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Destroying the planet

I would just like to note that the process of trying to buy a car ("destroying the planet") is doing my head in.

I last did this nine years ago. The current car is within spitting distance of being old enough to vote; if I keep it, it is going to cost me a lot of money in expensive repairs in the near future (hint: power steering, suspension). And after I spend a lot of money on it, it will still be a rattly old banger. So I'm finally doing the buy-a-car thing in earnest for the first time in two decades. My current motor came from within my family; before that, I spent a decade without a car, so while I recall having bought cars from days of yore, the memories are sepia-tinted.

My needs are quite simple. I live in a city centre and commute to the office in my bedroom slippers; we shop locally, only venturing to a supermarket that needs a car to get to maybe three times a year. In fact, my normal form of transport for short journeys is shank's mare. On the other hand, I periodically need to drive hundreds of miles with one or more adult passengers and a bunch of luggage, or to haul furniture up and down the motorway. Often at the drop of a hat, sometimes multiple times per month. The car will be co-owned by my wife. We're used to a big-ass Volvo 850 estate (US: station wagon) with a manual transmission; we're looking for a drop-in replacement — the same, only diesel-powered and a lot younger.

(Update: Yes, we have considered renting on occasion. The numbers don't work — our usage pattern isn't compatible with either Zipcar/City Car Club or trad rental. You can stop asking now. FURTHER UPDATE: 15 comments in, getting annoyed: any further comments suggesting I consider renting will be deleted.)

I'm buying used because I see no reason to throw money away on depreciation, and it's less environmentally damaging to amortize the production inputs of a used car over a long period. I'm planning on buying at a point where the vehicle has depreciated by 75%, but running it for twice as long again as its life up to that point. (As for propulsion technology: hybrids, threat or menace? Maybe they'll be cleaner eventually, but right now a diesel makes most sense for a vehicle that will mostly be used on long journeys outside cities where the PM10/PM50 emissions are a problem — and that will exceed a hybrid's battery pack design life, necessitating a very expensive replacement.)

I ran the numbers and phoned my insurance broker. A diesel won't save us a huge amount of money on fuel, but enough to offset the increased insurance fees from going from a 130 horsepower engine to a 180 horsepower one.

I checked the local Volvo dealer last year, and wasn't impressed. So I lately began looking on the usual online sites. Gumtree, eBay, Auto Trader ... they've all got a plethora of tools to make searching easier, restricting by make/model/trim, mileage, geographical radius, and price. I turned up a long list of six or seven vehicles of the right model/spec within range, ruled out two of them (one is too new and expensive; a second is a write-off in need of about £5000 of repairs — doubtless a bargain if you know how to do that). A couple more went when I considered their age: a 2002 vehicle ain't a sound purchase in 2012 if you're looking for another decade of motoring. Eventually I found a couple of cars; a 2005 model for private sale, and a 2006 one with slightly higher mileage at a used car dealer.

Here's the interesting revelation for this Rip Van Winkle, who has effectively been out of the market for 20-25 years: there are no bargains any more. Nor are there any horribly overpriced vehicles, either (unless you want to go to the authorized dealer, in which case you'll pay over the odds but also get some hand holding). Nor are there any secrets about what can go wrong: there are model-specific online bug lists, online vehicle status reports that can tell you if it's been chopped or stolen or is liable for outstanding finance, and getting an estimate of its book value isn't a high hurdle to leap either. The process of evaluating a second hand car has become more transparent, but by the same token, so has the process of selling one: so nobody offers a car for much below the standard asking price.

Personally, I blame the internet. The web disintermediates supply chains, and the used car market is of course a supply chain, just like any other; if you want an automotive bargain you have to be really ready to work at it, and in an age of cars with "no user serviceable parts" labels under the hood, that ain't easy (even if, unlike me, you have a garage/workshop and know what you're doing).

Anyway, I'm now in the process of looking at and test-driving the cars I'm focussing on. Hopefully in the next few days I'll shake on a deal, and thereafter feel poorer for a few months. Then accept delivery — and take the new wheels to my local garage to get the snag list checked before it bites me. (For example, one of the vehicles in question is in great shape, except it's about due for a new timing belt ...) And then there's the paperwork. V5 ownership documents to transfer, insurance to update, RAC membership to update, VOSN (formerly MoT) roadworthiness certificate, road tax — it's all beginning to remind me of the old joke about how the Space Shuttle is cleared for lift-off when the weight of documentation exceeds the payload mass.

Optimistically this may be my last self-driven car; I'd be very happy if, circa 2022, self-driving vehicles are sufficiently mature that I can give up driving for good.

Or pay to install a teleport booth instead.

FINAL UPDATE

You can stop the suggestions; I've bought a car and I'll be picking it up on Thursday. (Early 2006 Volvo V70 D5 estate, gunmetal grey, 89,000 miles. Comes with a 6 month warranty and a trade-in on the old boneshaker. I've done the background check, test-driven it, and gone over the service history. End of story.)

209 Comments

1:

Given the primitive nature of you humans' computer security, and your governments' habit of compromising your communications systems without notice, I recommend against the teleport booth lest you be g'asdewq'fasdf(ed) but NOT reach your destination.

2:

Given the sporadic nature of your car use, have you considered something like zipcar/streetcar (assuming something like this is available to you locally) for short trips and just hiring a car for the longer journeys? Sounds like the maths might work in your favour once the likes of insurance, maintenance, etc. are taken into account.

3:

Unless you really, really feel tremendous joy and pride in owning a car, a car pool and/or rental cars is probably a better option.

An added benefit with those options is that you get the right car for the job.

Check out those options before you buy yourself a heap of trouble.

4:

I'm intrigued. Does owning a car that you might use, what, about 6 times a year really turn out cheaper than just hiring a vehicle on those occasions? Or having groceries delivered rather than making a thrice-yearly shopping trip?

I must admit to a certain partiality here, having given up keeping a car about two years ago in favour of a bicycle. I'm half the man I used to be, and very much happier for it. Two wheels good; four wheels bad -- an engine is cheating... Although I suppose it does help that I live within easy walking distance of the Supermarket.

6:

I second the rental idea, especially if you can get them through some group which gives group discounts.

7:

> The process of evaluating a second hand car has become more transparent, but by the same token, so has the process of selling one: so nobody offers a car for much below the standard asking price.

If we assume that the net profits involved all remain the same (sellers don't make more money on average, buyers don't 'lose' any less) but this extra information reduces the risk, this is a very good thing: people are risk averse and prefer less risky outcomes to more risky ones even when the average profits are identical.

8:

My personal feeling is that it's often better to buy a small vehicle for basic local transport/shopping, and rent larger vehicles for long-haul trips where more people/gear will be joining you. Dunno about the UK, but here in Las Vegas I can often rent a vehicle on short notice for as little as $15/day (not counting fees and insurance).

The trade-off is that you could get something super-efficient and relatively inexpensive like a Smart (which retails over here new for like $16K and used for less than $10K) and save lots of money on insurance, gas--er, petrol, etc. The cost of renting specialty vehicles would probably still be lower in the long-term.

Also, IMO, cars are quite a lot like computers. Old cars are like desktops -- if you can read a manual, you can do a lot of the upkeep yourself with minimal infrastructure. You can't repair the transmission...but you usually can't repair a damaged motherboard or CPU by yourself either.

New cars are like laptops -- there's still a fair bit you can do yourself. And even on new cars, you can still work on the stuff that's peripheral to the actual combustion engine, like the fuel pump or alternator or what-have-you. Which, frankly, is the only stuff people like you or I would've been able to do much with on old cars as well.

No matter what you buy, it's worth investing in at least an inexpensive set of wrenches, because a lot of small but relatively costly repairs and maintainance can be done at home easily. For example, I replaced the fuel pump on my old 1977 Ford pickup truck in about twenty minutes with a $25 replacement pump, whereas the same repair at a shop might've cost me upwards of $200. I did the same thing I'd do if my computer started acting up; read the fucking manual. (Not the manual that came with the car, which is about as useless as the manual that comes with a Gateway laptop. A company called Chilton's makes aftermarket manuals for every kind of car in the world, with diagrams of how to do everything from refill the windshield wiper fluid to dropping and rebuilding the drive train. Dunno if they've got Chilton's over there, but I suspect they do.)

It's worth considering, because you can often find inexpensive cars that only require simple, small repairs, because their owners don't know/don't care/want to upgrade anyway. It's like people who upgrade their computer because their install of Windows has gotten virusey and bloated.

Anyway, maybe worth thinking about. I'm in the same boat as you right now; our 1992 Nissan finally fell apart, and riding the bus in Las Vegas sucks for every reason. (Waiting at a bus stop in 110°F weather is appalling.) I'm lucky to have friends who have car mechanic infrastructure, so I'm looking at buying something really old and cheap, like a 1988 Honda CRX, and fixing it myself with a Chilton's manual at my side. But YMMV.

9:

In my experience, once you've bought your second hand car the major costs are insurance, road tax, MOT and a bit of servicing.
I was going to suggest that you just hire a car a few times a year or borrow a friends and give them a little cash, but then since you'd need insurance for all that you're not much better off, except for the initial car purchase payment.

10:

I read some statistic somewhere ages ago that if you drive less than 2000 miles a year you're better off taking taxis.

Possibly oddly, I have never bought or owned a car in my life; I didn't need one as a student, living in Manchester, and for 16 years after that I had a job with a company car. But then it has been another 16 years since I had one of those; I seem to have done plenty of driving (all properly insured) in other people's cars.

A friend has bought lots of second-hand cars in his time, including BMWs for £200 and £400, a Nissan Patrol for £800 and a Jaguar Sovereign with leather seats and a joy to drive for £500. But this is going back a bit (ten years or so) and as our host says, probably harder to do these days. Though he did get a Land Rover Discovery for about £1650 last year.

At the risk of being irritating, I agree with the idea of considering rental cars for longer journeys; use rental companies as a kind of car-share club, especially if you have one nearby. You get a new well-serviced car and support, and of course you can re-configure the type each time for whatever you need it for, say carrying furniture or family members or going off somewhere yourself. And you don't have to worry about parking, servicing, theft, &c.

11:

Yes, I have considered the City Car Club option. I don't, however, generally need a car for errands taking less than three hours, and their only vehicles in Edinburgh are what in the US would be classified as "sub-compact".

As for traditional car hire, it tends to require a wee bit too much advance planning; hire companies tend to be a bit leery of "at least four hundred miles and at least four days on the road -- but maybe three days, or six, and maybe four hundred miles or eight". (And you're subsidizing someone else's profit margin on a vehicle that will go from factory-fresh to sold off in under two years).

12:

There is no point owning a small car in Edinburgh for local shopping -- parking is nightmarish for Manhattan-like levels of nightmarish, so we do our shopping on foot and with backpacks. Meanwhile, renting a large car becomes very expensive very rapidly -- I'm looking at around £100/day (plus fuel) for something suitable. It doesn't take very many road trips per year for ownership to work out cheaper. Let alone the fact that circumstances change.

13:

Going to throw my lot in with rental. 3 grocery trips a year plus the occasional road trip sounds like renting on the rare occasion that you need a personal people hauler a winner. Then again, I'm basing that math on what the rental market in the USA. I have no idea what renting a car takes in Scotland.

14:

Avoid depreciation?
Try a Land-Rover Defender: I would suggest a Td5 SWB "County" in good nick. (Guide price for a really good-condition 2005-7 model £12-15k)

Warning.
As all the world know, I'm prejudiced in this matter, and using a 300Tdi LWB that is not depreciating AT ALL - but I do my own maintenance - which I know Charlie would not want to, never mind anything else.
And, I can't recommend the current model I'm afraid.

(Note: my car was bought secondhand in 2003 - it is worth within +/-£1k of what I paid for it then - £9.5k - yes, it may be worth MORE than I paid for it(!). I have spent money on goodies, and replacement bits of course, which helps the value.

15:

Note for those who don't get it: "occasional road trip" means roughly one a month, of at least four hundred miles, lasting 2-6 days. Do that with a hire car and you're looking at £80-100 a day for an equivalent motor, or over £3000 a year. Buying is cheaper.

16:

Landies get rubbish mileage and are hideously uncomfortable, Greg. I am not a masochist. If I needed to drive off-road, then yes, I'd seriously consider one -- but we're talking about long runs up and down the A1(M) and M72.

Also, my budget is about half what you're suggesting.

17:

A second hand teleport booth , surely. No sense in getting ripped off, is there?

18:

Getting ripped off in a second-hand teleport booth is the least of your worries. Folding, spindling and mutilating is much more likely.

19:

[ DELETED FOR BLOODY STUPID SUGGESTION ]

20:

We quite liked our 2008 VW rabbit (until it's untimely demise at the hands of a texting driver), though that may be a bit small.

Are you only looking at Volvos?

21:

[ I CAN'T READ DESPITE MULTIPLE WARNINGS AND SO MY COMMENT HAS BEEN REPLACED BY THIS TEXT ]

22:

HERE IS A HINT, FOLKS:

I am not asking for alternative lifestyle suggestions.

