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The best websites for buying a mid-life crisis car

Looking to replace the family wagon with something a little more... exciting? We explore the best sites for buying a mid-life crisis car

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Have you found yourself looking recently at the classifieds, or staring longingly through showroom windows at sports cars or off-roaders that you would never have dreamed of buying a few years ago?

Do you wish you could fire up the ignition, select first gear and just blast away up the road, probably with the roof down for maximum wind-in-the-hair effect?

Are you considering buying yourself a car that doesn’t really match your lifestyle, but which you have decided you’ve ‘just got to have’?

Yes to any of these? Don’t worry, you’re simply going through a mid-life crisis.

Nothing wrong with that. When they hit 40-something, millions of people have the same thoughts and feelings. And one of the best ways to deal with it is to get yourself a mid-life crisis car.

We’ve previously look at the best sites for buying a fairly conventional car, luxury cars, and cheap used cars. This time, we’re going a bit left-field. We’re looking both sites that sell popular performance or lifesyle cars, as well as some unconventional options that give you the chance to really express yourself, or buy something no-one else in your street is ever likely to have.

Whether it’s a European super saloon, an American pick-up truck, a Japanese performance car or a big off-roader, here’s our pick of the top sites you should start with. Some are nationwide online providers, while otehrs have dedicated showrooms so you can have a look and test drive in person.

AutoLab

URL: autolabuk.co.uk
They say: “Providing vehicles to suit every requirement”

We like: Modern, smart website design
We don’t like: Not the easiest search mechanism

Formed in 2014, Blackburn-based AutoLab is an established used car dealership specialising in finding high-end used cars for their clients. Working with its customers, it sources prestige vehicles, tailors finance packages and carries out upgrades to finish with a car unique to the client.

The stocklist contains just six brands: Audi, BMW, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Mercedes and Volkswagen, but the examples offered are beautifully prepared and well-presented. Strangely, if you type in ‘BMW’ the next drop-down section, ‘Model’, contains all the other brands’ models too, such as Aventador, Discovery or SQ7.

However, click through to ‘correct’ model and you are taken to any available cars with a nice initial picture and short overview. Click on this and you go to a more detailed page with further pictures, more details and long list of features. There’s a message section to send any further enquiries.

Among the list of other services provided by AutoLab are part exchange, upgrades to interiors, exteriors and tyres, and a suite of finance options. This is a smaller, more limited set-up but the cars offered look excellently prepared.

Big Motoring World

URL: bigmotoringworld.co.uk
They say: “Your car, your choice”

We like: Friendly, straightforward website
We don’t like: Not as easy to find your chosen car as some sites

Big by name and big by nature. The landing page immediately takes you on a drone-style flight over the firm’s Enfield site to display a huge car park full of cars, all prepared and ready to go. Inside, a warehouse-style showroom houses further, highly desirable models.

Formed in 1986 by Peter Waddell, who initially traded from home and then bought a small car showroom, Big Motoring World has grown into a leading used car dealer with more than 300 staff. Having started selling used BMWs the company set out to become the UK’s largest independent BMW dealer, which it achieved in 2011. In recent years, it’s also branched out into other – predominantly German – brands.

Today Big Motoring World runs the Enfield ‘car supermarket’ with more than 800 vehicles to choose from, and a massive preparation centre in Peterborough where it can process 6,000 cars a month.

Go to ‘Used Cars’ and you’re taken to a drop down menu were you select from age, mileage, price, mpg figure or by make. However you can only search by A-Z or Z-A, so if you want end a car that’s mid-alphabet, you’d have to do a lot of scrolling. Thankfully there’s a section highlighting most popular makes to go straight through to.

Click on a chosen car and you’ll get plenty of pictures, lots of detail and a vehicle inspection graphic showing that the car has been looked at and ‘passed’. Cars are shown with a full price and an optional monthly payment figure. The company are big on finance and there’s a whole section on the subject along with warranty, part exchange and other topics.

There are lots of ‘standard’ cars here but there’s also a good chance to find a dream mid-life crisis car – especially if you like BMWs.

Clive Sutton Ltd

URL: clivesutton.co.uk
They say: “We will help find you the perfect car”

We like: Interesting site with great pictures
We don’t like: Some details ‘manufacturer specification only’

A former Chrysler and Jeep franchised dealer, Clive Sutton now specialises in sourcing pretty much any car, from anywhere in the world, and delivering it to you.

