Nov 282014

Ruppert'sLandieThe run-up to Christmas is the perfect time to buy a used car, as dealerships get quiet around the festive season, advises HPI. Savvy used car buyers will know that prices start to creep-up in January so those looking to bag a bargain should be looking to buy now. Whether buying from a dealer or from a private seller, before parting with their hard-earned money, bargian-hunters should get the vehicle checked and follow HPI’s top tips.

Senior Consumer Services Manager, Shane Teskey at HPI says, “Winter may not seem like the obvious time to buy a car, but that’s why it’s ideal for anyone looking for a bargain. As shoppers turn their thoughts to Christmas gifts, sales of cars slow down, meaning there are deals to be struck. However, used car buyers need to do some research and go in knowing exactly what they want.

“At any time of year, consumers need to be aware of the risks and take steps to protect themselves. Buying a car with outstanding finance remains the biggest risk, but 1 in 20 vehicles checked by HPI have a mileage discrepancy. Dodgy sellers can turn back the clock and add hundreds or even thousands to the price tag. Not only could buyers pay over the odds, but the vehicle could have more wear and tear than expected, or in need of repair, sooner than they thought. In addition, we find 30 cars per day reported as stolen, putting car buyers at risk of losing all their money on a car that belongs to someone else. With this in mind, we urge buyers to get any potential bargain checked at HPI, as that’s the best way to ensure it’s a dream machine with nothing to hide.”

Don’t Get into the Drivers’ Seat

The seller can smell a sale, once a buyer sits in the driver’s seat. This is where your emotions take over and you start imagine yourself driving that car, which makes it hard to think with your head. Instead of getting inside, ask the dealer to drive the car out, so you can look at it from all angles.

See the Light

Vehicles can look a lot more attractive in low-light, especially those which have a few dents here and there, so try to view the vehicle in daylight or at least under a very good light source. Take a torch. A good light source will also help you check under the bonnet to ensure chassis numbers match the car’s documents.

Do the Colours Match?

Check the bodywork to see if there is any variation in the shades – even very subtle differences – this normally tells you the car has been worked on. Ask why this is.

Check the Bodywork

Most modern cars have bolt-on panels. Check the bolts under the bonnet. If the paint is chipped on the bolts, it may mean the panels have been modified in some way. Ask why this is – it may give an indication of the car’s accident history.

Do the Air-conditioning and Sat Nav Work?

In the middle of winter, it’s easy to forget the air-conditoning, but you’ll be kicking yourself if it’s not working, once summer arrives. If the car has an integrated sat nav system, make sure it works. Make sure the disc is present, enter your home postcode and make sure it would get you there.

Take the Test

Winter with its cold, damp weather presents unique challenges when it comes to test driving a used car. However you should try to drive as you would in the summertime, take the vehicle up to speed then hit the brakes to test the ABS (when it’s safe to do so). When braking, see how straight the car comes to a stop, as pulling in one direction can indicate brake or alignment problems. Also try taking the car to a large car park and see how it handles on areas where black ice can appear.

HPI Before You Buy

Check the service history and then conduct a vehicle history check at HPI to gain a full picture of the vehicle’s status, ensuring it’s not a banger masquerading as a bargain.


Remember, the price on the sticker is only the starting price. Take the price of the defects you’ve spotted off of this price for a start.

Shane Teskey concludes, “With a little preparation, used car buyers can approach any seller ready to drive a hard bargain. Whatever their budget, we recommend conducting a vehicle check at HPI– this way buyers can reduce the risk of splashing their cash on a car that turns out to be a nightmare on wheels.”

Nov 262014

SantaHelperNearly half of all motorists don’t know how to change a tyre, while three out of ten wouldn’t know where to fill up the windscreen washer bottle.

These are the startling findings of a leading UK vehicle leasing company which has discovered that millions of drivers have no idea about basic car maintenance.

Suggesting that many car breakdowns are directly caused by owners’ ignorance of everyday checks, the Flexed company says that this is one subject which should be taught at schools, sixth forms and colleges, or even as part of driver training.

“Millions of us drive every day, but it turns out that huge numbers know very little about the machine they’re operating,” says Flexed spokesperson Mark Hall.

To find out how much we take the automobile for granted, Flexed asked over 3000 drivers if they knew how to carry out basic maintenance tasks:


  1. 49% didn’t know how to change a tyre
  2. 31% didn’t know how to check their tyre pressures
  3. 63% were unable to check the oil level
  4. 29% were unable to fill the windscreen washer bottle
  5. 58% didn’t know where to top up the oil
  6. 1% didn’t know how to fill up with petrol

“These figures are astonishing,” says Mark Hall, “but then, I’ve got a friend who openly admits that he doesn’t know which hole to put the petrol in his car. It’s a wonder he even passed his test.”

And that’s why Flexed says car maintenance should be part of the school or college curriculum, so that people have a basic working knowledge of UK society’s most dominant device.

