Just today I thought about it and realized I have owned and driven a lot of cars. All these cars left an impression on me and sometimes drained my pocket. Here is a full list of the cars I have owned or long term driven best to worst and what was wrong or right with them. And a story of one that genuinely tried to kill me. Maybe it will give you better idea on what you want to buy and what to avoid.
Fanboy alert: Your dreams are about to be slaughtered, get ready for that.
2006 Ford Fiesta 1.4 TDCi 50kW - 1100$
This car has to be the best car I have ever owned. It doesn’t break, it will start every morning and all I do is fill up with fuel and windscreen liquid. It’s comfy, has solid stiff bottom and despite it’s lack of horsepower has decent acceleration. The lack of power is offset by low weight and low fuel consumption (always inside 5L/100km). Managed to even win a race against stronger car, because I don’t need to slow down in turns as much and Fiesta is light. Over all this thing is a joy. The repairs I needed to give it included front lights, reverse sensor, rear shocks and front springs. All that inside 250$ of price. Working on the car is easy, and bolts even tend to have remains of zinc on them when removed. Although there is some rust at the bottom of the car, it’s not terrible and so far doesn’t threaten the structural stability of the vehicle. If you have a good one around you, I can recommend it.
2001 Alfa Romeo 146 1.9JTD 1200$
If you are European you may know this car and engine as “the worst”. Can’t confirm though. My Alfa was an instant love. Comfy, reasonably fast and stable on the road, surprisingly large trunk and AC was still working. It came with 300000km on dials and I absolutely believe that number. Many parts needed changing, setting me back by some 400$ and far from the end. it wasn’t well taken care of but I was willing to pay the price as parts are rather affordable and there is large range of choice. However, even on broken parts this thing would still cover 23000 extra kilometers. Parts themselves are rather cheap if bought online, I have used the option of a personal visit in the shop and paid extra for immediate ownership of parts and comfort of shop assistance. Unfortunately car’s life was ended abruptly by a crash with a wild boar. Even after crash and a month on the rain in my driveway, it didn’t start to rust. After this one I wanted to go for newer model but the fuel consumption of this one have not convinced me (6L) as I began to cover 2000km a month and needed to go lower on consumption. The reason why I didn’t repair the car was the fact I knew I have done some DIY sins on it and the level of damage left on it by a wild boar was scary. It’s probably not the best daily driver in the world since it’s now very dated, but it’s stylish and sure worth considering as a project car. Have in mind though - it’s made of butterfly wings. You want to install reinforcements if you want to drive it fast.
Fiat Brava 1.2 16V (borrowed)
Fiat was my entry in to the world of cars that aren’t falling apart all the time. It was comfy, full of electric stuff I haven’t had before and quite stylish. The engine may have been tiny but it accelerated significantly better than I would expect. The thing I liked the most was the fact the acceleration was very linear and so it saved me any surprises. The car was rust free, practical and over all really nice to drive. It’s life in my hands was ended when a police van crashed in to my rear left corner. Brava was fine, the van have sustained heavy damage. Unfortunately it has turned out the guy who let me borrow the Brava have borrowed it too, without permission. And the police wasn’t keen on letting me keep the car. Later I wanted to buy the same one, but what a surprise, they were not available on the market. A car like this is just too good to appear on the market in good condition. People who have it will keep their hands on it. Even today it would make for nice daily driver and I keep it in mind when looking for a car, just in case there was a nice one around.
Rover 414 Si 350$ from a friend of a relative
Rover have surprised me. Mine came in British Racing Green and I named it “James” because it reminded me of James May. Never before or since have I sat down in a more comfortable car. In fact the seats are so good they still wait in my attic today. This car is a comfy chair on wheels. It’s 1.4L atmospheric engine definitely didn’t pack a lot of power. Not even the racing green would make it faster, but it did its job, and in all that plush comfort, there was no hurry. Never needed to seriously repair it and never had it malfunction. However, it is a rust bucket. For whatever reason, that thing rusts everywhere. And by everywhere I mean even the middle of the rear passenger door to the point where holes would form. I have attempted to turn it in to a rat (by placing very obvious bolted patches) but forgot to check the inspection date and missed it. After that, James unfortunately had to leave my house.
1996? Audi A4 2L 20V (borrowed)
Audi A4 have marked itself in my memory as a fast, cool, comfortable car. It will accelerate fast, never rust and over all it was pretty good to drive. Until it has broken though. Unfortunately I have got it already after years of neglect and knowing nothing about cars back then, finished the job. While Audi’s tend not rust, for the price of repairs you can buy another Audi. And that’s definitely not a low price. Also it’s being very VWish in the fact they are pain in the butt to service at home.
