You can buy a new Breitling watch for around 31 000 €, or you can also buy a smaller Breitling watch for less than 31 000 € which comes with a handmade 560hp used luxury car.
That doesn’t sound that bad actually, but buying a used Bentley Continental can be one of the worst ideas ever. But you know what? Let’s not be that negative, since: if you know what to expect, if you buy a well maintained example, and mainly if you are willing to spend an above average maintenance and repair costs, then you can drive this flying carpet with a buttery smooth W12 with two turbochargers and enjoy THE STYLE.
There are 3 versions of this Bentley, but underneath they are basically the same + they share the same platform and some of the components with the overengineered VW Phaeton. In this case I will focus on the more affordable first generation cars.
Only the best of the best (except the dated multimedia system)
The interior of this Bentley consists of expensive and high quality materials, well no shit. The build quality is great, the sound insulation is great and there is plenty of wood and a huge amount of leather everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE). You will find only well equipped cars so they have mostly all the bells and whistles you can imagine. Although not all of them are equipped with ventilated seats for example, and things like the: night vision, head up display, the latest safety assist. features or even sunshades in the rear doors were not available in these cars at all. Instead of these things you get some nice details like the expensive metallic air vents and the already mentioned little Breitling clock in the middle of the dash.
On the other side the navigation system graphics is hopelessly outdated and the system is not very fast or user friendly either + there are cases of sagging headliner mainly above the rear seats. The headliner is made entirely from leather too, and as we all know – leather is much heavier than fabric. But it seems like in Bentley they had no idea about this fact, or they simply underestimated the quality of the glue.
(If you want to see how to remove the headliner then check out this video)
Body, paintjob, rust protection
The rust protection on this Bentley is great (as it should be), but you should definitely check properly the paintjob which has to be flawless everywhere. Because keep in mind that fixing the various scratches, or replacing the damaged body panels can be, and it usually is extremely expensive. Also if the car was previously damaged or just resprayed then it won’t have the same paint quality on that particular body panel as from the factory.
Water leaks into the interior
It’s very important to check for water leaks in the interior especially in the front footwell area. The water can leak in because of the clogged scuttle drain holes which are buried deep down under the windscreen plastic scuttle panel. These drain holes are located basically above the gearbox and it’s very hard to reach or even to see them. They can be clogged by dried out leaves and some other shit which will cause water accumulating in this area which can cause big amount of electronic issues mainly in cars made to 2005, because these cars do have an important wiring loom located near these drain holes which can be damaged by this accumulated water!
(The price for replacing the damaged part of this wiring loom starts from around 5 600€ at the dealer!)
So it’s good to occasionally remove the plastic scuttle panel and clean this area as much as you can. It’s also good to make a long thin attachment to the vacuum cleaner to reach all that shit.
All in all, if you find a car which has water or moisture in the interior or water accumulated under the plastic scuttle panel then you should just run away, quickly run away from it, because you never know for how long the water was sitting in there and it could already do minor or major damage to the electronics.
(Other possibly blocked water drain holes: in fuel cap, under the rear electronic spoiler – check for water in the trunk as well)
-Problems with the tire pressure monitoring system can often occur, usually because of the batteries in these sensors which lasts approximately 5 years, but there are also cases when the tire pressure monitoring system control module has to be replaced as well, on cars made to 2005.
-Mainly the early GT 2 door coupe versions can have issues with the not working 3rd brake light. The brake light itself is not very expensive (considering the fact that this is a Bentley), but replacing it at the dealer can cost a lot. There is no need to remove the big rear window to replace it, but you have to be careful not to damage it since it is a very expensive piece of glass.
-As always check all the electronic features. Check the electrically operated trunk lid if the car is equipped with it, check all the window regulators since they are expensive to fix, test the electronic parking brake, and it’s also important to check things like the speakers, because there are cases of failed speakers or failed amplifiers. (If you want to see how to remove the door panel to replace the speakers then check out this video)
Obviously, most of the spare parts are really expensive and the car itself is very complex indeed, but it’s still just a car and not some kind of a special spaceship built from fairy dust by umpa lumpas.
