I’m quite happy to pay road tax – or vehicle excise duty as it’s correctly called. That’s because my payment allows me to use my car wherever I like, and to drive as far as I want to. Sure, we’d all like to keep more of the money we earn, but while I can drive wherever I like on Britain’s 245,000 estimated miles of road, I’ll concede that I’m happy to pay for the privilege.
The future does not look bright however. We’ve currently got London considering a ban on older vehicles, and the Lib Dems stating that they want petrol and diesel cars banned by 2040 – which, should I be healthy/lucky, is within my lifetime. Yet at the same time, we’ve got about eleventy-twelve different petitions haranguing the government for a re-introduction of the 25-year rolling tax exclusion for older vehicles. I won’t join that campaign as it strikes me as very dangerous. While some are quite happy to have their movements restricted – just pottering to a local show is about all they want to do anyway – some of us like to use older vehicles for daily duty, or for long road trips. I don’t want to drive in London anyway, but it strikes me that any planned restrictions could be the mere tip of the iceberg. What if other cities follow suit? What if a general ban for older vehicles on ANY major roads is implemented? What if historic vehicles end up with massive restrictions on where they can be driven?
The thought fills me with terror frankly. I don’t enjoy a massive income, so I tend to choose cheaper cars. To be honest, I also fail to see why I should pay thousands when a car costing hundreds is perfectly acceptable – albeit regular tinkering tends to be a theme of my life. Yes, I enjoyed my experiences in an electric car last year, but the largest barrier to me buying one is the horrendous cost. I can think of a great many things I’d rather spend £30,000 on. A great many different cars for a start. Electric cars are still not viable to replace diesel and electric outright either.
Nor do I want a modern petrol or diesel-powered car. With diesels especially, they have become so reliant on technology and problematic emission-controlling gear that the sheer joy of a diesel – it’s simplicity – is entirely lost. Seriously. I do not recommend that anyone spends their own money to buy a brand new diesel. Any fuel savings will be cancelled out by hideous repair costs. £1000 for a clutch change, thanks to the dual mass flywheel, and then there’s the particle removing systems, which get clogged up and cost hundreds to sort out. Plus fuel pumps working at ever higher pressures, and a baffling array of sensors – any one of which could go down at any moment.
Petrol engines don’t seem quite so blighted at the moment, but even so, cars are being driven off the road at a steady rate because some expensive sensor, catalytic converter or emission-control system has gone out of whack. Chasing error messages can get expensive – though Car Mechanics magazine does a wonderful job of proving that DIY motoring hasn’t disappeared, it’s just evolved. That’s beyond most motorists though, and there are plenty of us who still prefer a screwdriver to a code reader.
That’s the thing. I choose to drive old cars because I like them. I don’t want to drive something I don’t like. I’d argue that my older cars don’t contribute massively to the country’s emissions anyway. The Sirion has a cat, and all three of my current fleet can deliver better than 50mpg. It’s not like they’re old, inefficient fuel guzzlers.
Sadly, I can see that while free VED for older cars is a distinct possibility at some point, I can also see that it’ll be worth sod all. Be glad of the freedom we can now enjoy because one day, it’ll be gone.