Getting a refund on your tax disc

If you are getting rid of your car and you’ve already paid your taxes on it, you can get a refund on the unused portion of the tax.  However, you need to do this as soon as possible.  We found this out too late and lost two months’ worth of taxes when we left our car on the drive for over a month.

If your car is no longer roadworthy and you are keeping it off public road until such time as you will actually have sold or given it to a scrappage company, you should declare a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification).  This lets the DVLA know that you do not intend to drive it.

At the same time or later, you can apply for a refund for the tax you have already paid.  However, you cannot apply for a refund if the vehicle has been taxed within 21 days.  You will need to complete the V14 form, “Application for a refund of vehicle tax”.  It is the same form where you declare a SORN.

You can also claim a refund if your car has been scrapped, exported, stolen, sold or transferred, or if you changed the class of car ot a nil value tax class (such as “Disabled”).  However, you will need to turn in the tax disc in order to get a refund.  If it has been scrapped, you need a “Certificate of Destruction – your questions answered” (INF156). If it is sold, transferred or exported, you will need to return the V5C (Registration Certificate) with the relevant sections filled in.  If it is stolen, you will need to report it to the police, who will inform the DVLA.  Similarly, if you change it to a nil value tax class, you will need to do this before applying for the refund.

Some things to keep in mind: 1) in order to get a full refund for each full calendar month left on the tax disc, you need to return the form to the DVLA before the first day of the month you want the refund from; 2) you will not be refunded if you have less than a calendar month left on the tax disc; 3) if you bought a 6-month tax disc, there is a 10% surcharge that will not be refunded; 4) you should receive a refund within 30 working days – if not, contact DVLA; 5) you cannot drive the car or keep it on public roads if you receive a refund (no tax disc) unless you tax it again.

What is the purpose of having a car?

We have learned that sometimes it is a necessity to get from Point A to Point B. That is our primary purpose for having a car. Living a thrifty lifestyle means foregoing luxury and style if it is not necessary. And a car is not necessary for that purpose. After all, most cars are not collectible – they do not hold their value regardless of how well you have kept it up.

Those beautiful sports cars, luxury sedans, oversized SUVs, and many others have the disadvantage of not only costing a lot at purchase, but also in maintenance. They drink too much fuel and they are a pain to insure. Tax is probably quite heavy as well. Then, of course, there is the added risk that they will be stolen. Most thieves would not target that beat-up rust bucket, unless they just finished a bank robbery and needed a quick get-away car that they forgot to provide beforehand.

Because we do not like empty pockets, yet we need our own transportation when public transport is not available or is too costly or inefficient, we do have a car. Only one. And even though it has not quite reached rust bucket age, it is old enough to be one. So, we have that to look forward to. Yes, it has broken down a few times, but thankfully, we have the RAC. Of course, once it sputters its last breath, we will be in search of another to replace it. Believe me, it would still have to be a cheap reliable car with some life left. In our experience, Japanese cars have good long life. I can’t speak from first-hand experience of other car makes, but second-hand experience tells us to avoid many of them.

Some might argue that they need a truck or a large car in order to haul things around. Unless you are in the habit of hauling large items around, this might not be a very economical decision. Many places deliver, sometimes for a fee, or you can always rent a van when necessary. Having a large truck, for which you must insure and maintain, can be expensive. Also, regularly driving it around town on those narrow roads is nerve-racking, to yourself and others.

In England, manuals are much more common than automatics, so they tend to be cheaper. It would be a good idea to learn to drive a manual, but we have been driving automatics so long that I’m afraid you can’t teach this old dog a new trick.

Don’t be fooled by that diesel trick

When we rented a car in the UK, we were told to pick the diesel vehicle as it was great on mileage. OK. So it got pretty good mileage. But did you see the price of diesel? It was about 12p per liter more than unleaded fuel. That really adds up.

We were later informed that it would only make sense to get a diesel car if you were inclined to make heavy mileage, though, the exact figures were not forthcoming. However, recently, I saw an article about how long it would take to begin seeing a savings on a diesel car. First of all, diesel cars start out more expensive. So that needs to be worked into the cost. The article compared 4 different cars, in 4 different classes. The cheapest one took nearly a decade to turn over into a cost-savings investment. That is, if you are doing average mileage. It would be a bit sooner if you did excessive mileage, maybe a year or two sooner.

So, unless you own the vehicle for that long a period, it definitely is not worth getting a diesel car. And if you are going to rent a car for a week or two, it makes absolutely no sense to be persuaded to take a diesel vehicle.