I have looked into the economics of buying vs. renting, new vs. used, and so on.

What works best for my needs is buying a used vehicle that is mostly depreciated, then running it into the ground. End of story. As noted, further recommendations that I switch to renting will be aggressively moderated because I know what I need better than you do.

(If, on the other hand, you know where I can buy a teleport booth, or some other magic transport technique that will make my life easier, that'd be welcome.)

Hmm. Final note: my age and domicile is not compatible with bicycles, segways aren't road-legal, I'm sufficiently accident-prone that I'm not going anywhere near unicycles, kayaks, or over-powered motorbikes, and I can't afford a bizjet.

23:

And the car you buy now should (in theory) last two to three years longer than your old one before the same type of repairs hit it.

A Jaguar X-type estate might be a good compromise, particularly as they are pretty reliable and deprecated quite a bit so you should get one cheap.

Saying that I'd get a Saab 95 sportcombi myself.

24:

TIL the phrase "shank's mare".

25:

Hello? Planet Earth calling?

The depreciation I'm looking at is £5000 over ten years, and my insurance/tax/maintenance/parking permit/other fixed costs are around £1500 per year.

In contrast car rental with full insurance cover on a large estate is on the order of £80-120 a day. And I drive more than fifteen days a year.

Central London is, alas, a much better-connected transport hub than Edinburgh; and I expect to be giving up on the trains shortly. The price is inflating wildly while the quality of service is going through the floor as load factors rise: Cross-Country seem to be operating four car train sets on an hourly service with a load factor over 0.8, making for a thoroughly unpleasant experience if I want to get anywhere. And an off-peak second-class ticket bought at the station costs more than driving while offering less flexibility and no ability to haul luggage about. (And I can't hunt for bargains by booking weeks in advance. Hint: elderly relatives who live a long way away don't necessarily know in advance when they're going to need a house call.)

26:

With regard to self driving cars, we may be closer than we think.

Just finished a discussion on another site where a poster described his experience driving a company car for 6 months. The company car included adaptive cruise control, lane drift avoidance, and one or two other accident prevention systems. at the end of that 6 months, he took his own personal car out on the road... and immediately rear-ended someone.

Makes me wonder if cars aren't going to be suddenly "self driving" one day, so much as there is going to be less and less required of the driver until one day they cut us out of the loop and we barely notice.

27:

My recommendation would probably be an other Volvo or a Mondeo estate. I used to have an old 940 and loved the landwhale, sold it for £75 and anything else feels so small now. Last January bought a friend's 51'reg diesel Mondeo for 600 and then failed to sell the old Focus which is now rotting in front of the house. The hatchback Mondeo is significantly larger and roomy than the cars I had between the Volvo & the Focus, I was quite keen on Focus but then finally found out that I really don't like smallish cars. I might try again later with a Ford Ka, if I can fit into it.

28:

I've had good luck with Toyotas, for what it's worth. You may need to look at slightly older models, since they keep their value well. Still, a '95 Toyota in good condition probably has 10 more years of service in it.

29:

I realize this will have limited application to your situation, but I would like to mention that I've got 103K miles on my Prius and still get 48-50 mpg on every tank. Amazing technology. I would not have guessed that it would still be going so strong. (Hybrid batteries coming out of wrecks only sell for $200US here, so I'm assuming no one else needs them either.)

30:

I was in a very similar position in early December, down to the Volvo's given to me by my parents (a 340, then a 480 and finally a V40). The V40 is still in the garage waiting to go to the scrappies actually. For me, I needed to change because maintaining the Volvo is expensive here in France and we hadn't imported it and that would cost a lot and it's petrol and diesel is cheaper here and I had just received a lump sum from disability back payments that I could use to by a car with cash.

My criteria were very similar except that I needed to be able to accomodate two kids in car seats, a teenager and luggage (as well as my husband), we're renovating a house so being able to fit a lot in the boogt was imortant too. I also wanted a French marque to keep maintenance costs lower.

Secondhand cars depreciate more slowly here so cost more than their British equivalents. I ended up with a 2004 Renault Grand Scenic (7 seater version) bought from a dealer with a 3 month guarantee for just under €7000. It's got lots of fancy stuff like keycard start and inbuilt satnav. So far, it's been great.

I did notice that there weren't many estates around and that people carriers are taking over that segment of the market.

I've heard that Skodas are good, my Mum drives a Fabia which has been very reliable. There's not many of them around here which is why we didn't get one but they should be more easily available in the UK.

31:

"expensive repairs" is usually cheaper than than buying a new(er) car's depreciation. Over here that is. The cheapest thing to do here is run them till they rust into the ground. But that's with our big fat motors. Most of my few cars were past 150,000 at death. And I think was well over 200,000. But I did most of my own work.

32:

I recommend taking the best candidates to your local garage [1] for a going-over to spot any expensive gotchas before you buy. The fifty to sixty quid this costs per car is well worth it if you avoid a thousand pound repair, as I did when the mechanic gave me a heads-up on one machine where all the fluids were dirty except, suspiciously, the transmission's (later I found this model had a habit of eating its third gear).

[1] Stateside this service is provided by AAA at about $100 a pop.

33:

Equivalent service is available from RAC/AA over here. I am aware of this.

(I may not have bought many cars recently but I've been through nearly a dozen over the decades ...)

34:

I've been through this process 5 times over the last few years as my kids aged into car needing territory and my wife needed a "new" car for her new job. Plus some friends have done similar searches as yours.

I have no idea if these are sold in the UK and if they have diesel models.

We bought a 2009 Hyundai Elantra new. Sits 3 or 4 reasonably well and has a trunk that seems to be sized like Dr. Who's police box. 5 and 10 year warranty in the US depending on which parts are involved. We were going to buy used but the US "clunker" deal showed up during our search and $4500 we a great discount considering we got rid of a 1995 Explorer that both we and the world at large were happy to see go away. Any way my wife has to drive it 50 miles 5 days a week and is happy. I drove it from SC to TX in one day and survived in very good shape. (19 hours is too long for a single drive.) I got about 35 MPG during this drive while doing 70 to 75 mph most of the time. You get better millage if you are going slower.

Several of our friends with similar needs as yours have bought Honda Pilots and/or CRVs.

35:

Hyundai Elantra

Apparently called an i30 over there.

36:

Honda Accord Tourer? They've got a diesel option. I'm more than pleased with the reliability of my '05 Civic. Don't know if this is big enough for you, or if the model's old enough to have a decent used market yet.

37:

I feel like my recommendation of the US only 2009 ford flex that my wife just got to haul our kids around Texas will do as much good as everyone else here's suggestion.

The current version Truckster, it happens to be based on the same platform as your Volvo, and has been great so far (3 days). It's a US car so we couldn't get diesel, but the gas mileage is great for a car it's size, and it's easy to step in and out of compared to the usual SUV. I have had the same internet influenced buying experience, with many bug reports being fixed w/software updates or minor kits from the manufacturer.

To top it off, all the other soccer moms will approve of your choice!

38:

If you aren't bothered by the total lack of street cred you could do considerably worse than a peugeot 406 diesel estate. My wife's S reg 306 has just gone through its second mot in a row with nothing needed having done between 25-30k in that time. They don't appear to rust and the engines seem to go on forever. A peugeot diesel estate was the second car to do a million miles on one engine (it belonged to a Welsh taxi driver) and they are considerably more comfortable than a VW Beetle.

39:

A Ford Flex?

(a) They don't sell 'em in the UK, and (b) bloody good thing too -- a better name would be the Ford Prolapse.

(Yes, I have been in one, in the USA. Couldn't stop giggling. It's every crappy awful stereotype of the worst possible kind of American car, rolled into one hideous four-wheeled bundle.)

((And I'd be kind of surprised if the Ford truck can do 0-60 in 8 seconds and on to 140mph. I'm not quite sufficiently into middle aged crisis to need a sports car to shore up my ego, but the V70 diesel's performance isn't exactly shabby.))

40:

Hm.... if you are only doing the very occasional long journey and the rest are short journeys a few times a week, you'll have to take into account the cost of replacing the exhaust filters on a diesel - and they don't come cheap. Diesels don't like being left tucked up on a nice parking spot and only taken out for an occasional run.... at least the more modern ones don't...and this issue is across several car types that I know of... thought you ought to be warned.

41:

I am already aware of it. Long journeys outnumber short journeys; it's a non-issue for me.

42:

I've no idea how much a used MINI goes for there, but might be worth a look. Doesn't take up much space for parking, holds a surprising amount (a month's worth of groceries for two people), gets decent mileage, and there're diesel versions. The Clubman model holds more and is only slightly longer. I saw many in Scotland, when there several years ago, so I'd imagine there are used available.

43:

Volkswagons are over priced and people want ridiculous money for even old models.

Never ever ever buy a Fiat (long time sufferer, just because it looked nice).

Renault spare parts cost an arm and a leg.

Personal preference is for Fords. never had much go wrong with them and parts are cheap. My Father has had Mondeo estates for decades and now has now downgraded to a Focus estate. Great for Golf, Garden waste and the Dogs.

Quick look at Autotrader found a 2 litre turbo diesel ranges from £3000 for a 2003 45,000 mile vehicle, £5,000 for a 2007 56,000 one or a 2009 57,000 for £7,500.

The newer models all have the normal bell and whistles including cruise control.

I've always liked Fords patented windscreen de icing system. I have it in my focus. On a cold frozen morning a press a button and the inbuilt hair thin wires in the windscreen melt the ice in seconds. No scraping of the windscreen. Pity they don't do it on side windows.

44:

Hello, everybody?

We like Volvos. Been driving them for a decade. Not interested in switching. Not interested in Minis or Polos or SMART or other pocket rockets. Not interested in SUVs. Want Volvo V70, OK?

45:

One thing to check before buying: are the local dealers offering any kind of warranty for used cars? Also, there is a relatively new service here in the US which resells used cars with a warranty.

Buying from a dealer might involve a little extra expense but, you have someone to go after if it's a lemon (that's what we call a bad car). It's the rare private seller who will - or even can - offer any kind of serious guarantee.

Finally, does the UK have something like Carfax? It's a system which tracks the life of a car using its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)? It can identify what, if any, major repairs have been done. Particularly post-accident repairs.

Used cars are the most sensible purchases but, they do have a history.

46:

Back in 2007 i bought an ex-police V40 as my fiesta that i won by accident on fleabay for £122 the year before had done the 'slpodey-maionnaise head gasket death thing.
Paid 3.5k for it with 117k motorway miles on it. black book/auto-trader price at the time was closer to 6.5k :)
Barring a few holes in the dash and a small square missing from the grill it was lovely. FSH with police mechanics and a fill-and-respray for the roof holes from the hedgehog bits.
it still possessed it's power of Nee-Nar though. i used to get a lot of people slowing to the speed limit when i got near..
any maintenance knowledge i got from forums and bought spares from breaker yards.. the extra-stiff 19mm roll bar snapped after an overly enthusiastic speed bump. 23 quid and 30 notes to have it up on a ramp and fitted.

47:

Also, there is a relatively new service here in the US which resells used cars with a warranty.

A lot of these are scams. Especially the add on services where you buy it as an extra cost over and above the car price. They go out of business after a year or so before most claims come in and take the money and run. Or set up another company doing the same thing. Every time we buy a car we get post cards and letters from an assortment of this "services" for about 6 months warning us our warranty may be expiring and we should sign up with them NOW to be safe.

Charlie
Is there a company over there similar to CarMax in the US. Nationwide used car chain. 90 day warranty standard. Longer available for more money. In general cars from them are in very good shape. Cost is above private market and below typical dealers. Plus they will transfer cars from nearby (

48:

Dealers buy cars from auctions run by BCA. Large freets are sold at the end of the three year warranty in batches, so you get thirty Fords in a morning etc. Motability are particularly good, they tend to be low mileage.

The savings are not massive, perhaps 20%, in return for which you don't get to fully test the vehicle, but three years under warranty means few problems that haven't been sorted out. Non-dealers pay a bit of a premium, and folklore has it that the dealers will bid high against a punter, pour encourager les autres. Still, we got our last car this way and it was exhillerating, and saved me about £1500.

BCA has a service where you can find out what fleet sales are coming up. Finding out the values is, as you say, easy enough.

49:

Buying used in the US has become even harder because 3 years ago a little scheme called "Cash for Clunkers" was put out there to take old cars off the road, at taxpayer expense. Great idea, as it propped up the failing auto industry, and got polluters off the streets. (they were required to put a sand-like substance in the crankcase and run until it seized, guaranteeing the engine would pollute no more)

But it meant that all the cheap cars were no longer available.

Combined with the warranty, financing and rebates available for a new car, it didn't pay to buy a used car the last time I went for a vehicle.

50:

Damn, Charlie's post made me think. I guess my car *is* old enough to vote. Silly me, I've decided to see whether I can get to 300,000 on it.

I love those early 90s Camrys. Too bad they had to keep innovating until they weren't as good.

