Car crash racket is curbed - but innocent are forced to pay

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Painful legacy: Anne Spoor is still suffering five years after being hurt on a coach

New laws to tackle the growing compensation culture that has turned the UK into the ‘whiplash capital of Europe’ will hit genuine victims, warn lawyers.

Anyone suffering personal injury must pay their legal costs if they claim compensation, as dramatic changes to the law on ‘conditional fee agreements’ – better known as ‘no-win, no-fee’ deals – kick in from tomorrow.

It means that even when victims win compensation in the courts, their legal costs can no longer be recovered from the defending side.

The changes are part of a Government clampdown on fraudulent whiplash claims, which as Financial Mail has reported since 2009 have inflated motorists’ insurance premiums by more than 20 per cent.

But some lawyers argue that genuine claimants – some who suffer severely after an accident – will be more reluctant to bring claims while lawyers may refuse to take on complicated cases that require more work if they are not able to recover their full costs from the defendant.

Many claims do come from honest people in serious need of recompense. This was the case for semi-retired nurse Anne Spoor, 62, who was badly hurt in a coach crash in 2008.

Passengers were invited to help themselves to drinks aboard the coach while it was travelling. Anne had done so and was walking back down the coach to her seat when the driver braked hard.

She was flung backwards towards the front of the coach and injured her arms and shoulders seriously enough to need surgery in 2010 and again just a few weeks ago – nearly five years after the accident.

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Anne, from Sale in Greater Manchester, who is married and has a grown-up daughter, says: ‘It has restricted everything I do, from helping look after my grandchildren to carrying shopping. Driving is also a problem. It’s debilitating.’

She felt unable to apply for active nursing roles because she couldn’t carry medical equipment in an emergency, for example.

In 2011, Anne used Manchester-based Express Solicitors to make a claim against the coach company and eventually received a £6,000 payout, which she used to reduce the mortgage on her home. Her solicitors’ costs would have been paid by the coach firm or its insurance company.

Clampdown: Injury claims for car crashes have sent premiums soaring

But if her claim had been processed under the new rules, her compensation would have been cut by about 25 per cent to £4,500 to cover the lawyer’s costs. She says: ‘Deciding to claim was certainly not something I entered into lightly. The accident had a substantial effect on me and I feel sorry for other genuine people who will be put off and lose out.’

Anyone who has already signed an agreement with a solicitor, before the April deadline, can benefit under the previous rules if their case succeeds, with the full costs recovered from the defendant.

Express Solicitors’ senior partner Robin Patey says: ‘It’s a scandal. The Government has decided to reduce the cost for the insurance industry and shift it on to victims.

‘There is an inequality of arms between individuals bringing a claim and insurance companies that have the money and expertise to defend it.’

 

Under the new rules, personal injury lawyers face a cap on how much they can recover from the other side – known as a fixed recoverable cost.

This will be about £500 for claims worth up to £10,000. Claimants need to make up the shortfall, capped at 25 per cent of the payout pot.

But Patey, like many other lawyers in his field, maintains that if insurers believe claims to be fraudulent, the onus should be on them to prove it.

Critics of the changes are also sceptical whether the rules will result in reduced insurance premiums for motorists.

Figures issued by the Association of British Insurers suggest that whiplash claims cost £2 billion a year and add an extra £90 a year to the average motor insurance premium.

But John O’Roarke, managing director of LV=, one of the country’s biggest insurers, indicated that the new rules would translate into only a three per cent premium reduction – a far smaller saving than £90.

The ABI says the changes will not hinder access to justice and that the current system is failing because of excessive legal costs and because it encourages a ‘have a go’ attitude, allowing for more spurious claims. A spokesman says: ‘We strongly support access to justice, as long as it does not result in abuse of justice.’


Top five cars which hold their value best with 4x4s once again dominating ¿ and five that plummeted fastest

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The arrival of the 13 number plate for new cars has seen motorists snapping up vehicles from the forecourt, but it’s no secret that many will lose their value quickly.

And while most new cars will lose a significant proportion of their starting price, some will lose considerably more than others - and as we explain below this may be even worse for 13-plate models thanks to people's superstitions.

But with a bit of savvy buying, your car may hold far more of its value than you expect, or you may be able to target a three-year-old bargain. To help motorists pick a winner, This is Money and car website Auto Trader have complied the top five cars which held on to the most of their original value last year – and the five that didn’t.

Winners and losers: The Skoda Yeti and Volvo S80 feature in the list below

13 plate – unlucky for some?

It could prove to be a strange six-month period for new car buying, as the 13 number plate may prove unpopular with new motor buyers.

 

Research by AA found that a third of potential new car buyers would think twice about snapping up a 13 plate – not because they fear a mishap, but because they fear trying to sell them on.

Early in 2012 the DVLA considered offering triskaidekaphobic new car buyers continued access to the previous 62 plates (for cars registered new between 1 September 2012 and 28 February 2013) but then dropped the idea.

The biggest hang-up over the 13 plate comes with trying to sell on the car – four per cent of the 20,029 survey respondents firmly believe and 25 per cent somewhat believe that this is where the 13-plate hoodoo is most likely to strike.

The concern rises to 33 per cent among AA members aged 65 or more, although only 20 per cent of younger drivers, aged 18-24, see it as a problem.

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Top five cars that held their value best in last 12 months

The data from Auto Trader below looked at how much a car would have cost to buy brand new – and how the value has either stayed steady, or dropped in the last 12 months. Cars are ranked in the top five in reverse.

