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Persuasive arguments in favour of (or against) a life of shite ownership


Marm Toastsmith
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It's always been my belief that running an old, undesirable car is the most cost effective approach to motoring.

I've also been inclined to feel that keeping a banger on the road is better for the environment than buying a new car.

I don't have any evidence for either of the above, and obviously there are going to be examples where they are untrue. What I'm wondering is whether there's been any good research into it. Either to prove or disprove. Can anyone think of any good examples of this?

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I have no concrete evidence either but I agree with you on both points, and without wanting to sound like a tinfoil hatter, I believe that the idea that buying a new car is somehow better for the environment than keeping an old one going is utterly, utterly untrue in almost all cases.

Given how untrue I believe it is, I must conclude that selling us all new cars is eco-terrorism on a huge scale and it's basically being covered up, and so I bet there's no decent research on the carbon footprint of a new hybrid shitbox versus keeping your old car going. Even if you didn't take account of the fact that the new hybrid shitbox will almost certainly be written off for a cracked bumper OR something in the control side of the electrics will shit itself = written off, it makes no sense to me.

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James Ruppert's ' Bangernomics' made a persuasive case for the cost-effective nature of running an old shitter vs. buying a new car.

901238828_IMG_20211208_2018062.thumb.jpg.3279317447f36ec3b174e1ee7ee47feb.jpg

I think it was published in 1993, so maybe the costings as set out (between a scruffy Mk5 Cortina and a then-new Peugeot 405) have shifted a little - but I believe the overall principle still stands.

These days, Ruppert has a podcast on cheap motoring as well as load of other books on running an old knacker on a tight budget.

Helpfully, you can get most of them as a PDF for an appropriately low amount of pennies.

Books | Bangernomics

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The biggest pro for me, aside from the obvious financial advantages, is that it's fun. You'll get a more interesting car with more character than if you buy new, and because you've spent £1k up front rather than £400 per month you will not only tolerate its foibles but even grow to love them.

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If you simply want cheap motoring, in my view you are probably best with something not that old, reasonable mileage, well looked after for cheap - a 10 year old Fiesta for a few grand or something. 

If you get into old and interesting, unless you are a competent home mechanic then it might not be that cheap - but suppose it depends what you compare it against.  For example, an old 7 Series is probably more expensive to run than a newer Fiesta, but much cheaper to run than a new 7 Series ...

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I think there's narrow windows on both sides of the argument that are sweet spots to motoring.

I can see the appeal of having something on monthly payment that you devote zero head space to other than putting fuel in.  However a warranty doesn't stop you from breaking down, and reading of and experiencing issues with brand new cars that dealers take months to sort (or refuse to sort) puts you right back in that shite-owning stressful motoring hell, except you're still flinging money at it whether you want to or not.  A new white goods petrol car with a straightforward N/A engine and as few electronics as possible is likely to be a good bet.

At the same time for the cost of a couple of monthly payments you could own a heap of shite outright. In my head running it into the tarmac with zero outlay is appealing but it ends up worse than spending the money to get it running well and keep it that way.  Also, to have peace of mind shite motoring it's best to have at least two cars so that you have a backup.

For what it's worth most of the breakdowns I've had have been in moderns, where the computer has said NO and refused to go any further.  Any issues I've had with old cars tend to develop slowly with a bit of warning, and I've always been able to limp home, or jerry rig a roadside fix because they are simpler to work on.

There's an environmental argument for owning more than one car. You can only drive one of them at a time, whereas if they had individual owners they might all be on the road. A good argument for hoarding ALL THE CARS.

We own 7 cars and still probably have less motoring costs and higher reliability than our neighbour with their single lease car. Not to mention every one is an asset that has long since passed the bottom of the depreciation curve so we can expect to get our money back or make a profit.

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My reasoning for keeping the Fabia is that I could go down to PCP route, but I'd be in a miserable 4 seater box that I have to worry about mileage, condition and other shite. Whereas I can have a 16 year old miserable 5 seater box that I don't have to worry about as much, can just jump in it and rag it for 12,000 miles. 😂

Plus, I like the thought that I'm giving a car a second (or several of many) chance(s) in life again.

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I really don’t care too much about my impact on the environment as there’s many worse than me so I can sleep easy on that note.

In the sense of whether it’s cheaper, it probably isn’t if you buy unwisely and are useless with your hands. But flip side of the same coin I buy something pretty common or garden like a Focus, fix it myself and usually I’m quids in. I might pay £1,500 and get 3 years out of it so I’d say that’s pretty good going. The biggest driver for me is that if my mortgage went up a few percent I’d be pretty cheesed off but I wouldn’t be in a situation like many people are where they’d be in difficulty because they’d got a car on tick. When I was a lad (here he goes they say...) we didn’t have anything on the chucky, if we couldn’t buy it outright then we didn’t do it. 

