When is the best time to buy a new car

It’s all about timing

Most people probably know that every March and September is ‘new reg’ time. Predictably, these are big sales times for dealers, who want to make the most of people who just have to have their brand new car with their brand new reg plate sitting on the drive on day one.

But if you’re not so fussed, February and August are good times to buy. Sales are often slow as buyers wait for the new number plates to come along, so there is likely to be a deal to be had. Worth bearing in mind, though, as silly as it seems, that having an ‘old’ plate on your car, even if you buy it on, for example, August 31, could mean faster depreciation.

There are other times of year to watch out for as well. At the end of each quarter, especially the end of June and December, dealers are looking to hit their quarterly sales targets and you could play that to your advantage.

Keep an eye out for new model releases

If you’re not overly fussed about having the latest version of a model, keep an eye out for the release dates of new or ‘facelifted’ cars and do a deal on the outgoing one a few weeks before it leaves the showroom to make way for the new model. Dealers will want to get rid of old stock and are more likely to offer you a tempting deal. Again, though, think about the fact that the outgoing version will depreciate more quickly than the updated car, even if it’s basically the same age.

If you do want the new model, wait a few months after its launch before going for it. That gives time for the new car buzz to die down and for a better deal to be on the table.

Don’t visit at weekends OK, this isn’t always easy if you work during the week, but showrooms are predictably busier on a weekend. So go during the week if you can, ideally a Friday. The reason? Again, it’s the targets salespeople have to meet. Dealers will be keen to meet their weekly targets, so a Friday visit could yield a good deal for the buyer – you can even actively use it as a bargaining tool.

There are good and bad times of year to buy certain cars

Looking for that top-down motor for the summer sun? Buy it in the winter. Demand for convertibles will be lower during the cold months, so there could well be bargains on offer. Likewise, demand for SUVs and four-wheel-drive vehicles tends to peak during the autumn and winter months because of bad weather, so you might get a better deal on one if you buy in the summer.

Good luck

Do your homework and you should never have to pay full ‘book price’ for a new car. There are always ways to get yourself a deal and salespeople always have room to manoeuvre.

Money Matters: How Much Is Your Classic Car Worth

The first thing to bear in mind is that there is no right answer; cars, like any other commodity, are worth what someone is prepared to pay for them. If you’ve owned a car for some time, its value will have changed since you bought it, for better or worse. There are various ways to check your car’s value. The best places to start are:

 

·         Price guides carried in classic car magazines

·         Online price guides

·         Checking out the prices advertised for similar cars in classified adverts

·         Getting a valuation from a classic car specialist

·         Classic car auction activity

·         Reviews of estimated values from the most popular classic car websites

 

The guide below will give you a little more information on the factors affecting car prices, and this material, combined with the information you can gather from the above sources, should allow you to realistically assess the value of your vehicle in the context of your market.

 

Learning how to correctly estimate used car values is a crucial skill for those who are looking to sell their vehicles or trade them in as a down payment for a new car purchase. If you’re willing to spend a little time doing your research, then it’s easy to conduct a car valuation assessment yourself using online car valuation tools and guides to determine the value of your motor. The rules and processes outlined below help to provide an accurate valuation model for all types of used vehicles, including classic  and antique automobiles. 

The mileage of your vehicle is very important when you’re estimating its value. The average consumer puts 2,000 miles per year on his or her vehicle, so this is the scale used to determine the mechanical age of the car. That means that if your 1960 Chevrolet Corvair has 100,000 miles on the clock, it’s going to be worth significantly less than the same model with a reading of 56,000 on the odometer. For many motor enthusiasts, 100,000 miles is a bridge too far when purchasing a vehicle. The more miles a used car has, the lower the price it will command. Conversely, selling a classic with lower than average mileage can be a very lucrative affair.

Other factors which influence the value of a car are:

 

·         The area a consumer lives in

·         Interior damage

·         Exterior damage such as scratches, nicks and dents

·         Past mechanical problems

·         Poor-quality upgrades/replacement pieces

To command a higher value, you should always keep receipts proving that your classic has received regular maintenance, as a car with an evidential provenance of quality care is likely to be much more reliable long-term.

