How to plan your own spring budget

If you’re considering buying a new car in the next few months, it’s a good idea to start looking at your current finances to give you a clearer idea of what you can afford – especially if you’re looking at monthly payments, either through car finance or a loan.

Here are some things to consider when planning out your budget.

Your current car payments

If you’re currently a car owner and looking to upgrade, either in price, style or both, it’s important to have a look at what your current motoring outgoings are. This doesn’t just mean the actual cost of the car, maybe you have a monthly finance payment, but also the cost for upkeep. Such as petrol, insurance, road tax, servicing and repairs and even parking costs. Are there areas where you could look to save some money? Can you look at cars with low or even zero road tax? It’s worth looking at these areas and seeing if you can make some smart savings without compromising on your car choice.

What’s your car worth?

Do you own your current car outright? If so, depending on its age and condition, it might be worth some money as a deposit on a newer model. At the same time as doing your research for your new car you should get some quotes for your current model as either a part exchange towards a new car or as a private sale which you could use as part of a deposit. If you don’t own the car outright and maybe have some finance left to pay, contact the finance company for your settlement figure as you’ll need to take this into consideration when looking for a new car.

Your other monthly outgoings

Motoring costs can take up a big chunk of our monthly outgoings, along with our mortgage or rent, food shopping, bills and nights out! So, when you’re planning the budget for your next car, it’s important to factor in all your non-motoring bills. There’s no point in stretching your budget for that souped-up sports car when you don’t have enough money left over to fill the fridge, never mind fill the tank!

If you’re shopping for your first car it’s easy to get carried away and want your dream car instantly, but it’s important to be realistic. There’s plenty of years ahead to build up to that dream roadster.

Think of the future

We’re all for living in the moment but when it comes to planning your budget, it’s a good thing to think of your future and any big changes that you’re planning. Are you vying for the big promotion which means a move to the big city? Or are you thinking of expanding your family, or even buying a house? For many, when buying a new car, it means monthly payments in the form of car finance, bank loan or credit card, which also means you’re agreeing to pay that amount for a fixed term, normally over a few years. So, if you’ve got other big plans in the next couple of years, it’s worth taking these into consideration. Is that 2-seater roadster a good idea when planning a family? Will that luxury SUV be worth it when you’ll be using your bus pass Monday to Friday? Or does that new job come with a company car?

Remember your car is your source of freedom, independence and ultimately fun. So, don’t tie yourself down with extra bills and outgoings that spoil the enjoyment of hitting the open road!

Budget sorted and ready to start your search for your next car? Browse over 200,000 cars in stock from trusted dealers throughout the UK at Exchange and Mart and s1cars.

All you need to know about an MOT

It’s not like a school test, you can’t cheat your way through, but it also doesn’t require any last minute cramming the night before. Nevertheless, if you want to prepare yourself, here’s our guide to everything you need to know about an MOT.

What is an MOT?

An MOT is a legal requirement in which your car is tested to check that it meets road safety and environmental standards. It should be carried out by a qualified MOT tester at an MOT testing centre.

When do I need to get an MOT?

Your car will be due its MOT either on the third anniversary of its registration or the anniversary of its last MOT if it’s over 3 years old.

You’ll be sent a reminder letter a month before your MOT is due or you can opt to receive text message reminders from

You don’t have to wait until your due date to have the MOT carried out, you can have your MOT carried out up to a month (minus a day) early and still keep the same renewal date. But don’t leave it too late. If you’re caught driving without an MOT you could be prosecuted if caught and fined up to £1,000.

What happens during an MOT?

Only an approved MOT test centre can carry out your MOT, so look out for the blue sign with 3 white triangles. Important parts of your vehicle will be tested to ensure that they meet legal requirements, such as body, fuel system, exhaust, seatbelts, seats, mirrors, wipers, doors, brakes, tyres, wheels and even your registration plate! The test doesn’t cover the condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox. Remember this isn’t the same as having your annual service carried out so don’t forget to arrange that when needed.

