Author Archives: Pete Barden

How average insurance costs have fallen since the final three months of 2013

Driving apps – black box video recording

Welcome to the first of the Crawley Down Group‘s monthly round-ups of driving-related smartphone apps. This month, we’re looking at black box-type video apps, which are used to create a visual record of your trip, while also embedding telemetry such as speed and location. This can be used to combat incidents such as non-fault accidents where the third party files a claim that says you’re blame.

They can also be used to combat fraud and have helped in the battle to catch cheats and drive down insurance prices for honest motorists.  So beat the highway pirated with our guide to cheap, easy-to-use smartphone apps that video your every move on the road. Here are three of the best for both Android and iOS devices.

iOS black box video recording apps for iPhones and iPads




What is it: Black box-type app used to create a video record of your car journey.
Platform: iOS
How much: £1.99 (in-app top-up payment)
Where do I get it:  Download CarCam from the App store

Features: Once downloaded, there are only few settings that can be adjusted. However, that’s no bad thing and makes for a clean, simple operating system – selecting your local unit of speed measurement is all that’s really required. Once that’s sorted, you’re ready to mount your phone, launch the app, hit the record button and get driving.

CarCam records high-quality video, which can be exported to your camera roll or directly to Facebook. The export process is extremely fast and provides an overlay that can include speed, date, time, location, distance and a graphic that represents real-time acceleration, braking and steering forces. However, it lacks features such as the ability to automatically save clips in the event of an accident. A useful tip is to buy an add-on fish-eye lens for your phone, which will provide a wider viewing area for the video.

Sample video export: Here’s a video we took and exported using CarCam. We’ve not included the location data overlay in this version. Video can be exported from the app to your camera roll, and directly to your Facebook account. We particularly liked the acceleration and braking graphic.

Verdict: While this app’s not as feature-packed as many on the market, its design and performance cannot be faulted. The braking and steering forces display is a great idea and fits well within the design of the data layer. If you want a simple, efficient app to record your journey, this app should be at the top of your list.

Rating:  4/5




What is it: Black box-type app used to create a video record of your car journey.
Platform: iOS
How much: £1.49
Where do I get it:  Download CarCorder from the App store

Features:  Unlike the CarCam app, the CarCorder system has a large number of settings to help create a bespoke ‘black box’ experience. Some of these settings can be a little daunting, but they ensure you’re totally in control of how your information is recorded and saved.

Carcorder records high-quality video, which can be exported to your camera roll. Each clip has a control screen, which includes features such as a speed log, along with the option to play or export the clip to your cameral roll – with, or without a data overly. Memory requirements can be closely controlled, too, allowing for smooth continuous recording. As with most apps of this type, videos are recorded in loops, with the oldest overwritten when allocated memory is used up. In the event of an accident, the app will save the relevant clip – along with the option of automatically calling emergency services. CarCorder also includes a navigational system. As with other apps such as this, a useful tip is to buy an add-on fish-eye lens for your phone, which will help provide a wider viewing area for the video.

Sample video export:  Here’s a video we took and exported using CarCorder. Video can be exported from the app to your camera roll and iTunes.

Verdict:  This is a feature-packed app that offers excellent value for money, however our main criticism falls on the exported video clip. Despite the gimmicky dashboard provided for each clip, the exported video is slightly disappointing. Details, such as speed, location, date and time, are all included, but they’re rendered in a hard-to-read layer at the top of the screen. Another gripe is that the speed on exported clips is shown in km/h – even though we selected mph in the settings. A great app, nonetheless.

Rating:  4/5


Driving Apps

Driving Apps

What is it: Black box-type app used to create a video record of your car journey.
Platform: iOS
How much: £1.99
Where do I get it:  Download iSymDVR from the App store 

Features: Once downloaded, open settings, tap the GPS tag and change the ‘speed unit’ option to MPH. Most other settings can be left as they are. Now you’re ready to attach your phone to your windscreen – using a stable mount to reduce vibration – launch the app, press record and get driving.

The app can record video in both landscape and portrait orientation, while providing a real-time on-screen information such as date, time and speed. However, when you export the clip, you can customize the video with a choice data subtitles (speed, date, and GPS coordinates) and an updating map of your route. Clips can be sent to the camera roll, or shared with other computers using a HTTP server. Video clips are stored in loops, so continuous recording is possible without the risk of devouring your phone’s memory – the oldest clips are overwritten when the allocated memory space is used up. The app will automatically save relevant video clips if an impact or heavy braking is detected. Don’t forget to buy an add-on fish-eye lens for your phone, which will provide a wider field of vision for the video.

Sample video export: Here’s a video we took and exported using iSymDVR. While we’ve chosen to include all data overlays (we left the speed set to km/h), the app’s settings allow you to customise the info you display – you can include or exclude data and even choose where the map is situated. Video can be exported from the app to your camera roll, and then on to You Tube and Facebook etc.

Verdict: A great app that puts you in charge. It’s simple to use, provides a high-quality output with minimal set-up. However, it’s the amount of customisation provided for data overlays on exported clips that really impressed us. Being able to choose how much – or little – data you want displayed makes this an extremely useful app. Our favourite iPhone app in this category.

Rating:  4.5/5

Android-based black box video recording apps

AutoBoy Black Box

Autoboy Black Box

Autoboy Black Box

What is it: A black box-type video recorder that creates a record of your journey, which can be used as evidence in the event of an accident.
Platform:  Android
How much:   £1.68 for full version
Where do I get it:  Download AutoBoy Black Box

Features:  AutoBoy Black Box records video of your journey, along with your car’s speed and GPS coordinates. In the event of a collision, the app automatically saves the relevant video clip. It will also alert emergency services – providing this automated action isn’t overruled by the driver within a set time.

Video information:  Segments of video exported directly from Android-based phones do not include the data overlay (speed, location and time etc), which is visible from within the app on the phone. Here’s a segment of video taken form the app. We’ve filmed this from the app working within a phone – this is not an exported clip.

