The beauty of buying used cars is that for the price of one shiny new one, you can bag a whole collection of something more interesting pre-owned engines. We have chosen our fantasy garages, from € 5k to € 25k.
Fill your garage for £5k – Fiat Panda, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate, a Mini Cooper Convertible
I think the secret at this price point is not to buy too many engines. So we’ll stick to only three, and even save a little for a breakdown of rainy day. Let’s start with a small.
The Fiat Panda is a fabulous little centre of the city in an assault vehicle, but can survive in the wild, also. It is a utility vehicle in which you can pack a lot of stuff, and its square dimensions so are. For £1000, you can pick up a 2004 Panda 1.2 Eleganza with less than 100,000 miles. Eleganzas are well-equipped, with air conditioning and alloy wheels, and the small gasoline engine should get close to 50mpg. Make sure that the cambelt has been done and check that there is no indication of a head gasket blown.
Moving toward the middle support, we’re going to have a family wagon. The thought of a people-carrier is too depressing, a Volvo V this is too obvious and some estates are just a big fat compromise. Instead, we’re going to bag a Mercedes-Benz E-Class. With a budget of £2000 you should get an example from 2003, which is late enough as to not be oxidized or flakily unreliable. A 3.2-liter E 320 CDI Avantgarde with the seven seat option you must cover all the bases. Check for rust – everywhere.
The fun factor in this little group is provided by a Mini Cooper Convertible, conclusive evidence that have now depreciated to the real world of levels. For £2000, you will get an example of a 2004 with 60,000 to 70,000 miles on the clock. The specification varies, but at this level you can find examples with the Chili Pack and, possibly, even some other add-on packages that are pretty much bonnet stripes.
Are not tired of the around you who need work, such as a brake maintenance. You should also look out for clonky electric power steering, and water leaks can cause electrical faults.
Fill your garage for £10k – Alpina B10, Volkswagen Golf V6 4Motion, Smart City Cabriolet
Five figure sum is always nice to play with when it comes to buying cars, but the best way to distribute it in as interesting a way as possible?
The more beat it in a custom, hand-built, top of the plate, adorned with the legend, I say. Yes, let’s do an Alpina B10. To the eye, may seem like an E39-generation of the BMW 5 Series with a V8 engine, but at the end of the decade of 1990 example at £6995 is the most remarkable car to own for so little. Without a doubt, this is the bottom of the value curve. These are the cars fast, yes, but they are also sophisticated, so that any potential purchase must have is an impeccable service history and a lot of pukka bills. Must be mint, also.
That leaves only a couple of grand to spend, of course. You do not want to use the B10 in the snow, so that it would be better to get another German car, this time a 4×4. Bring in a Volkswagen Golf V6 4Motion. I love the solidly-built Mk4 Golf courses and has much love for its cool blue dials. And that really does not exist in £1000, I’ve seen an example of a 2001 with a little over 100,000 km and one year MOT. You don’t want to hear any noise from the transmission, and the V6 better not smoking.
As the other two, the dream of the fleet of cars in our £10,000 garage marginal fuel economy, it is best to stock up on a frugal tiddler. In fact, we’re going to lop the roof and track in a Smart City Cabriolet. On the practicality side, a doddle to park and it consistently delivers around 60mpg in general. You can buy a decently equipped 2006 Passion example with a sub-40,000 miles for £2000. Just avoid anything with a chipped ECU and anyone with an obstructive gearbox.
Fill your garage for £15k – Honda CR-Z, the Audi A8, the Volvo C70 Convertible, Skoda Felicia
With a princely sum to splash around, it may be time for the number of cars in our dream of the fleet for a nice even four.
We’re going to start with a hybrid, and is one of the most underrated models of the last decade. Honda CR-Z, anyone? What a drop-dead cutie, a rocket pocket that was not as Dan-Darepilot-of-the-future as an original perspective, but notable, nonetheless. The bottom line is £30 road tax and 56mpg, in addition, you can buy a 2011 one with 80,000 miles for £ 4995. They are super-reliable, too. Just make sure that the software updates have been done by a dealer.
