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Finally, despite what the number plate says, August cars are often outdated.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)

PROMOTED VIDEO
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

    Opilio Recruitment: Full Stack Software Developer

    £35k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

    Opilio Recruitment: Senior Developer

    £50k - 60k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We have an exciting Seni...

    Opilio Recruitment: Senior Front End Developer

    £50k - 70k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We have an exciting Seni...

    Opilio Recruitment: Senior Digital Designer

    £50k - 55k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity ...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game