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Motorists face Halloween fright

The Budget and Brexit threaten to weigh on drivers' finances this autumn

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Feeling the strain: Drivers face rising costs following Budget 2020

Feeling the strain: Drivers face rising costs following Budget 2020

Feeling the strain: Drivers face rising costs following Budget 2020

Motorists must be feeling someone is out to get them this Halloween. Between Brexit's harbinger of doom and post-Budget blues settling in, car owners are driven to distraction with it all.

This week, I'm looking at the new measures affecting drivers. Whether it's your commute or buying a new car, everything is about to cost a lot more.

Carbon tax trouble

It didn't take long for the first bill to hit. By midnight on Budget day, an extra €6 per tonne (to €26) was added to carbon tax, resulting in around €1 extra to fill a tank of petrol; €1.15 for diesel. By 2030, the tax will be increased to €80, so it's only the beginning. Always stay alert to different prices in your area. While we can't control oil prices, garages have differing supplies, and fuel prices will reflect this.

While the polluter-pays principle is a good one, without these measures, we will end up paying one way or the other, in tax or fines to the EU for missing climate targets.

Electric dreams

New measures for electric vehicles fell short of the mark. Drivers need a huge incentive to switch to e-cars, and while the BIK exemption on employer-purchased vehicles remains until 2022, and VRT refunds have been extended, this has not proven enough to shift habits.

Just 3pc of cars bought are electric and the more popular (and reliable) hybrids don't enjoy the same tax advantages, although plug-in rebates and grants were extended for another year. "Range anxiety is not an issue; the average daily commute for Irish drivers is 15km each way," says motoring expert Geraldine Herbert.

"Unfortunately, as people sit in their cars longer due to congestion, they mistakenly believe they drive more. But, in reality, we don't cover much distance on a daily basis. Even the older-model Nissan Leaf has a range of up to 160km.

"Newer models such as the Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul or e-Niro do 450km on a single charge so for many people that would be two weeks' driving.

"What is an issue is the lack of a reliable network. While most charging is done at home, people need to be reassured before they buy that if they decide to venture away from home, they can charge easily and without fuss."

Some €3m was given toward EV infrastructure such as additional charging points, some of them communal at apartment blocks, while taxis were also promised more chargers at ranks.

Diesel disaster

Last year, a 1pc surcharge was introduced on all diesel vehicles, but this inadvertently made imported diesel cars more attractive, says Ms Herbert. It was a charge on the total value of a car, so the impact on a €20,000 imported diesel was much less than on a €40,000 new diesel.

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She says: "Diesels have higher emissions of NOx and the older the diesel, the higher the emissions. By replacing this with a euro surcharge per mg/km NOx in Budget 2020, older diesel cars will be significantly impacted, in particular imported older diesel cars.

"Over 70pc of used car imports are diesel and around 30pc of them are older, more polluting models."

Insurance

"The majority of Irish motor insurance policies already include cover for travel in the UK," according to the Department of Transport. "In such cases, drivers will continue to be insured to drive in the UK, even in a no-deal Brexit.

"Either a Green Card or other proof of insurance will be acceptable. Green Cards will, however, be required as proof of motor insurance for UK-registered vehicles entering the EU, including Ireland."

Shortcuts: All change for UK licence holders

"Due to high volumes of licence exchange applications, you are strongly advised to exchange your UK/NI driving licence by mid-October." That is the stark message flashing on the National Driving Licence website (ndls.ie), and it applies to British people living in Ireland - an estimated 280,000 residents, many of whom drive on a UK licence, which up to now, has been perfectly fine. Here are some points to consider:

- In the event of a no-deal Brexit, this will no longer be allowed.

- UK licence holders must swap (and this annoys some of them) their UK licence for an Irish one.

- Failing to show a valid driving licence not only puts you at risk of being challenged if you are stopped by a garda, but it could invalidate your insurance.

- Queues are growing at test centres. The NDLS has put longer opening hours in place. However, I know of a number of people who have had to apply to centres around the country to beat the deadline.

- Holders of UK driving licences who are visiting Ireland for periods of up to 12 months will still be able to drive here on that licence.

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