Buying a cheap but reliable car

Should you be unable to afford a new or relatively new car you will be looking at the used car market to find your next vehicle.

Your first consideration is whether to buy from a private seller perhaps from an online auction site or as advertised in the local paper or whether to visit a local car dealership to see whether there are any cars that may be suitable and in your price bracket.

The cost of the car will usually be more expensive from a dealership, but you are usually given a short warranty which is good for your peace of mind. If you are buying from a private seller it is worthwhile checking online to see past MOTs and any advisories that have been issued so that you can ask the seller if these have been dealt with. If you can take a mechanic with you to view and test drive the car before you buy it may give you an indication of the car’s worth and any issues it may have.

Although reliability cannot ever be guaranteed when buying a used car, if checks are made before purchasing the chances of getting a car that can be relied upon will be greater.

Smart motorways, are they safe?

Smart motorways have been about for a number of years now and in the last five years there has been 38 deaths which surely says there is a need to rethink them. A section of the M25 that has been turned in to a smart motorway has seen a 20 fold increase in near misses since the hard shoulder was removed. The idea of these smart motorways is to open up the hard shoulder to be used by motorists as another lane. It someone breaks down in a lane then a sign on a gantry will illuminate a red x to show drivers that the line is closed, and they need to move in to another lane. This was first piloted on the M42 where the Emergency Refuge Areas were every 500m, without consultation this was changed to only have them every 2500m instead which may have contributed to the number of deaths that have occurred.

It can take up to 17 minutes for the control room to spot a broken down vehicle and hit the button to display a red X, it can then take another 17 minutes for the car to be rescued and bought to safety which means you have well over half an hour of time where you are in a very dangerous position.

How much does break down cover cost?

Breakdown cover is something that many drivers skim on and either neglect to get it at all or find the cheapest quote and go with that, but in doing this you are playing a dangerous game which could end up costly.

Unlike car insurance, break down cover is not compulsory in the UK but even so, it is something that we should all take out for added peace of mind. Even new cars suffer breakdowns so regardless of the age of the vehicle you should get breakdown. Some policies even cover you when you are a passenger in someone else’s car so need not worry about ever get stuck.  If you break down on the motorway, you must get your car recovered as soon as possible and if you cannot provide details of the company that is recovering you then you may have to pay the recovery charges issued by the highways maintenance service. This is often a lot higher than the annual fee you would pay for breakdown assistance and they will often only recover you to a local garage or safe place to leave the vehicle.

The average break down policy costs as little as £9 per month so it really won’t break the bank and in with this you may also be given extras such as a hire car or overnight accommodation. If you want extra peace of mind be sure to opt for a package that recovers you to any UK destination and also home start.

Can you discover the service history for a car you own?

If you have a vehicle and have not been given the service schedule book then you may have no idea what if any services have been done on it. Most cars are usually kept up to date with the services for at least the first three years after which time some people can become a little complacent and miss one or two along the way. A service is important to ensure that the car is working as efficiently as possible and to try and prevent the unnecessary wear of parts.

If you have just bought a car but have no service history for it you can do some investigation work and try to find out yourself information on past services. If the car came with any receipts, then have a good look through them first and see if you can find an invoice for a service. If you know where the car has been taken for repairs you could ring that garage up and ask them if they have any service history for the vehicle. You can sometimes order a duplicate service book online for the make and model of your vehicle but be sure to then try and contact the servicing garages to ask if they would be willing to stamp it for you.

Hire care fuel economy

When hiring a car you want to make sure that you get the most fuel for your money as you would if you were driving your own car at home. Many hire cars come with a certain amount of fuel in them and when you return them, you usually have to return them with the same amount back in. If you return them with less fuel then you will usually get charged for this.

Be prepared for your next car hire by reading these top tips to help improve your hire car fuel economy. Some you’re probably aware of, some you might have forgot or been unaware of. They’re all handy to know!

Sounds simple, but when the weather is hot try to park in the shade rather than out in the open as this will reduce fuel evaporation. Plan you journeys in advance and look out for traffic. Making sure you take the shortest route may help you save on the fuel you use. Carrying unnecessary weight will increase fuel consumption. It can be easy to leave those bags of unwanted clothes in your hire car for days forgetting to take them to the charity shop but each day this is costing you money.

The importance of changing you cam belt

As a car owner it is your responsibility to ensure that your car is maintained and road legal. There are many things that can go wrong with a car from time to time and one of the more costly jobs is often involving the cam belt.

