Rejoice! Cheap cars have returned

I love it when the price of scrap metal slumps. While it’s not good news for metal recyclers, it’s bloomin’ great news if, like me, you love a cheap motor car. Suddenly, my £300 Perodua Nippa is looking expensive.

A very, very quick look on Gumtree saw me find this rather nice looking Mondeo after just a few cars. It’s a 1999 on a V-plate, 2-litre petrol and a very practical estate. It even has a tow bar, and a two-number registration plate (just something I like, no extra value here). A quick check of the excellent new MOT History website reveals that it passed a test last October, though sill rot (area ‘weekend’ according to the advisory) was a concern. It has MOT until 8th November 2015 though, so you can still drive it home.

The MOT history states that the mileage is 105,000 – so not ridiculous. Previous failures have been for minor things like brake pipes (replaced a couple of years ago) and suspension bushes. Sounds good. The asking price? £250! I’m almost tempted to flog the XM at that…

£250 - bargain? I reckon it might be...

£250 – bargain? I reckon it might be…

If you prefer something a bit smaller, how about this Toyota Yaris? No, I don’t much like white cars either but at £325, you can always paint it with a brush. You certainly get more comfort and refinement than our little Perodua here, with an MOT until March 2016 too. No power steering, which appeals to some people (notably my wife) and the 1-litre engine should offer great economy. MOT history hints at (again) some corrosion concerns around the sills, but you’ve got almost six months to do something about that. A few patches may be all it needs.

But I reckon the car most like to tempt me today is this £400 Land Rover Freelander. They have a pretty dreadful reputation, and this one has the less desirable Rover L-Series turbo diesel. Most people prefer the BMW diesel, which can be far more expensive to repair when things go wrong. I’ll take the agricultural old lump please.

Would you be tempted by a £400 Freelander?

Would you be tempted by a £400 Freelander?

Brand new MOT, 140,000 miles. MOT mentions that clutch and gear selection is a bit hard, which is a pain as it probably means the slave cylinder is failing, or the mount for it has bent. I don’t think the slave cylinder is inside the bellhousing like it is on the BMW-engined ones – another benefit. Might be a fairly easy fix.

I do feel for the owner though, as the silly MOT tester has ballsed up entering the mileage. When it failed (on quite a big list), the mileage was stated as 147, 714 miles. When it was retested for the pass a few days later, the mileage was put in as 174, 417 miles. Sloppy, because the MOT history certainly confirms that the lower figure is correct.

Now, I would add a pretty big warning here. Freelanders are notorious for IRD (Intermediate Reducation Drive) failure. In short, this is what gives it four-wheel drive when needed – it’s usually front-wheel drive only. Folk usually fit a blanking plate and remove the rear propshaft for a cheap fix – they often claim it’s done for economy reasons! As the Freelander is two-wheel drive all of the time unless it detects wheelslip, that’s hardly going to save any fuel! I’d certainly ask whether the rear propshaft is still in place.

And that’s the thing here. Cheap cars will almost always have something wrong with them. Even my £300 Nippa needed a steering rack gaiter for the MOT. That turned it (including test) into a £380 Nippa. Still cheap, but any cheap car could be a money pit.

Still, you simply won’t get anything with a year’s MOT and a Land Rover badge for anything like that sort of money. Go on. Find yourself a bargain!

What are your thoughts? Do share them!

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