I appreciate it doesn’t work for a lot of people and fair play to them but I do look at a lot of folk who cannot do anything themselves unless it involves a computer. If they need some shelves putting up they’d have to get someone in or fetch the father in law round. Likewise they’ll pay £400 a month to eliminate any risk whatsoever from their lives by renting a car. They must be constantly skint. 

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Pros:

  • When they go wrong, for all the shit they bring, it can be quite rewarding to fix them and save them for another day
  • A new part can prolong the life of a car for years
  • Older cars (up to mid-2000's I think) trust the driver more, so less of the cars functions are hidden behind a computer
  • New cars tend to bring their own bullshit, such as DPF, AdBlue etc
  • New cars tend not to be as comfortable as older cars in terms of ride
  • Older cars tend to bring you in to a community of people who aren't dickheads. New cars tend to involve you in communities where dickheads do some daft shit to their carz fo streets yo
  • Older cars save a poor Congalese boy from digging the dirt with their bare hands for a bit of cobalt
  • The functions of an older car are more mechanical with less hiding behind a computer than new cars
  • Depending on the condition of the old car, people can tend to give you space on the road - as they're scared you'll hit them judging by the state of the body work

Cons:

  • Part availability, depending on the car, can be problematic
  • New cars have that new car smell which you can never, ever, re-create
  • Tax man doesn't fuck you as much as they do with an older car, pricks.
  • Drive-by-wire is a fucking abomination and destroys the driving experience, can put you in unsafe positions
  • Older cars can put you at the mercy of the Extinction Rebellion bed wetters
  • Element of maintenance roulette - has the car been well looked after mechanically
  • New cars improve local air quality at the expense of world pollution

While out of the tail pipe the emissions might be cleaner, the total environmental damage the new cars cause doesn't make them a better proposition. You also see a lot of studies extolling the virtues of electric cars, but often in the small print a lot of the figures are based on estimates on best case scenarios. 

Sure, my Land Cruiser is the high end of emissions, it's 16 years old. It'll go for another 10 years at least. Will a Tesla last 26 years? Maybe, doubtful but maybe. At which point, things like charging technologies, cost of replacement batteries, and even proprietary methods to control the car's computer when fixing it  will mean it's not economically viable to keep them going. To some extent that happens already with older cars, but I don't think there's a fat lot on an older car that 100% requires a computer to fix it.

The biggest con for me though is the drive-by-wire. My wife's Mercedes has this, and I hate the fact that I am pushing the accelerator and I notice the delay between my foot press and the engine. Same when I throw it in to reverse, there's a noticeable lag. 

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I think it has a bit to do with your annual mileage as an individual. If you're a sub 6,000 a mile driver, then the environment doesn't need you to buy a new car. But then, if there weren't people who did we wouldn't have 20 year old giffer cars with 50,000 miles on.

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I think the biggest problem with our society and emissions is simply from building lots of shit that we don't need, to replace stuff that isn't broken.  The obvious candidates are electronics and buildings (see emissions from concrete for an eye opener), but new electric cars must come pretty high up that list given the amount of energy and resources needed to build one.

Once you factor out the production emissions of creating a large metal, plastic and toxic substance loaded device, you're still fuelling the car with dirty energy unless you live in a country that has 100% renewable energy. There aren't many.  Then you still have the emissions from the brakes and tyres both in terms of particulates and the CO2 cost of production.

Combine that with the fact that the emissions from private car ownership pales in comparison to aviation, shipping and production, I feel it's a great virtue signalling and box ticking exercise, but in terms of an actual step forward, not so much.  See also: outsourcing CO2 production, ignoring that the world climate doesn't have bank accounts or borders.

 

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There can surely never be anything bad about fixing something broken and giving it a new lease of life, as opposed to just buying a new one.

I have 4 cars but with my tiny mileage the impact on the environment will be absolutely negligible. 

Much better time is spent in looking after the environment in other ways like recycling your dry waste, giving unused items away to other people or letting them pay a nominal sum and not leaving lights on in rooms where they are not required.

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Let’s take the factors one by one… 

Cost: Definite winner here for purchase cost is the banger, let’s say for example the purchase cost of my Volvo 940 at £1500 is still only what you would put down as a deposit on a brand new car. The maintenance cost is unlikely to add up to anywhere near the monthly payments. However fuel costs are higher. Overall cost wise the banger wins.

Reliability/peace of mind: On one hand, find the right banger and the reliability should be top notch. If you’re a handy mechanic and have the time to do the repairs should it need them then great! But… a 200,000 mile shiter could grenade at any moment, more so than a modern. If you have back up cars then that’s no real issue. But for peace of mind when we had baby #2 (and had two breakdowns in a week) we opted for the peace of mind of the modern for Mrs_b. This has been a revelation as she does not worry about it going wrong and nothing more than plugging in is needed. Tbh, that peace of mind is worth the payments to us at this particular juncture in life.