How much does it cost?

Prices vary depending on the vehicle, but the maximum cost for a car with up to 8 passenger seats is £54.85.

What happens after the MOT?

You’ll be notified whether your vehicle has passed or failed as soon as the test has been carried out. If your vehicle has passed, you’ll be given a new MOT certificate and it’ll be recorded in the MOT database. You may also be given a list of ‘minor’ or ‘advisory’ things to monitor or fix over time but haven’t been deemed serious enough to fail the vehicle. But these should be carefully watched and actioned when possible.

If your vehicle has failed, this means there are more serious problems that mean your vehicle is not road safe. You’ll be given a ‘refusal of an MOT test certificate’ and the failure will be recorded on the MOT database. The repair centre may then give you a cost for having these items fixed and then retested.

You can take your vehicle away if your current MOT certificate is still valid and no dangerous problems were listed. But if you do choose to leave without getting the problems seen to, there is a list of minimum requirements your car must meet before you can drive away.

You can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and get 3 penalty points for driving a vehicle that has failed its MOT because of a ‘dangerous’ problem.

When is it time to change your car?

The aim is to take care of your car and it’ll take care of you, and hopefully last a long time. Over that time, we grow close to our cars, giving them names, makeovers and even talking to them. But when it comes to changing your car, how do you know when it’s time?

That rattling noise just won’t go away

That noise has been bugging you for a while now and no matter how many times you take it to the garage for a fix, it just isn’t getting better. As much as you’ve cared for your car over the years and love even its rusty bits, if it’s becoming costly or unsafe to drive then maybe it’s time to say goodbye. Older cars do need a lot more TLC than newer ones but if you’re not prepared for the cost involved in the upkeep then it might be time to upgrade to something a bit friendlier on your bank balance.

It’s a non-starter

Did you ignore that rattling sound a bit too long? Good news: the rattling has stopped, bad news: the car won’t start. If your car is past repair and magic will not bring it back to life, then it’s definitely time to go car shopping. Although your old car might not be worth much to you, it’s worth checking if you can sell it for parts or even bag yourself a cheeky trade-in, you never know – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

You’ve grown out of it

This could mean both literally and figuratively. Maybe you bought a little run-around as your first car to get over all those first-time nerves, bumps and scratches and now you’re ready for something a bit more grown up. Or maybe you need a bit more space – changing from a Mini to a Minivan? Throughout your time as a driver, your car will grow with you and adapt to your ever-changing life. Whether that’s treating yourself to that souped up turbo engine or looking for some extra boot space to fit the pram.

Time for an upgrade

Purchasing a car, no matter what the price, is a big financial commitment and often depends on what our other outgoings are. So normally when choosing your car depends on what your budget is at the time. So, when you get a little free cash, maybe your outgoings are coming down or you bagged that sought-after promotion then it’s only natural to think – ‘is it time for an upgrade?’.  But remember, always try to live within your means and don’t put pressure on your finances. There are so many great deals available so getting that dream car can be a little bit closer without regretting it a few months down the line.

More fun

As many people are looking to increase the size of their car to fit the family, there’s just as many that don’t need the boot size anymore and are opting for something a little smaller. Maybe all the kids are grown up and have their own cars and you’re looking for a convertible to enjoy the beautiful summer weather? Sometimes our car decision is based on our practical needs and not down to the joy of driving but it’s great when you find the car that does both.

If a new car is calling you then make sure you check out the thousands of used car deals we have available from dealers throughout the UK.

Time for something new? – March 2019


Audi’s range continues to expand. The latest generation A6 saloon and Avant models claim to take autonomous driving to the next level. Executives looking for an extra dash of style meanwhile, are being targeted by the new second generation A7 Sportback that’s a smarter, more unique option. There’s an all-new A1 Sportback model too, a revised version of the TT sportscar and a new second-generation version of the Q3 compact SUV.