5. Audi Q5 2.0TDI (141bhp) Quattro SE

New car price: £34,500

Price after a year: £30,375

Percentage of value kept: 88%

Auto Trader says: When a car is in such high demand, as this version of the Q5 is, it helps to keep the used prices at a good level – it’s the law of supply and demand.

4. Range Rover Sport 3.0TD (242bhp) SE Auto

New car price: £47,995

Price after a year: £42,500

Percentage of value kept: 88.5%

Auto Trader says: In a similar vein to the Discovery, people want and will pay for this car. However, this one is more sensitive to the variant. A supercharged V8 petrol version will not hold its value as strongly as a diesel and drivers want the best value for money – these factors influence the used car price of this model.

3. Toyota Land Cruiser 4.5 D 4-door auto

New car price: £60,600

Price after a year: £56,500

Percentage of value kept: 93%

Auto Trader says: The Land Cruiser has never had to offer huge discounts to shift units as it’s always been popular with buyers. As a result, there isn’t a huge number on the used car market. This, combined with the rugged reputation of the Toyota 4x4, has meant that its residuals remain remarkably good.

2. Land Rover Discovery 4 3.0TD (242bhp) GS auto

New car price: £38,825

Price after a year: £36,745

Percentage of value kept: 94.5%

Auto Trader says: Land Rover is a British success story of the past few years and the Discovery is no different. This is a car that people really want and are prepared to pay for, which means that its used value remains high.

WINNER: Skoda Yeti 2.0TDI CR 4x4 (140bhp) Elegance

New car price: £23,675

Price after a year: £23,500

Percentage of value kept: 99%

Auto Trader says: This is a slightly surprising winner. The Yeti has struck a chord with the nation, combining rugged good looks with low running costs and, as such, demand remains high - especially on the used market. Combine this with the fact that not many are available and used prices are going to remain strong.

Interestingly, the data from Auto Trader echoes similar research by Glass’s for This is Money in December.

The Glass’s research has exactly the same top five, but in a slightly different order - the Toyota Land Cruiser tops the list, followed by the Audi Q5, the Skoda Yeti, the Land Rover Discovery and the Range Rover Sport.

These vehicles have been taking the lion’s share of the top five places for the last three years, and this year their presence is even more obvious.

Top five cars that lost the most value in last 12 months:

5. Proton Gen-2 Persona saloon 1.6 Auto

New car price: £11,195

Price after a year: £8,232

Percentage of value kept: 74.5%

Auto Trader says: British drivers like to be proud about the badge that appears on the front of their car, and turning up in a Proton just won’t cut the mustard. This is the key reason why the Gen-2’s residuals don’t hold up – no-one wants one.

4. Citroen C5 saloon 1.6i THP VTR+ Nav

New car price: £21,505

Price after a year: £16,000

Percentage of value kept: 74.5%

Auto Trader says: Big French saloons have never been high on the British buyer’s shopping list. They have a poor reliability record and one such as this, with a wheezy petrol engine, is never going to appeal to private or fleet buyers as much as a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 with their frugal, smooth and powerful 2.0-litre diesel motors. Citroen doesn’t quite have the snob value of its German rivals either, meaning that people are less likely to pay as much for them on the used market.

3. Vauxhall Insignia saloon 2.8T V6 4x4 Elite Nav Auto

New car price: £34,350

Price after a year: £25,385

Percentage of value kept: 74%

Auto Trader says: The Insignia isn’t a bad car by any stretch of the imagination, but when it comes to buying a used vehicle, very few people are going to want a heavy, complicated and uneconomical V6 petrol turbo with four-wheel drive, when they can have a fuel-sipping diesel with two-wheel drive. This car will also cost more to tax, insure and to maintain than a lower-powered variant, so people just don’t want to buy them.

2. Vauxhall Zafira 1.6i (115) Design

New car price: £22,305

Price after a year: £13,000

Percentage of value kept: 58%

Auto Trader says: Despite the fact that this is an excellent and safe car – with a very clever interior, most people will want a diesel version and that is what hits the resale value of this car hard. The supply may be there, but the demand isn’t.

LOSER: Volvo S80 T6 AWD SE Lux

New car price: £40,885

Price after a year: £10,998

Percentage of value kept: 27%

Auto Trader says: Quite simply, this Volvo just isn’t popular. When it comes to large, executive cars, we want two things; two-wheel drive and diesel power, not all-wheel drive and petrol power. The gas-guzzling engine combined with the heavy and complex four-wheel drive system means that this car just won’t hold on to its value. Also, Volvo doesn’t have the brand cache of its Germanic rivals, such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes.











It's time insurers stopped stinging us with the great car valuation con

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The price is not right: Even the keenest car buyer would be lucky to find a similar vehicle for the money an insurer offers for a write-off.

It's no secret that car insurers have a handy bag of sneaky tricks to milk more money out of their customers.

If you've ever had the misfortune of having a car written off, which sadly I have, it's likely you will have suffered one of the most financially painful.

Two separate incidents brought this trick to my mind this week.

The first was our story on car deprecation winners and losers which ranked the new cars that kept their value. Some readers questioned whether it was actually possible to bag some of the bargain cars for the prices quoted.

Then comparing quotes to renew my car insurance, an insurer placed an automatic value on my car some £2,000 lower than the £7,000 that I paid for it just last October.

As this was an already very keenly priced car that we managed to negotiate an extra £300 off, I know for a fact there is no way we could buy the same one for £2,000 less.

