The realities of cheap living

When it comes to motoring, I do like to do it as cheaply as possible. Partly, that’s because I don’t have a lot of money, so don’t have any choice, but on the other hand, I’ve always tended to run cheap motors, even back in the days when I had a healthy IT-based income.

Not that I always get it right. The problem with cheap cars is that there are a lot of dogs out there! After all, most cars are cheap for a reason. Some of that reason is sheer snobbishness – the market for older cars is that much less because people would rather be seen in something newer – but it’s also inevitable that cars that are getting on a bit might well be past their best.


My Daihatsu Sirion was not good bangernomics. Poor thing.

Thing is, these days, a 20-year old car that is past its best may still have lots of life in it! Which brings us neatly to the Seabrook Bangernomics Principle. Pure Bangernomics involves buying a cheap car, and just throwing it away and getting another cheap car when the first one expires. I’m not a fan of this for two reasons. FIrstly, I can’t bring myself to throw away cars. Secondly, I much prefer to look after cars, even if they didn’t cost much to buy. Primarily, that’s because I have too much mechanical empathy, so I can’t drive cars that I know have mechanical issues. But it’s also down to safety. I want good tyres. I want to know that the braking system is working exactly as it should.

My Daihatsu Sirion was a case in point. I bought it cheap, had lots of fun in it but also spent quite a bit on it. I replaced the exhaust system and fitted new brake caliper slider pins. A few months later, I finally gave up the battle against it’s terminal rot and sold it to someone so they could scrap it. I couldn’t bring myself to do it! The money I spent on that car was a complete waste. There’s no point chucking money at a car that’s clearly an End Of Live Vehicle.

I was therefore a bit more cagey when checking out my Citroen XM. I paid £375 for it, but I decided it was a good basis, so probably spent another £300-400 over the next few months on making it better. It had some welding done and a few mechanical bits and bobs. It even had a fresh coat of underseal. Earlier this year, I threw another couple of hundred at it to have the timing belt changed. I’m now seven months and over 6000 miles down the road from when I bought it, and I reckon it still owes me around £1000 in total. That’s cheap motoring.

Not as cheap as the little Perodua Nippa granted. I paid just £300 for that, at 24,000 miles, and have probably spent less than £50 on it since – ok, maybe £100 if you consider the cost of an MOT and having a steering rack gaiter replaced. It has now happily covered over 1000 miles since purchase.

The XM is a relative no-brainer. If I can keep on top of corrosion (and it has very little for what is a twenty year old car), then it’ll only appreciate in value. I bought when XM values were as low as they were ever going to get, and they’ve already risen a fair bit. That’s the real trick. If you can buy and maintain a car that’s going to go up in value, you may end up with a car that effectively pays for itself! You can’t get cheaper than a car that generates its own profit. The XM is some way from doing that, especially as I anticipate spending another £500 on it before the year is out. However, if I can get to one year of ownership having spent £1500 in total (excluding fuel, tax and insurance) then I think I can consider I’m doing pretty well. Especially as this is a car that does 45mpg, is hugely comfortable and has fancy computer-controlled suspension. Economy needn’t be miserable – it’s huge fun to drive. It must be, or it would never have lasted this long on the fleet.

XM pauses during its busy two months

The XM has, so far, been a real Bangernomics success story.

It’s a shame that 2CVs no longer represent cheap motoring. Bodywork aside, they probably could do – I’m just finding that bodywork is a service item that needs renewing every 100,000 miles!

One thought on “The realities of cheap living

  1. Our philosophies on cheap motoring are identical, I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to scrapping something either!

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