Bangernomics – how to buy and run a used car cheaply

The average age of an Irish car is about 8 years old so many of us already subscribe to the principles of bangernomics writes Geraldine Herbert


What is Bangernomics?

The term was coined, over 25 years ago,  by motoring journalist James Ruppert, formerly a car dealer and is the title of a well-known book.

Ruppert argues that once a car is five years or older, it has already lost most of its value and is therefore close to the bottom of its depreciation ‘curve’. This means you won’t lose anywhere near as much in depreciation as you would with a new or even nearly new car,


What are the advantages?

Bangernomics is all about getting  the best car for the least money and by doing so

  • depreciation is no longer an issue
  • running costs are slashed
  • No monthly finance charges,


But  you need to buy wisely or you run the risk of 

  • Having potentially an unreliable car
  • Poor safety standards
  • Poor economy
  • High motor tax
  • Difficulty insuring



Buying a banger! Same principles apply when buying all used cars

  1. Mileage

Don’t be too concerned about the mileage; when buying an old car high mileage is actually a sign of a reliable car so its nothing to worry about on the other hand when mileage is low it could indicate that the car has only  been used occasionally or for short journeys neither of which is good for a car. Concentrate on the condition and servicing of the car.


  1. Bodywork

Dirt could be hiding scratches, dents, rust or shoddy repairs. Look underneath the car too for any signs of rust or damage. Paintwork should be in a good condition, the same colour and consistent all over. When buying a banger beware in particular of rust.


  1. Engine

Check the oil, coolant and other fluid levels and open the oil cap to check the condition of the oil.


  1. Tyres

Have a look at the tread depth as well as the general condition of the tyres including the spare. Uneven wear can signal suspension issues or if they are just generally worn it may be a sign of a car that hasn’t been properly looked after.


5. Electrics & Doors

Make sure everything is working as it should – turn on the air conditioning or fans at full. Open and close all locks, doors and windows and keep an eye out for any signs of water leaks, paint on door rubbers, windows or uneven door shuts.


  1. Service History

Ask for a full service history this way you will know what kind of maintenance and repairs were done. Also check the registration document and service record – does everything match up? Unlikely if you are buying an old car that you will get a full service history but some paperwork of maintenance should be available.


  1. Price

Do some research to determine if you are being asked to pay a fair price. Search online for cars of the same age, condition, mileage and those with similar extras. Remember there are a number of other factors that will determine the value of a car including equipment, such as electric windows, alloys, air conditioning, seat heaters, sat nav, rarity of model, number of previous owners and Service History. The price will also vary depending on whether you are buying privately or from a dealer.


  1. Test Drive

Ask for at least half an hour’s drive and take a route that will take in town, open roads and, if possible, a motorway. If buying privately, make sure in advance your insurance will cover you for the drive. A dealer should provide cover for test drives. Try every gear, including reverse, and test all the controls, including wipers, headlamps, heater and air conditioning. Turn the radio and air-conditioning off and open the windows to ensure there are no unusual road noise vibrations or a noisy exhaust. The engine should idle smoothly and rev evenly. You should be able to switch between gears smoothly without any grinding noises. If the clutch is too stiff or weak that could be a sign of trouble. Test the brakes, including the handbrake. After you’ve finished, lift the bonnet and check for oil or radiator leaks using a torch.


  1. Check the car’s history

Check if the car has a hidden history, such as outstanding finance or been written off. Many websites offer this service, e.g. motorcheck.ie for a small fee.
 Finally, use your common sense, be cautious and above all don’t be afraid to walk away if you have any doubts.


So how do you keep an old car on the road

Petrol or Diesel
If you are buying an older second hand car opt for a petrol car over a diesel one as petrol cars last longer.  The reason is simply that they are generally much less complicated than diesel cars.

Be Kind
Be kind to your car and drive gently, so accelerate slowly and avoid harsh braking. In winter allow your car a minute or so to warm up before driving it hard.

Paint work
The paint work on your car is the first line of defence against rusted body panels so if possible park your car in a garage but if not then park in the shade.

Find a mechanic you can trust. Maintaining an old car depends on a good partnership between you and your mechanic.


When to say good bye
There’s really no easy answer to the question of when its time to say goodbye but as a rule of thumb when the monthly maintenance costs exceed the repayments on a new car its probably time to call it quits.


Listen back to Geraldine Herbert talking about Bangernomics  on RTE Radio One with Sean O’Rourke here


Geraldine Herbert

16th June, 2016


Author: Geraldine Herbert

Contributing Editor and Motoring Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen. Geraldine is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK) and to RTÉ Radio One, Newstalk, TodayFM and BBC Radio. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1

Share This Post On