Sadly, if we were unlucky enough to have it written off tomorrow, through no fault of our own, we'd probably find that we would be forced to settle for the insurer's valuation, however hard we argued.

That happened to me when I had my car written off a few years ago. It was nothing flash, just a simple eight-year-old Fiat Punto, but I had owned it since it was two or three years old and it was in great condition, with low mileage, a full service history and set of bills, and would have been near the top of any potential buyer's list had they seen it.

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Sadly, a drunk driver smashed into it when it was parked outside my flat and wrote it off.

The insurer we had to claim off gave us an offer about £300 less than the £1,500 you would have needed to buy similar cars within 100 miles, even with some decent negotiation. Those were priced from about £1,700.

I argued our case and spoke to the loss assessor on the phone. He stuck to his guns, claiming he'd given us a good book valuation. I explained that may be the case, but similar cars for sale at this valuation just did not exist and showed him internet searches to prove this.

After forty minutes of arguing my case, he still refused to budge. In fact, he offered me what he claimed to be a friendly word of advice. That was to take the money as he wouldn't be going any higher and had probably offered me too much to begin with.

The proof we were being stung came in the fact that one of the most important things in valuing an older second hand car was never taken into account or checked. That full service history and folder full of bills proving all the work that had been done to keep it in good condition.

Ultimately, we ended up with far less than the amount you would have needed to go out and buy that car again.

I've heard similar stories from many people, including my colleague Lee Boyce, whose mum suffered a similar fate when someone wrote off her car.

Of all the car insurance catches, the deliberate low ball offers dished out on write-offs probably sees the least pressure on insurers to mend their ways.

 

Yet these low market valuations, and payouts that make it all but impossible to actually buy another car of a similar standard, are among the most painful tricks insurers can pull.

They are perpetuated by book values placed on cars that even the keenest car buyers can almost never achieve. Having recently sold and bought two quite different cars, an Alfa 147 hatchback and a Jaguar X Type estate, I know that the valuations I found as I was doing my research were way below what the cars actually sold for.

Wouldn't it be nice to see an insurer stick their head above the parapet and promise to pay a car's true value if it is written off? (Or make up the shortfall, if the other party at fault's insurer refused to play ball.)

That means an insurer paying out not the theoretical value listed in one of the industry's valuation books, but one that actually reflects what you as a punter could go out and buy a genuinely similar car for

At a time when insurers are struggling to come up with ways to compete on anything other than price, this may prove good for business. I for one would pay an extra £50 on my premium to sign up.

It would be nicer still if all car insurers simply paid out what a car would cost to replace as a matter of course, but I won't be holding my breath on that one.

New '13' plates to push sales higher in March - and Ford Fiesta remains nation's favourite

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Motorists ignored superstition and bought 394,806 cars with new ‘13’ number plates last month, coincidentally the 13th month of rising sales, the Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders (SMMT) has reported.

New registrations were 5.9 per cent up on March 2012 and took the number of sales for the first three months of 2013 to 605,198 – a 7.4 per cent rise on the January-March 2012 figure.

Registrations of petrol-fuelled cars surpassed diesels in the first three months of this year, spurred on by the growth in the small car and private sector markets.

Ford Fiesta: The small economical motor continues to be the most popular new car to buy

Earlier this year research by motoring organisation the AA suggested the number 13 plate may prove unpopular with new motor buyers.

In a survey, it found that a third of potential new car buyers would think twice about snapping up a 13 plate – not because they fear a mishap, but because they fear trying to sell them on.

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However, this appears not to be the case, with motorists snapping up new motors regardless of the ‘unlucky’ 13 plate.

According to the statistics, 202,249 petrol motors were sold compared to 187,239 diesel last month.

It buck the trend of the last two years in which more diesel vehicles have been sold compared to petrol, taking a record market share according to SMMT. But it appears this may reverse this year if current trends continue in the coming months.

Looking at the sales figures, the Ford Fiesta was the most popular car to buy last month, with 22,748 sold.

Vauxhall Corsa was second with 16,169 sales followed by the Ford Focus, with 15,434.

TOP SELLING CARS MARCH 2013

1. Ford Fiesta - 22,7482. Vauxhall Corsa - 16,1693. Ford Focus - 15,4344. Volkswagen Golf - 9,9785. Vauxhall Astra - 9,5596. Nissan Qashqai - 8,4657. Volkswagen Polo - 7,4318. BMW 1 Series - 7,0019. Peugeot 208 - 6,72610. Mercedes C-Class - 6,628

Last month was the 13th consecutive month of increased sales. However, this optimism must be tempered by the fact that the January-March 2013 total was still more than 12 per cent below the figure for the first three months of 2007 - the last full year before the credit crunch bit.

Mike Baunton, SMMT's interim chief executive, said new car registrations out-performed expectations in March, the first month of the new 13-plate.

He said: ‘Despite ongoing economic concerns, consistent monthly growth in the market is an encouraging sign of returning consumer confidence as motorists are attracted to forecourts by new models and the latest technologies.’

Sales rising: The SMMT data shows that new March registration sales have crept up year-on-year since 2008

Car sales continue to strengthen in the UK

Last year saw the largest increase in new car sales in the UK for more than a decade, in a positive sign that consumer demand was in ruder health.

 

More than two million new cars were sold in 2012, an increase of 5.3 per cent on 2011 and the highest since 2008, according to SMMT data at the start of the year. 

In contrast, there was a a steep slump in new car sales on the Continent as the eurozone crisis took its toll, with the most dramatic falls in Italy and France - falling 19.9 per cent and 14 per cent last year respectively.