They are well-known for their ability to find American cars, in particular, and are the UK’s official Shelby American distributor. If you’re looking for a Dodge Charger, Cadillac Escalade or Ford Bronco, it would be worth looking at Clive Sutton’s website. Indeed there is a drop-down section devoted to US vehicles.

It’s a simple site to navigate around: click on ‘Inventory’ and you’ll find a ready-made list of available cars to view – there’s Porsche, Bentley and BMW listed alongside Lincoln, Dodge and Chevrolet.

Choose a brand and from there you’re taken to a list of cars in stock and ready to buy; as-new (100 miles on the clock) and used. In the Ford section for example, there’s a 1967 Mustang and a 2021 Mustang, along with a host of other interesting machinery such as F150 Raptors and new Broncos.

Clive Sutton sells vehicles for clients too and offers a range of bespoke services such as modifications, customisation and performance upgrades. For a mid-life crisis buyer, it’s worth a visit.

Jap Import Cars

URL: japimportcars.co.uk 
They say: “The UK’s leading Jap performance specialists”

We like: Honest, straightforward website
We don’t like: Scant in some detail

If US cars aren’t your thing but Japanese performance machinery is, here’s a site worth visiting. Rather like 51st State Autos and American cars, Jap Import Cars does as its title suggests – they find and import cars for customers.

There’s also a stocklist of vehicles currently available from them. This is fairly small and includes not just Japanese favourites such as Honda, Mitsubishi and Toyota, but European machinery too including Jaguar, Porsche and TVR. The ‘Looking for the perfect car?’ section shows a Mercedes even though there were none listed when we looked. Presumably the stock changes regularly.

There are some quite special cars for sale such as highly tuned sport models, modified cars and concourse condition collectors pieces. But they will only sell cars that are available now with UK title of ownership and number plates, and which are ready to drive away. In other words, they won’t sell a car that is abroad and you’ve never seen it.

The website doesn’t offer a huge amount of information when compared with other sites, but the detail on the cars they do have on sale is good and there are some nice pictures. There are tabs to request a test drive, print off an e-brochure or request more information about any car.

Motors.co.uk*

URL: motors.co.uk
They say: “Search less. Live more.”

We like: Lots of good advice and news
We don’t like: Some pictures are low quality

Here is another online offering that doesn’t own all the cars it shows; it acts as an agent for dealers across the UK for some, although there are private sellers in there too.

It’s a huge business with a lot of used car deals on its books – nearly 300,000 cars in total. You would want to break that down of course, and you can do that immediately by entering your postcode in the initial search box.

That will bring the number down drastically and you go from there: as you enter more detail in terms of make, model and so on, the number of available and relevant cars drops massively to leave you with a manageable number to consider. Bentley Continental GT, for example, brought up 46 examples. Some car details are better than others (beware of the jargon: ‘drives like a dream’ says one) but most are well pictured.

Not sure of the exact model? Check out ‘Popular makes’ and go from there. The site makes for interesting reading and there is plenty of advice, news and features, plus car evaluations and also a section showing video reviews. The helpful advice section includes tips on electric vehicles, a driving theory test, an ‘ask the experts’ section and more. There’s also a fuel calculator, car finance guide and a ‘smart search’ to find the best car match for you.

PistonHeads

URL: pistonheads.com
They say: “Find your next car”

We like: Lots to read and enjoy
We don’t like: Big block of initial car description

PistonHeads, one of the oldest and most popular motoring websites going, is another news-led site with used car buying as a sort of side line.

With its unique offering of enthusiast marketplace, extensive news and the famous motoring forum, PistonHeads has amassed a staggering 20 million-plus posts from car fans and industry watchers.

It’s full of motoring news, features and reviews written by well-known experts and isn’t just a place to go to find a dream car. There’s so much more. You can spend hours in the forum reading up on your favourite models written by enthusiast owners covering all kinds of subjects such as common faults, great roads and classic rebuilds and custom work.

If you are looking for an unusual model or special edition, this is a good place to be. From supercars to prestige cars to classics, there is a great choice to see and the vehicles often have more extensive descriptions than found elsewhere.

If you know what you want you can go straight to ‘Popular makes’: the four big ones are Porsche, Mercedes, Audi and BMW but under those are around 45 other brands each showing how many version of each are available to view.

Up comes a list of relevant vehicles, linking you direct to the dealer who’s selling each – you can phone them or send a message. There are plenty of photographs with car descriptions – some more comprehensive than others.

