/ Motoring

Bought a banger? You’re not alone – and we can help

This car's a lemon

Car-buying regret? Yes, I’ve had a few. In fact, I’m probably into double figures, not helped by my soft spot for the sporty variety which can be costly in bills. So what are your top car-buying regrets?

More than a third of the 1,300 people we surveyed regretted buying a particular car, citing reasons from rust to rear-seat space. Of those, a further three in 10 said their car was faulty, nearly one in five found it cost more to run than they expected and around one in 10 wished they had done more research beforehand.

As a car fan (some might say ‘geek’), I’ve always done my research first. But that hasn’t stopped me buying various unreliable sports cars that feel like they cost me more each month than a decent mortgage.

Interestingly, the fourth most common regret concerned depreciation (reduction in value due to increasing age and mileage). This is usually the biggest car running cost if you buy new – and one many people forget about. Luckily, I’ve usually avoided it by buying cars over 10-years-old. Like their owner at times, they have little or nothing left to lose.

Try before you buy

I’m surprised to see that 6% of people in our survey  either didn’t even test-drive the car before they bought it. I once had my heart set on a particular VW Golf GTI 16v before it expired in a cloud of steam during the test-drive. Oh, and did I mention that we were on the M23 in rush hour at the time? Needless to say, the owner, who was sitting in the passenger seat, was very apologetic.

Now I actually have a mortgage, so the sporty car needs to go. The time has come to buy something sensible. Any suggestions? I need space for a small baby and a petite girlfriend.

Naturally, I will read reviews on the Which? Car website (goes without saying, right?) but I’d love some advice from you, too.  What have you learnt from buying a banger or splashing out on an impractical car?

What's your biggest car-buying regret?

I have no car-buying regrets (36%, 82 Votes)

I've never bought a car (21%, 49 Votes)

The car cost more to run than I expected (11%, 25 Votes)

I didn't haggle on the price (11%, 25 Votes)

I lost money because of depreciation (6%, 13 Votes)

The car was faulty (5%, 11 Votes)

I didn't do enough research about the car (5%, 11 Votes)

I didn't trust my gut instinct (3%, 7 Votes)

I didn't check the car for mechanical problems (3%, 6 Votes)

I didn't check the car's service history (0%, 1 Votes)

I didn't take the car for a test drive (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 233

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I always regretted that my Aston Martin DB3 was so expensive to Insure that I sold it – and was nowhere as sporty as my friend’s Orange Lamborghini Myura(sp?) S now that was really a car!! – Otherwise my Mazda 323 was a rust bucket. All the rest of my cars were good value for money.

There are those who motor on a shoestring and enjoy the challenge. On the plus side, there are the unpopular models; the high mileage rep cars; the one owner from new ancients and those Volvos, built like tanks, that go for a song at auction or in the paper. If chosen wisely, they give (almost) depreciation free motoring for a couple of years before it’s time to move on and splash a grand on something else. If something breaks, that doesn’t compromise the car’s safety, it isn’t fixed -duck tape is a good sun roof sealant.
The down sides are many too. Most are quite thirsty. A smoky diesel is antisocial; crash resistance is much poorer; upholstery is likely to be worn and, of course, one can probably forget things like working air con, good audio and unblemished paintwork.

I would suggest that the banger risks are too great for family use, (principally safety, break downs,) but some of my relatives have driven ancient Polos, Micras, Citroens and said Volvos for years. Hearing one of those start in the morning is an entertainment in itself. I too have fond memories of my Morris Minor, bought for £5 from a farm that had kept chickens in it….but that was many moons ago.