Looking at the statistics for the first three months of this year, it appears new car sales could grow once again in 2013 in Britain, edging ever closer to figures last seen before the financial crisis in 2008.


Garage has warned that my car may fail it MoT due to new EU tests

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MoT changes: Older cars now face more stringent tests

My Vauxhall is due for MoT next month but my regular garage has warned me already that it may fail as there are some new tests that it has to pass under EU laws.

Could your motoring experts please explain? It may mean I have to fork out more on repairs or even have to get a new car. Via email.

Linda Mckay of This Is Money replies: Hard-pressed motorists have to deal with increasing road tax, fuel rises and now it seems the possibility of further costly repairs if their vehicle fails its MoT.

An additional 15 boxes on the MoT checklist will now need to be ticked before cars are deemed legal to be on the road.

The changes, which include stringent checks on warning lights, handbrakes and wiring, were introduced in January last year. But it is only now that they become mandatory. I asked our experts for clarification.

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Ian Crowder, of the AA, replies: Your correspondent is right, a new MoT test regime came into effect from March 20 which sadly means that many older cars may well end up on on the scrapheap as repairs may be just too expensive to justify.

For instance, an airbag fault indicated by the SRS light on the dashboard would be a MoT test failure and the cost of fitting new airbags is very high*.

 

Gavin Hill-Smith adds: This is the biggest shake-up of the MoT system for more than 20 years. A huge amount of additional items will need to be checked.

The changes include some basic checks like the steering wheel lock and driver's seat adjustment but mostly reflect modern car safety features, for example, tyre pressure monitoring systems, xenon lights, airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners.

Andy Smith, also of the AA, says: If you've been happily ignoring a warning light because it's not part of the MoT, it could have expensive consequences if you have been running an old car on a tight budget.

These changes are long overdue as airbags, for example, have been widely fitted since the mid-Nineties. It's important that these systems remain safe and effective for your own sake.

The new testable components have been included since last January on an advisory basis but will now become fail items where defects are found. Please check our website for further help.

Linda Mckay adds: If you know a friendly mechanic you may prefer to get a pre-MoT costing on anything needed on your vehicle which would at least give you the option to put it through the test or change the car before the MoT due date.

Your car will not be penalised if it does not have a particular feature on the checklist, but if it does, the feature must be working.

*Previously the article wrongly stated that an airbag which had passed its expiry date would result in an MoT test failure. This has now been changed.

Drivers who pay to protect their no claims discount are worse off on average - unless they claim in the first year

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Drivers with long standing no claims discount protection may lose money

Drivers paying extra to protect their no claims discount are worse off than non-protected motorists if they do not make a claim in the first year, according to research by comparison website Moneysupermarket.com.

Motorists pay an average of £23 extra on top of their annual car insurance for no claims discount protection.

But according to data from the price comparison firm, the longer the protection is in place the less cost-effective it becomes.

Moneysupermarket said drivers with a five year no claims discount, who had paid to protect that discount, would be £21 better off on average if they claimed in the first year of the protection versus a motorist who made a claim on a unprotected policy.

However, in the second year motorists would be £2 worse off and in the third year, motorists protecting their no claims discount would be almost £25 worse off, although there are wide discrepancies between insurers.

That is despite the fact that premiums can jump by a third on average if a driver with a no claims discount makes a claim.

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The reason is that no claims discount protection does not mean a crash is ignored when premiums are calculated - only that the same percentage discount will apply as before. It is something that is commonly misinterpreted by drivers, Moneysupermarket said.

For example, a driver who can buy car insurance for £600 a year has five years of no claims discount that gives him 50 per cent off, taking the sum he pays down to £300. If he pays for no claims discount protection, another £25 is added to his bill to take it to £325.

If the driver were to crash, and claim on his insurance, his insurance premium might jump to £800 a year, but his protection means he still gets 50 per cent off, so he ends up paying £400 - less than if he had no protection but £75 more than the premium from the previous year.

Motor insurance premiums in standard motor insurance scenario (NCD= No claims discount)

Peter Harrison, car insurance expert at Moneysupermarket, said: 'Having reached the "Holy Grail" of five years no claims discount, many motorists will be reluctant to run the risk of losing it and may consider paying extra to protect it.

'With premiums rising by almost a third if you make a claim, paying extra to protect your policy against this hike might be worthwhile but be warned, if you protect your policy and do not make a claim for a number of years, you could find that you are eroding any potential savings.

'It's crucial for motorists to understand the costs involved with premiums; additional fees for protecting a no claims discount entirely depends on your personal circumstances and motoring history, as well as the provider.'

There are benefits to protecting no claims discounts. The comparison website found drivers making a claim on their motor insurance policy with an 'unprotected' no claims discount could see the cost of their premiums rise by as much as 30 per cent.

The research showed motorists making a claim with five years unprotected no claims discount could see their premiums hiked from £322 to £417 compared to protected drivers who would only see a eight per cent increase from £345 to £373.

Peter Harrison said: 'Building up your no claims discount over a number of years can be a valuable commodity and can help reduce the cost of your premiums.

'If you are looking to protect your no claims discount, shop around for the best deal available for your circumstances and if you do find a better deal with another provider, you can take your no claims bonus with you.'


Jaguar wants to double sales using F-Type halo effect

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The most powerful Jaguar sports car for a generation is unleashed today as the car-maker seeks to make a quantum leap in sales.

