Advice and Tips, Car Maintenance
tyres on a snowy country road

Winter tyres

If there are two things that don’t mix, it’s conventional summer tyres and icy roads. They’re the motoring equivalent of strawberries and mustard, or lamb chops with clotted cream. You just don’t want to go there. But if you’re reliant on your car to transport you whatever the weather, what can you do to keep moving when the temperatures plummet? Investing a few hundred quid in a set of winter tyres is the simple answer.

When the temperature drops below seven degrees centigrade, the rubber in conventional tyres hardens and grip is reduced. Winter tyres feature a compound which stays soft even when the mercury drops below zero, so getting going is easier, while braking distances are reduced too – from 30mph, you could stop in just 35 metres compared with the more usual 43 metres. As a result, you can get going more easily, stop more quickly, and when you corner your car will feel much more stable.

For years, some drivers in mainland Europe have been compelled to fit winter rubber in low temperatures. It’s one of the reasons why Scandinavian countries don’t grind to a halt when the snow hits; they just fit their winter tyres and keep driving. Recent harsh winters in the UK and lots of publicity has led to an increasing number of drivers here adopting European practice, but many drivers remain unconvinced.

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car valuation

What dictates the value of your car

You’ve probably heard a thousand times that something is worth only what somebody will pay for it, but what dictates how that figure is set? Why is one car worth £500 and another 10 or 100 times as much?

It’s down to a multitude of factors but at a simple level a car’s value is driven by the balance of supply and demand along with its original selling price. So if it was expensive to start with and very sought after, it will continue to be valuable – but if there’s little demand for it, its value will quickly drop. Conversely, if a car is cheap to start with it’s unlikely to become more valuable, so will always be worth relatively little.

For more on car depreciation and residuals check out our blog on the subject. In the meantime, these are the key things that will affect your car’s value.


Arguably the thing that makes the biggest difference to your car’s value is something that’s subjective and driven at least partly by reputation. In the UK we like our premium marques whereas mass-market products aren’t so highly regarded. As a result we’re happy to pay a higher price for a car from an upmarket brand, even if the car isn’t as reliable or such good value as a cheaper alternative. Sometimes a car doesn’t have much of an image because of limited awareness through a lack of marketing – and it’s these that can make the best used buys.


If you’ve got a mainstream car to sell, one of the things that will make the biggest difference to its value is its condition. If it looks abused nobody will want to buy it – why would somebody buy a car with grubby paintwork and stained interior trim when they can find a better example elsewhere? Buyers will pay a premium for a car in immaculate condition and the same goes for one that’s covered a low mileage and comes with a full service history.

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car valuation

Why you should get a car valuation

Five reasons why you should get a car valuation

The value of anything is driven by the balance of supply and demand, and it’s no different for cars. How well a car retains its value depends on how desirable it is and how many of them are available – so even if there’s a good supply, you can still pay plenty if there’s also a strong demand.

Just look at cars such as the BMW Mini, Audi A3 and Range Rover Evoque. There’s one on every corner, but because they’re also held in such high esteem by used car buyers, you’ll always pay plenty to buy one.

The thing is, there’s no way of knowing what your car is worth without referring to some kind of valuation service. Just because you paid £10,000 for it a year ago, it’s impossible to say what it’s worth now. Besides, if you bought it from a trader you’ll have paid top whack for it, and it’ll immediately be worth significantly less than you shelled out for it if you then sell it privately or trade it in. To understand this better, check out our blog on how depreciation works.

And here we’ve opened a can of worms, because your car doesn’t have a set value as such. Instead it has a range of values depending on whether it’s for sale at a dealer, being traded in against another car or being sold privately. It might also be going for auction – in which case that’s yet another value you can put against it.

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Advice and Tips

What happens if I’m caught drink driving?

It’s almost half a century since the breathalyser was introduced in the UK. When the technology was rolled out as part of the Road Safety Act it heralded a new era, with drink-related deaths and injuries steadily dropping. When you consider the number now stands at around 240 per year you might be shocked, but 30 years ago the figure was 990 – and in 1979 it was a massive 1,640.