Selling to a Classic Car Dealer vs. Retail Value

If you carefully calculate a value using the sources above, only to receive a significantly lower quote when you contact a classic car dealer, this is to be expected. There is always a marked difference between your car’s trade in value and retail value, as dealers have to factor in making a profit for themselves when they pass the car on.

The retail value that you’ve calculated is likely to be closer to the actual worth of your car, and is probably around the amount that a buyer would expect to pay if they purchased the car directly from the dealer. The dealer’s offer, on the other hand, is what the dealer is willing to pay you for an immediate sale, factoring in the amount they can sell for and the profit they will make, so it will always be less.

The value dealers will offer you for your classic is not however set in stone, and if you’re looking for a quick sale, contacting a few specialist classic dealers will probably be beneficial. This is because the price you’re offered is affected by how in demand the car is. If a dealer already has a buyer on his books who is looking for that particular model so he knows that he can sell the car quickly, he might be willing to up his price. Similarly, a dealer who already has a classic of the same make and model in his showroom will probably offer less than one who doesn’t, as he knows that he can already meet his consumers’ needs in that area.

If you’re not desperate for a sale, it is always better to wait for a private buyer so that you get top dollar for your classic. You’re much better off selling to other consumers through local newspapers or online than turning to a businessman who’s looking to make a profit.      

Car Valuation Guides Online and in Print

Make sure parts are legitimate and priced correctly so you can maintain your classic vehicle well

There are multiple online websites which offer value calculators to assist consumers in accurately estimating a classic car’s retail price, and a quick Google search will turn up the best of them. Use these sites, of course, but bear in mind that the values obtained will be estimates. The true value of your car will be dependent on a number of factors, from condition to mileage to provenance. Make sure that you don’t use standard car valuation tools, but instead look for special classic car value calculators which list estimates for specific makes and models. Whether you’re driven by curiosity or a desire to sell, you hopefully be pleasantly surprised by what you find. 

Best car games for kids (and adults!)

1. I Spy

Our top spot goes to the classic I Spy. A game that can be played pretty much anywhere and doesn’t require any pre-planning, equipment or age restrictions. It’s great for involving the whole car, even the driver can have a go – as long as they don’t get too distracted. One person takes a turn to ‘spy’ something, it can be in the car or outside. They then recite the line ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with (letter)’. Everyone then takes a turn to guess what it is. The winner is the next person to ‘spy’ something, and so on.

2. Road trip bingo

This game takes a bit of pre-planning but is a good way to keep everyone occupied over a longer period of time. It involves each person being given a bingo card, or a sheet of paper, with certain objects you expect to see on your journey. This can be things like cars, a certain colour, landmarks, animals – anything really. Each time someone spots one, they mark it off on their sheet. The first one to get all of them wins a prize!

3. 21 questions

This is another simple game that doesn’t need any pre-planning, just your imagination! One person thinks of a person, it can be a celebrity, sports person etc. You can either play it in pairs, with one person being the thinker and the other the guesser, or the whole car can join in. Either way, you have up to 21 questions to ask and the responses can only be Yes or No. You can’t repeat the same question and the winner starts the next round.

4. A to Z

This game is great for people that enjoy some competition. The game is simple, someone picks a topic like ‘Animals’ and everyone takes a turn to name an Animal that begins with a letter in the alphabet from A to Z. So, the first person starts with A, next person is B and so on. You can make it as easy as you want with the categories but the harder the better, especially when you get to X,Y and Z!

5. The Name Game

This one is may be more for older kids and adults and you can find yourself getting a bit flustered! Again, the rules are simple. Someone picks a famous person like ‘Michael Jackson’ and then next person needs to say the name of another famous person whose first name begins with the first letter of that person’s last name, for example: 

Player 1: Michael Jackson

Player 2: Jennifer Lopez

Player 3: Lady Gaga

And so on!

To make it even more competitive, why not try setting a timer for each person. If they get flustered and can’t find a name, then they’re out! Or, if they get it wrong, try some forfeits for when you arrive at your destination.

Why not try making up your own car game and making it a road trip tradition for you and your travel companions?

Nothing makes a road trip more memorable that the car you’re travelling in. If you’re searching for the perfect car, then search thousands of cars local to you.

