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Buying a Renault 4 - some thoughts

malcolm

& Clementine the Cat
Staff member
Messages
4,118
Location
Bedford UK
#1
I got carried away and went to view a couple of Renault 4s that were advertised on E-bay this weekend. I was a little worried about the way the auctions went so thought I'd make some notes to advise Renault 4 buyers.

One of the cars was a GTL with an MOT. It looked immaculate in the photographs, but when I went over to have a look I noticed the body panels had quite a few dents and the floors and chassis had been welded in an agricultural manner. Probably it was worth £600 to £700 - less than you'd assume from the photos, but still a nice car for somebody.

Similarly, an old Deluxe described as requiring light restoration turned out to be surprisingly good rust-wise, but closer inspection revealed terminal rear chassis rust. The rear suspension would have needed to come off for a decent repair. The panels were all badly dented, and there was some poorly repaired accident damage to the rear that would have been a pain to make nice. On the plus side the interior was in good condition so it was probably worth about £300. A GTL in that condition would be worthless.

I should note that the cars were correctly described, and the seller was a very nice person - he didn't do anything wrong. I spoke to him after the auctions had closed. The GTL had been sold for over £700 to an overseas buyer. The Deluxe was sold for over £500 to a gentleman in Cambridge who apparently plans to have the car repaired by a garage. Neither of the buyers had viewed the cars, so both were going off descriptions and photographs on ebay.

I worry for the Deluxe, as it's way too nice to scrap, but the cost of having the car repaired by a garage will be more than double the cost of a restored one. I wonder if the new owner will regret the purchase. Particularly as a certain cat's bid virtually doubled the price at the last minute. Equally the buyer of the GTL might be surprised by the dents.

Coming to the point - here are some tips to avoid being disappointed when buying a Renault 4:

:D Go to view the car. Never buy any car without first looking at it and test driving it. Never take an MOT certificate as evidence of a cars condition. Remember Ermintrude the Renault 4 had an MOT when I bought her, but the rear suspension had literally fallen off. I had to take a welder with me to re-attach the rear suspension before she could be driven home.

:D Having said that, if you are paying money for a car then make sure it either has an MOT or at the least an MOT failure certificate that you can use to gauge the work needed. Rosalie the Renault 4 needed an exhaust, front brake discs and front balljoints for the last MOT. That's nearly £200 in parts.

:D Decide how much you would be prepared to pay. Bid that amount (preferably with about 30 seconds to go on the auction). You won't necessarily pay that maximum amount as ebay bids the lowest value that will make you the highest bidder. Never bid over your maximum amount. If someone else is daft enough to bid higher then it's their problem - don't make it yours.

:D If you are buying from a normal classified ad rather than e-bay, then a cunning trick is to be prepared to drive the car away there and then, and take cash with you. There is a lot of power in a quick sale, and it saves a second trip.

:D If you are not familiar with rust problems then take a friend who is. Have a look at the restoration section of this site so you (or they) will know where to look.

:D Garages charge a fortune to repair cars. If you have to pay someone else to do the work then buy the best car you can find. Really good cars are rare but are worthwile. The garage charges for repairing a rusty renault will almost always be higher than the cost of buying a really good one in the first place.

Hopefully these points will be useful to those buying Renault 4s - especially on E-bay. A good Renault 4 is a wonderful thing - I use mine as an everyday car. It's great fun and very reliable.

:clementi:

Note: MOT is the annual UK car roadworthyness test.
 
Messages
58
#2
Buying a Renault 4 - some thoughts (2)

It's always good to hear sound advice and Clementine's was relayed to me from home yesterday as I travelled to see the same two cars - that canny cat had left an email for me that I hadn't picked up before I left!

I was interested in the GTL and, although a bit concerned with the 119,000 miles on the clock, thought the sheaf of paperwork with the car detailing its history and a new MOT would make it a reasonable buy.

OK, you can forgive it a missing sun visor, aerial and some overspray on the rear window and the engine sounded OK but wondered how it managed the MOT with a torn wiper blade.

Yes, the owner was very pleasant and the descriptions matched reality and my untrained eye wouldn't know whether the welding was to a good standard or not. Should I be able to rely on a newly granted MOT certificate?

So, was my 250-mile round trip worthwhile?

Yes!

I chose not to bid but the experience was fascinating - I now have a much better idea of what to look for. So, I'll bide my time and look for something in better condition and with many fewer miles.

Like this, perhaps?

http://www.windclassics.nl/upload/DSC02704.JPG

What did surprise me (if my memory is correct) is that the GTL was showing on eBay yesterday at £700 having met it's reserve but was withdrawn this morning .....
 

malcolm

& Clementine the Cat
Staff member
Messages
4,118
Location
Bedford UK
#3
Ooch - that one is £3500. And you'd be scared to take it outside in case it got dirty. Mind you - that's still cheaper than the depreciation you'd get on the first day when you buy a brand new car.

Good point - people who give advice on these things say never buy the first car you go to see. You do get more experience about what to look for, and the differences in condition between different cars when you have looked at a few.

Renault 4 condition is an odd thing - the problem spot is the inner rear chassis members. Those tend to kill the cars as it's a suspension off job and really needs a jig to fix (see http://www.renault4.co.uk/rosalie_repair.htm ) In my view a tatty car with those fixed (such as Rosalie) is better than a nice shiny car with poor welding or rust in that area. After all, most cars can be made to look shiny with a bit of T-cut. Daft thing is that's probably all these £50 non-MOT'd cars are suffering from.

Clementine is thinking of becoming a real Renault 4 garage. If you do find a really nice car where the rear inner chassis members are the only problem then Clementine could do proper repairs for about £500.

I don't tend to worry too much about mechanical condition - I've never had a Renault 4 go seriously wrong. Even if it did there are plenty of secondhand parts around, and if the worst came to the worst it's possible to pick up a GTL for spares for about £50. Having said that, low mileage is always better.
 

Chris

Enthusiast
Messages
33
#4
Good advice there about buying R4s.

I have to say that as someone who really is mechanically illiterate, it was a bit daunting to go looking for a Renault 4 without knowing what to look for. This website was my Bible - I went through the restoration pages and made notes, and by the time I went to view my first possible purchase, I felt pretty confident. Suffice to say, the chap who was selling that particular car said within about 20 seconds, "...Oh, you certainly know what to look for on a Renault 4..." Oh yes indeed!!! That one was in really good condition, but the deal unfortunately fell through...

The R4 I bought last week is not as good, but has had many new parts like track-rod ends, brake/handbrake cables, brake pads, clutch cable, rear shocks, ball joints etc etc etc, and it has an MOT until the end of next May. It has had some welding to the chassis, including the rear. I paid £400 for it which I think is a fair price all round, and more importantly the chap I bought it from is really nice, knows his stuff, and we're keeping in touch so we can sort out any future problems the car may have. All in all, I'm very happy, and thanks must go to Clementine for teaching me what to look out for!!

PPD, if you just look through the restoration pages on this website like I did, you too will know what to look out for, and you will ba able to go forth and purchase your Renault 4 with confidence!


Chris
 
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