PetrolBlog looks at…Bangernomics

When it comes to used cars there’s one man who stands as a giant over us mere mortals. In fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he is one day rewarded with a knighthood for his services to pre-owned motor cars. The man in question is James Ruppert, or to use another name, Mr Bangernomics. James has been a mainstay of the used car section of Autocar magazine for years and is the kind of guy you’d want to take with you when you’re viewing a used car or visiting an auction. Quite simply, James Ruppert is the man.

The concept of Bangernomics was born in 1990 after James bought a rather rusty Polski Fiat for the princely sum of £80. The car was somewhat of a rusty heap but it did mark the genesis of Bangernomics. Who would have thought that a Polish-built Fiat would have such an impact on Bangerdom? In short, Bangernomics is the art of running an old car, on a budget. The principle is that with a little common sense it is possible to make a sensible assessment of an older car without any mechanical knowledge. In my case this is certainly good news!

I’ve just finished reading the Bangernomics Bible and I have to say it makes a lot of sense. Although the book was originally printed in 1992. it has since been updated and is actually as relevant today as it was in the early nineties. Our current age of austerity means that running a car on a budget is a necessity for most people and the Bangernomics book shows you how to do it! Across the 150-odd pages, the Bangernomics Bible takes you through budgeting, buying, caring and disposing of your car. In other words, the complete lifecycle of living with a Banger. James manages to present the content in an unpatronising way and whether you’re a car buying novice or a seasoned pro, there will be something in here of interest. Even petrolheads will find it relevant, if only to bring a sense of realism to a potential late-night eBay purchase, normally after a few pints.

Bangernomics Bible

From the outset, the Bangernomics Bible makes it quite clear that when buying a Banger you have to leave concerns over image or allegiances to a particular brand at the door. This isn’t about hunting down a preferred classic car or a once mighty prestige motor that has reached the bottom of the depreciation curve. Bangernomics is about finding the cheapest car to buy, with the least mechanical problems and the lowest ongoing overheads. If it has a few dents on the bodywork and a bit of wear and tear on the seats – it doesn’t matter. If it is road legal, safe and reliable, then it is eligible for Bangernomics. And as James says himself, today’s Bangers are a whole lot more appealing than they were in the early nineties;

I wrote Bangernomics back in 1992 when airbags were just bags with air in them, people carriers were still vans with windows and air conditioning meant opening the windows. That has all changed as have the values of used cars and what counts as a Banger. Back in ’92 even a reasonable amount of money would only get you a scruffy, possible unreliable, borderline roadworthy vehicle. Now even a modest budget gives you the pick of a wide variety of vehicles that are often in decent condition with full service histories.

James is right. I quickly trawled the depths of eBay and searched for cars under the price of £1,000. I was immediately presented with 365 pages of eligible Bangers. At 50 cars per page that’s 18,250 cars! OK, so nothing that would get petrolheads salivating at the mouth, but enough to suggest that Bangernomics has a lot going for it. How about a 1998 Toyota Corolla with 11 months MOT? Just £580 with 11 minutes of auction time remaining. Or a Toyota Avensis with 10 months MOT and just one owner from new. Only £530. What about a 1998 Skoda Octavia 1.9 GLX TDi for just £373? With only 118,000 on the clock there’s plenty of miles left in the beast – just ask any taxi driver!

I could go on, but you get the point. There are some genuinely appealing cars at this end of the market. They’ve finished depreciating and are in the kind of condition where a couple of supermarket dings or a kerbed alloys aren’t going to ruin your day. It won’t matter if you don’t get around to cleaning it and you won’t have any concerns over leaving it parked overnight in the rough end of town. How very liberating!

Now you could be thinking that you wouldn’t be seen dead in a Banger and that Bangernomics isn’t for you. In that case, consider this. As James points out in the book, the Banger could actually be used as a foil to get yourself a rather lovely weekend car. Put it this way – you need a practical everyday car but yearn for something a little less practical for the weekends. Then get yourself a cheap runabout for the daily slog and use the savings for something a tad more special. It was a principle I adopted back in 2003 when I rescued an early MK2 Golf GTi from the crusher. I paid a couple of hundred to quid to get it through the MOT and then ran it for six months for the daily commute. Meanwhile I had a VX220 in the garage for high days and holidays. Sweet.

There’s also the small matter of depreciation;

Depreciation takes an unhealthy bite out of the car’s value too. Depreciation is at its worst in the first year, but it also keeps on eating away during the warranty period and doesn’t stop there. With a Banger, or at least a slightly older car all the previous owners have taken the brunt of depreciation and high initial running costs. This leaves the clever Banger buyer with a vehicle that is unlikely to drop in value by very much.

Wise words. I’ve recently witnessed some people reacting in a panic-like fashion to the rising petrol prices. Drivers suddenly feel the urge to change their existing car and buy a brand new car that might gain them a few extra miles per gallon. Even when taking into account potential tax and servicing savings, they fail to appreciate the monthly repayments and deprecation. It could quite easily make more financial sense to pick up a Banger and avoid the extra costs. That’s one big thing that the Bangernomics Bible teaches – you only spend what you can afford;

The logic is simple, how much do you want to spend? How much do you have saved? If there is a shortfall, then think again. If there is a surplus, is that enough to constitute ‘savings’ given your lifestyle and requirements?

More wise words. If James Ruppert was involved in the financial planning of the nation, perhaps we wouldn’t be faced with a credit crisis. A return to old-school economics where you buy what you can afford. If you can’t afford it, you save. Simple. Bangernomics works because there’s every chance that given the right car, it is quite possible to get your money back, if not make a little profit, when it comes to selling up.

There’s a lot more to it, but I’d end up writing a book of my own! I wholeheartedly recommend buying a copy of the Bangernomics Bible. The principle is well thought out and you’re guided through the book in an amusing yet authoritative manner.

Running a Banger is a rewarding experience. A Banger has a history, a story to tell. It was once somebody’s pride and joy and has survived the test of time. By using the theory of Bangernomics, it can be rewarded with a happy retirement. Go on, you know it makes sense!

The Bangernomics Bible is priced at £8.99 and is available from

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Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

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