Ever since I left London and moved up here, so getting on for nearly a quarter century, I have owned a car for getting to work. I’ve owned four over those years, Now if there is ever a product that comes with great overtones of emotional baggage, ’tis the automobile. It represents freedom, it represents coming of age, in some cases it performs the same function as the tail feathers of a peacock, and of course it enables a young cub to whisk his lady love off to new exciting places.
And it lets you get to work every day, in order to earn the money to pay for it. I lived about 7 miles from work, there’s an acceptable bus service from town to The Firm, but in the end I have to admit that I was with Thatcher about buses and getting to work.
A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure
attributed, probably apocryphally, to Thatcher
The £2.50 each way bus doesn’t cost in on fuel prices either, and in the end the work journey only added about 3000 miles on the clock every year. I’ve tried ride-sharing, but basically the cost benefits on a 14-mile round trip aren’t worth the hassle of hooking up with a colleague and starting and finishing when they do. It’s all very worthy and all far too much like hard work IMO. I was open to cycling and was a sometime fairweather cyclist, but in the end I didn’t want to depend on anyone else for the journey to work.
However, once I’d left work it was brought home to me that my car didn’t get much use when the battery ran down earlier this week to move it in order to get the bins out. Then I got the renewal for road tax for the end of this month, and thought to myself I don’t want the aggravation of being a vehicle owner any more. The Ermine household has another vehicle, we don’t need two, particularly if the battery is going to run flat, and generally, whay am I putting up with stroppy notices from the DOT telling me what to do. Stuff the buggers, they can stick their road tax demand where the sun don’t shine.
Now I’ve never bought a new car- I buy secondhand from a dealer at about £5k and run the damn things into the ground over a period of five to ten years, I’ve taken two of the four cars I’ve had to the scrapyard. However, cars have become more reliable over the years, this one was still serviceable. So I called up Quicken to see how much I had spent on it over the last year
Interestingly, fuel is only a third of the running costs. Even less, indeed, if I amortise the £5k purchase price of the 10 years, running a car cost me about £1600 p.a. though the purchase price is a sunk cost from long ago.
Now I happen to live in easy walking distance of a Europcar hire location, so I thought I’d find out how much it would be to hire the same model of car as mine over a weekend, though obviously nearly new as opposed to 14 years old 😉 It’s about £70 with a £900 CDW excess, or about £100 to eliminate CDW.
I’m spending about £750 on parasitic non-fuel costs of running a car, or £1250 if I take into account the amortised capital costs. I start to ask why am I doing this to myself? I could rent a nearly brand-new car one weekend a month, and avoid getting dunning notices from DVLA and generally feeding The Beast, all for the same price as I’m paying to run a 14 year old motor. Since the Ermine household already has a vehicle that isn’t the obvious way to go, but should there be a conflict in our requirements one day then talking nicely to Mr Europcar is the right way to do this job rather than keeping my old car on the driveway and charging the battery every week 😉
Since my requirements have changed, reduced and become a lot more flexible, it was hello the rapacious Ebay corporation in the form of Gumtree, and I outed my car to a young lad, all in the course of about three days. Despite their best efforts to upsell me the ad didn’t cost me anything to post. A young lad from Felixstowe got a reasonable deal, I got to dodge a road tax bill and the end of this month and a bunch less hassle in my life, what’s not to like. The young cub gets to show his lady love some new places, and I get to eliminate some of the tentacles of feeding the Government more money. As an extra boost I get to claim some motor insurance back to the tune of about £150, so all in all doing this makes me about £1000 better off in cash in hand and avoided expenditure.
Looking back the ramping up of these parasitic costs is quite noticeable – road tax was increasing at over 5% a year since 2008. Which is a damn sight more than the official rate of inflation. My car was a 1600 petrol hatchback, not a 4×4 Chelsea tractor, but it seemed that I was still taking the shaft. Insurance, comparatively, was coming down with judicious use of price comparison websites although it was starting to edge up again. However, I needed the kick up the backside of the road tax bill to actually get round to shifting this, so thank you, DVLA, for your extortionate demand. Now stick it, and thanks for the kick up the butt.