51:

I don't know if it is the same in the UK, but in the US you can often get good deals on former rental cars. The rental companies don't keep the cars more than a few years, and they generally keep up on the maintenance -- more than can be said for many private owners.

They do usually have higher mileage on them than other cars of the same age, but that means you can get them cheaper. I know of several people who will only buy former rental cars, and have had good experiences with them. (I think S.M Stirling is one of them, the subject has come up on his fan mailing list before.)

52:

Well, don't park it in S London or the locals will torch it.

53:

I quite like the new internet disintermediation of the market. In my mostly rural patch of Colorado, buying cars locally depended entirely on availability at the sketchy used lots or couple of dealers here in town. When I recently decided to buy a car, I was able to use internet search tools to look at places that were within a reasonable distance but well outside of what I would normally be willing to trek just to browse. The added perk of providing some market force downward on our local dealers was also handy.

For good deals in the old non-transparent market, I've found that used cars being sold by reputable repair shops can be worthwhile. It seems that it's not all that unusual for people to abandon cars rather than pay the repair bill. Once the shop clears the title, they're motivated to sell it off rather than store it and usually just want to cover the repair costs that have already been incurred. It's a bit of a crap shoot, but I once bought a Honda Civic for $1200 that lasted me for 200k miles (totaling over 500k on the odometer)

54:

Going abroad and picking up a left-hand-drive may save a fair amount, by the time you sell the difference in residual should be trivial. RHD has a premium built in due to lower volumes.

55:

If you are looking at private sales you may as well look at auctions. I had luck years ago with http://www.auctioncarbuyer.co.uk/AuctionCarBuyer-Home.htm who managed to get me roughly what I wanted at a very good price (and his all in price is the same as you would pay the auction house directly).

As for cars themselves go for what taxi drivers buy. So that is volvos or Skodas. The Octavia or Superb estate will give you everything you want apart from a different badge.

Finally you're wrong in the statement that rental companies loss money on car purchases. Nowadays the usually just rent them from the manufacturer directly and rent them out. Then the manufacturer pass them back onto the market as 6-12 month old fleet cars without specifying what type of fleet it was.

56:

I have a 2007 Mazda6, and love it. And in Europe, you can get a diesel version (sadly lacking in the US). I've generally been impressed with Mazdas, in terms of both reliability and styling.

My dad just bought a new Mazda3, and is impressed with it as well. Apparently it is a big improvement over the previous model, and has excellent gas mileage even in the US gasoline version.

57:

I think you're a bit out of date on Land Rover fuel consumption consumption and comfort, but it is a lot heavier on fuel than what you're looking at. (Depends on the engine, so I'll not give more than a rough comparison figure. The Land Rover would burn around 150% of the fuel.

You're definitely making the right choice, but people are often surprised by how small, in terms of road space, a Defender 90 is. And they just keep on going.

58:

I'd go for a Saab 9-5 estate. Good quality, safe, comfy, good to drive, still some of the quirky character that have made Saabs love-hate objects since the first one.

And since they've gone bust recently, they can be found at bargain prices now. This also trickles down in the used-car segment, as people worry about service and spare parts (most of which are Vauxhall/Opel/GM anyway, and the rest are still in plentiful stock).

59:

Charlie @ 16
WRONG about "rubbish" mileage - though my huge one gets 32 mpg diesel on runs with a mass of 2.1 tonnes (!)
Hideously uncomfortable is subjective - I LURVE mine, but, as we know our body-plans are a bit different, so what's comfortable for me, might not be for you, and vice versa .....
Oh, and being L-R you can get aftermarket seats ... there is no such thing as a standard LR - however, given your other constraints, I don't think any other suggestions are going to be useful.
I sympathise about Volvo, (see also @44) though.
Another very old friend has had them for years, and is now wondering what to do next ...


60:

The pistonheads classified section is a good and welll-organised place to find independent deals and the site itself has lots of people who have good advice.

http://www.pistonheads.com/sales/

61:
No matter what you buy, it's worth investing in at least an inexpensive set of wrenches, because a lot of small but relatively costly repairs and maintainance can be done at home easily. For example, I replaced the fuel pump on my old 1977 Ford pickup truck in about twenty minutes with a $25 replacement pump, whereas the same repair at a shop might've cost me upwards of $200. I did the same thing I'd do if my computer started acting up; read the fucking manual.

Words to live by, be it a car, refrigerator, computer, what have you. Especially when the "manual" is often extensively cross-referenced and often accompanied by video courtesy the intertubes.

Note also that the cutoff between "simple repairs I can do on my own with a basic toolkit" and "this should only be opened by a licensed professional with tens of thousands of dollars worth of tools at their disposal" is a lot sharper than it used to be.

62:

Not as a piece of advice -- I can read -- but to respond to your supposition, as there's no good reason to suppose you'd ever have had the opportunity to collect the data first-hand, a Ford F-150 (or equivalent Chevy, etc.) can do 0-60 mph in well under 8 seconds and tops out at about 140 mph, even though the speedometer tops out at 85*.

*Funny story about that. One time in college, in a relatively-deserted part of Texas, we decided to see what the top speed of my cousin's 1992 Chevrolet Silverado was. There were three of us, which was a good thing. My cousin (the driver) watched the road, I watched the odometer and the third guy timed it on his watch. The result, 136 miles per hour. Engineers are not *necessarily* boring, stereotypes not withstanding...

63:
What works best for my needs is buying a used vehicle that is mostly depreciated, then running it into the ground. End of story.

My invariable advice to those who seek it. The bad news is, it shows your age :-) People under the age of, say, 35 seemed to have internalized this bit of folk wisdom while those over 40 are still living in the days when a car going over 60 K miles without some sort of major maintenance was something of a rarity (and virtually unheard of if it went over 100 K).

Iow, per Charlie's post, we're living in the days of a mature auto technology, i.e., with a trans-national industry where there is virtually no room for profit with any of the conventional technologies.

64:

Speaking of the new tech which gives you better gas mileage without sacrificing horsepower:

(For example, one of the vehicles in question is in great shape, except it's about due for a new timing belt ...)

Belts, you say? I thought everything was synchronized with timing chains these days. The tradeoff here is that while you get better performance, things can go very wrong very quickly if you have a problems with the chain. Now in the old days, a worn or loose belt wasn't a big deal and a shade tree mechanic could easily tighten up the works or just replace it. But in these more sophisticated days, problems with a timing chain can easily cost you several thousands of dollars in valve work.

65:

My 1984 Capri 2.0L did 280,000 miles before it rusted to death. Same engine, clutch and gearbox. I also got 37mpg.
Most fun car I ever had. Now I have to drive "sensible" cars.

66:

'What works best for my needs is buying a used vehicle that is mostly depreciated, then running it into the ground.'

I've done the same and gone through 9 Volvos over a quarter century -- sometimes purchasing one for $1400 that I would then drive for four-six years, humping heavy equipment like cut-down Hammond organs over terrain like the Santa Cruz mountains in California. Great cars and great value. However ....

[1] Yes, it's a harder market to find anything that's a good bargain these days, thanks to network disintermediation and also the global economic crisis (which has meant more folks wary of taking on payments on a new car).

[2] I would steer clear of post-1996 Volvos, which are significantly less robust, less capable and more expensive than their predecessors.

I have owned one and gave it up in disgust.

Essentially, between the discontinuation of the 240 in 1993 and the takeover of Volvo by Ford in 1999, Volvos gained significant suckage in their design. On the second-hand market in the US, the newer models pretty much have price parity with BMWs and are arguably not as good.

[3] Nissans and Hondas are relatively worthy, and what I would look at if I were myself in your position. (For my current needs, I've bought a scooter and rent cars when I drive out of Berkeley and the Bay Area.)

67:

Ah, I think I see the problem here (she says, knowing she's contributing to it). Charlie, if you're just going to vent about things, and aren't asking for advice, the best thing to do is to say so very early on in the post. Otherwise, you're going to get all these helpful souls commenting and trying to give you all the advice they have to spare. Thus sending you spare in the process...

That said, good luck on finding the new car, and may it run successfully for you for any number of years until it finally gives up out of sheer inertia.

68:

Belts, you say? I thought everything was synchronized with timing chains these days.

My diesel did away with timing chains and belts, it has a gear train!! Asking the question "Is it due for a timing chain" is a great way to filter mechanics....

As for driverless cars, I am interested in what they will do to the less than truckload freight business. No cabin, lunch breaks or waiting to load for drivers, or in other words, freight from nose to tail around the clock. They then can dock onto semis or railcars without unloading their freight, travel dead with greater fuel economy while not congesting a highway, then disperse to their final destination all without the direct touch of a human.

69:

Mr Stross, given your preferences I can only suggest a low mileage Ford Focus and sourcing some Volvo badges.

70:

And Skodas these days are rebadged Volkswagens without the distinctive door-closing noise and a large chunk gone off the price. ",)
And if you want a car that'll run forever, well, Volkswagen have form...

71:

Charlie, I really don't have any advice for you other than to say I think you've spec'ed your problem out right, and I can't think of an alternative that would work better. And I wanted to say that as a counter to all the other advice you're getting.

My solution to the car buying dilemma is almost identical to yours, as I think I've mentioned before: I've bought 3 used Volvo estate vehicles in the last 26 years: a 244, a 740, and, 3 years ago, an XC70. I live in a very hilly region of the city, and most of my driving is local (I take the dogs up to the top of the local hill every day, an altitude change of about 700 feet over perhaps half a mile as the hiker crawls, not something I can do on foot anymore). A V70 would probably do me just fine, but the used market in this area is fairly small, and I couldn't find one that had what I needed on it at the right price.

Buying a used car makes a lot of sense, especially a Volvo which can easily last beyond 200K miles before it hits the end of the bathtub reliability curve. But you do have to be a little choosey about age and mileage, and number of previous owners (I've been careful to buy relatively low mileage one-owner cars in the 3-6 year old range, which is why the 740 was 17 years old, 14 of them mine, when I finally replaced it). Note: anyone suggesting buying from a rental fleet has obviously not observed how renters treat those cars, or what the rental companies do to them (I've had some so badly detuned they could barely accelerate).

72:

"For example, I replaced the fuel pump on my old 1977 Ford pickup truck in about twenty minutes with a $25 replacement pump, whereas the same repair at a shop might've cost me upwards of $200. "

For those in Europe, back as late as the 70's, a full-size pick-up had so much room in the engine compartment that you could climb on top and hunker down, with very few problems of accessing a part.

73:

Sounds like what you need is a Honda Fit. Crazy good gas mileage, surprisingly roomy inside for an average sized human, and just about perfect for errands around town.

Of course the problem with Hondas is that they're really good cars, so you don't save much money by going used.

Or you could get a Smart! I wonder if Smart will install a car ejector just for you...

74:

Glad you have a good idea of what you want. I was in a similar boat earlier this year with much the same issues. Two modes of driving, short 5mile trips to work for only myself and long 800mile round trips to visit friends and family with the bonus of chauffeur duty. Only difference I had no idea what I wanted since my car line of choice was essentially discontinued two years prior (Pontiac). After much searching and dealing with scuzzy dealerships I eventually settled on a ford fusion as the best compromise of my needs/wants. Sounds like your Volvo will do much the same for you.

I've always heard horror stories that it's quite expensive to get work done on diesel engines here in the US. Since diesel is a bit more prevalent in your neck of the world can I assume the costs are a bit more reasonable?

75:

With second-hand teleporters, the term "ripped-off" can refer to anything from spare electrons to limbs that weren't adequately attached. Use at your own risk. And my experience with "self-driving cars" has generally involved loss of power leading to loss of power steering, or sometimes ice leading to loss of road traction, but it's never been a Good Thing.

My 1987 Chevy Van died a few months back, so I had to find a replacement. In the US, the current price of gasoline over the life of the car is roughly $1M/mpg - so a 50mpg Prius will use $20K in gas, and a 20mpg truck will use $50K in gas. (That's 200K miles at $5/gallon, which are both very rough estimates chosen because their product is a big shiny round number. Obviously, in Scotland all the units of measurement are different and gas is more expensive.) At least here in the US, cars have been getting more efficient in the last couple of years, so buying a used car means spending a lot more on gas. I really wanted an updated version of my 1985 Toyota Tercel wagon, which got 27mpg, but they don't make an equivalent any more.

I ended up buying a Kia Soul, which gets 30-33mpg, costs a couple thousand less upfront than the Prius, and is a bit taller and roomier. It's a boxy hatchback thing, and can just barely fit a surfboard inside, but can't fit a bike or a sheet of plywood. The Scion xB and Nissan Cube are a similar size, but get about 5mpg less, at least with the 2011 engines, though the Cube is (much) Bigger On The Inside. I also looked at the Honda Fit.

76:

Unfortunately my UK car buying experience is 20 years out of date so I'm not going to try to comment on that process. However I have had a couple of Volvo wagons over the years and am in complete agreement with you as to their virtues. Over here in Canada they're relatively easy to find and maintain as the local weather made Scandinavian cars a popular choice in the imported car field (except for those who were rich and ignorant enough to buy a 4-wheel drive BMW of course). My brother who is still in England swears by (and occasionally at) Audi wagons but I am unconvinced. Good luck and good hunting!

