James Ruppert: why have a van when you can have property?

Saab 9-3 Estate

Well-preserved Saab 9-3 estate runs £4000

When a friend kicked out his faithful connection, the high priest of Bangernomics suggested something more versatile

Rather than theorize about what we can or cannot afford, indulge in car dreams and generally speculate about the impossible, I prefer to stick to reality. So when a buddy got tired of being a plumber and had to get rid of his battered but honest and reliable Ford plug, what's next?

His connection is a classic little white van with 200 miles and limits. It has a decent recent history, so it might have been £000 if polished up. Part-ex it might give him £650, so not much to play with. All he wants is something that will allow him to make a piece of pipe bend and solder on occasion, but basically he should be able to handle an extra continental holiday.

Well, I didn't expect to see this, but I found in 2007 one owner of a Saab 9-3 Vector Sport D property. On sale at the dealer, it had 90,000 miles on the clock and came with an automatic transmission. The field was a deal breaker, but what a stylish old bus – and it still looks surprisingly modern. Could have been £4000. Yes, it's expensive, but the car was absolutely mint.

The Mazda 6 is a very good package, and the 2011 2.2D sports property came with a full service history documenting all 80,000 miles. Has nine stamps, a bunch of bills and the fact that it's a year. Another beauty When it came to fortune, too. Again, this was £4000 to buy. I would stay there but there are only so many other applicants to consider.

Going down the Volvo V70 route is always a safe journey. Their shiny cars and 2009 2.0 Dze R-design seemed to be good value for once again, £4K. One owner, 124,000 miles and all the history you'll ever need. Read More Here's proof that there are excellent used cars out there.

More Japanese reliability in the form of a 2010 Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D TR dealer property had another £4K rival. It was 100 miles on the clock and there was a private owner, for example, who paid for the dealer's main story. It was good, but the dealer is selling it pushing through two years of parts and a labor guarantee along with that, for complete peace of mind.

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And the final choice? Well, it was none of the above. The winning diesel subcompact car was the 2008 Ford Mondeo 2.0 Titanium box. He partly exchanged contact with a local car dealer and ended up transferring for just £1300. It has a whopping 180 km, but everything that could break has been replaced. Only one dent in the back door of the sidewalk. He gets 000 mpg and couldn't be happier with his real world purchase.

What we almost bought this week

Vauxhall Insignia 2.8 Turbo i VXR 4WD w/ Estate, £7500: Furious specs are the draw here: a V6 turbo making 321bhp and 321lb ft, all-wheel drive, a limited-slip diff, adjustable dampers, HiPerStrut kick-down suspension, a Remus exhaust and 20-inch alloys. Privately sold, real estate 2010 made 71,000 miles. 'Cute madness', said the four-star car test on time.

Tales from Ruppert's Garage

Porsche Cayenne, mileage - 105,454: the old flying pig has been piling up problems that are not really his fault at the moment. In a moment of madness my daughter, after cleaning her golf course, decided to rinse her mother's Porsche. She told us that the rear offside tire was flat as a pancake. He took a tank of compressed air and will stay for half a day, so the puncture is slow enough to get somewhere from the hall to change it (no spare parts and no use of dirt stuff if things are desperate). Then we turn on the lights and bam, the pavement low beam lamp is gone.

Read writer

In Innocenti, Frank Kirtley: I promised you to know that Frank Kirtley's book "Innocenti" was like. The main characters - in what a surprisingly old-fashioned term - are Diana and her boyfriend Jensen. The story is set in the 1980s, and it's a fairly simple Cold War spy conspiracy that they're driving around Spain and France in a free mini-in itself a big plus point. There are some twists and turns, but it's amazing to get in the back of an innie with them and go along for the ride. Frank knows about cars and it shows. Would make a great movie.

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Questions from readers

Question: my car is nearing the end of its PCP agreement. The dealer doesn't offer much on this, so I will be selling it privately or in a trade. What do you need to know before doing this? Laura Jones, via email

Answer: selling it privately would mean that you would have to deal with finances first, so we assume you have the funds to do so. I just pray that after you've paid, your customer goes online. The good thing about a trade sale is that they will settle the finances and pay you the extra money you have contracted. Have the trader email you a copy of the application from the bank indicating the payment of the settlement amount to the company's PCP. Then call the company to check the money has arrived. Ask for their confirmation, including the correct contract number and vehicle details via email. Ye

Question: Christmas is a good time to buy a used car or do dealers care too? George Patterson, Bridgewater

Answer: Depending on the dealer and their past experience, some may be cutting back on their inventories in anticipation of a relaxing holiday, while others may be building them for bored kicker tires to waste time before getting back to work. The former may be so surprised to see you catch them off guard, while the latter will have a plan in mind to turn the stem there as soon as possible and see the year go by on a high note. Either way, you're in the driver's seat. Ye

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