How to Buy a Banger

A long time ago (1997), before Top Gear thankfully turned into a show that dropped pianos on Morris Marinas and played caravan conkers, they actually gave useful advice once in a while. Although this clip is 13 years old, the tips in it are spot on even today.

Trying to figure out who made that Volvo – I’m sure it’s another make and Volvo just slapped its badge on it. Mitsubishi, perhaps?


This seems to be the car – joint venture between Volvo and Mitsu.

Guy doesn’t make it to the 2 minute mark without making a major mistake. He should have let the asshole go on and on how the old lady only drove it to church, etc. and then either asked if he could have a word with her and ask for her name and number or, failing that, see if he could ring around to RMV to either friends who work there (or if there are not crazy privacy laws desk bureaucrats themselves) to give him the registrees’ history, whence he could contact the old lady and find the young thug who will go off in his face and confirm he is being lied to.

@FlyingChainSaw: Or he could be telling the truth. People in Britain (and Japan in the smaller towns – the GF’s father owns a Nissan garage) often have lifetime relationships with a garage – they take the car there for all its maintenance and trade it to that garage for their next vehicle. The people who work at the garage often have an intimate knowledge of the cars they resell.

I think this video gives the false impression that, while shopping through Auto Trader in the UK, you can just go to the location, hop in the car and test it out without talking to the owner. I don’t recommend this, unless you’re in the market for a getaway car.

@hunkamonkiman: And the best advice the guy could have given (and didn’t) is that it is imperative that, before you buy the car, you take the car to a different garage, pay them for an hour of their time, and have them tell you what’s wrong with it.

@blogenfreude: Right. And pay them to make up and document stuff for the buyer that is wrong with it so you can push it into the face of the seller and kick for discounts. There’s no law against asking to be lied to.

@blogenfreude: I bought a 15 year old Volvo sedan for my daughter under exactly those circumstances. Big, safe, drove like a dream.

@Dodgerblue: She can back it into anything she wants to … side curtain airbags? Click and Clack are serious about those … and geeze – wonder what I would buy if I had to get a car for some reason? Maybe my usual choice – an old Volvo. Can’t get an Alfa here yet ….

@Dodgerblue: oh duh – 15 years old so no side curtains – but SIPS (side impact protection system). I know to much about this topic.

@blogenfreude: No. I always called the Registry to get history until it became illegal and got full history. Had to walk away once. One guy had the wrong number listed for his village which I knew the proper exchange for and called, made an appointment and rattled off the history, the last two he knew because he brought a bunch of cars at once from a broker and invented some tranny problems one of the former owners and convinced him it would take another week to even get the thing listed so why don’t you be reasonable and cash out now for 900 instead of 12000 since you probably got this in a lot for $500. Worked. (Nice car. 1975 LeMans with Posi-traction and Turbo 300 tranny. Cruised like your living room at 110.) At the time I was making anywhere from $30 to $175 per shift, so every dime really mattered. The only other time I bought used the Registry wouldn’t talk any more I told the guy we were going to my bank to get the cash through a stretch of town that would mean certain death if we stalled out. Was he prepared to fucking die to perpetrate a lie and make a few bucks on me? We got the money and it turned out to be a reliable car. I’ve bought a few disposables for $100-$200 and didn’t bother with insurance or tags and just ran them into the ground but if I had the money for a real car, I’d do my research. Now I just go to the dealer with a checkbook and hammer at them for cash discounts.

@blogenfreude: And it had a nicer interior than my then 2-year-old Subaru wagon.

@blogenfreude: Bloggie, I loved this post, just loved it, keep them coming. When I was a lad, when I first got my license, at 16, in Florida, I was a major gearhead. My first car was a 1972 Gran Torino coupe, the same car in the movie, Gran Torino, and it had a 351 Cobra Jet, a real cobra jet, it didn’t just have a “Cobra” sticker like the Mustangs, it had a 351 Cleveland Cobra Jet, 320 Horsepower, which was amazing, in that day, and rare for a Torino, a manual four speed transmission. Oh, for a couple of years, I was a gearhead, I knew all about rats and mouses and 3-11 rear ends and I spent weekends covered with grease working on my rod. Then I went to colllege and got into literature and philosophy and all that worthless shit. Oh, and chicks, thats what really killed it, I think.

Dang! Why didn’t you post this 2 1/2 years ago before I put my deposit down on the Nissan GT-R I’ve now had for just over 2 years, and drove halfway across the country to my 50th high school reunion this weekend two years ago?

Surely I’d have saved many tens of thousands and have shown up at that 50th in something practical.

You’re so smart and sensible, and I’m so foolish.

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