Governments seem keen to subsidise the purchase of new cars (to prop up their flagging motor industries) using green arguments that the old cars being replaced are to be scrapped in environmentally friendly ways. OK, a brand new Nissan Micra produces less noxious emissions than my 16 year old one. But let's say that instead of keeping my car from new for such a long time, I'd have changed it every three years for a newer Micra. I'd have been on my fifth one by now. The creation of an extra four motor vehicles has vastly more impact on the environment.
In any case, 16 years ago, I made a conscious decision to get away from my previous habit of changing cars every few years. I traded in my nearly new 2-litre hot hatch for a smaller car with an engine half the size.
The Micra was fine for our needs - two small children and their accoutrements. To anyone who says "I have two kids, therefore I need a giant SUV," I say - twaddle. If you want to invest in their future, buy them education or a flat.
Five years ago, we bought a second car (another one-litre five-door hatchback) to give more flexibility on school and work journeys. And that's that. We have no more ambitions to switch to newer motors. Both our cars are frugal, reliable and good at what they do - getting around town. The Micra, which has not ventured outside of Warsaw in those five years, does over 38 miles to the gallon (around 7l/100km), much of which is driving in traffic jams; in the past year I've covered about 4,000 miles (6,000km) in it; not that much. The Yaris is used for long road trips, where it's also fine (though it could do with a sixth gear).
Our motoring needs, met.
Much of the World's current economic woes stem from western consumers' desire to buy ever bigger and flashier cars, paid for by bank loans backed by rising house prices. This has gone. Instant gratification promised by the car manufacturers and their loan companies has proved illusory.
We must be happy with what we have, make less of an impact on the environment by consuming less and looking after what we own. Modern cars are built to last; we've reached saturation point across most of the west.
I bought my first car, a Morris Minor van, from a guy called Charlie Ware, who wrote a book about the economics of car ownership. He pointed out that by keeping a car for decades rather than years, you'd save vast amounts of capital. He rebutted the argument about keeping a car going beyond the economical cost of its repair. And he was right. I've spent around 1,500 zlotys on my Micra over the past year, tops. That's less that two months repayments on a new Micra.
Of course, there will be a time when the Micra finally conks out; when it does, it shall be replaced by a small reliable car that will also be bought to last for many, many years.
Had my philosophy been the norm in the western world over the past two decades, we'd have not seen the same growth from the early '90s to 2007/8, but neither would we have seen such a dreadful downturn and misery caused by job losses, home repossessions, and falling asset prices.
This time last year:
A light dusting of snow