Road trip essentials

We know the thought of travelling longer journeys in a hot car, especially with kids or pets, can put anyone off. But, with our road trip checklist, the holiday feeling can start as soon as you get in the car.

Snacks, snacks and more snacks

One of the best parts of any road trip is stocking up on your favourite snacks for the journey. Not only is it essential to keep everyone hydrated in the heat, it’s a good way to get in the holiday spirit with your favourite treats. Make sure you pack plenty of water, juice and try and snacks – healthy ones where possible. Watch out for anything that can melt quickly! Handy tip: Pack some wet wipes to clean any sticky fingers or spills! If you’re travelling with pets, make sure you pack them some tasty treats too and plenty of water.

Something beginning with…G!

Games! Everybody loves a good car game, whether it’s a classic like eye spy or the licence plate game. Most road trip games don’t involve much planning, or equipment, just a good sense of fun and some imagination! Games are a good way of keeping kids, and adults, occupied during long journeys and can help with travel sickness by keeping their minds off the road. It’s also a good idea to pack some playing cards or even iPads if you want some quiet time.

Time for a time out

Speaking of quiet time, it’s a good idea to schedule in some nap times for kids during long journeys especially when they start to get restless. Some children can find it hard to sleep in the car so packing some pillows and even their favourite blanket can help them feel more comfortable and drift off to the land of nod. It’s also important to give the driver a rest so make sure you schedule in stops along the way or even an overnight stay for cross-country trips.

Car-aoke

Arguably the best part of a road trip is the playlist! Whether it’s some chill out tunes or a fun family sing-a-long, there’s nothing better than getting everyone together to create your own playlist. Start planning in advance of the trip and get everyone to select a handful of songs to feature. This way there’ll be a nice mix of songs and with something to keep everyone happy. You never know, you might reveal some guilty pleasures. It also means you’re not having to constantly re-tune the radio every couple of hours.

It’s all about the ride

Last but not least, the perfect item for a great road trip is the ride! It could be a sporty, convertible to get the top down and the wind in your hair, or a 7-seater big enough for kids, dogs and the kitchen sink – packed with in-car entertainment. If you’re searching for that perfect car, then check out the thousands of cars we have in stock.

Hazards of summer driving

Overheating

This can be a serious problem not just for the car, but for the driver too! Driving in hot weather can cause the engine to overheat and can cause issues with the coolant system. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge in your car and check your coolant levels before heading out. It’s also handy to keep some extra coolant in the car or some water as a backup. Air conditioning can put some added strain on your engine, so if you suspect the engine is overheating turn this off. It may make the next few miles unbearable but can be the difference between a breakdown and getting somewhere safe to call for help. If you’re the driver, make sure you keep hydrated in the car, especially during longer journeys. Make sure you take plenty of breaks and keep a water bottle with you.

Roadworks

For some reason, there always seems to be an increase in roadworks during the summer. Road conditions can be affected by the change in temperatures from winter in to summer, so keep an eye on any cracks and potholes that may appear on your daily route. For any major roadworks, there is usually plenty of notice given, so keep this in mind to allow extra time to get to your destination.

Increased traffic

Along with increased roadworks, traffic levels are also higher during the summer with school holidays meaning more people are on the road than usual. Public transport use can increase during the holidays too, so expect traffic and a lot of it. If you get stressed in these situations why not try a different route? It may add a few minutes on to your journey, but it could help avoid any road rage situations.

Cyclists

During the warmer weather, many drivers decide to swap the fast lane for the cycle lane, which can increase the number of cyclists on the road. Many people are taking advantage of the nice weather or simply trying to get that summer body ready. It’s not only adults cycling to work, many schools are encouraging children to cycle now, reducing congestion and pollution around school areas. Always be aware of cyclists on the road, slow down when you’re near and keep as much distance as possible.

Glare

The sun can be pretty rare in the UK, which is why it can often catch us off guard, especially when we’re behind the wheel. Glare from the sun can seriously affect your sight and can be a serious distraction leading to accidents. The best way to stay prepared is to keep your windscreen nice and clean, replace any worn out windscreen wipers, keep your screen wash topped up and keep a clean pair of sunglasses in the car. Sun visors are there to help, but if you’re not so blessed in the height department, it may be time to invest in extendable visors.

