Theme: Economy – Bangernomics

For a few years I was bangernomist. I had a car I bought for £700. A £900 car replaced it. What went wrong then?

1993 Toyota Carina, a first for this website: www.cardomain.com
1993 Toyota Carina, a first for this website. This is not my car. It’s for illustrative purposes only: http://www.cardomain.com

The key to bangernomics is in finding a car with a lot of remaining value in it and then depleting that value mercilessly. That means you buy an unloved car that someone has foolishly cared for long after the repair costs exceeded the market value. The classic bangernomic car is a 17 year old Vectra which is worth about €500 but is still as shiny and nice as the day it left the showroom.

It might have about €2000 of value locked inside it. It was the last car of one of those sensible, cautious old guys who understood deferred gratification and respect for resources (or just their own money). I don’t think these chaps will exist in four decades.

The other bangernomic car is one that is undervalued because it is in need of a costly repair but is otherwise fine. If you can do that repair without the help of an over-charging crook styled as a mechanic then you can liberate a lot of value from the car and then run it into the ground mercilessly. The classic model for this is a nearly worthless BMW 7-series in need of a gearbox change but which is mostly fault-free. Value of car: €1500. Cost of repair at a dealer: €3000. If you can do that repair for only the cost of the material (say a ‘box from a scrapyard for €250) you can lever the car’s value from nearly nothing to more than most people might think.

1994 Ford Mondeo Ghia: www.arnoldclark.com
1994 Ford Mondeo Ghia. I don’t own this either: http://www.arnoldclark.com

I fell into class 1 bangernomics when I got my well-cared for 14 year old car. It had bags of value left in it, as demonstrated by the fact it needed nearly no repairs for almost six years. The probable use-value was about €5000. I changed the suspension bits on schedule and replaced a timing belt. Apart from that, all the work I chose to have done was voluntary. I could have lived with a lot of niggly faults had I so decided.

My big mistake was to go further than this at the point when the car ought to have been sent off for crushing. It needed work all around on the steering, ´box, suspension and bushings. And I had this work done to the tune of €2000. Then I blew €1000 on a new paint-job. I had fallen in love with the car and lost the run of myself. Thus I ended up sinking a lot more than the value of another good second hand car into the vehicle and inadvertently shifted from bangernomics to classic car owner. That is the way of Gorfe. I have not recovered. I need to order a pinion valve now, so please excuse me. And there’s some underbody rust too…

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

25 thoughts on “Theme: Economy – Bangernomics”

  1. The parameters that dictate the economics of car ownership are many and complex. Someone should do an App. They probably have. But repair costs are crucial. As a rule of thumb, unless you have actually got a conspicuous bargain, like a 2009 Rolls Phantom with full ashtrays that is going for £1,875, which will justify the cost or replacing all 17 ashtrays at a cost of £2,793 + VAT, then I’d suggest never spend more than 1/3 of the price you paid for the car on repairs in any one year. If the cost goes over this at all, just get rid of it – even if you had a lot of work done on it just 2 weeks before. Just cut your losses. Never, ever be tempted to put that extra bit in on the thought that it will then run perfectly for another 3 years. Never feel affection for it.

    I talk a good attitude, but of course I don’t actually have it. Although I already had itchy feet a year ago, and was thinking of replacing my Audi, I still had £*,*** worth of cylinder head work done on it (I can’t bring myself to write the figure) just because it seemed such a shame to scrap it. Even at the time I probably knew that the beneficiary would be the next owner, who is probably going to buy a fine running car for far less than the cost of the repair.

  2. I know that bangernomic stuff. My first three cars went into that category. I bought them cheaply, used them for two or three years and could write them off easily in that time. Plus I did some repairs by myself. Following Sean’s rule, I should have got rid of them much earlier, though. My first CX was already quite tinkered with when I bought it for CHF 1’600. But I still kept it and replaced a cluth plus several other bits for about twice its original price. Because it was otherwise running fine and yes, there was affection involved. I can’t do without that on a car.

  3. For me the problem with bangernomics is that it means eventually a nice-enough car needs to be scrapped. It works best for undemanding and uninvolving cars such as superminis, minis, and most Focus/Astra/Golf cars. There are vast amounts of these thing around and it doesn´t matter much what path the car takes to the scrap yards. What is troubling is when bangernomics meets a rarity or a charming sort of car: a rare 80s Japanese saloon, a quirky import or a coupe of some variety for example. The taxi business is good at killing the unloved saloons from non-prestige makers. I bought a car that didn´t belong in the bangernomic class in the first place, an XM. Either you think they are a horror and scrapping one doesn´t matter or, like me, you realise it´s en engineering treasure and from there on in sentiment takes over. So, the message is to keep bangernomics for fleet-market fodder and 15-year old Korean superminis.