Škoda Favorit LX
Favorit was my very first car. This last flex of communism in Czechoslovakia is relatively light, extremely practical and you don’t want to have a crash in it. LX version is bare bone, not even radio came in it. The kind of stuff I have loaded in the car and managed to keep it moving is impossible. It was my daily driver, my van and a few times even my bed. The best thing about the car is the view - most of the top is just glass. However, the seats had no shape to them and so seat belt is mandatory if you want to stay seated. It drove well and since there was no limiter, the top speed depended only on the size of your titanium coated stainless steel balls and the shape of the timing chain. My brother once used Favorit to tow a trailer with another car on it. As a thing to move you from A to B Favorit sure is sufficient but today they are becoming a rarity. Reason is obvious - the surface coating was not the best of all and these cars are simply turning in to piles of rust. It also came without power steering, but the steering could be set up to be relatively light. My own Favorit had to get out of the house once front suspension began to creep out of the bonnet. Other malfunctions included the ingition failures and battery draining. Solved those with classy 64A three phase switch on the glove box accompanied by two buttons for start (I’m an electrician so I used what I found). If you want to buy parts, they are a price of a kiss. As a car, Favorit is a legend, but unless you want to collect it as a historical car, for gods sake stay away from it. It really is a past.
1998? Opel Vectra 2.0 350$ from a friend
Opel Vectra was my first car with cruise control in it. Spoiler alert, cruise control is the best thing ever! Vectra was a very comfy and quite pretty car. Even twenty years after it’s release, the design remained incredibly good. That however couldn’t be said about the rest of the car. First of all, it’s a rust bucket. That thing had holes in the panels so large I had to fill them with foam and then model brand new pieces using resin. Why resin? Because the car rusted so fast after a month even those resin pieces began to have corners to them. It has survived a bunch of adventures with me that were peppered by malfunctions whenever I went through a puddle. The reason was quite expensive crank shaft sensor cable I couldn’t afford that was cleverly placed right next to exhaust and cooked to crisp. Later on, the water pump gave up and cooked the engine. The repair was rather expensive for a rust bucket and it didn’t solve the whole problem. Eventually the car had to go after I drove my mother in it, drove down my steep driveway and the vehicle gave out a screech threatening it will break in half. My mother was, as you can imagine, not happy about it and wouldn’t sleep well until I got rid of the car. Over all, cool car. But you better have a garage for it.
Škoda Felicia 1.3MPI (borrowed)
Felicia is one of the Czech legends. As a successor for Favorit you’d expect it to be better, and you’ll be wrong. While it definitely was better design, and it was more comfortable, there is a few things I hate about it. First of all was the engine. The block was still the same as in Favorit but now it had new head with multipoint injection and computer to bear. That would have been ok, wasn’t it for the fact the programming of the computer was rather shit and it has threatened to kill my parents and me multiple times. You see, the issue was with the fact that once you reach maximum RPM the computer won’t just stop accelerating, it will literally close the throttle, dropping by some 1000 RPM. You can probably guess how bad it is during overtaking. With a computer came also a solid speed limit of 150km/h so Felicia was slower then its predecessor. The insides of the car are also smaller as there is more plastic installed and so the practicality of the vehicle have dropped. One more thing - the smell. Only Felicia has this kind of weird plasticky smell. I always thought it will go away, but no. Twenty years later, that thing smells exactly the same and it makes me sick. Over all, first Felicia isn’t ugly, but it’s slow, it smells, there is no power steering and steering is heavy and I hate it. The upside is, parts are cheap and working on the engine is a dream, because there is ton of space in the engine bay. So unless you want to collect it, do me a favor, and send it off a very tall cliff. If you encounter one of the later versions with 1.6l petrol and 1.9l diesel, those will be probably better bet.
1998 Volkswagen Passat 1.9TDi 100?kW (the strong one) 900$ from now ex-friend
Yep, I paid with money for that pile of shit. As a “small” car this is by far the worst I laid my hands on. To be fair, previous owners were ricers. That means they definitely tried to tune up the car and failed miserably. The glove box fell off, interior was falling apart from all of the manipulation they have done with it. Engine frequently fell in to an emergency mode because of poor computer tuning. Interior light was idiotic blue and there was many places where the cable tree was interrupted. Also, later I found the car was crashed enough to move the engine back, causing problems with shifter. But there was much wrong with the car from factory.
