Author Archives: Pete Barden

Don't panic and don't head to the High Street... we've got the Xmas answer

Last-minute Xmas gifts with e-vouchers

Are you suffering from Christmas present panic? Still got gifts to buy but online delivery deadlines have passed? Sit back, relax and swerve the High Street hassle with our guide to last-minute motoring gifts delivered straight to your inbox with a handy e-voucher.

Don't panic and don't head to the High Street... we've got the Xmas answer

Don’t panic and don’t head to the High Street… we’ve got the Xmas answer

Just pick your gift from the list below and watch the car fan in your life beam with excitement on Xmas morn… totally oblivious to the fact you’d almost forgotten to get them anything…

Double supercar blast

Double supercar blast

Double Supercar Blast
From dads, to boyfriends wives and daughters – just about any bhp-addicted relative, partner, sibling or offspring will be aghast with pleasure as they receive their Double Supercar Blast e-voucher. Venues include the Top Gear test track at Dunsfold Park, where drivers can choose from a high-octane roster of supercars including a Ferrari 355, 360 or 430, Lamborghini Gallardo, Aston Martin V8 Vantage or DB9, Audi R8, Porsche 911 or 996 Turbo, Nissan GTR or an Ariel Atom. The experience lasts around 1.5 hours, with a safety briefing and the chance to hit the circuit and complete three white-knuckle miles in a brace of snarling supercars. They’ll even get a certificate for added bragging rights.
Important info: The person you’re buying for will need to hold a full driving licence, stand between  5’0” and 6’5” tall – and not weigh more than 20stone – so make sure they lay-off the mince pies. Vouchers must be redeemed by 31 July, 2015, and there’s a £20.00 surcharge for taking the experience on a weekend.
Available with e-voucher: Yes
How much: £59.00
Where: Get your supercar experience here

Single-seaters at Silverstone

Single-seaters at Silverstone

Single-seaters at Silverstone
With Lewis bringing the F1 title back to Britain, what better way to celebrate than by heading to Silverstone for a hi-octane session of white-knuckle driving in a 150bhp Formula Silverstone single-seat race car. Riding just millimetres from the ground, the recipient will be blasted from 0-60mph in just 4.3 seconds and be glued to the black stuff as they corner at speeds that’d leave road cars spinning hopelessly out of control. The driver will become one with their machine as the stupendous traction flings them from corner to straight with heart-stopping power as they take on the challenge of Silverstone’s Stowe Circuit. The basic ‘Thrill’ package offers a 20-minute safety and technique briefing – where participants learn about braking, cornering, clipping kerbs and safety flags – followed by eight minutes driving behind a pace car, before being let loose to pilot their steed for 10 solo minutes of driving ecstasy. Once driven – forever smitten.
Important info: All drivers must have held a full licence for at least one year, stand between 5’2”-6’6” and weigh no more than 18 stone.
Available with e-voucher: Yes
How much: From £89.00
Where: Get your Silverstone Single Seater Thrill here

Lambos for your little lambs

Lambos for your little lambs

Junior Lamborghini Gallardo Driving Experience
Outsmart the kid who arrives back at school boasting about the expensive yet banal presents received from their equally unimaginative parents, by ensuring your offspring has the best post-festive tale to tell by purchasing them a driving experience in a Lamborghini Gallardo. It’s the car that all adults dream of driving, so imagine how your bhp-obsessed child will react to receiving a voucher confirming they’ll soon be jumping into the driving seat and heading on to the track for a rubber-smoking session of hi-octane anarchy in one of the world’s most sought-after supercars. Available at 10 venues throughout the UK, the chipper nipper will receive a safety briefing from a fully trained instructor before hitting the private coned circuit for 10-15 minutes of Lamborghini Gallardo-driving heaven. They’ll also be handed a commemorative certificate to ward off any classroom doubters.
Important info: Vouchers are valid for 10 months and age limits vary by location, but range from around 11-17 years old. Minimum height 5’0”. All drivers must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Locations: Elvington, York, Longcross Proving Ground, Surrey, Rockingham, Northampton and Blyton Park, Gainsborough
Available with e-voucher: Yes
How much: £95.00
Where: Get your Junior Lamborghini Gallardo Driving Experience e-voucher here

Put your star in the car

Put your star in the car

Top Gear – Star In A Reasonably Priced Car experience
Giving someone the opportunity to drive a Kia Cee’d might not immediately strike you as a gift to gain friends – but think again. Yes, Top Gear fans will recognise the above scenario as something so much more – the Star In A Reasonably Priced Car experience, to be precise. Participants will take on a shortened version of the circuit, which includes all the best bits from the show’s version – including the daunting Hammerhead, Chicago and the ultimate handling test, the terrifying Follow-Through. An experienced instructor will take to the track with them and provide tips to get the best lines through the circuits iconic corners – before letting them go solo and pilot the Cee’d through three high-speed laps of pure reasonably-priced pleasure. On top of this, the gift-holder will extend their experience with up to two hours in a replica of the show’s TV studio.
Important info: Vouchers bought for Christmas are valid until June 30, 2015. The experience is available on dates throughout the year. The minimum age for drivers is 17 and participants will need to hold a full UK driving licence.
Location: Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey
Available with e-voucher: Yes
How much: From £85.00
Where: Get your Star In A Reasonably Priced Car here

Go Hypersonic speed fans

Go Hypersonic speed fans

The Hypersonic – Silverstone Circuit
Buying for an adrenaline junkie? Then gifting them a passenger ride in this twin-seat bhp-snorting monster is about the closest they’ll get to the thrill of riding a Formula One car without having a spend-happy daddy operating tax-avoidance schemes from several multi-national conglomerates. Blasting the recipient from 0-60mph in just 3.0 seconds, the V6 engine will reach speeds of around 150mph. They’ll be driven by a pro-instructor who’ll take just a few brain-shattering seconds to reveal just why Silverstone has dubbed this experience ‘The Hypersonic’. With three laps ahead of them, passengers can expect an adrenaline overdose that’ll leave them seriously addicted and begging for more – or pleading for mercy.
Important info: There’s no minimum age, but those taking part will need to stand between 4’10” and 6’6” and weigh no more than 18 stone.
Location: Silverstone Circuit, Northamptonshire
Available with e-voucher: Yes
How much: From £69.00
Where: Book a seat in ‘Hypersonic’ here

Rally time

Rally time

Rally Driving Experience
Let the automotive hooligan in your life swerve from the Tarmac and go off-piste in an off-road adventure they’ll never forget. Sliding through mud, duelling with trees and impossibly sharp turns, this is everything they’d expect from the driving seat of a top rally car. They’ll get a training session with a qualified instructor before being let loose on the loose stuff. They’ll tackle a specially constructed track to slide, drift and put into practice all the new techniques they’ve been taught – leaving someone else to clean up the mess. The experience can be enjoyed at five locations around the UK. Participants will also receive a certificate.
Important info: Experience is available on Saturdays and selected Tuesdays in Essex, Mon-Fri in Yorkshire and selected dates in Leicestershire. Maximum height is 6’4″ (6’6″ at the Oxfordshire location), minimum height is 5′. Drivers must not be over 18 stone (16 stone in Oxfordshire). Those taking part will be required to provide a full, valid driving licence on the day.
Location: Find locations here
Available with e-voucher: Yes
How much:
From £89.00
Where:
Book a Rally Driving Experience here

Monster day out

Monster day out

Monster Truck Ride
A must-do experience for petrol heads of all ages… Give them a shot of adrenaline as they ride shotgun with an experienced driver delivering an orgy of hi-octane automotive anarchy in a genuine monster truck. Those taking the experience will be given a safety briefing before climbing into one the eight passenger seats in the colossal 7.5 litre V8 American monster truck, affectionately known as ‘Grizzly’. Once strapped in, the recipient will experience around 15 minutes of petrol-powered hooliganism as ‘Grizzly’ take them for a wild spin over a series of sharp corners, challenging climbs, sudden drops, mounds and even a few cars. It’ll be fast, furious and an experience to remember.
Important info: Minimum age is 8. Under 16’s must be accompanied by a participating adult. This is a ride-only experience and those taking part won’t be able to drive the monster truck.
Location: This experience lasts around 1.5hours and is offered in East Grinstead, West Sussex. Others locations are available across the country.
Available with e-voucher: Yes
How much:
From £40.00
Where: Book a monster truck ride in Sussex here

