Once you have decided to buy a Bongo, and depending on how much money you have available, you will need to consider the following.
Now go and write it all down on a wish list, with MUST HAVES and MIGHT HAVES.
Here at the owners club we always advise prospective Bongo owners to buy from a recognised Bongo dealership. But there are other ways of buying a Bongo. Let's look at the pros and cons of each method.
The Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) scheme is a pre-registration inspection for vehicles to ensure they meet British or European standards. Inspections are carried out by VOSA. Once (if!) a vehicle passes the SVA, then a Ministers Approval Certificate is issued and an application can then be made to register the vehicle with DVLA.
Vehicles over 10 years old, and "motor caravans" are exempt from the SVA test.
Some dealers offer a full list of items that they have checked or serviced before they sell you a Bongo. This ranges from 4 new tyres, to a cam belt change, new filters all round and even roofbeds, silver screens and a complimentary hamper! But always, this is reflected in the price. So if a dealer has spent £750 getting your vehicle in pristine nick then he will pass that cost on to you! No two dealers are alike in this respect.
The following advice has been received from one of our members, Lorna. "Bongos are the current fastest selling 'grey' import. Demand is huge, quality is hard to find. The price is rising for the dealer as well as the buyer, but not by thousands, so don't be fooled. Vehicles are graded at auction in Japan. The grades reflect the condition quality of the vehicle. Hence a high grade 1995 will cost more than a low grade 1997. As a rule of thumb, if you see one on a dealers forecourt thats at the higher end of the price range for the year, it should be very good quality. If its priced lower, the quality will be lower. If it looks great and its knocked out dirt cheap, inspect it even more carefully!
For most people, a vehicle purchase is a major expense. Buying a Bongo is also buying a bit of a life-style. Buying a 'grey' import in the early days of its arrival is more of a gamble because not a lot is known by the 'public' about them and it would be easy to exploit this and fool a few into buying something they would normally run away from.
My advice to anyone is to take your time. Put on your anorak and read the Bongo Forum regularly, learn all you can about faults that can occur. You will surprise some dealers when you talk more knowledgably about the Bongo than they do. That will make anyone a little more wary of trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
If you don't trust yourself, take someone with you who is mechanically minded. Start the engine up and leave it ticking over while you check out the interior. Turn the Bongo inside out. I do! Ask what every switch and button does. If they can't answer, how do they know it works?
Look at any service sticker inside the doorpost, compare the mileage to the speedo reading, see when it was last serviced. Check the temperature gauge after its been ticking over. When you switch it off, does anything run on? If it does, ask why. Test what they know about Bongos. Ask when it was serviced, ask what was changed, ask if they will put it in writing. Ask if it will be SVA'd. Always get a test drive.
Scan the forum, the internet and AutoTrader for prices. Build up the idea of what you want and what constitutes a fair price for what you get. You will either settle for something that needs work but you can hopefully spend the money on it gradually to get it up to spec, or get something thats good but costs an arm and leg, or strike lucky and get one thats damn good and fairly priced. Your choice.
Its all too easy to get caught up in the latest import fever and settle for anything at any price. Don't."
(and if you don't believe Lorna, read this true tale)
Further advice comes from Rob.
1. Check out dealers, private sales and ebay, but absolutely do not bid on a van on ebay unless you have viewed and driven it 1st.
viewing ask the seller to lift both front seats and show you how to
check the oil, water, power steering fluid and transmission oil. If
he/she doesn't know then warning bells should ring. Ensure all fluids
are filled to required levels. If a seller hasn't checked this before
selling a vehicle he probably won't have done it at all!
3. When driving the van turn the radio off and listen for any strange noises...a whistling/screeching/squealing sort of noise, may be put down to belt slip by a seller but is more likely to be a broken manifold stud which is a cheap but difficult and time consuming diy job, or an expensive garage job. Pull away on full right hand and left hand locks....any odd ticking, knocking or grinding noises could mean big money cv joint repairs or perhaps just a simple diff oil change.
4. Consider whether to buy a new import from a dealer, which will come with a warranty and servicing of varying qualities, but bear in mind that absolutely no-one in this country really knows the history of that vehicle, so the warranty needs to be 12 months quible free comprehensive to make it worth the extra 1-3K you will pay for buying this way. Buying a van that has been used for a year or two in this country will probably be much cheaper and it will also be easier to establish history, but check rust situation underneath, unless the van was waxoyled on import this may well be an issue as stated before. Also, in this case ensure the user has documentation which proves that oil and filter changes have been made etc.
5. Budget to change timing belt/tensioner/spring and flush/bleed/renew coolant (£80ish diy or £200-250ish garage)unless the seller can prove that this has been done already.
And are there any common faults on a Bongo that you should look for? Well, these are the top 5 faults as reported to the owners club as at February 2006.
But none of these can be described as common. It's just that these are the top 5 reported issues.
How can I be sure that the vehicle has not been stolen, clocked or has outstanding finance payments due?
The short answer is, you can't. Although you can perform a check with BIMTA, they can only report on vehicles that happend to be on their database. And most dealers (usually through no fault of their own) can not supply you with the original Japanese registration, auction or de-registration documents.
The only thing you will have to go on is the condition of the vehicle. Just ask yourself; is it worth what they are asking for it? And don't rush in to an answer.
If you buy your Bongo from a dealer (even from an individual who is buying and selling vehicles for profit), you have rights under the Sale and Supply of Goods Regulations and the Trade Descriptions Act. If you are buying privately, you have lesser rights in case of a complaint, but the vehicle must be "as described. See here for the DT website on your consumer rights when buying a vehicle.
So what are the true costs of running a Bongo? "Tigger" has posted the following advice on the Bongo Forum and it is reproduced here:
"Purchase Costs. Well, they are expensive compared to (admittedly smaller) MPV of comparable year and condition (but maybe not miles), but cheap when compared to things like VW based day vans. And ridiculously cheap when compared to VW campers. Like for like, a lovely converted Bongo camper costs way less than a VW - but it is a bit smaller. Expect to pay around £4,500 for a low-top 8-seater, £5,500 for an MPV with elevating roof, and anything from £8,500 for a campervan.
Fuel consumption. Expect somewhere between 23 and 27 mpg and be well pleased if you get better than this. Forget allegations of 35 mpg - no chance! You should get about 320 miles from a tankful, and a tankful will cost you around £60. That's around 18p per mile.
Servicing. Most garages can do a basic service, and as long as you have the right tools, it's fairly straightforward to do it yourself. Although the owners manual will tell you differently, servicing is no different than any other vehicle. Oil and oil filters should be changed every 6 months, and other filters should be changed annually.
Parts availability. No real problem here, except perhaps with windows. Most parts seem to be unique to the Bongo (!) - but there are a couple of vehicles that have some common parts. Many parts are really easy and cheap to get, others are quite expensive and trickier to obtain, a few are prohibitively expensive and/or all but unobtainable. A few Bongos do turn up in breakers, and this club is pretty good at pointing people in the right direction. So there's always a risk of getting stuck with a repair bill that's almost as much as the value of the car - but hey we take a risk when we cross the road! And Mazdas are generally pretty well put together after all.
Insurance - should be no problem - eg £250 - £300 fully comp. Try Lifesure first. See the Insurance page.
So what are you waiting for?
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