77:

called "Cash for Clunkers" was put out there to take old cars off the road, at taxpayer expense.... But it meant that all the cheap cars were no longer available.

That was 2 1/2 years ago. It's impact on the used market over here is mostly gone.

The issue now is so many people are out of work or afraid of loosing their jobs that they've held onto their cars much more than usual for the last 2 or 3 years. So the used supply is down. US auto sales are approaching historical norms so the use marketplace will gradually catch up as people buy new and sell of their used.

If course none of this helps Charlie find a car.

78:

The best piece of advice I've ever been given (by a relative when I was out buying my first car) is that when buying used, it's smart to ask where the car has been worked on in the past. Then you go to that garage and ask the mechanic(s) if this particular car is any good, has any significant problems, etc. They have an incentive to look at their records, or rely on memory, and give you an honest answer, as they see you as a potential future customer.

Another thing to consider might be to look for almost the same car you have now — same make/model and similar model year — only in better shape than the one you currently have. It might be possible to find one that has seen much less use. Definitely not the most exciting option, but from a practical standpoint familiarity would give you some ease of mind.

Specifically, though, I would highly recommend the Subaru Forester for the needs you describe. Wonderful, safe, reliable cars, quite roomy, and (to my eye) attractive. There's a diesel version available in the UK.

79:

This is close to the renting scheme, but do you have neighbours or friends with whom you'd feel comfortable co-owning a vehicle? You could split the costs between two households, and have ready access to the vehicle on certain days. I have some friends who do this, and it works out pretty well -- so long as they're close together geographically, and remember to pay up on time, etc. It's the same as having roommates, really. Just make sure you all draw up a contract ahead of time so the ground rules are clear.

80:

I would suggest looking for a Honda or Toyota but not for the best fuel economy. It sounds like you don't drive lots of miles. In used cars gas guzzlers tend to cost less while still being in good condition. I am presently driving a 1993 volvo 960 which cost me $1700 CAD. Everything works. It has less than 200000 kilometers on it and gives 9 liters/100 km highway but about 18 l/100 km city. This a 3 liter gas engine. I only put about 10000 kilometers per year on it. Fuel here is about $1.25CAD per liter. Buying a newer more fuel efficient car would have cost me much more plus higher insurance costs which would not be off set by fuel savings.

81:

Petrol vs. diesel technology: the gap is a lot narrower. A diesel and direct-injection petrol are very similar. And general reliability improvements help a lot. I've replaced injectors on "traditional" diesel engines—the pre-electronic tech—and bleeding the injector pipework is a big part of the extra time. Also, the hardware is more expensive. And fuel injection, of any sort, replaces the need to work on the carburretor.

And, even with the older tech, injectors lasted hugely longer than spark plugs.

So it's more a case of a diesel needing fewer, though larger, lumps of cash for engine maintenance. The total might be the same, but the user screams more loudly when he sees a bill.

82:

The size of the gallon cancels out. Current UK costs are about $10 per gallon, though the gallon is bigger. What your $1M does is pre-calculate a constant derived from distance and cost-per-gallon, which you then divide by miles-per-gallon.

OK, I round-figured the exchange rate.

People used to metric use an inverse of mpg, the fuel used for a given given distance, so it would need some re-arrangement and a so a different constant.

I think. I'd better wake up now.

83:

Here's hoping you don't find any unpleasant surprises when looking at your shortlist.

You've been warned about the timing belt which is good (the one on our Skoda is due for replacement this year but we've covered that with a service plan).

One comment upstream I'll endorse: check the service record.

84:

I always find it interesting that despite the range of manufacturers, each with a range of vehicles, and each vehicle in a range of specs, most people can't find a really good match to their needs. What are those designers doing?

For instance, our host wants good motorway cruising, sometime with good load carrying capacity, sometimes not. He wants to minimise costs. Hardly an uncommon set of requirements, yet its difficult to find a really good match.

For a start, he only wants that capacity on some occasions, not all the time. Nippy in traffic is less important than not getting fatigued on long high speed cruises. And regular servicing when its not doing a high number of miles per year is out.

A Volvo is a bit of a tank for the task, is sizeable all the time, and they expect it to get attention too regularly.

Does nobody in car companies really think use cases? We know they do to a degree (yummy mummys, boy racers, reps) but it seems like they don't go far enough to think of, and solve, the real world issues (where are the soundproofed compartments for screaming kids?)

As a for instance, it sounds like Charlie needs a smaller, high geared, efficient car; with the option to attach cargo carrying capacity when needed - like a trailer but with aerodynamics. Why isn't this need met by a third of the cars on the market?

85:

I'd favour condition over age and mileage, unless the difference is notable.

We know the petrol versions of V70s are tough, because the police used them as traffic cars for years, and when you need to buy cars that do 80 to 150,000 miles a year you tend to find out if they don't last.

Just with respect to the economics, I'd be pretty sure that for a car this size diesel power will be very popular with used buyers (who will all have to buy their own fuel), so there'll be more depreciation on petrol models, so you may be able to get a newer/lower mileage/nicer petrol one for the same money as for a diesel.

For low annual mileage drivers, big used cars with petrol engines are a bit of a bargin, even once you've taken the CO2-based road tax on the chin.

Just a thought.

86:

"Optimistically this may be my last self-driven car; I'd be very happy if, circa 2022, self-driving vehicles are sufficiently mature that I can give up driving for good.

Or pay to install a teleport booth instead."

At the speed people are experimenting with quadrotors these last years, and (I hope) given a mad reduction in the prices of new ultralight materials I think you'll have your self-driving vehicle around 2022. Of course it's going to be a flying vehicle, not a road vehicle because it's smashingly easier to design a robot that will navigate in 3D in the air than one who could navigate in 2.5D on the ground. The difficulty lies in the fraction.

87:


Final note: my age and domicile is not compatible with bicycles,

Objection. There's only about a year's difference in age between you and me. That's certainly not too old to ride a bike. Considering my grandfather, who was a keen cyclist all his life and towards the end was considerably more mobile on bike than on foot, I don't think there is actually a too old at all.

Still, no point banging on. You don't like the idea of riding a bike, and really that's sufficient reason not to do so, and for me not to keep harping on about it.

88:

I'm contemplating a switch myself. Similar usage pattern to you, although I sometimes putter around where I live at the weekend (North-East coast of England, lovely.)

I think it's a very real possibility that the luxury car will be totally extinct within 20 years.

For that reason, I'm tempted to splash on something like a VW Golf cabrio: roof down for the nicer seasons; spacious enough for four or family detritus; capable for the long distance journey; damn comfortable. Fuel economy possibly best described as "above average".

You could do the same, and then do a drive around Scotland's whiskey distilleries and write a book about the experience?

89:

I think we've had more or less this conversation before except that you weren't specifically looking to buy back then.

I can't comment much on Ovlovs since I've never owned one. One of my colleagues has/had a V70? diesel saloon (not sure of age; personal plate) which was big but very comfy on the roads up here. I'd rate it as better comfywise than my Skoda Octavia. Reliability-wise I've had the Skoda 6 years next month and the only non-service/consumable part it's had is an auxilliary drivebelt tensioner.

General observation on diesels - in real World driving like passing trucks and tractors on the A1 single carriageway section a turbo-diesel will out-drag a similarly powerful petrol engine.

90:

@Matthew:

While I agree with you about age and bicycles, you missed the domicile bit.
OGH lives in Edinburgh. Think hills, made more fun by being covered in wet cobbles.

Then add a cyclist with peripheral vision issues.

@Charlie:
Thanks for not moderating the sillier posts away. Visions of swapping a Volvo V70 for a Mini clubman, for the usage case of bringing furniture long distances on a motorway has cheered me up no end.

Really, there are days when d'internet turns into an exercise in reading comprehension.


91:

Do you live in a 4th floor (UK usage) flat with no ground floor storage?
Do you have eyesight (and IIRC knee) problems?
Do you live in an area where any trip over 10 minutes walk is at least partly uphill in at least one direction?

If you answered "No" to any of those questions then you don't have the same problems with cycling as Charlie does.

92:

The Volvo dealership in Edinburgh have been through a tough patch recently. They closed down one of their two showrooms (at Seafield); then they sacked all but three of their salesmen at the remaining showroom in Sighthill. To turn over their stock, about 18 months ago they were selling new cars at dealer cost (which for a Volvo, is about 25% less than stocker price).

We've been driving Volvos for the past decade; I've got a soft spot for them, as my Dad's 360 helped him live through what would otherwise could have been a fatal crash (rule one: you can be as good a driver as you like, even with the police advanced course under your belt, but the other guy can still be a muppet).

I've had V40/V40/V50 over the past decade - originally hand-me-downs from the wife, who drives between 25K and 35k miles per year as part of her job. She's on her fourth V70, but this one is an XC70; the last three have been diesels.

Build quality is excellent, the seats are even more comfortable than before, and reliability is pretty much flawless; our AA membership has remained unused for over a decade, since the demise of our old Vauxhall Astra. The new V70 (Mk.3?) range are based on the S80, not the S60 - and while the turning circle isn't as good as the old 850 or Mk.1 V70, it's better than the Mk.2. The six-speed gearbox is nice as a manual, and the automatic is pretty good too (it has a semi-manual option). We're seeing a drop in mileage on the XC70 auto compared with its predecessor manual V70 - but it's still running slightly more cheaply than the petrol V50, curse it.

The difference with going to the dealership is that while their price for a second-hand car may look inflated, they might offer you an unrealistic trade-in on your existing Volvo - it's certainly worth a try. They certainly did with me, to about £1k or so; the net cost for four-year-old V50 with an eight-year-old V40 as a trade came to the same price offered for three-year-old Ford Focus at the second-hand dealership up the road.

The other advantage of a nation-wide dealer network is their ability to get you a second-hand V70 that actually fits your needs, even if they truck it down from Aberdeen. You're not limited by a "search within 70 miles" function, and that year's warranty on their used cars is certainly worthwhile...

93:

Alastair McKinstry :

"Thanks for not moderating the sillier posts away. Visions of swapping a Volvo V70 for a Mini clubman, for the usage case of bringing furniture long distances on a motorway has cheered me up no end."

Have you seen what BMW are marketing under the Mini Clubman badge? It's comfortably into the "compact SUV" class and looks perfectly capable of swallowing quite respectably sized pieces of furniture...

Incidentally I think OGH is wrong about there being no bargains. Here's where I'd be looking if I was in the market for ruthlessly cost effective, hassle free personal transportation at the moment:

1. Dump the old preconceptions - the world of robust, trouble free, low maintenance motoring no longer begins and ends with VW Volvo et-al, there are very, very few really bad cars around now and (assuming you look on a car as a domestic appliance rather than a fashion statement or toy) there is plenty of "off brand" stuff around from the likes of Kia, Proton, and Hyundai which are perfectly serviceable, have excellent reliability, and depreciate like a stone making them excellent buys a couple of years old with a few tens of thousands of miles on the clock.

2. The real bargain don't make it to the forecourts or even into the small ads as the profit margins for traders at the bargain end of the market just isn't enough to justify the effort and people who would previously have sold privately generally can't be bothered with the hassle of placing the ad, answering the 'phone, or dealing with dodgy individuals. As aresult perfectly servicable older cars just (one way or another) get scrapped. You need to keep an ear out for colleagues, friends, relatives etc who are looking to trade-up and getting derisory offers from franchise. When my (much loved) Saab convertible had to go (expensive roof mechanism broke and also completely uninsurable for my 18 year-old son to drive) it was replaced by a slighty neglected looking but well maintained, regularly serviced, and mechanically perfect Nissan Micra with a mere 60K miles on the clock previously owned by my wife's niece for the princely sum of £50 plus accumulated goodwill from fixing computers, installing bits of home theatre, and general family related Good Karma :-)

94:

Oh yes. The "it works for me, so it must work for you" syndrome. There must be an agreed name for that fallacy. ("One Size Fits All"?)

As for the suggestions for a Smart or a Mini? Yeah. They've not seen Charlie turn up at a convention with three adults and luggage for the following week in the car.

95:

As a for instance, it sounds like Charlie needs a smaller, high geared, efficient car; with the option to attach cargo carrying capacity when needed - like a trailer but with aerodynamics. Why isn't this need met by a third of the cars on the market?

That would indeed work, except a trailer is right out.

Remember, the average age of the UK housing stock is 75 years? It predates mass automobile ownership. Parking is therefore problematic, with many homes not having a garage, a drive, or even on-road parking outside the front door. (Where I live this problem is particularly bad; I'm lucky to be able to park within 250 metres of the front door, because this part of town was built 120-200 years ago. Single-car garages change hands for £45,000, and may be some distance from the home. So there's nowhere to store a trailer, and nowhere to work on your own vehicle maintenance that isn't on the street, in public.)