Dukes of Hazzard time

Dukes of Hazzard time

Dukes of Hazzard Blast
One for the dads, but before he starts dabbing on the Brut 33, gently break the news that Daisy Duke won’t be attending. However, he will be able to take the wheel of a ‘General Lee’ Dodge Charger and take the snarling V8 muscle car for eight miles of relentless, adrenaline-fuelled track action. The locations for the experience are just as iconic as the car itself – with Brands Hatch, Goodwood and Rockingham providing the black stuff. The recipient will also receive a certificate to prove their rubber-smoking credentials. Just look out for Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane… and not forgetting Flash.
Important info: Minimum age 18. Minimum height 4’10”, maximum height 6’5”. Maximum weight 18 stone. Full manual or automatic licence (held for minimum of 12 months) must be produced on the day. Those with heart- or back conditions cannot take part.
Location: Enjoy the General Lee Blast at Brands Hatch, Goodwood Circuit and Rockingham Raceway.
Available with e-voucher: Yes
How much:
From £99.00
Where: Book a Dukes Of Hazzard experience here

wacky

For the oddball in your life

Wacky Racing in Northampton
Monty Python lives at Northampton Raceway with this truly British driving experience. If a friend or relative is a bit ‘eccentric’ they’re sure to appreciate this racing-circuit romp in some of the wackiest vehicles imaginable. Let the oddball in your life indulge their passion for madness with three hours of madcap motoring – during which they’ll drive off in an 87mph leopard skin sofa or a fully equipped office with desk, or perhaps they’d prefer the double decker car with the driver at the top steering and the passenger down below controlling the pedals. Spectators are welcome, but they will be charged £10.00 to witness the mechanical tomfoolery. Those taking part will also get a gourmet burger lunch, drinks and a souvenir certificate.
Important info: Drivers must be reasonably fit and over 16 years old. Max height is 6ft 5″; Max weight is 20 stone. Full driving licence not required. Bookings need to be made at least four weeks in advance.
Location: Northampton Raceway.
Available with e-voucher: Yes
How much: £99.00
Where: Book a Wacky Racing experience here

Pay for your ride - like most F1 pilots

Pay for your ride – like most F1 pilots

Drive a Formula One car
We’ve saved the ultimate experience for last… but the gift of driving a genuine Formula One car will literally be the experience of a lifetime for the petrol head in your life. Apart from turning up at the British GP and carjacking Lewis Hamilton, there’s just nowhere to go beyond this. With a 0-60mph time of just 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 200mph, the chance to drive a 600bhp ex-Formula One GP car around a genuine race circuit is truly unbeatable. The full-day experience starts with a safety briefing, after which the track action commences with five familiarisation laps of in a sports saloon driven by a race instructor. The recipient will then drive the saloon car for 10 laps before climbing behind the wheel of an Aston Martin and Ferrari 360 for two six-mile sessions – honing their skills for the move up to 10 paced laps in a single-seater. After this, they’ll drive seven un-paced laps in the single-seater followed by 10 laps in the stunning Formula 3 race car, before 10 mind-blowing laps in the awesome 1996 Italian Forte Corse or 1994 Arrows GP cars – previously raced by F1 stars Luca Badoer and Aguri Suzuki. Lunch and an F1 certificate are also included. Be just like a real racing driver like Max Chiltern (prior to Marussia going bust)… and pay for your seat in an F1 car.
Car spec: Car: Ex-Formula One, Power: 600bhp, Transmission: Six-speed manual sequential, Engine: 3.0-litre Nicholson McLaren Cosworth V8 or Judd KV 3.0-litre
Important info: Drivers must be at least 21, stand between 5’-6’4” and weigh no more than 18 stone. Their chest and upper arm girth must not exceed 54″. A full driving licence must have been held for a minimum of 36 months and needs to be produced. Voucher valid for 24 months.
Location: Three Sisters, Lancashire
Available with e-voucher: Yes
How much: Brace yourself… £1599.00
Where: Book an F1 experience here

Alternatively…

If a driving experience isn’t the last-minute present you’re after, why not consider these instant voucher-led alternatives…

An old Ferrari

An old Ferrari

2015 FORMULA 1 BRITISH GRAND PRIX
Buy someone tickets for Xmas and they’ll have months of smug anticipation knowing they’re heading to the UK’s premier motor race. Purchase tickets before January 5, and you can pay for them with six monthly instalments at 0% interest. Click here for details.
When: 03 Jul – 05 Jul 2015
How much: From £175.00 for adults
Where: Get tickets here

A classic gift

A classic gift

Classic car hire gift voucher
If you’re buying for a classic car fan, then a voucher towards the cost of hiring one could be the perfect gift. Cars include such legends as a 1961 Jaguar MkII, 1963 Austin Healey 3000, 1973 Triumph Stag and 1965 Mustang Convertible.
How much: Choose vouchers from £20.00 – £660.00
Where: Get a voucher here

Supercar hire will go down well

Supercar hire will go down well

Supercar hire
If a loved one has always dreamt of driving an Aston Martin DB9 Volante or a Ferrari F430, then why not send them a Signature Gift Voucher to hire the car of their dreams?
How much: From £295.00
Where: Get your supercar hire voucher here

Pick up an old Porker

Pick up an old Porker

Sports car
We’d all like to wake-up on Xmas morning to find a two-door sports car on the drive, so why not? Grab a used Porsche Boxster for your loved one and still have change from £3k… hint hint.
How much: From £2,500 (approx.)
Where: Head to Autotrader.co.uk

Keep the teens happy

Keep the teens happy

Driving lesson vouchers
The perfect last-minute gift for any 17-year-old teen. Perfect solution to that ‘cool gift’ dilemma, which uncool parents and relatives suffer.
How much: You choose
Where: Just head to Google and enter ‘driving lesson vouchers’ in the search box.

Don't be a victim of bad weather this winter

Winter driving and how to keep moving

Winter is coming and we can expect anything from several foot of snow to the same in flood water. The question is, though, are you able to keep your family rolling if the worst happens? Here’s the Crawley Down Group’s guide to driving this winter.

How not to drive in snow or ice

Don't be a victim of bad weather this winter

Don’t be a victim of bad weather this winter

If the snow’s falling or ice is forming, then here’s how to avoid common mistakes that could cost you dear…

4X4 complacency: Your four-wheel-drive transmission might be driving you forward at an impressive rate of knots, but it’s worth remembering you still have to stop just like anyone else. Happening on a mere two-wheel-drive mortal floundering in the slush could easily end in dented pride, or worse… Keep your speed down and don’t get seduced into thinking that delivering power to all four wheels makes you invincible.

Don’t wait until it’s too late: We might be having a mild winter so far, but that doesn’t mean it’ll last. Waiting until the weather deteriorates before giving your wagon for winter make-over won’t end well. The most dangerous time is usually the first day of poor weather as drivers realise they’re totally unprepared. Check your vehicle now for the following
Tyres: Ensure you have plentiful and equal amounts of tread on your tyres
Anti-freeze: Check that your anti-freeze is topped up
Windscreen wash: Refill your windscreen washer bottle (including a windscreen cleaning solution). The wash will stop it from freezing and leaving you blind.
Lights: Test all your lights
Battery: Check the condition of your battery – KwikFit will do this for free. Details here
Heater: Check your blower, heater and demister all work efficiently

Pull back:
In the event of heavy snow, many people think that poor visibility and treacherous road conditions can be countered by remaining close to the vehicle in front. This will, in fact, cut reaction times, reduce vision and increase the likelihood of you having an accident or getting stuck. Give yourself at least six seconds gap from the vehicle in front.

No slamming: If your tyres start to slip, stamping on the middle pedal harder won’t increase your ability to stop and will simply prolong your skid as you head straight to the scene of the impending accident. Briefly remove your foot from the brake and let the tyres regain traction before re-applying pressure. If time, stay calm and attempt to steer round the hazard.

No slamming 2 – aquaplaning: Effectively, this is where your car hits a flooded piece of road and is left floating on a layer of water, leaving you with no steering control. If you find yourself heading for a large area of standing water, you should prepare to aquaplane. Do not slam on your brakes – ease off the accelerator and de-clutch the car if it’s a manual or gently feather the throttle for automatics. Keep the car as straight as possible as your enter the water – your tyres will need to be straight when they reach the other side and regain grip. Aquaplaning is caused by going too fast for the road conditions, so reducing your speed is the best way to prevent it occurring.

Gears and revs: Driving in snow requires you to understand your car and how traction is delivered. We’ll leave the physics to boffins in their white coats, but putting your car in first gear and flooring the throttle will merely bury your (2wd) wheels in the snow and halt any forward progress. Always try to pull away in second gear, which will aid traction while also forcing you to keep the speed low.

Top four 4x4s for you

Despite what the majority of mums dropping off their lone child at the school gates might suggest, there are alternatives to buying a four-wheel-drive vehicle that’s bigger than the average family home. Here are our top tips for those who want to revolt against the Range Rover and buy something that won’t melt the atmosphere or cause gridlock on the school run.

