If you want to get as much, or more, for less, bite the bullet and grab an older motor
15 January 2019

I do sometimes wonder whether it is just me. You know, becoming old and grumpy and going on about how great things used to be and that modern life, or at least modern cars, are rubbish. Luckily, a lot of you are on the same wavelength and I am indebted to Steve for telling me his story. 

Steve had to return his company car after a year, a Mercedes-Benz C350e AMG Line Estate. It was a plug-in hybrid that was fully loaded with the AMG Premium Plus pack and the Night pack. All that state-of-the-art goodness cost a fairly whopping £46,000. In return, though, Steve was getting 280bhp and more than 100mpg. 

Well, that was the theory, anyway. What Steve found was that over a not inconsiderable 35,000 miles, the best he could manage was a less than impressive 42.5mpg. He didn’t think that the extra 200kg worth of batteries were helping, either the handling or the practicality, because there wasn’t so much boot space, the boot lip was high, things would roll about and the car ate tyres. Incredibly, Steve got through three sets of tyres and was not far off needing another, after 35k miles. More to the point, Steve made it clear: “I didn’t drive it like I stole it. These were mainly 80-mile-plus motorway journeys at below the maximum speed limit.” 

Steve did the only sensible thing and bought a 2004 Mercedes C270 CDi, with 90,000 miles, service history and lots of receipts. He did not hang about, though, and replaced the thermostat, gave the car an oil and filters service and an EGR clean and corrected the tyre pressures. It’s effectively a gruff old Sprinter engine but it has done the job, with an average over 3000 miles of 44.5mpg and a best figure of 62mpg. 

“How is it that a 14-year-old, rather agriculturally engined Merc can return better better mpg than one of the most technologically advanced hybrid vehicles in the Mercedes range?” he say. “Only Lewis and Valtteri have a slightly more advanced hybrid. Is progress going backwards?” 

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Steve is a complete hero because he has also recently changed his Porsche, from a 2016 Boxster 981-series Black Edition to a 2005 997-generation 911 Carrera S. He says: “Not quite the same drop down, but for half the price of the Boxster, I have a lot of car, and again it does everything the newer car did but will hopefully lose a lot less money in depreciation.” 

Steve says it isn’t Bangernomics, but really it is. He’s making his money go further and not shortchanging himself when it comes to performance or practicality. Be like Steve: sell your modern car and buy an old one.

What we almost bought this week

Renault 5: You never forget your first car. For one of us, it was a 1976 Kermit green Renault 5 TL Mk1 with brown velour seats. Chic, reliable… and that was just the driver. The one that’s tempting us this week is a 1995 Renault 5 1.4 Campus Mk2 with 88,000 miles, priced at just £350. “Starts and drives!” says the gushing seller.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Porsche Cayenne, mileage - 100,423: The Flying Pig has been doing some miles recently and it wasn’t until my daughter came along for a ride that she complained bitterly about the windscreen wipers. On reflection, they did squeal like a pig being being run over by a cement mixer. 

She did the decent thing and ordered a fresh set. She insisted on Bosch items rather than a cheapy brand and she may well be right at £28, with a trade discount. The old ones looked fine but must have been old and stiff. I must say, compared with some wipers, these were a doddle to fit. Unclip. Clip on. Done.

Reader’s ride

Audi 80 

Paul Cowland has popped up in Autocar before and you might recognise him from TV’s Turbo Pickers and Salvage Hunters Classic Cars. An inveterate car buyer who owns more than 40 classics, he has a collection that includes a lovely £800 Audi 80. 

“Yes, I use that as a daily,” he says. “I will probably put 60k miles on it and I would be likely to get my money back, wouldn’t I? So far, I have done 6000 in a couple of months. It starts every time and just does the job. I love it because no one has one any more.”

