cars, economy, thrifty, funny

Buy a banger! (Ode to Small Car)

12 Jun 2015

There are so many reason to not own an old banger.

We've just had to say good-bye to our old banger. Not the family car - that still lives on in all of its dull, practical glory. No, this was a 15-year-old fiesta, the second car used for the short hops, hurried stops, short skips and single-person trips; a motorised trolley to get me to work and back; the town niparound getting us to swimming lessons, to the supermarket and back home again.

It has served us so well, too. But, like fabled white elephant, the cost of keeping it has become too much.

This is just one of many reasons not to own a banger.

There's style, too. Yes, old cars look, well, old. I don't mean "classic" old - an E-Type Jag is old, but it's not what I mean. The lines of twenty years ago just look dated now. And this has been the same for as long as cars have been made. If you take any care for what people think of you based on your car, you just can't do it to yourself.

And spec? Yes, that's certainly true. The further you go back, the fewer toys you get; automatic wipers? Automatic headlights? Electric windows? ABS? Not on this baby - you want something done? You gotta do it yourself.

Refinement, oh my goodness, refinement! The old fiesta had so many funny problems, it is almost too funny to say. The radio rarely switched on. When it did work, you needed to turn it up to "32" to hear anything. The CD player (oh yes, dear reader, it had a CD player - we're not complete philistines) was virtually unusable. That is, it was perfectly usable providing that you only wanted to ever listen to one CD; the 'eject' didn't work. To this day, I have never been able to retrieve Coldplay's "Viva La Vida". (It's currently sitting in a garage south of York if you're interested...). Predictably, it didn't have air conditioning. But the heater worked very well indeed, you just couldn't switch it off. This meant that, even on the mildest of winter days, you were comfort-bound to drive with the windows open. This, in turn, presented additional considerations - the wind-down window handle would fall off every three turns or so. Am I painting a picture for you? I could go on, driving with the window open meant that you couldn't hope to have a conversation with a passenger, or chat on your hands-free kit; a phone call from Mrs Roadblog on my way home would invariably result in her knowing pretty much where I was, based on the road noise ('Can't hear a blithering word I'm saying? Probably means I'm on the concrete section of the M1').

And yet. And yet...

And yet it wasn't a bad little runner. It cost £400 to buy. It started first time, every time. It never actually broke down in the time we had it. You needed to be reasonably keen on topping the oil up and, in heavy rain, the front foot-wells would fill with water (never really worked out why) but, providing you keep on top of a little light maintenance, it happily chews up the miles - 60 of them a day, every day, on my commute.

And its running costs are absolutely minimal! Think about it: assuming that tyres, for example, wear out at pretty much the same rate (let's say, a new tyre every 20,000 miles, for instance), it makes sense to use a car on which the tyres cost around £50 each (as on the banger), rather than a car which costs £150 (such as the family car) for the same thing. And that's probably pretty conservative; my boss actually spent more for each of the tyres on his BWM 5-series than I spent on my whole car.

And, of course, there's depreciation. This is a biggie: the largest cost of owning a car is depreciation. And, when your car doesn't have any value, you're never going to worry about that. A brand new fiesta will probably loose around half its value - £7,000 - over the first three years. Granted, I may have spent around £300 per year keeping the banger on the road, but that's it - that's the total cost of running it.

And it this thought that lingers as I now have to get rid of it. If money is no object, then you're probably not even still reading this. If, like me, you have to cut your coat according to your cloth, then it rather begs the question - why spend more?

I'll be honest, our circumstances now are different to when we first bought the banger. We can now afford a better car. But why would we? We aren't using it for long journeys, so enduring comfort isn't a consideration. I've never been one to worry too much what people think of me, certainly not if they judge me on my car. As mentioned previously, small cars are always more fun - climbing into that little car just made me a little happy.

And it also helps you to keep a very healthy perspective on what is important, on what else makes you happy. Forgive me if I'm stretching my love for a banger into some needlessly philosophical extrapolation, but, well, I think we can probably all agree that, if we were to go under that apocryphal bus tomorrow, it's unlikely that we would carry "I wish I'd spent more money on 'stuff'" as our final thought. And every time I looked at that little car, it reminded me that happiness is not contained in material objects. The fact that it was, to all intents and purposes, worthless was one of its values. It meant that when, say, someone from work accidentally missed their parking space and scraped down the side of your car, you could say honestly, legitimately, sincerely and without any bitterness, "don't' worry about it!" And you could mean it, too. Scratched the wing? Thanks, it'll distract people from the rusty wheel arches.

With that in mind, I've replaced the banger. And I've spent a little more money on this time.

It cost £450...

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