Fiat Panda 4×4 1.3 Multijet

MPG: 60.1mpg
CO2: 125g/km
How much: £15,295

fiat

This great-looking Fiat is the only supermini that offers genuine off-road ability with economy that would shame many of its 2wd counterparts. It really is a decent car, too, and will certainly keep your family on the move whatever the winter can throw at it. Along with the excellent economy and low-CO2 emissions, it’s a sensibly sized car that’s perfect for everyday use.

Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI SE 4×4

MPG: 47.1mpg
CO2: 157g/km
How much: £22,030

skoda-yeti

The Skoda Yeti has just about everything you’ll need. It’s stylish, practical and provides an interesting alternative to the banality of many traditional family hatchbacks – without becoming just another road-clogging barge. It’s an excellent car to drive and brings genuine 4×4 ability  for inclement weather or simply heading off the black stuff just for fun.

Dacia Duster 1.5 dCi 110 Ambiance 4WD 5dr

MPG: 53.3mpg
CO2: 135g/km
How much: £13,995

dusterMost Chelsea tractor drivers might faint at the thought of arriving at the school gates in a Dacia, but should their vacuum-packed craniums ever be breached by the reality of economy versus vanity, they might just think again. The Dacia Duster is certainly where the smart 4×4 driver is lodging their cash, with a fully functioning family vehicle available from £11,495 you really can’t go wrong. However, we’d swerve the entry-level four-wheel-drive version and go for the mid-range Ambiance trim that offers the best blend of value and ‘luxury’.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross Crossover 1.6 SZ-T 5dr

MPG: 51.3mpg
CO2:  127g/km
How much: £17,749

s_cross_01
The Suzuki Swift 4×4 is a real gem of an option for real-world drivers.  Despite its off-road abilities, the Swift S-Cross is great for everyday driving, too. Take it off-road or point its nose at some snow and it simply won’t miss a beat. It’s small, nippy and certainly worth a test drive.

Faux X four…

Just because your car is 2wd, it doesn’t mean you can’t pack a little 4×4 traction in your boot. Here are our tips to ensure you’re always on the go whatever the weather.

Stay safe….

If you’re heading out in bad weather, make sure that someone knows where you’re going and when you should get there. A great way to do this is the StaySafe tracker app. Here’s the info you need.

Staysafe Tracker… make sure someone knows where you are

Let someone track your progress

Let someone track your progress

What is it: Heading out on a road trip in winter weather, then this GPS tracker app will ensure that a family member or friend can keep an eye on your progress to make sure you’ve not hit problems. From breaking down or being trapped by a flood in remote locations, this app will help alert others to your predicament – even when you don’t have a phone signal. The tracker uses separate GPS technology. It will automatically email or text your location to an ‘emergency’ contact (defined by you) if you fail to check-in as expected. An exact GPS location will be provided so that you can be instantly located. How much: £4.99 Get it here for Android  Get it here for iOS 

Don’t lose the power to survive

Getting stuck in cold or having a crash winter weather can be a killer if you’re left in a remote location, so make sure you’re phone never lets you down – even if your car does. Cold weather can zap a car’s battery in minutes – especially if it’s in poor condition – so always carry one of these alternative phone chargers when travelling in poor winter weather.

Paris Motor Show

Paris Motor Show 2014 gallery

The Paris Motor Show 2014 is go

The Paris Motor Show 2014 is go

The Paris Motor Show is now in full swing, with the global motor industry flocking to the French capital for one of the calendar’s biggest and most influential auto events of 2014.

From production debuts revealed by our core brands, to the best-looking and most innovative concept cars, we’ve got the pictures you need to see.

If you fancy a trip to see the cars and have a cuppa at the Eiffel Tower, the show runs until October 19.
Buy your tickets here

Concept cars

Here’s a selection of the best concept cars on view at the Paris Motor Show.

  • Audi TT Sportback
  • Audi TT Sportback
  • DS Divine DS concept
  • DS Divine DS concept
  • Honda Civic Type R
  • Honda Civic Type R
  • Infiniti Q80 Inspiration concept
  • Infiniti Q80 Inspiration concept
  • Mini Superleggera Vision Concept
  • Mini Superleggera Vision Concept
  • Nissan Pulsar Nismo Concept
  • Nissan Pulsar Nismo Concept
  • Peugeot Exalt concept
  • Peugeot Exalt concept
  • Peugeot Quartz concept
  • Peugeot Quartz concept
  • Renault EOLAB concept
  • Renault EOLAB concept
  • SsangYong XIV Air concept
  • SsangYong XIV Air concept
  • Volkswagen XL Sport
  • Volkswagen XL Sport

Production debuts

Here are some of the models that you’ll be seeing in our showrooms soon.

  • Fiat 500X
  • Fiat 500X
  • Peugeot 208 GTi 30th Anniversary
  • Peugeot 208 Hybrid
  • Peugeot 308 GT
  • Peugeot 308 GT
  • Peugeot 308 SW
  • Peugeot 308 SW
  • SEAT Leon X-Perience
  • SEAT Leon X-Perience
  • Škoda Fabia
  • Škoda Fabia
  • Škoda Fabia Combi
  • Škoda Fabia Combi

What’s your favourite car of the show? Leave a comment below and tell us.

Pre-load your smartphone with essential apps for winter driving

Essential winter driving apps for your phone

Pre-load your smartphone with essential apps for winter driving

Pre-load your smartphone with essential apps for winter driving

Winter is coming, so there’s no better time to pre-load your smartphone with the apps you’ll need to keep yourself and family safe on the road as weather conditions deteriorate.

Follow the Crawley Down Group’s guide to essential winter driving apps.

 Hands-Free Traffic Talker

Traffic news straight to your ears

Traffic news straight to your ears

What is it: Provided in association with the Highways Agency, the Hand-Free Traffic Talker app will automatically keep you updated with traffic problems as you head towards them. You set how many miles radius you want alerts for. No need to register an account, simply turn it on and let your phone’s built-in GPS tech stream relevant traffic problems direct to your car. You won’t need to be distracted by checking your phone, either – the alerts are automatically spoken as you drive. The app will stream notifications of problems on motorways and major A-roads throughout England. It will also broadcast alerts and updates on earlier issues.
How much: Free
Get it for Android and iOS

Battery Doctor… Extend your phone’s battery life

Keep your battery full of juice

Keep your battery full of juice

What is it: Staying in touch is important when heading out in poor driving conditions, so always ensure your phone if fully charged. Most people will have a phone charger, but one of the big problems associated with cold weather is a flat battery – so charging your phone won’t be an option. However, downloading an app such as Battery Doctor will help keep your device powered-up for longer. It ensures your handset gets a proper, full charge when your top it up with a unique three-cycle system. It also has a task killer that stops power-sapping apps that drain power while not in use. Must-have for winter driving.
How much: Free
Get it here for Android
Get it for iPhone 

Gaugemap.co.uk… flood map

Are rivers about to flood on your route?

Are rivers about to flood on your route?

What is it: As we’ve seen in the UK, flash floods can cause big problems for motorists. However,  drivers can help avoid the risk of being caught out by logging on to Gaugemap.co.uk and using the interactive map to search for rivers on their planned journey. Amazingly, motorists can then follow the individual rivers on Twitter and receive live updates on river levels and flood risks as they drive. Make friends with rivers on your route whenever you travel.
How much: Free
Get it for you your phone: Go to www.gaugemap.co.uk then follow rivers on your Twitter app.

Red Cross First Aid

First aid if the worst should happen

First aid if the worst should happen

Bad weather and darker evenings can increase the chance of being injured in a road accident, but would you know how to help in the event of an accident? This app features simple, easy advice on everyday first aid scenarios as well as how to prepare for emergencies from severe winter weather to road traffic accidents. Use the videos and step-by-step guides to help you stay safe and help others. The information is all hosted locally, so you won’t need an internet connection to access it in the event of an emergency.
How much: Free
Get it here for Android and iOS 

Witness Driving

Record incidents this wonter

Record incidents this wonter

What is it: The one-stop shop for recording accident information and potentially saving  thousands in spurious insurance claims. Mount your phone on the dashboard to video your trip – recording any incidents that happen when driving. The app also has a section to record the names and addresses of witnesses, take photos and pinpoint the exact location through GPS. All this information can then be shared with your insurer and will greatly help you win no-fault claims against you.
How much: £0.69p
Get it here for Android
Get it here for iPhone 

Fill That Hole… pothole reporting

Kill potholes on your route

Kill potholes on your route

What is it: Like eruptions on the face of a hormonal teenager, the winter scourge of potholes will soon be scarring the UK’s highways and byways while simultaneously attacking wheels and suspension throughout the nation. Download this app and help ensure that others stay safe and that the relevant authority is made aware of the defect  – forcing it to act. You can also use the app to see if the pothole that damaged your car had already been reported – meaning you could be entitled to compensation. The app lets you take photos, get a GPS fix on the hole’s location and automatically send a report to the responsible authority.
How much: Free
Get it here for iPhone 