Verdict:  The app has a busy interface, which is a little confusing to use. Recording video was easy, but replaying clips isn’t quite so intuitive. The replay display appears to be limited to a 70/30 split screen of the video and a Google map plotting the car’s progress. Overall, the fussy interface detracts from the app’s effectiveness.

Rating:  3.5/5

AutoGuard Black Box

AutoGuard Black Box

AutoGuard Black Box

What is it:  A black box-type video recorder that creates a record of your journey, which can be used as evidence in the event of an accident.
Platform:  Android
How much:  Free – in-app ad-free upgrade available
Where do I get it:  Download AutoGuard Black Box

Features:  The AutoGuard app records a video of your journey, along with your car’s speed and GPS location. Video is recorded in segments, which recycle when a user-determined block of memory has been used – allowing continuous recording. In the event of a crash, the app saves the relevant video clip. It can also be configured to automatically dial 999.

Video information:  Segments of video exported directly from Android-based phones do not include the data overlay (speed, location and time etc) that’s visible from within the app on the phone. Here is the producer’s information video.

Verdict:  AutoGuard has a wide range of video replay options (viewable within the app) giving the choice of full-screen video with mph speed overlay, a map that plots the journey, or a split-screen including both the video and map. The final option also adds your vehicle’s speed, plus its longitude and latitude.

Rating:  4/5

Witness Driving

Witness Driving

Witness Driving

What is it:  A black box-type video recorder that creates a record of your journey, which can be used as evidence in the event of an accident.
Platform:  Android
How much:  £0.69
Where do I get it:  Download Witness Driving for Android

Features:  Witness Driving creates a video record of car journeys viewed through the windscreen. It uses a rolling loop to record segments of video, which means your phone never runs out of memory. Speed and location are displayed on the screen in an unobtrusive overlay. If a heavy impact is detected, the app will stop recording and automatically save the relevant clip. There’s also a section to record photos and witness details from the scene of an accident.

Video information:  Segments of video exported directly from Android-based phones do not include the data overlay (speed, location and time etc) that’s visible from within the app on the phone. Here is the producer’s information video.

Verdict:  While this app lacks high-tech display of some video recorders, the clean output gives a much clearer picture of action on the road. Clips are easily shared, or exported to your computer.

Rating:  4.5/5

Appy ever after…

The good news for drivers is that the insurance industry and the Government have taken action to cut car insurance fraud and apps such as these can help in the battle to beat down premiums.

New research from the AA reveals that the push to beat fraud is working, with Britain’s title as the ‘Whiplash Capital of Europe’ becoming a thing of the past. Here’s how average motor insurance premiums have fallen from the end of 2013 compared with the first three months in 2014.

How average insurance costs have fallen since the final three months of 2013

How average insurance costs have fallen since the final three months of 2013

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to make sure you don’t miss our next collection of essential driving apps.


Throwback Thursday – Crawley Down Group 1947

After the war, new cars were in short supply! Up until the late 1950s, when a dealer sold a new car the customer would have to sign a covenant agreement and agree not to sell the car on for at least 12 months. Crawley Down Group had to keep in touch with all customers who had signed a covenant and make sure they were keeping up their end of the deal.
Our proprietor Bertie Voller, remembers saying to his father in the late 1940s, ‘this is a hard way to earn a living’ and the reply was ‘one day you will have more cars than you can sell’. This to a young Bertie was like someone telling him one day sweets would be off the rationing. However, today at Crawley Down Group this can be the case! Bertie Voller Senior was certainly onto something!


The original covenant agreements dating back to 1947


Traffic jam

May Day Bank Holiday driving guide 2014

Bank Holidays are great… until you step from your door, jump in your car and grind to a halt twenty yards down the road. Don’t despair though, the Crawley Down Group has all the info you need to swerve a motoring mayday in the getaway gridlock.

Traffic jam

Be prepared this May Bank Holiday

Before you go…

Ensuring your trusty jalopy doesn’t end up at the side of the road in a steaming mess is a great way to make sure your trip comes with a suitably happy ending – and with Bank Holiday escapades signalling the end of winter hibernation for many cars, this garage-ridden sojourn could leave you motor in need of some serious tlc.

Here’s our pre-journey check list for anyone heading out for a weekend away this May Bank Holiday.

Simply hover your cursor over the Fiat 500 below to reveal the maintenance hotspots you can’t afford to ignore.

Top tips to beat Bank Holiday gridlock

1) Plan your journey in advance, allowing plenty of time for breaks and unexpected toilet stops.

2) Always assume that traffic will be heavy, so adjust your ETA accordingly.

3) Complete pre-journey vehicle checks (see above) at least a day before you travel.

4) Pack driving-related documentation such as licence, insurance certificate and breakdown cover.

5) Charge your mobile phone.

6) Pack luggage in advance of your departure time – allowing time for bags to be repacked or culled if they don’t fit.

7) Pack a coolbox with plenty of snacks and water.

8) Plan breaks – the driver should rest for at least 20 minutes every 2.5 hours.

Where to go…

From weekends away, to day trips in the South East, here are a few of our favourite things to do on a ‘summer’ Bank Holiday weekend…

Beside the seaside

Brighton Pier

Brighton Pier – just one of the Sussex city’s many attractions
Image credit:

Brighton: A must-go destination whatever the weather, with plenty of attractions, shopping and eating opportunities for all.
Where to go: Grab the official Visit Brighton App with sections covering Things to See & Do, Food & Drink, What’s On, Where to Stay and Shopping. The app contains listings for hundreds of businesses, opening times, admission prices, locations and contact details. Also included are ‘Live’ event listings, mini-guides to the ‘City Villages’ of Brighton & Hove, and links to themed walking tour podcasts
Donwload the Visit Brighton app: for iPhone  and Android.