Ambitious Jaguar boss Adrian Hallmark hopes the F-Type will help Jaguar sales more than double within a few years.

As spiritual successor to the E-Type of the 1960s, the new sports car, costing from £58,500 to £79,950, will be the trail-blazer for this stellar performance.

Gloves are off: Adrian Hallmark said: 'With the F-Type, we¿re back with a vengeance'

But it is a forthcoming ‘baby-Jaguar’ saloon – a rival to BMW’s 3-series – which will really drive the massive expansion.

And though Hallmark declines to discuss in detail ‘potential future products’, it is, in truth, this more volume-led luxury saloon on which Jaguar is betting the house.

I joined Hallmark in Northern Spain – on the road, on the race-track and, after a hard day’s driving, over dinner – for the first global test-drive of the stunning British-built F-Type roadster, which is leading his company’s charge for growth.

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He hopes the two-seater sports car will help his firm make even more noise than the crackling crescendo of the F-Type’s specially tuned exhausts.

 

He concedes that the F-Type itself will not sell huge volumes – probably around 7,000 a year, or 10pc of the world market for that type of niche vehicle. But it was never meant to. He is betting the impact, or ‘halo effect’, it will have on buyers of all of Jaguar cars will be huge.

Hallmark said: ‘Jaguar Land Rover’s aspiration is to be the fourth premium car company in the world.

‘To do that, Jaguar needs to pull its weight. We need to multiply volumes over the next few years.’

With Jaguar sales last year at under 60,000, but on track for 70,000 this year, he says: ‘I am talking multiples – not percentage increases. We’ve already seen increases of up to 30 per cent. But we need multiples.’

That’s a doubling or more with Jaguar sales alone of around 150,000 or higher.

Last year, total Jaguar Land Rover’s total sales topped 357,773 vehicles, up 30 per cent, and it recently clocked up record monthly sales.

It adds to the perception that the UK motor industry is bucking the gloomy economic trend at home and abroad, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders just reporting an increase in sales of nearly 6 per cent – an encouraging sign consumer confidence may be returning.

As to Hallmark, he stressed: ‘The importance of a sports car to Jaguar is paramount. We [Jaguar] defined the sports car segment for 30 years. Then we walked away from it.

 

‘With the F-Type, we’re back with a vengeance. F-Type has an emotional value that far exceeds its sales volumes.

‘It resonates. Even German rivals say F-Type is a worthy competitor.

‘For Jaguar, it is the essence of the brand. With it, Jaguar makes sense.

‘Without it, Jaguar is simply not Jaguar. It is highly valuable in creating awareness of the Jaguar brand.’

Pressed on the ‘baby Jaguar’ project, he said: ‘If we do go into a segment below XF, we still have to create a Jaguar. It has to have Jaguar DNA.’

He said: ‘The F-Type will get us onto the radar. But it will still take us years to make up the lost ground.’

Jaguar Land Rover is owned by Indian industrial giant TATA which bought it from Ford for £1.2billion.

After a wobbly start it is now expanding rapidly and employs 25,000 people in the UK with factories at Castle Bromwich and Solihull in Birmingham, Halewood on Merseyside, as well as design and engineering centres in Coventry and at Gaydon in Warwickshire.

Hallmark said that TATA, which is this year investing more than £2.5billion in JLR was ‘empowering’ adding: ‘It’s more than just giving us our head. We are generating in profit more than they paid to buy us.’

As part of its global ambitions it is manufacturing in India, with China and Saudi Arabia to follow.

Wolverhampton-born Hallmark, 50, who studied metallurgy and manufacturing production, has been in his current post since December 2012.

Married with two children, he lives near Oxford and counts cycling, ski-ing, motor cycle trials-bikes among his hobbies but stays loyal to the brand, driving a top of the range Jaguar XJ all-wheel drive and two Land Rover Defenders.

If Hallmark can now steer Jaguar with anything like the handling, power, performance and finesse of the new F-Type, he’ll be onto a winner.

Over 50s cut back on car usage as costs rise

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A third of over 50s have tried to reduce the cost of running a motor in recent years, including driving less and shopping around for the best fuel prices, data has found.

In fact, older drivers have cut their average annual mileage by a fifth since the financial crisis started – the average now stands at 5,389 miles a year, down from 6,561 miles, according to research by Saga Car Insurance.

Its comprehensive survey found that 48 per cent of motorists over 50 who are cutting back are using their car less, while 47 per cent hunt out the cheapest place to fill up.

Ditching the car: Increasing numbers of over 50s are driving less as motoring costs continue to rise

The results found that 36 per cent are leaving the car and walking more frequently – while 35 per cent have increased the amount which they use public transport.

It also found that one in 14 have started shopping for groceries online to avoid driving to the shops, while six per cent are cycling more.

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Women are happier than men to leave their car at home if it means saving money, the survey found.

They are the most likely to walk, catch a bus and also plan their journeys to reduce their monthly spend on their car.

 

In fact, searching for the best petrol prices and riding a bike are the only things that men are more likely than women to do, according to Saga.

Drivers in the North East are the most likely to cut back on motoring costs to free up some money at the end of the month, while the Welsh are the least likely to give up driving around in the comfort of their own car.

Roger Ramsden, chief executive of Saga Services said: ‘Older people are feeling the pinch and cutting back on driving, but everyone could save money and make the most of their journeys if they follow a few simple tips.’

Separate research from vehicle remarketing company BCA found three quarters of drivers worry about the price of fuel when it comes to motoring costs - and over a third are frustrated by the lack of action by the Government to tackle fuel prices. 

