If a 4×4 is essential to your farm business, then recent changes in vehicle tax could mean driving a very hard bargain when acquiring a vehicle.

The 4×4 market is big business and awash with vehicle options – from the ubiquitous Land Rover that’s served farming since the 1950s to the new kids on the block in the form of imports from Asia and America – all vying for a slice of the action (see Motor vehicles, Machinery & Equipment in Marketplace).

While capital purchase costs are generally high, running costs must also be considered.

Chancellor Gordon Brown has done nothing to ease the burden on farm finances by slapping a new tax hike in the form of increased Vehicle Excise Duty – what many call “road tax” – on 4x4s registered from 23 March this year.

This now sees owners of 4x4s with CO2 emissions of 225g/km (Band G) having to fork out £210/year for petrol models and £215 for diesels – an increase of £40, typically.

As could be expected, this piece of legislation, proposed initially by Liberal Democrat MPs to curb the use of “Chelsea Tractors” used on the school run in urban areas, has hit rural communities hardest; a point quickly picked up by Conservative MPs in Wales.

However damning the criticism, dealers suggest it will have little impact on sales to farming clients.

In an industry where the farm vehicle generally benefits from being 4×4 for access, it’s also a pre-requisite for towing.

As one observer put it:

“The hike in tax is an annoyance; the vehicle remains essential.”

Of course, used vehicles registered before this date will not be as heavily penalised (that said, it appears the Chancellor’s intention is to see VED rise at least in line with inflation) but can be taxing in other ways.

Before buying a used 4×4 – as with any vehicle – dealers recommended having an accident/finance/theft check carried out by specialists recommended by lenders and insurers costing around £40 on-line or by phone.

With 24% of vehicle checks highlighting outstanding finance, 5% indicating mileage discrepancies, and 4% recorded as previous insurance write-offs – according to the market leader – it goes to show that not only is there nothing as certain in life as death or the Chancellor’s taxes, but it also pays to research a vehicle’s provenance.