96:

Have you considered a Skoda Octavia Estate. From my experience they're reliable, economical and can haul a fair amount of kit - think 4 kayaks + people + camping kit. Would also be cheaper to buy.
That said a V50 is a great car.

97:

You don't live on the top floor of a tenement, do you? (That's 64 steps to haul your bicycle up, every time you get home.) Plus, I'm at the bottom of a hill. And I have a dodgy knee. Putting it all together, bicycles are a non-starter in this tenement. (I had one in the previous flat, but ...)

98:

There's nothing quite like the dramatic crash to make one appreciate the quality of engineering in a vehicle. That's why I rate Audis so high - I had a BMW 5 Series bounce off the driver's side door of my A4.

BMW? Complete writeoff, and would have been with that damage even if new.
A4? Expensive rebuild time, as the driver's side door pillar and both doors had to be replaced, but I drove that car for another 100,000 miles.
BMW's occupiers? Ambulance called for one of them.
Me? Almost entirely unhurt - although a spray of flying glass carried my glasses from my face over into the passenger side door pocket, I had only a couple of very fine cuts that bled only momentarily before closing up.

99:

I recently bought a 2006 diesel Volvo v70 D5 with 130,000 on the clock for £6500. I don't think I got a bargain but I don't think I got ripped off either. This was in Bristol: no idea how that compares to Edinburgh prices.

I was not bothered about the high mileage... it is a Volvo, after all.

Similar usage profile: I work and shop within walking distance of my home, but need a car for family trips and hauling big items at the weekend.

We get over 40 MPG in it, and I am not driving it with an eye to fuel economy.

Some particular gotchas:

- The turning circle ( v70 mark 2, 2000 to 2007) is epically bad. I've had problems in spaces that my old Saab 9-3 - not a small car either - would have handled easily. It's not a great car for parallel parking. I believe that the turning circle is significantly wider than that of the 850.

- The exhaust mid-point mounting bracket has rusted through. This seems to be a common problem, to the point that there are replacement brackets available online.

- The driver's side window rattles at low speeds. This is also apparently quite common. I haven't fixed it properly yet, as it would probably mean taking the door apart. I can get it to stop by opening and closing the window a few times.

100:

2 notes: as for "size comparable to Volvo estate", I can certainly recommend the Honda Accord Tourer, in the incarnation that was built between 2003 and 2008. Past 2008 it turned stupid (smaller and more expensive). Plus, it's the car with the coolest commercial ever (youtube for "honda cog"). Best version would be a post 2006 Diesel with manual gearshift (I should now, I have a pre-2006 petrol auto).

second note: in German Usenet lore, there is "Kathinkas Law", which states that while anyone is free to ask the question he wants on Usenet, that doesn't mean he'll get the answer he wants. Or an answer at all instead of random tangents. This seems to apply here as well but with the twist that the whole thing is reversed in that this place is actually yours, so it's not you who is wrong for complaining about the answers but rather the "get a rental!"-commenters for being unable to read.

101:

I was out of the country and carless for 10 years. When I came back - to Geordiestan - I spent 9 months trying to get by without a car, in a situation very like Charlie's. I bought an 06 Volvo S60 2.4 diesel with around 60K on the clock, and it is the most conmfortable car I've ever driven, and in 2 years has needed 1 bulb and a £6 plastic hook for the filler cap cover. Go for the Volvo!
I have to go to the Toulouse area in May. Driving will cost about £250 one-way, including ferry but not overnight stops. The train will cost half of that with old bar-steward's discount, but car hire for 2 weeks will bring the cost up to almost the same as driving. Similarly, I can fly Gatwick-Toulouse for about £50 return, but car hire and trains to and from Gatwick would bump the cost right up again. It's crazy, but given the flexibility of it, the car really does seem to be the best option for this journey.

102:

I'd suggest something like a Mercedes E320 CDI or similar. They get 35mpg+, and while the seats are no longer available in old-school MBTex, and folks will tell you it's not a "real" MBZ, they're lovely and reliable machines that don't cost that much too keep up. Owners tend to keep them in good condition, and they have all mod cons (as far as I am concerned - I learned to drive in the early 80s) as standard.

103:

I really like my V50 (it's a lot better than the year-younger Ford Focus that I would have got for the same price), but I suspect that it's a bit small for what Charlie needs.

Four adults, yes. Four adults, in comfort, on the long haul of the M6, with more than a medium suitcase each? Not in comfort - the V50 shares a floorpan with the Ford Focus, it's not that big. The V70 is a far nicer motorway cruiser, and it also includes blind-spot warning lights for those of limited peripheral vision...

We had the problem of two adults, one baby, two long rifle cases, two 100 liter duffel bags full of shooting equipment, and all childcare gear for a long weekend - and monthly drives to Bisley or Aberdeen from Edinburgh (for all of the national squad selection events; our cars can just about self-drive the M6). We could fit it into a V40, but after firstborn's stuff went in we only had room for a tiny bag for our stuff. Herself went off to look for a roof box, and came back saying that she'd seen a great deal on a Mk.1 V70; and so it began...

...and given that a roofbox is an impractical suggestion for Charlie, the V70 it is.

104:

I also live in Edinburgh and have similar car requirements. Actually, my wife does, I can’t drive. Which is one reason I live in Edinburgh and not in Aberdeenshire.

I walk to work. My wife works from home in her slippers most of the time.

We have a two year old to transport – they take up more room than American football playing university attending nephews.

My wife has a SEAT Altea XL turbo-diesel which she likes very much. It’s pretty much a long wheel base Golf. Decent drive for long journeys, satisfies the girl-racer in her, not so expensive to run that the occassional trip to Costco is painful.

Both back seats fold down flat and there are some neat luggage storage solutions in the boot too.

As a passenger and chief paker of luggage I find it superb.

I think self-driving buses will solve many of the “I’d like to take public transport but the car is on the only way I can get from here to there in one hour / day problems.” I reckon they would cost about half to two third of the cost to run of a manned bus and they can run 24 hours a day for no premium. I think this implies more frequent services with better coverage.

105:

Suzuki 1200 - plenty of grunt. A cough, a casual flick of the wrist and you could be hitting 150mph by the time you get to the end of the street. I didn't get a car license until I was 35. Those Scottish winters in a 100mph motorway breeze will be "fresh", and "bracing". Don;t worry about the knee - after 15 minutes you will be numb from the waist down.

106:

Seeing as you've already decided what you want*, it might be worth checking out your local post office's notice board (or equivalent). You might get lucky and pick up some bargain motor being sold by an OAP who's had it since new and has barely used it for 5 years.
I was lucky enough to get my car that way**, and it's the only way to get around the "internet is flattening prices" effect, ie by buying from someone who can't even spell internet.


*(so I'll keep my suggestion of a Ford Mondeo or Focus with a TDCI engine to myself)

**(a very low mileage 206 bought from an old gent who was giving up driving, and the car had sat in a garage for years, with only a monthly tootle round the shops to keep it running and all for £cheap)

107:

Further to which, if you ever do decide you need proper off-road capability (and the way our last few winters have been I wouldn't rule it out, especially if the aforementioned elderly relatives live somewhwere low-priority for ploughing and gritting) you can do a hell of a lot better than twelve grand for a Defender. Ex-Army ones from the MoD's official reseller start from £2,500. (They also had actual proper armoured personnel carriers starting from four grand, but unfortunately my wife was having none of it.) And I think the Defender's engine is still old-school enough that you can get away with running it on four parts diesel to one part cooking oil without terminally buggering it up, though this isn't exactly legal.

108:

Other than the cost, stigma, and utter, complete, impracticability, why no love for zeppelins?

109:

Ekranoplan!

110:

Seeing as all the sensible options have been covered, I'm going to be bloody ridiculous and suggest the Alvis Stalwart.

Advantages: Amphibious, tough (could probably win a head-on with a dustcart), very easy to find in a car park, roomy, easy to find a local mechanic (almost any Royal Engineer over a certain age can fix it).

Disadvantages: High 3rd party insurance probably, cramped driver accommodation, tricky to drive around a Scottish city, maybe need a HGV licence, complex gearbox, low fuel mileage.

@Jake, 107: Some Land Rovers (and humvees) can be converted to run on methanol - and you can get a trailer unit that takes in woodchips and outputs fuel.

Seriously, though? Volvo V70. I don't drive but as a passenger, it's very comfortable.

111:

Stigma?

Oh, yes, that whole "Steampunk is so yesterday" thing. Sorry.

112:

The only issue is timing, now, isn't it? If you expect the economy to worsen under "austerity", then you might expect people to want to dump their used cars at a lower price and hopefully secure yourself a better price.

See if you can find any data on used car prices and UK GDP and determine if that is true.

In the US, if you want a big vehicle, wait for the high gas prices as they become virtually unsaleable after a while. But I doubt that has much impact in the EU with high petrol taxes.

113:

Only if it's a nuclear ekranoplan.

114:

Yes to the steampunk thing, but also the whole flaming Nazi gasbag thing.

Q: What's the difference between [insert obnoxious conservative public figure of choice here] and the Hindenburg?

A: One is a flaming Nazi gasbag and the other one is a zeppelin.

115:

Back in 2002, the last time I needed to buy a car, the market here was such that used cars didn't provide enough savings over a new one (at the bottom end where my cars are,) and so I bought a new Saturn sedan. Just the basic model, the lowest priced one they had. Since I've made sure to maintain it over the years, now that it has 231,000 miles (US) I feel that it is still in excellent condition and with new spark plugs, I'd take it cross country without a second thought. That's one of the advantages of buying a new car: you're absolutely certain that it has been maintained properly. If you feel you need several hundred thousand miles from it (I'm hoping for 500,000 from my Saturn,) there's no better way to help make that happen.

On the other hand, we bought my mother's car for my wife last year and I know for certain that it was maintained properly as well, so in that case buying new made little sense. Finally, we decided that we needed more occasional cargo capacity last year and bought an old (1993) "beater" Ford F-150 pickup truck for $700. It works fine and doesn't look poorly enough to be embarrassing to be seen in. It doesn't have another 100k miles left in it but for $700, I don't need it to go that far. Good luck, Charlie: I hate buying cars.

116:

For non-Nazi airships, the R101 is an option? Barnes Wallis had a hand in the design, it was built at Cardington, which is also where they buried the crew (you can see the tattered Red Ensign in the church, which also has a unique Wedgewood font).

I reckon Charlie could get a reasonable deal on helium, if he still has mates in the nuclear industry

For another really dangerous flight option, there's the Mignet HM-14 "Flying Flea", a single-seat prop plane powered by a motorbike engine that was designed for amateur construction and was horribly unsafe - after many fatal crashes, it was banned before WW2.

117:

That, sir, is a vile calumny against Barnes Wallis, who was the lead designer for the R-100.

118:

That'll teach me to post before checking wikipedia. Barnes Wallis was Vickers, R101 was built by Shorts. Also, R100 was built in Yorkshire and therefore is more suitable for Charlie.

119:

I double-checked because I was certain that the Barnes Wallis design did not crash, and therefore their was no reason to bury the crew together!

Also, if memory serves, the issue with the Flying Flea was an undiagnosed (possibly undiagnosible given the state of wind-tunnel testing in the 1930s) unrecoverable deep stall condition. With some minor modifications to the mainplane position it's no more dangerous than any other light aircraft.

120:
Otherwise, you're going to get all these helpful souls commenting and trying to give you all the advice they have to spare.
It never fails to amuse me (though I don't need that sort of amusement) how even semiregular readers of Charlie's blog can read one of his "planning to buy" posts and then give advice that doesn't take into account that he has a clear idea of his needs and the applicable economics, and he has most certainly done the research. And yet someone always does, and once the advice starts it tends to pile on because others react to the initial advice.


Meanwhile, I think OGH's car-buying problem is one I face about a variety of things: having figured out pretty much exactly what fits my entirely reasonable (to me) specs, I find it doesn't exist (anymore) or at least is extremely hard to get. All I can offer is a wish for good luck.

121:

I recently bought a 2006 diesel Volvo v70 D5 with 130,000 on the clock for £6500. I don't think I got a bargain but I don't think I got ripped off either. This was in Bristol: no idea how that compares to Edinburgh prices.

Ahem: I'm just back from buying exactly the same model with 89,000 on the clock for £6800 (plus an old banger in part-ex). I'd say that's more evidence that prices across the UK are within spitting distance.

I test-drove it first (and did the online records check). No sign of rattly exhaust or windows, and it's been properly maintained by a main dealer.

122:

"They also had actual proper armoured personnel carriers starting from four grand, but unfortunately my wife was having none of it."

Those are *great* for when the parking spot is a bit too small. You can nudge the other vehicles the odd meter or two with nothing more than cosmetic damage. To your car, of course.

123:

"Other than the cost, stigma, and utter, complete, impracticability, why no love for zeppelins?"

Parking is easy - just drop an anchor.

However, this would get Charles terminally relegated to the steampunk category of the bookshelf.

