It’s amazing what you can miss in a week. Cosseted by the glitzy glamour of the LA Autoshow, back home all hell was breaking loose; Honda announcing a two month shutdown at its Swindon plant, more dealers closing their doors, and the government lowering VAT. What the repercussions will be can be discussed in another editorial by yours truly, but what really took me aback were the shockingly-good prices knocking around the used car market.
The world’s economic troubles have pushed values into the ground, and if you have the cash, now’s the time for a proper bargain. But before I start running up my credit card, this has had a devastating effect back on home territory. So much so, that our headlines here at MTI over the past week have been dominated by the credit crunch shockwaves.
On a lighter note, tell me if there’s any male-petroholic who doesn’t like a good session on Autotraders website? What is it about getting the Arthur Daley bug and plotting to set up a 200 used car sales lot in our head even though we can’t afford to put petrol in our cars? I can’t help myself! Only the other day I was clicking around said website (pretending to type up an important document as the other half thinks I’ve got an Autotrader-drug habit), hunting for a bargain. Even though I can’t afford most of the metal eye candy, I was bowled over by some of the prices. Then I had an idea. I don’t get many, so bear with me here.
There’s been a wave of cars over the last ten years that haven’t got me excited: The ones that didn’t get a good review by the motoring press or were knocked for poor reliability. But as time goes by we tend to forgive and forget, and to be fair any badge that’s been tagged with a reliability red card are normally not that bad after ten years of tinkering and gremlin busting. So, back to my light bulb moment; after wasting too much time and suffering with square TV eyes, I racked up over fifty bargains. Starting with a reasonable budget of £1,500 I bring you ‘Bargain of the Week’. My plan is to get the public back onto the forecourts and interested in hunting for that bargain again. The next few weeks are also a great time as December is generally a quiet month and any deal is welcome. With the added benefit (or hindrance) of the current economic downturn, you’ll have any salesman jumping at the bit for a ‘reasonable’ offer.
Starting in alphabetical order, my search began with Alfa Romeo. With a fictitious £1,500 and economy a top priority (well, we are all watching where we put our hard earned cash) the 147 hatch seemed a good place to start. Without too much page scanning a silver 3-door 2001 1.6 TS Turismo stood out and got the mouse clicking. Further investigation found that it only had 96,000 miles and three owners from new. A quick call to the seller and more surprises stood in wait. According to this particular trader it has a fully stamped service history from three different Alfa Romeo dealers. That’s pretty hard to find nowadays, but increasingly reassuring. The spec is also too good to miss out on. The TS model was pretty much the most expensive seven years ago; climate and cruise control, leather seats and electric sunroof were all standard amongst all the other goodies. He says it runs like a dream and no expense has been spared on its maintenance, which surprisingly outweighs its current value. OK maybe my economy search didn’t quite stretch to a 60mpg chariot, but Alfa’s Twin Spark engine was and still is good on economy. Overall it’s a straight car with 10 months tax and MOT still left on it. Bodywork I’m told is rust free, another reason for a closer look. It may sound like the find of the year, but if you are going to take it further a good test drive and plenty of time looking over it is essential. Perhaps the only downer is the insurance group rating. Even today it stands at 14, but if you’ve got a clean licence and a straight insurance record it shouldn’t be more that £25 per month. It needs a good valet, but what’s a Sunday afternoon with a rag and a bottle of polish?
I may have struck lucky first time around but it just goes to show if you put the time in you may just stumble across a real bargain. Perhaps the method to my madness might just work.
So will ‘Bargain of the Week’ get you out there and back onto the forecourts? We’ll wait and see, but in the meantime I’m going to continue my quest and hunt for another bargain.
Wish me luck, I’m going in.