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How to avoid overpaying for your car insurance

Following a clampdown on whiplash claims, car insurance premiums fell by £100 between December and February. The Civil Liability Act was passed in December to curb the high number of whiplash claims, which currently cost the motor insurance industry around £2 billion each year, despite many of the claims thought to be exaggerated or fraudulent. Medical evidence will now need to be supplied to back up whiplash claims.

However, the reduction in premiums isn’t just due to the clampdown on whiplash claims. A decline in new car registrations has increased competition among insurance firms, as they fight to win new customers in a smaller market. Since December, the average car insurance premium has dropped from £790 to £690 per year.

Analysis by comparison site Comparethemarket showed that there is a gap of £116 between the cheapest and average car insurance premiums, demonstrating the importance of motorists shopping around for a better insurance deal. Comparison sites can allow you to make big savings, but there are a few golden rules that you should stick to.

No single comparison site has options from every insurance provider, so check across multiple sites to find a wider range of quotes. Some major insurers, such as Direct Line, don’t actually appear on insurance sites, so approach these insurers directly for a quote.

Remember that cheaper insurance doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best product for you – it may not be as good value as it first appears. For example, the excess may be high, or the cover may not be sufficient for what you need, so reading the small print is crucial.

Once you have found a policy that works for you, there are a few tricks to help keep the costs down…

  • Adding another, experienced driver with a clean driving license and no-claims history to your insurance cover can potentially cut costs – just make sure that you don’t claim that they are the main driver of the car, as this is illegal.
  • Switch to a new policy before your renewal date, as research has shown that if you purchase a new policy 21 days in advance, it can save you an average of £280.
  • If you can afford it, paying for the insurance upfront can reduce the overall cost, as many insurers charge interest on the monthly repayments.
  • Double-check what is included in the policy, as some elements of it may already be covered by your home insurance, breakdown cover provider or travel insurance – there’s no point in overpaying for your policy!

Remember that if you are unsure about any aspect of your policy, it’s important to get in touch with your insurance provider to avoid paying over the odds for your insurance. To make sure that you’re getting the best deal on your car finance, get in touch with our team.

mot

How to pass your MOT first time

If your car is over three years old, you’ll need to book it in for an MOT every 12 months to ensure that it meets environmental and road safety standards. It may be a bit of a hassle, but it’s a legal requirement to make sure that your car is roadworthy, so it’s your responsibility to make sure it gets carried out.

An MOT covers many different checks on your car, including mirrors, seat belts, windscreen wipers, brakes and lights. However, it doesn’t cover checking the clutch, gearbox or engine, so if you’ve spotted any faults with those you will need to get them investigated separately.

Typically, an MOT will take around an hour – unless it fails, in which case repairs will need to be made. However, unless your current MOT certificate is still valid, or if you need to take the vehicle elsewhere for repairs, the test centre isn’t allowed to let you take your car if it needs repairs.

If your MOT is on the horizon, there are a few steps that you can take to boost your chances of passing first time. Most cars fail because of minor faults, such as not having the screen wash topped up. So, if you check your vehicle beforehand, you may be able to fix them yourself, saving time and money.

  • Lights – Ask someone to check that the brake lights come on when you press the brake pedal. Test your headlights on full and dipped beams, and your hazard lights and indicators. If any of them are not working, you can purchase replacement bulbs and fit them yourself.
  • Tyres – The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm, so anything less than this and your car will fail straight away. Damage such as splits in the tread can also issue a fail, so replace your tyres if they are looking worn. Make sure that your tyre pressure is correct, too – the correct PSI will be listed in your car manual.
  • Windscreen wipers – The wiper blades need to be in good condition and be able to clean the windscreen effectively, so if you spot any tears or holes, they will need to be replaced. Check your screen wash levels while you’re there, too!
  • Windscreen – Generally speaking, a chip smaller than around 10mm in front of the driver won’t be classed as a fail, but anything bigger in the central view, or any chips larger than around 40mm anywhere on the windscreen, will be.
  • Exhaust – You can usually tell if your exhaust is leaking by the sound it emits, or if it starts smoking abnormally, so start the engine in a well-ventilated place and check the rear of the car. However, you should note that not all exhaust leaks can be detected this way.
  • Horn – If your horn isn’t loud enough to attract the attention of pedestrians or other drivers, or if it doesn’t work at all, you’ll need to get it repaired.
  • Seatbelts – Check every seatbelt in the car to make sure that they fasten securely and lock in place. In the driver’s seat, make sure that the seat can be easily adjusted, and check the full length of the seatbelt for damage.
  • Fuel and engine oil – Make sure that these are topped up, as if there isn’t enough to test the car’s emission levels, you will be turned away.

