Posted on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
It was never much to look at, but I was sorry to see it go. On the mean streets of Hampstead, my 13 year old Peugeot 406 diesel estate (42mpg) has reached the end of the road. At first it looked like a case for Autoglass, but on closer inspection, the thief-cum-vandal had jemmied the door so badly it would have cost more to repair the car than to scrap it. The insurance man sighed at the needless waste and declared a total loss. But perhaps the scumbag who trashed my motor has actually done me a favour?
I’ve been pushing a kind of 12-step addiction programme for drivers ever since The Last Oil Shock was published in 2007 – urging people try to halve their annual mileage over five years as a way of preparing for peak oil – but frankly often found it hard to practice what I preach. For a couple of years my mileage was stuck at about 5 thousand, around half the UK average, and last year, when I managed to get it down to under 3 thousand, it was more to do with changing circumstances than any radical re-engineering of my life.
The stubborn remaining miles have been made up of visiting friends in less accessible parts of the country; hauling lumber salvaged from various skips to build a greenhouse on the allotment; and yes, I admit it, the occasional trip to the supermarket just down the road. That’s the thing about owning a car: it’s incredibly useful, but insidious.
But at what cost? The insurance was just coming up for renewal at £500, along with the road tax (£200), MOT (£100, at least), and residents parking (£100), and then there’s the diesel, which last year totaled £400. Had it not been for my new friend the scumbag, this year the motor would have set me back £1300 at the very least, even before anything else went wrong. And, as I have learned from running the old banger, it almost certainly would.
What was I thinking? Thirteen hundred quid is an awful lot of taxis or car hire. So that’s me from now on. Whenever I need four wheels I’ll be down to Streetcar (£5 per hour all-in), and the rest of the time it’s back to public transport or the bike. And because of the extra bit of effort needed to get behind the wheel, I bet I’ll be driving a whole lot less. But ask me how I’m getting on this time next year. Maybe after a winter cycling in all weathers I’ll have decided to shell out on a shiny new EV.