Oct 152018
 

Autonomous Vehicles
The ‘future’ is finally here as self-driving cars aren’t a ‘what if?’ but rather a ‘why not’? Just a few years ago it was largely uncharted territory but now, every major car manufacturer is pursuing the technology and some autonomous vehicles are already on the road in Paris, Singapore and several states in the US.

What Car Manufacturers Are Involved?

GM tops the list with Daimler-Bosch (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz), Ford, Volkswagen and BMW not far behind. What’s more, whole manufacturers are working together, with Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi having formed an alliance while Volvo, Autoliv, Ericsson and Zenuity have formed a separate alliance.

With GM having promised the release of driverless taxis in large cities by 2019, it’s about time we all figured out how they work.

How Do Self-Driving Cars Work?

In short: self-driving cars create and maintain an internal map of their surroundings using lasers, sensors, radars and even sonar. Every system is different and technologies (unsurprisingly) continue to evolve. The ‘map’ is then continually processed by the cars software and a path is plotted. The car is able to accelerate, brake and steer through actuators while algorithms, codes and predictive modelling help the car follow the rules of the road and avoid hitting people and other objects.

Machine Learning and AI

The most important feature of these man-less machines is Machine Learning. This AI (artificial intelligence) tool trains computers to detect pedestrians and differentiate between a bicycle and a motorcycle. Because it’s impossible to write a rule (those algorithms we talked about above) for every situation in this complex world, the cars have to be trained to learn and navigate on their own.

The Future

There are currently several levels of autonomy and researchers have created a scale from 0-5.

Most of us are currently driving either a Level 0 or a Level 1, with Level 0 being a car completely controlled by the human and Level 1 being a car that has features like cruise control. Level 2 offers several systems, like automatic acceleration and braking, but it still requires a human for operation. Moving up to Level 3, the car can – for all intents and purposes – drive on its own, but a human can be alerted to take over under certain circumstances. Level 4 is a fully autonomous car in most situations while Level 5 is fully autonomous and self-drives in every situation.

With Level 5’s driving around several cities in the world on their own, we should expect to see them in the UK sooner than any of us could have expected.

 

Oct 122018
 

Buying A Used CarWhen buying a car, there’s a lot to consider. When buying a used car, there’s even more to consider. It’s obvious that you’ll want to avoid a used car that’s been badly damaged, illegally altered, or that is prone to break downs…but can you know for sure that you’re making the right choice?

Follow these 10 tips to make sure you pick the right second-hand car at the right price.

10. Look for a car that’s around three years old

New cars start losing their value the moment they’re driven off the lot. By the end of the first year, most are down 40 percent in value. That means that the original owner has taken that financial hit and you won’t have to. What’s more, the market for used cars that are three years old is massive. Why? Many cars are bought on finance which, after 36 months, runs out.

  1. Do your research on car insurance and car tax

Many people mistakenly think that the price of the car itself is the only cost involved in getting on the road. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. A relatively inexpensive second-hand car could incur massive bills over time. For example, sporty cars often come with higher insurance premiums. For car tax, you’ll have to consider its fuel type, engine type and CO2 emissions. Make sure you get quotes before signing anything.

  1. Review the car’s history

If the owner can’t offer up garage bills, MOT certificates and service records, that should raise alarm bells. If you do have access to this paperwork, look over it carefully. Look for consistent problems and consider, given how old the car is, what maintenance work will be needed soon.

  1. Look at the mileage

The mileage will give you insights into the value at purchase vs. sale and – perhaps more importantly – the potential costs of servicing and maintenance. Certain car parts need to be serviced or replaced after so many miles and many of these parts come with a hefty price tag. If you notice that a part hasn’t been replaced or serviced at the recommended interval, it’s probably not a good idea to buy.

  1.  Check the exterior and interior

This should go without saying but when we say ‘check’ we mean really look. It’s best to do this during the day when it isn’t raining or foggy. Look at the car from all angles, taking special care to look for dents, mismatched colours and misaligned panels. This would indicate that there has been work done.

While ideally the interior would be spotless, seats and carpets are easy enough to clean or have cleaned.

  1. Take it for a spin

You should never buy a car before test driving it. Make sure it starts easily and, while driving, make sure it handles well and performs how you would expect. A grinding sound coming from the brakes is a bad sign and a rumbling or smoking engine indicates a serious problem. It’s also a good idea to check that all of the features inside work. Flip on the radio, listen to the speakers, see if the air conditioning cools effectively. Also consider if you feel comfortable driving the car. Does it go faster than you expected? Does the steering wheel pull to one side?

  1.  Make sure the seller has a V5C document

This document shows the registered keeper, not the legal owner. Of course, the registered keeper should be the one selling you the car. If it isn’t, or if the seller isn’t willing to show you the V5C, you should walk away.