Unfortunately while ‘only’ 240 people are killed on our roads each year because of alcohol, a whopping 85,000 lose their licence because they’re caught driving over the limit – and 85 per cent are men. The number of drinks you’ve had makes no difference – whether you’re just over the limit or well over the limit, in the eyes of the law you’re still a convicted drink driver and the consequences are exactly the same.

A lot of people get caught out driving the morning after they’ve had a skinful; the alcohol in your system takes time to disappear. How quickly you breach the legal limit and how fast your blood/alcohol level drops is dependent on a variety of factors including your sex, weight, metabolism and how often you drink alcohol. They key thing though is that if you’re caught out the morning after, the penalties are exactly the same.

The penalties

The penalty you receive is up to the magistrates who hear your case, and depends on your offence. You may be able to reduce your ban by taking a drink-drive rehabilitation scheme (DDRS) if you’re banned from driving for 12 months or more. It’s up to the court to offer this but there’s a variety of drink-driving offences. These are what they are and the possible penalties:

If you’re caught in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink you can be imprisoned for up to three months and fined up to £2,500. You can also be banned, although this is discretionary.

Get caught driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink and you’ll definitely lose your licence for at least a year. You also face an unlimited fine and you can be imprisoned for up to six months.

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Advice and Tips
Drive carefully

How to be a safer driver

There are about 45 million driving licence holders in the UK, although many of the people who hold a licence aren’t active – perhaps as many as one third. However, that still leaves around 30 million people trying to stay out of trouble every time they get behind the wheel.

The problem is, all too often some of those 30 million drivers end up on the traffic news because they’ve brought a major road to a halt having parked their car on its roof or driven into someone else. Each year about one in 15 of us will crash our car – that’s about 200,000 accidents, most of which are completely avoidable.

Last year we guided you through the 10 most common reasons for car crashes and gave you a few pointers as to how to avoid these scenarios. The thing is, if you drive well at all times you can avoid just about any accident, not just the common ones.

The key thing to remember is that driving well isn’t difficult, and if you want to be a really good driver, it’s our highly trained traffic cops that you need to emulate. Sure we hear about them crashing sometimes, but they cover huge mileages, often at high speeds on roads that are saturated with hazards – so it’s amazing they’re not involved in shunts more often.

The reason why these drivers are so good is because they’re trained using a book called Roadcraft (the police driver’s manual). So if you want to be a more gifted driver, what better way than to start with your own copy of Roadcraft? Read it and these are the key things you’ll put into practice every time you drive.

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Advice and Tips
Night time road accident

Roadside first aid

Every year around 22,000 people are seriously injured in road traffic accidents and another 160,000 are slightly injured. Those injuries can range from cuts and bruises up to loss of limbs and serious breakages. The thing is, would you stop if you witnessed such an incident? Many people don’t, because they’re unsure of what to do, daunted by the prospect of seeing somebody covered in blood, or incapable of moving.

Yet the basics of roadside first aid are actually really simple, and here, with the help of St John’s Ambulance, we show you how easy it is to make a difference. Familiarise yourself with these techniques and if the worst should happen while you’re out and about, you could prevent a minor injury becoming a serious one – or you could even save a life.

Step 1: Make the area safe

Before you can attend to a casualty, you must make the incident area safe, to protect yourself, any injured people, and other road users. Here’s how to do it:

  • Pull over safely, clear of damaged vehicles. Apply your handbrake and switch on your hazard lights.
  • Don’t attempt to cross a road if it’s unsafe, as it could cause another accident, or serious injury to yourself.
  • Call 999. If you think people may be trapped or there’s a fire risk, ask for a fire crew as well as the police and ambulance services.
  • If available, ask others to set up warning triangles to warn other drivers to slow down. Warning triangles should be set at least 50 metres away from the incident and in both directions if necessary.
  • Switch off the ignitions of any damaged vehicles.
  • If a vehicle is upright, apply the handbrake and engage first gear.
  • Be constantly aware of dangers such as approaching cars.
  • Make sure no one smokes; things could very quickly escalate if there’s any leaking fuel or oil…

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Advice and Tips
insurance inspector

Car Insurance Payouts

If you’re unlucky enough to have your car stolen, or it’s involved in a crash, your insurer will have to work out what it’s worth and pay out accordingly. How much it’s worth will also dictate whether or not it’s written off, depending on the cost of fixing it; you can find out more about how and why cars are written off in our guide.