ONE TO WATCH: The new Q3 is now smarter and more efficient, these being attributes it’ll need if it’s to make headway in this increasingly crowded segment.


The key news for BMW dealers in recent months has been the launch of a second-generation version of the company’s mid-sized X4 SUV Coupe. There’s also a fresh lifestyle-orientated option for Executive segment buyers in the form of the new 6 Series Gran Turismo model. In other news, the company has revised its i3 electric range and added a sporty i3s variant. There’s also a new M5 high performance sports saloon, a ‘Competition’ version of the M2 coupe and a roadster version of the top i8 sportscar.

ONE TO WATCH: The X4 is a far more competitive mid-sized premium-badged SUV-Coupe than its predecessor.


SEAT’s most important recent arrival in the brand’s mid-sized 7-seat SUV segment is the Tarraco. You get sharp styling, plenty of interior space and, the Iberian maker hopes, a dash of Spanish flair. In other news, the company has introduced a super-hot hatch model, the Leon Cupra R – now sold out. SEAT also has plans in the future to launch ‘Cupra’ as a separate sub-brand for its high-performance models the first being the Cupra Ateca.

ONE TO WATCH: SEAT’s Tarraco aims to shake up the mid-sized 7-seat SUV market.


The big news is the introduction of a heavily revised version of the company’s Fabia supermini, but Skoda now finds SUVs more profitable. Earlier this year, they launched the Qashqai-class mid-sized Karoq to sell just beneath the 7-seat Kodiaq and the launch of the Skoda Kamiq combines the agility and handling of a compact car with the traditional advantages of an SUV.

The rest of Skoda’s line-up has been significantly revised in recent times. The Citigo citycar has undergone a minor update, plus the Rapid models have also been given a facelift and gained a new 1.0 TSI engine. That unit also features in the lightly revised version of the company’s Octavia family hatch, which features a potent vRS 245 flagship variant. The launch of the Skoda Kamiq combines the agility and handling of a compact car with the traditional advantages of an SUV.

ONE TO WATCH: Skoda has a strong contender in the hatchback segments, in the shape of its new Scala hatch.


The fortwo and forfour citycar models are both now available in full-battery-powered ‘EQ’ form. Power comes from a 60kW (81bhp) electric motor mated to a one-speed auto transmission. In other smart news, the standard fortwo and forfour ranges have a new, more affordable ‘pure’ entry trim level.

ONE TO WATCH: smart fortwo EQ is a good bet for city driving in eco style.

If brand-new isn’t your thing and you’re looking for a great deal on a used or delivery mileage car, then check out our thousands of great deals, from local trusted dealers throughout the UK.

We’ve also got a huge range of new car reviews and used car guides to help with your car research.

Keeping your body(work) beautiful

The first thing to remember is that not all bodyshops are the same. Anyone can patch your car up with a hammer and a touch of filler, but in the long run there’s little doubt that going this route will cost you more than you save.

Today’s cars tend to need more sophisticated equipment to get them back to pristine condition, particularly if the accident damage has been substantial. So, it’s important to find the right bodyshop, which might be a specialist repair centre for your make and model. When it comes to getting a quote for your repair work, ask the workshop what kind of tooling they have and check that their staff are properly trained to deal with your car. Maybe they are associated with trade or motoring organisations?

Secondly, make sure that you get a number of quotes before deciding. Find out if they work regularly for any of the well-known franchised dealerships.

Finally, it’s worth checking out any extra customer service provided. If you don’t have it covered in your insurance policy already, is there any possibility of a loan car while your vehicle is off the road? Will the workshop offer a free collection and delivery service? A little time on the phone could save you a lot of money, plus it could be the deciding factor between two workshops!

