Over the last two years I have demolished and devoured four whole cars, but with number five clocking up about 8000 miles in 6 months under the mistress of youthwork, I may have just found a keeper!
The ideal youthwork car is Bumblebee the Transformer – failing this though, finding something that is affordable, flexible, reliable and still cool is a nightmare.
Before I unveil my sneaky little diamond in the rough though, what of the other four?
The first, a cute little Seat Ibiza was a re-buy of my first ever car. It was a gorgeous little golf wannabe that I had cannibalized by ripping out the back seats and replacing them with a flatbed, railed wooden floor which effectively gave me a micro-minivan with a shed-load of space. A few carefully chosen decals and some homemade metallic green interior and it was ready to go! And go it did – right off a bendy wet country lane and down the side of a thirty foot ditch into an angry Gloucestershire farmer’s cow field. Good bye Seat.
The next was a bargain bin special. A 98 Ford Escort bought from Auction for £175.00 in cool grey with eight layers of seat covers included in the price. This lasted me two wonderful weeks, until the engine ceremoniously blew up with a whistle, fizz and bang in the middle of nowhere en route to Valentines Day lunch with my lucky wife. One flat tow and scrap collection later I was down seventy five quid.
Then there was my trusted super-mini, the Japanese Daihatsu Sirion. Other than being possibly the ugliest car on the road in the whole of North Wales, there wasn’t a lot to complain about. Granted, there wasn’t a lot to it in any sense; it weighed less than a pair of shoes and cornered with roughly the same amount of accuracy. However at 1.3 liters, the SL (that’s ‘sports, luxury’ to you) really could shift off the mark – all the way to 80 mph before it screamed in agony and lost compression. This wasn’t helped by the massive oil leak that ended it’s poor little life.
Finally we have the top spec, 2000 Nissan Primera SE+ with heated leather seats and a wooden steering wheel. It felt like a mini limousine, made more so by the enormous size of it’s turning circle. I went to a back-road wheeler dealer in Birmingham for this, who it turns out put an illegal MOT on it. We discovered this when – after hearing the unnerving knocks from the back – we discovered that the entire bottom sub-frame was rotten and the suspension arms we’re effectively held on by witchcraft. Another treasure for the scrapyard.
So Why Do Youthworker’s Need To Think About Their Car So Much?
Well if you don’t, stuff happens. Bad stuff. Bad stuff like the stuff above! Bad stuff that costs you money, time, stress, embarrassment and angry phone-calls with Gloucestershire farmers. My experience as a youthworker tells me that money and time are in short supply, whereas embarrassment, stress and angry phone-calls are ten-a-dozen.
“It’s just one of those things that needs to work!”
One of the biggest extra stresses I’ve had to deal with in all the years I’ve worked with young people is my car. It’s just one of those things – like your home – that needs to work! There are a few key bits it needs to do:
- It needs to be cheep to run! Mpg is king. Diesels preferred… but y’know, good ones. Tax and particularly insurance need to be low – especially because as a youthworker you should be fully comp.
- It needs to be cheep to buy – I’m guessing less than £1500 is ideal for most youthworkers.
- It needs to be reliable. This can mean good service history, a newer model, a good make or common enough to find parts and garages easily.
- It needs to be spacious and practical – without being a tank. Smaller estates or at least good sized hatchbacks are a must to get all that camp gear in. Big boot opening and back doors to make packing work is also a must… as are rear folding seats which means more space or more passengers.
- It needs to look some kind of cool because… Well it does.
This doesn’t leave you a whole load of options. But some great options that are usually available at this price and with these equipment options are:
- VW Golf estates
- VW Passats
- Rover 200s
- Vauxhall Astras (vectras are too wide!)
- Honda Accords
- Mazda 6s
Or….. what I’m now driving an Audi A4 estate. This thing is awesome. 2ltdi (red i) estate, metallic blue, big enough to sleep in (which I’ve done for about 30 nights so far with a good futon mattress in the back), roof rails and it’s averaging 55 mpg.
It’s bomb proof, well looked after, and it’s good for probably another 100000 miles. It keeps up on the Motorway, is small enough to nip around town, has a great turning circle and a cracking sound system!
There’s space in the boot to pack enough tents and weapons to run a small war, and comfort enough in the front to drive for hours.
Do you have an ULTIMATE Youth Work car? Leave a comment!