  4. If we take your definition, I’m clearly not the bangernomics type. I’d never buy an uninvolving car, unless I’d have to buy one in a hurry and without budget.

    But what about that CX? Ten to fifteen years ago, there were still examples that had served a lifetine as an everyday car, showed rust here and there, dents and scratches everywhere and a worn interior. It’s either scrap them or find that one unreasonable person that will rebuild a base spec CX (almost) from scratch. How likely is that? So, why not use it for some more years and have a cheap car AND some pleasure with it?

  5. True Simon, that some cars slip into a trough before they emerge as desirable again. The CX certainly did. I’ve got an Ur Audi S6 parked outside and I’m wondering if I hold onto it a bit longer, then it’s time will com. As an extreme example, watch practically any episode of the UK cop series The Sweeney. I assume that Jaguar Drivers Club members can’t watch it without apoplexy since, in almost every episode, a now desirable Jaguar gets trashed.

  6. In the early 80s, I did have an idea of buying a stock of 5 very, very cheap Morris Marinas, welding the bonnets shut, then using them one by one until they stopped. The Marina choice was based on the principle of being a car I could never feel affection for.

    1. God, imagine finally killing your Marina, for it only to be replaced with another Marina. Isn’t the definition of madness repeating the same behaviour over and over whilst expecting the result to be different?

    2. In the light of the Marina’s legendary handling abilities, evoking Groundhog day is possibly not that apt.

      I just thought I’d park the first dead one up in a Finchley back road, then stack subsequent ones on top of it.

  7. You don’t have to buy a rusty thing for a banger … scan through carandclassic.co.uk .. I see straight away a w124 with 80k for a £1000 looking very tidy. A Metro Mayfair for a £1000. Now Seans dictat of a 1/3rd looks a little iffy. As £300 repair bill is not a lot of money in car repairs any more and yet both would deserve £300 spending if required.. My own w124 estate with approx 140k miles was purchased with 100k miles approx 7 years ago. An e320 with most toys and costing £53k in 1993. Had a close call with the wiring loom that nearly pushed me to scrap a perfectly good car but a mate of mine and I rewired it with 40 new wires from the bulkhead to each ecu and ignition circuit. Cost £2500 – approx maintenance inc 4 new tyres and suspension spheres probably about £1000. The loom work cost £50 + my unending gratitude to my mate.
    Best of all the estate is probably still worth £1500.. perhaps more. I should add I spent probably about £1000 on tidying up paintwork, someone keyed it once, a new wing and I cracked the front valance. It’s not perfect cruise has never worked properly – needs a speedo sensor, intermittient wipe is non functional – needs indicator stalk and the soft close motor for the hatch burnt out and I haven’t replaced.

    1. I admit the 1/3 was plucked from the air, but the important thing is to set whatever you feel is a sensible limit beforehand, and to never, absolutely never, cross it.

      You’re the gambler who wins big at the table, Stephen, but for every one like you, there are ninety-nine like me who think “just one more time, I know I’ll win if I just place one more bet”.

    2. I agree that looks tempting, and a short but well presented ad. The 5 cylinder Fiat has always interested me.

      The only question that raises is this. When you read an ad where it states “thousands spent on this car in the past XX months”, do you think ‘great, that’s everything taken care of’ or do you think ‘so, it burns money, why should I think it’s changed its habits’?

  8. I think it pays to not go for the sexy stuff when bangering. Fiat Coupe .. likely been around the block. Best bets are the one owner Mini metro, Rover Sterling/800, that w124 saloon (no-one wants saloons. Big engined BMW and Mercs but only with real provenance. miles not so crucial – ownership is the killer. 3 owners max … then you get into every optimist who has no idea what they cost to run and can’t – doesn’t want to pay for any maintenance whatsoever.

    1. Not almost too classic already for being a banger? I haven’t seen any of them for ages. Especially not the original hatchback without fisheуes and chrome plague.

    1. The colour is not too bad, although I’d prefer a bright metallic royal blue or a pale light green.

    1. I particularly like the way the seller has itemised all the bad points, saving both themselves and the punter wasted time. Not that people read any of that, and expectations are unrealistic. The last time I advertised my now 19 year old Audi for sale (with an itemised list of niggles), I had people asking for a fully stamped service book. Get real!

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