If your car fails the MOT, you will be issued a certificate known as a VT30, which outlines the reasons for the failure. You’ll then need to get the problems fixed, before booking it back in for another MOT – although it can be a partial test just to check the flaws that were flagged the first time around.

If you’re finding that your car comes back with a long list of faults, it might be cheaper in the long run to get a new car – our team are happy to help you find a great deal.

family

The best family cars

Whether you’re just starting off your family and need something more practical than your coupé, or you’re finding that there’s just not enough space in your current vehicle, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to picking a family car. It needs to be safe, practical, fuel-efficient and spacious enough to fit all of your parenting paraphernalia, whilst still being enjoyable to drive.

There are cars available to suit every family and every budget, so we’ve rounded up some of the best cars to carry your precious cargo…

Volkswagen Golf

It’ll come as little surprise that the VW Golf remains a firm favourite for families. It’s compact but still spacious, comfortable to drive and has an interior robust enough to handle anything your children can throw at it! The newer models offer a touchscreen digital dashboard and more economical engines, but the older models still offer the quality you’d expect from a Golf. Plus, it’s available with petrol and diesel engines, as well as being offered as an electric and plug-in hybrid model – so there is an option to suit every budget.

Skoda Superb Estate

The Skoda Superb Estate may be based on the same platform as the Golf, but it’s a significantly cheaper choice if your budget is tight, and offers more space. The boot is an enormous 660 litres, so it’s perfect for storing prams, and the car itself is roomy enough to avoid those backseat squabbles. The diesel engine makes it economical, but it’s still powerful enough to be enjoyable to drive.

Ford Galaxy

If you’re looking for practicality or have a large family, the Ford Galaxy could be the car for you. A seven-seat vehicle, the Galaxy allows you to fold the seats according to how much storage space you need or how many people need to fit into the car. You may be sitting in a higher-up driving position than you’re used to, but it’s easy enough to adapt to, and the steering is very precise for a vehicle of its size.

Vauxhall Astra

There’s a reason that the Astra is one of the most common cars on British roads – it’s one of the best family cars on the market. Its beauty is in its simplicity; it’s a solid all-rounder. It’s budget-friendly, as the tax and insurance payments are relatively low, and is very fuel-efficient. Newer models are slightly smaller, making them ideal for parking, but spacious enough inside to comfortably fit the whole family.

Audi A3

At the more premium end of the family car market is the Audi A3 Sportback. You may be paying a little extra for it, but you really do get what you pay for – cruise control, rear parking sensors and an excellent dashboard system. It has a sportier feel about it, but still offers the practicality, comfort and space that you’d need in a family car. It’s available with either a petrol or diesel engine, so you can choose which would be most practical for you.

Our car finance allows you to pick a car from any reputable car dealer, and we can even finance cars that are on sale privately – so if you find the family car of your dreams, we can help you buy it. Get in touch with our team to find out what we can do for you.

jump leads

How to jump start your car

Freezing winter mornings are not the best time to find that your car won’t start, but, unfortunately, the cold can contribute to a whole host of issues. Flat batteries are more prevalent in winter, as the plummeting temperatures cause the reactions inside the battery to slow down significantly, and engine oil tends to thicken, putting additional strain on the battery. So, if you have any doubts on how to jump start a car, now is the time to learn.

All you need to jump start a car is a good pair of jump leads, and a second vehicle with a fully-charged battery. Before you attempt to jump start your car, there are some precautions that you should be taking first. Take a good look to check for damage around the battery – if it’s corroded, leaking or has any other obvious damage, leave it alone and do not attempt to jump start it! Call a professional instead. If everything looks fine, take off any metal jewellery that you might be wearing, as they could cause a spark if they get close to the battery. Make sure that the car’s headlights and any electrical systems within the vehicle are turned off, and take the key out of the ignition.

