All posts by scb

Dash Cams

How would you rate your driving skills? Many people would actually say their driving is very good, so why are there so many accidents in the UK? If you don’t break the law when behind the wheel, you probably see your driving as almost perfect. You don’t run red lights, use your mobile, or even speed.

Yet the chances are you’ve been involved in a collision of some sort; after all there are thousands of claims every month. Worst of all is liability being disputed, resulting you losing your excess. This could be worth hundreds of pounds – Even if you’re sure you weren’t at fault for the accident.

It’s also common for motorists to lie to the police and their insurers, or even abandon the scene before you can write down their registration number. For all these instances you could do with video footage to prove your innocence and in turn, show the guilt of the other party. This is where dash cams come in handy.

Dashboard cameras have been growing in popularity around the world, although they’ve been in use for decades – particularly with police in the US. These cameras are fixed onto your windscreen or dashboard and record the road ahead for your every movement.

What’s more, dash cams have become increasingly affordable for the public, so they’re not just common with buses, taxis and police cars anymore. Instead, you can buy and fit a dashboard camera in no time at all, so you’re ready to record your driving and eliminate the possibility of being wrongly accused in the event of a collision.

As you would expect, there are loads of companies now offering these dashboard cameras, claiming to offer superior benefits to the others available. If you’re interested in getting a dash cam for your car it’s best to compare a few before making a final decision.

For instance, the cheapest dashboard cameras will likely have all the features and benefits you require, whilst more expensive options can record both the front and rear, include GPS tracking and even keep a record of your driving speed and routes.

So, let’s take a look at the various reasons to invest in a dashboard camera.

To Use As Evidence

This is perhaps the most popular reason for the dash cam’s rise to fame as footage can be recorded in real time, which can later be reviewed. If there aren’t street cameras in place or witnesses to back your account up, you have to rely on one person’s word against the other.

This is where the dash cam is useful. Simply switch on the camera and record your journey. Then, if there’s an accident that wasn’t your fault you can prove your innocence.

To Counter Insurance Fraud

Unfortunately, insurance fraud has become a big problem not just in the UK, but around the world. And it’s not just a case of a motorist claiming to have whiplash when there’s a genuine accident.

Nowadays there are drivers deliberately braking hard or people even running out into the path of vehicles in order to claim excessive amounts from your insurer. Again, a dashboard camera would help prevent this as you could simply prove to the insurers your innocence and avoid a large payment.

To Report Road Rage & Bad Driving

Our roads are getting busier and as such, more and more people are having accidents daily. There are even accounts of poor driving when fortunately there was no accident at the end of it. A dashboard camera helps you report incidents to the police so they can deal appropriately with any serious driving errors.

To Protect Your Vehicle Even When Parked

Have you ever parked up, done your shopping and returned to a dent in your car? This happens to people up and down the country every day and whilst some will be kind enough to leave a note with their details, others will drive off in haste. A dashboard camera gives you added protection for your vehicle, no matter where you are.

To Save Money On Your Insurance

Another excellent reason to choose a dashboard camera is to help with your car insurance. Of course, as mentioned above, a dash cam gives you the proof you need to avoid liability in the event of an accident.

But also, a camera fixed to your dashboard could also reduce your insurance premiums. Car insurance has never been so expensive and motorists are trying to find anyway possible to cut their expenses. A dashboard camera may help do this and you could recoup the cost in just one year.

The best rated dashboard cameras

Now you know all about dashboard cameras and the reasons to invest in one, let’s take a look at some of the best ones to part you with your money.

Mio MiVue 538 Deluxe

Price: £149.99

This is one of the best dashboard cameras on the market, offering excellent picture and sound quality. There are a number of other superb features included and it’s pretty easy to setup and fix to your dashboard. If you’re interested in a dashboard camera, this is the one we’d suggest.


 

RAC 02

Price: £149

If you want to ensure the widest viewing angle, the RAC 02 is the camera to go for. There is the drawback though of picture quality not being as great as the Mio, particularly at night.


 

Garmin 20

Price: £169.99

This dashboard camera has everything you’d need, with a good picture and sound quality. There’s also GPS and speed tracking available on playback. However, you need to download a third-party codec to watch footage on your computer and there’s an irritating beeping sound when the camera is active.


 

Cobra CDR-900

Price: £159

Whilst the video quality in itself is clear, it has a tendency to judder on playback, so there’s the possibility of it missing an incident you desperately want to record. It’s also more difficult to setup than the others mentioned above and all round, the Mio is much better in terms of picture. We’d suggest you look elsewhere.