East Grinstead May Fair, Monday, May 5: Head to East Grinstead for its traditional May Fair held in the town’s famous High Street, which contains one of the longest continuous runs of 14th-century timber-framed buildings in England. Enjoy the fun of a traditional May Fair combined with a contemporary funfair atmosphere.

Weekend away:
Go West: The May Day Bank Holiday is a great time to drive west and head to Wiltshire, Dorset Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. Unlike the Easter Bank Holidays, May Day isn’t bolted on to a full school holiday, so the roads are likely to be far less congested – leaving you more time to enjoy the drive.
Where to go: Log on to the Vist South West website to find your perfect destination.

No way motorway…
For those who take our advice and head west this Bank Holiday, why not ignore your sat-nav’s soulless addiction to motorway travel and take the drivers’ choice for a change…

Avoid the clogged arteries of the M25 and M3, by experiencing the anomaly that is the A272… running lazily from Cross In Hand in East Sussex, to beyond Winchester, it winds serenely between the stunning scenery of the North and South Downs. The lack of dual carriageway sections and its virtually entirely rural route is said to give drivers an experience which is reminiscent of English country roads as they were 50 or more years ago. To some it’s the only way to traverse the South, while to others it’s the worst b****y road in the region. Try it and let us know where you sit on this one.


The A272… the South East’s alternative gateway to the West
Image credit: Peter Jordan

Once you reach the westerly head of the A272, you’ll be able join that ‘highway to the sun’ – the iconic A303. From here you’ll be able to enjoy one of the quintessential UK routes that remind motorists of a time when driving was something to relished and not merely a series of uninspiring stop-start slogs between anonymous motorway junctions.

Can’t wait to get out on the road? Then take a ride along the A303 from Basingstoke to Honiton with the 95.6-mile section covered in 5.44 minutes – at an average speed of 1000mph.

Read the stories behind these iconic roads by ordering their very own books…
A272 Ode to a Road
The A303 Highway to the Sun

Motorway savings

If you chose to travel on a motorway over the Bank Holiday weekend, then don’t get ‘taken advantage of’ by service stations. Motorway services will add around 10p per litre of fuel compared with local stations and double the price of food and drinks. A basic cheese sandwich was found to cost £3.99 at some motorway service stations, while a similar sarnie could be bought for around £1.00 on nearby high streets, according to the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

Avoid this assault  on your wallet by downloading an app such as What Gas Petrol Prices, which will help locate petrol stations close to the motorway where the cost of fuel and snacks will be far more palatable.

Keeping the kids happy

Why not leave the iPad behind and introduce your kids to some old-skool car games from your childhood? Go pre-pixel with some of these classics…

Rock, scissors, paper

Rock, scissors, paper… how to play

Rock Paper Scissors: An age-old fave that requires no preparation – apart from getting the rules and instructions here.

Link Words: Players choose a category, such as cars, then the first player picks a related word, such as Skoda. The next player has to think of a car make that starts with the last letter of the previous one – so Aston Martin would suffice for this example. Anyone who falters is out!

I Spy: The ‘daddy’ of all old-skool car games. A player chooses an object they can see and says… ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with …’, the others then have to guess the object.  Make sure their choice isn’t likely to be 25 miles back down the road by the time everyone gives up, as the ensuing rear-seat massacre might taint the otherwise happy holiday atmosphere.

When I went to the Car Boot Sale: A car-related variation on the ‘I went to market’ game. The first player says ‘when I went to the car boot sale I bought a VHS copy of Jane Fonda’s fitness workout (other obsolete items also available)’, the second player then repeats this and adds another item and so on. Anyone who forgets a ‘purchase’ – probably an age-addled adult – is ridiculed and booted out of the game.

Silence of the Lambs: A great example of reverse psychology that’s useful when you need a break from the incessant clatter of back-seat chatter. Simply offer a sweet for the person who can be quietest for the longest period… sit back and enjoy the ensuing 4.5 seconds of unadulterated peace and quiet.

When stress strikes…

If the worst happens and you find yourself as the filling of a 10-mile automotive sandwich, then follow these stress-busting tips from automotive psychologist Conrad King.

1)      Avoid the smell of fast foods, fresh bread and pastry. This will make you hungry and increase your need to drive fast to find sustenance. If you’re unable to do this, stress and irritability will increase.

2)      However, some smells are said to improve your mood and driving ability. These include peppermint and cinnamon. Lemon and coffee also help to clear the red mist, so pack plenty of Polos and coffee for a stress-free and fresh-breathed trip this May Day Bank Holiday.

Weather forecast

The weekend’s set to be sunny and settled, but cool temperatures with highs of around 15-17 degrees should ensure the roads aren’t too clogged with sun seekers flocking to coastal havens.

Your perfect Bank Holiday drives

A303 Stonehenge

Is the A303 past Stonehenge one of your favourite drives? Let us know
Image credit: Pam Brophy

We’d love to know your all-time top Bank Holiday road trips. Send yours here and we’ll post them for all to enjoy.

Have fun out there…

Bugatti Veyron Legend Edition Black Bess and a Type 18 that it takes its inspiration from

Beijing motor show… the best and the rest

Join CDG Cars for our round-up of the 2014 Beijing motor show.

The 2014 Beijing motor show treated us to an eclectic mix of new production cars, updated models and the usual collection of concept cars that might one day hint at what’s to come for the world’s motorists – however terrifying that might be.

With manufacturers trying to woo the world’s second-biggest economy, the cars appearing at the Beijing motor show are more important than ever. Here are our picks of the best metal from the show floor.

The best of Beijing 2014

Audi TT Offroad Concept

Audi TT Offroad Concept

Audi TT Offroad Concept

This chunky four-wheel-drive TT Offroad Concept car adds SUV styling to the sporty profile of the recently unveiled TT coupe. The five-door concept car has partially folding rear seats for added practicality and a stripped-back dashboard that’s centred on the steering wheel. The concept car packs a 288hp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine assisted by two electric motors (rated at 40 kW at the front and 85 kW at the rear) to provide a total output of 402bhp. The concept hits 60mph in 5.2 seconds and goes on to 155mph – with claimed average economy of 148mpg. This all equates to a potential CO2 output of 45g/km. The concept car is expected to make it into production badged as the Q4.