Over a quarter say they now only purchase the amount of fuel needed, rather than filling up the tank on each visit to the petrol station – while one in four also search online for the cheapest petrol station before heading out to fill up.

With pressure on finances, the BCA research also revealed that motorists are taking their own steps to try to reduce costs – 29 per cent say they now only make essential car journeys, while 20 per cent said they use public transport more and 23 per cent walk more, similar to the Saga findings.

Changing to a more fuel efficient model also appears to be a growing trend with 15 per cent saying they have already taken this step.  Nearly one in five have changed to a diesel car to cut motoring costs. 

Top tips to get more miles for your money

Saga says that motorists can save hundreds of pounds a year by going back to basics. The below, it says, is based on 5,389 annual mileage in a 1.2 Ford Fiesta and an average petrol price of 137.87p.

Lighten the load - dump the clutter from your boot - on average. Saving: £28 a year. Shop around for the best fuel prices - best petrol prices can vary by as much as 14 per cent. Saving: £93.42 a year. Check tyre pressures - under-inflated tyres use more fuel. Saving: £41.50 a year. Don’t speed - keeping a steady speed saves on petrol. Saving: £146 a year. Cruise with the windows down rather than reaching for the air conditioning button on a sunny day. Saving £24 a year.Notify your insurer - if you’re driving fewer miles let your insurer know as this may cut your premium.PETROL PRICES FALL 2.5% IN THE PAST MONTH

Four major supermarkets cut the price of petrol and diesel by up to 2p a litre on Saturday – making prices hit their lowest levels since January.

Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons all trimmed pump prices for the second time this in less than a week in response to lower wholesale fuel costs.

Supermarket cuts had already helped push the average price of petrol down to 136.89p a litre last week - 3.02p lower than a month ago.

With wholesale fuel prices falling, the AA says that average petrol prices could soon fall to about 134p a litre.

Edmund King, AA president, said the price reduction gave drivers ‘a breath of optimistic spring air’.

The average UK price for unleaded petrol has fallen 2.5 per cent in the past month – but represents only half of the fall in the wholesale price.

Tricks like compulsory petrol and excess waivers making it 'almost impossible' to compare car hire deals

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Many top car hire companies are failing to disclose additional costs up front making it ‘almost impossible’ for drivers to find the best deal, according to a consumer watchdog.

Extra charges for a compulsory tank of petrol, the cost of excess payments on insurance policies, and the waiver policy to avoid these charges, are routinely withheld until late in the booking process, Which? has claimed.

Which? made the accusation after its researchers attempted to rent cars in Spain – one of the most popular destinations for British holidaymakers to hire vehicles – from 10 major hire companies and broker websites.

Car hire hell: Which? wants charges to be clearer for those who rent a car after its Spanish investigation

At the end of the booking process, it said, researchers were not satisfied that they knew the total price in 53 per cent of the bookings.

The watchdog made 120 visits in February 2013 to five car hire firms - Alamo, Avis, Enterprise, Europcar and Hertz. It did the same with five brokers - Argus Car Hire, Auto Europe, CarHire3000, Economy Car Hire, and Holiday Autos.

Its investigation found that 75 per cent of those who had to pay a compulsory cost for a full tank of fuel in addition to the hire price did not know how much they would need to pay when they picked up the car.

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More than one in five did not know the amount of excess they would need to pay in the event of damage to the car, and 44 per cent did not know the cost of the optional excess waiver to reduce this amount.

 

All of this information is vital to those hiring a car, as these extra payments can add more than £100 to the cost of a week's rental.

The research also found that half did not know if the excess waiver covered them for damage to tyres, the windscreen or underneath the vehicle.

It is a principle of European and UK law that essential information such as compulsory and other significant charges must be clearly stated at the point of purchase – and Which? points out that some of the companies are failing to do so.

Smaller companies topped a customer satisfaction survey of car hire firms by the consumer group, with Canary Islands-based Auto Reisen beating more well-known names with a score of 89 per cent.

Goldcar was bottom of the table with a customer score of 42 per cent.

Thrifty and Enterprise took second and third place respectively, while Europcar and Budget rounded up the bottom three.

Economy Car Hire topped the broker table of ratings with 78 per cent, with Argus Car Hire rooted at the bottom scoring 52 per cent.

Which? said it would be sharing details of its investigation with the companies to encourage them to make improvements, and had also written to Avis, Dollar and Enterprise ‘to remind them of their legal obligations’.

It is calling for all car hire companies and brokers to clearly show all the fees and extra charges on their websites during the booking process, including the amount of excess, the cost of excess waiver and what it covers, the cost of compulsory fuel and the company's fuel policy as well as the cost of all optional extras like satnavs and additional drivers.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: ‘The car hire industry is taking customers for a ride by hitting them with sneaky charges not included in the headline price.

‘Not being upfront about the total cost makes it almost impossible to shop around for the best deal and leaves people on tight budgets paying more than they planned. Car hire companies must be more transparent and upfront about their fees so people can make an informed choice.’

ARGUS CAR HIRE AND GOLDCAR NO STRANGERS TO CRITICISM Comment by This is Money motoring correspondent Lee Boyce

The two companies that finished bottom of the customer satisfaction survey have been in the firing line from This is Money previously.

Back in September 2012, Goldcar - which came bottom of the car hire firm satisfaction table - was investigated by Money Mail reporter Dan Hyde after he received complaints from holidaymakers in Spain.

