What the Reliant Scimitar taught me about MoT exemption

A VALIANT quest I set out on last November is nowhere near journey’s end. Over the past few months I’ve been on what feels like an epic voyage through the classified ads – and I still haven’t found the right Reliant Scimitar.

It’s not even casual browsing this time; it’s the serious, hardcore end of the car buying spectrum. I’ve sat for hours on end in front of computers, poring over the tiniest details in online ads. I have gone out and been on test drives. I’ve even, and this is a genuine top tip for anyone thinking of buying an old car, pre-emptively joined the owners’ club to get their help. It’s been three months, and yet I still haven’t found the right one.

I reckon having the patience of a saint and the persistence of a right pain in the proverbials will eventually get me there, of course – but it’s got be the right one. It has to an SE5 or SE5A-series GTE in any colour other than red or black, and it’s crucial that it’s one that’s been cared for.

Nor can it be the one I gave a miss the other day, which proved that changes to the MoT test last summer are a bit of a double-edged sword. Browse the ads for old cars at the moment and there are plenty being advertised as being not only tax-free, but exempt from the annual visit to the garage too. The idea is that it’s a good way of saving money on a car that you might only take out on a couple of sunny Sunday afternoons a year, and no MoT is one less thing to faff with.

So it sounds like it’s a bit of a sales pitch – but it’s also the reason why I gave one Scimitar a swerve entirely. These days you can pop virtually any car registration number into a Government-run website and it’ll tell you all of its mechanical misdemeanours, going back years at a time. It’ll tell you, for instance, that my MX-5 picked up two advisories when it was tested last month and that my Toyota Avensis needed its brakes tweaking, but for the car I checked out there was nothing. Not only no records of previous faults, but no records of it being tested at all. Anywhere. Ever. This, on records going back 15 years.

Don’t get me wrong – it could be a bit of a hidden gem with impeccable underpinnings (in which case, it should have no problem earning an annual ticket anyway). But, given the choice between one old car that’s been looked at on a ramp and has a record of all its little foibles, or one that doesn’t, which would you go for? I didn’t think rolling MoT exemption was a great idea when it was first announced 18 months ago because of all the safety implications, but on this occasion it’s about appealing to my wallet, rather than my conscience. An old car with an MoT, to my mind at least, is better value than one without.

So I’ll continue with my adventures through the car ads for now, thanks. Speaking of which, anyone thinking of flogging a Reliant Scimitar?

I admit it. I am a used car junkie

The internet is full of temptingly priced used cars

IT’S NOT often Tinie Tempah and I agree on something. It’s true that – like our rapper friend – I’ve been to Southampton but never to Scunthorpe (but I wonder if Tinie’s ever been to Southport). But other than that we move in very different circles. 

But Britain’s best known Lamborghini Huracán owner does, as it transpires from watching the telly the other night, have one weird passion in common. I’m wondering if he can be appointed honourary president of Classified Adsaholic Anonymous.

I’ve always been an addict, hooked on the idea that a lightly used Audi S8 for four grand or a laggy-looking Porsche Boxster for about the same is only a phone call away. Sometimes I’d act on my impulses, picking out obscure-looking deals I’d found on the internet or through scouring the classifieds pages in The Champion.

For a while I thought I’d kicked the habit, content that a daily fix of a £1000 Mazda MX-5, a Toyota Avensis that cost £900 and various classic cars that always seem to cost more money than you’d imagine would be more than enough.

But then I downloaded Tinie Tempah’s recommended legal high for used car junkies – the Auto Trader app – and I have to admit it’s on the verge of ruining my life. The giddy, childlike thrill of flicking through coarse pages chock-full of reasonably priced used cars, so cruelly robbed from us when the weekly magazine went out of print four years ago, is back.

But whereas the joy of used car classifieds used to come from spotting the obscure bargain buried within 20 pages of blurry pictures, FSHs and ONOs, nowadays it’s all about setting ridiculous search parameters and seeing what the internet comes back with. Want to know what the best four-door saloon for under £1500 is within a five-mile radius of Skelmersdale? Or Ormskirk’s best five-grand sports car? Bet you do now. 

It’s weirdly addictive, but it does have its plus side; the more you do it the more likely you are to end up with a corking used car bargain. You end up getting to know the prices, what the faults are with various models and which dodgy brand of alloy wheels owners end up fitting to them, and ultimately knowledge is power. It’s much harder to get ripped off by an unscrupulous seller when you’re a Classified Adsaholic who knows exactly what a 2003 Volkswagen Golf 1.6 Match with five doors, service history and 99,000 on the clock is worth.

So give it a go – you won’t regret it. If you end up buying something, blame Tinie Tempah.