Saturday 17 July 2010

Our car

Some readers may be surprised to learn that we own a car. After all, we don't write much about it, and I've occasionally mentioned how I'm not a particularly enthusiastic driver.

While we own a car, we don't actually use it much. Really, really, not much, at all.

We bought our car from a German who moved near our old home in Cambridge. He wanted a right hand drive car, and we thought a left hand drive car sounded ideal for after we'd emigrated. So we bought it from him and drove it (occasionally) in the UK for a short period, getting used to sitting on "the wrong side", before we emigrated.

We moved into our new home in Assen on the last week of August 2007. We arrived here in our car which we took on the ferry with us. Until yesterday, the last time the car was driven was in the first week of September 2007, when we took a few empty boxes and an old carpet from our new home to the local dump. After that it stood still.

After a year or so I thought to try the engine and of course nothing happened because the battery was dead. We didn't do anything about it at the time, because, well, we'd lived without it for a year, and it really wasn't a problem at all not to have a car in this city. We do all our shopping by bike, I commute by bike, our children go to school and visit friends by bike.

This year the car started looking a bit less healthy. A bit of green stuff was growing around the windows, and on opening the door there was an unpleasant smell inside. It makes no sense at all to have the thing simply rot away on the drive-way, so we had to do something with it.

A few days ago a local garage collected it and fixed it for us. Yesterday I took it (with a temporary number plate) from the garage for an inspection so that we can get a proper Dutch registration plate, and eventually a number will be allocated and we'll be able to get it properly on the road.

I think the novelty will mean we will use it a bit. But I have absolutely no desire to drive every day.

So far it has been surprisingly cheap to register the car for use. The costs of driving are not particularly high in this country, and petrol is about the same price as in the UK. Driving is easy in the Netherlands. However, you just don't "need" a car here.

It's very easy to live "car free" in the Netherlands. We managed it, almost by accident, even though we owned a car !

Our car still has a "Give Cyclists Room" sticker on the back. I organised a group purchase when we lived in Cambridge. It seems a bit redundant here.

And yes, there's also a bike in the back of it. I rode one of our cheapo folders to the garage to pick the car up yesterday morning.

So there you go. We have a car. A practical, boring, cheap one, which (even though it wasn't something I'd thought of when we bought it) has enough space on the roof to transport a Mango. And today I'm again leaving it on the drive-way while I ride my bicycle to work.

A couple of months later I got around to buying some petrol for the car, and working out what this actually entailed. Read about it here.

In the background of the first photo you'll see cars of our neighbours. They all cycle too, of course, for at least some of their journeys. It's quite possible to be both a driver and a cyclist. There is no "them and us" between cyclists and motorists in the Netherlands.


Wilfred Ketelaar said...

Why don't you sell it? If you haven't used it for a year, you don't use it at all (I think). And if you ever find yourself in the situation that you NEED a car, you can rent or borrow one. Or you can use (car-on-demand).

l' homme au velo said...

Why dont you sell the Redundant Car now that it is Surplus to your requirements and it is in good condition . It has been checked out by the Garage and the Government and it is fit for use. Cars keep loosing there Value from the moment you buy the things so get Rid Pronto,and make a bit of Money out of it.

David Hembrow said...

You both make a good point, and of course we've considered selling it. Indeed, it's probably what we'll do after a few weeks of enjoying the novelty of the thing. However, it's not worth all that much.

Anyone out there want a 1998 Skoda Felicia ? (cue silence apart from sound of the wind blowing ominously...)

Geruman said...

I guess it has about 80000km / 50000 miles? Where can you get a cheap 12 year old car with such low milage. And the A-pilar is surprisingly unobstructive...

Anonymous said...

Just *give* the darn thing away, or sell it for scrap. Even if you keep it sitting in your garage, rotting away, it will cost you money. Road tax, ensurance (together about 60 euros a month, 700 a year) and if you occasionally drive the thing, you need other ensurance as well (rechtsbijstand and schadeverzekering inzittenden - sorry, don't know the english terms for these - for instance) and then you'll need to make sure the thing runs and all. All this could easily cost you around 150 euro a month, or 1800 a year.

For that kind of money, you could easily take a taxi, the two, three times a year you really, truly, desperately need a car.

Just sayin'... :-)


Kevin Love said...

Here in Toronto, there are considerable fixed costs to owning a car, even if it is not driven. Car insurance costs about $2,000 per year, registration costs $137 per year and car parking costs about $2,800 per year.

If one actually DRIVES the car, the costs increase.

WildNorthlands said...

The sad truth is, if you have a car and you don't use it, they do tend to deteriorate as they rot gently in the driveway. My car is now 15 years old, has done about 80,000 miles, and seems to cost me as much in garage bills as it would do if I used it every day! I save a lot in petrol costs though - about £40 a month I reckon.