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[NEWS] James Ruppert: what to buy to escape a work van on days off?

James Ruppert: what to buy to escape a work van on days off?

99 Ruppert BMW convertible lead

If you spend most of your working life in a van, there’s big appeal in something sportier for the weekends

Welcome to the topsy-turvy used car market of 2021, where values for most vehicles are on the up and demand for pre-abused vans is hysterically high.

Now, I know that you don’t come here for light commercial vehicle updates, but I’ve been working with the trades a lot recently. In particular, a plumbing relative went from an MOT-fail Ford Transit to an emergency Ford Transit Connect. The truth is that a diddy Connect doesn’t have space for all the stuff that such a tradesman needs.

Tempted as I am to recommend MPVs that could double as a van with windows, let’s not go in that boring direction. He’s a plumber and he’s loaded, so I reckon he should buy a new van and something he can really enjoy on his rare days off.

I’m thinking a cabriolet: a great big, large-engined, wonderfully indulgent motor in which he won’t have to worry about getting copper pipes stuck under his feet.

Click here to buy your next used car from Autocar

How about a BMW 6 Series Convertible? These are rather affordable now, and our plumber can certainly afford the £8995 that will get him into a 2004 645 CSi with just 50,000 miles. Everything is standard, the mileage is warranted and it has a full service history. It’s not the cheapest one, but then you wouldn’t want that.

He might really want a Jaguar, though. I seem to be stumbling over many an XJS at the moment, and these are on the classic rise. They can be a pile of trouble, so you want one without any gaps in its history.

Care and a physical inspection are needed, but as an initial online swoop, a 1987 5.3 V12 looked fairly fabulous. The dealer’s website has no fewer than 100 photos to flick through. The mileage is a fairly marginal 56,000 and the fuel bills won’t faze the plumber, nor will all that pipework if it ever needs fixing. It even has a factory rear hard top, which isn’t just rare but also looks great and makes the car so much easier to use all year round. A £12,500 asking price is eminently reasonable.

As breaking down shouldn’t be an option for someone who’s often treated like the fifth emergency service, the awkwardly styled Lexus SC430 is certainly in the running. When you’re inside it, you don’t have to see the outside, and it delivers fresh air along with V8 propulsion.

Paying a solid £10,000 gets you a one-owner 2002 model with 43,000 miles. It has one of those electric folding roofs: what could be more comforting or cosy?

While in-demand superminis go up in value, arguably these old open-topped prestige things deliver a surprising amount of real-world benefits for not very much money at all. Provided you have a plumber’s budget and toolbox, you will be fine.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Kia Optima, mileage - 73,563: Remember that left-hand-drive saloon oddity that’s sort of in my extended used car orbit? Well, it has come back into the fold for a while, and I took the opportunity to use my garage door touch-up paint to cover the alarming number of scrapes on its bodywork. We don’t think of saloons, even big ones, as being particularly practical, but this one swallowed a superking-size timber bed in CKD state. (Car manufacturing reference for you there.) These giant Optimas are great, and ours has proved to be reliable and easy to live with. Clearly, previous owners had a problem with the left-hooker layout and manoeuvring. It’s in safer hands at the moment.

Readers’ ride

GP Spyder: Richard was right when he suggested I might love his latest buy. He says: “My Porsche 718 RSK replica isn’t quite Bangernomics, but with a real one worth half a million, maybe it is. This is a superb little car, unusually with a genuine 1960 Porsche 356 engine, so it goes as well as it looks. My garage is getting back to normal now and my pub has reopened, so here’s to a good summer and lots of classic car shows.”

Readers’ questions

Question: When I asked a used car dealer for a test drive, he asked if I was just trying before buying from Cazoo, as he claimed many do. Is this common? Petra Davies, via email

Answer: I recently had the same experience. I can understand that, as Cazoo and other online used car sellers gain traction, traditional dealers will worry they’re becoming unpaid demonstrators for them. However, discouraging test drives on the grounds that a customer might be a time waster isn’t the way forward. Dealers’ advantage is having cars that we can touch and drive, and they should be capitalising on that. JE

Question: I need a car to tackle the Yorkshire Dales, where I’m moving to, as well as a weekly drive to London and back. What can I get for £15,000? Paul Stainforth, London

Answer: For a round trip by car of around 500 miles, you need something comfortable, economical and reliable that can enter London’s extended ULEZ penalty-free. Meanwhile, for the Dales, you need good all-weather traction and visibility. The Mazda CX-5 2.2 D Sport Nav springs to mind. Your budget should bag a 2017 car with 40,000 miles. Switch to winter tyres when things get slippery. JE


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