Beginner's guide to buying cars from Facebook Marketplace/Gumtree Motors (Pt 1)
Never mind Chris Rea driving home to spend Christmas with his loved ones. What about if, like me, you’re looking for a car in the run up to the festive season. That’s when the shit gets real. And you quickly discover that trying to source a decent motor anytime during the month of December is more difficult than solving the Brexit conundrum. And if you wanted to recreate Rea’s finest festive hour, you’d have to do it via train. Which would be far less romantic and mean re-writing most of the original lyrics.
Scrolling through page after page of cars which can only be described as shite, tests the patience of even a serial car lover like myself. Someone who never normally tires (NOT tyres, my American friends; different thing) of perusing vehicles of any given persuasion, and who has been known in the past to read the weekly Autotrader magazine (as was) from cover to cover as if it were a digest of celebrity tittle-tattle.
Yet there comes a point in everyone’s lives when - and where - being confronted with endless photos of sub-£500 cars which have seen better days (typically when new, quarter of a century earlier) is enough. I never imagined that looking at images of cars would crush my very soul and render me a shell of the man I used to be, however that is the stage I’m rapidly approaching. And has ultimately led me to ask the question on everyone’s lips: is it possible to buy a vaguely interesting/quirky/functional/road-legal car for £500 or less during December?
Anyway, the Back Story…..
In case you weren’t aware, Monica Mazda has departed. A while back now. And not only that, her bittersweet departure officially represented the biggest loss I’ve ever witnessed on a car; together with being the car I owned for the shortest space of time. But that’s not to say I’m not missing Monica Mazda like crazy.* Stopping a few blocks short of saying that she was everything I wanted in my motoring life, Monica was nevertheless something I got used to having around quicker than I’d imagined. And something I looked forward to seeing every morning. Like my ex-girlfriend, but less hands-y.
Tragically the writing had been on the wall for a while, after discovering that there was a significant probability that she may fail her looming MOT. Being a one-time betting man, I therefore appreciated the importance of odds, and according to guys who knew a lot more than I did about cars, the odds were stacked heavily against me riding this one out. So rather than burying my head in the sand and pretending the situation I didn’t want to hear existed, didn’t exist, I instead chose to be proactive; and set about finding Monica a new keeper. One who preferably had the tools/money/general wherewithal at their disposal to rectify the underlying issues. Or at least, make a better stab at it than I could in my current fiscal position.
Of course, what I hadn’t quite figured was the catalogue of potential MOT pitfalls which might catch Monica out. Which seemed to multiply alarmingly with every would-be buyer who viewed it. And therein took a sharp and prolonged intake of breath, rubbed their chins, scratched their heads and vaped as if their life depended on it. Although not simultaneously.
These variously included the hole that the previous owner had carved into the front bumper (to help let the mighty 1.6-litre lump breathe more freely, according to the seller) which one would-be buyer insinuated might have compromised the rigidity of Monica’s structure. And the boot-located battery being about to rot through the floor beneath it. And my personal favourite, which went something along the lines of the car being a death trap on wheels.
Still, one brave soul entered the horizon, saw the potential of Monica, thrust a few well used bank notes into my palm and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. But not the sort of plume that made David Blaine vanish into thin air, as that would have proper shitted me up.
So that left the next poser. Now what?
Or to give you more to work with, that newly nagging question; was it possible to buy a vaguely interesting/quirky/functional/road-legal car for £500 or less? As is the budget for Monica’s replacement. In a word, no, it isn’t. But I don’t have a defeatist attitude. And I don’t understanding the meaning of the words, ‘you can’t’. Just look at my LinkedIn profile if you’re in any doubt. Actually, don’t. Corporate me is a dark place where escape is all but impossible.
Instead embrace the me that needs to source a vaguely interesting/quirky/functional/road-legal car for £500 or less. One which is preferably manufactured by Nissan in the late 1980s or early 1990s and could, potentially have the correct seating arrangements for me to live in; should my life continue going breasticles up. Additional boxes which require ticking are as follows;
• It needs to have at least 6 months MOT
• It needs to have a smattering of service history at the very minimum. Even if it’s blatantly contrived
• It needs to have a timing chain. Unless the belt has been replaced this millennium
• It needs to have a sort of retro feel. Lots of cheap, mostly brown interior plastics
• It needs to cost no more than £500
Things it definitely can’t be;
• Definitely NOT white in exterior colour
• Definitely NOT missing its V5
• Definitely NOT being sold on behalf of owner without net access due to currently serving sentence for noncing
• Definitely NOT appearing on grainy CCTV footage in a notorious dogger’s car park
Do You Think That This is Do-able?
Up until very recently I’d shortlisted a brazen selection of possible new Monicas, all of which kinda fulfilled at least a few of my wish list inclusions. If I’m prepared to take the rough with the rough, and make the best of a bad job. These included;
Honda Legend/Accord coupe
Nissan Maxima QX
Nissan Bluebird Fastback
Toyota Camry/Carina from the 1990s
Nissan Micra K10, stanced obviously
VW Bora (as above, in terms of suspension)
Anything Saab flavour
Anything Volvo flavour (preferably in 480 clothing)
A slightly interesting Rover from the 1990s
A young Bruce Springsteen
Something French and therefore potentially interesting/leftfield/troubled
Any estate apart from a Fiat
So come on Drivetribe, hit me! Any suggestions as to what make and model would fit within my exacting criteria, bearing in mind my numerous limitations (mainly of a fiscal nature).
Otherwise tune in next time for Part II, where I highlight the predominant pitfalls of using Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree Motors to locate a car…..