How Much It Really Costs To Run A Fleet Of Old Cars

What’s life really like with multiple sheds – is it financially viable, or a money pit? Let me take you through the realities

How Much It Really Costs To Run A Fleet Of Old Cars - Used Cars

As far as daydreams go, it’s not unusual to fantasize about running a fleet of vehicles. Something for every occasion, fueled up and ready to be driven. Admittedly, it’s usually highly polished exotica, not a rusting gaggle of sh-tboxes, but the same principle applies. What happens when that dream becomes a reality? How viable is it to own and drive multiple aged cars? Whether you desire the justification to start your collection or perhaps yearn to be dissuaded, allow me to muddy the waters.

It’s around five years since I last owned a singular vehicle, now generally hovering between 4-5 at any one time. Day to day driving is taken care of by Miles the Skoda and the Toyota iQ. The Mercedes campervan and Citroen Saxo slumber in a barn, protected from the elements while remaining ready to jump into action should the mood take me. The fifth spot is currently unoccupied, although my name is on another V5. More on that another time.

Christmas tree duties and sliding gracefully all the way home, the 940 does it all.

Christmas tree duties and sliding gracefully all the way home, the 940 does it all.

Time to talk money. The biggest misconception is an assumption I must have a lot of disposable income to support this hobby. I’m not calling it an addiction, yet. While it would undoubtedly be less expensive to trim the fat and run a lean fleet of perhaps two cars, I do manage to run them all relatively cheaply.

The most expensive bill, aside from acquisitions, is insurance. Currently, I have three policies to my name. Two are with Adrian Flux and one with Elephant. Combined, they cost around £150 per month, still far less than I paid for my first policy on my trusty Punto.

With Adrian Flux I have a limited mileage policy for the camper, allowing us more than enough miles to get our staycations in and coming in at a paltry £120 per year. Elephant, on the other hand, was chosen for the sole reason of its small admin fee for making changes. Coupled with a decent app, I have the flexibility to switch the insured vehicle within minutes. Perfect if I want to run a new purchase for a few weeks without spending a few hours on a comparison site.

The spring sunshine signals the end of hibernation for Goldie.

The spring sunshine signals the end of hibernation for Goldie.

Another monthly cost to consider is tax. My cars appear to occupy an unfortunately non-sweet spot – too young to be tax-exempt but too old to be in low taxation bands. Miles is £24 per month, the Saxo £18 and the camper £23. Thankfully, if you pay by direct debit it becomes easy to cancel as and when you need to. Ideal for things like the motorhome, which can go months without being called into action.

Another monthly expense comes in the shape of storage. Not something aspiring hoarders will necessarily need, but the salty sea air around my way is brutally efficient at rotting elderly motors. I was lucky enough to secure a corner space in a farmer’s barn. £600 per year grants me enough room for the camper, plus two to three cars. I think it’s money well spent for the peace of mind given.

A thankfully not too frequent trip to the pumps for the Saxo.

A thankfully not too frequent trip to the pumps for the Saxo.

The monthly costs explained, quite cathartically, leaves only the less predictable outgoings. Even though dry stored, the whole fleet needs routine preservation. Whenever possible, I do the work myself to save on labour costs. There is always the consumables; tyres, brakes, oil, filters, wiper blades, the list goes on. And of course, the annual MOT test usually throws up some surprises.

With an MOT seemingly due every couple of weeks, I rarely get much respite from that nervous refreshing of the MOT website to see if it’s a pass or fail. Take the most recent round of tests for example – Miles set me back around £500, but all very routine jobs. The Saxo needed some attention from the welder, combined with a back box, tyres and some bulbs totalling close to £450. The 40-year-old Mercedes camper was the star, sailing through without so much as an indicator bulb needed.

New headgasket is the order of the day, along with a reconditioned turbo

New headgasket is the order of the day, along with a reconditioned turbo

The frightening part over, what is it like to live with a fleet of bangers? Fantastic, for the most part. I have a genuine love for them all. Each has its distinct personality, traits and problems. Opening the door and inhaling, I know which car it is purely by the smell. Especially Miles, thanks to some opportunistic folk once using him as a smoking shelter. On a hot summers day, an aroma wafts from the vents that would have any passing police pulling me over for a roadside drugs test.

Practically, running multiple cars can be very useful, especially considering the extended garage envelops my mum and dads cars too. Need a Christmas tree collecting? Take the Volvo 940. If the sun is shining and the coastal road beckons, drop the roof and take the Porsche Boxster. Or if you need to dispatch a long motorway slog, there is only one car for the job; Miles. A more multi-purpose collection of vehicles you would struggle to find.

“Things on a Volvo, a series”

Very occasionally, usually when in a post MOT daze, I might consider swapping the lot for something more modern and less rusty. Perhaps I even have a browse on eBay. Thankfully the mood quickly fades, clutching that magical piece of paper, another year of adventures beckoning – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Some might struggle to understand the attraction, but to those like-minded souls who get more excited over a crusty K11 Micra than a sparkling Ferrari SF90, I salute you. Together, we can work to ensure the roads are sprinkled with a liberal dash of sh-tboxes for many years to come.

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