I was faced with this decision a couple of months ago and, as I calculated, there’s no such thing as a free car. Let us start from the premise that a company is either willing to contribute £x towards a car from a corporate leasing scheme, or pay me £x to source my own car. It is probably perfectly possible to get a tiny car within the £x such that the tax man’s share is covered by any remainder – but I wanted a bigger car.
So, as well as considering the obvious (company car tax on the one hand, income tax on the other; insurance, tax), I also added in tyre replacement, service, a provision for repairs (especially scuffed alloys!) and recovery.
And, on the side of the allowance, is the potential for a tax claim on the difference between the mileage rate paid by my employer and what HMRC think is reasonable. Fortunately, I had no overriding principles to sway me one way or the other, but I recognised that “peace of mind” may lean towards a company car, even if more expensive; and, equally, the desire for flexibility may mitigate in favour of a self-arrangement.
Create a fairly simple spreadsheet, plug in a few numbers, and I had my answer – it was actually pretty close based on a guesstimate as to the cost of a private purchase. But that was only my opening position with the car dealer – and I might have made one side look a bit less favourable than the other for the sake of a competitive edge. The challenge, therefore, was for the dealership to source the car I wanted at a price which tempted me away from the company lease scheme.
Free servicing for three years, sir? Free recovery? Paintwork protection? As with many negotiations the deal was ultimately down to the items which didn’t hurt their bottom line too much but did affect my spreadsheet. I did get the car for a very good price (seems the manufacturer wanted to make a “contribution” too, and they happened to have pretty much the car I wanted “pre-ordered”), it was exactly what I wanted, and I’m £150 per month better off than had I opted for the company scheme.
So what did I do that anyone else can do? Work out the options fully, add a little incentive, and then set a challenge. The worst case is already known and so the challenge is simply to beat it. I may have been lucky with the manufacturer contribution, and perhaps with the convenient car in the right place, but I would have got a deal anyway.
If you don’t ask then you don’t get – and isn’t it better to have the money in my pocket?