Bentley Hybrid concept

Bentley Hybrid concept

Bentley Hybrid concept

Based on the Mulsanne saloon, the Bentley Hybrid Concept will certainly attract the attention of any environmentally-minded Premiership footballers or Euromillions winners. The main objective of the concept is to preview the plug-in hybrid powertrain that will debut in the manufacturer’s forthcoming SUV – due for release in 2017 – before it’s rolled out across the entire range. Bentley hasn’t revealed any performance figures, but company sources hint at a 25% increase in power, combined with a slump in CO2 output of up to 70%. Applying this to the Mulsanne’s current 505bhp 6.75-litre V8, it would boost output to 631bhp and bring CO2 emissions of just 118g/km. It’s also claimed the concept will cover a minimum of 31 miles on electric power alone.

Bugatti Veyron Legend Edition Black Bess

Bugatti Veyron Legend Edition Black Bess

Bugatti Veyron Legend Edition Black Bess

A one-off Bugatti Veyron that takes its inspiration from one of the marque’s most famous pre-war cars, the 1913 Type 18, and one of the vintage Bugatti’s original owners, the renowned French aviation pioneer Roland Garros… who called his Type 18 ‘Black Bess’ after a racehorse. This Legend Edition is based on the Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse and is powered by an 8.0-litre W16 engine that produces an eye-watering 1184bhp. All this combines to fire it from 0-62mph in just 2.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 254mph. The carbonfibre body has been painted black with gold detailing in a nod to its famous forefather’s styling. Prices haven’t been revealed, but don’t expect a test drive if you arrive at your local Bugatti dealership with less than £2million in your back pocket.

Bugatti Veyron Legend Edition Black Bess and a Type 18 that it takes its inspiration from

Bugatti Veyron Legend Edition Black Bess and a Type 18 that it takes its inspiration from

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge

The Q50 Eau Rouge has been a regular at a number of recent shows, but the Beijing version came with a film featuring Formula One champ Sebastian Vettel testing the concept in his role as the manufacturer’s Director of Performance. Helping to push the concept car towards production, the Red Bull ace provides feedback to help develop ‘testing component, packaging and viability’ – apparently. Watch Seb in action above.

Lexus NX 4×4

Lexus NX 4x4

Lexus NX 4×4

The Lexus NX is a brand-new Range Rover Evoque, Audi Q5 and BMW X3 rival. It might be slightly toned down from the concept version, but it’s still a striking challenger for stylish rivals such as the Evoque. The huge ‘spindle’ grill dominates the front, while the menacing split headlights are inspired by the car maker’s IS F Sport saloon. Lexus says the five-seat interior is sports car-inspired, with a large central digital screen that’s used to control infotainment systems, along with a new head-up display system for safer driving. It also gets a range of new gadgets, including a wireless charging tray for smartphones and tablets, panoramic cameras, G-sensor and boost meter. UK engine options haven’t been confirmed, but will come from the NX300h – which is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged unit – and the NX200 with its 2.0-litre naturally aspirated powerplant. Buyers will be able to choose between two- and four-wheel-drive versions. It’s expected to hit showrooms in May with prices starting around £30,000.

Mercedes-Benz Concept Coupe SUV

Mercedes-Benz Concept Coupe SUV

Mercedes-Benz Concept Coupe SUV

It might be billed as a concept car, but the Concept Coupe previews a production model that’s likely to be badged as the MLC and is set to be a rival for the BMW X6 from as early as next year. Design-wise, the wide front grille, narrow headlights and converging creases on the sides mirror the GLA-class. It’s powered by a twin-turbocharged, 3.0-litre V6 with 328bhp powerplant that delivers drive to where it matters through a nine-speed automatic gearbox to all four of its 22-inch wheels.

Peugeot EXALT concept

Peugeot EXALT concept

Peugeot EXALT concept

This concept car is designed to provide an insight into Peugeot’s future design language. It follows on from last year’s Onyx concept car and features chiseled panels, a long, imposing bonnet and short rear overhangs. The EXALT also incorporates a development of the minimalist i-Cockpit interior that was first revealed in the 308 hatchback. Power is provided by Peugeot’s next-generation Hybrid4 system, which produces a combined output of 335bhp through a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a rear axle-mounted electric motor.

Rolls-Royce Pinnacle Travel Phantom

Rolls-Royce Pinnacle Travel Phantom

Rolls-Royce Pinnacle Travel Phantom

The Rolls-Royce Pinnacle Travel Phantom takes its inspiration from the golden era of cross-continental train travel… Marketing-speak, aside, this translates to a red-and-sand-coloured two-tone exterior and striking red leather interior. The interior also incorporates 230 pieces of wood veneer – all of which are laser cut – hand-assembled to create a train motif with plumes of steam. Train buffs should be looking at an investment of around £1million.

Rolls-Royce Pinnacle Travel Phantom

The 230-piece veneer steam train design in the Rolls-Royce Pinnacle Travel Phantom

The 230-piece veneer steam train design in the Rolls-Royce Pinnacle Travel Phantom

Volkswagen Golf R 400

Volkswagen Golf R 400

Volkswagen Golf R 400

Blasting away the safe-but-dull image VW’s Golf has slowly acquired over the years, this nigh-on 400bhp Golf Concept marks the cars 40th anniversary in anything but middle-aged resignation. It features the existing 2.0-litre TSI engine, but with the standard version’s 296bhp tweaked and teased to an impressive output of 395bhp. Sadly, Volkswagen has told us that there are no immediate plans to put this rip-snorting monster into production.