Staysafe Tracker… make sure someone knows where you are

Let someone track your progress

Let someone track your progress

What is it: Heading out on a road trip in winter weather, then this GPS tracker app will ensure that a family member or friend can keep an eye on your progress to make sure you’ve not hit problems. From breaking down or being trapped by a flood in remote locations, this app will help alert others to your predicament – even when you don’t have a phone signal. The tracker uses separate GPS technology. It will automatically email or text your location to an ‘emergency’ contact (defined by you) if you fail to check-in as expected. An exact GPS location will be provided so that you can be instantly located.
How much: £4.99
Get it here for Android 
Get it here for iOS 

 Sunrise and Sunset app

Plan your trip around danger times

Plan your trip around danger times

What is it: Driving during sunrise and sunset can be the most dangerous times to be on the road. The transition from autumn to winter has been identified as one of the riskiest periods, with blinding sunsets and poor light contributing to 3000 accidents and 36 deaths each year in the UK. The AA also points out that the rate of head-on crashes involving lorries nearly quadruples in twilight conditions.This app gives exact times of sunset and sunrise in locations of your choice. Get information on any date of year. A great preventative tool that really can make your driving easier and safer.
How much: £free
Get it here for iPhone
Get alternative app here for Android 

UK Bus checker

We all need a plan B

We all need a plan B

What is it: Swapping your car for a bus and mingling with fellow passengers and their various ailments isn’t something we’d recommend, but bad weather and cars that won’t start mean it’s always good to have a plan B for urgent travel… and buses could be the answer. Generally more reliable than train, they also cut thought traffic with the help of dedicated lanes and bus-only routes to bypass congestion hotspots. So, if the worst happens and you need to take one, this app covers more than 300,000 bus stops in 35 UK cities, along with route maps and an alert that rings as you approach your stop.
How much: £2.49
Get it here for various devices

What Gas… fuel finder and prices

Don't run out of fuel again

Don’t run out of fuel again

What is it: Running out of fuel in winter can be extremely dangerous as temperatures plummet – which is why you should fill-up your app arsenal with the What Gas fuel finder. Use the app to find the nearest petrol stations selling petrol, diesel, and LPG. No more panic as the needle nudges zero.
How much: £free
Get it here for Android
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Emergency phone charging

You smartphone is a vital piece of kit for any driver heading out in extreme weather conditions, so you need to make sure it remains charged at all time. Relying on your car battery to keep it topped-up is can be risky – cold weather and component failure can often result in it going flat. Don’t risk being left without a power source for your phone – check out our alternative charging options here.

Stuck? How to escape mud and snow

As winter approaches, the chance of getting your vehicle stuck in snow and mud increases, so here’s our guide to keeping your car moving…

  • Stay calm: While everyone else is up to their axles in the brown stuff, staying calm and assessing the situation will help ensure you have the best chance of escape.
  • Footwear: Make sure you swap your mud-encrusted wellies for clean, dry shoes when you get behind the wheel. Slimy footwear could result in slipping off the pedals and making a bad situation far worse.
  • Avoid the spin: Jumping into your jalopy and burying the accelerator will only ensure you go down rather than forward. Aid your chances of gaining traction by pulling away in second gear. This will reduce the chance of wheelspin. If you’re driving a larger automatic, select ‘D2’.
  • Traction action: Taking some ‘traction aid’ with you will help keep your car moving while others are left wallowing in the slime. Pack your car with old cardboard or bags of cat litter. You can then place this around your ‘drive’ wheels to improve traction. You can even buy specially designed gadgets for this, such as these ‘escape tracks’ from the RAC.
  • Keep on rolling: Once you gain traction, keep moving. Remain in a low gear and keep throttle inputs to an absolute minimum.
  • Tramlines: It might be tempting to follow tramlines created by other vehicles, but these will be full of mud and deep, invisible holes just waiting to beach your vehicle.
  • Towing: Make sure you know where your car’s towing eye is before you set off. Many are kept with the jack, but you’ll need to make sure yours is where it should be. If not, get a new one before you travel. Also, before you get going, make sure you speak to the towing driver and plan your route. If you’re a member of the AA, the motoring organisation operates a Special Operations Response Team (AA SORT) which will come and extricate you from just about any situation .

spider

Driving and your health

Driving can be a challenging business on crowded UK roads, but it can also be seriously damaging to our health. Here’s the Crawley Down Group’s guide to 10 ways to stay healthy behind the wheel.

1) Hire-car horror:

Do you need to book a hire car? Then you’d best reserve a seat in your doctor’s waiting room, according to new research.

VW Scirocco production car

VW Scirocco production car

Diagnosis: Researchers in the US hired six cars and took 25 swabs from various areas of the interior – 22 of these came back positive for harmful bacteria. The dirtiest spots were the steering wheels and door handles. The tests found that some of the vehicles had human faecal matter on the steering wheel. The researchers also tested child seats that came with the vehicles – finding sewage contamination on one. In a separate study, experts at Queen Mary University in London found an average of 700 kinds of bacteria within car interiors, compared with 60 types in the average public toilet.

Treatment: If you want to hire a car while also avoiding added extras such as diarrhoea and vomiting, you’d best take anti-bacterial wipes and plenty of alcohol hand gel.

2) What’s lurks beneath your sun visor:

The cold winter months are coming and after a long, mild summer, 2014 has experienced a bumper crop of spiders. September will see them head indoors to beat falling temperatures – and ‘indoors’ can also include your car.

spider

Diagnosis: An arachnid infestation in your car could mean you end up like farm worker Lucille Ellis – who has a phobia of spiders – and crashed her car after one dropped down from behind the vehicle’s sun visor. Lucille was fined for careless driving while the other driver, Diane Martin, suffered back and leg wounds.

Treatment: We’re prescribing ‘No More Spiders’ a spray that contains peppermint oil and can help stop spiders entering your car – or clearing existing infestations – without harming them. Get it here www.amazon.co.uk/household-s-More-Spiders-500ml/dp/B002EISUUS

3) Change your route:

It’s not always your car that can put you at risk of injury – but also the roads you drive it on.

map

Diagnosis: We all need to drive a car and accidents will happen – but some roads are more dangerous than others. New cars are packed with safety equipment, but picking a route that avoids particularly dangerous stretches is another good way to further cut the risk of injury. Read our treatment section below to find out how.

Treatment: Put you postcode into this interactive crash map (www.crashmap.co.uk/) and check out the roads that you use on a daily basis, or plan to navigate for a one-off trip. The map will then bring up markers that show all collisions on those roads – and these can be filtered by severity of injury or even fatality. This can give you the information you need to make your journey even safer.

4) Don’t let your four-legged friend turn killer:

Do you know that letting your dog wander round the car while you’re driving – or poke its head out of the window – could end up with you in court for dangerous driving – or worse still, in hospital.

dog

Diagnosis: Would you leave an unsecured 150lb package on the parcel shelf behind your child’s head while driving? That’s exactly what you’re doing by leaving a dog – such as an English Mastiff – unrestrained in your car. The consequences of even a minor accident could be terrifying.

Treatment: Stay on the right side of the law and avoid serious dog-related injury by installing a seatbelt or other restraint for your pet. Get some treatment here www.k9active.co.uk/dog-car-restraints/

5) New car smell:

Few things in life are better than stepping from your eight-year-old banger with its subtle odour of stale kebabs and slipping into the driving seat of your brand-new wheels at the local dealership. Sadly, it seems this fabled new-car-smell in some cars could actually be giving your health a good kicking with high-levels of toxic chemicals.

Diagnosis: A 2011/12 study by the US-based Ecology Centre found that some cars were stuffed with a cocktail of chemicals such as chlorine, bromine, lead and heavy metals. These have all been linked to a range of medical nasties such as allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer. The Ecology Center named the Mini Cooper S Clubman, VW EOS and Mitsubishi Outlander as some of the worst offenders.

Treatment: Firstly, we’d prescribe a large pinch of salt to go with these claims from a group that has an agenda against car ownership, but ensuring you keep your new vehicle well ventilated for the first six months of ownership will clear any ‘harmful’ effects. Alternatively, there were no Skoda, Seat, Peugeot or Fiat models in the worst 10 cars, so pop along to the Crawley Down Group to buy a health-conscious new car.

6) DIY accident repair:

Had a slight ding? You might be tempted to save a few pounds by pulling on your overalls and have a go at banging, filling and painting the dent yourself? You might also care to consider the health impacts.

Diagnosis: The UK Health & Safety Executive warns that carrying out repairs in situations that aren’t strictly controlled can result in exposure to dangerous paints and harmful dusts. These can lead to serious health hazards that can result in conditions such as asthma, dermatitis, breathing difficulties and long-term changes to lung tissue.