How to jump start a car using jump leads

  1. Park the second car as close to your car as possible without them touching, making sure that the jump lead can reach both vehicles.
  2. Attach one end of the red lead to the positive terminal on the flat battery, and then attach the other end to the positive terminal of the working battery.
  3. Attach one end of the black lead to the negative terminal of the working battery, and then attach the other end to a metal earthing point – a solid metal part of the engine, such as a bolt, works well – in the car with the flat battery.
  4. Start the engine of the second car.
  5. Wait for around a minute, and then try to start the car with the flat battery. If it’s still not working, try again. If the leads start to get hot, turn off the engine.
  6. If your car starts running, leave both vehicles for around five minutes to charge the battery. Then, turn off the engines in both cars and remove the jump leads in the reverse order that you attached them.
  7. However, if your car still isn’t starting, it’s likely to be a more serious issue than a flat battery, so get in touch with your breakdown cover provider.

How to jump start a car using a battery pack

If you happen to have a portable power pack with you, the process is very similar to using leads – simply attach the clips to your vehicle’s positive terminal and to an earthing point, switch on the pack and attempt to start the car as normal. As before, if it doesn’t start working after a few attempts, call your breakdown provider.

If your battery keeps playing up, it might be time to get it replaced – in the long run it’ll be cheaper than breakdown callouts each time it goes flat, and cause you less stress! However, if you’re finding that your car is consistently causing you problems, and costing too much in repairs, it could be time to replace it – our team are happy to help find a great deal on a new car.

buying a car

How to pick the right car for you

We’ve all been there. You’re just parking your car as a shiny new Porsche pulls up alongside you. Suddenly, you’re very aware that the scuff marks on your door and your wonky wing mirror aren’t going anywhere – maybe it’s time for a new car.

Now, we’re not suggesting that you trade in your family hatchback for a flashy 2-seater – but if the time is right for you to look for a new car then there are a few things to consider…

What will you use it for?

If you live in a rural area and often face harsh weather conditions, a 4×4 is unbeatable for off-road driving. But if you live in a city, the chances are that you’ll struggle to find adequate parking and find manoeuvring such a large vehicle tricky in busy areas, so a smaller car would be better suited to your needs. Consider what you generally fit into your car, too – in terms of both people and cargo. For example, you may prefer how three-door cars look, but if you’re having to fit kid’s car seats into the back, it’s probably more practical to opt for five. Although many people want to make a statement with their car, ultimately practicality should be driving your decision.

What type of fuel would be better?

Petrol, diesel, electric or hybrid – there’s a lot of factors to consider with each fuel type. Petrol cars are generally a good bet for those who would mainly use it for short journeys, but they are less economical than diesel cars, which have higher miles per gallon. However, diesel cars are dropping in popularity amid growing demand for more eco-friendly hybrid and electric offerings. There’s no ‘better’ option per se – it all depends on your requirements.

Which features are non-negotiable?

Some features are universal must-haves, such as comfortable seats, but there are plenty of extras that you may not want to compromise on. From Bluetooth connectivity for playing your music to keyless entry for that extra convenience, make a note of your ideal features – and which ones you’re happy to skip. There’s no point in forking out extra for a built-in navigation system if you’re not going to use it!

What are the running costs of the car?

We offer some of the best car finance rates available, so you’ll be able to find a repayment plan to suit your budget. When it comes to other costs, your tax will vary in cost depending on the type of engine and fuel in your car, as well as its CO2 emissions. Similarly, the fuel economy of the car depends on the fuel type but also the age, make and model. Throw in insurance and repair costs on top of your repayment plan, and it can start adding up. Make sure you’re taking all potential expenses into consideration when you start your search.

Finding a new car should be an enjoyable process, so we want to help take the stress out of it – our team are happy to help you make the right choice, so give us a call on 0151 705 6778.

car finance

Petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric: which is better?

This week, Porsche announced that it will stop offering diesel cars, instead focusing on petrol, hybrid and electric vehicles. Although Porsche chief executive Oliver Blume was quick to stress that the company isn’t demonising diesel, the decision follows growing consumer demand for more eco-friendly hybrid and electric engines.

In August, sales of diesel cars dropped by 28.7 per cent as buyers opted for petrol and electric cars instead, but that’s not to say that we should write off diesel cars altogether. Different engines suit different requirements, so which would work best for you?

Diesel

Despite the bad press that diesel cars have had of late, it wasn’t long ago they were being touted as the perfect vehicle. They are more fuel efficient, with higher miles per gallon than petrol cars, meaning that fuel costs are an average of 20 per cent lower. The engines in diesel cars also tend to last longer and produce less CO2, so the road tax is lower.