Looks familiar…

Check out these Chinese models on display at the Beijing motor show… we think there’s something familiar about them…

Lifan 330

Lifan 330

Hmm – we’re sure we’ve seen something that looks similar to this Lifan 320… If you squint, you might just be able to see a hint of Mini in this original, innovative design.



How about this BAIC BJ180? A slight – albeit hugely subtle – hint of Jeep, perhaps?

Chery Concept Beta

Chery Concept Beta

Anyone think this Chery Concept Beta looks disarmingly like a slightly squashed Nissan Juke? No, we didn’t think so.

Red Flag L5 limo

Red Flag L5 limo

What would have happened if either Mr Rolls or Mr Royce had been Americans? This!

Trumpchi WitStar

Trumpchi WitStar

Does this ‘evoke’ any influences from a popular luxury vehicle?



Some may say the JAC A6 has hints of the Audi A6? What do you think… apparently, the clue’s in the name.



Poll: Light saver… British Summer Time change?

As millions of motorists get ready to enjoy a brighter drive home from work, one safety body has launched a campaign to make British Summer Time a permanent feature on the clock face.


Along with easier commutes for drivers, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) claims a permanent switch to lighter evenings would slash the number of people killed or seriously injured on the UK’s roads.

Single/Double Summer Time save lives

Research from the Department for Transport revealed that around 80 deaths and 200 serious injuries could be avoided if the UK changed to Single/Double Summer time (SDST). This is GMT+1 hour in winter and GMT+2 in summer.

Benefits of more daylight

  • It’s not just lives that switching to SDST can save – here are some more benefits…
  • Cutting CO2 emissions by 447,000 tonnes a year by reducing electric lighting in the evenings
  • Providing a £3.5bn boost to British leisure and tourism, creating up to 80,000 new jobs
  • Addressing levels of obesity by allowing for more outdoor sport in the evenings
  • Relieving symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and similar conditions
  • Reducing crime and the fear of crime (especially among the elderly)

Tell us what you think

Despite an attempt to get SDST pushed through Parliament in 2012, the Bill’s progress was thwarted by just 10 MPs. Do you agree with the switch or should we keep those dark British winter nights as they are?

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Budget 2014: What it means for motorists

George Osborne has delivered his budget, but how will it impact on the UK’s motorists? Here’s The Crawley Down Group’s quick guide to what’s new…

Budget 2014/14 motoring-related headlines:

Fuel duty: The Chancellor confirmed his announcement from the autumn 2013 statement that a planned 1.6p per litre rise in fuel duty will not go ahead. This means there’ll be no further hikes in duty until after the 2015 general election.


Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘The good news is that fuel duty has now been frozen since March 2011. The bad news is that the UK’s 37 million drivers still pay the highest proportion of petrol and diesel tax in Europe.’

The AA has also revealed independent forecasts suggest at a 7p per litre hike is likely in post-election years from 2015 to 2018.

Pothole fund: George Osborne announced a £200 million ‘potholes challenge fund’. Billed as ‘emergency funding’, the UK’s local authorities will be able to bid for cash to repair up to 3.2 million potholes.

The RAC Foundation’s Professor Stephen Glaister welcomed the cash, but warned: ‘The drip, drip of funding does not address the £10 billion road maintenance backlog that councils themselves have identified.’

Vehicle excise duty: From April 1, VED (road tax) rates will increase in line with RPI. The reality of this that most of us will see a rise of 2-3% compared with what we’re currently paying.

Death of the disc: It’s was also confirmed that the obsolete paper ‘tax disc’ will be axed and replaced by a fully electronic system. Motorists will also be able to spread the payment over the year – however, they’ll pay a 5% premium for the pleasure.

LGVs: The Treasury will freeze road tax rates for Euro IV and V light goods vehicles in 2014/15.

Classic car VED exemption: Previously, only cars built before January 1, 1973, were exempt from road tax, but from April 1, this will change to a ‘rolling’ 40-year period – meaning many newer vehicles will benefit.

Company car tax: The 2% increase in company car tax will be extended to 2017 and 2018, while there will be an increased discount for ultra-low emission vehicles.

Van benefit charge 2014/15: The van benefit-in-kind tax charge will increase from £3,000 in 2013/14 to £3,090 in 2014/15.


Q-Cars… all go and no show

Looking for supercar performance without the need for a super-sized bank account or equally bloated ego? Then you need to get acquainted with the Crawley Down Group’s guide to the UK’s best old-school Q cars…

So what is exactly is a Q car?

Q cars take their name from Q ships used in the First World War when the crafty allies took harmless-looking ships and packed them with a huge arsenal of missiles and guns to hunt down and obliterate unsuspecting German U-boats. Q cars are a similar concept, with huge performance wrapped in a subtle economy class skin – ready to destroy unsuspecting German and Italian supercars at the traffic lights. Q cars are also referred to as ‘sleepers’.

We’ll be visiting a selection of the best retro Q cars here, so if you’re looking to capture a snarling monster for your weekend wheels – these sleeping meanies could be the place to start your search…

Audi RS2 Avant

Audi RS2 Avant

Image Credit = Wikipedia

It’s no beauty, but it’s certainly a beast beneath its unassuming family-car facade. Based on the Audi 80, it was a limited-edition model produced between 1994 and 1995, so don’t expect to find a raft of them clogging up the classifieds. However, if you can track down this holy grail of Q cars, you’ll be in for the white-knuckled ride of a lifetime. Beneath the bland, functional estate-car exterior lurks a snarling 2.2-litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine that’s waiting to inflict 311bhp of humiliation on a wide range of unsuspecting ‘supercars’. The fact that Porsche engineers carried out development work on the engine might help explain why it’s capable of blasting from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds and on to an electronically limited top speed of 163mph. It comes with Quattro all-wheel-drive – so it’s more than capable of making it round the corners, too.