There are times when you simply must have a big sod-off living room, and one that can cope with all weathers is the Audi A8 quattro. You are going to inevitably be a 3.0 TDI, which runs on alloy wheels of 20 inches and with all the extras you can think of. For £5000, you will get a 2005 car with a full history and 100,000-miles – and this one really needs the story. Steering and suspension problems mean big corrections, and there can be electrical faults.
Because we’re losing a convertible, I would opt for a Volvo C70, for which I have a great weakness. The most recent, folding hard-top model is only in the budget. You can buy a 2006 2.4 I IS for £2500 with 100,000 miles. The electrical installation of the question to observe.
Finally, let’s go to commercial with a versatile pick-up. I would like to spend £1000 and then let another grand or less for the setting and forget about any other addition to the fleet. I would love to have a Skoda Felicia pick-up, especially the limited edition Fun. They were yellow and there were green frogs in the purple of the upholstery and sliding rear seat cover. I’ve seen 1999 examples at around £1000 without the MOT. Basic Felicias are £1000 and oxidized.
Fill your garage for £20k – Renault Wind, the Caterham Seven, Alfa Romeo Brera, Rover 75
Now we can buy some really decent kit, or some pretty dark things with which to bother the neighbors. How about a Renault Wind? I don’t think there would be that many for sale, but stumbled upon 50 or so examples that the bulk of the drop-top. Spend £4000 and you’ll get a 2010 1.2 TCe Dynamique S. Most have low mileage, so the greater concern seized brakes and lazy to the electrical installation through lack of use.
I don’t think that a cheap Alfa Romeo is always a good idea, but I’m a very bad person, so I would like to stretch to a still very unfortunate, to £5500. But that would have a Brera. Not only that, but I don’t compromise with a JTD. The mine of the fat V6, as god wants. For that money, in 2006 or 2007 with 60,000-80,000 miles is within the budget. Steering rack and suspension bushings are mechanical, observation posts.
Another fruity choice would be a Caterham Seven, which is only feasible at £9500. Buy a 1.6 K series-engined Roadsport, built at any time since the mid-1990s to the mid-noughties. The mileage is going to be marginal and is unlikely to exceed 30,000. There’s not much to look for if the car has had an enthusiastic owner (and most of them, thank god).
Which leaves us without a suitable four-doors for when we need to be sociable and pick up some additional passengers. So, with the grand we have left, it is better to be a Rover 75. Here is a model of the range that seems to be as strong as ever, still mobile and still go to the grocery store. Incredibly, you can buy a 2004 2.5 Contemporary automatic 75. Will be petrol powered and there is a concern about blown head gaskets and general ifs and buts at this age. But then, it is only a grand.
Fill your garage for £25k – Land Rover Defender, Porsche 911 Carrera, Jaguar XJ
With this amount of wedge, we can achieve something substantial. Tempted I am to go for a Morgan 3 Wheeler, which doesn’t exactly fit in to the fleet shortly. So we are going to buy the favorite of all the icon of place: a Porsche 911.
We are in the 996-generation 911 territory here, and it is possible to spend around £10,000. I would be inclined to remove a level of complication, avoiding the gearbox Tiptronic. Instead, I stick with manual gears and base-model Carrera trim. There is not much price difference between a coupe and a convertible, but I would like to decide on an early 2002 car with a solid roof. Don’t skimp on, so spend of £15,000 for full of the history of the 911 with a lot of recent bills. Intermediate shaft (IMS) bearing failure is also known, as are the rear main oil seal issues, and radiators and air conditioning capacitors have a finite life.
The following is a proper old-school classroom: a Jaguar XJ, with a big 4.2-litre V8. Get one in Sport trim and you have a decent spec and about 100,000 miles. With a budget of £5000 to purchase the 2004 or 2005 car with a full service history. Look at the suspension, brakes and consumables mainly, in addition to the painting, which was never the best.
At the time of writing, from money for a Land Rover Defender is £5000 and rising. So let’s hop aboard the 90’s train before it leaves the station. For that money, it’s going to be a 1980s or possibly early 1990s TD5 with mods like a bull bar or snorkel and a mileage of more than 100,000. It could be a project which requires finishing off, but all the Series Landies and Defenders are as well. Rusty bulkheads, slipping clutches, smokey diesel and crumpled foil are all worth seeing, and water leaks into the cabin are standard.
Have a hankering for some of the used cars? How about checking out our full list of use buying guides?