Most Expensive Parking Spaces

Most Expensive Car Parking Spaces In Britain

In February 2014, the most expensive parking space in the United Kingdom was sold for £400,000. This underground parking space in London near the Royal Albert Hall can only fit two cars yet it costs more than twice the average rate for a house in Britain; which as of September 2014 is £188,374.

The capital city is where you’ll find the most expensive general parking too, as not only do motorists need to contend with a £10 congestion charge, but also the most costly parking in the world. In fact, research found London parking was costlier than other notoriously expensive hotspots, such as Tokyo, New York and Sydney.

According to Parkatmyhouse.com, London parking costs an average of £42 each day. This is some three times more than other large UK cities, including Birmingham and Manchester.

However, something you might not expect, is Cambridge has been named as the UK’s second most expensive city for parking. Research suggests that parking over five hours costs £26 Monday to Saturday.

Parked Cars

Compared to British property prices

In 2013, 10 months prior to the sale of this parking space, a similar space in the same car park sold for £275,000. This demonstrates an exorbitant rise in price of 46% in just 10 months. Moreover, given that land and housing prices continue to rise across the UK, the cost of parking spaces continues to rise in a similar fashion. The following chart demonstrates the annual change in house prices across Britain:

Image Source: This is Money
Image Source: This is Money

Consequently, in contrast to the aforementioned £400,000 parking space, you would be able to purchase a range of homes across different regions in Britain. For instance, as reported in The Guardian, for £400,000 you would be able to purchase the following:

1. A Grade II listed building in Ipswich

The following grade II listed building in Ipswich features five bedrooms and four reception rooms, an adjoining coach house, which has been converted to a garage and a courtyard with parking for four cars.

Image Source: Fenn Wright
Image Source: Fenn Wright

Compared to the UK average salary

As well as comparing the most expensive car parking space in Britain to properties, there is also a staggering comparison to be made in relation to the average UK salary. As matters stand, the average UK salary is approximately £26,500.

Although there is a substantial wage divide, with the FTSE 100 chiefs taking home an average of £4,300,000 and four in five jobs averaging under £16,640 for a 40-hour week, the Royal Albert Hall parking space amounts to over 15 years worth of salary in relation to the average British wage.

What’s more, this amount increases to 24 years worth of salary when equated with those who earn £16,640 per year. Even the Prime Minister would have to spend three years of his wages on this parking space; given that his current salary remains at £142,500 annually.

Image Source: Ons.gov
Image Source: Ons.gov

Compared to taking a break away

Also, if you compare the cost of the Royal Albert Hall parking space to international travels, then you and 556 friends could afford the holiday of a lifetime! For £1,438, a couple could fly to Tobago and spend a week in a four star hotel.

According to the Halifax, the average holiday costs Briton’s £1,404. This takes into account everything including activities, food and drink, rising 7% from last year. In fact, the food, drink and entertainment clock in at an average of £359, adding to a quarter of the total spend.

SummerDriving

More of us have enjoyed holidaying abroad recently too, with 56% of Briton’s travelling overseas in 2014 compared to 45% in 2013. Of course, many people are still shopping around for the best deals, with 19% of the Halifax survey suggesting they booked as early as possible.

Compared to normal parking fees

One of the main reasons why motorists purchase car parking spaces is to protect their vehicle from theft and damage as well as to save money on daily parking charges. For instance, automotive website Just Park revealed that car parking costs around the UK increased by 12.5% in 2010 alone.

Moreover, many automotive companies have created car parking tools; an example of which is the online tool offered by Park Let that enables motorists to compare the rental costs of parking spaces and garage rental across the UK.

However, despite these expensive car parking fees, the Royal Albert Hall parking space is still significantly more expensive than the majority of the car parking spaces in Britain. For example, instead of buying this parking space you could park your vehicle in London for more than 99,255 hours; the equivalent of over 11 years of continuous parking.

Illustrated below is a table recording the average car parking charges in 2010:

Image Source: JustPark
Image Source: JustPark

Compared to having a bite to eat

In today’s gastronomically adventurous society the cost of restaurant meals continues to increase. According to a recent survey, the average cost of a starter is £5.59, a main course is £10.62 and a desert costs £4.20. If you combine these meals together to produce a three course meal then it will cost you an average of £20.32.

