Frugal Motoring – Bangernomics

A return to the Frugal Motoring series, and a window into one of my side hobbies, Bangernomics. I could write a whole separate blog on Bangernomics, many do, but mainly I confine myself to esoteric forums tucked away in little niches of the internet. The term Bangernomics was first coined in 1989 by James Ruppert, the chief and foreman of the subsequent Bangernomics cult/ movement/ belief (1, 2). A motoring journalist, James found himself returning to the UK for a few days and at a loss for transport (2). After adding up potential public transport costs, he worked out it would be cheaper to buy a banger and run it (2). The subsequent press feature, titled “Better than walking” caught the eye of the public, and the movement ran from there (2).

The general premise of Bangernomics is this:

  • Target a cheap banger car for <£1000 or <£500 (depending on the source of your opinion)
  • Do your research, read up on common problems with the car and which models/ engines to avoid or go for
  • Find a car to buy, originally and potentially through car auctions, but often these days through eBay/ Gumtree/ other online platforms
  • Inspect the car very carefully before buying
  • Look after the car with strict basic maintenance. Servicing and basic work is relatively cheap, cheaper if you DIY
  • When the car reaches a point of a potential uneconomic repair (clutch, gearbox etc) scrap it, sell on or break for parts

James Ruppert’s mantra here is “beware of the dog” (3). Avoiding hopeless sheds and going for the well-loved family cars at the bottom of their depreciation curve and with the curb appeal of steaming dog droppings. You have to be prepared to own and drive something which will make your friends’ and neighbours’ toes curl. Which is where I think the frugal, financial independence-minded community Venn diagram transects with Bangernomics. Many FIRE bloggers couldn’t give a flying monkey about keeping up with Jones’ in other respects, so why do they continue to with cars on PCP?

But I know nothing about cars, what can I do?

Happily, the Bangernomics community are really helpful in this regard. When I first started I adopted the opinion that I am of at least average intelligence, and therefore I should be able to learn how to fix and maintain a car. These are all useful skills.

James Ruppert publishes a book on how to subscribe to Bangernomics (1, 3). He also maintains a series of free buying guides, a buying checklist, and a blog for advice (1, 3). For make and model specific guidance, other Bangernomics blogs have published their own buying guides, and people share their knowledge on the Bangernomics forum, as well as the more popular Pistonheads and RetroRides (4, 5, 6, 7). YouTube is an invaluable source, as many thousands of amateurs publish how-to guides.

Not sure what to buy? There’s plenty of column inches and forum posts detailing peoples failures and successes. Some highlight their own experiences, listing successes and tips, others offer guidance on good target vehicles (2, 8, 9, 10, 11). My own experience has been tempered by a job requirement to appear respectable and not fail to turn up to work, so people don’t die. I’ve never spent more than £2k on a car, and average 12p/mile in cost over the life of my daily car for purchase price and maintenance. One memorable snotter was bought for £1k and survived 8 years and 80,000 miles of abuse. I also abuse Bangernomics a little by purchasing classics at the bottom of their depreciation curve, before they begin to appreciate as an investment.

Bangernomics, the financially independent motoring choice

A little whistle stop, but hopefully a jump-off point for many. DIY car maintenance should not be a scary thing, and by avoiding it people miss an opportunity to save. Bangernomics offers the opportunity to learn some skills, save some money and tell some good stories, as long as you can put up with some graft, the odd breakdown and minimal social respect for your new whip.

Have a great week,

The Shrink


Next time on Frugal Motoring – Should I buy a petrol car?



12 thoughts on “Frugal Motoring – Bangernomics

  1. I have never heard of Bangernomics! You’re right though, it’s fits right it with the FIRE mentality. Frugal with your money, frugal with your car choice.

    Apart from those with PCP cars! Don’t understand people who extol the virtues of newer cars ‘because they’re environmentally friendly’ errr…. Bangernomics is more environmentally friendly – keeps a lump of metal out of the ground and means energy is not wasted on creating a new one. Yes they may use less fuel but that doesn’t wipe out the massive production cost.


  2. “and means energy is not wasted on creating a new one.” – difficult one this, because unless all the production lines around the world grind to a halt, energy will be spent regardless as new cars is churned out.

    Some of the more well off FI folks (in the US) have bought Teslas – friendly to the air as no emissions but not very frugal (initial cost I mean) and there’s that big battery at the end – how does that get disposed of in an environmentally friendly way?


    1. I’ve been thinking about these posts, and if there’s the interest I’ll do a post as a financial comparison of electric cars, and an environmental cost comparison post.

      The 1950s truck we had growing up was the definition of this analysis, hundreds of thousands of miles done over 60 years at 15 MPG.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Me too – theFIREStarter recently did some numbers as to whether it was worth him switching to an electric vehicle but only in comparison to his own current vehicle. At some point, I probably will switch to electric.


      2. It’s also on my mind, as I’ve changed my commute and now mainly walk to work or do very short journeys. MrsFireShrink wants a new car in the next few years, so we may get a little electric run-about.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This article is great, having read quite a few FIRE websites now once my car lease ends I’m never getting another new car!

    Liked by 1 person

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