Environment: The jury is very much out on this one. Different studies show different things. It takes on average 8 years (dependent on size) for a car to equal out the savings on emissions vs production emissions. Other things have a much bigger impact on the environment. We went electric for the car we bought, not for environmental reasons but as it’s less to charge an electric car than fuel a diesel one, and it was an attempt to offset the costs.

So that answers nothing really does it!

So the deciding vote… I’d rather drive a Volvo 940 than an MG ZS! It’s simply a matter of choice. 

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I just can't abide the idea of losing money to depreciation every second of the day. If I'm going to own something, I don't want it to piss away all its value. The bottom of the depreciation curve is my favourite place.

EDIT for honesty and common sense:

I'm not counting company cars; I'm lucky enough to get a modern that I can throw most of my mileage on, and it's renewed on a regular basis. So the actual cars that I own basically sit around and don't really have to work for their living. I pretty much run them for pleasure only.

However, my wife's 27 year-old 306 is still her daily commuter, and makes a 30-mile round trip probably four out of five days a week. She possibly has even less interest in replacing it than I do.

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17 minutes ago, RoadworkUK said:

I just can't abide the idea of losing money to depreciation every second of the day. 

That's pretty much all there is to it.

In the current climate of weirdness, my modern is currently valued at £800 more than I paid (outright, not finance) for it 2 years ago...! Of course, I realise that this is a blip and this won't always be the case.

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12 minutes ago, sierraman said:

I think safety is a concern for some people. We all know a 205 would offer as much protection as a brown paper bag but how badly would a say 2005 Astra behave in an average accident?

I definitely agree with this.

I'd never ever put my wife and son in something like a 205, due entirely to my worry about other road users and not my wife's driving (she's very good) but I'm completely fine with them in the 75 or the Saab 93.

I however would happily bumble about by myself in a 205, Diane, 2CV or a Renault 4.

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2 minutes ago, Split_Pin said:

I definitely agree with this.

I'd never ever put my wife and son in something like a 205, due entirely to my worry about other road users and not my wife's driving (she's very good) but I'm completely fine with them in the 75 or the Saab 93.

I however would happily bumble about by myself in a 205, Diane, 2CV or a Renault 4.

I think most vehicles built in the last 15 years over the Fiesta size should perform reasonably well in a bang, obviously newer will be safer but not as much as the gap between 80’s cars and 90’s cars. 

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40 minutes ago, sierraman said:

I think safety is a concern for some people. We all know a 205 would offer as much protection as a brown paper bag but how badly would a say 2005 Astra behave in an average accident?

I can tell you that if you hit a lamp post at 40 mph in a 1996 Astra, (introduced in 1993?) your injuries will be temporary loss of hearing from the airbag, and a minor burn to your hand from the airbag.  

1518613968_002(2).thumb.jpg.4dfd87138e2298d7d9f5dd3fbc6580d8.jpg

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2 hours ago, St.Jude said:

Will a Tesla last 26 years?

Absolutely no fucking chance WHATSOEVER.

The vast majority will get written off for cosmetic damage. The ones that aren't will become unsupported by the manufacturer, just like an Apple computer, within 10 years of production. The cost of upgrading software will be prohibitive and we already know that Tesla in particular are cunts for removing features remotely if the car is sold used, not letting owners repair them, etc etc etc.

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18 minutes ago, djoptix said:

Absolutely no fucking chance WHATSOEVER.

The vast majority will get written off for cosmetic damage. The ones that aren't will become unsupported by the manufacturer, just like an Apple computer, within 10 years of production. The cost of upgrading software will be prohibitive and we already know that Tesla in particular are cunts for removing features remotely if the car is sold used, not letting owners repair them, etc etc etc.

They also tend to be bought by people with a throw away attitude to anything even slightly out of date. They’ll buy organically grown Rocket but chuck away their Mac Book at 2 years old. 

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Hard to comment on your second point, but here's some real life figures from me for your first point: 

It largely depends on whether you can do works yourself

My Rover 45 - paid £550, spent ~£300 on repairs and maintenance, owned for 2 years sold for £600. So 2 years motoring cost me £250. 

My Focus - paid £750, spent ~£350 on repairs and maintenance in 18 months. Owned for 2.5 years, could probably sell right now for £1200. So £100 profit for 18 months motoring/2.5 years ownership 

My other Focus - paid £700, spent ~£250 on repairs and maintenance in 1 year, should easily sell for £1200 if not more in the current market. So £250 profit for a years motoring

(Above figures obviously do not include fuel and other costs)

Can it work out cost effectively, most certainly. But it entirely depends on whether you are repairing it yourself. If I was paying someone to do the above jobs, then the costs would have probably outweighed the car's value multiple times over.

