Nov 302006

potholesEstimated £320m bill for British motorists annually

The condition of British roads may not be getting any worse, but they’re not getting any better either, says a new report.

Analysis by independent automotive warranty provider, Warranty Direct, claims that potholes account for as many as 1 in 5 of all car failures across Scotland, a figure that falls to just over 8 percent of the total in the West Midlands.

Based on the firm’s database of over 60,000 vehicles, suspension and axle damage that can be traced back to poor road surfaces are now the most common failures for a shocking 60 percent of all vehicles.

On average, Warranty Direct reports repair bills of £328.60, but as high as £975.84* in some instances – that’s the equivalent of £320m every year for the British motorist.

Either continuous driving over cracked or uneven road surfaces, or the sudden jolting of a deep pothole, can cause damage to shock absorbers, springs, upper and lower arms and stabiliser bars.

Table showing percentage of all suspension & axle failures




Percent of claims recording pothole related suspension   failure



22.82 percent


North East

12.66 percent



12.50 percent


North West

11.57 percent


Greater London

11.03 percent



10.77 percent


East Midlands

9.39 percent


South East

8.33 percent


West Midlands

8.04 percent

The latest ALARM report (Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance) says that engineers are simply ‘patching up’ roads rather than investing for the long term. It highlights a staggering £1.6bn shortfall in funding which has left them with a 10-year backlog.

Yet, despite the astonishing rates of failure recorded by Warranty Direct, year-on-year, the national average for suspension failures has recorded a marginal fall from 12.43 to 11.38 percent.

“Suspension failure is now a real problem for the motorist,” says Duncan McClure Fisher of Warranty Direct. “It seems unfair that the public should be financially penalised once again for choosing to drive on our roads.

Given the thousands of things that can go wrong with a modern car, suspension failure is almost reaching critical levels. Unfortunately, you really do risk the health of your car on certain roads.”

Regionally, the North East of England, at nearly 13 percent, recorded the second largest share of all claims attributable to a road defect or persistent poor conditions.  In Greater London, suspension failures accounts for more than 1 in 10 vehicle failures with more than £16m paid out in insurance claims by the Local Authorities last year alone.

Nov 302006

Air conditioningBritish motorists are continuing to risk an unwanted £583 bill by ignoring advice about the usage of air-con.

Leading independent extended warranty specialist, Warranty Direct, says too many drivers switch off their air con during the winter leaving it prone to failure when the warmer weather returns.

Duncan McClure Fisher of Warranty Direct explains: “Switched off for long periods of time, water or air can get into the system. The moisture will react with the refrigerant to create acid, which then attacks the seals and pipe-work leaving you with a hefty repair bill.”

Data shows that air-conditioning units account for 1 in 20 mechanical failures with an average bill of £583 but as high as £1,661.

Air con is also no longer the luxury it once was. Experts estimate that almost four out of five new cars now come fitted with the cooling system as standard.

As well as regular use throughout the year, Warranty Direct also recommends annual maintenance checks which cost as little as £40 from an independent specialist.

Nov 302006

Car MOTIndependent warranty specialists Warranty Direct has expressed its shock at the announcement that MOT tests could be required only every other year instead of annually.

Using information taken from Warranty Direct’s database of over 56,000 car warranties, figures show that the frequency with which vehicles break down leaps up once they move out of the comfort zone offered by the standard manufacturer’s three-year guarantee.

While a one-year old car has a failure incidence of just 19 percent, that figure jumps to 28 percent for a seven-year old vehicle.  A third of all cars over 13-years old break down.  Warranty Direct policies do not cover parts that fail and make cars structurally unsound such as rust, lights, and brakes.

Warranty Direct managing director Duncan McClure-Fisher said: “This is ridiculous! Of course cars will be more prone to failure as they get older and, once they get beyond the three years covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, they need an annual MOT even more because on average they fail more often.  We will still require cars to have a yearly test even if this legislation goes through.”

Warranty Direct’s figures are backed up by research by car care company Comma, which found that the quality of brake fluid degenerated as cars get older unless it is changed regularly.

Nov 292006

Renault EspaceThe cars most likely to give British motorists the lion’s share of an annual £680 million financial headache have been revealed.

New data using thousands of claims handled by independent automotive warranty firm, Warranty Direct, names the cars that just can’t stop breaking down.

The worst offender in the factual reliability survey, based on more than 26,000 vehicles built between 2000 and 2002 (W to 02 registration plate), was the with a staggering 71 percent failure rate – almost twelve times more than the best placed model, Honda’s Civic. Eighty popular models were included in the study. A complete listing is available at

Sharing the second worst position was an off-road favourite, the Jeep Cherokee and Saab’s 9-5 executive model, both with 55 failures in every 100 vehicles; they were closely followed by the Ford Galaxy and Volvo C70 with 54 breakdowns each.

Sixth from bottom in the respected Warranty Direct study was the stylish Audi TT with 51 out of 100 owners recording a mechanical failure of some degree. The luxurious Jaguar XJ, Vauxhall Frontera, Volvo V70 and Renault Laguna completed the inauspicious bottom ten.

Based on the study sample, thirty percent of cars will breakdown during the course of a year, leaving owners having to fork out an average repair bill of £310.66. With an estimated 7.2m cars*1 aged 3-5 years old on the road that’s a massive £677million on unforeseen – and unwanted repairs annually.

Ironically, the poor reliability performance of Jaguar’s
XJ was in stark contrast to the manufacturer’s entry-level X-Type executive runner, which, according to Warranty Direct has so far only caused a headache for 9 percent of owners. It was fourth overall.

Top of the pile was the old-shape, Swindon-built Honda Civic with just six failures for every 100 vehicles. Two more Japanese models – the ever-present Mazda MX-5 (7 percent) and Nissan Micra (8 percent) were just behind.

“These are real cars, real claims and genuine bills. They are the statistics that really count when you weigh up what used car to buy,” explained Duncan McClure Fisher of Warranty Direct. “It is hard to recommend a vehicle to someone when seventy percent of owners have had to have remedial work done to it over the past twelve months.

“The fact that nearly half of the eighty models we analysed will break down more than the national average simply isn’t good enough.”

Britain’s best selling model, the Ford Focus was 26th (20 percent rate of failure), just behind its archrival the Vauxhall Astra in 25th. Other notables were the Vauxhall Corsa (11 percent), Volkswagen Golf (31 percent), Mercedes A-Class (36 percent), and Land Rover Freelander (42 percent).

The data is based on a minimum of 100 examples of each model.

Bottom Ten Performers…and the cost of putting right



Likelihood of failure

Average cost of repair

Largest Claim


Renault Espace (97-02)





Jeep Cherokee (93-01)





Saab 9-5 (97-01)





Ford Galaxy (00-)





Volvo C70 (97-02)





Audi TT (99-)





Jaguar XJ8 (97-03)





Vauxhall Frontera (98-03)





Volvo V70 (00-)





Renault Laguna (00-04)





Top Ten Performers…and the cost of putting right



Likelihood of failure

Average cost of repair

Largest Claim


Honda Civic (99-)





Mazda MX-5 (98-05)





Nissan Micra (98-02)





Jaguar X-Type (01)





Vauxhall Corsa (00-)





Lexus IS200 (99-)





Volvo V/S40 (96-04)





Skoda Octavia (98-04)





Mercedes SLK (96-04)





Audi A4 (01-)