Given how hard is it to tax, insure and maintain an older car, why do so many of us drive them? By Geraldine Herbert
Siobhan Carroll almost cried when she traded in her black 2002 Suzuki Swift.
For 12 years she owned “Sammy” the car that saw her through college, two jobs and 165,000 kilometres.
“I have nothing but good memories of the car,” says Siobhan. “One of the best was a journey from Dublin to Kerry for an October bank holiday weekend fully laden with three friends and luggage, “Sammy” braved the motorway, the weather and was so cheap to run”
Like Siobhan, we are all holding on to our cars longer. Despite the increased availability of credit and the economic turnaround the average vehicle on the road in 2016 was almost 9 years old, according to figures from Cartell.ie market analysts. In 2000, an average Irish car was just over 5 years old.
And while part of the motivation for driving an older car is avoiding expensive car loans and cripplingly monthly payments it’s not all about economics. It’s also about dependability.
“I just bought it to go from A to B but it was so reliable “ said Siobahn of her Swift “when it came to replacing it I opted for another older Suzuki”
Despite the potential savings, for some driving an older car makes a style statement.
Rachel Muse, a chef was drawn to the craftsmanship of her 16 year BMW 525d
“Even with more than 218 kilometres on the clock it still feels solid, the design and build of this car was a labour of love” says Rachel “Modern BMWs don’t have the same style or class”.
Like Rachel, character and quality was also behind Greg Higgins’ decision to purchase “Sabine” a 2004 BMW Z4 that he bought for €6k.
“It remains the best purchase that I’ve ever made. Every drive puts a smile on my face, and that’s important when you’re spending so much time sitting in traffic waiting for the empty stretch of road” said Greg a freelance PR professional based in Cork.
His decision was practical too. Depreciation is generally suffered in the first ten years so often cars don’t devalue any further in their second decade.
“A ten year old car can offer tremendous value for money and should hold its value as opposed depreciating wildly.”
But Greg has thought about parting company with his beloved coupe due to high running costs as owners of older cars are punished financially with higher road tax.
” The thing that causes the most pain is the motor tax which is €948 a year, though it’s paid in three or six month blocks which brings the yearly tax bill to over €1,000”.
Driving an older car has its rewards and many cars are designed run up to 200,000 kms without major problems if they are maintained well.
Samantha Kenny, a motor enthusiast from Dublin has put thousands of miles on her fifteen year old Rover 75 and her twelve year old C220 Mercedes and she plans to get thousands more. But skipping a much needed oil change or coaxing a few extra miles out of an air filter is not how Samantha racked up all those miles.
“The nice thing about owning a older vehicle it that it is such great value,” Samantha says “Sometimes, a simple repair and regular maintenance will not only provide another year or two of stress-free driving but will save you money in the long run.”
Like Samantha many keep their cars because they see no reason to invest in a new one or it’s a chance to own something special.
A combination of nostalgia and the thrill of getting behind the wheel were the key attractions for Jason Walsh a newspaper foreign correspondent when he bought a 19-year old Jaguar XK8.
“I wanted an interesting car but my budget didn’t stretch to a modern car. The Jaguar was sitting there in the dealership and no-one seemed to want it, so I bought it” says Jason “It was a gorgeous car, with incredible lines and that perfect mix of sportiness and comfort that you expect from a true GT.”
Evonne Hogan, an Assistant Director of Nursing from Dublin was also seduced by the allure of a Jaguar and is the proud owner of a XKR Coupé.
“I love the admiring looks I get and the conversations people have with me about it” Yvonne said “The sound of the engine purring away at idle and the acceleration from standing and at speed”
After years of driving ordinary cars, Yvonne is now a devout disciple of the Jaguar and has no plans of going back but admits to only driving to short trips due to the fuel consumption.
“I drive about 16km per day, I learned pretty quickly not to drive in sports mode, after emptying the tank in two days.”
Fuel-efficient or gas guzzler, older cars are increasingly harder to insure and many companies are refusing to provide cover to new customers driving cars 15 years or older, even if they hold a valid NCT proving that their vehicles are safe to drive. They claim this is because older cars tend to be involved in more collisions, are used in fraud cases and are poorly maintained.
“I gave up my 2002 Ford Focus because of insurance” says Gary Burke a Retail Manager
“The car was great, dependable and still good to drive but I was struggling to find an insurance company to cover it and when I did they wanted so much for the insurance that I couldn’t afford that so I ended up selling the car.”
But do the cost advantages of older cars outweigh the potential problems?
Margaret Griffin drives a 2003 Audi A4 TDI she bought ten years ago. “I love about it is its power and having the confidence to know when you overtake you can make it” she says “But over time it’s costing me more money and the time has come to replace it”.
So while insurance companies continue to penalise older models and our motor tax system levies punitive rates for many it’s a price worth paying. Cars simply have become better made in the last decade and are designed to last much longer than we may expect. Choosing to keep an old car instead of a new one won’t be for everyone; older car owners share a passion and understanding for their car but also an appreciation about the value of maintenance and regular TLC.
23rd May, 2017