Theme: Economy – A Penalty Box for Six Bags of Sand

If you’re keen on value for money, you can get quite a dreary new car for the price of an excellent used one or you can get a car that is much the same for half the price.

2015 Dacia Sandero or part thereof. You don´t want to see the whole thing, do you?: Dacia UK
2015 Dacia Sandero or part thereof. You don´t want to see the whole thing, do you?: Dacia UK

For £5,995 you can buy a brand new Dacia Sandero . What else could you do with six grand? I dialled in £6000 as the lowest price point at Autotrader. The very first car it politely threw up was a 2006 Audi A3 2.0 TFSI S Line Sportback with just under 82,000 miles on the clock. Pages and pages of similar cars appeared, all at six thou. All of them had no fascination factor.

So, I dialled out the commodity cars and found a 2006 Alfa Romeo Brera 2.4 JTD (after a few MiTos). And like the Dacia and the Audi, it’s a hatchback so we are not entirely comparing apples and non-apples. Getting more absurd, I found a 1987 Rolls-Royce with only 107,00 miles up, also for six bags of sand. And now that is a bit silly. However, technically, the buyer with £6000 to spend could be considering any of these cars. Yet many otherwise sensible people will take that money and waste it in a Dacia dealer and then drive home entirely unaware of the ghastly life-denying mistake they have made, a triumph of emotion over reason.

2008 Alfa Romeo Brera:. This costs the very same as an Arctic White Sandero: jalopnik.com
2008 Alfa Romeo Brera:. This costs the very same as an Arctic White Sandero: jalopnik.com

What is going on here? The conventional answer has to do with the pride of owning a new car, being the first to sully its seats, throw an apple core in the cup-holder and to put a conspicuous ding on the front bumper. There’s also the naïve belief that a new car is problem free and has not had mysterious things happen to it. That Audi: that was stolen by five dimensional beings from Tau Ceti and as a result the wiring loom will burn out expensively in eight months.

The Brera was made in Italy by Italians without the supervision of any other non-Italians. The Rolls-Royce featured in a botched wedding-cum-bank robbery and the police found it in a Norfolk lock-up with a wedding dress, a shotgun and the remains of Ed “Rocker” Dalgleish, a deposed crime lord from Glasgow. The ashtray is full too and as we all know emptying it is an engine-out job for 6.8 litre Rollers.

For the nearly £6000 Dacia are asking, one gets a 1. 2 litre engine with 75 hp and white paint and a grey interior trim, grey, grey, grey. For £6000 you can get this view from the Rolls Royce:

1987 Rolls Royce SIlver Spur dashboard. This is not quite in the same league as the Sandero. It has no USB port, for exampe: Autotrader.co.uk
1987 Rolls Royce SIlver Spur dashboard. This is not quite in the same league as the Sandero. It has no USB port, for example: Autotrader.co.uk

Other features on the Dacia are grey upholstery (it costs as much to make blue or orange for goodness’s sake) and wheels and doors. You also get to rip the plastic off the seats but as the likely owner is a skinflint with no love of life they’ll leave that on until it’s in tatters. There is also the smell of plasticisers that come with a new car. They linger for a few weeks. After that the smell of the human digestive tract and take-aways soon predominates.

You pay for the toolkit and the rest of the car comes free: Autotrader.co.uk
Rolls-Royce details. You pay for the toolkit and the rest of the car comes free: Autotrader.co.uk

I am being a little extreme here as the Dacia owner will get quite good mileage compared to the Rolls-Royce and Alfa owner.  Yet if fuel economy was really propelling this decision making process, the Dacia-buyer could consider a second-hand version of any number of thrifty little cars. The Dacia driver might pay about a grand a year for petrol. Imagine if you had free fuel for three years? That’s effectively what it would be like if one buys a car for £3000. What does that sort of money get you?

2008 Chevrolet Matiz: autotrader.co.uk
2008 Chevrolet Matiz: autotrader.co.uk

…is what it gets you.  That’s a 2008 Chevrolet Matiz that manages to travel while consuming fuel at the rate of only 50 miles per gallon. It is nearly as spacious and at least as lovely to look at as the Sandero. Does anyone need the space of the Sandero so much they will blow £3000 on it? I would argue no, you could rent a larger car or make people squeeze inside a bit. You could even taxi garden waste to the dump though frankly that’s a horrible thing to do to a 1995 Nissan QX and quite within the remit of the Sandero.

A new car for £6000 makes no sense. Everything it can do can be done better by used cars costing the same or much less.

Author: richard herriott

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

20 thoughts on “Theme: Economy – A Penalty Box for Six Bags of Sand”

  1. But if the used car goes wrong .. you have to pay to fix it. The Dacia will presumably have 1 year and probably 3 years warranty … and it isn’t any worse – ego wise – than driving that Matiz that has probably had it’s day already. They don’t last very long before looking pretty crap. Mind – the Dacia will probably look poor in 8 years time.
    I’m not sure I agree with you here Richard – a new car for 6 grand is a bit of a bargain and knocking on the door of bangernomics.

    1. ha ha Richard,, I actually agree with your sentiment, but a weeks pay cheque … average way £20k per annum, that’s approx £400. Showing your age a little .. and mine. A months pay cheque … by the way we all get paid by bank transfer now – cheques are so yesterday … might be more appropriate.

