Driving down the M1 this morning, I was reminded that nobody drives a new car. If that sounds a bit confusing then let me explain. Of course there was the usual smattering of ‘07’ cars crawling through the early morning traffic but technically even these should now be considered used cars. The problem with cars is that the moment you register one it becomes a used car. If you don’t believe me then try getting a dealer to refund your money if you decide you don’t like what you have just bought after a couple of days.
This may sound like idle thoughts that had just sprung into my mind as I made my journey south today, but there is a serious point. Since the move away from the once a year change of registration numbers on 1 August the new system of twice yearly changes on 1 March and 1 September the whole issue of dating a car from its number plate has become a whole lot more confusing.
As a kid I used to enjoy my walk to school on 1 August as I competed with my mates to spot the first ‘new car’ on the road. Dealers and punters joined in the fun by opening their showroom doors at midnight so customers could take delivery of their new car on the stroke of midnight and join in my game. But those days have long gone, you won’t find your local Ford dealer throwing a party in the wee small hours just so you can get out and about in your new Ford Focus, you can wait like the rest of them until 9am when they open their doors!
All this starts to point to one thing, the vanity value of a ‘brand new plate’ may have been diminished by government policy but the interest in having a personalised plate has become far greater. Not only does a personal plate give an opportunity to express a bit more of your personality but often disguises the age of the car. Onlookers become less fixated by the age of the car you are driving and more interested in what you drive. To me a Jaguar XJ is a great car, whether its 2 years old or ten years old, and having the right personalised plate allows you to enjoy that fact.
Of course by now you’ll probably know I’m a big fan of second hand cars, I write about them every week in mySunday Times column, I have a driveway full of them outside my house and I even present a TV show that talks about nothing else but them.
Which brings me back to the reason I was sat on the M1 this morning, in fact I shouldn’t actually have been there; I should have been at home with my wife having breakfast, but sometimes life is just not like that. The reason for my change in plans was that the day before I was stood in a TV studio in Leeds filming the first episode of the new series of Used Car Roadshow. We should have finished at 6pm, which would have seen me home by 10.30pm but through a combination of fluffed lines, failing microphones and general teething problems I was still in the studio at 11pm.