Hayfever

If you suffer badly from hayfever the best option, if you can, is to have someone else drive. Hayfever, when particularly bad, can affect your eyesight, cause drowsiness if you’re taking medication and can make driving very uncomfortable. If you do need to drive, keep windows and air vents closed to keep out any pollens, keep your car clean of any dust, keep tissues in your car and wear sunglasses to block out the light.

Driving in the summer can mean long journeys with children and even pets, so make sure you check out our blog for tips on driving with kids and pets.

Are you thinking of a new car for summer? Maybe a sporty convertible? Then search our thousands of deals, from local, trusted dealers.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Choice

The first task is to identify what kind of car you want. With 1 in 5 drivers regretting buying their car within minutes of signing on the dotted line, it’s important to choose the right one for you. Be honest with yourself and make sure you are realistically operating within your budget. Take into account servicing costs, fuel bills, insurance, road tax and any other easily forgotten expenses like parking. Your final balance available may not be as big as you at first thought. Modern ‘supermini’ cars like the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Vauxhall Corsa could offer the space you need with the added benefit of low fuel bills, zero road tax and cheaper insurance.

In addition to whether you can afford it, think about practicalities. Where will it be parked most of the time, do you need something that’s a bit smaller for those tight city parking spaces? Is your first car a family car – think boot space, number of doors and safety features. Are you into the latest gadgets? Don’t be fooled by paying for fancy extras that you won’t use. Remember, most new cars come with Bluetooth as standard and smart phone navigations are just as good as built-in Sat Navs.

Tips and Tricks

Do your homework. Turn that guy in the shiny suit from a car salesman into a mere facilitator. You’re in charge! Take it for a test drive. Make sure you understand the controls and choose a varied driving route. Compare the car with a competitor, never buy directly after taking your test drive and don’t feel obliged to buy the car. Once again, you’re the boss. Think carefully about colour. Garish yellows and pinks can be difficult to sell on, opt for something subtle and timeless that won’t affect the resale value.

Where To Buy

Most first-time buyers will look no further than their local franchised dealer, and if you want a low-hassle, safe way of buying a car, larger dealers normally have the best finance options and largest choice of cars. However, you may well find other avenues that can offer savings. If you’re looking for huge choice, visit s1cars. com, where you can search from large and independent dealers plus private sellers so that you can choose from thousands of deals local to you. Contact multiple sellers from the comfort of your own home, finding the right car for you before you venture out for a test drive.

Insurance

This is a biggie. If you’re young and have recently passed your driving test, you can be seen as high risk in the eyes of insurance providers. You can opt to piggyback onto a parent’s policy as a named driver but many insurance providers are wise to this and will not only ramp up the price of your parent’s policy but you’ll also run the risk of ruining their no claims bonus if you have a prang. The flipside of this is that you will be missing out on building a no-claims discount of your own, so the best thing to do is accept that it may be a few years before you can own something with a high insurance rating and plump for something modest. The best option when it comes to insurance is to shop around. Use online comparison sites to your advantage, taking the time and hassle out of contacting multiple providers. The amount you pay can vary depending on what cover you opt for, fully comprehensive insurance would obviously be the ideal cover, but you might not be able to stretch to that initially. If you can afford it however, it could be well worth paying out the extra, which would give you cover for damage to your car and to any other involved in an accident, whether you were at fault or not. Get as many quotes as you can – as different companies may well vary wildly in how much they charge. Use one company’s quote to beat another down in price. You’ll often be asked what the best quote you’ve received is. Again, sometimes a little creativity can work wonders! Remember, get the best cover you can afford, insurance is expensive only until you need it. ‘Pass Plus’ is a post-driving test instruction course backed by the Driving Standard Agency designed to help young drivers cope with the reality of driving in all conditions. There’s no examination, but if the instructor is satisfied that you’ve cottoned on, you’ll be issued with a certificate that can reduce your payments. Also look out for providers that offer Telematics or ‘Black box’ insurance that uses data from how you drive to lower the cost of your insurance.

