Aaand we are back! Oh yeah, you heard right, this is part 3 of the
soul crushing amazing journey to automotive Valhalla, a place I am hoping to reach one day by bringing back a neglected 17.4 foot American luxury coupe and making it my daily driver here on the old continent that is Europe.
If you read my previous two articles, you will have learned about why I believe the 1995 Lincoln Mark VIII LSC is such a great car to own and which wonderful and borderline traumatic events have led up to my current situation. This time I will explain why the UK is such a fantastic and at the same time horrible place to buy a large luxury car and why it is the reason I ended up with the car I call my own now.
So after buying the Xedos 6 (still the best cheap car you can buy, early 90's Mazda yay!) and moving to the United Kingdom to start at my new job, things started to calm down a bit again. I was happy to have found a job I genuinely enjoy and plenty of people that shared my
interest addiction to cars. And even though I missed all my appointments the the realtor because of my slightly delayed arrival in the UK (only two weeks) and had to stay at a friends place for another 2 weeks, I eventually found the perfect apartment with plenty of parking spaces and close to the studio, which made things much easier and was pretty much the opposite to the situation I had in Vienna (not that it made any difference to my choice of cars). As you can imagine, it didn't take long before I thought about getting another Mark VIII. The only issue: I am living in the UK now.
There are quite a few things unique to the UK when it comes to owing a car. And I am not taking about driving on the wrong side if the road (sorry to our UK opponauts), which you get used to very quickly. Watching shows like Wheeler Dealers or seeing people posting links to British used car classifieds, many of you probably have noticed how dirt cheap older cars are over here, especially if they are high performance luxury cars. Have a few nice examples: Interested in a clean 2002 Mercedes CL500 with 99.000 miles for under 4 grand?, sure why not! A 1998 Jaguar XK8 with 73.000 miles for 3500 bucks, well there you go! How about a 2000 BMW E39 M5 with 98.000 miles for 7990? Just take it already! The list goes on and on and on.
None of these cars are exceptions. None of them took longer than 20 seconds to find. All cars posted here would easily cost twice as much in another major car market just a few hundreds miles south east from here, Germany. Having registered cars in both countries before, its not hard to see why.
People from the UK are always quick to comment why nobody is willing to buy these cars: Expensive fuel, high taxes and maintenance costs. While these reasons are true and can indeed be a challenge, they are no explanation why these cars, out of all places, are so much cheaper in Britain. Fuel prices are high everywhere in the EU (the weak Euro is distorting prices in non-euro zone countries slightly right now), so is maintenance and so are the tax rates, if not higher. If those factors are not the issue, what is? Here are the real two major reasons why cars in the UK are so freaking cheap:
1.) The UK is a right hand drive market.
Have you ever wondered where people living in 3rd World countries get their millions of cars from while vehicle sales numbers clearly indicate that barely anything is actually sold there when new? Just like in the States or Japan, many cars start a second life overseas once they reach a certain age and bottom line value here in Europe. While hundreds thousands of cars leave Germany every year to end up in places like central Africa, Eastern Europe or the Middle East (Afghanistan loves their Corollas, Iraqi assassins dig Opels!), even there barely anyone would buy a vehicle with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car. And why should they? The continental European car market is huge. While I was still living in Germany, it wasn't uncommon to get contacted by someone with an Arabic accent only minutes after posting the ad online. Me and my brother sold many of our old cars to people with Middle Eastern origin (and surprisingly "relaxed" quality standards) who usually exported each vehicle shortly after they paid us, together with boat loads of more cars from all over the country. Fortunately for us, these people usually bought pretty much anything, no matter what shape it was in. You could have sold them a potato as long as it had AC and power windows.
Serious rust in critical structural areas? No problem. Leaking fuel lines and expired inspection? Who cares!. While I struggled here in the UK for months to sell a somewhat rusty but otherwise very clean BMW E38 for 700GBP, I sold my rusty as hell Honda Civic parked outside my parents house before I could even post the ad. One of them went to Africa, you can probably guess which one. With this huge chunk of the potential market for "old" cars gone in the UK, the car supply vastly exceeds the demand, resulting in plummeting car values.
2.) UK Car insurance premiums for young drivers are completely insane.
You cannot sell your cheap clunker to export markets, who else with no money would need cheap, affordable transportation? Let me think... Hmmmmmm...Aha, young people! Of course, they never have money and cannot wait to get behind the wheel. Woahwoahwoah, not so fast! People under 25 might need cheap transportation and most would be able to afford your car, road tax and the fuel bills. But what about insuraaaanceee? Well, too bad! The UK might be one of the most expensive places on earth for young people to insure a car. Yearly insurance premiums are so excessive, they can easily exceed the value of the car by 5-10 times, every single year of ownership!! Top Gear was right all along! That means another large demographic just got cut off from your potential target market. That also means your car is worth shit now.
While normally these two reasons would make the UK a paradise for anyone looking for used cars or car parts , all these cheap vehicles are pretty much unobtainable for anyone who doesn't have a decade of trouble free driving experience with an insurance record to back it up, for anyone moving to the UK who is used to driving on the right side of the road (people from the other side of the channel must be a bigger threat now than during WW2) or anyone under a certain age. Unfortunately for me, I met none of these requirements, with the logical consequences.
You want an example? I bought my '97 E38 728i automatic for 500GBP from a colleague at work, believing I have found the bargain of the century. What I didn't know until later, the cheapest quote I would get from a major insurance provider comparison site was in the neighborhood of 5000GBP per annum. What.The.Actual.Fuck. And wait, there's more! The cheapest quote I got for my LHD 290hp 4.6L V8 Lincoln? 14000GBP. Fourteenthousand Pound Sterling per year. What is this insanity? Are they really expecting me to total my car 10 times per year??
It was clear that I couldn't afford to register and insure my car in the UK, atleast if it wasn't something with a microscopic 5hp engine like a 1990 Daihatsu Cuore or similar. Oh wait, if you are unlucky that's a JDM spec vehicle, might as well slap another 50% on top of your already excessive premiums!
Your ride for the next 5 years. If you are lucky...
Well, not with me. They can rip off other people, I sure as hell wont accept this bs. Not being able to insure my future Mark VIII in the country I am living in was a setback and cause for a lot of hurdles. It means that I would have to register and insure the car in Germany, which left me with two options for my purchase: Buy the Mark VIII in Germany while on holiday, register and insure it in my name and drive it back to the UK. Or buy it here for potentially much less, if I can find one, export it to Germany and go through the lengthy pains of the German homologation process before being able to register the car for public road usage, insure it and drive it back. You would think the answer was obvious. Why this actually wasn't the case and how I finally bought my new Lincoln Mark VIII, well I guess you'll have to wait for the next chapter...
I hope you liked the article, as promised its much shorter this time! Tell me what you think in the comments its always great to hear your opinions!
Schaefft is the author of the Lincoln Luxo Barge in Europe series and founder of nothing. He's currently living in the north east of the UK (u wot m8?), owns an old Bmw and Lincoln and believes that everything that is written on the internet is true, especially Tavarish's articles on Jalopnik about how owning a cheap luxury car for the price of a potato is the only way of living. It took him way too long to write this article so you better read it to the end or else...