Having to make an insurance claim tends to be traumatic enough, without it turning into a battle between you and your insurer. Unfortunately that’s exactly what often happens; you’ve got a sum in mind when you put in that claim and your insurer has a different figure. If you’re lucky the two aren’t so far apart that there’s no hope of meeting somewhere in the middle – but don’t count on it.

The bottom line is that your insurer will pay out what it thinks your car is worth – or in other words, the cost of buying an identical replacement. And therein lies the problem, because finding a car just like the one owned by you that’s just been crashed or stolen might be all but impossible.

When insurance companies are dealing with payouts they’re not attached to your car like you might be. They don’t care about the hundreds of hours you’ve lavished on cleaning it and keeping it as good as new. The fact that you’ve owned it from day one so you know it’s never been crunched. Or the fact that you’ve just spent £1000 on a full service and a new set of tyres. If it’s old it’ll be relatively worthless, so don’t expect to get back all of the money you’ve put into it.

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Advice and Tips

The dangers of buying a used car privately


With most things in life, the more you put in, the more you get out. That’s certainly the case when it comes to buying a used car, because the more effort you put into the purchasing process, the bigger the savings you can make – but unfortunately the stress levels can be that much greater too.

According to a 2015 article, almost half of those who bought a used car privately reckon they were deceived in some way by the seller. And with 40% of used cars sold by private vendors, that’s a lot of unhappy car buyers.

When you buy from a trader you’re paying top whack for your used car – which is fair enough because you’re pretty well protected as a consumer, as you can read in our recent blog on your rights when buying a used car from a trader. But when buying privately, while you can potentially save thousands of pounds compared with buying from a dealer, you’re not nearly as well protected. You do have some rights though.

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Advice and Tips

Can I drive my car with a failed MoT?

We all dread it; the annual roadworthiness test that might just land us with a big bill, because some vital component on the car has worn out and needs to be replaced. Once your car has reached its third birthday it must be put through an annual MoT, to ensure everything is working as it should. But just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best isn’t a great plan.

The list of what’s included in the MoT is probably more wide-ranging than you thought, so if you want to ensure your car doesn’t fail its MoT, it’s worth checking at least the basics before you submit your car for the test. After all, it doesn’t take long to make sure things are working correctly; you should do this periodically anyway, to make sure your car is safe.

Unfortunately, many car owners see the MoT as the annual opportunity for faults to be flagged up, and that’s just inviting disaster. By the time a car fails its MoT because something has worn out or broken, you’re in much greater danger of an accident being caused than if you’d kept on top of things. It’s easy to just bury your head in the sand and hope things will go away, but they won’t.

The most common reasons for an MoT failure

If your car fails the MoT it’s because for one reason or another it isn’t roadworthy. It could be that there’s serious corrosion in the structure or the emissions might be higher than allowed, because the engine has worn out or the catalytic converter has failed. Fixing these won’t be cheap and the chances are that they won’t be fixable in a hurry.

However, many of the problems that lead to a car failing its MoT are much less serious, such as a piece of electrical equipment not working (maybe just a duff bulb). These can be fixed much more cheaply and easily. They can’t be fixed while the car is being MoTed though; it’ll fail then have to go through the test again.

Almost a third (30%) of MoT failures are down to a failed bulb, so just a couple of minutes spent checking your car’s lights before MoT time could save you the hassle of a retest.

One in 10 failures is because of tyre-related problems, either because the pressures are incorrect, the rubber is damaged or there’s not enough tread left. Again, these are things that can be checked on a DIY basis in just a few minutes.

Brake problems are behind 10% of MoT fails, while issues with the mirrors, wipers or washers, is another common reason for failure. All of these things can be checked quickly and easily at home – so don’t miss the opportunity to do so.

Planning ahead

Because you might have to arrange for repairs to be made, which could involve ordering parts that aren’t available off the shelf, you’re given a month’s lee-way at MoT test time. That doesn’t mean you’ve got a month to fix things once you’ve been issued with a failure notice though – it means you can book your car in for its test up to a month before the current certificate expires.