First of all this Passat was a unicorn. You won’t find electric diagrams for it anywhere because it was a mashup between Audi and Passat, absolutely incredible. And no that weren’t my ricer friends tuning things, these were electronics on original mounting points. Comfort unit (the stuff that controls every lock, mirror, heater and window in the car) is set in the drivers foot well. Yes, in the foot well. Aside from that the foot well contains also a junction for the cable tree. How did they insulate it? They used tape. Yes, a fucking tape. Repairing it means six hours of squatting by the car, fighting the floor panel, for very short lived result. That’s not all. Passat has a 4 point front suspension with a virtual pivot point and it’s made of aluminium. How well that works on a car that has two metric tons? Not so well, and it’s very expensive. Repairing it however, now that is a dream come true. Forget socket wrench, it won’t fit. Only thing you can use is regular wrench with ring. And you better have some weird ass sizes like 18mm. Then become a wrestler, because this is no Alfa Romeo or Ford Fiesta or Fiat nor Audi, these bolts are rusted rock solid. So whip out you hammer because you’ll have to hit the wrench many times to get the bolt loose. By the way don’t try to jack the car on it’s own lift. It’s core is made of plastic and I got two of them crack like a nut. Is this the end? No! That’s just the beginning! When this thing drove, it was… ok… You see even with tuned engine for higher power, and lowered suspension it’s still two metric tons of a car. And the bottom of the car is everything but solid. It also ain’t one of the comfiest cars ever and that on lowered or normal suspension. I had sedan version, and it’s trunk is a joke. Seriously, even significantly smaller Alfa 146 has more of a boot than this scrap. Want more technical stupidities? The turbo is (when looking in to the engine bay) on the left. That is connected with triple bend rubber hose to a pipe which is a part of the bumper and goes right. There it is connected with another rubber hose to an intercooler and from there another pipe connects it to a plastic pipe going up and over the engine to the left where the air intake is. Yes, they picked the longest possible route to connect the turbo. Spoiler alert, that pipe in the bumper is regular steel and so it tends to rust. Another problem came in the engine development. Want to use the same oil filter in a Passat as on your truck? Dream come true! After many issues with oil pressure, engineers have figured out they need to install a bucket worth of an oil filter on it. Not only it’s large, it’s also expensive! Who would have guessed? Oil change is a ride. You have to remove the cooling water reservoir (no it’s not accessible from the bottom) to get to the oil filter. And there is more. Eventually my Passat received massive damage on timing issues. You see, the belt was brand new, but my ex-friend a “mechanic” failed to identify what must have been his own fuck-up. But, let’s not blame everything on him. You see there is a gear on a crank shaft that runs the timing belt. However, in a stroke of genius VW engineers figured there is no need to make a full cut gear. The gear has just about 5mm indent on its side that fits the cutout on the crank shaft. And so, if the bolt securing the gear comes loose, the gear will start rocking back and forth. As you can imagine, the indent will eventually get beaten long enough to spin full circle and valves will go kiss the pistons. Whoever, came up with this idea, should receive a prize for idiocy. Best thing is, better solutions exist for literally hundreds of years, but Germans in their pursuit of originality just can’t seem to pull their heads out of their asses. Even though the car drove once the timing was set again, it would never start again without me hacking the heat plugs. I also tried to set the lights to the right height, only to find that the cable used for that have rusted half way so hard, it has bulged the housing. Still, I could drive with that. Later on though, the power steering began to act and then, in a spray of oil everywhere, died. I thought I’ll fix it but boy oh boy, I think you’ll have to move the engine forward for this one. That, or be a magician of a mechanic. I drove with dead power steering to the end of the cars technical permit, then, unable to force myself to lay this curse on anyone else, I had it scrapped and received a few bucks in return for the price of scrap metal. God that was a terrible piece of shit and it’s not the only one. My almost stepfather has one too and even though I have fixed his mechanical and electrical issues, they came back one after another. If somebody gives you a free Passat, take it, and send it off a cliff or set it on fire or scrap it. Just don’t lay that curse on anybody else. Oh and did I mention rust? Lots of rust! Rust everywhere!
Now, that’s the end to my personal cars but there is an example of van I drove for a while. The one car, that have genuinely tried to kill me.