“If school pupils – and that’s both boys and girls – are shown how to do even the most basic of task, that’s a skill that they’ve got for life,” says Hall.

In fact, Flexed says, it’s something that should be added to the driving test to prove that new drivers know their way around a car or motorcycle. That will go a long way to prevent breakdowns on public roads which sometimes cause long and costly delays, the car leasing company thinks.

“The fact that the major breakdown organisations now have specialist patrols to help people who have run out of petrol just goes to prove how little people know about their own cars,” says Flex’d Mark Hall. “Even older vehicles have bells and whistles to tell you your fuel is low, so how come people still manage to run dry?”

If drivers took the time to teach themselves ten simple skills, they’d find motoring a far more reliable task:

  1. Check your oil and coolant levels monthly
  2. Check your tyre pressures monthly – keep a note of the correct pressures in the front page of your car’s manual
  3. Check your tyre tread depth, plus the general condition of your tyres
  4. Buy a spare set of bulbs – you never know when you need one, and it’s cheaper than buying one at a time
  5. Acquaint yourself as to what the warning lights on your dashboard mean – some are more serious than others
  6. Service your car annually – it’ll improve your car’s reliability and your petrol mileage
  7. Keep your car clean!
  8. Find out how to check battery levels
  9. Test your brakes regularly
  10. Keep a basic tool kit in the boot, along with emergency blankets or a coat. You never know when you might need them

With roads getting busier by the year, broken down cars and vans are a never-ending source of disruption that can easily be avoided.

“Look after your car,” says Flexed Mark Hall. “And your car will look after you.”

Nov 242014

Frankenstein Car_smCosting an average of £550 when it breaks down every other month, this is the UK’s Worst Used Car, according to Warranty Direct.

We analysed 50,000 live policies and combined the worst-performing cars from each of the categories measured by its unique Reliability Index ( and came up with the worst used car.

With the suspension of an Audi, the gearbox of a Jeep and the electrics of a Mercedes, Warranty Direct has created a vehicle made up of the least reliable parts.

The Reliability Index calculates the trustworthiness of vehicles by measuring average cost of repair, frequency of failure, age and mileage. While the average car scores 100 in the Index, with the lower the score the better, this grim creation would be five times more unreliable, with an RI figure of almost 500.

The ‘body parts’ of the Worst Used Car

Make and Model Car part Range
BMW M5 Engine (04 – 11)
Audi RS6 Axle and Suspension (02 – 11)
Jeep Grand Cherokee Gearbox (06 – )
Mercedes-Benz R-Class Electrics (04 – )
Fiat Multipla Braking system (99 – 05)
SEAT Alhambra Air-conditioning (96 – )
Chrysler 300C Steering system (05 – )


Overall, the Reliability Index shows that two in five vehicles need some form of repair each year and, while the average repair costs just over £350, some garage bills can spiral to a massive £35,000.

Warranty Direct managing director, David Gerrans, said: “The composite is a bit of fun that will, thankfully, never be built, as it stitches together the cars that perform worst in each of the mechanical categories we measure.

“This large variety of vehicles that goes into the concoction proves how typically reliable cars can be dragged down by one poorly-performing part.”

Almost two fifths of Audi RS6s require a trip to the workshop to repair axle and suspension components each year, while three in every 10 Mercedes-Benz R Class vehicles report electrical faults.

Gearbox problems are rarer, but still more than one in ten Jeep Grand Cherokees will report gearbox problems annually.

A quarter of BMW M5s require repairs to their engines, while the same proportion of Fiat Multiplas will experience braking system faults.

Chrysler’s 300C is not renowned for its agility in corners but, even so, more than ten percent will require repairs to their steering systems. The same number of SEAT Alhambras will need their air-con fixed during a typical year, so drivers who like keeping their car cool should beware of the big SEAT’s asthmatic ventilation system.

Nov 182014

As winter draws in with the threat of frost, snow and torrential rain, motorists may decide that their front or rear wheel drive vehicle no longer cuts the mustard. Statistics show that increasing numbers are opting to tackle the roads in an SUV, attracted by greater ground clearance and a more commanding driving position for on and off-road adventures.

Though the popularity of SUVs is showing no signs of waning, they do not always live up to their reputations for ruggedness. Many come fitted with complex all-wheel drive systems and fragile electrics that won’t stand up to daily use, let alone excursions over brutal terrains.

Warranty Direct can assign any car with a Reliability Index (RI) score. This applies a formula to measure overall reliability by looking at rate of failure, average mileage, age and repair cost. The lower the RI number, the better a car is.

Here, Warranty Direct has identified the most reliable SUVs that should provide their owners with minimal hassle over the winter months. Some repair bills on SUVs have spiralled to an eye-watering £16,000, so it is important to pick one that won’t get stuck in the mud.