How much: from £15,000

Supercar-scaring rating: You’ll be bothering Porsche drivers in one of these – 4/5

Volvo V70 R

Volkswagen Golf 2.8 V6 4MOTION

As far as Q cars go, the Volvo V70 R is the epitome of well-disguised talent. Beneath its staid, practical exterior lies a dormant monster that’s ready to snap at the wheels of many an unwary performance car. Launched in 2002, the V70 R had a 300bhp powerplant, all-wheel-drive transmission and a ground-breaking adjustable suspension system that allowed drivers to fine-tune the ride while on the move. Despite its hefty – and rather sensible – appearance, the V70 R could blast from 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds and accelerate to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.All this providing an eclectic cocktail of high-performance sports car and practical load-lugger.

How much: from £6,000
Supercar-scaring rating: Just look for open-mouthed BMW drivers – in your rear-view mirror – 4/5

Subaru Legacy GT Estate

 Subaru Legacy GT Estate

As sleepers go, the Subaru Legacy GT Estate looks positively comatose, yet with lashings of familial DNA from the Impreza Turbo, it’s anything but a slouch. Hiding beneath that banal-looking exterior, the GT version of this farmers’ wives favourite packs an extremely large punch courtesy of an extra turbocharger. It also came with all-wheel-drive and a 2.0-litre boxer engine that offered outputs of between 240-280bhp. All this resulted in a mighty 0-60mph time of  just 6.5seconds and a top speed of more than 140mph.

How much: from £6,000+

Supercar-scaring rating: Hot hatch drivers will be left in abject shock as they splutter in your smoke-filled wake – 4/5

Fiat Coupe

Fiat Coupe

Fiat launched the ‘Coupe’ in 1993, with both naturally aspirated and turbo variants available. Hunt down a 20V turbo version and you’ll have a car that offers understated styling combined with a serious case of monstrous pace that’s just waiting to devour many a gullible sports car. Grab a decent 2.0-litre 20V turbo version and its 220bhp will be smashing the 60mph mark in around 6.3seconds before topping out at 155mph. Don’t worry about grip – the turbo versions were fitted with a limited-slip differential to deliver all that power to where it matters. Supercar-slaying performance for less than £2,000… what’s not to like?

How much: from £1,800

Supercar-scaring rating: Show performance car drivers a rear-end view of a modern-day classic – 3/5

Volkswagen Golf 2.8 V6 4MOTION

Golf 4Motion

To the untrained eye the V6 4MOTION appears to be  just like any other efficient but unremarkable German workhorse. However, look closely and you’ll find the V6 badges and wider tyres provide a nod to the high-octane mayhem hiding beneath its bonnet. The 4MOTION name reflects its four-wheel-drive transmission that’s sitting on the business end of the 2.8-litre V6’s 204bhp. Combine this with a kerb weight of just 1401kg and you’re rewarded with a 0-62mph time of 6.9seconds and 146mph top end. A seriously rapid ride that’s perfect for everyday use.

How much: from £2,500

Supercar-scaring rating: Not the fastest of Germans on the road, but has potential to shock – 3/5

The real cost of owning a supercar

Not convinced by the idea of owning a Q car? Well don’t order that Ferrari just yet… Prestige car hire firm Premiere Velocity has used data from its high-octane fleet of Aston Martins, Ferraris, and Porsches etc, to come up with a list of just how much it’ll cost to run the average supercar for a year…

Yearly costs for supercar ownership


Prices shown do not reflect those of the Mercedes SLS AMG GT Roadster pictured, but are an average collected from Premiere Velocity’s supercar fleet data.

Supercars for less than £10,000

Still got your heart set on a supercar – but your bank balance says ‘no’? The let someone else take the depreciation hit and check out these two supercar classics available for less than £10,000

Maserati 3200 GT

Maserati 3200 GT

 If you fancy a slice of Italian exotica, but want a dash of subtlety to go with it, then a 2001 Maserati 3200GT could be just the car for you. Its 3.2-litre twin-turbo V8 generates 370bhp, and should still be able to propel you from 0-62mph in a very respectable 5.1 seconds. Just make sure you have a couple of grand on hand to keep it on the road each year.

Year: 2001

How Much: £9,995

Lotus Esprit

Lotus Esprit

The Lotus Esprit, for many, is the definitive supercar. The lean, low-slung cabin gives it the feel of an F1 racer, while a blast from its 350bhp engine will provide the ultimate thrill as it flings you from 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds and on to jaw-dropping 175mph (in its younger days, at least). Owners say the gearbox is horrible and the clutch knee-jarringly heavy, but once up to speed – it’s a seriously delectable drive. Expect the odd breakdown or 10, though…

Year: 1986

How Much: £9,995

Buyers Guide – How to spot a flood damaged car

How to spot a flood-damaged car

The waters are receding and spring seems to have sprung, but now you need to make sure you don’t get hung out to dry by purchasing one of the thousands of water-damaged vehicles expected to flood the UK’s used car market.

England’s wettest winter since 1766 might finally be on the wane, but car buyers could be feeling its effects for much longer as unscrupulous private sellers swerve big repair bills and deluge the used car market with their waterlogged wheels.

The AA has received more than 4100 callouts for flood-related rescues since the start of December, with many of the cars appearing to display no obvious signs of damage once they’ve dried out. However, appearances are deceptive and these cars are likely to be ticking time bombs.

Insurance companies write-off around 70% of all flood-damaged cars – and they do this for good reason. A flood-hit car is likely to become a financial nightmare with problems such as a damaged catalytic converter, unsafe brakes, faulty electronics and malfunctioning airbags to drain your savings – and pose a risk to life and limb.

How to spot a flood-damaged used car

The best way to avoid being lumbered with a waterlogged liability dripping on your driveway is to buy a car from a reputable and approved used car dealership – such as the Crawley Down Group. Purchasing from such a dealer will leave you fully covered, whereas a private sale will often leave you with no financial redress.