Selling off that good, reliable car

That little car has served you well.  It’s been with you through thick and thin.  It’s like a loyal pet or a best friend.  Now you have to consider parting with it.  It’s hard to say goodbye, but you need to consider your pocketbook.  If you are looking to sell your car, there are several things you can do to help increase its value. Or, at least, to get the best price possible. Unfortunately, the best that you can do is to maintain a service history, and unless you have kept this up with a good record, you cannot change it. Having said that, if your car has been maintained well, it will definitely show in the performance when someone takes it for a test drive.

However, to make it appear to advantage, a good clean, inside and out, before it is viewed will make a good impression. Any small repairs to the bodywork should be undertaken. Make a list of any known faults and if it can be corrected without costing you an arm and a leg, or which would not exceed the cost of the car, try to fix it. If you are planning to see your car for only a few hundred, it might not be worth the effort. Make sure that the list is available in case any prospective buyer wishes to know. Showing that you are honest about any faults will engender trust and gives the buyer the impression that he/she is not being ripped off.

Be sure to have all MOT, tax and insurance up-to-date. If the MOT or tax are due soon, go ahead and take care of it so that the buyer will not have to worry about it. They will also be more likely to want it if they do not feel they have to put money in immediately after the purchase.

Be realistic about your price. There are guides available to valuate the price of a car, given its make, model and condition. Stay around the ballpark and be ready for some haggling. If you want to attract more attention, market your car. Advertise in the papers and on the internet, not just on your car. If possible, include a good picture. Some advertising papers may offer free advertising service.

With the recession, it is best to keep that old car until it is no longer serviceable. However, if you have more than one vehicle, it would make sense to downsize. Choosing which vehicle to sell and which to keep is a personal decision. Yet, try to be practical. In these times, people are less likely to buy a more expensive car. But, they will be willing to pay money for a good used car that will not be too expensive to maintain. Also, consider your needs and which car will satisfy that need best.

Update on parking in Haywards Heath

As mentioned previously, there are several free parking areas in Haywards Heath. We’ve discovered a couple other places that you can park for a limited time without paying. New England Road, just off Hazelgrove Road, near the Tesco Pay and Display lot has parking for one hour. Also, Sydney Road, off the Commercial Square, has two hour parking and it is near some of the smaller shops a little way from the town center. This is also near to the Haywards Heath railway station.

UK Car Rental

If you plan to rent a car in the UK, there are several things you will need to keep in mind. We learned the hard way and had to pay over the top. Hopefully, the information here will help others avoid the same mistakes we made. 

First of all, the cost of renting a car directly from the airport is greater than in town. This is due to all the airport fees and taxes, etc. (We noticed on our receipt a “Premium Location Fee” in excess of GBP 30, simply because the car was rented from London Heathrow).  Of course, big cities, like London, may impose some taxes as well. So it’s best to rent from outlying areas and not directly in the city center. However, the convenience of taking a shuttle from the airport to the rental lot is hard to resist. Keep in mind, though, that a bus ride or taxi, although less convenient, may save you quite a lot in the long run. This applies mostly to long rentals, but depending on the extras you might need, it can apply to short rentals as well.

Secondly, booking online saves time in queues as well as money. Discounts are usually offered only if you book online. If you book online, make sure you go ahead and book for the insurance. This may sound unnecessary but it will save a headache later. We found out that if you do not book insurance online and add it later, it costs even more.  However, if you find you do not need the insurance, you can drop it when you get to the counter.

If you do not have insurance coverage for UK rental, you are obliged to purchase the insurance. Yet, the insurance you purchase with the rental company is only basic coverage. That means that in the event of damage or loss, you still have a high deductible to meet – somewhere in the region of 500-650 pounds sterling. You can reduce this deductible by paying an extra fee. (This is unlike the US, where buying car rental insurance gives you peace of mind in cases of damage or loss.)  You have to prove that you have insurance coverage in order to waive the rental company’s insurance.

To reserve the rental, you must use a credit or debit card. The only credit cards accepted worldwide are Visa and Mastercard (at the time of writing, UK car rental companies do not accept Discover).  If you use a credit card, they put a hold for the entire amount on the credit card. This includes the cost of the rental with all its fees as well as the deductible. You may choose a different method of payment when you return the car, if you wish. If you use a debit card, the entire amount is deducted from your account. If there are no claims later, they will return the deductible to your account. This can be very inconvenient if your account is at risk of being drained during the rental period.

It sounds so simple now, but it wasn’t so simple when we first relocated to the UK. We had rented on vacation previously, but things had changed since then. Plus, our situation had changed. The information above is based on our experiences of renting as of the last two months.