How much does it really cost to operate a fleet of old cars
What is life really like with multiple hangars – is it financially viable or is it a money pit? Let me take you through the realities
Daydreaming side, it is not uncommon to fantasize about the management of a fleet of vehicles. Something for every occasion, powered and ready to go. Granted, this is usually a highly polished exotica, not a bunch of rusty sh-tboxes, but the same principle applies. What happens when this dream comes true? How viable is it to own and drive multiple vintage cars? Whether you want the rationale for starting your collection or you want to be dissuaded, let me cover things up.
It’s been about five years since I’ve owned a single vehicle, now typically hovering between 4 and 5 at a time. Daily driving is provided by Miles, the Skoda and the Toyota iQ. The Mercedes motorhome and CitroÃ«n Saxo sleep in a barn, protected from the elements while remaining ready to take action if the mood strikes me. Fifth place is currently unoccupied, although my name is on another V5. More on the subject another time.
It’s time to talk about money. The biggest misconception is the assumption that I must have a lot of disposable income to support this hobby. I’m not talking about addiction yet. While it would undoubtedly be cheaper to reduce the weight and operate a smaller fleet of maybe two cars, I manage to get them all to work relatively cheaply.
The most expensive bill, aside from acquisitions, is insurance. Currently I have three policies under my belt. Two are with Adrian Flux and one with Elephant. Together they cost around Â£ 150 per month, still a lot less than what I paid for my first policy on my trusty Punto.
With Adrian Flux I have a limited mileage policy for the motorhome which allows us more than enough miles to get our vacation and at a ridiculous price of Â£ 120 per year. Elephant, on the other hand, was chosen for the sole reason of its low administration costs to make changes. Coupled with a decent application, I have the possibility of changing insured vehicle in a few minutes. Perfect if I want to make a new purchase for a few weeks without spending a few hours on a comparison site.
Another monthly cost to consider is the tax. My cars seem to occupy an unfortunately no soft place – too young to be tax exempt but too old to be in the low tax brackets. Miles are Â£ 24 per month, Saxo Â£ 18 and Motorhome Â£ 23. Fortunately, if you are paying by direct debit, it becomes easy to cancel as and when you need to. Ideal for things like the motorhome, which can go months without being stressed.
Another monthly expense comes in the form of storage. Not something aspiring hoarders will necessarily need, but the salty sea air around me is brutally effective at rotting old engines. I was lucky enough to get a corner in a farmer’s barn. Â£ 600 a year gives me enough space for the motorhome, plus two to three cars. I think it is money well spent for the given peace of mind.
The monthly charges explained, cathartically enough, leave only the least predictable expenses. Even if stored dry, the entire fleet needs routine preservation. Whenever possible, I do the work myself to save on labor costs. There are always the consumables; tires, brakes, oil, filters, wiper blades, the list goes on. And of course, the annual technical inspection usually holds some surprises.
With a technical check apparently due every two weeks, I rarely get much respite from that nervous refresh of the technical check website to see if it’s a pass or a failure. Take for example the last round of tests – Miles cost me around Â£ 500, but all very routine work. The Saxo needed the welder’s attention, combined with a rear case, tires and bulbs totaling almost Â£ 450. The 40-year-old Mercedes motorhome was the star, cruising without even needing an indicator light bulb.
The scary part over, what’s it like to live with a fleet of firecrackers? Fantastic, for the most part. I have a sincere love for them all. Each has their own distinct personality, traits and issues. As I open the door and inhale, I know which car it is purely by the smell. Especially Miles, thanks to opportunistic people who once used him as a smoking haven. On a hot summer day, an aroma escapes from the vents that would force any passing police officer to stop me for a roadside drug test.
In practice, running multiple cars can be very helpful, especially since the extended garage also wraps my mom’s and dad’s cars. Need a collection of Christmas trees? Take the Volvo 940. If the sun is shining and the coastal road beckons you, lower the roof and take the Porsche Boxster. Or if you have to ship a long highway job, there is only one car for the job; Miles. A more versatile collection of vehicles that you’d be hard pressed to find.
Very occasionally, usually during a technical check-up, I might consider swapping the lot for something more modern and less rusty. Maybe I even have some eBay browsing. Luckily the mood quickly fades, clutching that magical piece of paper, another year of adventure is on the way – I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
Some might struggle to grasp the allure, but to those like-minded souls who are more turned on by a crisp K11 Micra than a sparkling Ferrari SF90, I salute you. Together, we can work to ensure that the roads are filled with a generous dose of sh-tbox for many years to come.
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