Finance

This can be a minefield, simply getting your head around the different type of finance agreements available. You’ll need to understand the difference between good credit and bad credit and realise that not having a pile of cash up front rarely diminishes your bargaining power. The important thing is to take time to consider your options, however keen you might be to get behind the wheel. It might sound obvious but be clear about exactly how much you can afford. Work out your monthly outgoings – miss nothing out – and subtract the total from your monthly income. Leave a small surplus to cover any extras – loan protection insurance and documentation fees for example. If buying outright with cash isn’t an option, there are many ways to finance a car, from bank loans, credit cards and leasing. If you opt for a finance agreement, remember there’s the period of time to decide for repayment. Obviously, the longer you take to repay, the more interest you’ll end up having to cover; be clear about what you’re taking on and opt for the shortest repayment period you can manage. Now it’s a case of deciding which of the many means of financing is right for you – and be under no illusions; there are many, often embellished with fancy marketing names. Make finance work to your advantage – and don’t assume that you necessarily need to own the car. Usage is what matters – and the easiest, most flexible and cheapest way to achieve it is what you’re looking for. Knowledge is key, do as much research as possible, talk to friends and family, but most of all, make the right choice for you. And most importantly, have fun!

Is your next car written in the stars?

Match up with your Chinese star sign and see which car you’ve been paired up with.

The Tiger

Tigers can be extremely short tempered, excessive in everything they do. As up-front opportunists, they may take their pent-up emotions and aggression into the car with them and become involved in confrontations with other drivers over a parking space which they perceive as belonging to them. Or they may infuriate others when they spot a gap and cut into the traffic queue at the last moment. Tigers are insatiable adventurers and love the thrill of risk-taking, so are most likely to have a disregard for any rules that get in their way – speeding when they are in a hurry or parking in an inappropriate place would be typical behaviour. So charismatic and passionate are they, however, that they would probably be able to charm the traffic warden out of issuing the ticket and into a dinner date instead.

Famous Tiger – Stevie Wonder

The Tiger’s Transport – Lotus Elise

The Rabbit (sometimes known as the Cat or Hare)

Rabbits are the diplomats of society, ambitious, detached and elegant. They cope with difficult situations with logic and courtesy. They will be the drivers who anticipate a road problem ahead, bring down the speed of those vehicles behind and open a gap with a shrug of their shoulders to allow in the “chancers” who have rushed up the outside lane. Their cars, like them, will be ordered and tranquil, they will have regularly updated their knowledge of the Highway Code and will probably have studied advanced driving techniques. They loathe confrontation, however, and will back away from any contention over road space or parking place.

Famous Rabbit – Angelina Jolie

The Rabbit Ride – VW Golf 

The Dragon

Flamboyant and energetic, dragons like to be sovereigns in their own kingdoms. They are also excessively stubborn and as drivers rarely admit that they are in the wrong – even when it’s plain to everyone else that this is the case. Their impetuous energy might mean that they take chances – like driving all night and all day to achieve a goal. Like the mythical dragon, they love to confront the “enemy” in battle and are intolerant and impatient of other drivers who get in their way. Once they have conquered their opponents, however, they will flash a stunning smile, which will disarm their actions.

Famous Dragon – Robin Williams

The Dragon’s Den – BMW 3-series

The Snake

Snakes know exactly how to get their own way. Their intelligence allows them to instantly sum up a situation – they say little but possess great wisdom. The snake driver will stand back and allow the traffic warden to give them a lecture and then strike by quoting the exact sub-section of the historic bylaw which allows them to leave their car in that precise spot on the third Thursday of every month beginning with a J. The snake loathes failure and will quietly pre-plan every journey so that he can be there first and score a point over everyone else. They care little about creature comforts and will have negotiated a discount on a sparse but design conscious car.

Famous Snake – Elizabeth Hurley

Snake’s whip – Fiat 500

The Rat

Rats enjoy life’s pleasures. Magnetic and charming, rats often make friends with others who might benefit them. The rat may have cultivated a keen acquaintance with a car dealer who can get them a good deal or a police officer whose brains they can pick on traffic issues. Skill as a strategist contributes to the rat’s success in life and as a driver – their quick wit enables them to find the quickest “rat run” around the car park to the only remaining parking space. But their intolerance to boredom and lack of tenacity means that they probably pull out of a traffic jam and go for a coffee until the congestion has cleared.