Families were arriving at Spanish airports being told they could only drive away their hire car if they paid another €100 for insurance.

The comments section of the article was flooded with readers who had similar experiences of Goldcar. You can read the full story here.

Earlier this year, I investigated hires made through broker Argus Car Hire. Argus finished bottom of the Which? broker hire satisfaction table.

A businessman was left waiting for almost two months for €2,000 taken from his account without permission after Argus failed to chase up a partner hire firm that has been the subject of a string of customer complaints.

This is Money reader, Nick White, a 50 year-old from Yorkshire, booked a car for a karting trip with his son to Faro, Portugal, through Argus.  After sifting through a handful of quotes, he went for a deal at €53.03 a week.

Only once the booking confirmation came through was he told the name of the firm he was using - International Car Hire. This left him unable to research the firm. Had he done so he would have seen a TripAdvisor thread with dozens of complaints from people who had similar problems.

After This is Money stepped in, the money was refunded, although Argus didn’t respond to any questions we put to it. You can read the full story here.


Top ten cars for customer satisfaction - and how to buy one cheaply

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Sizzling Skoda: Three cars from the manufacturer feature in the satisfaction league table

Britain's top ten cars have been named in a major satisfaction survey, but which is the biggest bargain at three years old?

While the pleasure of a brand new car is undeniable, the satisfaction of picking a second-hand one up that feels as good as new for a fraction of the original cost is substantial.

We reveal how to pick up one of the nation's best motors at a lower price

The Skoda Yeti has been voted as Britain’s favourite car by motorists, beating brands such as BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes.

The Czech carmaker also saw its Superb model take second place on the podium, while its Octavia came sixth – not bad for a manufacturer that was the butt of jokes about its quality for decades.

It has had a huge image change since it was taken over by German car giant Volkswagen.

Before that, its unreliable reputation made it the victim of countless jokes. Favourites included: ‘How do you double the value of a Skoda? Fill it with petrol.’

 

Today's more positive verdict was reached after more than 46,000 car owners took part in the Auto Express Driver Power car satisfaction survey.

The Yeti, which costs from £14,945 for a basic model to £26,400 for a top of the range pick, achieved a top score of 92.65 per cent in the overall satisfaction ratings.

Last month, sales of new Skodas hit an all-time high in Britain, with car registrations breaking the 9,000 barrier. A total of 9,711 customers bought a 13-plate Skoda in March, up 14.2 per cent on last year.

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According to the car magazine, the Yeti is a ‘compact sports utility vehicle offering multi-purpose practicality, hatchback handling and genuine off-road ability in a great value package’.

Steve Fowler, editor-in-chief of Auto Express, said: ‘We’ve always liked the Yeti – it’s a former Auto Express Car of the Year – so it’s great to see so many owners agreeing with us. They like its practicality, the tech on board and how easy and enjoyable it is to drive.’ 

Newcomers to the top ten list were the British-built Land Rover Discovery and the multi-purpose Renault Scenic.

Mr Fowler said: ‘For the British company especially, it’s great news given the recent launch of premium new models like the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport – they’re clearly moving in the right direction.’

The Skoda Yeti has also been featured in top cars that hold their value best in recent reports on This is Money, and also features in our top bargain 4x4 round-up.

THE FULL LIST OF TEN CARS FOR SATISFACTION - AND THE THREE YEAR MOTORS THAT ARE NOW A BARGAIN

This is Money reveals the full list of ten motors that were in the satisfaction league table below.

We also looked at the average price for a three-year-old second-hand version for each model (2010/60 plate) with an average mileage of 30,000, alongside its original purchase price to give an indication of how well each model has hung onto its value - or hasn't.

One of the motors has lost more than half of its value, while four have lost £10,000 or more. This makes them potential bargain used motors out of the list of the nation's favourite vehicles.

All figures come from Parkers and its target price from an independent dealer.

10. Mercedes E-Class (E200 CGI SE 5d)

Price 2010: £30,160Price now: £18,890

Saving on new:  37%

Value lost: £11,270

9. BMW 3 Series (318i SE 2d)

Price 2010: £26,995Price now: £13,735

Saving on new: 49%

Value lost: £13,260

8. Land Rover Discovery (2.7 TDV6 GS 5d)

Price 2010: £33,240Price now: £24,435

Saving on new: 26%

Value lost: £8,805

7. Alfa Romeo Giulietta (1.4 TB Turismo 5d)

Price 2010: £16,995Price now: £9,035

Saving on new: 47%

Value lost: £7,960

6. Skoda Octavia (1.6 S 5d)

Price 2010: £13,730Price now: £7,320

Percentage of value lost: 47%

Value lost: £6,410

5. Mazda CX5 (2.0 SE-L 5d)

Price 2011 (earliest plate is 61): £21,390Price now: £18,265

Percentage of value lost: 15%

Value lost: £3,125

4. Renault Scenic (1.4 TCE 5d)

Price 2010: £20,250Price now: £9,775

Saving on new: 52%

Value lost: £10,475

3. Jaguar XF (2.2d SE 4d Auto)

Price 2010: £30,945Price now: £19,070

Saving on new: 38%

Value lost: £11,875

2. Skoda Superb (1.4 TSI S 5d)

Price 2010: £17,720Price now: £9,540 

Saving on new: 46%

Value lost: £8,180

1. Skoda Yeti (1.2 TSI S 5d)

Price 2010: £14,570Price now: £11,360

Saving on new: 22%

Value lost: £3,210











Car insurers sidestep ban on taking fees from lawyers... by turning into law firms themselves

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Car insurance premiums are expected to fall up to 15 per cent this year as the authorities crack down on Britain’s compensation  culture.

