Britain, it turns out, is a nation of honest motorists. This discovery has led the Department for Transport to announce that a long standing vehicle check scheme, which costs millions of pounds every year to implement, has been abolished.
The Vehicle Identity Check (VIC) was established in 2003, and was a compulsory check by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), carried out on any vehicle which was returned to the road after it had been categorised as a private or motor trade insurance write-off.
The scheme was devised to protect buyers from unknowingly purchasing a stolen vehicle, and to prevent unscrupulous dealers or private individuals from passing one vehicle off as another. In this fraudulent and illegal process, known as cloning or ringing, the details of a car written off as uneconomical to repair are switched with those of a stolen car, which can then be sold on, privately or on trade plates, and often at a bargain price as a supposed insurance write-off.
However, on analysing the scheme and its results, the Department of Transport revealed that only a handful of car thieves have been caught as a result of the VIC. Because insurance write-offs returned to the road tended to be older cars, the checks were criticised for penalising the less well off. Most individual motorists who applied for the test required it for a vehicle they had owned for several years, reducing the likelihood of a crime taking place.
The price of carrying out the test was £41. Although not a huge cost, the numbers start to add up overall. Going through the testing process also meant inconvenience and lost time for drivers eager to get back on the road.
During its lifetime, the VIC has cost private motorists in Britain nearly ten million pounds a year, with the annual cost to businesses estimated at nearly five million pounds. So the move is good news for the motor trade, too.
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With the abolition of the scheme, we should see fewer cars written off permanently, saving drivers the cost of purchasing a new vehicle and keeping unnecessary scrapping, with its associated waste, to a minimum. The savings made by car dealers may be passed on to the consumer, reflected in the price of new and used cars.
The Department of Transport cites the advance of technology as a key factor in the decision to get rid of the VIC. Vehicle security has improved to the point where casual thefts are significantly more difficult to carry out, while the internet, and online databases, make it possible to check the identity of a vehicle without examining paper documentation.
Insurance write-offs fall into one of four categories: A, B, C, and D. Category A represents a total loss, with few or no parts recoverable. Category B vehicles may be broken up for spare parts. Category C and D write-offs can be driven again, with Category C representing repairs that will cost more than the value of the vehicle, and Category D repairs that cost less.
Following the abolition of the VIC, vehicles in Categories C and D can be returned to the road after a replacement V5 certificate has been obtained.