A cam belt is the belt that drives the cam which synchronises the rotation of the crankshaft and the camshaft so that the engine’s valves open and close at the proper times during each cylinder’s intake and exhaust strokes.

Most cars have a rubber belt but some are fitted with a chain belt which means they are much less likely to break. The rubber cam belts will often need replacing at certain intervals and may need tensioning in-between changes. If this is not done you run the risk of the belt snapping or loosening too much and causing internal damage to the engine, which can often be enough damage to make the car a write off and beyond economical repair.

Some cars need the cam belt changing approximately every sixty thousand miles or so where as other may only need it doing every one hundred and twenty thousand.

Always get the cam belt changed as soon as possible on a second hand car unless you can be certain it has been done recently.

The minefield that is car insurance

Car insurance is something that we all need if you are driving a car on the roads or even just having it parked up outside your house. Prices for insurance can vary drastically depending on the car you want to insure, the area you live in, the experience you have and points on your license (just to name a few). It can be an expensive annual or monthly fee for a car or van owner and with many of us relying on our cars to get to and from work, owning a car is a must.

When looking to take out a new car insurance policy, it is recommended that you shop around for the best price as different insurance companies can offer vastly different quotes for the exact same policy.

Once you have found the best quote, be sure to check the small print for other fees you may incur during the policy. The excess is something that can vary quite a bit from policy to policy. Most insurance policies have a compulsory excess and then a voluntary. You may find that by increasing the voluntary excess, the annual price for the insurance drops down. Some insurance companies will charge an admin fee for changes, such as changes of address, vehicle or convictions etc. They will also charge a fee to cancel a policy and this can be anything from £20 upwards of £75.

Getting your vehicle ready for an MOT

It is important to always know the date when your MOT is due. Ideally you want to get your MOT done a bit early as after the date has passed you will no longer be allowed to drive it without a valid MOT. Having the MOT done on the same day it is due is risky if you need the car back soon as it may need work doing to it and then a retest should it fail, which may take longer than a day to complete.
Before taking your car in for an MOT there are a few things you can do yourself to try and make sure it doesn’t fail on anything simple. Checking that your washer level, oil and coolant levels are correct is something you should do often anyway but be sure to check and top up if required prior to your MOT. Check your tyres are in a good condition, have enough tread on them, no damage and are inflated correctly. You should also check your lights are all working as if not this can be a failure for something that is easily rectified.
You may wish to take your car to a garage that does MOT’s only and no repair work as some people feel that they are less likely to try and find things to fail it on as they will not make any money off repair work.

How easy is it to change a light bulb on your vehicle?

If you notice you have a light out on your vehicle you may assume that it is a very simple job to do. Most vehicles have quick release panels that allow you to easily access the back of the light fitting, remove the dud bulb and replace it with a new one, but unfortunately, this is not the case for all makes and models of vehicles.

Some vehicles require you to remove the plastic covering held in place by studs around the wheel arch. This can be quite hard to do and often locating and replacing the bulb is not always straightforward. There are also a few makes and models of cars that require you to complete part of the front bumper to access to the front light assembly. Often vehicles where you are required to do this, are best taken to a garage to complete.

Be sure that you always buy good quality bulbs and double check that they are the right fitment before purchasing. Places such as Halfords sell bulbs for most vehicles and even offer a fitting service for a small fee. Driving around with a headlight or indicator bulb out, for example, is an offence and if you notice that one is not working you need to get it replaced as soon as possible.



Maximising Fuel Economy

With oil prices on the rise, fuel prices are once again creeping up, putting even more pressure on household budgets. With that said, few drivers really understand how to get the best efficiency out of their vehicles, so here are a few tips to help you – it really could save you money!

First off, check your tyre pressures regularly; both under and over inflated tyres will wear more quickly, which will cost you money, but under-inflated tyres create more friction and thus use more fuel. Ensure your tyres are appropriately inflated for the load.

Consider your load – the heavier your vehicle is, the harder it has to work to move, so the more fuel it uses. Keep the load in your vehicle to a minimum, and don’t drive around with a load of stuff you don’t need in the boot.

Next up is driving style – and this is a biggie. Accelerating hard uses a lot of petrol, and is often totally unnecessary. To drive as efficiently as possible, accelerate gently, using hills to assist where possible, and work up the gears as quickly as you can. Look ahead – you want to try to avoid stopping, so the same applies to braking – gently, and in plenty of time.