Monday, 21 April 2014

Is it possible to buy a £1,000 car in just one morning?

SIR BOB Hoskins used the long Good Friday to stop terrorists tormenting his gangland empire. I used it to find a cheap used car which – I hope – won’t blow up as soon as it’s delivered to its lucky new owner.

Thanks largely to an unfortunate incident involving a Suzuki Wagon R, a wet night and a kerb, my girlfriend’s mother is suddenly in need of a cheap secondhand motor. That’s why I was given the task of sourcing a cheap ‘n’ cheerful replacement which would be practical and easy to live with.

Surely not a challenge for Mr Champ Motoring Correspondent, whose day job is talking about clapped out old cars and who’ll happily waste an hour at Wetherspoon’s spending an imaginary budget on automotive tat? However, this particular mission involved spending someone else’s actual money on a real car, and I had just a grand to play with. Worse still, I had just one day in which to nail the deal – a bank holiday, no less. Is it possible to find a cheap used car, on a day when almost everything’s shut, before the sun sets?

The first thing I discounted was asking my usual pals if they had anything cheap knocking around, on the basis I didn’t want to lumber my girlfriend’s mother with a mouldy MG Midget or an Austin Princess that needs a light restoration. The big car supermarkets were out too, not offering enough choice of cars costing hundreds rather than thousands, and most of the private deals belonged to folk who – quite rightly – would much rather spend their bank holiday arguing with family or traipsing around IKEA.

In the end, salvation came from the places I’d expected to be the first to shut up shop for the Bank Holiday – small dealerships, who had plenty of gems knocking around if you dug deep enough. Among the cars within a 15-mile radius of our Maghull starting point were a 12-year-old Fiat Punto with plenty of life left in it, a Peugeot 206 which offered a low mileage and lots of history for a tiny bit beyond the budget, and a Toyota Corolla which had just done its 100,000th mile without so much as a hiccup.

In the end, the car of choice went to a family hatch I’ve always had plenty of time for – a Peugeot 306, which came with six months’ tax, a full MOT, and a more than healthy stash of service history. Yours for just £750, which proves you CAN pick up a decent secondhand car on a Bank Holiday if you dig deep enough.

So the better half’s happy that a reliable, affordable, family-friendly hatchback is now taking up the spot the misfortunate Suzuki once occupied. That the 306 has always been hoot to drive has nothing to do with it…


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