124:

Normally, I'd second the recommendation for Charlie to get a zeppelin. They're wonderful to ride in, have plenty of storage space, and while it's hard to find enough street-level parking for them in most cities, Charlie lives on an upper floor so he could simply park on his roof and reduce the amount of stair-climbing he has to do.

Unfortunately, though, Edinburgh's weather isn't really conducive to driving a zep. They don't do well in rain, and the usual weather report there is "if you can see across the street, it'll rain by tomorrow; if you can't, then it's already raining." So he'll have to stick to flying saucers, or ground-based vehicles.

125:

I'd tend to agree on pricing; if you've made a mistake it's in not considering other makes as alternatives.

Do the Ovlovs have particulate filters in the exhaust? If so, then I'd strongly recommend giving it an Italian tune-up a couple of times a year.

126:

Well, it doesn't have that effect on Cory Doctorow. Maybe it's because of the red cape.

(xkcd 239)

127:

One of the posters mentioned auctions. If you have bankruptcy and police sales/auctions in Scotland, you might get a deal.

Why is diesel is considered more ecofriendly than gas? -Even a whiff of it makes me violently ill, plus all of those particulates ... C'mon, there's no way particulates are healthy for anyone or anything. Below is one of a few recent articles that actually says that diesel isn't such a wonderful fuel. (I realize that it probably won't impact your car purchase decision, but it might make you consider adding a filter to reduce these particulate emissions.)

Cutting Soot Emissions: Fastest, Most Economical Way to Slow Global Warming?

ScienceDaily (Aug. 31, 2011) — A new study of dust-like particles of soot in the air -- now emerging as the second most important, but previously overlooked, factor in global warming -- provides fresh evidence that reducing soot emissions from diesel engines and other sources could slow melting of sea ice in the Arctic faster and more economically than any other quick fix, a scientist reported in Denver, Colorado on August 31, 2011.

In a presentation at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Mark Z. Jacobson, Ph.D., cited concerns that continued melting of sea ice above the Arctic Circle will be a tipping point for Earth's climate, a point of no return. That's because the ice, which reflects sunlight and heat back into space, would give way to darker water that absorbs heat and exacerbates warming. And there is no known way to make the sea refreeze in the short term.

Jacobson's calculations indicate that controlling soot could reduce warming above parts of the Arctic Circle by almost 3 degrees Fahrenheit within 15 years. That would virtually erase all of the warming that has occurred in the Arctic during the last 100 years.

"No other measure could have such an immediate effect," said Jacobson, who is with Stanford University. "Soot emissions are second only to carbon dioxide (CO2) in promoting global warming, but its effects have been underestimated in previous climate models. Consequently, soot's effect on climate change has not been adequately addressed in national and international global warming legislation. Soot emissions account for about 17 percent of global warming, more than greenhouse gases like methane. Soot's contribution, however, could be reduced by 90 percent in 5-10 years with aggressive national and international policies."

Soot or "black carbon" consists of particles, nearly invisible on an individual basis, released in smoke from combustion of fossil fuels and biofuels. Major sources include exhaust from diesel cars, buses, trucks, ships, aircraft, agricultural machines, construction equipment and the wood/animal dung fires that hundreds of millions of people in developing countries use for used for cooking and heating. Black carbon particles become suspended in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight, just like a black t-shirt on a sunny day. The particles then radiate that heat back into the air around it. Black carbon also can absorb light reflected from Earth's surface, which helps make it such a potent warming agent.

The good news is that decreasing soot could have a rapid effect, Jacobson said. Unlike carbon dioxide, which remains in the atmosphere for years, soot disappears within a few weeks, so that there is no long-term reservoir with a continuing warming effect. And the technology for controlling black carbon, unlike that for controlling CO2, already is available at relatively modest cost. Diesel particulate filters, for instance, can remove soot from car and truck exhaust. Government and other agencies also are trying to introduce low-soot cookstoves in developing countries. "Converting gasoline- and diesel-burning cars and trucks to electric or hydrogen vehicles and reducing emissions from diesel generators could have an immediate effect on warming," according to Jacobson.

Jacobson, who developed the first detailed climate model to include the global effects of soot, reported on use of the model to gain new insights into the effects of soot particles trapped inside and between the water droplets that make up clouds. Previous research on black carbon and climate overlooked that topic. Jacobson said the information is important because black carbon within clouds makes the clouds "burn off" and disappear over heavily polluted urban and other areas. Climate models that ignore this "cloud absorption" phenomenon underestimate the effects of black carbon on climate.


128:

Would you be willing to post a list of the makes and models that you were considering in the course of this purchase? Your criteria / specifications and mine sound very similar, and thus I'm curious what made the final cut. Thanks.

129:

The article indicates a rather short list: Volvo 850 estate.

Which may not be that much help to you, though if you read the more sensible comments, things like the Subaru and Skoda estates might also be possibilities for someone not requiring a drop-in replacement.

130:

Autotrader is a strange site, i got the impression when I tried and failed to sell a car and that the autotrader types are mostly in the car trade and it is used to sell new and trade rather than used.

131:

Yes. The only make and model I considered was a Volvo, either XC70 or V70, diesel, stick-shift. Period.

Because we (hint: I'm not the only driver of the vehicle) wanted another Volvo estate. Which kind of constrained the search right from the outset!

(I had an offer -- in the family -- of a Subaru Outback estate, but I'm a bit "meh" on it. Skoda ... $WIFE decided it looked ugly. End of search. Parking here is such a nightmare we've only really got room for a single vehicle, so it needs to be a good all-rounder: huge load carrying capacity, very comfortable for long motorway journeys, reasonably powerful, reasonably fuel-efficient. The Volvo hits all the check-boxes and is familiar enough that we can just hop in and drive off. Now, if we had room for a second car, then some research would be needed ...!)

132:

[Soot particulates and their effects of global warming]

I notice a very large source of anthropically-generated soot particles is missing from the list given in the article -- coal-fired power stations. I wonder why?

As has been mentioned in other postings on this subject here all diesel vehicles in the UK have particulate filters fitted, designed to trap and burn soot particles at high temperature once the engine warms up sufficiently. I don't know what the requirements are in the US for soot abatement but I'd expect they would be similar.

As for the benefits of diesel versus gas(oline) the key is mileage. Charlie's old petrol Volvo would return 32-33 mpg on long motorway runs whereas his new diesel Volvo, despite having a turbo and a more powerful engine will return about 50 mpg in the same conditions. The fuels cost about the same at the pump (about $8 per US gallon) in the UK so a cost saving of 33% per mile is not to be sneered at.

133:

What I find most interesting is the number of non-Europeans commenting on this thread when the options available here don't bear any resemblance to what the options are here.

I still think Skoda is a decent second choice.

134:

Skoda have come on *a lot* since the days of the jokes. My wife swears by them (and she drives, I don't - too under-automated IMO...). Whenever she drives beyond Italy, it must be a Skoda hire.

If it hasn't been dealt with already, Charlie could presumably lease a fairly significant car and get a worthwhile tax break on it given that this blog slice (and others) illustrate how it's necessary to his work.

And his work is necessary!

135:

Now of course I have to decide how to apologise for the double post. Without making a third post.

Whatever way you look at it I'm on a looser...

136:

At the risk of being tiresome, I'd like to reiterate my suggestion of the Subaru Forester, rather than the Outback. I think you and your wife might find it impressively less ugly, more spacious than the Outback, but not too big, and efficient on fuel. You should consider taking a new for for a test drive to see if you want to go looking for a used one to buy.

My mother had a Forester when I first started driving, and I loved driving it probably more than any other car yet. I'm sure she'd still have it today, but she parked it under a bridge for safekeeping during a hurricane, and the poor thing drowned. (The Subaru, not mom, who wasn't in it, and is well, but now unfortunately drives a Mini.)

For reference and bonus points, I'm pretty sure this is also the car represented in the opening sequences of Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away.

137:

#93:

I hadn't seen the new BMW version. Their Mini has grown into a Maxi, hasn't it?

I'd seen a 'pickup truck' version of the original Mini Clubman. It could carry almost as much as a wheelbarrow, plus two passengers in the front. This was what I had in mind.

Of course, you could do worse. I was on a road-trip with a bunch from College many years back, going across Ireland in a Trabant. Its true what they say, you can't go more than 45 minutes in it at full speed (50+ mph) without taking breaks for your ears to recover. The 2-stroke engine was a lawnmower on steroids.

138:

I once went on a camping holiday in the Welsh borders with a then-girlfriend in a Morris Traveller with mouse traps in the binnacle -- it spent most of its time parked in a barn. At one point I coaxed it up to 56mph, with a tail wind ...

Ah, the days of no syncromesh, no stereo, no head restraints, wooden bodywork, and an engine that still had a hand-crank socket in case the starter motor failed!

(I do not miss them.)

139:

"my grandfather, who was a keen cyclist all his life"

There's your hint, right there.

140:

The car Chihiro's father was driving at the start of Spirited Away was an Audi, an import since it was left-hand drive.

141:

While I would be happy to park a Zeppelin on the roof, we are unfortunately in controlled airspace here. You can tell when something's burning off fuel to make an emergency landing at Turnhouse because they come right over our roof and the Zeppelin would be a danger to such traffic.

142:

Thank you for your informative reply, Robert.

".. coal-fired power stations" - I've no idea why these weren't mentioned unless the study author assumed everyone was already aware of their adverse impact?

Hadn't twigged to this info in reading previous posts, i.e. "... all diesel vehicles in the UK have particulate filters fitted, designed to trap and burn soot particles at high temperature once the engine warms up sufficiently."

Wish I didn't get so sick from diesel, that 33% lower fuel cost is attractive.

143:

I suspected that you might not have seen the modern version of the Mini Clubman. I certainly would not have suggested the original, too small and too old, even if you could find one. I know a little of small British cars, having grown up taking road trips in MGBs.

144:

MGBs? Those aren't small! If you want small, you want an Austin A30 or similar! Makes a SMART ForTwo look like a Lincoln Town Car, both in size and in comfort.

145:

We had (have) a 1998 Outback, which was purchased cheap after a rebuild after a previous owner's accident totalled it. Was perfectly acceptable until the already badly abused engine blew up, at which point repairs exceeded the purchase price and residual value. Currently parked awaiting DMV paperwork snafu untangling and disposal.

I grew up driving Volvos - including a 145 that had been slightly accessorized (the full rally racing package, more or less *cough*). I'd consider a new one (or more likely, slightly depreciated new used). Also another Outback (or Forester, though not the current model, eww), plenty of other good wagon options (even if nearly none of them are called that anymore).

146:

MGBs are small compared to MG-ZTs.

(The MG-ZTT - the estate car version - did have the world landspeed record for estate cars at one point. Or rather, a very heavily modified one did.)

147:

That is tiny.
I'll just add that the road trips in the MG, were with me as a little kid in the back 'seat'. Going from North Florida to up near DC, in something like 18 hours was not fun.

148:

And of course, MGs are small by American standards.

I will admit to a fascination with Isettas and Messerschmitts.

149:

Funny. Laugh-out-loud funny.

150:

The concept of the day, for small car advocates and owners, is "crush distance"...

It doesn't matter how strong the safety frame is around the driver. If you hit a solid unyielding object at mid speeds the instantaneous deceleration can easily kill you..

151:

Suzuki 1200 - plenty of grunt. A cough, a casual flick of the wrist and you could be hitting 150mph by the time you get to the end of the street. I didn't get a car license until I was 35. Those Scottish winters in a 100mph motorway breeze will be "fresh", and "bracing". Don;t worry about the knee - after 15 minutes you will be numb from the waist down.

That thing makes my CB750 sound tame.

And she knows how to run, though it takes a few seconds to get her past the speed limit.

@Charlie, I wish I could offer advice. But since you've decided and bought, congrats.

152:

The L.A. County Air Pollution Control District has been banding stuff for years. The reason US cars get worse MPG than the same cars over there, is that they have long passed the point of what is worth doing. Or even works.
MG's, like other Brit cars of the time were a joke of bad design and cheap material. They were fun if you could keep them running, on a short trip. They were grim for any thing but short trips in American heat. and would not start in the cold.
The US did not have diesel vehicles with particulate filters fitted. Low needed low sulfur diesel and the trucking industry kept that from happening for a lot longer than over there. Over the road on long trips my VW diesel made the same MPG as my 750 bike. BR>Barnes Wallis wrote a great book on the times. His Zep was the private industry one. The other was the Labor one. It was almost too heavy to fly at all, he said.

153:

One of my colleagues had one of those; was suspension an optional extra on them? His Land-Rover (late Series) had a better road ride!

154:

The base research pre-dated the Interweb so I don't have a cite, but it's been proven that 50% of PC10s from road transport are brake and tyre dust. The base research dates from German studies in the 1980s, when diesel fuel was not desulphunated. Desulphunation takes an order of magnitude off engine PC10s without the other improvements in engine technology being considered.

155:

The ZT? It's firm, and doesn't get blown around in gales.