Of course, accidents aren’t the only reason for a visit to the bodyshop. Older cars in particular will suffer the effects of weather and show up wear and tear more easily. Without preventive maintenance, your bodywork may well end up in a sorry state. The key to keeping your older vehicle running well for years to come is to keep it well maintained. Look after your car and it’ll look after you. Remember it’s not all about your car looking good, it’s about keeping it safe and roadworthy too.

If possible, keep your car in a garage or under cover. This is important not only during bad weather, but in good weather too as cars with older paint work can fade quicker during prolonged exposure to sunlight. Ask your bodywork centre for any paint treatments that will help keep your car shinier for longer if you don’t have the luxury of a garage to keep it safe in.

Follow these simple steps for keeping your bodywork looking better for longer:

  • Wash beneath the bodywork and around the wheel arches to remove salt.
  • Clean and polish the paintwork with a good quality polish and, for extra protection, add a coat of gloss protectant. Resist the temptation to cut back the paint, however bad it looks modern paints do not need aggressive treatment.
  • Treat all exterior plastics and rubber with a suitable dressing – you may find that some plastic surfaces have faded.
  • Wash regularly with a genuine car shampoo to keep the car in top shape. Don’t use household dish washing liquid, as this is designed to cut through grease and is too aggressive for car paintwork.

When to get the best car deal

It can also depend on what kind of car you’re looking for, whether it’s a brand-new, just-out-the-wrapper model or if it’s more about the price than if it’s the latest edition.

So, here are our tips for getting the best deal at the best time of year.

New registrations

You’re no doubt aware of new registration releases that happen in March and September every year. If not, it basically means that new registration plates are released on 1st March and 1st September so plates for 2019 March will be 19 plates and September will be 69 plates. Although new models are released from manufacturers all year round, if you’re looking for a car with the latest plate then these are the months for you. Start your research a few months before though, as you can sometimes pre-order and collect as soon as it’s released.

Making way for new releases

With dealers having to make way for brand-new releases and new editions, this means that the ‘older’ versions often see a price drop. So, if you’ve got your eye on a car but know there is a newer edition on the horizon, if can often be fruitful to hold back and see what great offers become available when the new model is released. This way you can get a bargain on a nearly new car and no one will ever know the difference, although your bank balance might!

Tis the season

Car dealers are just the same as any other retailer, with seasonal offers happening all through the year. You’ll often find that just like your favourite clothes shop is having a summer sale, your local car dealer is prepping for the same. More dealers are jumping on the marketing band wagon and having their own ‘Black Friday’ deals, Christmas giveaways and January sales. Car dealers have targets to make just like any other business, so take advantage of these promotional offers.

Time to upgrade?

Is your finance agreement coming to an end? Many drivers these days are taking advantage of the great finance offers available and often opt for PCP deals which means you finance the car over a few years and often have a balloon payment, or guaranteed future value, at the end. If your agreement is coming to an end, you’ll probably expect a call from your car dealer soon with great offers on a newer car. There’s no pressure, but once you get that new car itch it’s hard to get rid of.

If you’re looking for a car then really the best time to buy is when you’re ready. There will always be great deals out there but, with buying a car being a huge financial decision, it’s important that you take time to do your research. At Exchange and Mart and s1cars, we have thousands of car reviews (new and used), buying tips, advice and thousands of great deals from dealers throughout the UK.

Tips for buying your first car

Stay calm and plan

Choosing your first car can be a daunting task, especially with the amount of choice out there. How many doors? What litre engine? What size? What colour? Our tip is to take a step back and focus on the things you need from your first car. We can guarantee that the biggest deciding factor is budget so start by working out what you can afford. Remember to take into account ALL of your other outgoings. By narrowing down your budget, you’ll find that this starts to narrow down your choices.

Think of what you need the car for. Is it just social use, out and about at the weekends? Or is it for work, will you be driving long distances? This could determine what size of engine you need, how much you can afford to pay in road tax or even if you prefer petrol, diesel or electric?

Remember, it’s often wise, for your first car, to stick to one that is practical – there will be plenty of time later for that turbo roadster you’ve had your eye on!