However, if you compare these rates to that of a £400,000 parking space, you could dine in luxury 19,685 times; the equivalent of one meal per day for almost 54 years.

Image Source: Flickr (Yoann Jezequel)
Image Source: Flickr (Yoann Jezequel)

The Telegraph has even found what they question to be the most expensive restaurant in the world. The Hard Rock Hotel in Ibiza charges £1,235 for a 20-course meal with a ‘unique multisensory experience’. To ensure that each customer has the utmost service, the restaurant only serves 12 each night. Still, you could eat in this exotic location for a year without paying the same as for Britain’s most expensive car parking spot.

Compared to buying a new car

Instead of investing in a London parking space you could choose to purchase a wide range of luxury vehicles for £400,000. According to The Telegraph, the cheapest car in 2014 is the Dacia Sandero with an RRP of £5,995. For the cost of the Royal Albert Hall parking space you could afford to buy at least 66 Dacia Sanderos!

Alternatively you could decide to indulge in a variety of high-end luxury vehicles for £400,000. You would be able to purchase both an Aston Martin Vanquish Volante and a Ferrari 458 Italia at their retail prices of £199,995 and £169,545 respectively. What’s more, you would still have the remaining change of £30,460! However, if you only wished to purchase one vehicle, you could invest in the decadent £400,000 Rolls Royce Phantom.

Mercedes Classic

 

The Rise of Expensive Car Parking Spaces

As well as this £400,000 Royal Albert Hall parking space, many other car parking spaces have sold for elaborate rates. Most recently, a private car park in Mayfair which provided allocated space for up to eight vehicles was placed on sale for £2,250,000. The cost of this parking space is equivalent to that of a 16th Century grade B listed castle in Scotland.

Moreover, these car parking spaces are so expensive that they could even be considered liable for mansion tax! A garage on Kenworthy Road in Hackney is also being auctioned for a substantial rate. According to the property listing advert, the garage is set to be auctioned for £375,000 which is more than double the price of the average British home.

These expensive car parking spaces are no longer an anomaly due to the rising prices of land and housing. Given that these expensive property trends are expected to increase, it seems inevitable that these costly parking spaces will continue to be sold for exorbitant rates.

Where unsold cars go to die

The amount of consumers who purchase new cars has declined drastically in recent years. This is due to the fact that used cars can be purchased for a significantly reduced rate as opposed to expensive new vehicles.

However, despite this decrease in sales, many automotive manufacturers continue to produce new cars. Unfortunately, this has created a global problem wherein there are now more cars in the world than there are people.

Image Source: Pictures.dealers
Image Source: Pictures.dealers

Why are consumers not buying new cars?

Automotive used car reports demonstrate how the impact of the economic recession has caused motorists to repair their vehicles rather than replace them for a new model. For instance, the 2009 BCA Used Car Market report highlighted that 42% of the motorists surveyed did not plan to replace their car during the recession.

Moreover, the 2013 BCA Report revealed that the amount of households who do not own a car rose from 5% to 28% over the past three years. This presents a worrying trend for the automotive industry as their target consumer market is rapidly decreasing.

The continuous decline in car sales has hit the automotive industry hard with widespread job losses from leading automotive manufacturers. There were approximately 47,000 and 20,000 job losses from General Motors and Nissan respectively in February 2009, as well as a series of notable factory closures including the Southampton and Dagenham Ford UK plants in 2012, which resulted in approximately 1,400 job losses.
Car dealer 1
Image from pinterest

Furthermore, the automotive industry has been forced to rely upon government bailouts as a result of their sales losses; such as when the US government famously bailed out General Motors, Ford and Chrysler in November 2008. This global decline in the automotive industry has led to the formation of “new car graveyards”; wherein unsold new cars can wait for up to two years before they are either sold or recycled to produce yet more new cars.

Many of these problems with unused vehicles occur due to the fact that automotive manufacturers over predict how many units of a vehicle they are going to sell. Furthermore, automotive manufacturers prefer to keep at least 60 days stock in order to ensure they always have enough cars to sell. However, industry average stock levels now sit at 89 days in the USA and as high as 114 days, 107 days and 105 days for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler respectively.

Autoreihe

Where do unsold vehicles end up?

Thousands of unsold cars, which are mechanically perfect, end up in what’s known as a car graveyard. These “new car graveyards” often arise due to the fact that automotive manufacturers are guilty of channel stuffing.

