Why "Amazing Cheap Car" Lists Need To Die.
You know the lists - the ones that tells you what amazing cars you can pick up that sold for a lot of money initially and can now pick up inexpensively. High end sports cars, luxury cars, high powered V8 cars, German cars… pick a category and Google will find a page of those lists.
What these lists never talk about is why these cars are cheap.
The main reason these cars tend to be cheap is because you are buying someone else’s problem. Take BMW’s for example as they always crop up in these lists. Sure you can pick up a late 90’s or early 2000’s 5 or 7 Series for under five grand but you had better have another five to eight grand to spend on it at some point, and probably some point soon. Parts for these cars aren’t necessarily expensive but they are more complicated to work on than your average Honda Accord and something as simple as a sump gasket, or any gasket really, can end up costing a grand in labor fees to replace a three dollar part .
Look around a cheap BMW for sale and you can pretty much guarantee something costing a grand to do in the shop is lurking under there somewhere - those vintages of bimmer are notorious for sub frame issues as well as the bad plastics used in the cooling system that require a refresh every so many thousands of miles. You can pretty much guarantee the one you are looking at hasn’t just had that kind of money spent on it recently. Just ask CarThrottles own Alex Kersten.
Run a deep search on common problems with a vehicle you are interested in and it’s guaranteed there are indeed problems, and somewhat expensive, problems that will need to be dealt with sooner or later. You may pick up a champagne car for beer money but luxury cars tend to still cost champagne money when it comes to maintenance.
Often these lists will contain large engined cars, and if you can only spend $5000 on a car you should ask yourself if you can afford to maintain a V8 or even W12 that takes eight or more quarts of oil every so many thousands of miles on top of getting teens to the gallon in mileage.
It’s all very well getting an amazing car for cheap, but having it sitting in the driveway because you can only afford to drive it two weeks of every month is going to suck.
Pick up a V engine and it needs twice the amount of anything come repair or maintenance time. Any unfortunate overheating incident on a V engined car runs a high risk of two head gaskets being replaced - a great example of a five dollar part needing many hundreds of pounds or dollars to replace and your V engine needs two.
Take a look at things such as tire sizes as well, if the sizes are large or even worse uncommon then putting fresh rubber on is going to be a costly affair - 19 or 20” rims may look great but you’re paying for more rubber to go round them. The same goes for brakes, or indeed any consumables the car needs to keep it roadworthy and safe. HID lights, for example, tend to last a long time and that long time is generally until just after the third or fourth owner has purchased the car.
Now, I’m not saying don’t buy a high end car when it’s value has dropped sufficiently to be affordable. If you do your homework and understand the costs and have the ability to have it taken care of then you can most certainly run an old but cool car.
What I am saying is it’s disingenuous at best and cynical at worst for these clickbait lists to present these cars as being something you can pick up for peanuts while giving no thought to the cost of actually running them.