Richard Oliff - Rising cost of driving on the road to ruin

Richard Oliff
Richard Oliff

Last May I wrote about the privileges and responsibilities that are associated with the carrying of a driving licence, and how it has proved invaluable in the modern world.

What I didn’t cover was the sheer cost of motoring in said modern world.

Last week I found myself sitting in a long queue of traffic. The cause escapes me: it could have been for many different reasons from roadworks to a ‘shunt’ or ‘prang’ somewhere over the distant horizon.

The hum of the car reminded me that I was paying for the privilege of sitting in that space. A cost that has been never ending from the first time I sat behind the wheel and an instructor said “now, turn the key”.

The first major costs are the lessons. If one is lucky one may pass first time. Then, if it hasn’t already happened, one needs to buy a car. Right, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. You and I have just bought a second hand, sorry, used car, for £3000, which we believe to be in good condition. It’s a Vauxhall Zafira Elegance, seven seater family people carrier manufactured in 2004. I shall be 57 years old this year, I’ve had a clean licence since I passed my test in the 70s, no points: clean as a whistle. Fully comprehensive insurance for one year is £770. (Only £229 less than my council tax for a year). Last week I paid for 12 months road tax which was an additional £260 plus £3 admin charge by the DVLA. Then, because the car is older than three years I’m required by law to get a MOT test certificate, a cost that can be variable depending on the garage used and any work that may be required to bring the Zafira up to standard. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, £100.

Maintaining the annual service record for the car is essential, not only for peace of mind, but also maintaining its potential resale value. The cost of new tyres can be a fright, not to mention the unexpected ‘surprise’ visits to the garage for those moments when, for example, the power steering fails, the car starts to ‘kangaroo’ or judder. Instinctively you know that this will cost money.

On one car I owned the cam belt broke leaving me with an amazing £850 repair bill. To fill the Zafira with fuel is usually around an amazing £60. Given all of these costs for just one vehicle I had to wonder, as I entered the slip-road to a very busy A14 recently, how can it be possible that there are so many cars on so many roads all over the world? It’s as if our luxuries have become necessities in a world where public transport is found seriously wanting.