The term “channel stuffing” describes the process wherein large amounts of stock are produced and shipped out to dealerships to boost sales figures. Unfortunately if these vehicles are not sold it can be detrimental for the company when these vehicles are returned.

Internet blogger Zerohedge argues that the American multinational automotive corporation General Motors could be guilty of channel stuffing at present. For example, in January 2014 General Motors added another 42,000 cars to their inventory; which amounts for a quarter of their total January sales that year.

This increased inventory raised the total number of cars which General Motors held in storage to 780,000 units. These figures accounted for the second highest inventory level for vehicles that was on record at that time. The following chart demonstrates the monthly inventory levels for General Motors between November 2009 and January 2014:

Image Source: Zero Hedge
Image Source: Zero Hedge

When you combine these records with information obtained from the General Motors Q3 investors report, the estimated worldwide sales across General Motors’ five main markets in North America, Europe, South America, International and Greater China was recorded to be a total of 7,371,743 vehicles.

Furthermore, when you estimate General Motors’ annual sales of 10 million units, as stated in their 2013 annual report, and you also assume that the number of vehicles in storage remained consistent from January 2014, then you can deduce that approximately 8% of their total worldwide annual sales remained in storage in “new car graveyards” in 2014.

Reducing car prices vs. car graveyards

Automotive manufacturers often refuse to reduce the price of these surplus vehicles in order to clear them because they do not want to lose valuable profits. The only exceptions wherein the sale price of these surplus vehicles is reduced are when new models have been released or when the vehicle has been updated and these older vehicles in storage effectively become obsolete.

Smiling happy elderly couple in the new car.

Many automotive manufacturers are reluctant to allow motorists to buy brand new cars for a substantially lower price lower than they would pay at a dealership because they believe this would prevent motorists from purchasing new vehicles at their full retail price; opting instead to refrain from buying a new vehicle until the price drops significantly.

Consequently, brand new cars are usually stored on these “graveyard” sites for up to two years. If vehicles remain unsold for a prolonged period of time then they will eventually be recycled to produce new vehicles, which again may be left to await sale on the graveyard.

As well as the financial ramifications of these graveyards, the environmental impact of the overproduction of these new vehicles must be also considered. An enormous amount of energy is used to produce a new vehicle; often releasing more than 17 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Auto repair.

Recycling these unwanted cars

What’s more, if this vehicle is never used and then recycled to produce another vehicle, which may again never be used, then this seemingly endless cycle is seriously damaging the environment. For instance, in order to produce a medium sized car, automotive manufacturers use as much energy as that which would power the gas and electricity in a typical UK home for up to three years. Subsequently, the energy used to produce these vehicles is effectively wasted and as such is a very inefficient use of the non-renewable resources, which are often used when manufacturing new vehicles.

Despite the ongoing overproduction of new cars there appears to be signs of improvement. The number of new cars awaiting sale on graveyards is now far lower than back in 2009 according to a recent report by USA Today. This is due to the fact that consumers are beginning to buy more new cars as the global economy gradually recovers. Moreover, manufacturers have responded to these purchasing trends by reducing the number of new cars produced to a level which is more suited to the public demand.

Furthermore, automotive manufacturers are producing new vehicles which are more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly than previous models. The improved environmental profile of these vehicles promotes the production of new vehicles to replace older, less efficient models. Ultimately it is hoped that as the economy continues to recover these new cars will find their way to motorists rather than being left in storage.

What to look for in a used car

We’ve discussed in more detail specific things you should consider when buying a used car if you’re a younger driver, an older motorist or need a family vehicle. But there are certain things that any and every motorist should think about when it comes to choosing the perfect pre-owned model.

Value and reliability

When you’re choosing a used car, it’s often a good idea to consider its resale value. Look at the reliability record of the model you pick and that of the manufacturer, and try to find a vehicle that has been well maintained. Also consider the current mileage – the lower the better – and even things like colour can affect the resale value.

Practicality

Always think about what you’ll be using the car for. For example, if you live in an urban environment with tight parking spaces you’ll probably want to consider a small hatchback, whereas if you’re a mum of four, you’ll need something that’ll comfortably accommodate the kids and their luggage.

Safety

Safety is always a priority, and most modern cars have a raft of features that keep you well protected. Find out what comes as standard on the models you’re looking at and decide how much peace of mind you need on the road. It’s also worth checking the Euro NCAP safety ratings for an accurate picture of how the car performed in tests.