Treatment: Don’t put your health at risk – have any accident repairs carried out by professionals such as the Crawley Down Group. Get more info on repairs here http://www.cdg-cars.com/bodyshop/

7) Don’t drive with your husband or wife:

Driving with your partner or spouse quadruples your likelihood of feeling stressed and anxious while driving, according to research by Allianz Insurance.

Diagnosis: Stress and anxiety makes a poor combination for drivers and greatly increases the risk of having an accident and sustaining injury. It’s worse for women too… driving with a male partner is more stressful than a fella accompanied by his ‘other half’ in the passenger seat.

Treatment: Filing for divorce might be a little extreme, so we’d advise taking taxi.

8) Are you sitting comfortably:

Do you drive for your job – as a salesman or van driver perhaps? Then you could be looking at a bleak future on the health front.

seat

Diagnosis: Employees whose job involves a lot of driving could be at risk of developing musculoskeletal problems such as neck, hip, knee and back pain. Experts put the risk threshold at driving for more than four hours a day.

Treatment: Many people believe that driving pain is just down to poor posture, but this is not always the case. Research has shown that using the vehicle in a way it wasn’t intended is a large contributory factor. For example, travelling businessmen spend a lot of time using laptops while parked. It was found that simply swapping from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat could significantly reduce risks to ongoing health. If you’re a company car driver, ask for a health assessment to be carried out on your vehicle and how you use it.

9) Children:

Got a backseat the full of squabbling offspring – then you could be at risk of some serious auto-related pain.

Even families can 'downsize' their car - and bills

Diagnosis: Drivers with kids on the back seat looked away from the road for three minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute car journey – that’s 21% of the time – according to American safety researchers AAA. This makes kids 12 times more distracting than illegally using a mobile phone while at the wheel. This amount of distraction could easily result in an accident and serious injury.

Treatment: Make sure you have plenty of things to keep kids occupied on longer trips – such as iPads and DVD players – and try to travel with another adult to help you concentrate on the driving. On shorter trips – such as the school run – make sure your children are well-versed on the importance of staying quiet while you drive – and the negative effects that not doing so might have on their pocket money/TV time etc.

10) Air-conditioning blasts an ill wind:

It might help keep you cool, but it can also make you ill if you don’t take care of your car’s air-con. A dirty system can harbour mould and bacteria that won’t be too popular with your body’s immune system.

Diagnosis: Air-con can cause irritation to your nose and throat and exacerbate eye conditions such as conjunctivitis and blepharitis. Additionally, a dirty clogged system could also spread bacteria that might lead to more serious conditions. We all know the – rare but real – link between air-con and Legionnaire’s disease.

Treatment: Alongside the small health risks associated with an un-loved air-con system, the cooling benefits will also be greatly reduced while fuel consumption will increase. Get your system serviced and cleaned by the Crawley Down Group.

Clinic in your car

Have you ever been stuck in a jam and spotted the driver in the car behind picking his nose and eating the results, or the woman in the neighbouring car doing her nails? Don’t be too quick to judge them – they could be helping to improve their health or spot potential illness. Here’s our guide to the ways we while away the boredom of traffic jams could be seriously beneficial to our health.

Picking your nose: Alleged benefits of picking your nose and eating the results include a boost to the immune system by allowing the body to produce antibodies.

Earwax: Using a pen lid or hair clip to idly scrape earwax while in your car is not recommended by medical professionals, but the condition of your excretions could offer insight into your health, according to some researchers. Apparently, we’re born with either sticky or brittle earwax – and those with the dry, brittle variety are more prone to risk of heart disease.

Eyes: Looking at yourself in the rear-view mirror? Can see a yellowy ring around your cornea? This could be corneal arcus- common in those over 70, but anyone younger could be suffering from dangerously high levels of cholesterol. Get a fasting test at your docs.

Earlobe: Have a look at your earlobe in the rear-view mirror… does it have a diagonal crease? Some studies claim that creases on your earlobes can be a sign of heart disease. It’s especially dangerous if you’re under 50. Your doctor will arrange for checks or put your mind at rest.

Hair: Spending a little too much time looking at your receding hairline in the rear-view mirror? Apparently, losing hair from the temples is not as bad as it falling from the top of your head – which means you could be at higher risk of heart disease.

Hair for girls: Noticed extra hair on the headrest of your car? It could mean you’re suffering from a thyroid disorder. Medication will soon have it under control.

Doing your nails: Filing your nails as you queue in the rush hour gridlock? Have a closer look now… Nail clubbing occurs when tissue at the tips of the fingers starts to cover the nail. Studies claim people with clubbing fingernails have a higher risk of serious illness, heart disease, or lung disease.

Even families can 'downsize' their car - and bills

Downsize your car and bills – not your fun

Even families can 'downsize' their car - and bills

Even families can ‘downsize’ their car – and bills

Are you joining the rush to downsize your life? From environmental to financial, the reasons for reining in the excesses of the ’90s and noughties are clear to see – so let’s take a look at what’s sitting on your drive and the options to downsize your car…

Meet the downsizers

Downsizing your car sounds brutally simple and equally depressing – right? You sell your comfortable, fast car for a poorly-specced sardine can with an electric motor that’s powered by two rechargeable AA batteries – right? Wrong! While there are plenty of sardine cans on the market, there’s also a great downsizing option that’s perfect for your life – you just need to work out what it is.

Remember, downsizing is more about efficiency than purely having fewer seats and spending less cash at the dealership. Follow the Crawley Down Group’s guide to choosing the option that’s right for you. Find yourself on the list below…

Family car drivers
Family

Is this me: You have kids and a busy life that means you’re constantly jumping in and out of your car for trips to school, work, days out and weekly shops at the ‘local’ out-of-town supermarket.

Downsizing: With your kids returning from school stuffed full of facts detailing how pollution is destroying the world and – even worse – causing rainy days in their summer holidays, you might start thinking that dropping off at the school gates in a 3.0-litre Land Rover Discovery is incompatible with your hastily made pledge to help save the planet. However, chopping-in your Chelsea tractor for a Fiat Panda is equally incongruous with your need to safely transport 2.4 children, the weekly shop and a dog named Colin. Don’t worry, though, we’ve a downsizing option that’s right for your lifestyle.

Verdict: Fiat 500L MPW MPV
How much: £15,840 – £20,330
A Fiat 500? Are we experiencing a sudden bout of insanity, you may ask? Not at all; with the option of seven seats, this big brother to the standard 500 could be just what you’re looking for.  Choose the range-topping 1.6 MultiJet 120 Lounge 7st option (£20,330) and you’ll still have a cheap MPV that offers good room for five and the option to deploy seven seats when required – albeit with the rear-most row reserved strictly for children. You also get great all-round visibility and plenty of kit. More importantly, your downsizing goals of cutting costs and pollution will be satisfied with average economy of  62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of just 117g/km – resulting in standard-rate annual road tax of a purse-pleasing £30.00.

  • Fiat 500L MPV Fiat 500L MPV Downsizing for families
  • Fiat 500L MPV Fiat 500L MPV Downsizing for families
  • Fiat 500L MPV Fiat 500L MPV Downsizing for families
  • Fiat 500L MPV Fiat 500L MPV Downsizing for families
  • Fiat 500L MPV Fiat 500L MPV Downsizing for families
  • Fiat 500L MPV Fiat 500L MPV Downsizing for families
  • Fiat 500L MPV Fiat 500L MPV Downsizing for families
  • Fiat 500L MPV Fiat 500L MPV Downsizing for families
     

Fashionistas
Fashionistas

Is this me: You’ve got a passion for fashion and that includes the car you drive. Settling for a bland, low-powered city car is not an option when it comes to reluctantly downsizing your showy, overpriced, impractical and under-used convertible that’s becoming just a little out of step with a new dawning of fashionable humility and environmental awareness.

Downsizing: In a post-recession world that’s woken up to and rejected the boom and bust culture which went before, preserving your cool on the highway is a tricky balancing act between style and economy. Jumping from an Audi A5 Cabriolet straight into a Toyota Prius might be a leap too far, but there are options that won’t have your fashion-police pals calling for you to be sectioned. Here’s our suggestion to cut costs and emissions – while also preserving your street cred.

Verdict: Mini Cooper Convertible 1.6D
How much: £17,850 – £27,930
With a timeless appeal that most other daily convertibles can only dream of, the ‘new’ Mini Cooper has managed to retain the retro-cool of its iconic forefather. The petrol versions are more fun to drive, but if you’re committed to downsizing for both cost and environmental reasons, the £18,910 1.6D offers an en-vogue solution to all your motoring needs. With average economy coming in at a whopping 70.6mpg and miserly emissions of just 105g/km – you’ll find yourself paying road tax of just £20.00 per year. If you’re looking for a used version, expect to pay from £10k for a three-year old example.