  1. If you think it’s too good to be true, it probably is

Unfortunately, you can encounter a lot of scams when buying a used car. Clocking, cloning and cut-and-shuts are worst case scenarios, but they could still happen. The best way to avoid a scam is by doing research, carefully inspecting the car, and trusting your gut. It’s better to pay more for a car that has all the relevant paperwork than less for a car with none.

  1.  Make sure it ticks all the boxes

What are your essential requirements? Does there need to be room for the whole family? Does it need to fit in a particularly small space? Do you need a large boot? Were you hoping for something eco-friendly? Make sure you get what you came to get and don’t settle on something else for an attractive price or because you feel pressured.

  1. Get a receipt

Once you’ve made your decision, make sure you and the seller agree exactly what is included in the price and get a receipt that includes the vehicle details, terms of the deal, your name and the seller’s name, and the date.

With that, congratulations on your new (used) car! Lastly, it’s always wise to cover your car in the event of unexpected vehicle failure, and you can do that with an extended warranty from Warranty Direct! Why not get a quote to see how we can help you?

Policies underwritten by Pinnacle Insurance plc. Arranged and administered by Warranty Direct. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority

 

Oct 082018
 

MOTEarlier this year, major changes to the MOT test regarding the way faults and problems are classified were made. Now, all vehicle faults will be recorded as either Minor, Major or Dangerous.

The main difference is a failed component will now be classified as major or dangerous depending on its condition. The new measures are intended to highlight to drivers the most urgent problems and the safety risks they pose.

Warranty Direct explains some of the unexpected reasons for MOT fails and how these could be prevented by regular, simple maintenance tasks.

Light it up

Our research revealed nearly 40% of class three and four vehicles (including cars and vans) failed MOTs in 2016.

Lighting and signalling defects were the most common reasons for MOT failures, causing 19% of all failures. Electrical faults (which incorporate lighting and signalling issues) also made up nearly 20% of all Warranty Direct’s authorised claims.

Many smaller electrical faults can 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.

To pass an MOT, front, rear, brake, fog, indicator and registration plate lights and rear reflectors must be correctly positioned and secured, in a good condition, show the correct colour and not be obscured.

Checking your lightbulbs is easy to do. Give them a light tap to see if they are loose or damaged and check pairs of lights emit the same colour, size and shape.

Brakes and suspension

According to our data, the second-most common cause for MOT failures were suspension faults, which accounted for 13% of tests where defects were found.

Braking systems were the third biggest reason for cars not passing MOTs across the UK, making up 10% of all failure rates. 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.

Experiencing a drift or pull when turning, or your car jerking when the road surface is uneven could mean the suspension shocks have worn out. One tyre wearing more or starting to bald on the same axis as the other is another indication of suspension issues.

If your car pulls to one side when you brake, this may suggest a problem that requires further attention before you take your MOT. Signs of excessive wear of brake pads or pitted brake discs could also mean your brakes need replacing.

Under pressure

According to Kwik Fit, 10% of all faults relate to tyre condition and pressure, so it’s important to keep these maintained.

The UK legal minimum tread depth for a car is 1.6mm, so keep an eye on tyres and ensure they’re all the same level. If your tyres are inflated at the correct level, they will wear evenly and be safer and more fuel efficient.

Watch out for tears, bulges or other signs of damage to your tyres’ structure. Not only would this be classed as an immediate MOT fail, but it could increase your risk of a high-speed blowout or serious accident.

Keep it clean

Believe it or not, nearly 2500 people were ‘refused’ an MOT because their vehicles were too dirty and non-accessible to allow one to take place. So make sure you keep both the physical and cosmetic upkeep of your car in good health.

According to gov.uk, 8.5% of all faults are related to a ‘driver’s’ view of the road’, including issues with mirrors, wipers and washers. You can avoid this with simple checks like making sure the windscreen wipers and washers work at all times.

Your rear-view mirror must be adjustable and in good condition and windscreen wiper blades should be replaced immediately if they show signs of damage.

 

Oct 012018
 

New car checklistFor many young people, owning a car is a rite of passage. But, with so much choice available and with many young people on a tight budget, selecting the right student car can be tricky.

Warranty Direct has put together some helpful tips to help student motorists make the right decision, from buying your first car to beyond.

Where to start

When looking at potential vehicles, you can be tempted to go to the first car that catches your eye. However, it’s important to keep your budget in mind when choosing what’s right for you.

Firstly, you need to decide whether to buy a new or used car. Although initially more expensive, newer cars are normally more advanced in terms of safety, technology and fuel efficiency. This could save you money in the long-term.

On the other hand, a new car can lose around 40% of its value in the first year, so you may be left out of pocket when you go to sell it later.

Statistics also show around one-quarter of young drivers are involved in a crash within two years of passing their test. So with this in mind, it might be more cost-effective not to purchase a brand-spanking new vehicle until you have a little more experience on the roads.

