishi'dbeenamechanic    on 27 February 2017

£10.01 a massive gamble?

Yes, that's right because once your name is down as registered owner ( plus your address ) the local council will come to you for towing and scrapping costs when it won't start for you ( maybe £300) or worse if someone sets fire to it meanwhile. £3.19 starts your liability not ends it !

DrTeeth    on 2 January 2018

I assume that the buyer does not live in an area where cheap, but functional cars, get torched!

taff664    on 27 February 2017

Well impressed, if it had beened a total wreck then who cares when it only cost pennies.

JH72    on 27 February 2017

Good for you and I'm delighted you're going to keep it.

   on 27 February 2017

I always love a bargain and this will be very difficult to beat!
Well done.

Tony Franklin    on 27 February 2017

Last car I bought for less than a tenner was in the very early '60s, My first car, a sit up-and-beg Ford Prefect. Used to cram 5 or 6 of us into it on Saturday nights out to the dance on Hastings pier. Cold, draughty, slow but never let us down and much better than being on our motorbikes that winter...Ah, memories!

Malcolm Henderson    on 27 February 2017

I'm a big believer in the under £500 car.
They're often simple, without all that dreaded software to go wrong. It goes wrong in nice warm offices, let alone in a car where it gets hot, cold & damp.
All a con to sell us the latest toy, when that ECU goes, ther car is scrap
It all started with electric windows, motor goes, £200 for a new one-or Breakeryard.com for £50? Windy windows, cable snaps, a few pounds
You don't need a spanner now, just a laptop for new cars
Anyway, in last two months, bought:

i) Toyota Yaris, X reg, 1 litre for youngest daughter, £420. No cambelt to consider & long MOT. Simply needde a good clean (bought in deepest Somerset), new wiper blades & oil top up. She hasn't had it yet (at Uni) and I enjoy driving it on my 46 mile round trip to work in Bristol. Great car

ii) Doing up our old house, so needed an estate. 05 plate Mitsubishi Lancer for £380. Needed a few paint touch ups, and two tyres (tyres on the drive.com-cheaper than a tyre shop, and they come to you). Cross member needs treating for rust. But, years MOT, and cambelt changed 6,000 miles ago

Top tip,if buying cheap, buy Japanese -reliable etc and I can't understand why the VW group has that quality image. If there's a cambelt, check when it was done, check no sludge around oil cap, check everything works, including the radio, tyre tread depth, and get down on your hands and knees and check exhaust condition and sills for rust. Oh, and if its got lots of receipts for work, great. (I don't know why people don't keep these or 'lose' them. MOT length & any advisories worth checking on DVLA website-you just need the reg & make

And, negligible depreciation, you might even, eventually, get more than you paid when you sell

Martin Freye    on 27 February 2017

I bought a 1932 Morris 8 for £4 in 1955. It took us to Brighton and the roof stripped away on the way back covering us with white kapok, we looked like snowmen. Happy days

Howard Buchanan    on 27 February 2017

Bought a Wolseley 1500 for £8 in1968 from the friend of a girlfriend, who was in tears as it had failed its MOT. A pack of David's Isopon, chicken wire, screwed-up newspaper and a can of Dupli-Color soon sorted the hand-sized holes over the headlights and saw it sail through the test next day. Ran it for a year before sale to a scrapper for £35.

The memory of that first car, with its character, leather, walnut and chrome led me, 16 years later, to start a classic car trimming business which I ran for 22 years. I'll never forget 7563 DT: keeping her on the road, against all the odds, taught me so much. Her salvaged white peak number plate is now on the garage wall next to a rare and exotic 1930s drophead.

Michael Porter    on 27 February 2017

After you with the teabag, mate.

David Nichols    on 28 February 2017

It's nice to hear these recollections of happy days with "simple" cars from another age. Back in 1962 I bought a vintage Lagonda open tourer for, if I recollect, £120. The fellow wanted the money to get married. I did a bit of work on it, but my landlord was not happy with me having two cars parked outside. It was a heavy car with poor
brakes (all drum, in those times) so I advertised it in a motor sport
magazine. It was a great fun car with preselector gearbox and I was
sorry to see it go for £180. Today, it would have a value in the five
or even six digit range. Hey-ho.

Howard Buchanan    on 28 February 2017

Ho! ho!, Mr. Porter. In reality, the 8 quid for the Wolseley, plus 30 bob for the filler and paint, virtually cleared me out for the next 2 weeks until payday. No easy credit in the late 60s! Living on packs of Brain's faggots and powdered soup till the end of the month was not something I'd choose to repeat, but the great little car was worth it.

Paul Milsom    on 28 February 2017

cheapest car I ever bought, In Canada, for 1 penny, was a renault 5TS was going to be given it, but the indian owner said "I cannot GIVE it away, money must change hands" all I had was a penny in the ashtray, and so that's what i got it for.. 2 receipts in longhand as well .. never used it, sold it for 50 bucks.

Aaron Short    on 4 March 2017

Funnily enough I bought a Rover 45 a few months ago for £100. 53 plate impression s with 68k on the clock. Changed the cam belt, MOTd it with no issues and did about 4k faultless miles in it. Very comfortable cars with a decent peppy engine. Then I sold it for £400 and bought a £240 Rover 75...

Edited by Aaron Short on 04/03/2017 at 23:53

William Bear    on 9 March 2017

What a lovely story! I parted with a very pretty Rover '25' because it was
about to need too much money spending in it, in relation to it's market value.

I think that you've already got a sort of 'classic' and I wish you all the best for
a continuing, long and happy relationship with your '45'.

expertad    on 1 January 2018

It really is amazing how much people pay for a car.On visiting my local BMW dealer to look at a new 5 series the salesman offered me a scant £2000 trade in for my 2003 530i,, a car faster,better made,more stylish,better engineered and way better to drive than the £50000 one he was trying to sell me.The 'gesture control' thinghy he could not get to work,the ride was abysmal unless I paid extra for the damper control thing,and the 'check engine' light announced itself at the end of the test drive.I bought an old 214Si Rover a few years ago for £300 for the kids to learn in...still going strong and surprisingly good to drive

barrie crowther    on 15 April 2018

I remember buying an old Vauxhall Velux in 1962 in Cape Town. I was 21 and had just emigrated to S.A. I paid the dealer a Cape coloured ( mixed race) 40 Rand (£20) down payment. His car plot was at the bottom of the hill. The Groot Schure
hospital of the first heart transplant fame was at the top. On maneuvering the car I stove in the near side wing on a lamp post. In England I had been used to driving as personal transport a J Type Morris van, this had the engine in the cab so no bonnet hence the accident. To my shame I told the dealer I no longer wanted the car and told him where it was parked. He just said right'o in his thick Afrikaans accent.

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