Life Motoring

Sunday 25 August 2019

Hidden costs of keeping a beloved old car on the road

Geraldine Herbert with her Elderly Ford Focus. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Geraldine Herbert with her Elderly Ford Focus. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

How hard is it to tax, insure and maintain an old car asks

Earlier this year two insurance companies, Aviva and Allianz Insurance, announced that they will no longer be providing cover for older cars. By older they mean anything 15 years or over and, while they assured existing customers who own cars that exceed these limits that they would continue to insure them, they would not however be accepting new customers.

In May 2000 I bought my first new car, a Sapphire Blue MK I Ford Focus - complete with new car smell, a tape deck and a 1,599cc petrol engine. Much as I loved it, it was a short-sighted investment as within 12 months I was working as a motoring journalist and the succession of brand new cars that adorned my driveway weekly soon took the shine off my nearly new Ford.

Over the years I continued to tax and insure it, but as the gaps between outings lengthened, the dust (and as is apparent from the photo, the leaves) gathered. The final nail in the metaphorical coffin was the change to motor tax in 2013. In a bid to clamp down on motor tax evasion the Government decided that drivers should have to declare cars 'off the road ' before the motor tax ran out and didn't have the option of sporadically declaring it off the road retrospectively as they had before.

Since then my Focus has been consigned to the garage and even the insurance lapsed. So how difficult, given the resistance by some insurance companies to insure older cars, would it be to renew the insurance on my 15-year-old car?

To find out, I contacted eight insurance companies online. First up was Its4, who responded with: "Unfortunately we are unable to quote for your circumstances at this present time as you fall outside of our underwriting criteria". provided a range of quotes, including €634 for comprehensive, €633 for third-party fire and theft and €774 for third-party only. 'No Nonsense' were also unable to provide a quote and the same response was given by One Direct and Liberty Insurance.

AXA offered a price of €812.60 for comprehensive cover while the AA were quoting comprehensive cover for €659.18. Finally, comprehensive cover would cost €811.76 from Overall there was a difference of over €153 between the highest and lowest quote supplied.

So it seems it is still possible to insure an old car, but whether you have an old or new car when shopping for insurance, remember to always put a realistic value on your car, shop around and if at all possible pay in full and not in instalments.

And it's good news for older cars. Just because a car is old or has high mileage, you don't have to change it. Today's cars are far more reliable than before so if it's not giving you any problems, hold on to it. Taking good care of your car is an easy way to prolong its driving life and cut costs, so do regular servicing, checks on the oil, fluid levels, tyres and so on. This may be time-consuming but it pays huge dividends in the long run.

Some tips to keep an old car on the road:

Petrol or diesel: If you are buying an older second-hand car, opt for a petrol car over a diesel one as petrol cars last longer. The reason is simply that they are generally much less complicated than diesel cars.

Be kind: Be kind to your car and drive gently, so accelerate slowly and avoid harsh braking. In winter allow your car a minute or so to warm up before driving it hard.

Paintwork: The paintwork on your car is the first line of defence against rusted body panels so if possible park your car in a garage, but, if not, then park in the shade.

Repairs: Find a mechanic you can trust. Maintaining an old car depends on a good partnership between you and your mechanic.

Saying goodbye: Unfortunately there will come a point where constant repairs become costly, so take advice from your mechanic as to when there's no longer any point spending money on it. The time may have come to send it to the big carpark in the sky. But be warned, scrapping has changed in recent years and is now regulated by the Waste Management (End-of-Life Vehicles) Regulations 2014. Contact your local authority to find your nearest authorised car recycling centre, also known as Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs). As long as you can prove you are the owner of the car, you will not be charged, so bring the registration documents.

Sunday Independent

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