Buying another used automatic car in the UK

It’s the second time we’ve had to look for a car.  As my readers know, our car went kaput! a couple weeks ago.  Considering the difficulty we had in finding a car, I thought it best to share some of our experience so that others can commiserate and beware.[ad#ad-1]

First and foremost to American drivers: if you do not drive a manual, you’d best learn. Unfortunately for me, I’m too old a dog to learn a new trick.  Not that I even have a UK license yet.  I can’t even do that as I’m waiting for other things.  The fact that I have to lose my passport for three weeks has prevented me from starting this process – I have had to keep it handy for other purposes.  But, back to the point, automatic cars are hard to come by, unless you’re willing to pay for it.  We have too tight a budget.  In fact, one dealer told us that for the price we had in mind, we would have to find a very old car and/or a large car.

Our last car was not big by American standards (1.6L), but in the UK, it is moderately large.  It was not as fuel efficient as the majority of small cars on the road, but it served us well.  The problem was that we put a lot more miles on it than we had expected to.  It must be all those winding roads.  For a car used to a quiet, gentle existence, it was like doing 6-months hard labour in its dotage.  We had paid 350 GBP for the car – it was well worth it. 

Even before the dealer had put in his two-pence worth about our budget, we could see that we would not get what we wanted.  We wanted a more fuel-efficient car that was reliable and had enough space for the four of us to get from point A to point B.  Anything remotely resembling that was a manual.  Of the automatics, they were of the 2L models or bigger.  That’s not to say that we didn’t find any smaller, fuel-efficient cars under 500 GBP (our limit).  They were either snatched up before we had a chance to view them, or they were not worth the price.[ad#ad-1]

We mainly searched the Friday Ads, until someone put us onto Ad Trader.  Seeing that cheap economical cars were selling like hot cakes, we had to act fast.  We had nearly settled onto a Proton for dirt cheap until we figured that we had to get an MOT very soon, as well as tax.  That brought it up to our budget and we were somewhat sceptical about the reliability as well as the availability of parts, should the inevitable happen.  On the same day, a new ad appeared on the Ad Trader site; we went over the next day to look at it.  It was a Renault Clio, with MOT and tax.  It was over our limit, but we managed to get them to reduce it a bit, so that we were only over by 50 GBP.

We had been renting a car for the past week – a newer Ford Mondeo that has been well-used with 180K miles on it.  It was powerful, smooth and had a blessedly cool air conditioner (great for the heat wave we just passed), but it ate a lot of juice.  We were desperate to get a car so that we would not have to rent it for another week.  Though we do miss the air conditioner – we were spoiled in the US.

Americans have traditionally scorned French automakers, but we just brought the Clio home and it is performing well.  In fact, it has more miles on it than our last car did when we bought it, yet it rides fairly smoothly.  So, this American will have to reserve judgment for later.  We have always owned Japanese cars, so this is a first for us.

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3 Comments on “Buying another used automatic car in the UK

  • Wow, we Americans are spoiled! I’ve owned my manual, Japanese car forever — I bought it new 18 years ago.

    As for being too old to learn to drive a manual… baloney! If I can go back to school at our age you could definitely learn to drive a manual car if you wanted to. 😉

  • Oh, I wouldn’t mind learning to drive a manual in the States, but it’s rather dangerous learning to do that on windy, narrow roads and trying to avoid all the parked cars on either side while doing so. It’s like driving through an obstacle course, so your mind is already preoccupied.

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