Famous Rat – Prince Charles

Rat Runaround – Smart Fortwo

The Ox (or Buffalo)

The ox’s physical and mental strengths mean that they never back down. Their driving skills will be solid and determined and while slow to anger, their stubbornness and fierce temper when roused means that they will face any confrontation head on. If another driver cuts them up, the ox will have no hesitation in telling them the error of their ways. The ox will be one of the safest drivers on the road but their pedestrian pace and love for home comforts may infuriate others when they insist on travelling by country roads and stopping for sustenance every hour.

Famous Ox – Sigourney Weaver

The Ox Cart – Volvo Estate

The Horse

The symbol of all happiness in China, horses are loyal and elegant. One of the horse’s biggest failings, however, is impatience. As drivers, horses will be infuriated by traffic delays and are likely to impetuously decide to take a short cut across a field rather than wait in a queue. They hate to take advice from anyone and may disregard the wisdom of authorities when told not to travel or ignore the traffic broadcast telling them of delays. They love to travel and, not surprisingly for such swift animals, probably love to drive fast too but get excessively bored motoring on the same routes so will be constantly trying out new ones.

Famous Horse – Barbra Streisand

The Horse Carriage – Land Rover Discovery

The Goat (or Sheep)

The goat adores idleness, loathes work and is very bored by everyday routine. Driving probably falls into this category so the goat’s ideal would be to be transported as a passenger. As goats also have a love of luxury and constantly strive to be taken care of, however, they are less likely to wait at the bus stop for public transport and more likely to prevail on a richer friend for a lift or, ultimately, to be driven by a chauffeur. Most goats are too pre-occupied with artistic thought to concentrate on mechanical skills like driving and would be puzzled as to why anyone want to be bothered learning such a mundane thing.

Famous Goat – Bill Gates

The Goat Getaround – In their dreams a luxury limo, in reality, a mini-cab or friend’s car

The Monkey

Said to be the cleverest sign of the Chinese zodiac, the monkey is also the most crafty, imaginative and mischievous. They want to be first at any price and will do anything to achieve it. It is the monkey driver who will attempt to weave in and out of the traffic to reach the head of the line. If confronted by another driver for their audacity, however, monkeys will attempt to extract themselves from the awkward situation with servility and flattery. If that fails they will resort to humour, then downright lies or even tears. They will jump from one lane to another, attempt reckless shortcuts and arrogant overtaking. They like to flaunt their success in the cars as an exterior sign of their value.

Famous Monkey – Diana Ross

The Monkey mobile – Mini Cooper

The Rooster

Vain and precocious, the strutting rooster likes to parade ostentatiously in public. They are the drivers who are most likely to sport a personalised number plate featuring their own name emblazoned on a flash car. But they are more concerned in looks than content and get depressed if they are not the centre of attention. They are likely to have meaningless “add-on” to their cars – the biggest spoilers, shiniest alloys, most noticeable colour – but are more interested in show than quality. They are however, real conformists and will never break a speed limit because they fear the consequences.

Famous Rooster – Jayne Mansfield

The Rooster rocket – Lamborghini Gallardo

The Dog

Dogs are loyal, can be eccentric and always expect the worst from others – they are deeply distrustful of anyone they don’t know. As motorists, these expectations are often met – and when other drivers behave badly, dogs are always prepared for it. They are never surprised to be tailgated by a bigger vehicle and are never caught off guard as they have already identified a gap in the inside lane. Fiercely altruistic and defensive of other’s rights, they will quickly report a driver endangering others or tackle him themselves. Careful and honest, they will track down the best bargains when buying a car.

Famous Dog – Jane Asher

Dog Kennel – Dacia Duster

The Pig (or Boar)

Pigs hate artifice, lies and hypocrites. If they go through an amber light, they agonise about it for weeks. At roadworks they sit for an extra ten minutes while they allow other drivers to go before them. They are incapable of saying no and often get lumbered with taxi-ing the whole neighbourhood around. Power games on the road re-vile them and they operate to their own strict code of conduct and will duck out of any confrontational situation. They love the pleasures of life but are unconcerned with money or appearance – even in their car.

