Balders Bangernomics

If you’ve not heard this term before (it’s been 25 years since its first mention here in the UK), bangernomics is the practice of running a cheap, used car. Running it to the ground, perhaps, as there’s a chance you might be the one handing it over to the scrap dealer when the music stops in the big game of musical cars. But I’m getting ahead of myself as usual.

It would be great for me to say what an expert I am at this bangernomics lark, but that would only be a half-truth. Ok, it would be a lie. I’m simply an expert at driving old bangers. I’m not great at keeping them alive. I’ve only ever owned used cars, and most of them have been absolute clangers.

I did have a thing for very old vehicles at one point. I had a 1985 Mini Mayfair and a ’75 (I think) Leyland Sherpa camper van at the same time. I got over that ‘classic car’ thing when I realised that they were draining my bank account and draining me of my will to drive – but that was because of several things. First, I didn’t have the right setup for running classic cars. I didn’t have a covered garage and the darned things turned to rust before my eyes. Second, I didn’t have the skills to maintain and repair them myself. I desperately wanted to, but I’d never been taught and didn’t know where to start. Third, I didn’t have the money to pay someone else to keep up the repairs. Last, I started to expect to break down en route instead of actually reaching my destination.
All this rust came with the car for free!

Eventually, I traded up… to a £900 Rover 25. Oh yes, that car was like the height of luxury after the Mini. I immediately was far less cool, but I didn’t care because I had airbags and a windscreen that wasn’t constantly fogged up. It was like driving in the future, except for the fact that it was actually in everyone else’s past.

I had that car when I met Lord Balders, and I’d have had it for a lot longer if I’d only have looked after it. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Its head gasket died on a motorway journey and we were plunged into the worst day ever, which is a very long story culminating in the three of us on a train to Preston carrying a vacuum cleaner and a bird cage wrapped in a t-shirt containing two loud and unhappy budgies.  


After that, we relied on Lord Balders’ Vauxhall Corsa, which he bought on finance (OUCH) 5 years previously and had only finished paying off, before another long story of a day ended with that car being left in pieces in the middle of a four-way traffic light junction. 

Changing the brake pads – the first of many jobs.

Now, we have another banger. Yet this time, we are conscious practitioners of bangernomics. I have the dubious expertise of having bought more used cars than I can remember owning. Lord Balders, despite only ever having bought one new car, is determined to learn as much as possible about maintaining cars as he can for free, and brings to the table the willingness to get cold, grubby and greasy that I lack. This isn’t to say that I’ve never done a bit of work on my cars, but I have been thoroughly surpassed by my husband.

We bought our latest car in August last year for £250. I worked it out – “how much would you pay for the privilege of having a car?” I asked him. We do need a vehicle, even if only for his work, which involves transporting a large machine. “For the convenience of having your own car, how much would you pay per month?” At the time, stranded, we’d both have probably said, “my kingdom for a car!” but it still helped us to set a budget.

If we managed to keep our hunk of junk on the road for 6 months, it would have cost us less than £42 per month. If we can keep it going for a year, the monthly cost of car ownership would be £20.83. Of course, that’s before petrol, tax and maintenance, but those costs go on top of any car purchase costs. So far, we’ve made it to 8 months.
The split cv boot that Lord Balders removed and replaced.

That’s not to say that it’s been plain sailing/driving; there was a scary moment when one of the drive shafts broke and we were grounded until Lord Balders could watch enough YouTube videos to figure out how to fix it, get to the local scrap yard and back with a replacement, and rope in a petrolhead friend to give some advice. But… he did it! He actually replaced the drive shaft. Now he feels as though he can fix anything. He can’t, of course, but it’s a handy feeling for him to have.
It’s crunch time now, as its MOT is due soon. Everything’s decided to go a bit skew-whiff all at once and I’m not feeling hopeful that it’ll pass. Still, Lord Balders has been out in between snowfalls replacing the brake pads, and has today repaired both the newly split cv boot on the other drive shaft with a replacement kit, and the windscreen wipers with just a bit of ingenuity.

We’ll weigh up the cost of repairing or replacing, but so far it’s been a great investment, even if only for the skills we’ve both picked up in the last 8 months. And if we have to scrap it – well, seeing as I sold my Rover 25 for scrap for only a few pounds less than I bought this Rover 200, it might work out alright in the end.

How has bangernomics worked (or not worked) for you?


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