A Vehicle Excise Duty tax increase on new diesel cars was introduced earlier this year to encourage drivers to switch to other fuels, amid concerns about the impact of diesel emissions on air quality and human health. As a result, diesel cars are recommended for those who frequently undertake long-distance journeys on the motorway, as they are cheap and efficient to run. Starting in April 2019, London is introducing an Ultra Low Emissions Zone that will charge diesels that don’t meet new EU regulations an additional £12.50 a day – so perhaps not the best option if you’re a regular visitor to the city.

Petrol

Petrol engines are the go-to option for people who are running a small car and primarily using it for short distance journeys. A petrol engine is lighter and cheaper to manufacture than its diesel counterpart, and has a less negative impact on the environment thanks to its comparatively cleaner emissions. Many drivers also find petrol cars more enjoyable to drive due to the responsive, high-revving engines!

They do tend to use more miles-per-gallon than diesel engines and have higher CO2 emissions, making them less economical than diesel cars. However, if you do low miles – fewer than 10,000 per year – petrol is a viable option.

Hybrids

Hybrid cars, as the name suggests, are a combination of a petrol engine with an electric motor and a battery. When driving at low speeds, the motor can power the car without relying on the petrol engine, and the energy that would normally be lost through braking is used to charge up the battery. As a result, hybrid cars are more energy efficient and economical for stop-start driving, making them a good choice for those who live in a city. Plug-in hybrids offer the same benefits, except they use the electric motor as the main power source so require a dedicated charging infrastructure to recharge. Hybrids are more expensive than petrol and diesel cars, and may be more difficult to repair due to the specialist skills required.

Electric

Electric cars are the most eco-friendly of the lot, producing zero emissions and causing minimal noise pollution. They may be considered the future of driving, but for now they are still comparatively expensive to buy and, due to the scarcity of recharging points, not a viable option for everyone. However, with an increasing number of car manufacturers introducing electric models, it might not be long until charging points are as common as petrol stations.

Ultimately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all option – the type of car that would work best for you is dependent on your individual circumstances. If you’re still at a crossroads, get in touch with our team who will be happy to help you find the perfect car.

Manuals vs automatics

Choosing a New Car – Manual vs Automatic

So, you’re ready to get a new car. There’s lots to think about – even once you’ve decided on a make and model, you will still have a world of options open to you. One of the key choices you’ll face is whether to go for a manual or an automatic car and, while they’ll both perform well, there are some key differences you need to understand.

Most cars in the UK are manual transmission – that is, they have a gearbox operated by a gear stick and a clutch. Only around 8.4m cars on Britain’s roads are automatic, which means that the car automatically selects the appropriate gear based on the car’s speed.

 

Why choose a manual?

Manual cars are far more common and most people learn to drive a manual, rather than an automatic. In fact, if you learn in an automatic, you need to take a separate manual test before you are able to legally drive both types of cars – whereas if you learn in a manual, you can drive both types.

Manuals are seen as ‘a driver’s car’ – that is to say, they’re generally preferred by people who love to drive. They allow a more responsive experience than automatics, which can have a slight delay between gear shifts.

Manuals are also generally cheaper than automatic cars – both to buy and to maintain. And automatics have long had a reputation for being worse on fuel economy than manual cars, although as technology develops, this gap is closing.

The major downside to manual cars when compared to automatic cars is that they are more difficult to drive, as there is an extra layer of driver control to factor in. But, if you’ve learned to drive in a manual, it shouldn’t be anything you can’t handle!

 

What are the benefits of an automatic?

Automatics are easier to drive and that is their major advantage over manual cars. As the car selects gears automatically, the driver is free to concentrate solely on the road. Automatics are particularly useful in slow moving or stop-start traffic, as there’s no need to continually shift gears.

Automatic cars are increasing in popularity in the UK. For decades, they have been the style of choice in America, but in recent years the market on this side of the pond has begun embracing the automatic. And, while automatics are more expensive than manuals, they tend to retain a higher resale value, too.

Automatics are likely to become even more popular as the car industry develops. Electric cars don’t have a gear box and so, by default, are automatic. As they become more widely available, the number of manual cars on the road is likely to decrease.

 

A happy medium?

You can get semi-automatic cars, which provide a halfway house for those who are undecided! There’s no clutch, but the driver is able to change gears using paddles on the steering wheel – or you can choose to drive in standard automatic mode if you choose.

 

What’s right for me?

If you’re still not sure which is the right choice for you, our team can help you decide. Give us a call on 0151 705 6778 and we can discuss your requirements and preferences and help you find the perfect car for you.

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