112000 miles – BACKBLOG from 2014

14th November 2014 7.30 pm; M25 between Junction 29 and Dartford Crossing

My most expensive purchase ever was a new Renault Megane in May 1999. (House prices were a lot lower when we bought our house!) It replaced a 10 year old Renault 19 which had been my wife’s company car for 4 years when we bought it. It’s now the oldest car we’ve ever owned. Apart from my wife’s very first car, which we sold at 13 and half years old, all its predecessors had been sold or scrapped between 9 and 12 years old. Compared to the cars we had made in 1950s, 60s and 70s, it’s very durable and economical. THEY used much more petrol and burnt oil; they needed replacement water pumps and clutches every 30,000 miles; they rusted more and several had manufacturing or design faults. The Renault 4 my wife bought in 1976 was a revelation; it still rusted, and its roof had to be repainted, paid for by Renault, but its parts lasted much better. It was very unconventional, but that wasn’t a problem. Two examples: the headlights could be changed from RHD to LHD very easily without extra parts and I replaced the entire exhaust system without going under the car. The back wheels had a wider track than the front wheels and the two back wheels weren’t exactly opposite each other; but it worked.
Back to the Megane: Every summer for the last 15 years we’ve driven it from Harold Wood to Brno in the Czech Republic, where our granddaughter lives. The outward journey involves a couple of nights stop in Metz, eastern France, where my sister lives. That is less than a days drive from Harold Wood. Metz to Brno is just under 1000km and can also be driven in a day, with 2 drivers taking turns. One arrives in Brno in the mid-evening. It’s easier to do it on a Sunday, when long-distance lorry traffic is banned from the German autobahns. Lots of foreign lorries are parked up in service stations for Sunday. Sometimes we make extra stops and try to see more towns when we do so. We’ve stopped as Ansbach, Ulm and Amberg in Germany. Stops in France have included St. Avold, Rheims, St Quentin, Cambrai, Laon and Bethune. I reckon the car has done about 30% of its mileage on the right hand side of the road. We’ve got pretty used to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
I also got pretty good at finding my way around Brno and Metz. For a couple of years in Metz this was a particular challenge. Added to the usual problems of two motorways, railways and multiple branches of the Moselle, they were building a BRT system, where very long tram-like busses run on reserved tracks. One evening we found that we had to make a very long detour round several suburbs where the main roads were closed for construction work.
In 2009-10 Alastair Darling introduced the scrappage scheme to encourage purchase of new cars. My Megane would have qualified but it had plenty of life left in it, so I really didn’t want to lose it. Also having to put down more than £10k of my own money to benefit from a £2k grant didn’t seem to make much sense.
Conventional wisdom is that you keep a new car for three years. It doesn’t go wrong and you benefit from other sweeteners that were given to a new car owner. I think there is another way. You keep it for much longer; you will have to pay for some repairs but the depreciation is less that £1k per year – down to the same level as annual tax + insurance.



Printed (distributed) by Automattic Inc. 132 Hawthorne St. San Francisco, CA 94107. Published and promoted by G.R.Potter on behalf of I.V.Sanderson (Liberal Democrats),both at 11 Cedric Avenue,ROMFORD, RM1 4JL.


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