Opinion: What's the point of the NCT if insurers choose to ignore it?

Rows of old cars are sitting unused in yards around the country.
Rows of old cars are sitting unused in yards around the country.
Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

I'm in the process of trying to change a car. The vehicle I wish to trade is a 08 model with a lot of work done. If capable of lunar travel, it would be on the way back from the moon at this stage. The said moon is 384,400km away.

I have been haunting the forecourts of the midwest over the past few weeks, but few are interested in my offering as a trade-in. Car dealers that deign even to look at my trusty chariot grimace as if suddenly overcome by a bad smell.

A number of these be-suited salesmen explained their aversion to my car by taking me to parking areas at the rear of their garages. "Look," they would exclaim, as they pointed at rows of cars with moss growing around the wheels, "I don't need another yoke like these."

There before us would be dozens, and in one case hundreds of cars from the early to mid-noughties desperately longing for one careful owner, or even a careless one, but there are no takers. "The insurance companies don't want to touch anything over ten years old," one flummoxed garageman told me. "These are perfectly good cars but no-one wants them because of insurance. In a few months' time, your 08 machine will be in the same category."

I must say, it seems like an enormous waste of resources to have these machines rusting in their thousands around the country. In 2015, two of the major insurance companies declared they were not going to insure cars of 15 years and older. Other insurers have since joined them. Meanwhile the age of unwanted vehicles has come down from 15 and is now hovering around 10 years old.

What about the NCT? Is there no recognition that a current NCT certificate is a confirmation of roadworthiness? The position adopted by these insurance companies surely means that the NCT is a worthless exercise producing a useless piece of paper. If you have an official certificate stating that your car has been thoroughly examined and deemed to be roadworthy and environmentally-compliant, surely such a certificate should be enough for any insurance company.

When they first made this move in 2015 the insurance companies claimed their records showed that older cars were far more likely to be involved in accidents. Accidents are generally caused by one or a combination of three factors; human error, road conditions or faulty cars. Since the introduction of the National Car Test the only one of these three factors that has a certificate saying it's fit for purpose is the car.

Undoubtedly modern cars are smarter and safer than older models and every new model is a mechanical and technological superior to its predecessor. Nevertheless any car with a current NCT cannot be regarded as a death trap; otherwise this NCT is a pointless lark.

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I must admit that my journey into car land has turned me into a vehicular ageist. When I began my search I was open to buying any fresh car of a similar vintage or even older. Now, I won't as much as countenance a machine that hit the streets before 2010. From what I saw in the parking lots of the garages I visited, many other motorists have adopted a similar ageist position.

There is something badly wrong here; the State and the motorist are investing millions in the car test while the insurance companies are saying we don't believe in it. As a consequence people who badly need a car or cars and who are trying hard to stay ahead of their debts are being forced to increase their borrowings and buy more expensive, newer cars. Meanwhile relatively modern vehicles, in perfect motoring order and well within buyers' budgets are left to rust in garage backyards.

What will eventually happen to all these vehicles? If insurance companies will not insure older cars then we can presume the cars in question won't be on the road and therefore their parts will not be needed - so the breaker's yard will disappear. At that stage a levy or an increase in car tax will probably be introduced to pay for the safe disposal of these perfectly good vehicles. Car-makers the world over must be rubbing their hands in glee as Irish tax payers are forced to create an artificial demand for cars.

The insurance companies' stance on the age of cars they are prepared to cover, means we have newer cars they don't need and pay for the disposal of the ones they didn't want to get rid of in the first place.

The result is waste on a grand scale and further financial pressure on hard-pressed people. The government should stand by the NCT or scrap it.

Now, I need to get this car back from the moon, "Dublin, we have a problem."

Indo Farming

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