I’ve got a special eBay search saved in my favourites. It’ll show me every car that’s advertised on the site for less than £1,500, within 25 miles and sorted by ‘newly listed’.
So as soon as anything cheap and local is advertised, I usually see it pretty quickly.
As someone who loves dreaming about bargain old cars and has vaguely been thinking about a replacement for his MX-5 for a little while, it’s a little dangerous really.
Last week I spotted an E34 BMW 520i that had just been listed. It was a lot of car for the money – 1.5 tonnes of car in fact, with bids starting at just £450. The catch? It was lilac, with cream leather and hideous bits of wood inside.
The link was passed around between my colleagues as a bit of a joke. £450 and local, I could be driving away in the pimpiest of BMWs. But then we looked at it some more. Insurance, for me at 22 years old, was bizarrely cheap.
Team MR investigates
And then, on Saturday morning, a Team MR trio of CJ, Sean and I found ourselves standing on the driveway of the seller, looking at £450 worth of Bavarian tank.
It wasn’t quite what we expected. The seats? Grey, actually, with blue piping. BMW Individual seats, no less, so they would have been quite an expensive extra when the 520i was new. And the paint? That’s Individual too, and although it needs a bit of a clean and polish, with a bit of work it could look quite stunning.
I’ll let you into a secret. I wasn’t really planning on buying this car. It was a trip out, a chance to dismiss the car as being an utter heap and spend at least another week dreaming on eBay.
But as the seller drove us down the road, we realised what a lovely thing this BMW 520i was. It’s had two owners from new – the last for 14 years. He’s serviced it meticulously with a fully stamped service book to prove. It even has a National Trust sticker, exactly the kind of thing I look out for when buying a cheap car.
Team MR buys a car
All this explains why, next weekend, I will be picking up my new lilac BMW. I didn’t get it for £450, but I managed to persuade the seller to end the auction early for a figure beginning with ‘5’.
It’ll need a little TLC: it’s covered 175,000 miles and the paintwork doesn’t look quite as good as it did when it was new in 1996. I’ve also found myself reading through forums about every little thing that could possibly go wrong on one of these but, well, I’ve not invested a great deal of money to lose.
Check back soon to find out how I get on when I drive my bargain BMW for the first time…