And so, the time has finally come to remove our hats and bid a sorry farewell to the late, lamented road tax disc.
Since 1921, it has been a legal requirement for motorists to display the often brightly coloured disc in their windscreen to prove they have paid their duties. But now, Big Brother is watching, and that means there’s no need for any of us to have the disc in our windscreen any longer.
In principle, it’s a pretty straightforward idea and unless you’re a manufacturer of tax disc holders or a useless perforation vendor, it’s not something that’s going to make a huge difference to your daily life. But there is one thing that those who like to dabble in buying and selling may find a bit frustrating.
From 1st October, it’s no longer possible to sell a car with a valid tax disc. Instead, both buyer and seller must notify the DVLA of a change of keeper on the day of sale (sensible, especially given my recent and as yet unconcluded run-ins with the DVLA over a change of keeper issue) and the buyer must tax the car there and then, with the vendor getting a refund for any full months remaining.
It does, of course, mean that any transaction not carried out on the very last day of the month will result in the DVLA receiving two lots of road tax for that particular period, which we’re assured is ‘just the way it is’ and nothing to do with profiteering (don’t get me started, please…).
My fear, though, is for the impact it may have on some of the cars we know and love thanks to the added cash a buyer will need to find on the day of transaction. For example, at present selling a car with a tax disc is something of an incentive to purchase. It doesn’t make a car any cheaper to run, but in the case of a low-value, high-emissions future classic such as my old MG ZS 180, it kicks the can down the road… It will remain £285 a year to tax, but if half of that tax disc is left running it means there’s one less expense for the new buyer to think about straight away. There’s also the simplicity of it all – if a car is taxed then on the day of purchase you simply insure it, fill in the V5 and drive home. That, too, has gone.
So, using the ZS 180 as an example, on the day of sale the new owner has to pay out £285, or £156.75 for 6 months (will we, I wonder, still have to pay the 10 per cent ‘admin’ surcharge for six months if we do all the admin work ourselves and don’t need an extra bit of paper?). That’s a minimum of £156.75 on top of a car that’s worth £8-900 tops, or in shabby condition more like £3-400. And if that’s your budget, you need to factor it in straightaway rather than think ‘I can buy the car now, and put fifty quid a month away to buy the tax disc in December’. I’m sure not everyone thinks like that, but there have been times when I most certainly have.
At which point, how many ‘ordinary’ people will decide it’s all too much hassle, and instead put £99 down on a nearly new tin box, and pay £150 a month ad infinitum for the peace of mind of a warranty and a clean dealership? Indeed, can you even blame them?
So will this put some of the cars we know and love on the danger list? Quite probably… It’ll certainly make larger engined Rover 75s, MG ZSs, MG ZTs and most Jaguars and Land Rovers appeal far less, while post-2006 the equation gets even more dangerous, as on high-emissions models the road tax increases to £500 a year. At present, most 2006 cars have sufficient residual value for a one-off £500 hit to be considered part of the cost of ownership, along with £42 a month extra on the cost of ownership – but, give it five or six years, and who will really want a Jaguar XJ X350 if you’re going to have to dig deep just to tax the thing? Beautiful cars, and a tragic waste if most of them fall by the wayside because of punitive tax legislation.
Sure, the actual cost of taxing hasn’t changed – I get that. It just becomes a lot more noticeable at the time of transaction, and I, for one, fear it could just about become the tipping point for another wave of cars about to be needlessly scrapped. If you were a dealer, for example, would you want an old Rover 75 hanging around on your forecourt? Especially when you couldn’t even drive it home for the evening – as the new system means all vehicles held ‘in trade’ are officially untaxed. As for what dealers think of the new regime, let’s not even go there…