The Non-Mad Way to Run a Car in London

Driving in London is hard work – I should know.

In this Guest Post Daniel Solomou promotes the use of the Toyota Aygo and has some sage advice for London motorists, you could, of course, jump in a cab.

When you approach the subject of running a car in London (particularly central London) the overwhelming response is usually “You’re mad”. This usually being due to . . .

The Cost
You’ll be told how expensive your insurance will be (£985 on average in inner London) and how much it costs to park (£38.20 for 4-24 hours at an NCP). Not to mention the £9 due every day you go inside the Congestion Charge Zone; the amount of parking attendants waiting to slap a fine on you if you park too long; the cost of fuel (currently just less than 130p per litre) and indeed the amount you will need to spend on your road tax, MOT and servicing etc. Some people will also point out…

The Alternatives
You’ll be told about the virtues of the various Car Clubs available in London, such as Zip Car, Car Club and Streetcar Club, who all offer hourly rates of car hire once you’re a member (e.g. £6/hr and £54/day.

There will also be many ready to wax lyrically about the benefits of public transport on financial, environmental and convenience grounds and as a way of avoiding London’s gruesome traffic jams.

They’re all fair points and well made, but what if you HAVE to run a car in London?

Reasons could include the arrival of a new baby, the needs of an elderly or disabled relative, or perhaps due to you having a small business, whatever. So what’s the best way to run a car when all signs still point to “DON’T”?

1. Subscribe to ‘Bangernomics’
‘Bangernomics’ is essentially the practice of minimising your expenditure on everything related to your car, particularly the car itself.

For example with this approach you would purchase perhaps a 15 year old diesel Ford Mondeo estate for a couple of hundred pounds. Your insurance costs would be minimal (even in central London it could be roughly £400 per year) due to the undesirable nature of the vehicle and fuel costs would be low, as even old diesels tend to get great mileage.

You can’t do much about the Congestion Charge or the parking costs etc. but with ‘Bangernomics’ you take such a big chunk out of the cost of running the car your bank balance will still look pretty sane.

You do have to drive a banger around all the time though. And it is likely to break down a bit, but then parts are cheaper too for such a common car.

2. Choose a Hybrid Car
If you wouldn’t be seen dead driving a banger around all day then you should consider opting for a hybrid car. You do get to enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling knowing you are doing your bit to help the environment, but more importantly they offer drivers numerous financial benefits.

Many hybrids boast the ability to cut fuel expenditure by using 15-20 per cent less fuel per mile.

For Londoners bitterly opposed to the Congestion Charge, those with certain hybrids enjoy the ‘Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles Discount’ which is currently a discount of 100 per cent.

As Road Tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) is based on emissions, owners of a typical hybrid sit in a bracket effectively 4 notches lower than non-hybrid vehicles.

Hybrids tend to have much higher re-sale values when compared with non-hybrids of the same age. While some cars lose 20 per cent of their value the second they’re driven out of the showroom, hybrids may only lose 10 per cent over 3 years. This is due to hybrids ability to maintain the same level of fuel efficiency over many years and the fact they are easier to maintain and more durable.

If your choice of hybrid qualifies as an ‘ultra-low emissions’ car, the government may be able to offer you their Plug-in Car Grant to cover 25 per cent of the cost of the vehicle, up to a maximum of £5,000.

Also, as hybrids have been around since 1997, you can now buy one second hand. Saving you a bit on the upfront cost too. Or if you just have to have the latest model, there are an increasing number of hybrid car offers available thanks to the number of new brands offering hybrid models leading to increase competition.

3. Be Generally Smarter
Once you have selected your new/old non-mad car for driving in London, all you have to do is to make smart choices when out and about.

· Don’t go in the Congestion Charge Zone if you can help it
· Don’t park in a multi-story car park for 24 hours
· Don’t park illegally
· Do consider sharing journeys with friends/colleagues
· Do shop around for the cheapest petrol station in your area (usually a supermarket)
· Do compare your car insurance to ensure you have the best deal

With the right car and by making sure you use common sense when out and about, you can easily run a car in London without being considered mad.

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