Blog : 2011, my success in Bangernomics

Keith Adams

Bangernomics - the original gospel
Bangernomics - the original gospel

I know we’re still a few weeks off yet, but I thought that with me being off my feet and unable to drive my own cars (my left foot is in plaster and my fleet is exclusively manual), it would be an excellent time to take stock of my great Bangernomics experiment for 2011. For those people who know me, they’ll know that I am utterly afflicted with CHPD (Compulsive Heap Purchasing Disorder), and have been since before I passed my driving test in 1987. That means I’ve owned over 150 cars, and don’t even want to think about how much money I’ve spent keeping the litany of questionable cars on the road…

Still, they’ve been good times, and I wouldn’t change anything.

Back in 2008, I decided that I’d give Bangernomics motoring a try. By that, I mean buying a car for less than £500, and then keep it on the road without pointless spending. My friend James Ruppert has lived by this for years, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. The problem is, 2008 didn’t work – my cars of choice K-Series Rover 400s (HH-Rs) continuously let me down, and I ended up abandoning the idea, concluding that I’m not cut out for the tough discipline of buying and running with the head.

But throughout 2009 and 2010, the rising cost of motoring continued to bite, and in order to feed my Rover V8 addiction, I found myself running some interesting old smokers. Stand-outs in terms of surprising fun and ease on the wallet came in the form of my Rover Metro and Citroen AX diesels – but both were a little bit too crusty and compromised for realistic daily driving. But in October 2010, work colleague Rob Gould offered me his high mileage 2000(V) Volkswagen Golf TDI SE for £500. It was too good an offer to pass up… no matter what your opinions are on VW Golf Mk4s.

It was short on MoT, and needed a handbrake cable and exhaust hanger to get through. And the tyres were bald (so I bought a set of secondhand alloys with some legal tyres on for £120), and I gave it an oil, fluid and filter service… and ran it. And ran it. Through last year’s cold snap, it felt like the battery and starter were going to die – but with careful conditioning, they never let me down – and throughout 2011, the old bus plods on, delivering a consistent 55-60mpg while generating no interest or warm feelings of ownership whatsoever. Perfect for Bangernomics motoring.

And the great news is that the money saved running this car has allowed me to continue with the SD1, and also have an Alfa Romeo 156 V6 for special occasions. With a newer car (with monthly payments) or one I care about (that would have me lavishing far too much care and attention on it), that wouldn’t have happened.

The Golf’s MoT is due in early December, and I am sure there will be consumables needed to get it through… but it’ll get them. And the great thing is that if it fails spectacularly or blows up on the road, I’ll get most of my money back (as a breaker and in weigh-in value), and will plough my next £500 into something equally workmanlike, preferably a Rover 400 diesel. Sometimes needs must.

But whatever your thoughts on the Golf, it’s clear that this has been an undoubted success in Bangernomics – truly the most cost-effective way of motoring in these straitened times. Go on, give it a try!

This VW Golf was £500 to buy - and aside from consumables, it's cost zero to run during the past year.
This VW Golf was £500 to buy - and aside from consumables, it's cost zero to run during the past year.

(P.S., I should add – this will be the last time you see this car on AROnline! I promise)

Keith Adams


  1. That Golf looks great for only £500 Keith (alloys too). I’ve always fancied buying a new Golf but put off by their sometimes sparse equipment levels and retail price. I’m told they hold their value better than others though, so perhaps some day?

  2. A friend of mine has advocated this for years – in the time it took me to pay off a (completely unreliable) nearly new Escort on finance (1999-2004), he had a variety of cars, namely, a Capri 2.0S, a Fiat X1/9, a Granada 2.0i Ghia X (he hated that, but it was free), a Capri 2.8 Injection Special, a 1979 Granada 2.8 hearse in pink (yes, really) with Scorpio Cosworth wheels, and finally an Alfa 164 3.0 V6. The most he paid was £950 for the Alfa, all the others were £500 or less. Even accounting for repairs, which they rarely needed (he just used to sell them or part-ex them at bombsite car lots when it was MoT time), he only spent three grand or so, as opposed to my 15k including repairs on my Escort which, by the way, I hated due to its shockingly cost cutting design (plastic ratchet self adjustment on the rear drums for example, costing £60 per side and only available from the main dealer).

    I learnt my lesson and never spent a fortune on a car again, having had some interesting and cheap motors since the Escort for little outlay. Bangernomics works, as long as you’re careful what you buy, or buy so cheap that it doesn’t matter what the car is like (for example, the Capri S my mate bought was a complete shed with three months MoT remaining, but only cost £250).

    By the way, my mate put the pink hearse on eBay after a couple of months of fun and made £350 on it! The Alfa lasted nearly three years, finally being sold to an Alfa fan for s couple of hundred quid when it failed the MoT. He replaced it with an F reg BMW 525i with an LPG conversion – for £750! He’s now running a T reg Triumph Dolomite 1.3, which is a cracking car and only cost £550.

  3. I don’t think you can go far wrong with bangernomics if you’re not a snob. Who cares it it’s not the latest 61 plate, or top of the range Germanic automobile to try and impress the neighbours? Alas there are too many people that insist on having the newest and the best, I suppose that helps the cause as things gradually move down the food chain as it were meaning there is (or now was thanks to crappage taking a lot of usable motors off the market for good) well specced cheapies to choose from. My last few cars (Triumph and the family S-Max excluded) have cost me no more than £600, the Mondeo was a 51 plate TDDi that cost me £575, ex cab so 200,000 miles on the clock, but it was ideal for the daily commute, the 45 before that, diesel again, cost £475, just a pity the insurance decided that it was a write off for the sake of some filler, paint and bit of polish.
    If you’re not adverse to occasionally having to get your hands dirty it’s a brilliant way of owning a car, you’re not tied into years long finance or loan agreements, you never loose much if anything, you can swap and change when you get bored of it, and who cares when some inconsiderate sod wheels a trolley into it down the supermarket?
    I’d be running one now, but while work are kindly giving me the van to commute with there’s no point, but when the need arises to get a car, I can assure you it will be £5-600 worth of motor, and there’s still a decent choice out there if you’re prepared to look, and occasionally travel a bit to get it.