Famous pig – Emma Thomson

The Pig Pen – Renault Clio

Like what you see? Search from thousands of cars today and find your perfect mate.

Car insurance – it pays to shop around

What’s the first steps?

You first have to supply the pertinent information like where you live, the make and age of car you drive, the engine size and other factors all naturally come in to play. You’ll be expecting to answer questions about no claims bonuses, accidents, convictions, age, address and profession. What you might not be ready for are the more searching questions some companies are now asking to gauge the `lifestyle` of potential customers. Do you have children, do you smoke, is your home rented or mortgage and so on.

Once you’ve provided all the answers, you have to choose which type of cover you prefer. If you can afford it, fully comprehensive is always the best policy – insurance always seems expensive until you need it.

If your answers to these initial questions reveal that you’re such an inoffensive, low risk person that you iron creases in your jeans or fold your pyjamas neatly, then you’ll have no trouble at all in getting really good low quotes for your insurance.

But let them sniff the first hint of a ‘hot hatch’, dubious postcode or a peccadillo in your driving youth and your premium can rocket, however careful you might think you are.

Even when you have a fairly ordinary request, the variation in quotes, no claims bonuses and excess options can produce a mystifying variation in quotes.

When comparing prices make sure you are comparing like with like. Some Insurance companies, like Direct Line for example, do not participate in comparison websites but still offer very competitive insurance rates so make sure you check these out too!

What if I am renewing?

If you are already with an insurance company and have just received your renewal notice, don’t assume that you are already receiving their best rate. A huge proportion of motorists just renew their insurance without question each year. The Insurance companies know this and only offer discounted rates to new customers. What existing customers don’t realise is that if you challenge the Insurance Company and ask why you don’t get the same rate as new customers, they may offer you the discounted rate.

One sure way to keep insurance down is to select your car with the premium in mind. Next time you go out to buy a new one, don’t just think about a budget priced alternative that’s easy to service and cheap to run; ask about the insurance grouping too.

Life After L-Plates – The Options

Of course, the people who get hit hardest by the insurance companies are young drivers – those who can least afford the high premiums. If that’s you, what can you do? Well, if you only need a car to get out and about at weekends, you might well be able to share your mum or dad’s, especially if theirs is the second car in the family. It will probably work out cheaper on insurance, too, as your parents should be able to add you to the policy without too much trouble and without sending the premium through the roof.

Providing of course, that the family car isn’t a souped-up GTi or other sporty model.

Shop around all the same – the best deal for your parents alone won’t necessarily mean the best overall when your name goes on the policy. The same will apply when you do finally get around to insuring your own car.

If you don’t feel confident with all the jargon, go through the small print in the policy with someone who has more experience. Fully comprehensive insurance, as suggested earlier, would obviously be the ideal cover, but you might not be able to stretch to that initially. If you can afford it however, it could be well worth paying out the extra, which would give you cover for damage to your car and to any other involved in an accident, whether you were at fault or not.

Nor should you have to find your annual premium in a lump sum. These days many Insurance companies are happy to arrange payment by monthly or quarterly direct debit if that would suit you better – though they may well charge you for the privilege.

Get the best cover you can afford – and remember, insurance is expensive only until you need it.

Breakdowns – what should you do

Suspect 1 – Flat Battery

In the colder months, we put more strain on the battery than at any other time, by powering our heaters, de-misters, windscreen wipers and lights. Short journeys, such as the quick trip to work, or to the shops, can bring about the downfall of many motorists, as the battery, drained of its full strength, fails to recharge in the short time between departure and destination.

Action

Have your battery checked before the cold weather sets in. Ideally, you should check it once a month during the winter. Always remember to turn your lights down or off when driving in full daylight and in clear visibility, and double check they’re turned off before leaving the car.

Suspect 2 – Frozen Engine

In very cold weather, the engine can freeze if precautionary measures are not taken. Motoring organisation Green Flag reports that it deals with around 3,000 cases each winter where engines have seized, the radiators having been starved of anti-freeze. One Boxing Day, a desperate motorist had poured neat anti-freeze over his ice-covered radiator and water pumps, but to no avail. The car had to be towed away, and left to slowly defrost in the warmth of the operator’s service station for the rest of the holiday.

