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James Ruppert: Get pumped for used German diesels

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Convertible E220 CDI from 2011 with 98k miles is £7795

The used market is crawling with bargain buys, and oil-burners are especially good value. Take your pick of Mercedes E-Classes and Audi Avants

There’s now an expiry date on new cars into which we have to pump diesel or petrol. It was 2040, got brought forward to 2035 and now seems to be just 12 years away.

The good news, if there actually is any, is that at the moment used cars remain legal currency for infinity. That means we can and should go out and buy what we damn well please.

I still adore a diesel, and there are a lot of very interesting ones in circulation. Some are perfectly suited to their roles, such as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class Convertible. How does £7795 sound? What you will get is an E220 CDI BlueEfficiency SE Edition from 2011 – a dealer car with 98k miles that will do an easy 50mpg. It looked like a fairly mint, year’sMOT dealer car, but what a beauty at that price. There’s room for the family in the back, too.

If you want to take just that one special friend with you, then get the same engine in the SLK shape. I spied a 2012 example with 100k miles and an AMG Sport logo on it for just £7900. There was nothing wrong with it as far as I could tell, although maybe a solid roof might be better.

The BMW 6 Series is such a huge lump of coupé and, as tempted as I’ve been to bag a V8, there is the 3.0d to enjoy. So a 635d Sport from 2007-09 is £5000 as an entry point. It’s likely to have done around 140k miles and could be saving up some big suspension and brake bills at the very least, provided the engine doesn’t need any work. You can expect it to have all the toys as well, such as outdated sat-nav and worn-in leather.

The main reasons for going diesel are to lap up miles and to shift stuff. To do that in a classy way, you can sign up for an Audi A6 Avant. There are some colossal-mileage examples around, and that just proves the point that they can take it. I came across a 2007 2.0 TDI SE with a reasonable 104k miles and a full MOT. It was on a very ordinary dealer lot with a price to match, at a fraction over £2k. For the same money and still at a boggo dealer, I spotted a rather more complicated 2005 A6 3.0 TDI quattro with an extra 45k miles on the clock.

Don’t give up on diesel just yet. No one can be completely sure how long they will last in the current ban-it, ULEZ climate. There are so many great diesels to choose from and you shouldn’t be bullied into something that you may not be able to afford or that isn’t as cool. For the used car buyer, the future remains wonderfully wide open.

What we almost bought this week

Fiat Grande Punto 1.4 T-Jet Sporting: If this pretty Punto’s 120bhp doesn’t thrill you, its 152lb ft will. The 1.4 T-Jet petrol engine is flexible, offering spirited in-gear urge. The Sporting is a rare car now, but we dug out this 2009-reg with 72,000 miles priced at £1450 in the classifieds. Little detail was available, though, so, as we say, ‘almost bought’.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

BMW 320, mileage – 84,332: I’ve piled on a good few miles, but the starting shenanigans are getting worse. Even using the car regularly doesn’t seem to help much. It’s an old car, so just twisting the ignition and going isn’t an option. Part of me wants to stick a fuel injection system on it and be done with it.

Once running, it’s not a problem, and I never feel after a few hundred miles that it won’t ever start again. Last year, I went to a BMW specialist who, I thought, quoted something fairly absurd for their expertise. I think I need another chat with them.

Reader’s ride

Renault Twingo: Chris has an inspiring story for us all about a truly wonderful purchase. “Yesterday, I flew from Glasgow to Berlin to realise a long-held (and modest) dream of owning a Mk1 Twingo. I now own this 1998 Liberty special edition, complete with foldy roof and air-con.

“I got up at 5am to get a shot at the Brandenburg Gate, then did 400-plus miles to Amsterdam for the ferry to Newcastle, never missing a beat. I think I might now have the only Mk1 Twingo in Scotland. Is there a more fun way to spend €1500 [£1280]? I don’t think so.”

Readers’ Questions

Question: I am a 77-year-young petrolhead but now want to switch to an electric car. A used one would be a good starting point before I commit to the one I really want. What can you suggest for £10,000? Bernard Brignall, via email

Answer: If you’re just testing the water, go with a car you can resell easily, such as a Renault Zoe. We found a one-owner 2016-reg Expression Nav with 20,000 miles and the improved R240 motor for £9250. It has a range of 80-110 miles; not a lot by current standards but, if your driving’s local and you can charge at home, decent enough. You have to lease the battery (it’s around £50 a month), but at least it’s guaranteed and it’s transferable to the next owner. JE

Question: My husband says my car isn’t insured when I leave it running on our driveway to clear the windscreen and go into the house for a few minutes. Is he making it up just to make me suffer? Sally Johnson, via email

Answer: Check your policy but, generally, your insurer will refuse to pay out if you left your car unattended with the keys in it and it was damaged or stolen or valuables were taken from it. This applies even if you can clearly see it from your house. So don’t chance it. JE

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