Neat idea, but I doubt the powers that be will listen

One consumer’s protest in England is making news – but I’m not sure it’ll make a difference.

A man put off by the cost of a train fare bought a car and drove from London to Bristol for less than the price of the rail fare.

Bargain-hunter Tom Church bought a Honda Civic to make a 120-mile drive to see a friend in Bristol because it was cheaper than a train ticket.

The second hand car cost just £80 [currently about US $114]. Road tax was £81.38 [$116], insurance for one day £20.43 [$29] and petrol £25 [$36]. A total of £206.81 [$295].

Meanwhile, peak-time return train tickets between London and Bristol cost between £210 – £218.10 [$299 – $311].

. . .

[Mr. Church said] “At the end of the trip, I still have a car. I’ll probably sell it again. After some TLC, I think I can get £200 [$285]. You get your unused road tax refunded so I might even be in profit! That’s real bargain hunting for you.”

There’s more at the link.

It’s a great idea, and good for some anti-rail-greed publicity;  but will the rail company listen?  I doubt it.  There are too many others who won’t take a stand, and they know it.  They’re relying on consumers being sheep to be fleeced.  Airline companies in the USA do the same.  They treat us like cattle, to be stuffed into their overcrowded aluminum tubes and all too frequently treated like dirt, because they know most consumers either don’t have any choice but to put up with it, or won’t stand up for decent treatment.  Those of us who choose to drive almost everywhere within range, rather than be treated like that, they can afford to disregard, because not enough of us will take such a stand.

(I couldn’t help but note that the road tax formed no less than 39.35% of Mr. Church’s outlay, and more than that if one considers the tax included in his purchase of fuel.  Big Brother gets its whack, one way or another!)



  1. Your point about taxes raises a point:
    If you assume that the Honda Civic gets 20 mpg, then gas costs $6 a gallon. Plus road tax. In the UK, you must pay tax to watch over the air television. Tell me again how health care in the UK is free.

  2. +1 on not flying. I recall when flying was pleasant. Adequate room between rows, you could sit with whomever you were traveling with, and a half decent meal if the flight was long enough. You could recline your seat without crushing the legs of the guy behind you. The last time I flew(I had to, can't drive on water) seating was first come, first served(my wife and I had separate seats) and I felt as though I was packed in a sardine can. I'd much rather drive. Takes longer but is far more comfortable. Besides, I enjoy seeing what's there on the ground.

  3. Unfortunately the price of aircraft has had no such decline. The end of the line in mainline equipment is the $US 17,000 Cessna 150. After that it's fractional ownership and "repairs needed", and the aeronautical equivalent of powered skateboards.

  4. This reminds me of Thoreau calculating the amount of days labor required to by a train ticket for a journey vs the amount of time to walk the trip.
    He found it was more cost effective to walk plus he enoyed the journey.

  5. Mass transit (rail, bus, etc) would end immediately if people had to actually pay a fare that would fund creation, operation, maintenance and repair of the systems. Even a system that was operated to obtain zero profit and only fund itself would not generate sufficient income.

    That is why "government" (translated=taxpayers) have to subsidize all of there entities. A subsidy is prima facie evidence that the marketed item is insufficiently popular to pay for itself.

  6. … which is also why so many liberal controlled urban centers are always looking for anti-car regulations and laws to try to force people on to their transit systems, so they can pump up ridership numbers and suck more from the Federal teat.

  7. $100 for a car? There is something wrong with this picture. A good reliable car runs at least $2,500 around here. Anything less is junk that should be sent to the scrapyard. I wouldn't attempt to drive a $100 car to the corner, much less halfway across the state.

  8. Top Gear did this fifteen years ago in buying a car and making a short trip for less than a train ticket.

  9. So, he had to spend the time to get the car, and presumably there was more time expended in paying the tax (true example of government inefficiency; how much they expect you to work just to pay them). And then he had to pay attention the whole trip, whereas on the train he could have read or dozed, or what-have-you. If the real endpoints of his trip were at some remove from a train station, that should be factored in on the plus side for the car, though.

    Still, the train looks attractive to me.

  10. gives an interesting perspective on airline ticketing prices. Ok, domestic flights (in AU and Asia anyway) have a greater proportion of economy seats with just a few business class seats up front. However discount fare can usually be found for about 25-40% of the full-fare economy ticket price. We stopped driving 2300km each way to visit my family because it became cheaper for 4 of us to fly and hire a car for 2 weeks. It also reduced total travel time from 6 days to 2. I note that airport security in AU seems to be much less intrusive than in the USA, so the experience is probably less offensive overall…

  11. In the UK and most of Europe, an older car is not an asset. It's a liability and a potential big bill to get rid of it.

    The EU mandated cradle-to-grave recycling, so cars that are at the end of life have to be recycled "properly", and that means whoever gets stuck with the car when it finally dies gets the bill for scrapping it. They disassemble the car and sort the parts. Somebody has to pay for legions of workers taking cars apart and sorting them into bins.

    In some cases, perfectly decent older cars are given away because the owners are afraid of winding up with a bill for removing them.

    Here in the US by way of comparison, we take the car to the junkyard, any good parts are removed, and the car gets crushed and then shredded into bits and sorted magnetically, the plastic glass and fluff goes to the landfill…which is unacceptable in Europe.

    A junk car is a valuable item, right now I'm getting $215 a US ton across the scale at the auto shredder. That means a car like that Civic is worth an easy $300 as scrap steel, plus the battery, catalytic converter and any reusable parts.

    A running older car will easily fetch $500-$1000 especially a nice fuel efficient commuter car like that Civic…around here in Central Ohio 137,000 miles on a Civic is a low mileage cream puff that would sell for $2000 all day long assuming no rust and an automatic transmission and a timing belt change recently.

    I made a great little side business out of buying cars in need of repairs on Craigslist or from local junkyards, fixing them and reselling them. I can do this because we are not Socialists in America. It is quite often that I have bought and resold cars that needed very minor repairs, things like bad brakes, bad water pump, bad wheel bearings, "won't start" etc. Basically any repair that costs more than the cash price of the car dooms it. Not to say most cars are easy fixes, most cars junked do have serious problems, like serious rust, bad engines or transmissions, etc. but there are a lot that don't need more than a weekend of wrenching by an experienced guy like me to be great transportation appliances again…And occasionally I come across cars that need practically nothing, people get rid of them because they are "too old" or it's a second or third car they kept and decided finally to just get rid of it. I've picked up cars people junked because they lost the keys!!

    I dealt with several charitable organizations that received donated cars. They don't have staff to evaluate the cars, so they are contracted to be picked up by a towing service. If a car is more than 10 years old, and doesn't start right up, they won't spend a dime on them and will send them straight to the junkyard. I've gotten a rather large number of nice older cars that all I had to do was jumpstart the battery and drive them home.

    We are fortunate to have what we do in America.

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