We live in a world where the pressure to spend money on things we don’t need to impress people we don’t know is relentless. I’ve been as guilty as anyone of falling prey to shiny new gadgets, but there is another way if you can bring yourself to step away from the marketing hype.
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As an example, I’ve started buying old secondhand tools from car boot sales. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that the quality is much higher than anything you can buy in your local DIY superstore and the slow-burn satisfaction of restoration beats the short-term, instant gratification of a B&Q buy every time.
It’s cheaper too, even when you factor in the cost of a new wooden handle and your time - and the same holds true for buying a secondhand car.
I might make my living from driving new ones but, for the financially astute among us, the economics of what my friend James Ruppert calls Bangernomics is indisputable.
1. You can spend your money on other things
Bangernomics is all about wringing every last mile out of older cars that others have rejected in order to dodge an annual four-figure depreciation bill.
That doesn’t make you mean or tight-fisted, it just means that you’d rather spend your hard-earned money on something else, like great holidays, lavish meals, or treats for the grandchildren.
To make Bangernomics work, you need to be ruthless. This means having a low budget (under £1,000 is common, with £500 being very doable) and sticking to it, only repairing your car when it adds value, and culling it when the cost of repairing it exceeds its value.
It can also be great fun too, and the reliability is far better than you imagine. James has run his £500 BMW 7-series for years and is so confident in it that it forms part of Autocar’s long-term test fleet.
If you are interested in learning more, you can download the Bangernomics Bible as a book or PDF.
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2. Depreciation isn’t a factor
If Bangernomics is too hard-core for you, then £5,000 will buy any one of a number of ultra-reliable hatchbacks that will run faultlessly for years and are new enough not to be an embarrassment on the driveway – and while they will still continue to depreciate, they will do so much more gently as someone else has taken the initial hit already.
I searched Autotrader for cars within 50 miles of mhy location that were up to three years old and cost less than £5,000.
I found any number of small, economical hatchbacks in the Fiat 500/VW up! mould, and even a couple of examples of my new favourite small car, the Renault Clio.
If you want to take the plunge then you should be looking for a one-owner car with a full service history and as many desirable extras as you can find.
Ticking the extra options box in the showroom costs a fortune yet hardly any of this cost trickles down to the second owner, giving you yet another reason to buy a secondhand car.
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3. You can go up a level – or two
Choosing a secondhand car instead of a new one means that you can go up a model for the same price.
As an example, the cheapest Land Rover Discovery Sport has a showroom price of £31,095. It will have the 150bhp, four-cylinder diesel engine and a manual gearbox and almost no toys to play with. If you buy one you’ll feel like a penny-pinching fool every time you climb into it and rue the day you chose to be such a cheapskate whenever you try to overtake another car.
On the other hand, a three-year-old Land Rover Discovery 4 with every conceivable extra could be yours for exactly the same amount. It’ll have leather seats, electric-everything, a torque-rich 3.0-litre V6 engine and an automatic gearbox. It’ll also have so many toys to play with that you’ll never get the grandkids out of it.
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4. Or just save a bundle
If you really must buy a brand new car, then at least consider buying an ex-demonstrator or a pre-registered car. These will often have a only a nominal mileage because the dealer will probably have registered it to gain a bonus from the manufacturer, making it the closest thing to a new car you can find.
You will still get a manufacturer’s warranty and while you might have to compromise a little on the colour and specification, the financial rewards can be huge, with savings of up to 30% on offer – and for a saving of that magnitude I could be persuaded to overlook the fact that my name wasn’t the first one on the log book…