Just in

The art of changing one’s car

When you get to my age the years tend to fade to blancmange – you could ask me in which year between about 1997 and 2009 anything notable in my past happened and in all honesty I’d be guessing and probably have about a one in six chance of getting it right – so when I say I bought my current vehicle (a VW Touareg) about six years ago please can you be gentle with me.

My car previous to that had been an Audi A3. Both were second hand – I couldn’t afford new and anyway, on the basis that any new car loses about 20% of its value the moment you drive off the forecourt, you get plenty more bang for your buck with a ‘pre-owned’ one – and both used (or use) diesel fuel.

A3I deliberately bought a diesel A3 because my pal who knows about cars told me at the time that modern diesels were no noisier than cars using unleaded petrol and diesel was also cheaper. (Well, it was in those days).

I should add that I’m a fan of German cars because of received opinion that they’re generally bullet proof from an engineering point of view and – for a non-petrol head like myself – reliability (coupled with the cost implications of the opposite being an irritant) has always been important to me.

After several years of relatively-untroubled motoring with the A3 I figured it was time for a change. One of the aches and pains of middle age that I had developed by that point was a back issue for which I now know (courtesy of my GP) that decades spent sitting in front of a computer screen had been a contributory factor. After any significant period sitting at a desk and/or driving, my initial movements in reaching and then stabalizing a standing position tended to be slow and deliberate because my lower back had stiffened up in the meantime.

One day while driving somewhere with my son – whom I rarely see because he lives abroad – having watched me squeeze myself gingerly in and out of the A3 driver’s seat, he asked what my problem was. I replied that I had a bit of a bad back (well that much was obvious). Being a practical cove and knowing that I was contemplating a change of vehicle he immediately suggested I buy an SUV (4 X 4), having diagnosed that getting in and out of a car that was close to the ground was part of my problem.

About a month later I duly bought my Touareg – a second hand 2008 version with 41,000 miles on the clock – costing me £16,500.

I kid you not, within a week I had fallen in love with it and my bad back had gone. Actually, that is over-egging it slightly – I still had a stiff back, but the simple change of having to ‘step up’ into the cabin (and then down again afterwards) relieved the symptoms to such a degree that I felt transformed.

As for using the word ‘love’ and ‘car’ in the same sentence, for someone like me who to this point had only ever used a four-wheeled vehicle to get from A to B and not much more, this was a new departure. However, there was something fundamentally satisfying about sitting above most of the traffic around me and enjoying the sheer size and solidity of a 4 x 4. Furthermore, being able to ‘go abroad on tour’ or similar trips in a big vehicle capable of carrying a fair amount of kit and two or three people in relative comfort was a definite plus.

Which brings me back to 2017.

This much further on – my cherished Touareg has just passed 121,000 miles – I am once again beginning to contemplate changing to a new car (well, ‘new’ only in the sense it would be new to me, not that it would be a full list price sparkling new one as featured in the weekly motoring magazines that I buy to pass the time with in trains and/or waiting rooms).

old manHere are my current considerations:

We now know that diesel motor engines are a curse upon the world. They’re far dirtier than those that use unleaded fuel – or more latterly electricity – and are not only killing many thousands of children a year by emitting gases or soot (is that CO2?) into the air but they’re single-handedly causing the climate change that will shortly render the planet uninhabitable to human beings.

Next, VW has been condemned (and fined billions of pounds) worldwide for devising diesel engines that were smart enough to ‘fool’ the engine testers over their emissions. These babies were capable of recognising when they were being tested and immediately somehow changing themselves so that they met the necessary standards before reverting to ‘killing’ mode the moment that the testers had turned their backs and filed their reports.

My daughter has asked why I bother having such a monster vehicle when 50% of the time I drive around in it solo.

However, all of the above pace into insignificance compared to my main concern: cost.

[Here I must admit that I’m a little hazy on the exact details, but broadly the gist of what follows gives an accurate impression]:

Living in south-west London, my annual vehicle (what was the tax disc) licence fee – because it is a 4 x 4 – is approximately £600.

My annual vehicle insurance bill is £740.

My annual ‘residents parking permit’ is £260.

In the past fortnight I’ve had a 120,000 mile service done (£320) and – having been told by the serviceman to get my rear tyres checked for wear – had four new tyres fitted (£813).

I’m no expert on such matters but I should estimate that my fuel economy is about 32 to 36 miles to the gallon – it takes £130 per time to fill my Touareg’s fuel tank (which gives me a range of about 550 miles).

In short, for someone of my age and ‘barely there’ retirement income, owning a Touareg is a huge extravagance.

Sometimes you have to cut your clothes to fit your cloth. I’ve loved my experience of driving a 4 x 4 but there comes a time when needs must.

Hopefully I’ll be able to research and find a smaller vehicle that doesn’t take me straight back to the days when I had a constant bad back.

Ideas, anyone?



About William Byford

A partner in an international firm of loss adjusters, William is a keen blogger and member of the internet community. More Posts