Security and condition

When you go to look at a used car, check the details of the car against the paperwork and take a look at its general condition. We’ve detailed the security checks to carry out when you view a vehicle, but don’t overlook the general wear and tear. What condition are the seats and steering wheel in? Is there any rust or cosmetic damage to the exterior? What state are the alloys in? Inspect the car properly and decide if you think the asking price is fair for what you see.

Ride and handling

Some people place more emphasis on how the car feels to drive than others, but it is important that you get on with your chosen vehicle. Take it for a test drive to ascertain how comfortable the ride is, how sharp the handling is, and how much body roll you experience in corners. Some people are looking for a sporty feel with speedy acceleration, while others want comfort and convenience. Going for a spin will help you to identify anything that you may not like about the drive, as well as giving you a chance to spot potential mechanical faults.

Running costs

The final thing to look for in a used car is whether its running costs suit your budget. Manufacturers are trying to lower their CO2 emissions and make their vehicles more efficient, saving you money on tax and fuel, but these still largely depend on the type of car you go for and its engine size.

Security checks

Security checks are really important when you’re buying a used car. Taking the time to verify that the vehicle comes from where the seller says it does and that the documentation matches the details of the car not only gives you peace of mind, it also saves a lot of potential trouble further down the line. Here are a few checks you can make before you agree to purchase a pre-owned car.

  1. If buying from a dealer, ask them to confirm via a commercial database that the car has not been reported as stolen or written off, and that it is not still under a finance agreement. If buying privately, or for extra reassurance, you can contact HPI Group Ltd to check the status of the vehicle. There is a small charge for this service.
  1. Ensure that the seller can provide the registration document (V5C) – it’s a legal requirement for them to do so and if they can’t, walk away. When you look at the document, check that the details match those of the car – registration number, chassis number, engine number, make and model.
  1. Check MOT documents and, before buying, verify them online at www.gov.uk/check-mot-status-vehicle. To do this, you’ll need the car’s registration number and either the MOT test number of the V5C reference number. Also check that the car’s service history is up to date and keep an eye out for any signs that suggest the documents have been tampered with.
  1. Check that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) in the vehicle body matches that on the VIN plate or sticker. Then check that both match the recorded VIN on the V5C document. Look for signs of tampering around the plates and etchings
  1. Make sure the car hasn’t been ‘clocked’ – where the seller has wound back the milometer. The recorded mileage should tally up with what’s on the service and MOT history, and take a look at the car’s general condition to see if the mileage on the clock seems fair. Numerous stone chips and worn upholstery can be an indication of high mileage.
  1. If buying from a private seller, arrange a viewing during the day at their home address so that you can confirm it is the same as on the V5C. Be wary if the seller insists on meeting you away from their home and take a friend or relative along to the viewing as a second pair of eyes.
  1. Ensure you are properly insured and take a test drive in the vehicle before committing. That way, you will be able to find out if there are any immediate problems with the vehicle’s mechanics. Pay attention to steering and braking, as well as the sound of the engine.

Used car advice for elderly people

When buying a used car, you want to be sure that the model you pick is right for your needs and completely dependable. There are several things you can consider when it comes to choosing the ideal model.

Age and reliability

The last thing you need is for your car to be going wrong all the time. It’s therefore a good idea to choose a vehicle that isn’t too old, around three to four years is ideal, and research what other drivers have to say about it. Websites like Parkers and What Car? feature reviews from ordinary drivers that can help you to find out how reliable each model is.

Accessibility

As you get older, you won’t want to find yourself struggling to get in and out of your vehicle. Many elderly drivers prefer cars with a higher seating position, such as MPVs, as they’re much easier to get in and out of than cars with lower seats. Wide-opening or sliding doors also give you and your passengers plenty of space to access the seat and get comfy.

Comfort

This applies to most drivers, but for older motorists it’s particularly important to choose a car with supple suspension that will soak up bumps in the road. Sportier models tend to have stiffened suspension that accentuates every lump and bump in the tarmac, and this can be quite hard on your body. Take the car for a test drive to determine how well it copes with uneven surfaces and whether it is comfortable for longer distances.

You’ll also want comfy seats that offer plenty of support. Again, test driving the vehicle will give you an indication of how well the seating meets your needs.

Storage

You may also want to think about the storage space that your used car offers. Some cars are tricky to get luggage or shopping in and out of due to a higher lip on the boot, or may not have enough boot room for the things you need. If you’re taking grandchildren out frequently, you’ll need to consider how much space they’ll need in the back of the car too.