  • Mini Cooper Convertible Mini Cooper Convertible Downsizing for the fashionista
  • Mini Cooper Convertible Mini Cooper Convertible Downsizing for the fashionista
     

Empty-nesters
nesters

Is this me: The kids have just turned 40 and finally announced they’ve saved enough of a deposit  to buy their own home and fly the nest. Looking to the driveway, your new-found empty-nester status leaves your family-friendly saloon or MPV seeming somewhat redundant and – let’s face it – ever-so-slightly mind-numbingly boring. Time to hit the downsize button, we think…

Downsizing: Now that the kids have gone, it’s time to lose the back seat and ditch the family-friendly banality and get your motoring mojo back by downsizing to a sporty coupe. ‘Downsizing’ and ‘sporty’ might not seem the most obvious bedfellows, but it is possible to up the adrenaline levels while also cutting costs – here’s our suggestion…

Verdict: Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe C220 CDI Executive SE 2dr
How much: £29,965 to £68,495
Put the years of bland motoring behind you with this highly desirable and sporty Merc. The diesel engine has a plenty of power and comes with the lowest fuel consumption in the range. It might be the entry-level version, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it from behind the wheel. With average economy of 68.9mpg it’s significantly more efficient than a similarly powered Ford Mondeo or S-Max that your average empty-nester might be downsizing. Its impressive emissions of just 109g/km of CO2 merely compound its downsizing credentials – along with making it liable for annual road tax of just £20.00. Go on, treat yourself.

  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe
     

Executives
Exec

Is this me: Fed up with conforming to the mindless middle-management clones in their Audis, BMWs and Mercs? Read on…

Downsizing: You need a car that befits your position, so turning up for a high-powered pow wow in a thrifty three-cylinder Ford Fiesta might have the unfortunate side-effect of you losing all credibility, not getting the deal and finding yourself signing on at the local job centre. Don’t fret, we have the answer…

Verdict: Lexus IS Saloon 300h SE 4dr
How much: £26,495 – £38,495
Show a softer, more caring side to your executive antics by downsizing to this high-end Lexus and you’ll also save yourself plenty of cash on running costs. It’s three to five company car tax bands below a BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics, while the most economical variants of the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class are even wider of the mark. This hybrid offers average economy of 65.7mpg, along with CO2 emissions of just 99g/km – leaving you with no annual road tax to pay. It comes with plenty of standard equipment too; including automatic transmission, climate and cruise control, Bluetooth and DAB radio. Now that’s a great business case.

     

Upsizing the downsizers

Motorists might be downsizing their cars, but manufacturers certainly aren’t. Just take a look at how the resurrected Fiat 500 has grown from its 1950s forefather.

New Fiat 500 has grown

Downsizing gone too far

We’ve already established that downsizing your car is more about improving engine efficiency than simply cutting size, but if you really do want to obliterate your motoring costs – and any notion of fun – then why not consider one of these tiny motors…

  • Tango: Fancy doing 150mph in this miniscule electric car? George Clooney bought one. New from £66,000 image credit:
  • Myers NmG: An electric three-wheeler for the environmentally aware Del Boys out there. From £18,000 image credit:
  • Kurrent Neighborhood Electric Vehicle: It's an evolution of the motorcycle and not simply a refurbished golf cart – apparently
  • G-Wiz: All-electric Noddy car does 50mph and can travel up to 50 miles on a single charge. Used from £3,000 image credit:
  • Buddy Cab: A Norwegian city electric car, it can seat three adults and travel up to 90 miles image credit:

UK Tax Disc

Road tax changes 2014 – how they affect you

road-word

The tax disc is about to leave your vehicle. From October 1, the vehicle excise duty you pay will fade from its current physical rendering to nothing but an obscure digital record on an anonymous Government database. You’ll no longer be required to display a tax disc, but the changes run much deeper than just the cosmetic… Here’s the Crawley Down Group’s must-read guide to road tax changes 2014 and how they affect you.

Frequently asked questions: stay legal on the road

All you need to know keep on the road

All you need to know keep on the road

So, you think abolishing the tax disc is as simple as plucking a tatty piece of paper from your car’s windscreen and feeding it to your pet gerbil? Wrong. Read our extensive list of FAQs to make sure you don’t get caught out – and slapped with a large and unpleasant fine.

So what’s happening:
The Government has decided to rid cars of paper tax discs – because it says they’re obsolete in the modern world – and store records on a digital database. From October 1, 2014, you can rip up your disc without the fear of finding a DVLA-stamped wheel clamp adorning your motor.
Does that mean I don’t have to pay VED anymore:
We think you already know the answer to that. However, just for the record – you will still need to pay.
How does the new system work for vehicles already exempt:
Nothing changes, owners will still need to apply as normal. Once again, the only change is they’ll not get a paper disc.
How will I know when I need to pay my road tax now the disc has gone:
Don’t panic, drivers will still receive reminders through the post. The forms will be exactly the same as they are at present.
So how will I know if my car is taxed:
Simple – as long as you have access to the internet. Just head to www.vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk where you can enter the vehicle’s numberplate and make to reveal if it’s currently taxed. You’ll also be provided with the car’s MOT renewal date. Great for snooping on your neighbours, too.
What if I need a tax disc to get a parking permit:
Local Authorities should be aware of changes to how the system works.
Won’t this make road tax evasion easier:
The DVLA takes enforcement action directly from its vehicle register – so a fine will be dispatched to the owner without the car ever being spotted on the road – which is why you should always notify DVLA as soon as possible when you sell a car. However, Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras and wheel clamping will also be used. These measures are already in place and the DVLA says that VED evasion is at a historic low of 0.6%. However, this figure still amounts to around 170,000 tax dodgers.
How do I get a refund on my road tax:
The registered keep of the vehicle will automatically get a refund when they let the DVLA they’re selling the vehicle or declaring a SORN.
Will savings from not having to print 42million discs each year be passed to motorists:
Once again, we think you already know the answer to that. Here’s a clue – the answer is no!
I haven’t got internet access, can I tax my car:
Yes, the Post Office will continue to take payment – just don’t hold up the queue waiting for the bespectacled postmaster to give you a disc – it won’t happen.
How can I check if a vehicle is taxed as disabled because customers who are eligible for disabled tax receive concessions with parking, toll bridges and for other fees:
From 1 October 2014, you will be able to check the vehicle tax class and status of any vehicle online at www.vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk. You just need to provide the vehicle number plate and the make of the vehicle.

New road tax rules and buying a used car

The new system also has implications when it comes to buying a used car. Here’s our guide

What if I buy a second-hand car – can I drive it home: Not unless you organise tax before you hit the road. The new system means road tax is linked to the owner and not the car. A DVLA spokesperson told us:

Anyone buying a car can tax the vehicle using the New Keeper Supplement (V5C/2) part of the vehicle registration certificate (V5C) online or by using our automated phone service – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In short, to stay legal you will need to stand at the side of the road and buy road tax before you drive away. Make sure you take your tablet or mobile.

Prices: Many used cars were sold with a premium on the basis that they came with a good chunk of road tax. This will no longer be the case because road tax won’t be transferred to the new owner. Aside from the inconvenience of having to organise your own tax, the new system should see prices of used cars fall – especially when buying from a private seller. Make sure you don’t pay for what you’re not getting.

Haggle down: Searching online for a cheap car, we found a 13-year-old Ford Focus 1.8 Zetec 3dr up for £500. The car was described as ‘rusty’ but a ‘good runner’ and a great stop-gap with six months tax and MOT. We checked the www.vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk website and confirmed this to be the case. Therefore, when the new non-transferable road tax system comes into place, the cost of this car should drop by at least £124.00 – the value of six months tax (the www.vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk website will confirm these figures when you enter the numberplate). However, in reality, we would expect the £500 asking price to fall to around £300.00 because the instant drive-away value of the vehicle is severely depleted. Grab a few back-copies of the current Autotrader issue, which will help you compare prices of tax disc-included cars – and those without the perk. Just remember – the tax remaining on the car is refunded to the owner and not transferred with the car.

Check before you buy: Now that you’ll need to get road tax before you drive away, make sure the car you’re buying really does have an MOT. Ask the vendor for the vehicle’s numberplate before you view, then enter it here to check it has a valid certificate. The result will also tell you the vehicle’s road tax status. Use this to validate the vendor’s back story on the car – such as claims it’s used on a daily basis. If true, the road tax should be current or recently cancelled – finding the car has a long-standing SORN status would suggest a dealer masquerading as a private seller.

