Motoring: A new car? You might as well wait until September

IF YOU bought a car this month, you will probably have paid less and received a better-prepared vehicle than if you had waited until August. You will probably get a better first service, too. Mechanically, the cars are likely to be identical. They may even have come down the production line on the same day. Yet, thanks to a letter on the number plate - and nothing else - July's car is a very different proposition from August's.

The August plate change started back in 1967, after bleatings from the motor industry that it needed help in the summer, when car sales were at their lowest. The Government, ever keen to help the car lobby, naturally obliged. It was a silly decision. And, as the years roll by, it becomes more stupid.

Now, almost a quarter of all cars sold throughout the year are shifted in August. For some smaller garages, which deal almost exclusively with private buyers (as opposed to fleet buyers, who are less concerned about the plate change), the figure is nearer one-third. The result is garages, staffed to meet the average needs of trade throughout the year, are stretched to breaking point (often beyond) in August.

Some cars do not get pre-delivery inspections (PDIs) at all. Which means they go straight from the factory to the customer without any check. They simply get cleaned.

As so many cars go out at the same time, they come back for their first service at similar times. If you collect your car in early August, you're likely to get a more rushed, and thus inferior, initial service.

The August buyer will pay more, because dealers know there's kudos in the new registration letter, and, naturally, the buyer pays for it. Whereas a July buyer can expect a 10 per cent discount, the August buyer will do well to receive half that. Don't expect too much pomp and politeness about buying in August either; the salesman just doesn't have time to indulge in forecourt foreplay. He wants to tie up a deal fast.

There's a quid pro quo, of course. Come trade-in time, the newer number plate (no matter that it's affixed to a car of similar vintage) will yield more than the older one. The values reflect those of the number plate, rather than those of the car. Which is patently absurd.

Finally, despite what the number plate says, August cars are often outdated. When the car companies return from their summer breaks, they usually start to build vehicles revised for the coming model year. In some cases, it may be a brand new car. More often, there are trim revisions, possibly new engines, maybe a facelift. The new models start to filter through to the dealers in late September or October - a far more sensible time to buy than August.

Given that the August number plate change is bad for the car maker, the dealer and the buyer, you kind of wonder why it's not scrapped. Maybe the Government is simply waiting for the motor industry to tell it what to do. If only it would listen to common sense instead, we'd all be better off.

IF THE foregoing isn't enough to deter you, let me give you some tips for the August sales spree:

City Car/Small Car: Fiat Cinquecento ( pounds 4,990). It's not only fun to drive - sticky gear change notwithstanding - but is easy to park, outstandingly roomy for its size and cheaper than a Mini.

Fiesta class: You can't beat the new British-built (but don't be fooled, Japanese-designed) Nissan Micra. Prices start at pounds 6,890. It is delightfully easy to drive, looks cute and is well made.

Escort class: The Citroen ZX (from pounds 8,445) is a superb all-rounder: roomy, comfortable and well made. Pity it looks so anonymous.

Mondeo class: The Ford Mondeo (from pounds 11,200) could do with a little more leg room in the rear, but it is refined and has tremendous on-

road composure.

Executive class: You just can't do better than a Jag. For only pounds 26,200, you get a different motoring experience: gorgeous cabin, silken ride, distinctive styling. A recent US quality study rated Jaguar above BMW. If you have lots more to spend - pounds 46,600 - try the V12

version.

Estate car: The world's best estate is undoubtedly a Mercedes TE (from pounds 23,400). If that's out of your range, try a Mondeo estate (from pounds 12,200).

Off-Roader: I'd recommend the good value, characterful, well-

equipped and tough Jeep Cherokee (from pounds 15,995). It's a lot of car for the money.

Sports car: Mazda MX-5 ( pounds 16,490) if you want an open roof, Volkswagen Corrado VR6 ( pounds 20,695) if you don't, and Porsche 911 Carrera 2 ( pounds 50,450) if you're rich and simply want to have fun.

Fast hatch: A class that's on the wane now, thanks to the twin (and not dissociated) efforts of both joyriders and the insurance companies. The class best is the VW Golf VR6 ( pounds 18,740). If that's too much, try the Renault Clio 16V ( pounds 12,725).

Mini van/people carrier: The original is still the best. The Renault Espace (from pounds 15,785) has had some recent revisions that have taken it even further away from Japanese imitators. It's roomy enough for seven, looks great, and gives a commanding driving position.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

    Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?