The car as a status symbol

FerrariStatus symbols are objects that people choose in the belief that they demonstrate a certain social standing or wealth. Status symbols may be thought of as a recent thing, but in reality, they’ve existed for much longer than the brands we’ve commonly come to associate with outward demonstrations of healthy bank balances or superior standing.

In centuries gone by, medals, castles, even sheep and cattle were perceived as symbols of someone’s status in society. Uniforms too are a classic historic signification of social standing, because they define hierarchy clearly and demonstrate exactly where the wearer stands in the order of the organisation or group involved. All of that said, today, one of the most common ways to demonstrate status is through material possessions.

Houses, jewellery, watches, handbags, shoes, clothes and cars, as well as good looks are amongst the most accessible attributes to demonstrate wealth and social standing today. While not accessible to everyone due to cost (otherwise they would no longer function as social symbols), these are things that can be bought to buy your place in society; yes, even good looks can be bought these days.

Taking the car as a perfect example of a status symbol, its development over the years is easy to trace through branding, media and personalities. Although the car was never intended to be a status symbol, it became so when it started to be accessible to society at large.

Very early cars, such as those that were built in the early 1900’s were extremely expensive because they were hand made. What this meant was, by implication, only the rich could access this luxury. It was when awareness grew, when car production started to become more automated, and this luxury became reasonably accessible to the man or woman on the street that competition at a mass-market level started to occur.

As soon as the middle classes were within the reach of owning a car everything changed, and this change was brought about in very large part by the mass production of the Ford Model T. Henry Ford effectively changed the world with his goal to produce a car that the average person could afford, run and maintain. This approach brought cars potentially within the reach of the masses. At that point, while car ownership was still way out of the reach of many, in most cities and towns there were people who owned cars and were able to enjoy all the benefits that go along with that.

Today, it is a widely accepted fact that owning a car is pretty much a given, but the car remains a status symbol in its own right nonetheless. Generally speaking, expensive cars, rare cars or cars that have been either produced to order or adapted to suit their discerning owner’s personal taste are all accepted as significant demonstrations of social standing and economic power. The badge on the car, the purr of the engine and even the accessories that go with it are what truly turn heads, making cars a highly sought after modern day trimming to many peoples lives.

Great cars for mums

mum and carYou’d be forgiven for reading this title and thinking that this article is going to be about small, runaround cars that are suited for the school run. However, it’s not. What we’re aiming to do here is look at a whole host of things that mightn’t normally feature on the list of “needs” when considering a second car. Unfortunately, only too often, when it comes to splitting the car investment of a household, the greater part of the fund goes to the person who travels alone day-in and day-out, not the person who’s responsible for making sure that kids and their mates are safe and secure. That’s a real shame and if you’re one of these families, it might be time for a rethink.

Here are the top considerations that we believe mums need to take into account when choosing their car:

  1. Safety. It goes without saying that no matter whether you’re driving one single baby around, or a hoard of your kids and other people’s, safety is of paramount importance. Euro NCAP crash test results are what you need to be looking for when checking out a car’s safety rating. Hailed as the “gold standard” of test, this truly is a feature you can’t afford to ignore as a mum.
  2. Space, including boot size. Even if your kids are little, if your car is for the long-term, you need to think about when they’re big 6-footers with big, 6-foot friends and all the kit that goes with them. No matter whether you’ve only got a couple of kids, there are sure to be times when they’re either off to sports events or weekends away when you’re faced with them, plus a couple of mates and all their gear. This is one great reason for looking carefully at the total amount of space available. Another reason is that only too often you’ll have kids and adults to transport. Checking out things like legroom and boot space are a priority.
  3. Pulling power. It goes without saying, but there’s no point in buying a people carrier, only to discover that once it’s filled up with kids, adults and all their stuff that you struggle to get up the gentle incline that leads to your house. While you mightn’t need (or indeed want) a Ferrari, lack of pulling power can be a real frustration.
  4. Efficiency. Fuel is expensive; there’s no getting away from that. Look out for hybrid vehicles and make that choice wherever you can. Even though your journeys are short, you probably do more miles in a year than you think you do.
  5. Colour (only joking). But of course it’s important!
  6. Reliability. Kids have strict timetables to respect, even if it’s just meeting up with their friends, so knowing that your car will start when you turn the key and won’t break down every couple of days is a given.
  7. Accessibility. This may sound an odd feature, but particularly if your kids are small, look at the width of the doors. Asking yourself how easy it will it be to negotiate a toddler into their car seat with the space available is better done before purchase than after.
  8. Durability. Kids are tough on cars, that’s a given. Your car (unless you’ve got the willpower of a goddess) will be used as a dumping ground, a restaurant and a (junior) bar, so needs to stand up to the wear and tear ahead of it.
  9. Entertainment. For short runs, entertainment mightn’t be an issue, but if grandma and granddad are a three hour journey away and your car is the only one that’ll take all that’s required for a few days away, it might be worth thinking about in-car entertainment options.
  10. Good looks and style. This simply goes without saying once again, but like all things, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.



What is vehicle emissions tax?

vehicle emissionsIt has been recognised for some time now that the emissions from cars and lorries is an issue for the environment.

Several studies have taken place to determine the different emissions that come from motor vehicles, especially those with internal combustion engines. These studies have taken place because in the 1950s and 1960s the penny dropped that air pollution caused by traffic on the road was a risk to health and could not be left to get worse and worse as people started to invest in bigger cars and drive more often than before.

Originally investigated in the United States, early examinations gave rise to controls being put in place to monitor vehicle emissions. But, like many things in the US, the strictness of the control varied from state to state and were pretty much ignored. It was only in 1970 when the US Environmental Protection Agency took up the baton that things began to be taken more seriously. By 1974, the real risk of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitogen oxides amongst other compounds were known and it was accepted that they were likely to have a seriously detrimental effect on short and long-term health.

Respiratory diseases and cancers are just two of the negative health effects of vehicle emissions, so it’s clear that while the government in any country in the world benefits from a nice revenue from selling fuel, they have a subsequent cost risk on the health side of the equation. It is for this reason, together with the greater awareness that the long term effect on the planet simply can’t be ignored that governments across the world have sat up and started to pay attention to vehicle emissions, particularly in recent years.

In Europe, the EU member states are governed by the rules set out by the overall community, but many countries have decided to enforce stricter rules in order to improve their country’s performance when it comes to reducing emissions. Such countries are being recognised on the global platform as being leaders in the journey to a greener planet.

In North America, there are several different bodies that oversee the control of vehicle emissions and create policy to discourage pollution. In the UK, in line with many other such issues, there are three different agencies that take charge of vehicle emissions. They are the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Department of the Environment. These departments operate in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively. That said, the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs takes an overall view for the whole country and liaises closely with Europe on the subject.

So how do governments across the world deter people from allowing vehicles to emit unacceptable levels of harmful substances? Like most other things, they apply a tax to vehicles according to their engine size and their CO2 emissions. This tax is called vehicle emissions tax. Vehicle emissions tax often takes into account the year of registration of a car as well as the engine size and CO2 emission on the basis that cars manufactured in more recent years have made attempts to control emissions more effectively than before.