    1. Or did I mean bangernomics starts at about five hundred to about a month’s pay? Something like that. Six grand is quite a lot unless you work in metals futures and the like.

  2. Richard wrote: “I can see I won’t win this one!”

    That’s the feeling I had when I drove old, cheap cars. People won’t believe me that, depreciation included, there was no more economical way to drive a car that was on its lowest price point and use it as long as possible without bigger repairs. Of course there’s a risk associated with it, it can break down any time (just like a new car – but there, it might be covered by warranty).

    But I can see the pleasure of owning something new and configuring a car to your own wishes (oh, I just have to have that brilliant silver-grey colour and this very understated, subtle, stone coloured plastic dashboard!).

    But what I understand even much less than someone buying a £6’000 new car: someone buying a £60’000 BMW X6 or the like. For this money, you can get a nice new car PLUS a VERY nice old car, along with some money on the side for occasional repairs and a second garage. And you don’t even lose £10’000 as soon as you touch the car for the first time.

  3. I think we all know that car buying is irrational, so this argument doesn’t have an answer (which I’m sure we also all know too!). My own take is that paying £6,000 for a 30,000 mile car that has obviously had a careful owner and seems virtually new, yet cost that careful owner £15,000 (list, subject to discount) is a far more satisfying ownership proposition than spending the same on a new car. That’s what I did with my Cube purchase a few months back. But if that Cube ended up having a prematurely worn drivetrain due to the previous owner’s poor driving I’d feel very differently. How often have you looked at someone holding their car on a hill by slipping the clutch and pitied the person who inherits that particular vehicle?

    That someone can produce a car for £6,000 highlights the profits to be made from the £60,000 X6, even taking into account the obvious differences in quality, specification and complexity.

    But, in the end, someone has to buy all the new cars to feed those of us who prefer used.

  4. Of all Richard’s above options, the Rolls is the obvious choice. You can pay for repairs from the wedding hires but, more importantly, if the worst comes to the worst mechanically, it’s the only one that you could just park up, replace the front seats with a big TV and use as a house extension.

  5. I’m sure Richard could make a case for the virtue of a pared-down vehicle, with just the bare essentials assembled on a proven platform (and probably did elsewhere – provided it came with an ashtray), but I agree that as a new proposition it is hardly attractive. The Logan ‘MCV’ (whatever that means) seems to represent best value in the Dacia offering with a starting price of £6,995, more so than the Duster (from £9,495), although in both cases it is difficult to resist the temptation to add metallic paint and alloy wheels to make them less dreary.

    1. I have been very inconsistent with the Sandero. Sometimes I really like its “I don´t care less” attitude and then lately it offends me with its white paint and grey cloth interior. Dacia are being a bit horrible making the very cheapest version so cheerless. It would not hurt sales of add-ons if there were some stupidly cheery colours on offer. The Dacia I do like is the big MPV/estate thing (the MCV). It actually looks quite good and probably does a better job at carting muddy children than any Renault in similar circumstances. It´s the car for people who have to live outside a village in the country-side. It has no place in a suburb though.

    2. I saw a Duster with metallic paint and alloy wheels as you suggested. It looked very smart and no doubt worth every penny of the sub-£12k the owner paid for it.

  6. All values are relative. My mother invariably buys a new Fiesta at run-out model deal time, drives it for six years until it dies of neglect, then buys a new one. Assuming a purchase price of £12-14k (she always gets a top line trim) and a trade in of £1k (when I say neglect, I mean abject neglect), that’s around £2k depreciation per year. When she saw the RenaultSport Clio the other day, she thought £8k was “a lot for a six year old car”. (She was right, of course.) But assuming that the owner paid £16k new, kept it for six years in immaculate condition and received £6k trade in, that’s £1.65k depreciation per year.

    Neither example is particularly conclusive, of course. In both cases, despite the sums involved and their comparative conditions, both suffered eye-watering depreciation. In those circumstances, buying a Sandero new for £7k and chopping it in after three years for £2k (£1.65k per year) is in no way a bargain. You are effectively paying the same price in depreciation as the Clio for the privilege of running around in a dismal car. You would be far better off running it for much longer (during which the trade in would plateau) or buying something better.

    1. Well, yes. Killing a 12 bags of sand car at a rate of just under two thou a year is not my idea of economy. The Sandero is plopped directly in the sweet spot of being not quite cheap enough nor expensive enough to hold any value. And it´s a miserable item at that price level. The Matiz is the better bet.

  7. And as someone who considered a Dacia a while back (a Stepaway), the first thing you do is think “I’ll just add AC … oh and why not have…. etc) and then you’re very soon up in Clio prices. Why did I even consider it? Because I liked the fact that it puts car ownership firmly into the domestic item category, with none of the what-would-they-say-if-I-turned-up-at-the-pub-in-this baggage. After all, we wouldn’t spend much time arguing about the foolishness of buying a cheap new fridge rather than an old one bought on a street corner would we?

  8. But even if you end up in the Clio range, the Dacia still bears that taste of “I’m being smart, as I value economy over image”. At least in the area here, where burning a 100 km’s worth of fuel for going grocery shopping in the Eurozone is considered a good idea. It’s a bit like Skoda, just on a lower level.

  9. After all, this is a car whose total cost is the depreciation you get by just picking up many new cars from the dealer and driving them down the road.

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