There’s plenty of fun news and features and some useful links to car finance, car insurance and gap insurance too.

The Car Warehouse

URL: thecarwarehouse.co.uk
They say: “One of Europe’s largest suppliers of used modern classics”

We like: Good mix of cars from rare to everyday
We don’t like: Limited stock compared with some

The Car Warehouse specialises in looking for the unusual, or limited in numbers, so if you’re after something like that as your mid-life crisis car, this could be a good place to start.

They carefully hand pick their stock and have agents around the world looking out for them. Cars such as Mazda Bongo, Nissan S-Cargo, Figaro and Estima are all targets for The Car Warehouse. They buy good quality examples and then have a team of re-trimmers to prepare and refurbish them to a high standard.

Go to ‘Showroom’’ and you’ll find a wonderful mixture of unusual and sought after cars: Rolls-Royce Phantom, a Renault 5 GT Turbo, VW T1 Kombi, MG RV8, and many others – all excellent mid-life crisis cars.

If you love unusual motors, it’s a great place to go browsing. Photography is good and, click for more details and you’ll be presented with a fine selection of pictures and a decent and detailed overview of the car you’ve chosen including mileage, body type, engine size, number of seats and other information, with a further written report.

The site also offers finance, part exchange, details of its import scheme and even a section of collector’s items, some automotive related and some not. It’s certainly a site worth looking around, even if you don’t buy one of their cars.

51st State Autos

URL: 51stateautos.com
They say: “The UK’s leading supplier of American Autos.”

We like: Easy to use, simple website
We don’t like: Not much car detail to begin with

If it’s an American car that’s on your mid-life crisis wish list, then this is as good a place to start as any.

Formed in 2004 by Charles Partos, Essex-based 51st State Autos’ mission hasn’t really changed much in that time: to specify, find and deliver the US-style car that you’re looking for.

There’s a good selection of used cars in stock but it’s more than that: 51st State will go through all the available options with you to tailor a car that meets your exacting wishes. They don’t mind how long that takes – there’s even a hotel next door!

We’re talking proper US muscle here – Dodge Ram, Chevrolet Corvette, GNC Sierra, Cadillac Escalade – there’s not an enormous list but what there is, it’s pure US magic.

Basic information is initially shown such as year, mileage, engine size, number of owners (if it’s a used car) and fuel type, with the price. Click for more details and you get further background information, more pictures and the opportunity to call 51st State or leave an email address for them to contact you. It’s quite a limited amount of detail about the cars so if you’re genuinely interested in something, you would have to take either of these routes.

Other services offered by 51st state include warranties, part exchanges, finance, car checks and servicing.

And if you need inspiration…

Car Throttle

URL: carthrottle.com
They say: “The internet’s largest community for car enthusiasts”

We like: Fun, busy site filled with things to read
We don’t like: Not a conventional way to buy your next car

Car Throttle is neither a dealership nor a sales website. It’s a community of car lovers, fans and enthusiasts, sharing their news, thoughts and questions.

Formed in 2009 by Adnan Ebrahim for like-minded young car enthusiasts it has grown into a massive community, all following on social media. The site is certainly popular: there are more than 6.7 million fans on Facebook and nearly three million YouTube subscribers. Today it is part of the Dennis media organisation which includes Auto Express, EVO and Carbuyer.

It’s an interesting and fun way to learn about new and used cars. There’s a brilliant section on rare and unusual used vehicles featuring former race cars, damaged supercars for repair and limited edition models, along with news and blogs.

When it comes to buying, or looking for, a car, most of the news stories finish with a link to similar makes or models that are available for purchase, operated through the online car dealership BuyaCar, which is also owner by Dennis.

And if you still want more, there’s a ‘Discussion’ section and a great series of videos to keep you entertained.

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This article was originally published in December 2021. Last updated January 2024.

*The Car Expert has commercial partnerships with Motors.co.uk. If you click through to its website and view any vehicles, we may receive a small commission. We do not receive any payment or commission if you proceed to buy a car or sign an agreement.

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Tom Johnston
Tom Johnstonhttp://johnstonmedia.com/
Tom Johnston was the first-ever reporter on national motoring magazine Auto Express. He went on to become that magazine’s News Editor and Assistant Editor, and has also been Motoring Correspondent for the Daily Star and contributor to the Daily and Sunday Express. Today, as a freelance writer, content creator and copy editor, Tom works with exciting and interesting websites and magazines on varied projects.