Archive for the ‘Motoring news’ Category

Does Summer Holiday Driving Drive You Crazy?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Mountain road in summerDoes driving to your summer holiday destination fill you with dread? You’re not alone.

New research* from car hire giant Europcar has revealed that while the summer holiday itself may be a relaxing experience, the journey can be a nightmare.

Arguments with passengers, road rage at other drivers and worries that the car won’t even make it to the destination – and back home – can all make families up and down the country dread heading out on the road this summer.

The top things that ‘grind drivers’ gears’ are motorists driving too close (42%), middle lane hoggers (39%) and being cut up by other vehicles (37%). Slow ‘Sunday drivers’ are also a considerable cause of irritation (37%) on long journeys.

Inside the car can be equally infuriating, with back seat drivers (37%), a partner’s inability to read a map (18%) and having to squeeze the kids, the luggage and what feels like the kitchen sink into a too-small boot (16%) all adding to driver stress levels.

But, according to the Europcar research, the biggest concern for motorists appears to the reliability of their vehicle for long trips as Ken McCall, Managing Director, Europcar UK Group explained:

“As the schools break up for the Summer holidays, the family car becomes even more vital for everything from day trips, to excursions to visit relatives and, of course, getting to the airport for holidays abroad.

“But our latest research suggests that many families have little confidence in the family car being up to the job.  And that’s more likely to be the case as families try to managed stretched finances, perhaps leaving servicing or maintenance until it’s absolutely necessary.  Nearly two thirds of drivers who responded to our survey (62%) said they are concerned about their vehicle breaking down on long trips, illustrating that reliability is a big issue for most motorists.

Europcar obviously advocates hiring a car for your summer holidays, but it’s worth noting too that many breakdowns are simply the result of poor maintenance and neglect, and could be avoided by following the correct servicing schedule, checking oil, water and brake fluid levels regularly and ensuring your tyres are correctly inflated and your battery is in good health.

M25 tops the list for the motorway to avoid!

Careful choice of route can also help avoid stress. Popular routes can become a nightmare with holiday traffic and travelling at off-peak hours or choosing a less popular route can pay dividends.

Europcar’s survey revealed that Britain’s most hated motorway is the M25, which was chosen by more than a third (36%) of motorists. Other contenders included the M6 (11%) and the M5 (6%), which is of course a notorious bottleneck for traffic heading from the Midlands to the West Country on summer weekends.

Here are Europcar’s top tips for a stress-free summer travel:

  • Check that the family car is large enough for all the luggage and passengers
  • Is the car reliable enough for a long journey – consider upgrading to a rental car
  • Travelling with kids? Take wet wipes, drinks, snacks and pillows
  • Make sure children are sitting high enough to see out of the window – Europcar offers child seats from all locations
  • Use a Sat Nav to avoid map-reading arguments – Europcar offers hire of Sat Nav systems
  • Keep the car well-ventilated to avoid travel sickness
  • Consider travelling overnight so children can sleep and then stop for breakfast
  • If audio CDs or DVDs aren’t holding their attention, try an old fashioned game like I-spy or word games
  • Give children a map, so that they can follow the journey and spot landmarks on the way

*Europcar independent research of 2,000 respondents conducted 18/07/2013

Is Car Hire Solution To Soaring Car Ownership Costs?

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Cars. We all want to own them, but do we really need to?

I won’t suggest that you could manage without one at all (although you might be able to), but if you live in a two-car household, do you really need both cars?

According to the RAC, owning a car in Britain costs an average of £6,689 per year, a 14% rise on the 2010 figure of £5,870.

Costs have gone up in almost every area over the last year:

  • Fuel: +12.4%
  • Insurance: +14.38%
  • Maintenance: +8.8%
  • RAC membership: +4.21%
  • Depreciation: +16.67%
  • Car finance: +9.85%

In fact, the only motoring cost that has not risen, according to the RAC’s annual Cost of Motoring Index, is Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax).

All of this means that a lightly-used second car can be a financial millstone around your neck. Lightly-used cars depreciate nearly as fast, cost as much to insure, still need servicing and breakdown cover and still need finance.

If you don’t really need a second car, it can be a lot cheaper simply to hire one when you actually need it. Hiring a car eliminates all the costs of ownership and means that you only pay for what you use – with no strings attached.

If you are struggling with the costs of car ownership and think you might be able to manage without one of your cars, then why not work out the figures today?

  • Add up your car ownership costs for the year (including depreciation),
  • Get a car hire quote for a short hire
  • Think about how many times you could hire a car in a year before you break even on the costs of owning a car.

Car clubs and car-sharing schemes are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, Europe and the USA, especially in cities. People are realising that owning a car is not all it’s cracked up to be, especially if you don’t get a lot of use out of it.

