Driving, braking, honking – an ode to the budget car

Driving, braking, honking – an ode to the budget car

Looking at a car from the perspective of luxury and passion for driving, costs often know no boundaries. Image, performance, accessories, exterior, etc. consume your wallet and you can easily invest several thousands of pounds in your car. The problem is, the money has gone forever.

You’d rather not think about the devaluation of a new car. Otherwise, it would occur to you what a losing game operating a car actually is. Nevertheless, a growing number of cars at the bottom range of the value scale can be found, which are worth a second look.

Low budget – low risk

Low budget car advantagesThe big advantage of a car costing £500 or less is the low risk. New cars lose between 30 – 40 % of their value in the first year, equal to 3% every month. At a purchase price of £17.700, this means losing £530 on the car before moving it. In reality, the devaluation is progressive, i.e. it is much higher in the first years.

While searching with some expertise and common sense, you may find something worth your while in the bottom price range

A low budget car for £50 – £500, on the other hand, has almost no loss in value. Scanning the small ads within this price range you will be surprised: it is not all scrap on offer. Road-ready cars with a valid MOT status at less than £ 400 can actually be found. When inspection uncovers no serious flaws, the car is very likely to last until its first MOT deadline.

Comparing this period to the devaluation of a new car, the budget car has a clear advantage. When a new car is burning up several thousands of pounds in a few months, the cheap car simply drives along until it is no longer permitted.

Know what you’re getting yourself into

Low budget car maintenanceOne thing should be clear: a budget car requires care and expertise. Indiscriminately buying a cheap car is likely to end up as a bad investment. Therefore it is necessary to keep an open eye at purchase in order to weed out the deadwood.

But once making a purchase, be prepared to do a bit of DIY tinkering. A visit to the garage could very well turn out to be more expensive than the residual value of the car. In case of a serious defect which you are unable to repair yourself, it is better to replace the entire car.

Giving the budget car a grilling

Budget car cars are little cared for. They are no longer washed or maintained. Its last change of oil, air filter and spark plugs was several years ago. For bargain hunters these are all arguments to bring down the price – do not let the deplorable external condition scare you.

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On the contrary: if the car is no longer looking the part, this is a clear sign of an owner who can’t wait to get rid of it, opening up a bargaining opportunity of several hundreds of pounds. Don’t forget: bringing down the price an extra two hundred pounds compensates for MOT registration.

Now is the time to check it up

Principally, the car should have at least 3 – 6 months of valid MOT left. A budget car without a valid MOT is complicated and expensive. The towing truck will cost more than the car.
defective cylinder head gasketStart the check by opening the bonnet and inspecting the radiator tank. Blackwater is a sign of oil in the cooling system – a defective cylinder head gasket. Check under the oil cap. White-brownish foam is a similar indication.

For the determined, a defective cylinder head gasket can be repaired at a £ 177 – £265 expense for materials. However, be prepared to plan a weekend for this repair. On the other hand, it will allow you to bring down the price another few hundreds of pounds.

1. Does the engine run?

check the car engineA starting engine is a good sign in view of repairs which would otherwise cost a lot of money: timing belts, timing chain, starter, generator, battery all appear adequately functional.

Let the engine idle for a while. If any of the following symptoms occur:

Blue fumes coming from the exhaust / strong smoke development
– the quick rise of temperature
– ballooning radiator hose

these signify engine damage. With some expertise and experience, they can often be repaired.

2. The engine rattles without starting

The engine rattles without startingWhen this happens, at least the timing belt is ok. There could be several causes for a starting failure. If you are lucky, it’s only the cable from the ignition coil which fell off. It can be fixed with a flick of the wrist.

3. The engine plays dead

The car starter broke downLights go on, but only a click is heard upon turning the key. There can be two causes: the starter is defective or the timing belt is ruptured.

In this case, try a push start. If it blocks during the attempt, the timing belt is broken – the car is clinically dead. If a push start succeeds, with a bit of expertise you will be able to identify and repair the damage yourself.

4. Checking the clutch

Checking the clutchThe clutch is a wear component, sooner or later requiring replacement in any car. To test it, step on the clutch pedal and release it with pulled handbrake and engaged third gear.

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If the engine stalls immediately, the clutch is still ok. If it continues to run, the linings are worn. For a layman, a clutch replacement is a day’s work. Please be sure to watch all tutorials you can find.

5. Checking the bodywork

Checking the bodyworkA car without MOT approval showing corroded carrier components will not pass MOT inspection without welding. Minor to average corrosion damage on doors and wheelhouse can be DIY repaired by levelling.

6. Checking peripherals

Checking a budget car peripheralsThe onboard wiring should be functioning immaculately. Electric damage constitutes a serious risk, which is not worthwhile.

Tyres being close to their wear limit or overdue (check DOT code) are a convenient bargaining chip. A set of used tyres can be obtained easily and cheaply.

In case of fluid leakage be sure to check carefully. Some things can be easily repaired; others require extensive repair.

Courage for wallflowers, exotics and flops

Some cars are better than their reputation, whereas others are dreadful disappointments.

  • Fiat cars tend to land in the bargain segment quite soon and are therefore generally representative and easy to salvage.
  • Volkswagen cars in this price range, on the other hand, are beyond redemption.

The same applies to premium class cars.

  • Be prepared to invest heavily in order to restore the quality of a Mercedes or BMW.
  • Don’t be too eager to dismiss quirky models such as Hyundai Atos, Daihatsu Charade or Lancia Y10.

Particularly among these unpopular cars, real bargains with valid MOT and low mileage can be found, giving you an appetite for the economy.

Therefore – be brave!☺

Foto: bdavid32, Honeybee49, Andrey_Popov, Fusionstudio, CHIEW, Moab Republic, wellphoto, Alfred Koal, Patrick Daxenbichler / shutterstock.com

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