Readers’ questions

Question: As night follows day, road tax will surely rise in April 2019 but do you know by how much? Paul Sweeney, Bristol 

Answer: Rates for new petrol cars, and diesel cars complying with the new RDE 2 emissions standard (none will be certified as complying until 2020), will rise by £5 for models emitting between 90 and 150g/km CO2. Rises are greater beyond that, with cars emitting over 255g/km CO2 paying £65 more. New, non-RDE-2 diesels (that’s all of them) will pay £5 more in a range from 75 to 130g/km CO2 and a higher figure beyond that, peaking at £65 more for a diesel emitting over 255g/km CO2. Meanwhile, the fixed standard rate will increase from £140 to £145 for petrol and diesel cars. The five-year premium rate will rise by £10 to £320. Many older cars registered before 1 April 2017 will also incur a tax rise of between £5 and £15, although those emitting less than 120g/km CO2 will be spared. John Evans

Question: The roof of my BMW 3 Series convertible is getting unreliable but I don’t want to be rid of the car. Who can help?

Answer: We can’t vouch for their work but try Cayman (caymanautos.co.uk), specialists in convertible hood repairs and winners of a 2018 Queen’s Award for Enterprise, so they must be doing something right. John Evans

Read more

Company car tax: what you need to know

Mercedes-Benz C350e Sport review​

What are the least & worst depreciating cars?​

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Comments
18

15 January 2019

3 sets of tyres in 35,000 is crazy for an estate, 200kg of batteries obviously taking their toll on the mpg as well,  wallet too no doubt.    

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

15 January 2019

Hybrids can be economical but will never beat a diesel for long distance driving, problem is modern diesels can get scarily expensive once the warranty has run out so the earlier more agricultural pre dpf diesel will probably prove a lot more reliable. Battery weight doesn't help but modern cars are excessively heavy. As a matter of fact though, my old 09 insight would beat that average economy figure though it admittedly wasn't as plush or spacious as a merc estate.

FMS

16 January 2019
xxxx wrote:

3 sets of tyres in 35,000 is crazy for an estate, 200kg of batteries obviously taking their toll on the mpg as well,  wallet too no doubt.    

 

Such insight, finger right on the heart of the matter...not you...the author of this piece, whose words you have regurgitated and not for the first time. Nothing original to say...ever. TwIT, the w is silent, as you should be.

15 January 2019

That audi 80 was a lucky buy, 80s-90s cars seem to be rising in value, modern classics as they are, I quite fancy a 940 volvo estate, strong prices though for good ones.

15 January 2019

Re wipers, you can often get genuine wipers from a dealer for less than bosch or even halfords premium, at least that was the case for my honda and my wifes seat.

15 January 2019
si73 wrote:

Re wipers, you can often get genuine wipers from a dealer for less than bosch or even halfords premium, at least that was the case for my honda and my wifes seat.

In my experience, genuine wipers are inferior. I always replace with group test winners which is currently either bosch twin blade or 'Wiper Blades' own brand which are just as good and cheap as chips. See Autocar/AutoExpress product tests for details.

15 January 2019
scotty5 wrote:

si73 wrote:

Re wipers, you can often get genuine wipers from a dealer for less than bosch or even halfords premium, at least that was the case for my honda and my wifes seat.

In my experience, genuine wipers are inferior. I always replace with group test winners which is currently either bosch twin blade or 'Wiper Blades' own brand which are just as good and cheap as chips. See Autocar/AutoExpress product tests for details.

Bosch for me. Learnt my lesson after buying a set of Valeo front wipers reason being 'just to see if I was wasting my money'. Anyhow they squealed like a pig and I found the remains of Burt Reynolds in the boot. FACT!

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

15 January 2019

I had a C270CDI estate a few years ago. Nice 5-cylinder engine, but like many Mercs I've had, they eat suspension bushes for fun (or is it my driving? lol).

I would have a 270CDI or 320CDI again IF i never drove in London. In a couple of years there will be LOTS of used cars going cheap as the ULEZ spreads its tentacles to the North/South Circular. That will be the time for those outside London to get a bargain. 

MrJ

15 January 2019

You don't have to be grumpy to know whether a vehicle is good or not.

Any car that needs tyre changes like that is either badly in need of adjustment, or a rubbish design.

15 January 2019

Old cars are not for old people and not for their decendants. The new cars are safer, it is very important. Or, choose an old car that is safer than the new one you can afford.

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