Now, before you think I’ve gone completely barmy, especially considering how I’ve made a living over the past few decades, I can tell you it’s a very long time since the name ‘Big Mike’ has appeared on a V5.
Like every motor trader I know, my daily transport since I established my own site in 1990 has been whatever is in stock and has tax on it. Or moreover, whatever’s in stock, has tax on it and is completely unsaleable to any normal punter, hence why my usual chariot of delight is a scruffy, thirsty, elderly executive car. The very type of car that, today, has suddenly become no more than scrap.
And that’s down to the DVLA’s new and, in my view, stupidly ill-thought-out new vehicle tax regulations. Okay, so I understand getting rid of the tax disc. I appreciate how it keeps things relatively simple for ordinary punters, and I understand how a mid-month vehicular transaction can result in a nice and tidy backhander for the government by virtue of buyer and seller both having to pay full vehicle tax for any given month, but for traders, the whole process has become particularly difficult.
First, it reduces the budget in a buyer’s pocket – while I never really factored in remaining vehicle tax as something that increased a car’s value, there are many times I used it as a sweetener when selling a car.
For example, if something still had three months’ rent in the windscreen, then it’d be another three months before the buyer even had to think about forking out for the vehicle tax. Now they have to factor in an extra couple of hundred quid before they can drive the thing away, and I can guarantee you they’ll be knocking it off my margins – it’s a bitter pill to swallow when you’re selling cars in volume. Sentimentally, though, I’m going to miss the variety. Because traders can now only drive stock vehicles on trade plates, and no longer can a vehicle be held ‘in trade’ with a valid tax disc – the balance gets refunded to the vendor – the days of popping home in the (insert name of ridiculous car/comedy banger/Rolls-Royce here) just to sample it are gone.
Along with them, I suspect, will be the garage perk of keeping a tired and creaky old Jag in stock just so we can nip up to the local motor factors in comfort, or swank over to the buttie van on the industrial estate pretending to be 1990s lottery winners.
‘For traders, the whole process has become particularly difficult’
It probably won’t be great for my stock, either, because in days when cars came in with vehicle tax, I used to make a point of driving them around for a week or two before retailing them.
That way, I could pick up on any problems that might bring the punter back squealing and get them fixed before sale, and it’d also give me a good understanding of a car, which I could then talk to the customer about with
Plus, if something had been static on the lot for two or three weeks, I could give it a run just to keep the cobwebs off and stop the brake discs going rusty.
Technically, the above is still possible as I’d be driving the car ‘for motor trade purposes’, but because trade-plate laws prevent you from making any non-essential stops, it means you can’t then use the same car to pop out to Asda in the evenings. Or anywhere else for that matter.
The DVLA argues that it was never the case that traders could use stock vehicles, held on yellow slips, for personal use. But that’s in direct contradiction with the terms and conditions of my motor trade insurance policy, which says that’s perfectly acceptable providing the car is recorded on the Motor Insurance Database – a process that takes all of two minutes online.
So I’m now utterly confused and have had to break the habit of the past quarter of a century. Luckily, though, just before the changes were introduced, a customer came in and part-exed a 2001 Vauxhall Omega 3.2 V6 with just 55,000 miles on the clock. It had seven months’ tax left in the window, and I got the paperwork through the DVLA’s stupid hoops just in time to beat the October 1 deadline. It’s registered in my own name, and I can park the notion of worrying about vehicle tax until April.
The sad part of it, though, is that by then the Omega will be utterly worthless.
I won’t be able to incentivise someone to buy it if they know they need to pay £285 upfront to tax the thing, and as a lifelong car nut it saddens me greatly that the most rational thing to do with a lovely old car like that is to throw it in the crusher…
Who is Big Mike? Well, that would be telling. What we do know is he’s had 30 years in the car trade and picked up some terrific tales along the way.