Understand finance

While most of us had to settle for an old banger for our first car, with today’s finance deals, buying a car on finance is becoming more accessible for young people. But although it seems simple, it’s important to understand the various levels of finance before you sign on the dotted line. Deals vary from leasing (PCP and PCH), personal loans to credit cards, so our advice is to do as much research as possible. Look at the length of the finance term, how much you can afford to pay per month, what the risks are if you fail to pay and if there are any restrictions? For car finance explained in full, click here.

Where to buy?

When it comes to finding the right place to buy to your first car, there are various options. If you’re opting for a brand-new car then a franchised dealer is the best place to buy that straight-from-the-factory model. If you’re looking for a used car, or delivery mileage, then visit your local dealer. Fancy checking out all the dealers in your area? Then Exchange and Mart and s1cars are the place to find your first car. We have thousands of used cars from local, trusted dealers throughout the UK, with prices to suit your budget. Plus, we’re open 24/7.

Don’t forget about insurance

This is a biggie and can often be neglected. If you’re a young driver you may find it can be expensive initially, but there are things you can do to help lower the price. Try piggy-backing onto a parent’s policy as a named driver, although this comes with its own risks like driving up the existing policy or affecting your parent’s no claims bonus. Other insurers offer discount for safer drivers by fitting trackers to your car, monitoring speed and driving techniques. Although you may need to pay the higher price for a few years, it’s worth it to be confident that you have the right cover and protection should you need it.

Quick tips

  • Learn to haggle – you might bag an even bigger bargain.
  • Always take the car for a test drive.
  • Think carefully about colour.
  • Avoid costly add-ons.
  • Do your research.

Top cars of 2018 – And the winners are….

Here are just a select few of the winners.

City car of the Year – Kia Picanto

With its blend of affordability and impressive build quality, the Kia Picanto is one of the most popular small cars around. Not only is it stylish in looks, comfortable on the inside and is also one of the safest small cars around. Combine that with Kia’s 7-year warranty and low ownership costs, if you’re looking for a small car then the Kia Picanto is your perfect fit.

Supermini of the Year – Ford Fiesta

One of the most popular cars in the UK, if not the world, the Ford Fiesta has always been an affordable choice but also a great car to drive. In its seventh generation, it has been designed to make a statement on the supermini segment. As before, it is available in 3 and 5 door options but is also available in an ‘Active’ crossover body style aimed at customers wanting luxury and sportiness.

Medium SUV of the Year (C-Segment) – SEAT Ateca

Named after the traditional Spanish town, the Ateca competes with the likes of the Volkswagen Tiguan but as the brand says, it offers a sportier feel and affordable price tag. This is SEAT’s first foray in to the SUV market and seems to be well worth the wait, with standard equipment including air conditioning, touchscreen media system, leather steering wheel and 16-inch alloy wheels. If you’re a fan of the Nissan Qashqai then it’s definitely worth a look.

Luxury large SUV of the Year – Land Rover Discovery

There’s nothing quite like a Land Rover Discovery and this fifth-generation version continues to offer the toughest, most practical and most capable choice in the large SUV sector. It’s, larger inside, cheaper to run and more media-savvy than its predecessor. Yet it remains a practical choice for up to seven adults and is an easy class-leader off the beaten track. In the large family SUV segment, there’s nothing quite like it.

Full electric car of the Year – Jaguar i-PACE

With the launch of the i-PACE, Jaguar became the first premium brand to make a long range, practical, battery-powered electric vehicle but with an asking price of £60,000 – is it worth it? With a 300-mile driving range, competing with the likes of Tesla, almost zero emissions, comfortable on the race track and with all the luxury from the premium brand you’ll find it hard not to want one.

Car of the Year – Ford Focus

Also, winner of the ‘Family Hatch of the Year’, the MK4 version of this popular model offers slicker, more stylish lines, higher quality interior and extra technology like radar-operated cruise control, lane-keep assist, emergency auto-braking and wi-fi network. It’s good to know that despite its fancy facelift and gadgets, the Focus is still as rewarding to drive as it has always been.


