James Ruppert: going once, going twice or not going at all…

Car auction

Some auctions major on classics, others on bangers

What am I bidding for this knackered, trouble-prone part-ex?

Car auctions: I’m not that keen really. I used to live within walking distance of Wembley Car Auctions, a fairly terrifying place to visit, which I did very often. 

It taught me a lot, which was mainly to avoid buying from them. I’ve bid, bought and survived, but the experience isn’t especially enjoyable. You are in the hands of the auctioneer and, apart from kicking the tyres, there isn’t much you can do to check what you are buying. It is always a gamble. That’s probably why I don’t talk about auctions much in this space. 

However, a reader called Nick got in touch, who experienced firsthand the ‘leftovers’, which went for hundreds and looked in a fairly shocking state. I think, like most of us, he was amazed that anyone would deliberately run their cars into the ground before seemingly part-exchanging them. According to Nick, there were hundreds of bread-and-butter motors that were filthy inside and out, with scratches, cracked bumpers and windows, poor tyres and wheels that often smoked their way into the hall. 

This is nothing unusual and, for the purposes of research, I popped into a bitterly cold evening event, post-work at 6.30pm, where the emphasis really is on what has been left at the bottom of the part-exchange barrel. There weren’t too many traders present, but there may well have been people who trade. 

Rather worryingly, there were families with buggies looking for a people-carrier or a stopgap hatch. All they were going to find was some trouble. Mind you, a ferociously ugly 2004 Fiat Doblo 1.2 Active with not a lot of miles relative to the year, 50k, has colossal amounts of room for a growing family willing to bid £350 for it. A £600 bid for a 2006 Chrysler Voyager, even with what seemed to be a low, 80k mileage, might suit someone after seven seats. 

The cheap tiny shoppers were the worry, as they are in demand. These cars hold their value and go upwards as the unwanted bigengined executives go the other way. So a 2007 Citroën C1 Vibe with over 100k miles and lots of obvious issues – tyres, short MOT and a blowing exhaust – went for £250. 

A 2004 Alfa Romeo 156 TS Veloce at £200 top bid is at least going to be worth more in parts. Any purchase via the auction route is risky, but a Honda is always going to be a pretty safe bet. So a 2002 100k-mile Civic in Executive trim at a top bid of £190, despite the scruffy bodywork, might last longer than the last bid at 9.45pm. Be careful out there.

What we almost bought this week

Lada Niva 1.6 Cossack: We could buy a new, left-hand drive Niva for £10,799 from Mark Key (markkey.co.uk) or this tidy, right-hand-drive 1990 G-reg one with 28k miles priced at £5995 from, of all things, a repossessions company. Some poor soul must have fallen on hard times, then, but given the Niva’s brilliance off road, their loss could be our gain. 

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Volkswagen Golf, mileage – 46,457: You might remember that Gordon the old Golf was headbutted by a pheasant a month back. This dislodged the radar and broke the holding bracket. That was replaced – the bracket, anyway. However, the cruise control isn’t happy at all. There is a warning on the dashboard and, even though we fiddled with the bracket and the little sensor, nothing seemed to fix it. 

It looks like we are going to need someone with some proper diagnostic kit to tell us that we need a brand-new sensor. The good thing is that this can wait a bit. Don’t hold your breath, or post me a new sensor…

Reader’s ride

Volkswagen Caddy: Roderick Ramage has been here before and returns: “My 1986 Land Rover 90 pick-up suffered a death knell MOT failure. I sold it for £1k as a project. It cost me £2950 in 2002 so its annual depreciation was £122. 

“After experiments with a tiny trailer, I have scaled down to a 1997 Volkswagen Caddy for £4600. (By coincidence, the £2950 I paid in 2002 is £4645 in today’s money.) It has a bigger load bay than the Land Rover and comfier seats but no external cleats for roping the load down, only floor-level rings.”

Readers’ questions

Question: I heard that in Sweden there’s a compound full of over 1000 unregistered Saab 9-3s and 9-5s. Is it true? Ian Panting, via email

Answer: We don’t think so. A former Saab exec, now a dealer, who worked at the factory at Trollhättan in the company’s dying weeks told us he recalls a compound filled with cars. Saab invited dealers to collect them because it couldn’t ship them. He believes any that remained were dismantled by the government-owned parts business that still functions. Last December, it was reported that the last 9-3 had just been sold by an Italian dealer who’d been storing the unregistered car since 2011. John Evans

Question: I’m thinking of going electric but I do drives of at least 200 miles. Which electric car has the longest range but doesn’t cost a fortune? Donald Brock, Shipston-on-Stour 

Answer: Two cars suit your requirements. First up is the £32,995 Kia e-Niro 64kWh with a WLTP range of 282 miles and a real-world range, according to our sister magazine What Car?, of 253 miles. Or check out its close relative, the £32,845 Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh with a WLTP range of 279 miles and a real-world one of 259 miles. Prices quoted include the £3500 government grant. John Evans

Read more

Hyundai’s electric cars offer best real-world range

Buying a car at an auction – six top tips​

Kia e-Niro review

Source: Autocar Online

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