- 2015 Peugeot Boxer 3L turbodiesel with soft build on it. 40000$
400000 kilometers, Europe, two years. This is one of those cars that you inspect a month after a purchase and find first rust, as I did. About two months in to the cars introduction, right wheel bearing was gone. However, the first hard (literally) impression is the seat - very uncomfortable. Whoever designed this car didn’t understand human anatomy. The cabin is just too small, and the seat is always too close to the pedals. Not just for me (180cm) but also for my significantly mother. When you set the seat to have comfy legs, your back is straight up against the wall, when you set your back right, your knees will hit the dashboard. Seats are hard and pedals push down and forward - pretty weird. Driver seat is bad, but passenger seat is worse. Interior is pretty, but impractical. Central glove box will fit a thick folder of papers, that’s it. Normal glove box will also fit papers, but less. There is a paper holder on top of the dash in the center. Designer must have worked in the office forever. The doors will fit a whole bunch of large PET bottles, that’s handy. There is no flat space to put anything, everything is either round or under some stupid angle. There is no storage under the seats, except for the tools. Over all, if you’re a driver, you’re screwed. You simply have to bring your own box and secure it on the seat. One of the drivers I worked with have completely removed the passenger seat to make ends meet. The shifter stick was getting increasingly stiff, until I had to wrestle it like Hulk Hogan. Guys in the Peugeot service apparently just ignored it. Then, finally, one of the vans have shit itself. The gearbox have seized so hard it has cut it’s own shaft and then ate the gears. Just months later, another one. Repairing a French car in France? Impossible. No shop was large enough for them, they just can’t get them inside. And for gearbox you have to drop front axle on these things. Shortly after that, on one wet day in France, the hour have come for me. No, not the gearbox, that was fine. I have loaded very important load to Czechia, big buck, no space to fail. I was somewhat hungry and didn’t sleep very long, but here I go, uncomfortable but in the car and driving. I drive for about fifteen minutes with increasing discomfort. One speed bump, second speed bump, third speed bump - that was it. The world have turned around, I slammed the van on to a nearest flat space didn’t even care if it’s a parking lot. Next hours were just non-stop pain, vomiting and diarrhea until there was nothing left in me. I was dehydrated and sleep deprived. I thought I’m tired, but sleep didn’t do it. I couldn’t drink, couldn’t sit and I couldn’t walk. Everything was just nonstop pain. Few more hours later I have forced myself to keep going in 100km jumps, since my idiot chief refused to hire another truck. It was an important cargo, but near I think Hockenheim I gave up. It was hot summer, I was exhausted and in pain, at this point I didn’t have a single nights sleep for at least two days, the cargo was too late anyways and my powers ran out. At this point there was a driver available who picked up the cargo and I gave myself a night. Then I tried to continue home. If I need to go to the hospital, let it be close to home. Bullshit. I have hit a traffic jam, and 30 minutes later my limiter was gone again. I got off the motorway and to the nearest German hospital. Half dead I have registered on emergency and fifteen minutes later the best injection ever have hit my body. After three days I could normally function, but only for about thirty minutes. Scan after scan reveals nothing until doctors decide to put me on painkillers for the night. That night was important, while doctors found nothing, my pains were gone by the morning, despite the drugs running out. It hit me much later on that it was the flat soft bed and climate controlled room that have repaired me, specifically - repaired my broken back. I gave my thanks to the doctor and was signed off because the pain was gone and there was nothing more to find. I have standard EU insurance so the cost was covered by the insurance company. I drove home sitting half seat just to not touch that thing too much and once home I have installed my Rover 414 Si seat in there. It wasn’t ideal, but it did the job and was 1000x more comfy than the original one. Never had back issues ever again. That wasn’t the last of the Peugeot though. Later that year right front brake got stuck and ground itself to hell. What a joy. Then I had this Spain turnaround. I spent a weekend on a parking lot in Spain only to then try to start a car and - it jumped forward. At first I thought I’m stupid but no, the clutch was dead. So I drove some 4000km from Spain to Slovakia and then to the north of Czechia with a dead clutch. Again, what a joy. With that came also electrical issues. Front light bulbs would go every two months regardless of price or manufacturer. And sometimes the cruise control went just mad, accelerating hard and then slowing down. Sometimes I’d loose cruise control completely for hours at a time. Also the front suspension was a joke. It would kill your back but when you took a turn the whole damn thing would collapse and give you a feeling of an imminent roll. ASR? Yea, in Peugeot that’s the system that stops your car on a snowy incline and won’t let it go forward. The over all ability to climb a slippery slope was a joke in this car. When you turn off the key and step on brakes, the brake lights won’t come on. And when the key is on, you can’t turn the lights off. The radio was killing my thumb drives like it had a machine gun. The IVECO engine never broke, but it was far from efficient (15L/100km over it’s competitors 10L/100km) and far from powerful - It’s 150BHP was below it’s 2L twin turbo competitors. Servicing them also wasn’t a breeze. To find service in Spain or France or basically anywhere where they’d fit was a nightmare. So a bunch of times we ended up towing them across half the Europe to get them fixed. Parts were also issue, as they were never available.They weren’t cheap vehicles either, one came for more than 40000 dollars. And I can see myself buying used heap, servicing it and engine swapping it for much less than that. I’m not driving anymore and hell I won’t. But if I ever were, I’d rather buy second hand heap Ford and invest 5000$ in repairs then to buy new Peugeot Boxer.
So as you can see, buying a new car doesn’t have to be a good idea. And some long term underdogs score pretty high at least in my list. In general, if you want cheap good car, look at hated brands. Fudds will sing their song about terrible brands and you can save some cash. I hope you have found this list helpful and if not, then at least i hope it was entertaining.