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Number of posts : 2
Registration date : 2009-09-10

PostSubject: low cost long-distance commuting   Thu Sep 10, 2009 5:57 pm

Now that we're all losing our jobs and needing to look outside of our towns for work, my little comparison may be interesting:

Until recently, I have had to commute from Hastings to London for work. This is 150 miles+ a day, 40,000+ miles a year, and in traffic that would kill any car. I was a front line worker, and lives depended on my car's reliability.

My first commuter car was a 1990 w124 Mercedes 250 Diesel (non-turbo). This was a brilliant car- 1 owner, FSH, comfortable, reasonably economical, and always looked nice. It only cost 1000, which I think was a bargain. Nothing broke, and my only repair needed in 50,000 miles was a ball joint. I wish I didn't sell it- I only sold it when diesel was 1.45 a litre and I thought it was going to go higher. I sold it for what I paid.

Second car was not such a good idea: A 'fire up the quattro' 1980s Audi GT 1.8 for 700 quid. It was usefully fast, and very good MPG- 40+ easily. However, it was rusting in difficult places, used oil, and had every bolt seized underneath, making brake and clutch changes annoying. Bits fell off, and the side bolster on the seat had pushed the foam through to the metal. I sold it to an enthusiast who I hope is giving it a good home. Sold it for what I paid. The 1.8 engine could also be repaired easily without special tools- unlike the 5 cylinders, and access to everything is really good.

Third car, and nearly as good as the Merc is a 1.3 Skoda Felicia for 500. After changing the clutch, it reliably took me 40,000 further miles. This car is the easiest thing to fix I've owned.
Headlights flickered on and off: bad alternator brushes; 5 and 5 minutes to fix.
Changed fan switch and thermostat- 10 minutes and 10.
Car started to run badly; changed crank sensor: 35.
Exhaust always banged against the bottom of the car: 'they all do that' and I lived with it.
The coolant tank had froth in it, indicating the head gasket was going, but it never used coolant and must have been a slow leak. As an OHV engine, I figured it'd be cheap to fix when it does go anyway. 3 hours and 15 for gaskets.
It was also quite roomy for a small car, nippy with only me on board, the back seat came out entirely to move large loads, and got about 40-45mpg.
I sold it for 300, needing a service, to another bangernomist who wanted it for a cheap alternative to a rental car for his parents when they came to the UK to holiday.

To compare against a new or modern car: I would have spent the same amount on tyres, brakes, clutch etc as these are general wear.
I would have had to pay a dealer to do servicing to keep the warranty.
If I bought a 2006 Fiat Panda instead of the Mercedes for 6000, it would have had 130,000 by the time I stopped commuting. It would have accumulated just as many dents etc having to be parked on a street in London. Value would probably be 1800 now.
I'm sure that it would also have broken down sometime after the warranty ran out, and would have cost more to fix than my old cars. Say, 1000
The MPG would have been marginally better, but not that much.
And, I'd have to pay interest on the loan.
So, I'd probably have paid an extra 5000 for the privalege of driving a car that would no longer look new after two months, and after 18 months of London would have been a proper banger.

I would easily reccomend either a pre-1994 w124 diesel Mercedes (250D or 300D) or the Felicia for commuting, but think the Audi is now a proper classic and shouldn't be used for such silliness.
However, I've seen a number of really low mileage 1 owner '88-92 Audi 80's around that would be a perfect long distance commuter.

Good luck finding a decent Merc that's not been minicabbed or otherwise abused for under 2000 though. Likewise, felicias aren't as cheap as they were a few months ago. They also make vw1.6's and 1.9 diesels, good engines, but the gearbox isn't up to it and they don't drive as well.

Whatever, you buy, just get the most basic model you can find- manual gearbox, as few electrics as you can find, and *this is important* an engine with few in-built faults and loads of room around to change things. Many cars now need the engine out for water pumps, alternators and the like. This is the difference between a 30 repair you can do yourself and 500 at a specialist.
I never buy a car without reading the Haynes manual first. If easy jobs have a haynes 3-5 'wrenches' rating, you don't want it as a commuter.
clutches that can be renewed without removing the engine are good, and brake discs that are sepearte from the hubs also save money.

I'd guess that a Corolla or Carina or the like would be equally good, and Carinas are definately in cheap banger territory now and get amazing MPG- but as my dad always drove Corollas, I just don't want to touch one now. Too boring to spend 6 hours a day commuting in to me. They can also cost a fortune in the unlikely event they do go wrong- expensive parts and lots of 3-5 wrench jobs.

A volvo 240 with LPG would be equal to a Merc in reliability, but good conversions are not cheap, and cheap conversions are not good.

I would avoid any Ford/Vauxhall or ANYTHING french, unless you want to use it as a disposable car- there is too much planned obsolescence, and repair parts are sold as 'assemblies' at very high prices that make them uneconomical to repair. When I worked at Ford as a parts driver, I remember the Tempo. This car was a good simple thing, kind of like a FWD american sierra. However, if you had either a bad oil cap (including breather) or valve cover gasket, you had to buy all three as a complete assembly at $100, as opposed for a few dollars for either. As valve covers rarely break, this was just part of ford's psychology to make repairs needlessly expensive so that customers start to think that 'expensive' repairs will cost more than that shiny new ford in the showroom.

Thats my 2 cents- what do others think???

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Number of posts : 31
Registration date : 2009-08-17

PostSubject: Re: low cost long-distance commuting   Fri Sep 11, 2009 12:34 am

Valuable info! Thanks for sharing with us:D i can vouch too for the Felicia, i had one, surprisingly high quality car, you sat a bit low in it as i recall, and as you say was like a small van with the rear seats out. I only got rid of mine because i'm a bit of a idiot and was worrying about the street cred some other minor electric niggles and the non PAS steering on non-skoda alloy wheels was a real Popeye's spinach job, even heavier than the well known "must have PAS" car, the Pug 405, which i found i could manage...
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