Honest John: can 10-year-old cars be written off by law?

·4-min read
Vauxhall Corsa - Vauxhall Motors 
Vauxhall Corsa - Vauxhall Motors

Sod’s law

My son’s car has sustained minor damage. He informed his insurer, which advised him that as the car is more than 10 years old it is, by law, a write-off. Is this correct? DS

There is no such law. The insurer may have decided that the cost of repairing the car exceeds more than half its value and therefore wants to write it off. If that is the case, your son can keep the car, take whatever the insurer offers as a fair settlement and then get the car repaired himself. If the damage is only cosmetic, creates no danger to pedestrians from sharp edges, causes no safety concerns and would not fail an MoT, he does not even have to repair it.

Ka culture

I own a Ford Ka Zetec, five years old with 10,000 miles. It has had its annual service and passed its MoT. However, the garage pointed out that, according to Ford, the timing belt should be replaced every 62,500 miles or five years. As I have done such a low mileage, what do you advise? And would £500 to £600 be the correct price to carry out this work? JR

Ford Ka Zetec
Ford Ka Zetec

This second-generation Ka is based on a Fiat 500 and will have the same 1,242cc timing-belt “Fire” engine. The belt, tensioner and water pump all need replacing every five years. If the belt fails there’s a good chance the engine is effectively scrap. I have a 500 with this engine and had everything replaced for a second time at 26,000 miles. The job cost £400 at my local Fiat dealer, so don’t get persuaded into paying significantly more than that. If the Ford dealer or an independent won’t do it for £400, find a Fiat specialist that will.

Stag dues

My Triumph Stag Mk2 was manufactured in 1975, but remained unsold at the dealer, Glare Motors in Coventry, until 1984 (it was first registered in March 1984). I bought it in 1989 at 10,000 miles. It remains in A1 condition, has done only 27,000 miles and everything is original except for the tyres and battery. I am thinking of selling it; can I legitimately call it the last UK-registered Stag? Which classic auction should I use? SC

Triumph Stag - Getty Images
Triumph Stag - Getty Images

Stag production ended in 1977 after only 25,877 were made. I knew a dealer who did the same thing with one of the last Stags, so yours was not the only one registered so late. The owners’ club should know if yours was last to be registered. Although physical classic car auctions are still scheduled, you will get the widest international reach via a collectingcars.com online auction. It instils confidence thanks to a very full and accurate description, warts and all, plus many high-quality photos of every aspect of the car. That’s what gets the best price. The Car & Classic website works similarly.

Gun ho

I signed up for NFU Mutual insurance, which was only marginally dearer than others, for three reasons: it won’t let you take out a policy online; it insists on speaking to new customers on the phone; and it posts your policy to you, rather than using emails. Among the questions asked is: “Do you routinely carry more than 2,000 shotgun cartridges or bullets in your car?” I can’t recall ever having such a good laugh while discussing car insurance. AG

NFU is the National Farmers’ Union, so that explains the question about shotgun cartridges. Farmers still have to shoot foxes and other creatures that kill free-range chickens, ducks and new-born lambs, or else damage crops.

Open road

I have owned four-seater drop-head cars for years, starting with a Triumph Vitesse, then two Triumph Stags, a Vauxhall Astra, an Audi A4 and now a BMW 2-series. Is there a fully electric (EV) cabriolet? If not, which would be the best petrol-engined option to replace the BMW? Also, my wife has an Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon, which has been very reliable since new in 2011 and she loves it. Do you know if there’s an all-electric Alfa in the pipeline? RB

No, although apparently VW is developing an ID.3 electric four-seater convertible that might arrive in 2023. Otherwise, there are mild hybrid (MHEV) developments of existing convertibles, such as a Fiat 500C Hybrid; low performance, but fun to drive and with almost 60mpg economy. The very latest Fiat 500 is electric; although it owns Alfa Romeo, Fiat’s EV technology is likely to take a long time to filter through to the Alfa range.

Going for the One

My 2006 Mini One convertible, owned for seven years, has done 67,000 miles and sailed through its most recent MoT. But it’s looking tired and I fancy a newer Mini. What should I go for with a budget of about £8,000? I guess my car has little trade-in value. If I kept it, what is likely to go wrong? JP

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex

Convertibles are now into peak selling season. The problem with an older Mini convertible is the condition of the top, because a new roof costs about £1,000. For £8,000 you could buy a much newer Fiat 500, so I’d look at those, too.

Hidden depths?

I need a car that won’t suffer wheel or tyre damage on potholed roads. Is the Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSI 115 SEL with a DSG gearbox any good? MB

A car’s ability to cope with potholes depends on the wheel and tyre size. The T-Cross S has 16-inch wheels with 205/60 tyres, which will absorb potholes best due to relatively deep sidewalls. The SE and SEL have 17in rims and 205/55 tyres, which won’t be as compliant but should still be OK. Do not be talked into optional 18in wheels with 215/45 tyres because they will be very vulnerable. I quite like the T-Cross; even the notorious DQ200 seven-speed automatic gearbox seems to have been reliable so far with the 1.0 TSI engine.

Twin peeks PIC in June 12 Honest John folder on CHP of current Vauxhall Corsa

I’ve had a string of Peugeot 207s and 208s (each from new) over the years. I would like a new 208 Allure 1.2 Puretech 110, but it seems pricey. What alternative would you suggest of similar size and specification? RS

Vauxhall corsa  - Matt Howell 
Vauxhall corsa - Matt Howell

The Vauxhall Corsa was Britain’s third (almost second) best-selling car over the first three months of this year and is the same underneath as the 208, but a bit cheaper. I suggest the 1.2 Puretech EAT8 automatic.

Ramp age

I will soon need a car with a ramp for a mobility scooter. I have seen an advert for an adapted Peugeot Partner that seems ideal. Would this be a sensible choice? AM

A Peugeot Partner must be used because the current Peugeot MPV is called the Rifter. The new Citroën Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo Life are the same. They are best with the 1.2 petrol engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox; don’t get a diesel for low-mileage use. Two companies that convert them to wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs) with electric drop-down rear floors are brotherwood.com and alliedmobility.com. Both also have used stocks of the previous models.

Sporting chance

A reader was looking for a small two-seater convertible for weekend use. You suggested a Mazda MX-5 but might I propose an MGF/TF? They are very underrated and had bad press in the early days; any engine gasket issues will have been rectified long ago, while rust is not a big issue. I use mine for sprints and speed hillclimbs with no problems. What do you think? JB


Fair point. The main dealer for these is Trophy Cars on the A1, north of Stamford (trophycars.co.uk).

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