Regrets, most recent purchase of a 2003 Toyota 1.8 Avensis VVTI, didn’t ask about oil consumption and have discovered it likes a litre every 600 miles. Superb car though, drives well, does over 40 mpg and everything works at 120,000 miles. This was the seventh Toyota and the only one to have a problem. Ask the questions or regret it.
You need to do the sums of fuel consumption against the depreciation. That was the item missing from the WHICH comparison of diesel and petrol car costs. Why buy anything with less than 75,000 miles? If it is over that at least someone has driven it and exposed any early problems.
Wife, Baby, safety – probably back to the Golf or a Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Mondeo. For some you’ll need to find 3 or 4 £000s, but not fussed about fashion? There are some excellent cars in surprisingly good condition for a few hundred. But know what you mean by a banger with a family and buy the breakdown cover recommended in WHICH. Lots of cars are out there for under £1,000 which are perfectly good to do another 25,000 miles or more. Read the old WHICH reports, work out where you drive, town, country, motorway, to work out the fuel consumption. Our 3 litre Omega Elite only used 15% more fuel to cruise on the motorway than our Micra and guess which did it in more comfort? Around town it used twice the fuel. Heed the reliability notes in the WHICH car surveys. Check the insurance group, you may find that having a 1.8 rather than 2.0 litre saves you good money. Or a 1.4 rather than a 1.6.
I’ve always wondered why people spend out on a new car without seeing if they can rent one for a day or weekend first. Invest £100, save yourself wasting thousands.
Another advantage of old and cheap? It’s less distressing when you get back to it and find the dents and scratches left on it by others.

mike grant says:
21 February 2013

usually spend about £1500-£2500 and expect about 3-4 years out of my ‘bangers’. currently a nissan primera estate with 70,000 plus the 15,000 I do a year. bought for £1700, spend £500 on fixing niggles and a good service. I think I have a bargain. still does 50plus mpg on the open road. good roadside cover a must but you need that anyway. one thing I do splash out on is breakdown repair cover for any major faults, currently about £250 a year for this car. piece of mind, only used twice, in one year, a few years ago, garage bills of £1700 but I know I can afford to get it repaired. biggest problem is to replace the car when the bills start to get silly or some idiot side swipes you. lots of time and frog kissing, and you know the insurance money will never get you the same value. You maybe don’t get the latest gadgets but at least with a 6 -10 year old you don’t loose £1000’s in depreciation or can drive something you like to drive rather than a tiny city runaround.

My biggest regret is not listed! (Or to be more correct, it’s biggest regret re a car my husband bought). That is, finding just what an uncomfortable ride our VW Tiguan was with its very “firm” (euphemism for shakin’ all over) suspension. We DID take it on test drive, and I did try both back and front seats, and commented that I thought it was very bumpy, but himself wanted the car, so that was it! As he usually keeps his cars for a good 100,000 miles we’re stuck with it. I refuse to use it for long journeys and take mne for preference, whcih anyway has better fuel consumption.

never get talked into a swap with a family member – worse thing i ever did and i really shoudl have gone with my gut – i knew it was rubbish – family does silly things to your head and judgement.

Bought new 999cc Focus 125ps which drives well and is economical, but wife wanted appearance pack ( offered for free) which included privacy glass and 17 inch wheels, which altho look very nice, give the car a very harsh ride on the rough roads that have become the norm these days.

I bought the top model in the range of 2012 Honda Jazz, because I had owned the previous model for 5 years and was happy with that. But the new model adds several thousand pounds cost of useless kit. In particular, the sat-nav map screen has to be adjusted for brilliance – get it right for sunlight , and it does not automatically dim at night – then it is blindingly bright. To adjust it, is all touch screen stuff, but when finished, and suitable for night time – come the next day and it is too dark to see, but too dark to find the places to touch to bring it up bright again – you have to wait until it is night again to to be able to adjust it.
The telephone preparation system does not enable hands free operation – the salesman pointed out the microphone and the loud speaker, but you have to hold your phone in your hand to make a phone call ! And although it will recognise your phone and supposedly store your phone book, you have to transfer the entries one by one which takes forever.
Add to that, that when you shut the tailgate , you must be careful where you push otherwise you can dent the bodywork with your hand pressure .
The fuel consumption too, turns out to be a mere 2mpg better than the now 6 years old model, which is not good compared with the improvements made in so many other new cars on the market: all this in a small car costing over £19000……I wish I had kept the old Jazz or bought something different, anything different !