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Why Motability (can sometimes) Suck

(I wrote this in 2009 or thereabouts, which I now reprint. A critique of and a suggestion for how it could have been revamped.)

There is nothing very funny about disability, unless you are a Premier League footballer who prefers the extra width of the parking bays to preserve the panels on their Continental. Trouble is, they are not the only ones having a laugh. A recent investigation by The Sunday Times has highlighted that the Motability Scheme is not just open to abuse, but being openly abused.

 

The scheme allows for relatives to keep the cars for up to 50 miles away from where the disabled lives, which can incredibly include a care home. The point is that the person in receipt of the disability allowance only has to agree to have a car leased in their name and sign the paperwork. What follows is VAT Exemption and free car tax, whilst the lease typically includes insurance, servicing and roadside recovery.

 

For the genuinely disabled and their immediate carers the scheme is a lifeline for hospital visits and just day to day survival. However, for those who think this is a cheap way to get a new car and possibly take Auntie out of the home once a month, it is an opportunity to good to pass up. Not surprisingly, much has been made of the fact that buyers have been signing up for BMWs, Mercs Saabs and top end Volkswagens which makes for a better headline.

 

Clearly there is plenty wrong with Motability as it currently operates. Established in 1977 as a charity, it has grown like topsy ever since. However, when I flogged prestige cars there were no enquiries relating to the scheme at all. What has happened in the last decade or so is that Motability has become another selling tool in the showroom. Not surprisingly manufacturers are complicit in all this as it shifts metal with a government subsidy.

 

This has to stop, so I have one simple suggestion costing rather less than the six figure sum the Chief Executive currently draws. Buy used cars. They have never been more reliable and finding a tidy example you can put a warranty on, is easy dependent on mileage and condition.

 

By all means tighten up the basic eligibility rules, but simply introduce a series of price bands appropriate for the individual. £2000 gets a Yaris, £3000 an Astra, £4000 a Mondeo and £5000 a Galaxy. You get what you are given and if someone wants a prestige German then they pay for it in full. I’m not joking either.





5 Great Reasons to buy a Used Car

 

You’d be mad to buy a brand new car. Never mind the massive depreciation it will suffer the second you drive out of the showroom, the dealer’s servicing rates are going to be sky high too. Also wouldn’t you panic every time you left it in the supermarket car park in case someone dinged it? Why have all that stress? So here’s a few good reasons why you should buy a used car.

1. Used Cars are cheap

Yes they are great value. Indeed, there are plenty of websites to surf for brilliant used cars and you’ll find more than 160,000 of them at Gumtree, so you should start looking right now. Make sure that you always pay cash and never borrow money to finance the car, that way you will be spending what you can actually afford. Just imagine if you did borrow money to buy a heap and it stopped working soon afterwards. You would then have that entire easy payment period (be it 12, 24 or 26 months) to regret that decision. Spending what you can afford will always concentrate the mind wonderfully, ensuring that you will buy the best possible car. 

2.Used Cars mean you can spend more money on other stuff…

The money you save, especially on depreciation could be spent on lots of other things, like new kitchens, holidays and generally having fun. If you are really into cars then you could also buy that classic you always promised yourself, or that hardcore trackday sports car for some downtime fun.

3.Used Cars can teach you new skills…

Changing oil, plugs and filters is within all our capabilities given a Haynes manual from the Oxfam Shop. However, finding a good local mechanic rather than paying through the nose for a franchised dealer charging loads an hour (as new car owners soon find out) is the key if you don't fancy getting your hands dirty. Meanwhile the MOT helps to ensure that the car is safe. Yes you learn some skills, waste less money and have a new topic of dinner party conversation.

4.Used Cars are Green.

Buying used amounts to recycling because the natural resources and energy used in building a new car is phenomenal. So prolonging the life of and disposing responsibly of a used car is very green indeed. Why throw away a car that still works? You wouldn’t demolish a house just because you moved to another one. If there is life left in it, sell or give it to someone else.

5. Used Cars are really cool…

Automotive downshifting has never been less painful or more financially sensible. So what could you buy for just a few thousand or much or less? Take a look around around you. Ford Mondeos that are nice to drive, but cheap to own and fix. Then there are Volkswagen Passats that look very classy and Toyota Corollas that don’t, but which won’t break down. If you want to indulge in some automotive snobbery, as old Mercedes, BMWs and Audis are very  durable, and über cool.

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