Who will really benefit from the latest scrappage schemes?

Used car scrappage schemes promise big savings

How many owners of £2000 cars will be able to trade up to brand new vehicles?

Scrappage schemes are all the rage, and generating some much-needed positive headlines, but how much difference will they really make?

Scrappage schemes are suddenly all the rage, unless you are Vauxhall, which has had one running for months but without pinning it to any emissions-reducing fanfare.

This month, however, BMW, then Mercedes and now Ford has jumped in. Word is that the entire VW Group may follow suit. Each scheme has different terms and conditions – of which more later – and each is laudable in some respects of the stated environmental goals, but how much difference do we really expect them to make?

Let’s start with the upsides; vehicle emissions have been pretty hot news since the VW scandal broke two years ago and – finally – these schemes are turning the tide of negative headlines and allowing the car industry to broadcast that modern engines are relatively pretty clean.

​Here are some stats from Ford:

– Diesels from 1993 produce 82% more CO (carbon monoxide) on average than today.

– Petrols from 1993 produce 63% more CO (carbon monoxide) on average than today.

– Petrols from 2001 produce 50% more HC (hydrocarbons) on average than today.

– Average NOX (nitrogen oxides) emissions of all engines in 2001 are 84% higher than today.

– Average PM (particulate matter) emissions of diesels made in 1993 are 96% higher than today.

Latest Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures suggest there are 19.3m pre-Euro 5 cars on UK roads today – the age of vehicle that these scrimmage schemes are targeting – so it’s not hard to imagine the benefits of swapping them all for latest generation cars (although, if you can’t, Ford says its the equivalent of 15 million tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent to the annual output of three coal-fired power stations).

But – and it’s a big but – how many owners of cars that are worth £2000 or thereabouts (the exact figure depends on the scheme) are about to go out and buy a new Ford, let alone a new BMW or Mercedes? Even at the lowest end of the scale that means swapping a £2000 car for an £8000 one, but at the top end the suggestion is that a £40,000 car might be a viable exchange for a £2000 one. Yes, comparable lease deals will be available, but in many cases that would likely mean swapping your wheels for a deposit for a three-year loan.

I suppose there might be some two-car households who want to upgrade the family banger, or some students  whose beady-browed parents want them in something safer, but the fact is that most owners of older cars are in them because that’s what they can afford. And, should they need to upgrade, they are far more likely to look to the used car fleet for newer but cheaper alternatives than make the leap into a plug-in hybrid.

Then there’s the practicalities. Most of the schemes set a value for your used car around £2000 – but there are many cars from pre-2010 that are worth considerably more. Trade in your Ford Focus from the end of that period, for instance, and you’d hope for between £2500 and £5500 depending on condition and specification. Let’s hope the dealers are honest on that one, or that sellers are smart enough to do their homework first, using some of the free valuations tools available online, such as our sister brand What Car?’s.

There’s also the new car discount to consider, because the keen haggler would expect some further savings there. More of What Car?’s data suggest that the average haggle across the UK car market should net a saving of £2533 – a figure which can admittedly vary wildly from car type and brand, but one which indicates that you may want to put your fortune in your own hands rather than rely on these scrimmage schemes alone – or, perhaps, if allowable, negotiate like crazy and only reveal your trade in banger at the last moment.

And then, finally, there are the age-old arguments over whether it is better for the planet to scrap a functioning car and replace it with a new one, or just run the old one into the ground. The arguments have run many times before, and the answer depends very much on individual circumstances.

At the end of all this, you may be left wondering why there’s so much fuss about these scrappage schemes, because the reality is unlikely to be as world-changing as the headlines suggest. I’ll doff the cap I don’t wear to the early movers for forcing some positive headlines at a time the car industry looked like being overwhelmed by negativity, and I applaud the lucky few who can use this turn of generosity from sales-eager manufacturers to grasp a great deal, but I remain slightly non-plussed by the fact that schemes being sold as planet-saving are unlikely to do much of the sort at all.

Source: Autocar Online

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