New DVLA data shows compelling case for rolling tax exemption.
The old vehicle excise duty freeze on pre-1973 cars left younger classics out in the cold – and here are the figures to prove it
Classics made before 1973 – until two years ago the cut-off point for historic vehicle tax exemption – have been preserved in far greater numbers than their younger counterparts.
Market experts say the previous freeze on the Government’s tax break for older cars has encouraged owners and traders to pay more attention to pre-1973 vehicles. Newly released data from the DVLA backs this up – while there is a steady year-onyear decline in the numbers of older cars currently registered, there is a marked increase for early 1970s vehicles.
The most recent figures show that while there are only around 4000 1974 cars on the nation’s roads, there are 11,000 1973 cars and more than 14,000 1972 cars.
While the data doesn’t give a year-byyear breakdown of pre-1970 cars it consistently shows a higher proportion of 1970-73 cars registered than those made in the late 1970s and 1980s. The proportion of 1973 cars compared with later models increased in 2014 – the year they became eligible for historic vehicle tax exemption.
Classics Central auction house manager Justin Lazic says that while he believes the DVLA’s data can’t be comprehensive because it misses out cars off the roads when the registration agency’s electronic records were put together, he agrees with the premise that tax exempt vehicles have been preserved more.
‘There is clearly an incentive for people to preserve the cars that save money, even if the advantage is largely a psychological one,’ he says. ‘Whichever way you cut it the case has always been stronger for saving the earlier car – if you’d put a tax-exempt Triumph TR6 or Stag next to an identical later one which you do have to pay road tax on, it’s a no-brainer.’
Justin adds that rolling tax exemption will give owners more incentive to save younger ‘plain Jane’ cars like Escort MkIVs, which previously were more likely to be scrapped.
‘Plenty of these cars are being thrown away when they reach the end of their useful lives,’ he says. ‘Rolling tax exemption encourages them to hold them on to what are the Triumph Heralds of tomorrow.’
The Rover P6 Club says that while the model it caters for spans both sides of the original pre-1973 cut-off date, the DVLA’s data could be explained by other factors, including production of models like the P6 peaking in the early 1970s and cars being given better rust protection.
It also argues that some classic owners might have illegally swapped later cars’ identities, which may have distorted the figures. ‘It’s unfortunate that because of the rogue element there is the possibility of ringed cars,’ says P6 Club membership secretary Brian Humphreys.
‘For there to be such a swelling of the survival rate in 1972 some people may have been tempted to swap the identities of younger cars on to a tax exempt early Series II P6 just for the sake of a couple of hundred pounds each year or the desire to make a quick sale with the more sought after tax free car.’
Sir Greg Knight, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Historic Vehicles Group, says the figures show that classic fans were right to campaign for rolling tax exemption to be
reinstated, and praised Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne for reintroducing it on a 40-year basis.
‘For someone who’s on a budget the money needed to pay for road tax every year can be the difference between deciding to fork out for a restoration or not. The previous rule also created an unfair sticking point, where one Triumph Stag would qualify and another one made the following year wouldn’t,’ he says.
He adds that while he thinks the national economy has not recovered sufficiently to change to a 25-year rolling exemption, he does believe the principle of rolling exemption is fair.
‘Even if your car doesn’t qualify for it this year, or however many years after that, you know that eventually it’ll be eligible and that will motivate classic car owners to preserve it,’ says Sir Greg.
ABOVE Both of these cars are hugely enjoyable classics – but only one’s eligible for the Government’s tax break. The figures suggest that in the past that’s prevented owners from preserving the younger cars.