Action

While your vehicle may run perfectly well in summer, if it has not been recently maintained, dampness can set in, causing failure to any part of the complex ignition system. Keep anti-freeze levels topped up to maximum capacity: never fall short of the recommended measure as the damage can be expensive.

Suspect 3 – Flooded Engine

Heavy rainfall over recent years has led to an increase in flooding in many areas across the country. Unphased by the threat of danger, scores of motorists, choosing to brave the wet have found themselves in need of drying out. Air filters on the front of any vehicle are designed to suck in air, thus keeping the engine cool. When immersed in water, the filters will naturally draw it in, flooding the engine and causing the vehicle to stall. While elevated four wheel drive vehicles may be more advantageous in standing the test of nature’s hazards, the air intake systems on smaller cars will be far closer to ground level

Action

In either case, never drive through water that is more than two feet deep and – if you are at all unsure of its depth – take a detour. Should you successfully negotiate a water hazard, always test your brakes immediately afterwards, to ensure they haven’t been affected.

Suspect 4 – Lock-Out

Hundreds of motorists using immobiliser key fobs to secure their vehicles have found themselves locked out of their cars as their remote devices were unable to penetrate the snow or ice covering their windscreens.

Action

The reliability of your immobiliser fob during the rest of the year can lead to a false sense of security, as a device with a relatively flat battery can work even at some distance from your vehicle. However, following a snow fall this is often not the case. Be sure to change your batteries regularly on a hand-held immobiliser. If you do come unstuck in the snow, at least have your personal key codes to hand, either for a remote or key entry system. This will allow a cheap and quick production of a replacement (the typical cost to replace a master key/locking system is around £150).

In summary, it all boils down to the old adage – prevention is always better than cure.

Reduce your monthly motoring costs

Car maintenance – DIY can save you money

Regular car maintenance is essential, so make sure you have your car serviced regularly, especially during the winter months. In between services, there are things you can check to ensure it runs efficiently and avoids any unwanted trips to the garage.

Tyre pressure – Low pressure causes tyres to have uneven contact with the road. Not only does this affect the tyres performance, but it will cause your tyres to wear out quicker. It also reduces fuel efficiency and increases C02 emissions. Therefore, it’ll be costing you more in fuel and potentially for a new set of tyres.

Fluid levels – This includes oil, brake fluid, coolant, power-steering fluid and transmission fluid. Topping these up can improve engine life and road safety.

Filters – Relatively inexpensive, changing these can improve engine life, increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

Improve your driving style

Did you know the way you handle and drive your car can save you money and the environment? Most modern cars are well-equipped with technology that reduces fuel consumption and C02 emissions, but making sure your car is well maintained and handled with the right driving style can ensure you get the most mileage from your fuel.

Extra weight – Do you have a roof rack or tend to store a lot in your boot? Roof racks can affect the car’s aerodynamics which cause it to use up more fuel. So, take it off when it’s not needed and remove any extra weight.

When you’re driving – Unnecessary accelerating and braking can cost you in fuel. Try to keep your revs low (between 2000 and 3000), drive in top gear from around 30 MPH and avoid warming the engine no longer than 30 seconds at a standstill. It will warm up faster being driven. Your engine burns fuel whilst idling, so if your car comes with Start/Stop technology – use it.

Shop around to reduce your costs

Fuel – The choice of petrol station can come down to convenience more than anything, but if you have the time to shop around it can pay off. Many of them also offer loyalty schemes with money off vouchers or supermarket vouchers.

Car Insurance – Again shopping around for car insurance guarantees you’ll get the best deal, so take the time to do so. Check the level of cover is suitable for you and relative to the value of your car.

Could you increase the excess or add an experienced driver to the policy? Both of these could reduce the cost. Paying monthly can reduce outgoings but could also cost you in the long run. It’s also worth asking your current provider for any discounts if you’ve been with them for a while.

Parking – Are you paying a lot for parking? Make sure you compare other car parks near you, and expand your search that little bit further. If it means walking an extra 5 minutes or using Park and Ride facilities, it could save you in the long run.

You could also save money by looking at long-term parking or paying monthly. Also consider car sharing with a work colleague to split the cost.