Tax free: used cars that are good for £0 road fund licence
Say good-bye forever to paying for road tax with this line-up. They'll also keep fuel bills lowFree road tax. Has a great, beat-the-system sound to it, dsn’t it? But now there’s a growing band of cars to buy second-hand that, by dint of their low exhaust emissions, can give you just that.
Any vehicle that pumps out below 100g/km of carbon dioxide is eligible, writes Ray Castle of motors.co.uk. It’ll still need to wear a tax disc, which you’ll apply for as you usually do. It’s just that you’ll not need to pay for it.
And along with those low emissions come amazing fuel economy: better than 70mpg from a conventionally powered, five-seater car.
Right now, your choice lies between small cars or hybrid cars that use a combination of petrol and electric motors. However, Ford has just launched a version of its Focus family hatchback that’ll qualify, while a similar Volkswagen Golf is just weeks away from UK sale.
Here’s the motors.co.uk guide to the best of these cars, bought second-hand.
Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion
Pay £9699 for a 2009, 58-reg, Bluemotion 1, 3dr, 14,000 miles
This model, introduced two years back, was the first conventional car of its type to sneak under the 100g/km emissions band. VW achieved its 99g/km by remapping the 1.4-litre diesel engine’s management electronics to run lean while reworking the gearbox so that the engine turns more slowly when in the higher gears. At the same time, the car sits on easy-roll tyres while its suspension is set so that the car runs closer than usual to the road – to help it slip through the air more easily. It also carries a series of body modifications to allow it to become more of a wind cheater.
To drive, this little VW feels lively and pretty normal. Those tall upper gears mean you’ll downshift often to press on or to plug up hills but otherwise its 79bhp diesel gives it more than enough pep. Keep in mind, though, that to get the air conditioning that more and more drivers now demand, you’ll need to find a Bluemotion 2 – the ‘1’ model dsn’t have it.
Ford Fiesta Econetic
Pay £9300 for a 2008, 58-reg Fiesta Econetic 3dr, 7000 miles
Ford’s answer to the Bluemotion. The engineering is similar: a 1.6 89bhp diesel engine that benefits from a series of tweaks, a gearbox revised to improve fuel economy plus a series of other minor changes to the body, ride settings and tyres. The result is an official emissions figure of 98k/km – 1g/km lower than the Polo’s – and promised all-up fuel economy of 70mpg or better.
This car feels sharper to drive than the Polo, responding more crisply to inputs from the wheel or pedals, while its extra engine power gives another welcome advantage.
Fiestas lose value more quickly over the early months of life than Volkswagens do and the Fiesta offers keener value here for that reason. The Ford here is better to drive but the VW has the classier image: you decide which matters more.
Seat Ibiza Ecomotive
Pay £8190 for a 2008, 08-reg, 14000 miles
Little Spanish eco-car shares its engine and running gear with the Polo. But it was over £1000 cheaper than the VW when new and maintains that price gap. It is also better equipped, too, because air conditioning is fitted as standard. To drive, the two cars feel alike, although the Ibiza is noisier. And, also, because it is based on the old-model Ibiza, the cabin looks and feels cheap and drab in competition with the others here. Still, it offers undeniably strong value.
Pay £18,980 for a 2009, 09-reg, T4, 4000 miles
Newest version of this hybrid, which harnesses power from an electric motor and a petrol engine, emits just 92g/km and promises up to 72mpg overall. And when you reckon that, unlike the others here, this is a full-sized family car, that’s good going. The Prius works by using the petrol engine to charge batteries hidden under the rear seat and also by scavenging power back when braking. When charged sufficiently, the batteries allow the electric motor to help out when the car is accelerating or, at low speeds, to take over the engine’s work. When that happens, the Prius glides along near-silently. This feels weird at first and the Prius is generally unlike any other car to drive. It’s not bad; just different.
...there’s another way to legally avoid paying road tax: buy a classic car. Any vehicle built before the start of 1973 is exempt. As with a low-emissions car, you must still apply for road tax, prove you have insurance and a valid MoT certificate and display a disc. How about a 1972 Triumph Stag convertible for just under £5000? Or a 1971 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow for £12,995? Whatever you buy, it’ll be tax free.
For more great car buying advice, and to view and buy cars just like the ones we’ve recommended here, go to motors.co.uk