Kiran Parmar has made a very brave decision

On 29th August, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is expanding across all London boroughs which will apparently bring clean air to five million more people according to the Mayor of London. This deeply unpopular scheme is going to affect me and thousands of others as I live in the London Borough of Croydon. My 2003 BMW 530d is not ULEZ compliant which will mean I will have to pay £12.50 each time I drive my car off my driveway onto the main road if I want to go anywhere. I am not alone, there are many people on my street who own older cars, classic cars, and modern classics which are not ULEZ friendly, and we are all far from delighted with the situation.

So, what do we do? Sell or scrap our cherished vehicles for a pittance and buy something new or just new enough to comply with the ULEZ scheme in order to avoid paying the daily charge? We could do that yes; however, do we have any guarantee that in six months’ time the goalposts will not be changed, and our ‘new’ cars will also not be ULEZ exempt? No is the answer. I could exchange my e39 for a brand new 2023 BMW 520i lease car which will cost me between £680 to £950 a month and at the end of the lease period I don’t even get to keep the car!
Let me tell you a little about what I own. It is a 2003 BMW 530d, part of the ‘e39’ generation that was widely regarded as one of the best 5-Series’ ever thanks it being the last ‘all mechanical’ and crucially last of the fixable 5-Series before the computers took over in the next e60 generation. The car has been in our family for over seventeen years, has been fastidiously looked after with a full and comprehensive service history and low mileage. The interior looks nearly new with only minimal signs of wear. After a deep polish to the paintwork you could place it in a glossy BMW showroom, and it wouldn’t look far out of place to the untrained eye with only its age giving it away. Should I keep it? The answer is yes, it’s a no brainer.

It drives brilliantly and has an analogue feel about it. There is no ‘i-drive,’ no lifeless electric steering, no plastic sumps under the bonnet that you find in the modern BMWs, no annoying stop/start etc, etc. Just a brilliant six-cylinder 3.0 litre, turbo charged diesel engine, with a proper five speed ‘Steptronic’ gearbox, hydraulic steering which gives the most brilliant driver feedback, traditional analogue BMW dials, cream leather and wood interior, excellent build quality and you get a proper handbrake!

To buy a newer car equivalent to my e39 I would have to spend around £12k to £15k. My car gets used two to three times a week as I work from home. If I used my car three times a week it will cost me £37.50 in ULEZ charges, that is £1,950 a year. If I spend £15k on a new car now, it will take over 7 and a half years to recoup my cost. My fellow colleagues at Free Car Mag and I are all owners of older cars, and we all agree this ULEZ scheme is highly unfair, unnecessary, and just another way to fleece the motorist of his or her hard-earned cash. In addition, it is going to hit the lowest income families the hardest. If a nurse is on a 12-hour night shift which starts at 8pm for example, and finishes at 8am the following day, he or she will have to pay the £12.50 charge twice just to go to and from work, and that doesn’t even consider the fuel and the possible parking charges if the hospital doesn’t have any on-site staff car parking. We really hope a new Mayor comes in soon who sees and understands the plight of the motorist and rapidly takes the whole concept of ULEZ and swiftly discards it in the nearest dustbin! Stay tuned to Free Car Mag for more ULEZ updates coming soon.