What do you think? Is car ownership a part of your personality or a frustrating cost you have to put up with? Leave a comment below and let us know.

City Dweller? Owning A Car Could Be Costly, Frustrating & Pointless

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when the residential streets of our towns and cities were gloriously wide and empty – rather than endlessly lined with parked cars that leave just enough width for a single stream of traffic.

To help you imagine what it might be look, take a look at this video of how Los Angeles might look with no traffic:

Running on Empty from Ross Ching on Vimeo.

Damage to the wing mirrors, body panels and paintwork of parked cars is a common result – I know, it’s happened to me more than once. On-street parking is one of the curses of modern urban life; our towns and cities just aren’t designed for it.

The average urban car owner uses their car for just 4.6 hours per week – meaning that it spends 97% of the time parked up, according to new research from car rental firm Europcar. The reality is that car owners will often use public transport instead of their own car because it makes much more sense – and avoids the cost and stress of parking at both ends of what is often a short journey.

My position is much like this – I live in a town centre and can walk or catch the bus everywhere I need to go in a typical week. I struggle to use my car once a week. In fact, the only reason I still own a car at all is that my car is actually a campervan that I use for holidays. If I did just have a car, I would have sold it by now and switched to renting a car when I want one for the weekend.

This would have a number of benefits for me – in the six years I have lived at my current address, which has on-street parking only, I have experienced the following damage to the vehicles I’ve owned:

  • Minor dent caused by a dustbin lorry – no proof
  • Bumper paintwork damaged by a dustbin blowing over in gales one night
  • Major dent and damage to rear door lock caused (I think) by a supermarket delivery van one dark evening. No evidence and no way of recovering (considerable) costs of repairs
  • Miscellaneous minor scratches and tiny dints caused by passers by, children’s balls, bicycles, etc…

I’ve also seen other people lose wing mirrors and gain dents on their cars, as well as a few acts of vandalism. At my last address, my car got keyed. This isn’t unusual, either – according to Europcar, 44% of city car owners say there car has been damaged or vandalised due to long-term on-street parking.

It’s a pain in the neck, and frankly, I hate it. Washing the campervan is a pain as I have to do it in the street, so have to dive out of the way when traffic comes past. Any maintenance jobs are similarly awkward, and the whole thing is even more frustrating because most of the time I don’t even need the thing – it just sits there on the street, getting dirty, depreciating and occasionally being damaged.

If it wasn’t for my campervan being an essential part of my holiday lifestyle, I’d switch to renting only – especially as many companies (like Europcar and my local branch of Enterprise) will now deliver and collect for free, so I wouldn’t even have the hassle of getting to and from the car rental office.

Prescription Sunglasses + Driving = Comfort

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

I have always needed glasses for driving, but until last year had never purchased a pair of prescription sunglasses. This meant that driving in bright conditions sometimes resulted in hours of squinting against the glare. Last summer, I finally decided to do something about this and buy a pair of prescription sunglasses.

The results were amazing. Driving with sunglasses on is so much more relaxing and comfortable than managing without. I chose a pair of sunglasses with a light-grey tint to the lenses. The results are perfect:

  • A grey tint keeps colours looking natural and accurate
  • Having only a light tint means that I can still see well in shadows, short tunnels and when the sun goes behind a cloud
  • I chose a fairly wide, wraparound design of frame – so I don’t get any glare from the sides and have a wide field of vision without turning my head.

I can’t recommend it highly enough – even on the brightest of days, my sunglasses remove all of the glare and just leave me with a clear, neutral view of the road ahead – without distorting colours or being too dark.

My prescription sunglasses for driving are without a doubt one of the best purchases I have ever made.

Don’t Drive Tired – Fighting Driver Tiredness

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Most drivers have experienced that ‘heavy eyelid’ feeling at some point.

Drowsiness is an unmistakeable warning sign that you are tired and should pull over for a break and a cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, all too many people ignore the signs and driver tiredness is thought to be a factor in as many as 20% of accidents on major roads  and responsible for around 300 deaths every year*.

Ignore the signs of tiredness and you risk falling asleep at the wheel and killing someone in an accident – especially as tiredness is usually more of a problem on fast, monotonous roads like motorways.