Driving home for Christmas

No road trip home is complete without some festive tunes – and we’re not talking Christmas carols. Here are out top picks for Christmas tunes for any car journey, from classics to recent releases.

Driving Home For Christmas – Chris Rea

We couldn’t begin the list without this obvious classic. Perfect for getting you in the mood for your journey home and excited to see your loved ones at the other end.

White Christmas – Bing Crosby

We all love a white Christmas but not when we have to drive in it! So hopefully this is the only white Christmas you enjoy on your drive home and the roads stay clear and safe.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Michael Bublé

It might be a bit controversial to not include the original, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without some Michael Bublé.

Frosty The Snowman – Cocteau Twins

A nice fun, joyous song to liven the journey up. It’ll be hard not to sing-along, whether you have some company or are a solo singer.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard

So maybe we don’t wish it literally but a great tune none the less. We’re sure you won’t be the only one screaming ‘It’s Christmas!!!’ on the roads this year.

Underneath The Tree – Kelly Clarkson

Are you dreaming of what’s under the tree this year? A more recent tune to hit the Christmas charts but is fast becoming a festive favourite.

Step Into Christmas – Elton John

This one is bound to put a smile on every Grinch this year. It may not get you out the holiday tailbacks, but it’ll lift your mood and spread that festive cheer.

Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley

Some of the best Christmas songs are the chilled-out ones but maybe skip this one if you’ve just gone through a break up!

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Jackson 5

You might feel like Santa coming to town if your boot is packed full of presents for friends and family so get the whole car signing along to this one!

Last Christmas – Wham!

Our list of top Christmas tunes wouldn’t be complete without this classic, although you might find yourself shedding a tear or two!

However you travel home this Christmas, and if you’re out driving during the holidays, make sure you stay safe on the road. Check out our tips for winter driving, preparing your car and stocking up on your winter survival kit.

The perfect gifts for car lovers – Our 2018 gift guide

Personalised chocolate cars

Perfect for the car lover with a sweet tooth. Not just for birthdays, this box of chocolate cars can be personalised with their favourite colour and age. Great as a little extra to share with the family or keep to themselves!

Personalised car keyring

This is a great gift for a new driver that likes to put their stamp on everything! It can be personalised with their name or a special message and will hopefully stop them losing their keys!

Fiat 500 gift wrap

The car theme doesn’t need to stop at the presents! Why not keep the theme going into the wrapping paper? Perfect for the Fiat 500 driver in your life that just can’t get enough of their car.

Puma x Ferrari merchandise

Have you got a big F1 fan in the family? Give them a taste of life in the fast lane with a choice of F1 Ferrari branded sportswear, from trainers to beanies.

Hand drawn car illustration

How about a hand drawn illustration of their pride and joy to take centre stage on top of the mantelpiece or even the bedside table?

Personalised car air fresheners

Do you know someone that spends most of their time in the car, away from family and friends? Make sure they take a piece of you on every road trip with these personalised car air fresheners – fun and practical!

Dash camera

A more practical gift to ensure they stay safe on the road. Dash cameras are becoming more popular these days and almost essential if you use your car for business.

Car experience day

Whether their dream is to race a Formula 1 car or crash around in a big monster truck, why not treat them to an experience of a lifetime with a choice of car driving experience days?

Kids car

An obsession with cars can start at a young age so if you’ve got a child that has been wishing for their own Range Rover Evoque or Lamborghini then these toy cars are perfect. Plus, for less than £200 they are a bargain compared to the real deal!

A new car?

Big kids need a treat too. So, if you’re thinking of treating that special someone, or yourself, to a new car then look no further than Exchange and Mart and s1cars. We’ve got thousands of used cars from trusted dealers throughout the UK just waiting for you.