‘Cheap bangers will soon be a thing of the past’

While recycling parts is great for the planet, editor-in-chief Steve Fowler thinks it could mean the end of super-cheap car ownership

Opinion - Mazda MX5

Everyone loves a banger – a pre-loved motor with plenty of years, miles and owners under its belt that can be bought and kept on the road for peanuts.

As is always the case when we have a retro rundown like our 90s special in this week’s issue of Auto Express, I’m straight into the classifieds to see what I can get for not much cash. Mazda MX-5s can be had for under £1,000 (although decent versions of the original model are at least three times that), while first-gen Toyota RAV4s are similar cash. Ford Mondeos of all sorts are even cheaper.

But while banger-racing fans need not worry yet about a shortage of cars for the demolition derbies, the future paints a bleak picture for fans of cheap, old cars. Cut a long story short, there won’t be any.

The value of the components in a modern car means ageing models will be recycled long before they reach banger status. Of course, recycling is a great thing and should be warmly welcomed, and car companies have cottoned on to the value in controlling the whole lifecycle of their cars, including what happens at the end.

One company boss I spoke to this week told me, “We can make four-figure sums from the components in our cars at the end of their lives.” Rare materials used in batteries – and the batteries themselves – still have real value long beyond the car they live in.

Renault has turned one of its traditional car plants in Flins, France, into a ‘refactory’ – upgrading used cars for their second, third or even fourth lifecycles with different owners. Citroen and others are looking at a very similar model – owning the cars from cradle to grave. That’s very much part of the new business plan for car companies that could end up making fewer new cars. And the next step is to own the recycling process, too.

It’s great news for the planet, which, of course, we welcome. But it’s going to mean bye-bye to bangers and the end of super-cheap (and fun) car ownership.

Click here for our list of the cheapest cars on sale in the UK...

Editor-in-chief

Steve Fowler has been editor-in-chief of Auto Express since 2011 and is responsible for all editorial content across the website and magazine. He has previously edited What Car?, Autocar and What Hi-Fi? and has been writing about cars for the best part of 30 years. 

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