Has anyone noticed how quickly our old cars are disappearing off the road? Driving into work this morning, I ended up behind a J-registered 214Si, and I thought to myself (as I always do with R8s) how good the car still looked. Glancing in the mirror another R8 had polled up behind me. It was a G-reg (nice and early) and was in the classic British Racing Green-over-grey colour scheme. Both cars were clean and in good condition, and encouragingly, both appeared to be driven by under-30-year olds.
Then, a worrying thought struck me, though: these cars now stand out (to me, anyway) and the reason for this must be that they are rapidly disappearing off the roads. And why is this? Because relative to income, new and nearly new cars are cheaper than they have ever been. The evidence of this is there to see wherever you look: households usually have one car per adult, and as buying a new Ford KA or CityRover can be achieved for little more than £100 per month, why bother with an older car?
Look in the scrapyards now, and perfectly serviceable cars have been left there because financially, there’s little point in repairing them. All of a sudden, a £200 bill to get your N-registered Rover 216 through an MoT makes no sense when it’s trade value is £300. The garage man will tell you that spending 66 per cent of a car’s value to keep it on the road for another year is mad.
But is it?
Look in the scrapyards now, and perfectly
serviceable cars have been left there
because financially, there’s little
point in repairing them.
Said owner of Rover 216 is probably going to spend a couple of hundred quid a year on servicing, then maybe another chunk on its MoT. Compare that with CityRover owner, who has no MoT costs, comparable servicing costs, and the not inconsiderable matter of a monthly payment. What does one get for their monthly bung? A newer ‘plate, some peace of mind (questionable) in the reliability department and the backup of a main agent.
Anyway, the lure of the new car really seems to have captured the imagination of the British. We buy over two million a year, and thanks to a good and stable economy, this tally looks set fair to rise year on year. With all these new cars coming on stream, the pressure has been well and truly put on the older car. Essentially very few people want them. And as a result, anything over ten years old, without a premium badge can be bought for a song. And that is why these are now disappearing off the roads.
Back in 1990, it was still perfectly acceptable to pay good money for a ten year old Rover. Even as recently as, say, 1998, it was possible to spend £3000 on a 1990 Rover R8. Now, the idea of spending more than about £500 on a 1994 Rover would be laughed out of court by most traders, and even a nice eight-year old example would struggle to reach four figures. That’s a massive change… and one that could well be difficult to sustain.
EU legislation coming our way will dictate that each manufacturer will be responsible for the disposal of all its old cars. That could be tragic for MG Rover. In the UK, it sells about 100,000 new cars a year, but could well be liable for the disposal of twice as many every year. Scary. Especially, given its current cashflow situation. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.
One thing is for sure, if you want to help MGR’s survival, but can’t afford a new car, do the best thing, and save an old one from extinction.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.