How to buy your new disc-free road tax

Buy your road tax online, on the phone or at the Post Office

Buy your road tax online, on the phone or at the Post Office

You can still use the official website, 24-hour automated phone line or Post Office counter, but there’s now the new option of direct debit…

Direct debit: A welcome change for hard-pressed drivers means direct debit payments can be used to spread the cost of buying road tax. From October 1, 2014, motorists will be able to use the service to pay annually, 6-monthly or monthly (12 months tax must be purchased if paid for on a monthly basis). Paying monthly will cost slightly more than settling-up in one lump sum, with a 5% surcharge on the 12-month total – this would be around £9.00 for 2.0-litre diesel-powered Ford S-Max.

Buy your road tax here: Use these gateways to buy your new disc-free road tax.

Online: https://www.gov.uk/
Telephone (24-hour automated service): 0300 123 4321
Post Office: Use this Post Office finder to locate the closest branch

Buyer beware:

As with many official sites, such as passport applications and tax returns, online payment of VED has fallen victim to ‘copycat’ websites that charge cash for services the genuine sites offer for free. Websites such as Taxdisc-direct.co.uk look very similar to the official site but charge you £40.00 to apply for a disc on its site – on top of the road tax fee itself. Taxdisc-direct.co.uk has ceased trading, but expect many more of these sites to spring up with the introduction of the new system as unscrupulous traders prey on confusion. Like Taxdisc-direct.co.uk, most won’t be acting illegally, but the look and feel of the site and small disclaimer make it blatantly clear they’re attempting to dupe buyers. Only ever buy online road tax from https://www.gov.uk/tax-disc.

What to look out for: Using the Taxdisc-direct.co.uk site as an example, here’s how to spot a ‘copycat’ website. Simply touch the blue hotspots.

Don’t pay road tax

Why not go one better than not having a tax disc – by not paying any road tax, either? Here are three of our favourite cars that emit less than 100g/km of CO2 and come with a zero-rated road tax bill.

Renault Twizy Urban
twizy-pete
Price:
£6,895
CO2: 0g/km
Road tax: £00.00
Possibly not the most practical option, but if you don’t mind being stared at or getting wet and cold – this all-electric ‘car’ could be the tax-free option for you.

Skoda Citigo 1.0 MPI 60PS SE Greentech

citigo-pete Price: £9,420
CO2 emissions: 96g/km
Road tax: £00.00
Based on the Volkswagen Up, the Citigo is one of the best city cars on the market. It might cost a little more, but it offers impressive refinement compared with other three-cylinder counterparts in the segment.

Dacia Sandero 1.5 dCi 90 Ambiance
sandero-pete
Price: £8,595
CO2 emissions: 99g/km
Road tax: £00.00
The five-door body offers plenty of room and the 1.5-litre  diesel engine is a step up from most three-cylinder petrol-powered motors, while Ambiance trim provides far more salubrious cabin than cheaper petrol models.

You’re dumped…

Still a bit confused, then why not watch this official video of a chap (who looks like Nick Tilsley from Coronation Street) dumping his girlfriend – who just happens to be a tax disc.

What are you going to do with yours…

Now that your tax disc has been consigned to the bin, what are you going to do with your now empty tax disc holder? From a picture of your pet gerbil to a handy holder for your circular beer mat collection… we’re looking for  your suggestions? Just enter your ideas in the comments for below.

Find out which pump you should be heading for

Petrol or diesel… what’s right for you?

Buying a new car? You know what make and model you want, but should it come in petrol or diesel flavour? Here’s all the information you need to make the right choice for you…

Find out which pump you should be heading for

Find out which pump you should be heading for

With superior fuel economy and lower car tax liability, diesel cars might seem the obvious choice for cash-conscious motorists. However, with car makers putting ever-increasing premiums on the purchase price along with the development of super-efficient three-cylinder petrol engines putting them in the shade, is it really the smart move to buy diesel? The Crawley Down Group looks at the petrol vs. diesel facts.

Mileage: petrol and diesel prices matter

Price advantage of diesel is not so clear cut now

Price advantage of diesel is not so clear cut now

Once upon a time, diesel was the simple choice because it was much cheaper than petrol at the pumps. Sadly, that’s no longer the case with a per litre premium over unleaded petrol of around 6p. It’s not just the price of the fuel itself – buying a diesel car usually demands a premium of £1000 – £2000 compared with a petrol model of the same specification. With the new ultra-efficient range of small petrol engines hitting UK showrooms, the value of the diesel premium is looking increasingly dubious.

However, even with price increases, diesel remains the cheaper option when compared directly at the pumps, with the fuel itself costing around 5% more than petrol, but giving around 25% more mileage per tank

It’s also worth remembering that manufacturers get their official mpg figures under laboratory conditions, which don’t always reflect real-world fuel stats. What Car? magazine has a service called True MPG, where you can get these ‘real-world’ mpg figures that are built around your driving habits and routes (mainly motorways or A roads etc). Find the True MPG calculator here.

Your driving habits

However, if the majority of your driving is on motorways and A-roads, then diesel is only option you should consider.

The types of roads you drive on will impact on your choice between diesel and petrol

Choosing between petrol and diesel has a lot do with your driving habits; including how often you drive, how far you go and what sort of roads you use. It’s not just about the cost of the fuel, either. Repair bills will also be dependent on how much you use the vehicle. Here’s our quick guide to matching the type fuel to your personal requirements.

Annual mileage: If you’re considering a new car, then the number of miles you drive is an extremely important part of deciding between petrol and diesel. This relates to how long it will take the diesel’s superior fuel efficiency to offset its increased purchase price and higher price-per-litre cost. The exact amount of miles you will need to drive depends on the car you buy, but with 2013 Department for Transport figures stating the annual mileage for UK drivers was just 7,900, most would not benefit from owning a diesel. For example, a Ford Focus owner driving 8,000 miles would take three years to make money with a diesel version. However, a driver covering 12,000 miles a year would cover the initial diesel premium on the Focus by year two. The more expensive the car – the longer it’s likely take to recoup your cash.
Find out how many miles you’d need to drive to make diesel pay: Use this Which? tool to calculate how long it will take to cover the additional diesel premium you’ll be charged.

Driving time: Do you use your car for commuting, or other regular journeys? This will be another deciding factor between petrol and diesel models. If your journeys take less than 15 minutes to complete, then both types of engines will be pretty useless and negate cost-saving benefits of either fuel. As a rule, longer journeys will tend to suit diesel cars, but this will also rely on journey type. See our next point.

Type of road: If you’re winding your way through clogged city arteries with endless stop-start motoring, then diesel cars would traditionally be ‘less wasteful’ than petrols. However, new-style city cars with small, three-cylinder engines and diesel-shaming mpg figures are rapidly taking over. Add to this their low-CO2 emissions and equally low road-tax charges and it’s easy to see why many choose petrol over diesel for urban driving. However, if the majority of your motoring is on motorways and A-roads, then diesel is only option you should consider.

Congestion charge confusion: Another question mark over the wisdom of diesels for city drivers has been thrown into the mix by Boris Johnson suggesting owners are hit with a £10.00 surcharge on the London Congestion Charge. If brought in, it’s likely this would be replicated across many UK cities – effectively sounding the death knell for metropolitan oil burners.

Service costs and driving: Modern diesel cars must be fitted with a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to cut pollutants. While this will please EU bureaucrats, the new ruling has also cost diesel-car owners thousands in repair costs. Using a diesel for short journeys will result in the filter getting clogged and causing serious damage if not cleared. Most cars try to do this automatically, but if your journeys are too short, the process will be ineffective. If this happens, the warning light will come on. It is possible clear the warning light by driving for 10 minutes or so at speeds greater than 40mph. However, if this is not continuous the process will fail. If diesel drivers continue to ignore the warning light, the car’s performance will deteriorate and the likely result will be a trip to the garage for a new DPF – costing at least £1000. Just another reason why the type of journey you take should form a large part of your decision-making process.

Resale values: diesel v petrol

sales

Will you keep more value with a petrol or diesel

What your car is going to be worth when you come to sell it on should also be considered as part of your decision when it comes to diesel or petrol propulsion. Diesels will usually hold their value better out of the two, but this may not always be the case. New, highly efficient, small-engined petrol cars will increasingly dent the high demand for oil burners – and therefore prices – by moving in on their unique selling points of mpg and low tax.

Many diesel cars will still be worth more than equivalent petrol models, but this won’t always be the case. Standard family faves such as the Ford Focus should certainly be a good bet for diesel buyers wanting to get a good return, but some more ‘fashion-led’ vehicles such as the Mini Convertible will certainly be more sought after with a petrol powerplant.

Compare resale prices using the What Car? Depreciation Calculator, where you can see how much diesel and petrol models will be worth in years to come – helping you make your decision.

