It's now been eight years since I decided to give up my company car and take the allowance instead. For most of those eight years I've been justified in making that choice as I wasn't doing the mileage to justify a company car, but in the last three months I've managed to add 4000 miles to a car that only managed 48000 in the first 7 years and 9 months of my ownership making me wonder if I wouldn't be better off with the company car option again.
To give the car its due, though, it hasn't missed a beat which, for an eight year old car even with relatively low mileage, is pretty good going. Its proven to be a reliable, comfortable and - even though I say so myself - stylish cruiser as I've hacked up and down the M4 and M5 on various trips to the South West over the last few months.
When I first took delivery of my brand new Alfa 156 back in October 2001, most of my friends and colleagues thought I was mad. An Alfa! It'll spend more time on the side of the road and in the garage than actually going anywhere they told me. I knew all about the reputation of Alfa Romeos before I bought it, but I'd always promised myself a new Alfa at some point and, as I knew I wouldn't be putting that many miles a year on it, I wasn't too worried. I just needed something that could get me to and from work and that could carry me and the family to the coast once a year for the family holiday.
But as it has turned out, the car has been trouble free in all that time. The only problem I've had in eight years has been a dead battery which only happened after a long journey to Cornwall was completed and was swiftly replaced by the AA. Meanwhile, my friends and colleagues have got through two or, in some cases three cars and all of them have seen their "quality German engineering" sitting in garages for long periods having various faults detected and rectified.
Indeed, one colleague who was a huge fan of a certain German marque even though he had never owned or driven one before (I'll not name it - but it starts with B ends in W and has an M in the middle) took delivery of his brand new company dream machine around the same time I got my Alfa. His car spent the next six months in and out of the garage and my colleague quickly fell out of love with the marque. After four years of living with a car that was never right and which he ended up despising he now tools up and down the motorways of England in a Japanese repmobile.
The Alfa has proven to be a reliable and faithful family friend. So much so that, when I started to clock up the extra miles and suggested to my family that maybe the time had come to trade it in for a newer model the missus and kids were aghast. And they were right - what would be the point? The car was paid for a long time ago, is hardly worth anything to a second hand buyer and I'm just as likely to end up with a duff new car as I am a duff old one. It still has everything I need from a car and does it with more style and panache than 90% of the cars on the road these days.
So I'm hanging on to it. Here's to the next eight years!