Safety

Keeping yourself and your passengers safe on the road is always important, so consider the safety features of the car you’re looking at. Find its Euro NCAP rating and look at what it offers in terms of both accident protection and prevention. Things like stability control, emergency brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution are all designed to help you avoid a collision, and many models have such features nowadays.

Used car advice for young people

Buying your first car is an exciting experience – there’s a new sense of freedom as well as the inevitable pride in your vehicle, no matter how old it is. It’s a process that you should take your time over to ensure you get the best possible model for your money. We’ve got some tips to help you pick the ideal option.

The bigger picture

When you’re buying your first car, it’s easy to forget the bigger picture, by which we mean running costs. You may be able to afford a top end model on finance, but can you afford the servicing, insurance and fuel costs? Consider your annual expenditure when choosing a vehicle, not just the price of the car.

Don’t buy the first car you see

Having considered your budget, it’s time to start looking in earnest. Research normally starts on the internet, and it’s easy to compare several vehicles side by side on many websites. Don’t set your heart on the first model that meets your budget – look at what you’re getting for your money and select a few vehicles to view.

Choose a reputable supplier

Used car retailers are typically a more reliable option than private sellers, unless you have a good understanding of the mechanics of the vehicle. Many retailers thoroughly inspect models and carry out background checks before they resell them, giving you extra peace of mind.

Check the paperwork

When you buy your used car, make sure that the seller can provide you with all the relevant paperwork – log book, MOT certificates, service history and anything else that may be pertinent. If you find any discrepancies, get a satisfactory explanation or simply go elsewhere.

Go for a spin

When you’ve shortlisted a couple of models, take them for a test drive – it’s one of the best ways to determine how well they’ve been looked after and if they suit your needs. Aim to be behind the wheel for around 15 minutes and if possible drive through an urban environment as well as on a higher speed road such as a dual carriageway.

Don’t be pressured

Ultimately, the car you choose is going to be with you every day for some time, so it’s important to be sure it’s right for you. Don’t let yourself be pressured into taking a car that you don’t want because you’re told there’s interest from other people or the deal runs out soon. Consider all your options and make a balanced decision.

Don’t get disheartened

If you don’t manage to find something that suits you to begin with, don’t get disillusioned. Dealers have new stock coming in all the time, so there are always options becoming available. It may take several weeks, or even months to find what you’re looking for, but it’s better to spend longer searching and be completely sure of your choice than rushing the decision and regretting it.

Buying a used family car

Choosing a used car for your family takes careful consideration. You’ll need to think about where you’ll be going and what you’ll be using it for, as well as how long you intend to keep it. Are your children toddlers or teenagers? Will you need space for football kits and ballet gear? Our brief guide gives you some things to look for to help you find the perfect used family car.

Type of vehicle

Here’s where you need to consider the age of your kids and how much space you’ll need. If your children are young, you’ll get away with a practical hatchback or saloon that has plenty of boot room for pushchairs or other equipment. If your kids are older, you may find that an MPV is the best option. MPVs offer lots of interior space and are often flexible in terms of seating, allowing you to create more boot space if necessary.

Safety

One of the primary considerations for a used family vehicle is safety. Find out what the Euro NCAP ratings are for each of your choices and check in detail what they offer. Many models have comprehensive airbag protection as well as things like stability control. The best family cars also have ISOFIX mounting points to keep young children safe in their car seats.

Accessibility

How accessible are the models you’ve shortlisted? Cars with wide opening doors are more practical, especially if you need to get younger children in and out of car seats. They’re also handy if you need to transport elderly parents regularly. Some cars have sliding rear doors, which are ideal for family use – they’re easy to open in small parking spaces and allow convenient access for kids of all ages.

Flexible seating

Many cars aimed at families now have flexible rear seating that enables you to configure the interior to your needs. Seats can slide, fold and even be removed completely to create the necessary space for any particular journey. This is especially useful if you drive abroad on holiday or frequently shuttle your kids and their friends to and from sports practise.

In-car entertainment

Some models have a host of options to keep the kids entertained on longer journeys. In-car DVD players are great for keeping them occupied, and many cars now have MP3 compatibility. If you don’t want a vehicle with a DVD player built in, you can simply choose one with a couple of 12v power sockets and buy a separate DVD system.

