Autocar’s guide to spending the average Christmas budget

Buckmore Park

£473 could get you and your friends behind the wheel of something a bit racier

The average UK household spends £473 on Christmas presents. We show you the alternatives

Research has found that the average UK household spends £473 on buying presents for loved ones each Christmas.

If you’d rather spend your hard-earned pennies elsewhere, here’s our guide on how to put your money to better, car-related use. 

Steve Cropley, editor-in-chief

For me, the best way of blowing £473 will always be on a car. I’d scour eBay for a model I’ve always regretted not buying: an original flat-windscreen Fiat Panda

I wouldn’t care if it was a basket case (it would probably have to be, at that money), just as long as I was confident it was repairable. Wouldn’t ever want it pristine, just healthy. It would become my special project. I’ve never really had one before, but the more I think about it, the keener I get. Anyone got one going? Might even round the price up to £500… 

Dan Prosser, contributing writer

I can think of no better use for £473 than a two-day trip to the Nürburgring. I’ll drive out to Germany early one weekday morning, reach the circuit in time for that evening’s tourist session, stay locally overnight, then return home the next day. 

Using my own car, £250 will have to be set aside for fuel, £50 for a cheap hotel and the same again for Channel crossings. That leaves me with enough cash for five laps of the Nordschleife at around £20 each and I’ll even have some change left over for grub and beer.

Matt Prior, editor-at-large

My garage is a single-walled wooden structure, and has draughty spots in several places: nowhere more so than the entire side open to the elements. I’d like to fill that, insulate and panel the inside, install an antique wood burner in the corner, fit some shelves, a new (old) bench and vice, re-paint the floor and fit more pleasing lights, so it looks as good as the old bikes I’d like to work on in there. I guess £473 would get me most of the materials. Next Christmas, I’ll ask for the time and skills to do it. 

James Ruppert, used car correspondent

You can never own enough cars and there are loads to choose from, even when there’s less than a monkey to spend. What I adore about the BMW Compact is that you could still effectively buy an E30 as late as 2001. It did have E36 trimmings, front end and a 1980s headlight knob, but what a stunted little star it was back in the 1990s. Still works for me and I found a 2001 1.8i model for just £450, so there is £23 to put in the tank. There is a shortish MOT, but enough to get us into 2019

Mike Duff, contributing editor

A quick trawl of the classifieds reveals little but dross for our Christmas budget: would you really want a 188,000-mile Golf TDI with rusty arches under the tree? So instead I’m going to have a proper experience, because nothing blows away the winter blues better than a blast in an open sports car. A Squeezyjet return from Luton to Inverness is as little as £40 in early December and a Seven SV rented from Highland Caterham Hire near Nairn is £210 for a day, which includes 120 miles – enough for a return trip to Ballater via Grantown and Tomintoul. I’d spend the rest on a nice B&B and some warming meals. 

Colin Goodwin, special correspondent

A Christmas present to me from me? That doesn’t sound much like the giving spirit. The answer is simple: I shall take a bunch of pals to Buckmore Park in Kent for a bit of karting. I used to race my own kart at Buckmore in the 1990s and it’s a great track. I’ve made enquiries and Buckmore will for £473 put seven bums in its 390cc four-stroke karts for a 30-minute endurance race. My wrists will be shot after quarter of an hour so a short race is fine. We’ll be competing against up to another 28 drivers, so it will be great fun.

Matt Saunders, road test editor

This sort of cash might buy you a day in a supercar, or a bit longer in a rented sports car, but what I’m suggesting will help you get more out of every drive you take. A budget of £473 is just enough to buy you one of Don Palmer’s Car Control courses ( I’ve met Don a few times, since we occasionally used to share track space with him at Bruntingthorpe airfield. And although I haven’t been instructed by him directly, I’ve seen him in action and heard many good reports about his tuition. How could anyone fail to enjoy a day with a bloke who teaches you how to drive sideways? 

If you’ve got a bit more budget to throw at the same kind of exercise, I can personally recommend the instruction of motoring writer and historics racer Mark Hales. who, in partnership with Palmer, offers a two-day Masterclass course for £1995. Hales made me think completely differently about circuit driving and to apply a new level of mental rigour to it. 

So go on: go the whole hog and ruin four Christmases for the family. It’ll be worth it.

Richard Bremner, senior contributing editor

Although I already have 13 cars – many non-runners simply because I’m the world’s worst fleet manager – finding a 14th would be irresistible. As I write, there are 245 cars on eBay with a ‘buy it now’ price of £473 or less, my front runners including a rare French limited edition from the early 1990s, an exotic Japanese coupé and an Italian hatchback with eight spark plugs, black leather and a dying alternator. 

The 41,000-mile Renault 19 Bergerac is probably the soundest of these unsounds, but dull. The Mazda RX-8 won’t start – typically of rotary RXs for this money – but the Alfa 147 Twin Spark will and would get my cash.

Andrew Frankel, senior contributing editor

Actually, I’d buy two things: I’d spend £100 on a 91-piece Rolson tool kit and the remainder on any derelict old banger I could find, like the rather sad 1970 Triumph 2000 I spotted coming up for auction in Norfolk soon, with a lower estimate of £300. In my fantasy life, where I don’t work 14-hour days and seven-day weeks, I’d then spend my weekends using one to fettle the other, learning how a car actually works. It wouldn’t matter if it took years, and if it all went wrong, I could just throw it away and start again. Perfect. 

Read more

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Best diesel cars for £500 – used buying guide​

Bangers that work – 20 bargain cars that won’t let you down

Source: Autocar Online

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