1. Honda HR-V (99-06)
RI Score: 38
Average repair: £305.15
Largest claim: £1,587.91

Hondas typically perform well in Warranty Direct’s reliability surveys, and the quirky HR-V is no exception. If you can’t wait for the new model, a used one should provide you with dependable motoring as well as the option of four-wheel drive.

2. Suzuki Jimny (98-)
RI Score: 48
Average repair: £233.77
Largest claim: £829.87

It may have been around for what seems like an age, but Suzuki’s mini SUV scores highly for simplicity and reliability. The Jimny’s Select 4×4 system enables the driver to switch between front and four wheel drive for genuine off-road ability.

3. Suzuki Grand Vitara (05-)
RI Score: 54
Average repair: £312.14
Largest claim: £1,374.40

The current generation Grand Vitara is not long for this world with a replacement just round the corner, but it is consistently reliable as well as being stylish to look at and well-equipped in a choice of a 3- or 5-door bodystyles.

4. Honda CR-V (07-)
RI Score: 58
Average repair: £355.11
Largest claim: £1,602.34

Another strong performance from the Honda stable, the CR-V crossover is an attractive and accomplished all-rounder with a versatile interior. Mechanically it is consistently dependable across the board.

5. Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin (99-06)
RI Score: 68
Average repair: £391.45
Largest claim: £978.41

The smallest Mitsubishi SUV is also the most reliable, beating its bigger brothers the Shogun and the L200. A strong engine and excellent ventilation system make a case for this as a compact off-roader for all seasons.

6. Nissan Terrano (93-07)
RI Score: 72
Average repair: £215.39
Largest claim: £854.55

The veteran Terrano gave Nissan 14 years of loyal service and it’ll do even more for its loyal owners. The robust suspension and steering is ideal for motorists needing a proper workhorse.

7. Nissan X-Trail (07-)
RI Score: 73
Average repair: £338.38
Largest claim: £3,161.33#

Just behind the Terrano is another Nissan with the X-Trail putting in a strong showing across the board, in particular for the reliability of its engine, steering and gearbox. The chunky styling looks great, too.

8. Volvo XC60 (08-)
RI Score: 74
Average repair: £282.04
Largest claim: £773.92

The lifestyle choice, the Volvo XC60 adds a dash of brand kudos and boasts an unparalleled reputation for safety and interior quality. Outstanding mechanical reliability and low repair costs make it a real contender.

9. Citroën C-Crosser
RI Score: 80
Average repair: £368.84
Largest claim: £1,753.22

The big Citroën shares its mechanicals with the Mitsubishi Outlander and Peugeot 4007 but our statistics show it is the most reliable of the trio. Owners will appreciate the proven components which give little cause for complaint.

10. Hyundai Tuscon
RI Score: 81
Average repair: £260.15
Largest claim: £1,201.67

The Tuscon was one of the first cars of Hyundai’s renaissance, offering a good value and practical choice as well as upholding the brand’s reputation for being reliable. It doesn’t give cause for alarm in any area and should be affordable to repair.

Nov 072014

S7-modele--rover-45Used cars made by MG up to 2005, Rover or Daewoo are most likely to suffer expensive head gasket failure according to new data from Warranty Direct.

While most vehicles are more prone to common electrical mishaps or suspension issues, head gasket failure – every used car buyer’s nightmare – can strike nearly six per cent of some three to 12 year-old vehicles.

Costing an alarming £770 on average to repair, head gasket breakdowns tend to hit after a car is at least three years old.

Vehicles made by Proton, Saab and Fiat are the next most likely to suffer from the glitch feared most by used car buyers.

The head gasket sits between the engine block and cylinder head, effectively sealing the engine to prevent the engine oil and coolant mixing. When it fails, a car will often lose power, overheat or emit white smoke from exhaust.

The head gasket hall of shame

Manufacturer Chance of head gasket failure in one year
MG* 5.61%
ROVER* 4.75%
DAEWOO 2.36%
PROTON 2.04%
SAAB 1.27%
FIAT 1.20%
SUBARU 0.78%

Warranty Direct managing director, David Gerrans, said: “Anybody familiar with buying a used car will know about head gaskets and how costly they can be to repair, I can speak from bitter experience.

“Some cars are almost immune to failures of this sort, while others are quite likely to blow. Bear in mind, too, that all the cars we cover are maintained according to manufacturer guidelines, so the problem could be even more prevalent on cars with a patchy service history and many former keepers.

“Even though some of the poorest performing brands are now under new ownership or no longer exist in their former guise, there are thousands of these vehicles on the used market.”

At the other end of the scale, the Warranty Direct data shows that less than one in 500 vehicles made by Lexus will suffer a head gasket problem, and less than one in 1,000 Aston Martins are susceptible.

Head gasket failure is a common cause of cars overheating – a problem Warranty Direct covers, unlike most warranty providers in the marketplace.

For more information on Car Reliability visit