The economics of bangernomics

We’re officially back in recession, with the government announcing a double dip that sounds rather exciting and makes me wish I was on the roller coasters at Alton Towers.CHAL Banner

Not that I can afford it, as the first thing that seems to happen when a recession appears is that people stop spending in the mistaken belief that they have less money.

Generally, the second biggest expenditure in a normal household is a car but, at the risk of upsetting my paymasters at, there’s a way you can avoid spending thousands of pounds on new cars while still having a great deal of fun.

Let me introduce you to the concept of bangernomics.

The term bangernomics was first coined by motoring writer James Ruppert, and explains in one word the task of buying, maintain and running a car for as close to zero expenditure as you can manage.

I first discovered the joys of bangernomics back in 2006 when preparing for the Staples2Naples pan-European banger rally. At the time there was a spending limit on the cars of just £150 with which I had to find a car that would transport me and a team mate across Europe in four days, take in lengthy French motorways, worryingly steep Swiss mountain passes and Italian city traffic, then return us to the UK, all without breaking down. Or at least not too frequently.

Renault Safrane 2007 DoningtonI picked up the most obvious car; a 1993 Renault Safrane (pictured above). Being an unloved French luxury car with a thirsty 3.0 litre V6 engine, the seller was struggling to shift it. Just ten minutes and £50 later I drove home revelling in the climate-controlled, leather clad armchairs, thinking how nice the ride was, how smooth the auto box was, and how much I’m enjoying the cruise control.

Of course, it wasn’t perfect. The radiator was on its last legs but, rather than replace it, I simply cut holes in the bonnet and attached vents. Problem now solved, overheating was never again an issue.

The car went in to the rally, did everything that was asked of it over 3,000 miles, and returned to the UK triumphant. I’m quietly confident it’s the longest distance any mid-90’s Renault has ever covered without incident.

Then the biggest problem of bangernomics reared its head. Attachment. I just couldn’t let the Safrane go so, despite going through a variety of ‘proper’ cars, the Renault stayed with me for a full five years.

Over those five years it covered around 15,000 miles almost faultlessly, requiring just a new battery in that time. I then sold it recently for £120, although I could have scrapped it and made around £240.

How many cars can you buy, keep for five years, and turn a 140% profit on?

Yes, there were bits that needed attention, but that’s another benefit of bangernomics; when you’re spending £100 on a car, it’s literally a disposable item. If there’s a significant issue, you scrap the car and move on to the next one.

Of course the Safrane had its issues, but using the ‘if it’s broken, scrap it’ mentality, you just ignore them, and that also helps to make motoring incredibly cheap.

General Leexus 2010 Monaco CasinoOver five years that Renault cost me a total of roughly £220, excluding road tax and MOTs. That’s £3.67 a month for a car that was better at cruising up and down motorways than my grown up BMW 3 Series was, and used roughly the same amount of fuel.

A month’s motoring for around the same price as a single measure of The Macallan scotch (at least it is at my local…) is astonishing, but it’s not a one off.

Since that first Safrane I’ve gone through a second Safrane V6, a Vauxhall Astra that lasted just two weeks before being redesigned by a Post Office van, a fantastic Audi 90 2.3, a SAAB 900, Vauxhall Omega Elite and now I’ve got a Lexus LS400 and a Toyota Celica. There’ll soon be an Austin Allegro added to the fleet, too. These all cost a total of £1,170 and I’ve made £1,030 from selling or scrapping all but the last two. Those eight cars have, therefore, cost me a net £160 in total, or £20 a car.

I’ve been fortunate, and use these cars for a bit of fun. I’m not a great mechanic, but tinker with things and don’t worry too much if I break them. I’ll also enter the odd one in those silly rallies (the Lexus will be on the 10th anniversary running of Staples2Naples in August) or simply drive them to the office because I fancy going in something unusual.

But in these austere times there’s a much bigger benefit. I sincerely hope that anybody reading this that is at risk of redundancy stays in employment, but for many there’ll be the prospect of months of reduced income and little in the way of reduced expenditure. It may not be pretty, but bangernomics might just be a way of keeping afloat, keeping yourself available to go for interviews, and keeping your sanity as you’re free to travel.

Or, if you’re fortunate enough to keep in work, prop up the economy. With the money you’ll save, you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of trips to Alton Towers, spending your money in the UK, with the government collecting taxes on that to balance the books.

Bangernomics. Who knew it would be a recession buster?

[button link=”” rel=”nofollow” color=”orange”]This article was first published at on 30 April 2012.[/button]

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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