Old cars can be great value, look in the right places

I am looking for an old car in the R15 000 to R20 000 price range. What can I expect to get and where is the best place to look for such a car?

I am looking for an old car in the R15 000 to R20 000 price range. What can I expect to get and where is the best place to look for such a car?


IF BY "old" you mean "made between 1990 and 2000", you should be able to get a car with a good few years of reliable service left in it in your price range.

But you have to know where to look and you might need considerable patience. People who tell me about this kind of deal invariably bought the car from a private seller, so I suggest you explore all the places where private owners advertise their cars.

These include classified ads in daily newspapers, Internet websites like Gumtree, and, as a last resort, vendor sites where cars are displayed for viewing.

From personal experience I know that an old car has many advantages, not only the affordable purchase price, but also ease of maintenance due to the simpler mechanicals.

But there are some pitfalls to be aware of. An old car has often been standing unused for long periods, so be prepared to replace certain seals, and to overhaul the brakes, especially the drum brakes fitted at the rear.

Spare parts can be a problem, so stick to well-known brands and popular models for which the chances are better to find pirate parts as well as genuine replacement items when you need them.

In this regard you won't easily beat the three (late, lamented) "survivors" of the SA motor industry - the Nissan 1400 ldv, Toyota Tazz and VW CitiGolf.

Nobody wants to go through life with a suspicious mind all the time, but I am afraid when it comes to buying an old car, or any used car for that matter, a suspicious mind is essential equipment.

Start out by assuming the car has been stolen, then abused, then accident-damaged (take along a small magnet to check for well-camouflaged body-filler), and is now being flogged at a ridiculous price after having been fitted with a low-mileage odometer from a scrap yard.

I suggest you put an upper limit of R15 000 on the price and use whatever funds are left over to get the car roadworthy and reliable.

I purchased a Jetta5 1,6 Comfortline demo model a month ago from Mastercars.

I initially wanted a 2,0 model, but they could not find one for me, so I ended up buying a 1,6 because it was the only Jetta available.

I now feel that I have made a mistake since the car is not performing to expected standards. Can you please advise me if I will be able to change the car, and what I must do to get the car I want.

Please help, since I do not want to be stuck with a car I don't want.

Norman M

Norman, you will probably be able to trade in the 1,6 Jetta for a 2,0 demonstration model when one becomes available, but you are going to lose a lot of money in the process.

I suggest you stick it out with the 1,6 model, at least until after the World Cup tournament when a flood of surplus rental cars are expected to become available. In the meantime you may even begin to like the 1,6. ("If you can't have what you like, try to like what you have"!)

It will never be a robot racer, but it will be a comfortable, reliable, well-built car, significantly lighter on fuel than the 2,0.

Of course its 75kW maximum power output cannot match the 90kW that Volkswagen now extracts from their 1400 engine fitted to the Golf6.

But where the latter engine uses new technology, the long-term durability of which has not been proven in South Africa, you have an engine with an established reputation for durability.

Many experts feel an engine size of 1,6 litres provides the best overall combination of features on a medium-to-light car - value for money, fuel economy, power, torque.