If you've ever broken the rules by forgetting to renew your tax disc, you're not alone. Despite the snail-mail reminder, it's far too easy to forget when that paper circle and its pointless perforations is due to be renewed, leaving already cash-strapped motorists vulnerable to automatic fines.
But on 1 October 2014, after 93 years, the tax disc will be abolished in favour of a digital system, aka the DVLA's electronic database. You might well ask what took them so long (if you're not asking them why we have to wait another eight months for this to kick in)?
There'll be no complaints from motorists, I can assure you. As well as a painfully dull drain on our time, running a car is a bigger drain on our pockets. The new electronic road tax system should result in a massive decrease in the number of motorists who get stung with fines of up to £80 - more if they get clamped or impounded - through sheer absentmindedness.
Everyone has a story about how they hadn't realised their MOT had expired, forgot to renew their car tax on time, or didn't service their car for tens of thousands of miles. People aren't letting these lapse or breaking the law intentionally, but there are usually no reminders, particularly if your car is second hand. The onerous amount of admin involved in owning and maintaining a car is ridiculous, and it's all fragmented.
Plus, the cost of tax may be reduced, and there'll be an option to pay by monthly direct debit. The not-so-good-news is that the monthly payment option will incur a 5% penalty, which hardly seems fair given that The Treasury will no doubt benefit from more people paying into the pot.
The government has been saying for a while that it wants 'digital by default' solutions for motorists. But tax disc are merely a starting point - there's plenty more that needs to be tackled. As of summer 2014, the way DVLA data is shared will mean that motor insurers can access drivers' information, lowering the risk of fraud in the market and having a knock-on effect on the price of insurance. Yes, it sounds a bit Big Brother but, in reality, people are obliged to inform their insurers of the same information so it's really just a way of automating part of the existing legal process. It's a common sense move that will benefit motorists.
There are certain industries and sectors that are still being hauled into the digital age kicking and screaming - and motoring is one of them. The long-standing issue of car admin and paperwork has blighted car owners for years.
Most people don't mean to break the law but, when it comes to running a car, there are far too many administrative jobs to remember. If it's not road tax then it's insurance and breakdown cover renewals, MOTs, servicing, and down-the-line repairs flagged up in services that we have to remember. Plus, important paperwork inevitably gets lost along the way. So anything that automates some of that admin is a win for motorists.
So what's next for the digital era of motoring? I'd like to see:
- Motorists gaining access to valuable data about their vehicles. There is so much info 'out there' on your vehicle's service history, stored on garage's databases. It would be extremely helpful for anyone wanting to buy a second hand car, and anyone selling too - as a full service history can add 26% to a car's value.
- Telematics devices becoming more widely adopted by motorists. You can get real-time info on running costs, faults and also a pay-per-mile type of insurance. There are loads of benefits. Knowledge is power!
Please add your own suggestions to the comment section below. I'd love to hear them!