  4. I’m running a T reg Skoda Felicia at the mo which cost the princely sum of £600 last December, and it came with 7 months MOT and 5 months tax. All it needed for MOT was a new back exhaust box (less than £50). I replaced the front boots too even though they still had a fair bit of life left in em, but they cost £30 each. It’s been mechanically faultless. It’s nicely spec’d too, with leccy windows, remote locking, power steering, and 2 airbags. Yeah it has a bit of cosmetic rust and the odd dent, but I don’t care. It is more reliable than many friends much newer card that they have on the never never too.

  5. Bangernomics recently has been hit and miss for me.

    A fantastically reliable Honda Accord coupe that I got for a bargain because it has a drink problem.

    But then a “too-good-to-be-true” Hyundai Getz for the other half that we later found out had a Cat-C ‘history’.

    Sometimes I yearn to just go into a showroom, buy new, and not worry about history, I would know exactly the service history, how it has been looked after and its quirks.

    But then, that book cover demonstrates it well as a financial ball and chain, something you worry about in the street when kids are out playing, worry about in the supermarket car park when the inevitable SUV parks beside it, and worry about it being keyed by some jealous twerp.

  6. I’ve banged (no pun intended) on about it before but my M-plate Cavalier is coming up to 4 years venerable service in my care. Aside from servicing and tyres etc the only major bits I’ve spent money on are new lower suspension arms (£50), a radiator (£60), exhaust (£70), lambda sensor (£15) handbrake cable (£40), battery (£45) and really thats it. I paid well under £400 for it and even incuding servicing costs I’m still well under a grand total spend.

    To echo others a previous on finance vehicle of mine, a Renault Megane, cost a small fortune just paying for it and during the time of owenership was a PITA reliability wise. Head gaskets, wheel bearings, multiple electrical problems… I could go on. One month after the final payment it got written off in a shunt, the payout of course a fraction of the total I’d paid out over the years, but fortunately more than I could’ve sold it for! So the house got re-carpeted and I bought the Cav!

  7. I think my best exoerience with bangernomics would be the 1976 Vauxhall Magnum Coupe Automatic I bought for £45 back in 1991.

    The car had been mildly shunted, resulting in a bit of body damage, broken light and busted tailpipe. As I had 2 Firenzas and a Magnum Saloon, I fixed it from my own stock of bits, MOT’d it and ran it for a year before getting the bodywork sorted for £200 and running it for another 8 years. In that time it served me and my wife as a daily drive; got thrashed to within an inch of its lfe at DSG Track days and stood us in at a set of tyres and a new exhaust system.

    I sold it in 2001 for £350 by which time it was on 250k miles and mechanically pretty tired. It was used to re-shell a Droop Snoot Firenza. Apparently the Droop Snoot uses the Magnum automatic shell to accomodate its Getrag gearbox.

    Never had so much value or fun out of a car since.

  8. @BobM

    Cavalier should last, racked up 550,000k+ on my old TD as a cab, and I also drove for a guy who ran petrol ones, the 1600 manages 350,000 before it started to smoke a bit, the 2.0 was still going strong at 275,000 🙂

  9. Couldn’t agree more. In 2006 I bought a 99/T Focus 1.8 with 50k on the clock for £2925. I sold it 2010, running well with a fresh MOT, with 89k on the clock for £1250. Total spend was one DIY oil and filters service costing approx. £45, one wheel bearing at £80 and four part worn tyres costing £120. Four years motoring for £920 plus MOTs (all passed) and petrol. Less than 3p per mile excluding petrol! Amazing car, replaced by a 55 plate Mondeo (£3k, spent a little of that money I saved), which over the last year has also been faultless, not sure how long my luck can hold!

  10. I bought a “B” reg metro in 1995,for £80 inc 11 months MOT and 1 months tax, ran it for 11 months then took engine out and put in stock.Weighed the bodyshell in last week for £40.Still got the engine and box, the rear hubs are on my trailer, and so are the tyres. Top Value. BUT i’ve also seen some dangerous and ill maintained machines being run with total disregard for the drivers or anyone else safety.

  11. An Escort diesel van was my best banger. Only two seats, so you can’t take the girlfriend’s mother with you!

    I visited a family with a 19-year-old son, and told him I had bought a bright red, fuel-injected 2-seater. He shouted, “you can’t do this to me!”, and ran out of the house to see the MX-5 or whatever.. long pause. He came back with a smirk. “Like the spare doors on the back”.

    In general, look for a car where one model in the range has a stinking reputation, and buy the better version that everyone ignores because of its awful “brother”. Reliability and low depreciation followas surely as an AA van follows a Moskvich.

  12. @Rob C

    Yep it should – my Father in law was a cabbie for years, and used to get a newer Cavalier when they hit 300k miles, then keep the old one as his private car – he once tried a Vectra which was pants in comparison. Mines done 91k miles, so has got loads of life left yet.

  13. A typo sorry, original cost £1925. But the sums are correct otherwise, £920 over 39000 miles is less than 3p per mile.

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