If you pay a good price for a car, and repair it yourself in the time you have it, it's entirely possible to run a car for free. 

The rover cost me £250 to run for 2 years. Could I rent or lease a new car for that? Not a chance 

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1 hour ago, Soundwave said:

In the current climate of weirdness, my modern is currently valued at £800 more than I paid (outright, not finance) for it 2 years ago...! Of course, I realise that this is a blip and this won't always be the case.

Also if the car cost say £10k, in 12 months time you might need £12k to hold the same buying power in cash terms your £10k was worth in 2019/20.

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1 hour ago, sierraman said:

When you look at NCAP tests from the mid 2000’s the structures of cars from then on seemed really stiff, rewind that 10 years and the shell was deforming really badly on all cars in an impact. So much so you’d probably be much better off in the aforementioned 2005 Astra than you would in a 1994 Senator. 

Definitely. Safety has come a long way. Look at the Mk1 and Mk2 Renner Gooners for example. :)

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https://arstechnica.com/cars/2022/04/new-ev-vs-old-beater-which-is-better-for-the-environment/

Was reminded of this article from the other day or week. It's all in American but they seem to think that its reasonably quick to have a new EV save the planet than keep driving your XUD 405.

I'm not sure how the numbers work for cars than do more than 30 gallons to the mile nor whether the EPA can read or count. There is a further link in the article to a study in Reuters re: breakeven mileage but i've not read it.

Also

Quote

“Gone are the days of burning toxic gasoline. A new age of electrons and instant torque is upon us,” you might say, standing next to your new vehicle and blue recycling bin.

This made me cringe (as I stood next to my blue recycling bin.)

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The most I have paid is £5k. I don't have lots of cash to spunk on a car.

I do not like the feeling of being trapped by unnecessary debt. You never know what is round the corner - redundancy / ill health / hike in interest rates. My dad never had much money and had to make do and mend - he kept his cars going with very little - and this has rubbed off on me.

Having said all that my BMW 545 is 18 years old - it has just gone 100k. It has had a couple of big bills in it's life and I am mindful that a major failure may mean the end - not many want to get stuck into something that could be a ballache.

Our vectra is fifteen and has done nearly 155k - it passed it's MOT no issues however the lacquer is peeling and the seat bolsters are flat due to wear so at some point it will need to be replaced - I am looking now but £ 3-5k only buys you something in the last quarter of it's life.

I do think that the days of bangernomics could be limited due to cars not being cheap, price and availability of parts, the motor trade not wanting to touch old stuff and many of the "cockroaches" no longer around.

Having said that I could be completely wrong and a world wide down turn will mean people only having what they can actually afford.

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It can only do that if the number of garages increases substantially.  How many garages have two the three week waiting times currently? Won't touch welding, injectors, turbos, electronics..

 

It's one of the reasons we've just bought a brand new Duster.  Asking a 20 year old Peugeot - or three of them - to do 18k a year without leaving us stranded is too much.  It might be too much for a Duster too, but we'll have to see.

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I will sit firmly on the fence. One size does not fit all. In the last thirteen years I have bought four new cars. All of them small hatchbacks. They have done the job. I did the sums with the first Fiat Panda on here, at the time I was doing about 25000 miles a year. I worked out the pence per mile over three years, I included everything, fuel, insurance, services, tyres, ved, and depreciation. It was cheaper than running my Volvo for the previous three years. In fact I could have thrown the Fiat away and still have saved money. (The Panda cost £6k and I got £3k for it at three year old). Yes the biggy was not depreciation but economy/fuel cost.

When I first retired I had a couple of old Land Rovers. They were very needy and constantly needed parts replacing. I know on the one I spent more than £3k in parts in a year. 

I think the biggest saving is if you have the time, energy, facilities and competence to do work yourself. I don't anymore, unless it's very easy. 

My everyday Panda is coming up to two years old and will have done about 27000 miles (thanks Covid) other than services it hasn't needed anything yet. I also have the ZX diesel estate, that has done a couple of thousand miles in the last few months I did get the glow plugs and relay changed on it.  Then there is the Alvis which costs £80 a month to sit in storage, it's been out once this year and has a couple of £100  worth of bits sat in it waiting to be fitted.

I have forgotten the point I was trying to make, but as has been mentioned earlier: If nobody bought new cars there will eventually be a shortage of old ones

 

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3 hours ago, New POD said:

I can tell you that if you hit a lamp post at 40 mph in a 1996 Astra, (introduced in 1993?) your injuries will be temporary loss of hearing from the airbag, and a minor burn to your hand from the airbag.  

1518613968_002(2).thumb.jpg.4dfd87138e2298d7d9f5dd3fbc6580d8.jpg

That car wasn't doing 40mph when it hit the lamp post. 

NCAP post crash of Astra 

 

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