Top tips for driving abroad this summer
It’s that wonderful time of year when we begin to count down the days until summer getaways. Whether you’re taking the Eurotunnel to soak up French culture or planning an American road trip, you need to make sure you’re prepared if you are going to drive abroad.
Worryingly, the number of drivers involved in crashes across Europe has risen 160% in five years. To avoid such circumstances, it is essential you know the correct driving regulations and plan for the journey ahead.
Here are Warranty Direct’s top tips to equip you for foreign roads:
Document your journey
If you are renting a car or driving your own car abroad it is essential you take the necessary documentation.Just like at home, you could be pulled over and asked for your documents at any time. Failure to show the right ones could result in a fine or worse – you could be hauled off the road.
You will need the following documents:
- A valid driving licence (not provisional)
- The paper part of your driving licence is no longer needed, though a pre-1998 paper license is still valid.
- The original copy of your vehicle’s registration document (V5C)
- Your motor insurance certificate (inform your insurer when you’re going abroad to ensure you are covered)
- Documentation of European cover on your warranty policy
Know the rules of the road
Don’t assume UK laws and regulations will apply in a foreign country. Every nation has its own set of driving regulations and ignorance won’t cut it with foreign authorities if you are caught breaking their laws! England and Wales have one of the highest drink-driving limits at 80mg of alcohol per 100mg of blood. However, most of Europe is 50 or less. If you are driving it is safest to steer clear of alcohol completely.
Check before you leave home for unexpected necessities. Forward planning could save you a lot of unwanted hassle. For example: did you know it is illegal to drive in France without a high-vis vest and a warning triangle? Not having these things could leave you with a hefty €135 fine. A first aid kit, fire extinguisher, warning triangle, headlamp beam reflectors or spare lamp bulbs are also compulsory in some areas of Europe.
Keep the change
Many European countries operate toll roads, including popular tourist destinations like France and Italy. Make sure you have plenty of loose change in the correct currency to cover toll costs. Urban road tolls like the London congestion charge are also now present in 14 European countries so plan ahead if you want to avoid additional charges!
Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland require a vignette (a form of road tax) sticker to drive on motorways. Costs vary from country to country, but these can be purchased from petrol stations along the route.
Take your time!
Most European countries drive on the right-hand side of the road (except in the UK, Irish Republic, Cyprus and Malta), meaning you’ll be negotiating roundabouts in the opposite direction. With such differences, confidence behind the wheel abroad can take time.
Stay in the slow lane until you feel ready to move into one of the faster lanes on a motorway and don’t try to overtake until you feel safe to do so.
Driving abroad can be a fantastic way to explore a foreign country, but in order to enjoy the experience, it’s essential to know the rules of the road in every location you visit and make sure you’re prepared for your journey in every way possible.
Fuel efficiency is a high priority for today’s motorists. After the recent diesel recall controversy and concerns over petrol costs and rising C02 emissions, manufacturers are constantly developing technology to help protect our bank balances and our planet.
Whilst mpg is extremely important in assessing economy, there are several other elements you should consider.
Here’s Warranty Direct’s advice for finding a fuel-efficient vehicle:
When buying a new car, we can often get carried away with gadgets, luxury extras, and dizzying performance figures. However, before choosing, carefully assess your needs and what types of journeys you’ll predominantly be making. Remember, a more economic car will continue to give you more value for money for the entire duration of ownership.
If you’re going to be doing short journeys around built-up areas, rule out diesel. Small diesel cars often have a high economy but all new models are fitted with Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF). These function best at a certain temperature and speed, not usually achievable in cities.
In fact, given the new emissions surcharges for diesel cars, drivers should consider whether such additional costs will still make diesel a good, long-term financial investment.
Previously, averaging 30 mpg was highly impressive, however, some of the most efficient models on sale are now doing nearly three times that.
Research suggests the most efficient cars currently on the market are small hatchbacks. This is down to a number of factors including their smaller size compared with saloons or estates, reduced weight, and more efficient aerodynamics. This means they can have smaller engines without losing out on performance.
If a hatchback suits you in terms of size and practicality and you’re conscious of fuel consumption, then this could be a worthwhile choice.
Consider car tax
In April 2017, new legislation came into effect as to how vehicle tax is calculated. This is part of the government’s fight against rising pollution. Your rate of tax is now based on a car’s CO2 emissions the first time it’s registered. The higher the emissions, the more you will pay. Make sure you research what these costs could be, before making your final purchase. If you own a petrol or diesel car, purchasing a warranty policy which covers emissions failures would be a wise investment, given the stricter testing regulations. Remeber, before you purchase a warranty to check any potential policies carefully to understand what is and what is not covered.
Think about hybrids
With Volvo recently announcing all new cars from 2019 onwards will, at the very least, be hybrids, a shift in the market can be expected and this could be accounted for with your next motor.
The economy of some newer hybrids from Volvo and Mercedes is upwards of 130mpg, and batteries are chargeable from home at no higher cost than charging any other appliance.
The value of research
With so many options on the market, it is key to do as much research as possible to source your perfect motor.
Make sure you combine manufacturer research with independent reviews. This provides more of an indication of ‘real-world’ experiences. Consumer insight is also particularly useful when establishing a genuine mpg, as some manufacturers optimise engines for European Commissions testing to produce lower CO2 emissions. This can distort true mpg figures.
As we move into a more fuel-efficient future there will be more options than ever before. It’s essential drivers keep up to speed with as many developments as possible so they don’t lose out financially and remain informed on current legislation.
A UK leading car warranty provider, Warranty Direct, has analysed MOT and vehicle testing data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and claims on over 40,000 of its own live policies to reveal how much the most common MOT issues are costing UK drivers.
Nearly 40 percent (36.8%) of class three and four vehicles (including cars and vans) failed MOTs last year. The faults which caused the majority of failures were lighting and signalling issues, suspensions and brakes.
Lighting and signalling defects were the most common reasons for MOT failures across the UK, causing 19 percent of all failures.
Electrical faults (which incorporate lighting and signalling issues) also made up nearly 20 percent of all Warranty Direct’s authorised claims. According to Warranty Direct, the vehicle makes which experienced the most electrical issues last year were:
|Vehicle make||Electrical Faults as Percentage of vehicle make Claims|
While the electrical improvements of newer cars can enhance automotive performance and safety, they can cause more failures due to the complex nature of parts. However, many smaller electrical faults could be avoided by owners carrying out consistent maintenance tasks more regularly between MOTs.
For example: indicator, tail and brake lights can be fitted for as little as £5.00 each. It’s concerning that many British motorists willingly take risks and drive vehicles with dangerous faults on the roads when many of these issues are easily detectable and cheap to fix.
The second-most common cause for MOT failures were suspension faults, which accounted for 13 percent of tests where defects were found. Axle and suspension issues were another major source of claims for Warranty Direct.
Braking systems were the third biggest reason for cars not passing MOTs across the UK, making up 10 percent of all failure rates. Warranty Direct, on average, paid £369.15 for authorised claims made against braking systems.
Despite the expense of such issues, avoiding paying out for repairs on brakes is one of the most dangerous decisions a car owner can make. The Department of Transport reported that in 2015, 1,131 accidents were caused by defective vehicles, of which nearly a third were caused by unsafe brakes (364).
Simon Ackers, CEO of Warranty Direct commented on the latest findings, saying: “The most recent high MOT failure rates are of significant concern. The results indicate a large proportion of drivers are not taking the necessary safety measures when it comes to their vehicles, these costs could also be avoided with the purchase of an extended warranty, which covers failures to insured vehicle parts that are found during a service or MOT test.”