Heard the one about the decade-old second-hand car with a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty? Welcome to the world of used Bentleys…
As second-hand purchases go, there’s nothing quite like a Bentley to pique your inner daredevil. A gorgeous, glorious, magnificent motor at hatchback money… how could you fail to be tempted
Well, the running costs won’t be in hatchback territory. And that’s if you don’t run into trouble, in which case you might prefer something more affordable like trying to service an aircraft carrier.
Still, with its 6.0-litre W12 engine, surging torque, 4.8-second sprint speed and cushy air springs, the original Continental GT was and is a thing of utter beauty. Especially if, as should theoretically be possible, you can get one worth having for not a lot more then £20k.
Yes, seriously. Buy privately and that money can get you an early low-miler with the clearly essential FSH.
“Condition is everything with these older cars. Performance is secondary”
Ben Townsend, Mereside Motors
The first Contis were criticised for being nose-heavy and less than refined, however. Bentley sorted this quickly, but it’s a reason for limiting your search to slightly later examples.
If you want something even more exotic, there’s the 2007 GT Speed, with yet more power and the handling to match, or the spectacular GTC convertible. The Supersports, meanwhile, was more of a track machine – and as well as being rarer, it’ll cost a lot more to buy.
What to look for
Whichever model you fancy, there are specific things to look for in a used Continental GT. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of the essentials…
- A high-miler is a better bet than one that’s been laid up – under-use is bad news for the batteries
- Check that the keyless entry, self-closing doors and parking sensors all work. Look for signs of rust in the wiring and water ingress in the ECU, and listen for a rough idle – which can mean the coil is on its way out
- Any sign of oil smoke should be taken to mean the head gasket is about to let go. If the paperwork shows a lifelong diet of 0W-40, that says the engine’s been looked after
- Check that the radiator is in good all-round nick. If it’s not, it’ll soon cost you a four-figure sum
- The CDC damping system needs to be working, and the self-levelling suspension needs not to be leaking
- Sooner or later, you’ll do more than a grand on the brakes. The depth of the lip on the discs will say which it is
- You want that big, curvy body to look good. But a life of car park action can take its toll, so check for dings or imperfect repairs all round and especially up front
- Open the door and take a deep sniff. Any mustiness means water has got in – always bad, but if it’s in the front left footwell you’ve got a red alert on moisture damage to critical electrics
Does the above sound daunting? It should. The obvious conclusion is that spending a few quid on a specialist check, especially of the electrics, is about the most worthwhile investment you could ever make.
It’s unlikely that you’d think of touching a Bentley without a totally comprehensive service history, too. Every stamp, every receipt, all the right bits and, as mentioned above, the right grades of oil all go together to make the sort of car you can buy with confidence.
So, what do you get for your money? Here’s a quick price guide…
- £21-£30,000: 2004-05 GTs with 60-120,000 miles. Maybe a Mulliner model at the top end. Don’t take claims of FSH as gospel.
- £31-£35,000: Best of the early cars, and first of those from 2006
- £36,000-plus: 2007-on
- £38,000-plus: Early GTCs start at this price
- £42,000-plus: First GTs from 2009
- £45,000-plus: GT Speeds from 2008-on
If you’re able and willing to pay bigger money for the best cars, Bentley main dealers offer the pick of the Contis through the company’s Pre-Owned scheme. On cars aged up to 11 years, these carry a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty – that’s better than some new vehicles.
For the last word, though, let’s turn to Bentley expect Ben Townsend of Mereside Motors. “Most GTs have had as many as five owners and are a bit tired,’ he says. “But I’ve just sold a 2005 GT with 72,000 miles and one owner for £25,000 – this one was immaculate.
“Condition is everything with these older cars. Performance is secondary.”