Fiat 500 Buyers Guide
You would be hard pushed to find a card dealer forecourt which doesn’t have at least one Fiat 500 for sale. Many dealers will have a selection of at three or four used examples to choose from. This is not going to be a guide that talks you out of buying one, they are fantastic cars and offer a lot of fun motoring for not a huge cost.
So other than colour and price, what else should you look out for when deciding which one to buy?
It is hard to believe that the Fiat 500 was launched in 2008 which makes the early examples twelve years old, and with over 100,000 units sold in the UK alone there is no shortage of options.
The Fiat 500 has been fitted with a range of engines including 0.9 twin-air petrol, 1.2 petrol, 1.4 petrol (Abarth versions were turbocharged) and a 1.3 diesel. The diesel versions are only really necessary if you think you will cover a lot of miles and must achieve the 70mpg quoted, the 1.2 petrol gives respectable enough mileage and the 1.4 gives you a bit more life under the go-pedal.
It might sound counter-intuitive but the 0.9 litre twin-air engine in 84bhp guise is the most sporty lump to go for, it has a certain snorty noise favoured by enthusiastic drivers and gives a level of performance that is unmatched by the others, other than the 1.4 turbo Abarth. However the 0.9 is also more thirsty than the 1.2 or standard 1.4.
There is an auto-box option if you just cannot handle the inconvenience of changing your own gears but it is not a common car to find, being so loved by people who tend to hold onto cars until they die.
Over the years there have been many different trim options and special editions, added to this is the huge range of optional extras offered by Fiat. The specials will always hold their values slightly better than a standard car, but if you can’t find a limited edition Fiat 500 there are three trims. The basic ‘Pop’ trim level is for those who only want the most basic car with few rills, you’ll get electric windows and remote central locking but not much more. Go for the Lounge or Sport versions to get air-con, Bluetooth and alloy wheels.
Running costs are minimal, even the petrol lumps can deliver 50mpg and road tax for pre 2017 cars is free or £20/£30 per year depending on model. Only the Abarth ventures into the higher £190 tax bracket.
The service intervals are generous, like other Fiats like the Panda, it can go 18,000 miles or two years between services. Check that the Cam Belt has been changed if the car is over 8 years old or has done more than 70,000 miles.
Early models were rated as ‘mostly reliable’ by various motoring organisations and the 2015 facelifted models are certainly holding up better than their older siblings.
Most Fiat 500s will have been used as city runabouts and more than likely driven by young or learner drivers. So don’t expect them to have had an easy life. Check the wheels for scuff marks where the car may have been curbed, and the usual dings and scrapes encountered in car parks.
The sensible option is a 2015 onwards 1.2 lounge edition. Older models are depreciating quicker than the later model and whilst giving you a cheap ride can also come with additional maintenance costs.
Fiat 500 ‘200 Ferrari Dealer’ Edition
The Fiat 500 ‘200 Ferrari Dealer’ Edition is an extremely special and rare example of Fiats incredibly successful 500 Abarth Essesse. Not to be confused with the 695 Tributo that came afterwards, the Dealer Edition was a car originally designed to be courtesy vehicles for Approved Ferrari service centres, however, the demand for the car was so strong, that almost all of them were instantly sold to important clients. READ MORE
Fiat 500 Recalls:
The Fiat 500 has been recalled for a few issues over the years. Rear brakes, seat-belt anchors, steering, airbags, fuel system. It is important to check that these issue were rectified if it applies to the particular model you are considering. Fixing these outside the recall programme could be costly.
Buying advice for any used car:
There are the obvious caveats to be aware of when buying any used car. Thankfully we have largely escaped the time when dodgy dealers would disappear as soon as your cheque was cashed so certain consumer laws cover you to an extent. However people still buy and sell cars privately.
- Check the MOT history of a car (if it is older than 3 years old) https://www.gov.uk/check-mot-history This will tell you the current status as well as list previous MOT tests and any failures and advisories issued.
- Check if the mileage on the odometer (the speedo) corresponds with the history on the MOT history. If there is a large gap or it looks like it hasn’t moved for a year or two, ask why.
- Check the VIN. Every car has a VIN plate with the Vehicle Identification Number. On modern cars these are normally placed behind the front windscreen, under the bonnet or inside one of the front doors. Check the number on the plate is the same as the V5 registration document.
- If the seller does not have a V5 then walk away. Do not accept any excuses about being ‘lost’ or ‘in the post’. Do not become blinded by a good deal, no paperwork could indicate a stolen car or dodgy history.
- Check the service history. Even if the service book hasn’t been stamped most people will save the receipts from previous service and maintenance work. Don’t worry about not having main dealer service history, as long as there is a consistent history that matches the service schedule of the car.
- Once you have the V5 check to see how many owners it has had, If it has had 3 owners in 4 years it could indicate hidden issues. How long has the current owner had the car? If it changed hands recently then ask why.
- Check the tyres. If it is being sold as low mileage but has unmatched and worn tyres this could be a red flag. Anything less than 3mm tread will need to be replaced soon, adding extra expense to your purchase.
- Check the bodywork and paint. Does everything match? Look along the length of the car and see if you can spot ant mismatched panels or inconsistent fit.
- Look under the bonnet and see how clean it is, dirty is not a problem but oily definitely is. Look for leaks of other fluids. Check the battery is secure and see if anything stands out as unusual.
- Check in the boot. Does it have a spare wheel? Is it inflated? If it has a puncture repair kit, make sure it is unused. Does it have a jack and handle. All these items could expensive to replace.
- Are there any warning lights on the dashboard. Check to see that the dash doesn’t look like it has been tampered with to cover up or hide a warning light.
- ALWAYS take it or a test drive. Even if you have to arrange the insurance in advance you should drive it yourself. A dealer will probably cover you on their own insurance but a private seller will not.
Please don’t be blinded by a good deal. There is no shortage of used cars you do not need this one if something doesn’t look quite right.