Posts Tagged ‘England’

So, in the grand scheme of things, life has happened.  Where I once lived in Hong Kong, I now live in England.  The move was a strategic one for my career, but that’s a story for another day.  What I want to share with you is my experiences around one of life’s basic necessities – owning a car.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate in the past, as I had access to a car from the moment that I passed my driving test.  For those unfamiliar with South African roads and public transport, having your own car is more beneficial than one can believe.  I drove a Fiat Palio 1.2l, and she was my first love.  How could she not be after having passed my driver’s on Valentine’s Day?  For the rest of my final year in high school, I felt more independent than ever before, and having the ability to drive around and take care of myself became part of my identity.  There was just something infinitely cool about driving home from school on a sunny Friday afternoon, AC/DC blasting from the stereo, and thoughts of the possibly epic weekend that lay ahead.

With only my phone's camera at hand, I used to love snapping pictures of Patricia.

Then, I matriculated and I was off to University.  My little Palio just wouldn’t cut the mustard anymore, not with the long haul drives that I would now be doing on a fairly regular basis.  At least, this was my parents’ logic, as I have seen the mighty Palio perform well in this area before.  Knowing that it was more for safety than anything else, we hit the car market, where I sadly bid farewell to Patricia the Palio and greeted Chewbacca the Opel Astra 2.0l (so named because of the little noise he developed on the odd occasion over the years as he pulled off from a stop sign).

The Astra was in my life from age 19 to 25, right through university and loyally awaiting my return home after I left for Hong Kong.  And despite the many memories that we had made together, a truth had to be faced.  With my long absences – much longer than anticipated – poor Chewbacca was sitting alone in the garage, aging and not being looked after, the wheels slowly going square and the battery dying.  Chewy belonged on the road, not dying a disgraceful death in some garage.  So, I’d agreed to sell him, it was for his own good really, and I do need the cash to buy something for England.

Weirdly, the day that my Dad took the car in to the dealer to be evaluated, he bumped into one of my friends from high school.  Coincidentally, he was looking to buy a car, and my Dad was looking to sell one.  They struck up a deal on the spot, and not two hours after leaving my garage the car was sold.  That’s how special a car Chewbacca is.  I had mixed feelings about the whole thing.  On one hand, he was my loyal steed, and I didn’t even have a chance to say good-bye properly.  On the other, he was going to someone that I knew well, and I know that ol’ Chewy will be looked after.

Ol' Faithful Chewbacca the Astra

Now with the cash in hand from the sale, I’ve been looking to buy something in England.  Used cars in England are relatively cheap, and I can get a pretty good car for the money that I got from selling the Astra.  There is always a catch though, and in this case it was a particularly frustrating one.  It is illegal to drive a car without being insured, a valid and important system to have I believe, but car insurance rates have risen to a point where unless you can actually afford a really good car, insurance is just too expensive.  The following two links explain this phenomenon a bit further:

Car Insurance costs soar 15%

Car Insurance going up due to whiplash claims

As an experiment, I tried to insure a Ford KA costing £394 (not that I was ever considering buying this).  The cheapest quote that I got back was £674.  Now, quotes do go according to driver age and experience, and fortunately being over 25 costs should go down for me, but for anyone younger than 25 the costs are just insane.  Even if you agree to pay an excess of £500, you’re still in a unique situation.  If I were to claim on insurance in this scenario, not only would I be paying close to twice the value of the car in insurance, I would still have to pay an excess of £500 before seeing any claim for that car come through.  The only time these numbers make any kind of sense is when you start getting the cost ratios correct, i.e. that you’re spending enough cash on the car for it to be worthwhile insuring.

This in turn nullifies the positives behind having cheap second-hand cars.  Even if it is in good condition and has low mileage, it makes absolutely no sense to buy cheap.  So now I find myself in a position where I have sold my car only to find that I can’t actually afford anything half-decent here.

Then again, I have been wrong before, and I’m really hoping that I am wrong again now.  I’m going car shopping on Thursday to see if I can get some hands-on experience with this market and you can expect a report on that soon.  Having completed my rant, I must leave you to rant about something else.

Keep on driving.