The good news is that tiredness comes with plenty of warning signs – so you should be able to stop before you become dangerous to other people and yourself. Here’s a few tips for preventing tiredness and dealing with it when it happens:

  • Make sure you have a supply of fresh air in your car – either through the vents or through a small opening in a window or sunroof
  • Keep it cool in your car, not warm and stuffy
  • Plan 15 minute breaks into your journey every 2 hours or so
  • If you do feel tired, stop, have a coffee and then close your eyes for 15 minutes while the caffeine kicks in (don’t sleep for more than 15 minutes as you will then begin to enter deep sleep)
  • If you will be starting very early in the morning, try to get a good rest the night before and avoid driving during the small hours if you can – your body naturally wants to sleep at this time
  • Between 2pm and 5pm in the afternoon is also a high risk time – people often have a natural energy dip during this time, so beware of your own condition and watch out for other drivers behaving erratically

Finally, don’t stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway. It’s not allowed except for emergencies and is extremely dangerous. Pull off at the next junction or services if you need a break.

*Government figures (Think!)

Fleets Shunning Electric & Hybrid Cars

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Following on from my recent post on the elusive profitability of electric cars, the UK car leasing and rental industry has also indicated that it will be extremely reluctant to buy significant numbers of electric vehicles until there is more certainty about future residual values.

The industry is already suffering as a result of falling secondhand car values and is unhappy about the current uncertainty over the future value of such vehicles, especially as the expensive battery technology they use is still evolving.

Highlighting these concerns in an article in Fleet News, BVRLA Director-General John Lewis said “What happens if a new battery technology emerges and makes all previous models of electric car almost worthless overnight?”

The fleet industry’s concerns over battery technology and costs could yet prove to be well justified, too. Battery lifespans and replacement costs are not yet widely understood and battery technologies are still changing and being improved – meaning that today’s electric and hybrid vehicles could look like dinosaurs in just 2-3 year’s time.

Quotes from Fleet News

Note: On the other hand, perhaps concerns over battery life and replacement costs are exaggerated and unnecessary. This article in the New York Times (well over 1 million hybrids cars have been sold in the US) discusses how these same concerns have proved to be groundless in the majority of cases, with battery packs lasting well and benefiting from long warranty periods.

Electric Car Profitability Remains Elusive – Here’s Why

Friday, December 12th, 2008

The UK’s Nice Car Company has just gone into administration. Nice, which stands for No Internal Combusion Engine was a distributor for the electric version of the Aixam (a really small basic car, if you haven’t seen one) known as the Mega City.

Nice also had plans for more electric vehicles but have stumbled up against a time-honoured problem with EVs, as they are known – their limitations.

According to The Times, electric vehicle sales have plummeted this year – dropping from 374 in the first 10 months of 2007 to just 156 in the first ten months of 2008.

My opinion is that the reason for this is that electric vehicles aren’t suitable for most one-vehicle households. After all, owning an EV costs you a similar amount to owning an engine-powered vehicle. However, your EV comes with one critical limitation – ‘refuelling’ – or charging – requirements.

Even if your EV can do motorway speeds and has a range of 100 miles or more, you can’t generally refuel it while travelling. That means, that to be safe, you can only use it for short trips that get you back to your charging base each night. Otherwise, you run a high risk of being stranded somewhere without charge or motive power.

In other words, it can’t satisfy all of the average car user’s requirements – only a subset of them, that of short-range use, typically urban.

This restriction is exactly why I think the concept of the Chevrolet Volt might work well. It’s an all-electric vehicle with an on-board petrol engine that can be used to charge the batteries, as and when needed (in addition to mains-powered charging when possible).

To me, that’s all the difference in the world. A proper car must be able to go as far as I need it to and only require readily available, universal fuel – petrol or diesel.

Trade Secrets Help Private Sellers Get Top Used Car Prices

Monday, October 6th, 2008

With the cost of motoring seemingly on a never-ending journey upwards – 19% up from 2007, according to a new RAC survey – it’s more important than ever to know how to present your car well when you are selling it. Secondhand car values are falling and the cars realising the best prices are those that have good specs and are presented well.

With that in mind, the Avis valet team recently shared some of their trade secrets for removing awkward stains and marks from vehicles. It’s safe to assume that valeters for a large car rental company will have seen every type of cleaning problem under then sun, so what did they advise?

  • Mayonnaise – as well as being great on chips, mayonnaise is apparently also good at removing tar from paintwork or tyres
  • Similarly, try cooking oil for brake dust, bird droppings and stubborn squashed flies
  • On the inside, baking soda works well on all sorts of marks – just leave it for 20 minutes – and ice cubes are essential when it comes to removing chewing gum.

To learn more about these and other tips, check out the full article over at Fleet News.

How many 58 reg cars have you seen?

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

For anyone out there who hasn’t noticed the new ’58’ reg cars are now out and about on the roads, and have been since the start of September.

The new system introduced in 1999 means that new cars are now registered twice a year – March and September, as opposed to once a year in May like they used to be.

For further information about Registration plates see the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) website here: