The logic I use to search the classifieds

What’s the best way of guaranteeing that the used cars you’re looking at online while watching Come Dine With Me are good ‘uns?

That’s what Gumtree asked me to consider recently in a guest blog as part of its Motors Success campaign: as someone who’s done just this recently with an old Mercedes, I considered what my buying criteria were for it.

First? MOT. The Benz was bought to take part in the Guild of Motoring Writers’ Bring Your Own Vehicle Day. I had no time to start repairs – I had to buy something that was ready to roll, legally, and this meant choosing one with ticket still remaining.

With six months’ MOT left, the Merc fitted the bill.

As time was also so short (I bought with a week to go…), it had to be local, too. No point traipsing to Scotland only to find a nightmare in waiting was waiting. I simply didn’t have the time. A train from Wolverhampton took me to the Merc for less than a tenner and, if it hadn’t worked out, would’ve returned me back home for brunch.

Third, detective work. I read and re-read the Mercedes ad tirelessly, thinking what it was telling me and what it wasn’t. I thus knew the bodywork was scruffy but generally sound, that it was reliable enough to have recently completed a run to Italy and back, and that the tyres were likely to be dreadful (albeit still, just, legal).

I felt confident I knew what I was getting myself into. And so, a week after shaking hands on the deal, I set out on the Guild run in my £600 online buy.

300 fast Welsh miles later, including a cross-country blast in convoy with a Ferrari 456, proved it. There was logic in my buying criteria after all. My low-effort buy had proven safe, reliable, legal and delightful.

Which is why I return so often to the classifieds to see what over sub-£1k bargains are out there. After all, the Guild’s Bring Your Own Vehicle Day is running this year, too: surely I should make it my trademark to always turn up in something different..?