Don’t get caught out with insurance

For the majority of students, expensive car insurance is far from ideal. Drivers aged between 17-24 can expect to pay over £1100 for their insurance policy.

Limited driving experience and a greater likelihood of being in an accident account for this high rate. However, there are ways for students to keep their insurance costs down.

For example, adding a more experienced named driver on a student’s insurance policy can shave an impressive 13% off their insurance premiums.

Younger drivers can make further financial savings by opting for a black box insurance policy. This is where the insurer fits a telematic tracker – which records speed, braking and cornering behaviour – to your vehicle.

 In fact, according to recent figures, 60% of the cheapest black box deals are for under-25s, compared with 50% two years ago.

Factor in reliability

It’s important students know what they need from a vehicle, not just what they want. Factors such as safety, cost and reliability need to be considered; particularly if you’re facing a lengthy commute from home to your new student accommodation.

Look out for vehicles with low repair and maintenance costs and features such as light steering and user-friendly controls.

Using tools such as our Reliability Index to see which vehicles are the most reliable could help you avoid expensive maintenance issues further down the line.

If you’re willing to look beyond flashy alternatives, the trusty Ford Fiesta is a good bet for students on a tight budget. The Fiesta scores highly in the reliability stakes and suits the needs of most young motorists.

Fuel for thought

For cash-strapped young drivers, one of the major drawbacks of owning a car is the cost of keeping a vehicle on the road.

With fuel costs rising, it’s worth looking out for the most fuel-efficient models on the market.

It’s also important to account for vehicle tax, MOT tests and the general cost of upkeep for your new vehicle. On average, it costs around £472 to maintain a used car over the course of a year.

It might be worth considering Just Add Fuel options which combine finance, breakdown, servicing and tax costs into a single monthly installment if your heart’s set on a brand new vehicle.

Owning a car can give you your first taste of ‘grown-up’ responsibility, so it’s important to think wisely if you want to experience the joy of the open road on a student budget.

Sep 102018
 

New car showroomThere comes a time in a car owners’ life when it’s time to say goodbye…it could be a change in lifestyle, high maintenance costs, or just because you fancy something new. Whatever the reason, be sure you’re getting the best deal and not left out of pocket when buying your next car.

Looking to upgrade to a newer model?

Read our Warranty Direct guide on getting a swankier car, for less.

The benefits of upgrading

The advances in car technology are progressing at such a fast rate that if you stick with your current model for too long, you could miss out on new features that make driving both easier and safer.

Not only this, but cars depreciate quickly and after three years you could lose up to 60% of your vehicle’s original value.

So, when looking to upgrade your car, one of the first things you need to do, is to look at its current and future market value to make sure you upgrade before it’s too late.

Out with the old

Before buying your swanky new motor, you need to work out what you’re going to do with your old vehicle. Trade-in offers are typically less than you’d get in a private-party sale but can be much quicker and less hassle.

To work out if you’re being offered a reasonable price on your trade-in car at a dealership, you first must know what your vehicle is worth. Do some online research, print out the results and take them with you, as evidence to help with negotiating.

If you’re deciding between two dealerships with similar offers, you may want to lean toward the one at which you intend to buy your car. This may give you some leverage since you’re giving the dealership business on both the trade-in and the car purchase.

Look for models which hold their value

You may want to look out for cars that are about to be superseded by a newer model. These ‘run-out’ models are often found with discounts of up to 30% on the original price as dealers make way for shiny new stock.

However, some models shed cash quicker than others, meaning it will be worth a lot less in only a short period of time. So, make sure you check the resale price to see if some models may slump in value when their replacements arrive, (especially if you plan to sell it on in a few years).

You can also use our Reliability Index to help you work out how likely you are to have issues with a certain make or model.

Timing is everything

Dealers have targets to meet, with bonuses up for grabs, so they will usually be more willing to negotiate and offer more attractive finance packages at the end of each sales quarter. This means buying a vehicle at the end of March, June, September and December, could get you a better deal.

Try to avoid weekends or the start of the month just after payday. A dealership crammed with wannabe buyers isn’t ideal if you want to pick-up the best bargain.

Think about finance

While low-rate finance schemes with modest monthly payments may bring newer cars within your reach, you need to be sure you can keep up with the monthly payments as missing any can affect your credit rating and your car could be repossessed.

As mentioned earlier, newer cars can lose their value quite quickly, so you may want to look at pre-owned options first.

Used cars are cheaper initially and you could get more for your money, buying a top of the range older model for a similar price as a basic spec new car.

If you go down the used car route and the original manufacturer warranty has expired, you will also need to think about getting an extended warranty in place to protect your vehicle against unexpected failure and the costs that come with it. You can always get a quote with Warranty Direct to see how we could help you.

Policies underwritten by Pinnacle Insurance plc. Arranged and administered by Warranty Direct. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.