156:

You're missing something there. The scientist you quote mentions "soot particulate filters", which are an established feature in Europe, required by law. And the vehicles Charlie is looking at will have them. So his choice of diesel isn't so dreadful after all.

157:

Yes the ZT. "Firm" doesn't require the ability to tell which side up the coin you just ran over was.
Aero stability is a function of body design rather than of spring rates.

158:

No, certainly not that firm. (You're sure he'd remembered to put tyres on it?) I'll agree that bad condition roads are not its natural environment, but it's not as bad for that as my Audi was. That had been lowered and on Irish rural roads it would ground if driven too fast. As a result, when driving the Ring of Kerry, I was being overtaken by white Transits.

(UK roads? No problem anywhere I ever took it. France? Fine, even on little back roads in the Provencal Garrigue. Ireland, though, the roads have more of a crown between the tracks, and they pitch more. Fine for the majority of vehicles, but they require an inch or two more ground clearance.)

159:

Of course particulate "filters" actually work by:-
1) Trapping the particles on a cold engine.
2) Burning same when the engine is hot, converting the soot particles into CO2.

160:

Seriously the firmest suspension I'd ever travelled this particular road with.
Other than his ZTT, other cars I've been up and down that road with include Citroen ZX, Xantia and C1, Peugeot 405 and 406 (saloon and estate), Ford Mondeo (abour 2009 car), Nissan Micra K10, Vauxhall Corsa (first and third body styles) and Astra (1996 car), Skoda Octavia (both bodies) and Volvo V70. Also a variety of minibuses and 4x4s.

161:

Since there seems to be some level of interest and Charlie hasn't yet completely shut-down the spin-off discussions I'll don my anorak, admit to being a bit of a car enthusiast and to having an interest in this...

[TL:DR for those who don't share my interests - if you want class leading ride comfort get a Rover 75, if you want class leading dynamics buy an MG ZT, both of which, in spite of the ridicule all too often heaped on MG-Rover products are bloody fine cars which in spite of having been out of production for over 6 years in many respects still compare *very* favourably with the best cars in their class.]

I'm a happy (in fact delighted!) MG ZT owner and find the ride quality well on the acceptable side of firm. The car which preceded it was an Audi A4 quattro S-Line, the S-Line bit denoting the more sporting trim level and bringing "sports" suspension and whopping great 17" wheels with (for the time) very low profile tyres. Believe me, compared with the Audi the ZT rides like a limousine. The Audi could get round a cold damp Brands Hatch "Indy" circuit or Bedford Autodrome in the streaming rain faster than many drivers were managing in Porsche 911s and the like without the slightest drama but on the road it was a literal PITA, regularly drawing howls of outraged protest from my wife and family on crumbling Essex byways. The MG is nowhere near as fast (130-ish BHP and 2 driven wheels against 220+ BHP and 4WD) but it's actually far more satisfying to drive than the Audi which always felt a bit like a video game, really just needed to be pointed in vaguely the right direction, while you pressed a pedal or two, and only came remotely to life either on a race track or being driven in way not really appropriate for public roads. The MG in contrast has similiarly outrageous levels of cornering grip (obviously not traction) but gives about 500 times more feedback and a lovely sense of involvement even when being driven quite gently.

The ZT/ZT-T (as I'm sure even casual onlookers will quickly have worked out) is a heavily sportificated version of the Rover 75. Both cars share the same suspension layout and geometry (developed during BMW's ownership of Rover and including a clever multi-link rear suspension originally developed by BMW when they were toying with the idea of making their 3/5 series cars front-wheel-drive) and extremely stiff body structure but use it to completely different effect with the 75 having levels of ride comfort and road noise suppression which have been favourably compared with products from Rolls-Royce and Bentley) and the ZT possibly being one of the best handling front wheel drive cars ever built and one of the best cars in its class I've driven full stop, BMW, Mercedes, and Audi products included...

The conversion is far from a simple case of bolting on big wheels - large numbers of squidgy bushes which isolate the 75's suspension components from the body shell and each other are replaced with either steel spacers or much less squidgy material, the spring rates are about 75% higher all round, the dampers are much stiffer, the anti-roll bars are about twice the diameter at each end, the steering ratio is *much* quicker, the wheels and tyres are huge (which is awkward at replacement time as about the only things which takes the same size as standard are certain variants of the BMW M3) and the whole package has clearly been painstakingly honed with the aid of enthusiastic development drivers and engineers who really know their business. The result is an absolute revelation for someone who (like me) is (or was) sceptical about the idea of a front wheel drive car of that size with sporting pretensions. You can chuck the thing around like a Mini, it's outrageously agile for it's not incosiderable bulk, and it still manages to ride better than Audi could manage...

162:

I'm blessed by living in a University town with a large international population. When the Asian students graduate and go home, I just buy their cars.

163:

Your error is in presuming that I'm not an enthusiastic driver: I am, and quick over the ground too.

All you've told me is to avoid Audi "S-Line" models like the plague unless I want a trackday car.

164:


Actually, yes, I do live on the top floor. It's not a tenement, and it's only 3 stories tall but yes, I do get to haul the bike up and down stairs all the time. That's no big deal for me.

It's also an area with a reasonable quantity of hills. Perhaps not quite on the scale of Edinburgh, but there are enough "interesting" hills around here to provide a challenge. Mind you, there are also miles and miles of almost perfectly flat roads within easy reach too, and it's only the fact that none of them go anywhere in anything like a straight line that saves them from being really quite boring to ride on.

Yes, my eyesight is fine and my knees are still in fully working order and the blood pressure is under control.

So I'm in the happy position of not having significant impediments to doing what I want to as far as cycling goes, and having sufficient enthusiasm to discount whatever impediments there may be. That's just me though, and I don't want it to be seen as implied criticism of anyone in a different situation. Because it isn't. Really.

165:

As a form of aerobic exercise, cycling is actually good for controlling blood pressure until you stop doing it, when the likely cardiac hypertrophy can be very bad for BP!

As to the rest, I think everyone's point was that you apparently weren't aware of the reasons why cycling is a bad idea for Charlie's physical and geographic circumstances.

166:

The first and only time I drove a 75 was in Ireland. Pushing it around the mountain roads of Co. Wicklow was a revelation: it stuck like a limpet on the ups and downs and corners and yet it was also a very comfortable vehicle when with 4 adults and full luggage on board (we were attending a wedding up in Howth, with the reception in Leixlip, and were giving friends lifts round the M50).

As for my ZT, I've driven it from Freiburg back to here (south of Cambridge) in a single session, and felt relaxed at the end of it. It's an extremely smooth long distance cruiser.

A firm ride is not for everyone. (If it was, then those big US road barges would never have taken off.) And it's not a car for off-roading, well, not for more than driving across some pasture land anyway. It's also a gas guzzler.

167:

I realized, rather late, that I should have clarified that by small I was thinking in terms of passenger/cargo space, not overall size. The car I mentioned is half engine, so not exactly small.

I'll shut up now.

168:

My father once rolled a Messerschmidt taking a corner too quickly. It tipped over, rolled over smoothly and all the way back onto its wheels, at which point he calmly carried on driving.

When my sisters (who were the passengers at the time) related this to my mother, she was most unhappy at him.

169:

Sadly no film! :-D

I'd have expected a Messerschmidt to handle more like a Morgan and rear-wheel skid rather than rolling though. Similarly, if less certainly, with Heinkel/Isetta/Trojan... bubblecars. The reason the Reliant 3-wheelers roll so easily is the single front wheel and rear beam providing a handy pivot and low roll resistance.

170:

I'm not understanding what you're saying ...

So, is the CO2 production via diesel/soot worse (greater) than via gas?

171:

The real question is, can the new car eject?

172:

Tracing back to #127, AIUI your report was saying that CO2 is worse than soot partly because because soot only hangs about for a week or 3 before settling out. So I'm suggesting that burning off soot into CO2 is an actually bad idea from an AGW viewpoint.

173:

Well, Ford used to own both Volvo and Aston Martin, so maybe, just maybe...

Particularly since Charlie did once write a James Bond story.

174:

Depends on where the soot lands: soot on pack ice and glaciers raising its albedo is causing more immediate ice loss than the CO2 greenhouse effect, I think. Can't find the reference at the minute, so I may well be misremembering.

175:

Bellhame @ Paws4thot
I'd have thought a Messerschmidt wouldn't have handlled at all - rather just going down in flames, especially if in the vicinity of anything powered by Rolls-Royce.
Ahem.

176:

Well, maybe ... But ..had you come across the HIT Protocol? Sounds like the title of a 'Quiller ' series Espionage Thriller doesn't it ?


http://voices.yahoo.com/captivating-classic-spy-thrillers-8604155.html


But look Here ...


High Intensity Training - Horizon: The Truth About Exercise - BBC Two ....


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7-h_w7bJrU


An Hexercise Bike may well be GOOD for You in Short Bursts...all ways provided that it isnt the variety of cycle that you attempt to ride down Princes Street in the rush hour.

DAMN! Lost my Type in The Box Spelll Checker since my Windows Vista based System Crached and Burned and I was ,er, Forced to up-date to a Copy of Windows 7 that may well be less than Authentic shall we say?

Still I'm resonably sure that I've now blocked all the Microsoft Spyware ... I just Knew that I should have shifted to Apple when I retired from Pub-lic Service and thus could avoid WinDues but ..I'm sort of Used to Winthrows and then there is my LadyFriend to consider for HerSelf is still Working and using Windues, and will be forevermore given the Time Dilation Effect for Pensions and the retreat of Retirment Age towards Infinity and Beyond. SHE Wouldnt actually poisen my Tea if I presented HER with a=n Apple PC where Windows used to be but ..why take the risk?

177:

In regards to buying a cheap vehicle and running it into the ground, I'm convinced that this is the way to go. I aim to spend about 300 euros per year on a car (not an option where I live, need one), this means buying for around a grand and running it for at least 3 years. Spend more and you get a nicer, newer car, but have to keep it for longer in order to get the same return. I own a shed, spend the minimum, scrape through an MOT or two (every two years here) and don't cry too much when it gets written-off by a wild boar, slides into the ditch or, my personal best, gets borrowed by my younger brother and put "beyond economic repair" after he used his size elevens to shut the bonnet...

You do have to know what you're looking for at this level of the market though... and be prepared to drive a heap.

In the UK, I found it could be cheaper to buy a car for 100 quid for a single journey rather than hire, day insurance, sell it to the first person who'll take it or deliver it to the scrappie. If it dies halfway from London to Edinburgh, AA membership is still cheaper than hiring...

178:

[Uh, sign in doesn't work. It just hangs there]

TL:DR for those who don't share my interests - if you want class leading ride comfort get a Rover 75, if you want class leading dynamics buy an MG ZT

Do you get head gasket and cylinder head longevity these days? (May only concern the 1.8 litre)

(I'm not gonna buy a Rover anyway - I had to upstage my dad's '99 Jag S-Type, so I got a '98 XJ8. And yes, I've changed the timing chain tensioners.)

179:

It depends what you need the Beast from Redmond for.

I've been running a Linux machine for about 3.5 years now, and using the same media player and the same office package as I do on Windows. But I wouldn't recommend the current Ubuntu, because adjusting the size of the UI is a struggle. Windows has had that easy to do for over a decade.

I'd call myself a Linux user rather than a Linux installer. And I think I might be a better computer user from using something other than Windows. I know there are slightly different ways of doing things. It's like language: studying a foreign language gives you a different perspective on your native tongue.

180:

I don't know about Mr Green, but mine has the KV6 engine, which didn't have those problems in the first place. But I believe the K-series improved over the years.

181:

Go on Charlie, tell us what you plumped for!

182:

OK

I give in ...

Ford: This has got to be a Lazlar LyriKon Kustom job … But a great looking ship, though.
Looks like fish, moves like a fish, steers like a cow.

184:

Belts, you say? I thought everything was synchronized with timing chains these days

No. Timing belts are considerably lighter and have much less slop. You can rev higher, there's less power loss in spinning the belt, and the more accurate timing means better efficiency.

There are two classes of timing belt engines. The first, normal, means that if the belt breaks, the engine doesn't work until you replace it. The second are the interrupted stroke engines, where the valves and the piston travel through the same space at different times. Here, a broken timing belt is *bad* -- you stop the valves, but not the pistons, and when the piston hits the valves that happen to be open, they break, and sometimes, the piston breaks as well.

However, these engines are usually higher compression - this, more power per displacement. Thus, small engines often have this issue.

The trick here is to be *religious* about the timing change interval. They are reliable through the service life plus some, so never let a belt get into "some" and you'll be fine.

185:

I believe that the turning circle is significantly wider than that of the 850.

It is. The 2nd gen. V70 is based off the 1st Gen. S60 platform. My brother has one. It is a lovely car that has a horrible turning circle. I've heard the newer ones are much better - my 2nd gen. C70 (based off the S40 platform) turns almost as well as my Honda civic did.

186:

Yup - I mentioned it earlier, but to summarize:

850 - great turning circle; not as impressive as the 240/260 because of the front wheel drive, but still pretty good.