It’s also worth remembering that while routine servicing costs are similar for both fuels, big problems on diesels can be far more expensive to rectify. Also, if your diesel is predominantly used for short journeys, you’ll find that problems such as clogged particulate filters can be a common problem. Other costs such as insurance are pretty much the same for both types of engine.

And finally… what are they like to drive

drive

Don’t just make your choice on paper – go for a drive

We’ve left this to last, but what a car’s like to drive is possibly the most important element of any purchase decision. Apart from your house, your car will likely be the biggest investment you make – so saving a few pounds on mpg or resale costs should be put into perspective. Driving the car will be something you do on a daily basis – so why not let your heart rule your head on this one.

Don’t be ruled by old-school assumptions about diesels, for a start. Oil burners are no longer those clattery bus-like charabancs they once were – in many cases there’s no difference in refinement between diesel or petrol cars.

The big difference is how the two engines deliver their power, we won’t go into geek-like explanations about torque delivery, but, in short, a diesel car will provide a more relaxed drive with early and less frequent gearchanges, while a petrol-powered vehicle will give a high-revving exciting drive – with plenty of cog-changing action. As a result, lots of motorway cruising on motorways can be a chore in a sporty petrol, while a laidback diesel will be just the job. However, twisty country lanes or nippy city traffic driving could be far more satisfying in a petrol. This is why you should never make your decision on facts and figures alone.

Book your book a test drive and make your choice where it counts – on the road.

The fabric skinned BMW Gina concept

Concept cars Vs reality

Concept cars… are they merely the result of a boozy lunch or do they really help form the future of motoring? We look at concept cars that became reality and compare the final production car with the original designer’s ideas.

The fabric skinned BMW Gina concept

The fabric skinned BMW Gina concept: image credit

If you’re a follower of motor shows around the world, you’ll know that most concept cars are just a melting pot of attention-grabbing, but unworkable technologies used by manufacturers who’ve no new production metal to show. However, some of these cars do offer a high-tech glimpse of future models and technology that fill us with eager anticipation when the manufacturer confirms its vehicle will make the transition from concept to reality.

Sadly, on most occasions the final version that hits the streets has been taken straight from the motor show floor and passed through the corporate ‘blander’ and spat out the production line looking just as faceless as everything else on the streets. This isn’t always the case, though, so take a look at our selection of concept cars and see if you agree with our verdicts on their journey from design board to showroom…

renault
cap2The visually stunning Renault Captur concept car was revealed in 2011, with carbonfibre panels, a removable roof and 22-inch wheels that had painted tyres to make the rims look even larger. While the design was futuristic, the styling wasn’t beyond being incorporated in the final car. Sadly, the resulting production Captur loses a little too much of the concept’s flair, but there’s still a little of the designer’s passion to be seen.


Click here to see Renault Captur concept vs production car

Renault Captur concept car

Renault Captur concept car

Renault Captur production car

Renault Captur production car

Renault Captur concept

Renault Captur concept

Renault Captur production car

Renault Captur production car

Renault Captur concept car

Renault Captur concept car

Renault Captur production car

Renault Captur production ca 


alfa

4cThe 4C concept was revealed in 2011 as a two-seater rear-wheel-drive coupe with tech and materials taken from the short-lived £110,000 Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione supercar. Unveiled at the 81st Geneva motor show, the car was universally applauded and this resulted in confirmation of a production version. The concept’s styling has pretty much made it through the process unscathed, with supercar looks and handling at the very un-supercar price of £45,000. One large car buying website bemoans its small boot space and poor rear vision – but such foibles merely enhance its ‘supercar’ pretensions.


Click here to see Alfa Romeo 4C concept vs production car

Alfa Romeo 4C concept car

Alfa Romeo 4C concept car

Alfa Romeo 4C production car

Alfa Romeo 4C production car

Alfa Romeo 4C concept car

Alfa Romeo 4C concept car

Alfa Romeo 4C production car

Alfa Romeo 4C production car


bmw2

i8The ‘i8’ concept car is a plug-in hybrid sports car with electric motors powering the front wheels and a 1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbocharged motor driving the rears. BMW has confirmed it’s going to be built – and as you can see, the concept styling has firmly resisted the corporate ‘blander’. So – what about the i8 as a real-life proposition? While the prospect of an electric motor and tiny engine might sound a touch drab – the 0-62mph time of 4.4 seconds tells a totally different story. Add to that the instant torque available from the electric motors and this £100,000 Porsche-muching plug-in beastie is pure supercar. What isn’t, though, is its mpg of a whopping 135mpg and tiny CO2 emissions of just 49g/km – figures that even city car drivers can only dream of. However, it’s the concept car looks that made it through to production that ensure this a winner in our concept vs production contest.


Click here to see BMW i8 concept vs production car

BMW i8 concept car

BMW i8 concept car

BMW i8 production car

BMW i8 production car

BMW i8 concept car

BMW i8 concept car

BMW i8 production car

BMW i8 production car


citreon

Volvo-Tundra_mp5_pic_94000Concept cars aren’t a recent phenomenon as this Volvo/Citroen demonstrates. Surprisingly, the 1979 Volvo Tundra concept car was not put into production by the Swedish manufacturer, but instead of consigning his designs to the nearest bin, its creator Marcello Gandini decided to hawk his scribblings to Citroen. The French company loved it and put it into production – with its extensive use of plastic panels – and hence the BX was born. It lived from 1982 to 1994. It’s a victory for concept designs making their way into production… but something of a hollow one? Discuss…


Click here to see the Citroen BX concept vs production car

Volvo Tundra / Citroen BX concept car

Volvo Tundra / Citroen BX concept car

Citroen BX production car

Citroen BX production car

Volvo Tundra / Citroen BX concept car

Volvo Tundra / Citroen BX concept car

Citroen BX production car

Citroen BX production car


nissan

38919nisSix years after showing the concept car at the 2001 Tokyo motor show, the GT-R was finally put into production. It is also a rare example where the concept car styling was made more flamboyant for the production version. Apparently, the car was designed to steer away from showy western supercar looks to better reflect Japanese culture – basing it on a giant robot. Even so, the GT-R still looks relatively polite to the untrained eye… considering what a high-octane hooligan it really is. A clear example that concept cars can be studies of wild performance – as well as crazy looks. Our verdict – victory for the production car.


Click here to see Nissan GT-R concept vs production car

 

Nissan GT-R concept car

Nissan GT-R concept car

Nissan GT-R production car

Nissan GT-R production car

Nissan GT-R concept car

Nissan GT-R concept car

Nissan GT-R production car

Nissan GT-R production car


porsche

72921-i-por1This 214mph Porker concept car was first seen at the 2010 Geneva motor show. It was while on view here that the German supercar maker asked potential customers to sign a letter of interest in the 94mpg mid-engined plug-in hybrid sports car. The response was overwhelming with Porsche confirming it would build 918 examples of the car and knock them out at a very reasonable asking price of around £670,000. Regarding its concept v reality rating, it’s another example of style winning over corporate conservatism.


Click here to see the Porsche 918 Spyder concept vs production car

Porsche 918 Spyder concept car

Porsche 918 Spyder concept car

Porsche 918 Spyder production car

Porsche 918 Spyder production car

Porsche 918 Spyder concept car

Porsche 918 Spyder concept car

Porsche 918 Spyder production car

Porsche 918 Spyder production car


scirocco

irocDespite its the cunning name, visitors at the 2006 Paris motor show soon realised this concept car signalled the return of VW’s sporty Scirocco. No pub trips for the designers on this one, though, with only the large, aggressive grille and twin integrated tailpipes to excite style-hungry punters. In 2008, the company confirmed production. Sadly, the gaping grille was scaled back and and the pipes combined… Gone was any hope of VW styling being anything other than eternally dull. Verdict – consider the new Scirocco well and truly ‘blanded’.


Click here to see the VW Iroc/Scirocco concept vs production car

VW Iroc concept car

VW Iroc concept car

VW Scirocco production car

VW Scirocco production car

VW Iroc concept car

VW Iroc concept car

VW Scirocco production car

VW Scirocco production car


beetle

volkswagen-concept-1-03This 1994 Beetle concept was designed in California and revealed at the 1994 North American Auto Show. The public (or middle-aged one-time hippies who were by now corporate bankers) reacted with such excitement that VW put the model – based on the Golf’s platform – into production. It went on sale in 1998. While the original version exuded charm character and a real sense of the moment, this was a shabby effort by men in suits to show that bohemia still existed in the sterile corridors of VW. The plastic flower on the dashboard says it all. Verdict… concept and production car fail the credibility test. However, in VW’s defence, the all-new ‘new’ Beetle is a much more impressive proposition.


Click here to see the VW Beetle concept vs production car

VW Beetle concept car

VW Beetle concept car

VW Beetle production car

VW Beetle production car

VW Beetle concept car

VW Beetle concept car

VW Beetle production car

VW Beetle production car