However, if you do choose to brave the classifieds, here are our tips to help avoid buying a flood-damaged car.

Too good to be true: The old adage remains true: if it seems too good to be true – it probably is. Bargains often come at a price – and flood damage will certainly add plenty to your bill.

Location, location, location: Inspect the vehicle’s V5C certificate (also known colloquially as its logbook) before parting with cash. If the seller’s a long way from home then find out why. Check if the vehicle’s based in a flood-hit area by entering the keeper’s address in the Environment Agency’s flood map – which will reveal if it’s from a location prone to flooding.

Write-off: While you’ve got the V5C document in your hand, look closely for notification the car has been recorded as a Category C or D (uneconomic to repair) write-off. This doesn’t make it illegal to sell, but it’s insurance-speak for ‘don’t touch with a barge pole’. Walk away.

Sniff test: Jump in the car and take a long deep sniff. Check for tell-tale stagnant, musty odours – or excessive use of an air freshener, which could be used to mask the unmistakable stench of a water-contaminated motor.

Window to its history: Are the car’s windows wide open as you arrive to view it? This could be innocent, but it might be an attempt to ventilate the interior. Shut them as you look around the car and wait to see if heavy condensation starts to appear. If so, it’s a sure sign of hidden damp.

Carpet test: Feel the carpets and make sure you press down firmly in footwells. Carpets will dry relatively quickly, but the thick underlay and hard-to-get-at soundproofing will retain water for much longer.

Misty windows: Start the engine and blast the windscreen with the fan’s highest setting. If the screen mists up and then takes longer than expected to clear, it’s another sign water’s in the system.

Box clever: Probe the glovebox for signs of mud or silt. Be sure to check other possible mud traps such as the spare wheel housing, too. If a car’s been flooded, there’s likely to be debris in these easily forgotten cubbyholes.

Shine a light: Turn on the car’s headlights and look for dull, damaged silver reflectors and misting on the lenses. It’s a clear clue the car’s been doing some serious paddling.

Oil check: Open the bonnet and remove the oil filler cap. Look for signs of creamy, mayonnaise-like deposits on the base of the cap or around the filler hole. This suggests serious water contamination from flooding or an expensive head gasket failure.

Warning lights: Turn on the car’s ignition and ensure the dashboard airbag warning light illuminates for a few seconds and then goes out. Water damage to the airbag can result in spontaneous inflation while you’re driving. This is a risk to life.

Ignition: Start the engine and check electrical items – such as windows, wipers, stereo and integrated computers – are working as expected. Any hint to a glitch needs a good explanation.

4X4s: The AA alone has recovered more than 4000 submerged vehicles and it notes a large proportion of these were 4x4s. Just because it’s a hefty off-roader, it doesn’t mean that bargain all-wheel-drive motor isn’t a waterlogged lemon.

And finally… Go amphibious

It seems extreme weather could be a regular occurrence in the UK, so why not future-proof your motoring with one of these handy amphibious vehicles?

Amphicar: This German-designed car/boat was launched in the ’60s and used a Triumph Herald engine to give a 65mph top speed on land and 6mph in the water.
How much: From £20,000 used


The Amphicar
Image Credit: WikiPedia

Dutton Surf: Built on the south coast in Worthing, the Surf used a Suzuki four-wheel-drive powertrain, while a jet drive takes care of steering and propulsion in the wet stuff – giving a top speed of 6.3mph.

How much: From £7,500 used

Dutton Surf

Dutton Surf
Image Credit: TimDutton

Gibbs Aquada: The sports car among amphibians, the Aquada was launched in 2003, and was capable of 100mph on land, 30mph on water and came with a price tag of £150,000.

How much: £150,000 when new

Gibbs Aquada

Gibbs Aquada
Image Credit: Wikipedia


James Bond’s 007 Lotus Esprit Submarine Car: The world’s most famous amphibious car starred alongside Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me, and was a fully functional submarine. Sadly – while it was great in the water – the version used in the film didn’t have any wheels.

How much: The Lotus submarine was sold at auction in 2013 for £616,000.

Lotus submarine

Lotus Esprit ‘submarine car’ from The Spy Who Loved Me
Image Credit: Wikipedia


Avoid the risk and buy your used car with confidence at the Crawley Down Group.

How to beat leaky cars

Beat the leak that’s slowly rotting your car from the inside, with the Crawley Down Group’s guide to ensuring a soggy car doesn’t drain your bank account.

As the wettest winter on records draws to a close, the UK might be starting to dry out – but has your car succumbed to the torrential deluge that’s hit the South East? Find out if your pride and joy is slowly drowning with Crawley Down Group’s guide to saving a leaky car.

Water damage is a serious ailment for cars – ignoring just a small drip could end with your bank account being drained by a repair bill in the thousands or even a written off motor. So just why do cars and water make such poor bedfellows?

When leaks attack

Unlike the exterior of your car, which is well protected in its battle with the elements, the interior is not so tough when it comes to fighting off an attack – and it’s not just soggy carpets and that’ll be syphoning your cash if you don’t act fast to plug that leak.

Leaks originate at many ‘hot spots’ throughout your vehicle, from where the water can take a long and convoluted route to its final puddle. This means the wet stuff could be attacking bodywork and vital electronic components along its entire path.


Water that makes its way through the dashboard can damage anything from the ignition system to heating and infotainment equipment, which could result in dangerous short circuits that cause sudden breakdowns – or even vehicle fires. So, thinking a minor leak that leaves just a small, occasional damp patch on your passenger footwell isn’t a problem – could be a costly mistake.

Health check

It’s not just your car’s internals that can suffer from leaks. Damp, dark areas of your vehicle’s interior make the perfect breeding ground for mould and fungus. Most of us won’t suffer anything worse than a natural aversion to a car that smells like an unhappy cocktail of boiled cabbage and sweaty socks, but a spore-ridden mouldy interior can cause potentially serious issues – such as asthma attacks and lung infections – for drivers with existing health problems.