So by planning ahead you can make your life easier, because if you book the test four weeks ahead and your car fails, you’ve then got plenty of time to scrape together the necessary cash, book it in for repairs, and get it fixed before the outgoing certificate expires.

However, there may be a complication. If your car fails because of a major fault, and you then continue to drive it because it can’t be repaired immediately, you could end up in some seriously hot water if you’re involved in a crash. For example, if the steering is severely worn and you lose control after the car has failed its MoT, the police will take a pretty dim view of your actions.

If you fail to plan ahead and your car fails its MoT on the day that the certificate expires, you can’t drive it apart from in two instances. The first is if you’re taking it to be repaired so it will pass another MoT and the other is if you’re taking it to be tested. However, in the latter case the car must already be booked into the testing centre; claim that you were on your way to the garage in the hope of finding an available slot and you’ll be deemed to have committed an offence if you’re stopped by the police.

Get caught driving a car without an MoT and it’s not an endorsable offence, so your licence won’t be affected. Maybe. The thing is, analyse the terms of your car insurance and you might find that you’re only covered as long as your car has a current MoT. Drive without an MoT and your insurance may well be null and void – in which case you’re then guilty of driving without insurance, and that’s rather more serious…

What about advisories?

Sometimes your car will be issued with a pass certificate, but it’s clear that before the next MoT is due, some money will need to be spent. It could be that the tyres are close to the legal limit or there’s some play in a component, but not enough for it to be a problem yet.

Because the car is currently roadworthy but may not stay that way for a year, an MoT tester can issue an advisory sheet, which can contain several items. This will be issued alongside a pass certificate so your car is legal to drive for a year – but if you fail to check any of those advisories during the next year and you’re involved in a collision as a result, the police might get very interested in how well you’ve looked after your car.

If doing a few basic checks once a month is just too much like hard work, some garages offer free health checks. Take the time to have one of these every few months at the very least – it might just make the difference between your car merely failing its MoT, and something much more serious.


Richard Dredge

November 2016

Fun Stuff
Scary car names

Spookiest car names – hpi reveals scariest car models

Automotive experts, HPI has revealed the Top 13 list of eerily named vehicles following a poll amongst its team of motoring editors.

Tim Bearder at HPI said: “With Halloween just around the corner we thought it would be fun to look at some of the scary names car manufacturers give to their models.  Getting the name of a car right is really important for manufacturers so that it appeals to consumers and sells well.  Maybe with some of the models we came up with the manufacturers were hoping to scare up a bit of business by giving their cars a menacing but memorable name.

“The HPI team has compiled some outlandish and wonderfully terrifying named vehicles over the years ranging from obscure concept cars, supercars and high value models to more mainstream cars.”

The Top 13 list of eerily named cars polled by HPI is:

1) Rolls-Royce Phantom

2) AMC Gremlin

3) Pontiac Banshee

4) Hillman Imp

5) Lamborghini Diablo

6) Alfa Romeo Spider

7) Plymouth Prowler

8) Ford Probe

9) Spectre R42

10) Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

11) Rolls-Royce Wraith

12) DF Goblin

13) Lamborghini Murcielago (Murcielago is Spanish for ‘bat’)

Added Tim Bearder: “Whether born of attempts to sound genuinely scary or to simply stand out from the crowd, car manufactures have a long history of concocting car names that sound dark and scary. There also a tendency to name cars after animals and these are generally based on predatory beasts.”


Notes to editors:

cap hpi helps users make smarter automotive decisions by providing one source for data and software solutions that uniquely span the whole vehicle lifecycle; new, used and future vehicle valuation, validation, collision, mechanical repair and total cost of ownership.

cap hpi puts technology at the centre of all data activities, from collection and processing, through to delivery and the development of new applications.

It operates from an international hub in the UK; that ensures its systems, coding, data collection processes, and valuation methodologies are consistent, scalable, repeatable and of the highest quality for every country.

cap hpi operates as part of Solera, a global provider of risk and asset management software and services to the automotive and property marketplace. Solera is active in over 75 countries across six continents.

For more information contact Nathan Lane on 07447 921654/ or Terry Gilligan on 07770 703541 /