Optional extras

There are other things you can look for to make your used family car the perfect choice. Leather upholstery, for example, is easy to wipe clean and darker colours show up the spills less. You may also want to consider tinted rear windows – they filter out UV light and also hide belongings that may be left on seats from prying eyes.

Cutting Motoring Costs

The cost of motoring is higher than ever, and many drivers are looking for tips on how to save money. Unfortunately we can’t control the price of fuel, but we can give you some advice on how to how to keep motoring affordable.

Go eco

Choosing a car that emits less carbon dioxide helps to save you money on running costs. Cars are classified into tax bands, A to M depending on their emissions levels. The less CO2 your vehicle emits, the lower the tax. Owners of cars in bands A to C pay the least, and there is a significant leap between class C (£30.00 for 12 months’ tax) and class D (£110 for 12 months’ tax).

Insurance

Car insurance is a major factor in car running costs. The price of your premium will depend on the type of car you drive, the engine size, cost of repairs and whether you have made modifications. A small city runaround will be cheaper to insure than a 4×4, so choose something that suits your needs and budget. You can learn more about car insurance on our dedicated page.

Maintenance

Keeping your vehicle in good condition will help you to avoid costly garage bills. Taking time to check tyres, oil, coolant etc. will ensure your don’t run into trouble or have to pay for unexpected and expensive repairs. Regular servicing is a good way to maintain your vehicle and many manufacturers offer service plans when you purchase your vehicle, which can save you money long term.

Fuel

When it comes to filling up, many people have the luxury of having a few garages within easy driving distance of their home or workplace. Sometimes it’s worth driving a little further to go to a cheaper fuel station.

You can also save on fuel by driving slower. There’s a money saving element to sticking at 70mph on the motorway, as well as a legal one – it’s up to 11% more efficient than driving at 80mph.

Share

Car sharing is a great way to cut down on motoring expenses. If, for example, a colleague lives near you, ask them if they want to share the driving with you and drive alternate weeks. It’s more sociable and helps you save.

Parking

Parking costs are especially high in town and city centres, so if you’re looking to save money it’s worth finding somewhere cheaper. Many towns have car parks that are just outside the centre, perhaps a five or ten minute walk, and reward you with lower (sometimes free) parking charges. It never hurts to get a little extra exercise either!

Driving Test Tips

When it comes to preparing for your driving test, nothing beats listening carefully to your instructor and good old fashioned practice. But nerves can take over in a test situation, so we’ve provided some advice on what to expect and how to make sure you give it your best shot.

On the day

On the day of your test, the examiner will ask you to read the number plate of a car around 20 metres away. This is to check your eyesight is satisfactory. After that, you will be asked to demonstrate your knowledge of safety and maintenance of your car. The examiner will ask two questions such as, ‘What is the minimum legal tyre tread depth?’, or “Can you identify the engine oil and tell me how you would check that the engine has the correct level?”. For the latter, you would need to lift the bonnet and demonstrate how you would check the level.

After this, the driving begins. This consists of three sections – driving with the examiner telling you where to go, some manoeuvres and independent driving. For the first part, you may need to successfully negotiate junctions, roundabouts, crossroads, dual carriage ways, rural roads and one-way systems, depending on where the test centre is located.

For the second part you will need to demonstrate one or two manoeuvres. The possibilities are a turn in the road, reverse around a corner, parallel parking and bay parking. You may also be asked to perform an emergency stop. Bay parking is often asked for if there are bays at the test centre.

The independent driving elements require you to drive from one place to another without instruction from the examiner as you go and tests your ability to follow road signs safely.

Taking the test

  • The main thing to do on the day of your test is to try and stay calm. Nerves always come into play to begin with, but don’t let them cloud your judgement. Listen to instructions from the examiner and take your time at junctions and roundabouts.
  • Keep an eye on what other drivers are doing and make it clear that you are using your mirrors. Turn your head slightly to look from the road into your rear view and back again, and remember to check your mirrors when approaching junction.
  • Use indicators and check your blind spot if you are moving off from a stationary position on the side of the road.
  • Keep a safe distance from the car in front at all times and adjust your speed according to the movement of the traffic. Make sure you to leave adequate space when driving around parked cars or cyclists.
  • Complete manoeuvres slowly and with plenty of observation. Check what is going on around you and that you are completing the manoeuvre safely.
  • Approach junctions with appropriate caution to give you time to look at what’s going on and to ensure you stop before the line.