Young children and babies will be far more susceptible to mould-riddled cars because their immune systems won’t be as well developed. If you’re worried about a leak and regularly carry a young child – give us a call at Crawley Down Group and we’ll make sure your car’s a leak-free and safe environment for all to enjoy.

Where’s the water coming from?

Finding your front-seat passengers regularly turn up for a ride wearing their wellies doesn’t mean that your car’s leak originates anywhere near the puddle in their footwell. Cars are designed with a complex system of gutters and drains designed to keep water out. However, if any part of this becomes compromised, the whole system can be knocked out of sync and water will take an unwanted diversion – straight to the soggy scene of crime in your interior.

car-leak-2Leaks can be caused by many problems, but most involve wear and tear, sloppy repairs or the fitment of aftermarket accessories. Here are the most popular points of entry…

Windscreen: This is one of the most common places for leaks to originate. If the windscreen on your car has recently been replaced, the chances are this is where the water’s getting in. You’ll need it taken out for a refit.

Door seals: These are always a prime suspect when tracking down the source of a leak. Deterioration of rubber due to age or damage can be one cause, while accident damage can leave doors or surrounding bodywork warped and unable to create a proper seal. Crawley Down Group has specialist equipment to check for this and fix any problems before they cause serious damage to your car.

Body seams: Anywhere that body panels join is an open invitation for water to penetrate your car’s interior. Problems with seams can result from poor work at the factory, or subsequent accident damage breaking the original seal. These won’t be easy to spot and are likely to be several feet from where the water eventually ends up. Fixing these problems will be straight forward, but you’ll need specialist equipment available to garages such as the Crawley Down Group to pinpoint the leaks without causing further damage to the bodywork.

Sunroofs: Great for sun – bad for rain. Sadly, the UK’s climate is not conducive to keeping sunroofs in good condition – resulting in many leaks. Most factory-fitted examples will have drainage pans and pipes built into them, but these can become blocked and need to be professionally cleaned to prevent serious damage that can go on to create serious, costly problems. Aftermarket holes cut in your car’s roof can cause far more serious leaks because most won’t have the support network of drains and gutters available to factory-fit units.

Accessories: Aftermarket add-ons – such as luggage racks and sunroofs – which require holes to be drilled can result in leaks. Make sure you choose a reputable agent to fit your accessories, otherwise you could be left with big bills and little hope of compensation.

Rust: If corrosion occurs, it’s likely that a leak won’t be far behind it. While rust will be more of a problem for older cars, newer vehicles can also suffer problems due to accident damage or poor manufacturing processes. These will need sorting out before they seriously impact your vehicle and its resale value.

Air-conditioning: Just to confuse matters, it might be that your leak is not really a leak at all – with the water coming from your air-con system. The air-con evaporator is usually situated beneath the dashboard and this can lead to condensation forming and dripping into the car’s interior. Getting this problem sorted should be straightforward and inexpensive. Give us a call at Crawley Down Group and we can fix the problem – and give your air-con system a service ahead of the blistering summer we’re all hoping for…

Coolant: Your car’s heater takes warmth from the vehicle’s cooling system – creating another possible source of a water leak from within the dashboard. Look out for coolant that’s sweet-smelling and a little sticky. Get your car to the garage before a shortage of water in the cooling system causes severe damage to your engine.

car-leak-3What next?

Don’t be tempted to leave a leak, it won’t get any better, but the damage it does will certainly get worse.

As we’ve already mentioned, you could be risking a sudden breakdown, vehicle fire or health problems – not to mention big repair bills.

Give us a call at Crawley Down Group and we’ll be happy to supply a quote for fully guaranteed repair work.

Name that leak

Along with leaks seeping into your car, you should also keep an eye on what’s dripping out. Here’s our guide to naming that fluid dripping on your pristine driveway…

Coolant: Most coolant will contain antifreeze, so look for sweet-smelling water that’s slightly sticky and orange, green, red, or blue in colour. Get this fixed before your coolant level runs low and causes fatal damage to your engine. The fluid is also extremely toxic to pets, so get your car looked at as soon as possible.

Where: Beneath the engine at the front in most cars. However, remember that some cars – predominantly sporty models – can be front- or mid-engined.

Fuel: You’ll be able identify this from its smell. Fuel at the front of the car will indicate a problem with a mechanical item – such as a fuel pump – or at the rear, which will suggest a damaged tank. Either way, get some professional advice as soon as possible.

Where: Beneath the engine or fuel tank are the most common locations.

Engine oil: Oil can be yellowish brown, dark brown, or black depending on how long it’s been in the car. It’ll be sticky and smell slightly of exhaust fumes. Get a mechanic to locate and plug the source as soon as possible.

Where: Under the engine or centrally towards the middle of the car.

Brake fluid: This is clear to yellowish in appearance and quite sticky. If you think you’ve got a brake fluid leak, call a garage for urgent advice. Your brakes could fail without warning if the fluid level drops too low.

Where: At the front beneath the engine or close to any of wheels – however, any suspicion of leaking brake fluid should be investigated by a professional.

Automatic gearbox fluid: This is most likely to be red in colour, but turns dark red or brownish as it gets older. This is a job for the professionals – before you get stuck firmly in reverse.

Where: Most likely in the middle region of the car.

Power steering fluid: This will be reddish or yellowish in appearance – similar to many other fluids – so look out for signs the car’s steering is becoming heavier to use.

Where: At the front of the car.

Water: If you find puddles of crystal clear, non-greasy water under your car then don’t panic. It’s probably just condensation dripping out of your air-conditioning system – and perfectly harmless. However, if it’s at the very front of your car, it could be a sign your car is leaking coolant and that you’re running on empty for antifreeze.

Where: Roughly below where your dashboard would be

Look out for our next blog – where we’ll be helping you avoid buying one of the many flood-damaged cars expected to deluge the used car market over the coming months.