Mini Budget Fun! We Bought Two Used Minis, But One Of Them Is a Total Nightmare

Some words of caution if you plan to buy a used car sight unseen

We in the TFL office love hot hatchbacks, and possibly the best shorthand for the breed, at least outside the Volkswagen Golf GTI, is the Mini. Here you have a (relatively) small modern car with the agility to turn nearly any driver into an autocross hotshot. And, unlike most modern cars, these hot hatches still come with six-speed manual transmissions — a rallying point for enthusiasts.

While Roman’s Mini has serious issues, Tommy’s 2010 model seems to be a pretty good little car for around $6,000.

In this video, we have two examples of what should be the sort of awesome, point-and-squirt fun that comes with modern Minis. Tommy purchased a 2010 Mini Cooper S from a private buyer with a dealer-installed John Cooper Works performance package, putting out around 200 horsepower. For his part, Roman also bought a Mini, this time a 2013 Mini JCW GP from a dealership in Texas called Trophy Motors (more on that later). It was the hottest factory Mini you could buy at the time, putting out 218 horsepower from its turbocharged engine.

Sadly, while one of them turned out to be a pretty solid, well cared for small hatch, the other one is a complete basket case. Can you guess which one?

The Mini JCW GP looks like a true player among other fun cars, but this one has its fair share of issues.

A cautionary tale for buying sight unseen

Now, we’re living in unprecedented times — times where most people still aren’t comfortable browsing a dealership lot looking for a new or used car. Even though that’s the case, you’d still consider the move if you’re buying a car that’s in another state, as we did with the Mini GP. This one came from Trophy Motors in New Braunfels, Texas for $13,800 on the impression that the airbag light was on, one of the chrome rings surrounding the headlights didn’t fit, and it needed some cosmetic TLC.

The actual picture, once it arrived, was much worse.

Most Mini JCW GPs of this age trade for around $20,000 – $25,000, mind you. So for just under $14,000, you knew this one was likely going to have some issues. However, all four wheels are curbed to within an inch of their lives, and there’s more repair filler than you’d know what to do with. As a result, fender flares, fuel filler surrounds and various other pieces don’t fit properly, then there’s the matter of the lights.

Instead of just the airbag light coming on, both the brake warning light and the tire pressuring monitor lights came on as well. And while we’ve since had some of those problems sorted, the journey is far from over. In short, while it looks like Trophy Motors has some good deals on their website, their practice of failing to disclose a laundry list of problems suggest they’re more in the business of ripping out-of-state customers off than giving you a square deal.

So here we have a case of two Minis and two drastically different buying experiences. It’s important to vet whatever car you’re looking to buy before you pull the trigger if you can, and certainly vet the dealer you’re buying from. Watch the video above to get a complete picture of what’s wrong with each of these cars, and what we plan to do with them in this “Mini Budget Fun” series!