Mk.1 V70 - pretty much a rebadged 850. Great turning circle.

Mk.2 V70 - they shortened the bonnet, and fitted bigger wheels. Turning circle of a barge; actually just possible to rub the tyres against the body at full lock. The aftermarket fix understandably made the turning circle even worse...

Mk.3 V70 - based on the S80, much improved turning circle over the Mk.2. Not as good as the Mk.1, though.

The engines have improved too. She-who-must-be-obeyed is a petrolhead that changes her car once it goes much over 100,000 miles; for her, that's every three or four years. The V70 has been fitted with progressively more powerful turbodiesel units, to the extent that she's now running with 200BHP. The first one had a noticeable turbo lag; you got a real boot up the behind when it hit 2100rpm. Since then, they've been much smoother, and 45mpg was not unusual (until she got 4WD).

187:

Mine's got a BMW sourced reeking-essence-of-Satan burning engine...

I did put 25,000 miles[1] on an MGF in 2 years without the water getting all intimate with the oil and attempting to elope though and am inclined to regard the whole K-Series head gasket thing as being a little overblown. Putting an ultra compact, lightweight, smnall capacity screamer of an engine like the K in a big old barge of a car like the 75 seems like a bad idea for all sorts of other reasons though.

...and the *right* engine for a ZT is actually a 4.6 litre V8 but my plans to buy a 260 were scuppered at the last minute when MGR unsportingly went bust and the leasing company who were going to be supplying it got cold feet which, in a roundabout way, is how I ended up with the Audi A4.

[1] On top of the 40,000 it had already covered when I bought it.

188:

Go on Charlie, tell us what you plumped for!

I told you what I plumped for right in the original post: a drop-in new-for-old replacement for a 16-year-old Volvo 850SE.

Which is now parked outside: a gunmetal-grey 2006 vintage Volvo V70 D5 2.4 litre turbo-diesel with six-speed manual gearbox. Looks incredibly boring, will do 0-60 in eight seconds, and can haul three adults plus serious luggage up and down the motorway all day long.

It's very nice to drive a car that feels solid and doesn't rattle and squeak the whole time. Upside: I got some little extra trim bits'n'pieces that I wasn't expected. Downside: there's a snag with the tailgate lock that I'm going to have to get fixed. And I need to get a hands-free bluetooth kit fitted (for music, not for phone -- I don't use the phone while driving). But other than that it's just what the doctor ordered.

189:

The new car is a mark two V70. I wouldn't describe the turning circle as "barge like"; it's just boringly average, while the 850 was excellent -- much better than you'd expect for something so long. As it is, with power steering it's still easy enough to crowbar the mark two V70 in and out of short spaces (although I confess to excessive familiarity with its dimensions -- I've got them in muscle memory).

I've gone from a 135bph petrol engine to a 180bhp diesel, and the boot-up-the-arse acceleration when the turbo kicks in around 2100 rpm is indeed noticeable and lots of fun, if applied judiciously (e.g. on a slip road, to come up to motorway speed before merging with traffic). It's a bit less welcome in stop-go street traffic, but you can avoid it by walking the gears religiously (at least, if you've got a manual transmission). Frankly, it's the most powerful car I've ever owned, and it's probably a good thing I waited until my forties to get it!

190:

Also useful: climate control that works, and cruise control! Which is useful to me because there are long stretches of road works with average speed monitoring GATSOs between Edinburgh and just about everywhere else. Pick the right gear, set cruise control to speed limit, and take feet off the pedals: it's a lot more relaxing than having to keep an eye on the dial the whole time in case I'm lining myself up for a speeding ticket!

191:

Cruise control is great on less busy motorways, and the improved A1 is probably a good place to use it as well.
I find that with my 2 litre mondeo I do have to try to get the turbo to kick in, a lot of my driving is only done at the 1 to 2,000 revs and the turbo starts around 2,100 or so like yours does.

Now of course you have to beware the weirdos who think it is perfectly ok to join the motorway at 50mph, having accelerated down the slip road at a pace similar to that of a very old landrover. They really get in the way.

192:

Congrats on the new purchase, you lucky folks over there get to actually have diesel vehicles instead of just dreaming and drooling like we do here in Canada.
You are dead on about how easy access to information (from the industry, government and public as a whole) has changed buying a car. I challenge you though to see how it changes maintaining said car as things go forward. Have you obtained a factory service manual for your car yet? I have them for both vehicles in my family. They come in handy when the vehicle goes in for service and the adviser at the desk says... "well the mechanic saw a P4 error" (or something like that). She/He will fling a cost at me to fix it but between having the factory service manual, which explains the code, and the internet you can determine if you are being shafted very easily. I have some mechanical ability myself and the manual has allowed me to some minor (and one major) repair with the only costs to me being parts (again sourced online at a fraction of the dealer cost) and some of my time (which I would have spent anyways waiting for the garage).

193:

Good car
I'm not suprised actually.
The one thing I miss on mine is cruise control - as always there are aftermarket bodges, but they fit the later Td5 model, which has electronics, rather than mine - which does not.
A note ...
Pre 1989/90 L-R's are really slow - unless: they have the Rover V8 engine; but then the fuel consumption is scary, or they've been retrofitted, usually with a 200/300Tdi engine.
Post 1990/1 all L-R's are quite comfortable at M'way legal cruising speeds, and especially if fitted with overdrive.

194:

the boot-up-the-arse acceleration when the turbo kicks in around 2100 rpm is indeed noticeable and lots of fun, if applied judiciously (e.g. on a slip road, to come up to motorway speed before merging with traffic).

Even better if you've got a Renault Clio behind you, driven by a baseball-cap-wearing 19-year-old with poor acceleration control, who's been tailgating you all the way to the uphill slip road... as you watch them disappear in the rear-view mirror.

Not that it has ever happened, of course :)

195:

Ahem: while accelerating, I try to pay attention to what's in front of me. But I echo your sentiment.

Remember: speed doesn't kill, sudden changes in speed kill. (Oh, and rule #1 of driving is: don't kill anyone (yourself included).)

196:

So do I, but that doesn't mean that I don't check the rear view mirror and see the chav(ette) before I get to the point where I can see it's safe to unleash the beast!

197:

I try to pay attention to everything in all directions, and that does tend to include the idiots behind as well as in front. Just because you're accelerating doesn't mean someone behind isn't doing so harder, and there are a lot of idiots on the road.

Or, as I witnessed yesterday, sometimes flying through the air above it.

I am now heartily impressed by the Renault Megane's frontal impact protection. The driver clipped the white van he was racing against, skidded out of control over the verge and hit a pair of trees so hard that the engine flew out of the engine compartment and passed between them. The trees then flipped the car into the air and back, so that it flew through the air (at which point I saw it over the tops of the vehicles ahead of me). It then landed, facing the opposite direction, in the middle of the road.

The driver survived (so far, at least). There were at least three of us who dialled 112 or 999, and the first ambulance was there while we were still talking to the dispatchers.

An older vehicle without proper crumple zones, even a newer vehicle hitting those trees a foot either way, or the vehicle landing on its roof rather than its floor, any of those and the driver would have been dead. As it was, he had both wings crumpling all the way back to the passenger cell, without the engine pushing back.

At least the white van did stop. I expect he'll have some explaining to do when it all comes to court: I'm prepared to testify as to his dangerous driving, the way he also cut up the driver behind me, and then me, a few minutes beforehand. The Megane driver must share the fault: one should never drive in a way to try to punish others, and he has come close to losing his life as well as his temper.

198:

Whimper.

(A supplementary reason for my Volvo habit: 22 years ago I had a bad retinal detachment and nearly lost an eye. It was bad because it was progressive and non-obvious; I only became aware of it gradually, but in the two months leading up to diagnosis I was commuting up to 120 miles a day and had a number of close calls, of the "where did that truck come from?!?" variety. Consequently, I no longer trust my eyeballs to keep me fully informed of hazards. So I don't just look once each way before pulling out into a main road, and I try to drive defensively.)

199:

So I don't just look once each way before pulling out into a main road, and I try to drive defensively...

For my last year at university, and the first decade of my career, my chosen means of transport around Edinburgh was a bicycle. This stopped when $BELOVED expressed worry and concern about traffic levels, and became impossible once work took me outside the city.

I like to think that the knowledge that everything else on the road will kill you, and the absolute conviction that they aren't really paying any attention to you, has led me to a healthy mistrust of other road users. Either that, or it was an excuse to play "how much canary yellow and/or reflective material can you wear / carry / tape onto your bike / helmet / clothes"...

As you say, "situational awareness" is the key. I'm just happier that my wife is driving something that will protect her as well as anything can, in the event of the other person driving like a negligent or careless idiot.

PS Admit it, you got something with the Winter Pack, and you're discovering the guilty pleasure of heated front seats. Aaahhhhhhhhhh :)

200:

Whimper indeed. It was the second most scary crash I've ever witnessed (the scariest one being on the 16th July 1977, approximately 10km due south from this).

201:

Must share my favourite story regarding baseball-cap wearing idiots:

I was travelling at speed in quite light traffic along a stretch of motorway, when I'm suddenly tailgated by a flame red Clio, suspension lowered so far I could almost see over the roof (and I was driving a Peugeot 106 at the time), tinted windows, and I swear I could hear the thudding base line from his stereo. Checked carefully as I was approaching an on-slip and moved into the inside lane; there was a roar of overworked engine and tortured gears, and a flash of Addidas-wearing baseball-capped spotty-faced idiot, and on he moved to tailgate the next poor sod in his path (the decal on the back window read: "A spliff a day keeps the doctor away"). So I checked my mirrors, started to move back into the outside lane to over take the slower cars joining from the slip road, and caught the distant strains of a siren, checked my mirror again, and spotted the blue-flashy-lights approaching at something well north of 100mph; so I nipped back into the inside lane.

Up front, Mr Clio has also spotted the approaching flashy-lights. He's probably doing around 80 at this point, but suddenly the brakes go on; he pulls into the inside lane; he pulls over onto the hard-shoulder and comes to a stop. The blue-flashy-lights fly past (absolutely nothing to do with this numpty, on their way somewhere else); the last two people he bullied out of his way fly past; I fly past (resisting urge to smile and wave); many cars behind me fly past.

The last I saw was him dwindling in my rear-view mirror, stuck on the hard shoulder because the traffic had built up and no one was willing to slow down sufficiently to let him back onto the carriage way.

It still makes me smile.

202:

It doesn't qualify as a chav story due to the driver being early 40s and wearing a suit and tie (linking back to Room 101 there), but the loudest I've ever heard a car stereo I was sat in traffic listening to "The Boss", and I could hear that the driver next to me was listening to the fitba' on Radio Scotland despite the separation, city noises and my own stereo!

203:

I can't recall what the TV show was, but I remember watching a segment about car stereos, and one f*ckwit was proud that his stereo was so loud that it had made his girlfriend's ears bleed (said with a big dumb grin, and girlfriend nodding along beside him in agreement).

204:

Yeah, but this was in a FIAT One; you do not put 5Jigawatt subs in a FIAT One due to them dismantling the car!

Serious comment on over-done ICE installs; The loudest I've ever been near was so low frequency I didn't hear it but could feel the sound pressure it generated on my chest.

205:

Talking of sound systems, Gimpo (the road manager for the KLF) had some sort of armoured vehicle - a Saracen or FV432 or perhaps a Chieftan - which he fitted with an experimental subsonic acoustic weapon system, and possibly used it to kill a few cows on Dartmoor. Given that it's Gimpo, this should be taken with a pinch of salt, but can't be entirely discounted - he's the sort of bloke who has credibly threatened to bomb his own pub.

That's the rumour. Having now googled it, it seems that in fact the KLF had a pair of Saracens with very loud but otherwise normal PA systems fitted. Ah well, it was a great story.

'the papers want to believe this stuff which is why they are so easy to hoax.' - Jimmy Cauty

btw, next weekend is Gimpo's annual M25 Spin - a 25 hour drive around London.

206:

Note: when on a German Autobahn, watching what's behind you is almost more important than watching what's in front of you. Getting out of the way of is really important here.

You get used to it after a while ..

207:

Depending on the autobahn in question, but yes. Also, you learn when in the left lane to look for the next gap in the right lane, to duck into when that fast car appears behind you.

On the other hand, last time I drove an autobahn (along the Rhine north of Freiburg), the traffic was way too heavy for that.

208:

true, depends on the Autobahn and the time. Usually I'm driving the A7 southwards of the A8 and the A96 southwestwards from the A7 .. those don't have a lot of traffic except during vacation seasons (summer as well as winter).

My personal horror-Autobahn is the A8 in all the parts where it's still original-style. Namely Ulm to Stuttgart and Rosenheim to Salzburg. Narrow, curvy, up-down, no hard shoulder and the lunatics still drive like crazy.

209:

A quick follow up - according to the local press from the area, the Megane driver is still in hospital, but recovering. The white van driver (well, actually light silver) was arrested and has been released on police bail. We have been interviewed and have given witness statements.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 12, 2012 2:18 PM.

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