It’s just a more complex luxury car designed and built by humans. So if you have some free time, money, the right tools, and if you are intelligent enough, then yes, you can fix it even yourself. You can even do the regular maintenance yourself. I mean, there are plenty of videos and guides on the internet on how to change the oil, the spark plugs, the batteries or even how to remove things like the door panels, headliner or the 3rd brake light. + there are some aftermarket parts which are way cheaper than the parts directly from Bentley
Definitely avoid cars without maintenance history and with any kind of more important warning lights on the instrument cluster. Keep in mind that this Bentley has 2 batteries and it’s really important to have them in a good shape to avoid current and future electronic issues.
Generally speaking it’s also better to buy a frequently used car than a car which was sitting for most of the time and it’s good to buy a battery charger/conditioner if you are not going to use the car frequently.
I would not recommend buying the older convertible version of this Bentley unless you have the extra money to replace the complicated rooftop, since there are cases of failed rooftop mechanism or sensors + if the canvas is damaged then you have to usually replace it completely.
The price for a complete rooftop is more than 10 000 €, but I have seen used complete roofs for around 3 400 €.
All these cars are standardly equipped with the adaptive air suspension which is comfortable. But over time small cracks will appear on the rubber of these air struts causing air leaks → and then you get a Bentley lowrider which you can’t drive anywhere. So you don’t want a Bentley lowrider, really, even if it looks interesting.
If the car lowers overnight then most probably your air struts are leaking. It’s important to solve the leaks as soon as possible because if you don’t → then the air compressor will sooner or later fail as well because it will work more than it should – and it simply wears out. In the worst case the air spring can even blow out while driving which can be dangerous.
“After 10 years it’s good to consider replacing the air struts since after this point the chance of leaks increases, mainly if the car was regularly used on winter salty roads.”
Replacing them at the dealer will cost more than 5 000€, but I have seen air struts for sale even for less than $400. Of course buying the cheapest air strut is not a very good idea-unless you want to be a test dummy. However buying it from a well known aftermarket manufacturer is a good idea which can save you a lot of money!
“A car with good air struts should not lower even after a week of sitting!”
This Bentley is a heavy car so you can expect worn control arm bushes and the worn suspension drop links are also quite common.
“Listen for various knocking / clunking noises from the suspension on bad quality roads, if you can’t hear anything from the inside then open the windows and listen to it at lower speeds (since the interior is well insulated), and check the control arm bushings visually for cracks or damage too.”
All the 1st generation Bentley Continental models were available with only the more or less powerful variations of the big 6.0 l W12 petrol engine which has 2 turbochargers. It is definitely an awesome and a powerful unit-if it works properly of course.
-Because mainly the older cars can have often cracked plastic vacuum hoses which are located on the back side of the engine. These cracked hoses will cause misfires, eventually the check engine light will be illuminated as well.
On top of that, cars made to 2005 and to early 2006 do have some of these plastic vacuum hoses located far behind the engine → specifically on the top of the transmission, so in this case you have to remove the whole engine just to replace specifically these hoses because there is no other way to replace them!
On the other side late 2006 cars do have updated position of these vacuum hoses, but you still need to remove the engine to change them according to the original Bentley service manual. However a good Bentley specialist will be able to access most of the vacuum hoses by removing only the steering rack-which will obviously save you a lot of money.
There is also a possibility to replace these plastic hoses with custom made metallic lines which will obviously last a lot longer.
“the engine has to run very smoothly, without strange noises, shuddering, vibrations or uneven idle”
-There are also cases of broken oil dipstick tip, so check the engine oil dipstick because the plastic ending tip on it can break and sometimes the upper black plastic housing on the dipstick tube can crack → which causes vacuum leak → which will again cause misfires.
-The turbochargers are most of the time OK unless the previous owner abused the car, or unless you are buying a high mileage example – if you see a lot of smoke from the exhaust at start up or acceleration then that will indicate issues with the turbochargers!
The engines are equipped with timing chain which is usually ok.
All these cars are equipped with the 6 speed regular automatic transmission which is usually reliable:
-but check it for leaks
-change the oil in it regularly
-and as usual it has to change gears very smoothly without any kind of hesitation, shuddering or strange sounds
To summarize things up: it’s better to buy a car made from 2006 which was used regularly, it’s better to avoid the convertible version and the models with the ceramic brakes, and keep 10 000 € for the additional maintance or possible repairs which can occur. Yes, it can seem like a lot but in this case it’s better to have too much than too little.
Check the car properly before buying, and if you have personal experience with this car or more information about it then you can write it into comments!