However, it seems that insurers are not ready to let go of their lucrative links to the personal injury claims industry.

Admiral has led the way by setting up a joint venture with a law firm, but many other insurers – including the one behind Tesco’s  car insurance business – are doing the same.

LEADER: Admiral has led the way by setting up a joint venture with a law firm, but many other insurers are doing the same

Insurers and the claims industry became entwined through referral fees in which insurers passed on details of accident victims to lawyers, who then contacted the claimant, offering to sue on their behalf. The system gave insurers an extra source of income, but because it added to legal costs and damages – including a boom in whiplash injury claims – it also made car cover more expensive for everyone.

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Referral fees are now banned under reforms that became law earlier this month. Experts expect a ten to 15 per cent drop in premiums over the next 12 months as the changes take effect.

      Cars: Deal Finders   Car insurance   Car warranties   Car loans   Credit check

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, said: ‘The reforms should go some way towards bringing no-win, no-fee type whiplash-injury claims under control and will thus reduce the costs of claims.’

The rules may already be playing a small part in the recent falls in the cost of policies. The AA’s insurance premium index, released last week, showed the average quote for annual comprehensive cover is £746.75 – which is 4.1 per cent lower than at the same time last year.

Admiral, the UK’s second-biggest car insurer, said last week that premiums had fallen by up to ten per cent. Market leader Direct Line will reveal on Friday how much it has been hit when it releases its first-quarter results.

Changes: Car insurance premiums are expected to fall up to 15 per cent this year

But many insurers are now trying to sidestep the ban on referring claimants to lawyers by becoming law firms themselves under separate rule changes that allow people other than lawyers to own and run law firms – known as an Alternative Business Structure (ABS).

The Mail on Sunday revealed in January how Admiral was looking to tie up with a law firm to ensure that it could still refer clients to claims lawyers.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority, the body charged with approving the new law firms, earlier this month rubber-stamped the creation of Admiral Law and BDE Law, two joint ventures between Admiral and law firms Lyons Davidson and Cordner Lewis. Meanwhile, Ageas, the insurance arm of Belgian bank Fortis and which jointly underwrites Tesco’s car insurance policies, has set up a venture with

New Law, a personal injury claims specialist based in Cardiff.

Direct Line has submitted an application for its own legal venture. The SRA has been inundated with such applications. It says it has 104 in the final processing stage and has ploughed cash into speeding up the process.

Hugh Price, a professional negligence lawyer who advises law firms, said the legal reforms would enable insurers to get round the referral fee ban.

‘The SRA will not approve ABSs which are obviously trying to overcome the referral fee ban, but as the regulatory law firms recognise this, they are able to create ABSs which are compliant,’ he said.

The insurers say the new set-ups are simply to improve the service they offer. Experts say that even if the insurers can grab back some of the income they have lost from the ban on referral fees, the situation that led to bogus insurance claims is being stamped out.

One of the major reforms introduced on April 1 was a scheme to limit the fees paid to lawyers on small compensation claims from about £1,200 to £500 – dramatically reducing the profitability of claims. Price said: ‘The “fat” on claims costs has been significantly reduced, which obviously will affect profit margins.’

Claims lawyers also say whiplash payouts have fallen in the past year.There were 488,281 in Britain in 2012-13 compared with 547,405 in 2011-12, according to figures obtained by the Association for Personal Injury Lawyers through a Freedom of Information request.

The falls in premiums may be  the result of bigger forces too, according to Barrie Cornes, an  analyst at stockbroker Panmure Gordon. ‘The bigger driver is overcapacity. There’s too much competition,’ he said.

After years of underwriting losses, in which claims surged, premiums are almost covering payouts. That is drawing capital into the market and depressing premiums.

The Commons Transport Select Committee is still reviewing the situation and the Lloyd’s Market Association said last week that reforms should be made to the way claims were processed through doctors and lawyers – saying that many of the medical agencies rubber-stamping whiplash claims were themselves owned by personal injury claims lawyers.

It also recommends reducing the time limit for making a whiplash claim.

The MPs will come back with recommendations later this year. If the compensation culture hasn’t already been slain by then, they will hope to deliver the final blow.


Young female drivers hit hard by EU changes as insurance costs soar by a fifth in just 12 months

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Young women have been hit by the largest increases to car insurance premiums ever recorded for an age group over the past year, as EU rules on gender discrimination removed the discount they have traditionally enjoyed over their male counterparts.

The average quoted comprehensive premium for a 17-20 year old woman rose by an eye-watering 20.7 per cent in the last 12 months, according to research in the Confused.com/Towers Watson car insurance price index. This is the biggest year-on-year jump ever recorded for any age group.

Yearly car insurance costs for young females are now at an all-time high average of £2,256. But at the same time, young male motorists have seen prices plummet. The average quoted price for a 17-20 man fell by an average of 21.6 per cent over the past year.

Hit hard: Young female drivers have seen car insurance prices soar since the EU Gender Directive began in December

Young female motorists have traditionally enjoyed much lower car insurance premiums than their male counterparts due to the fact they are statistically less likely to make a claim.

However, under the EU Gender Directive - which took effect on 21 December 2012 - insurers are no longer able to use gender as a factor when pricing insurance.

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Gemma Stanbury, head of car insurance at Confused.com says ‘With the EU Gender Directive coming into effect late last year, it’s clear to see that the insurance industry has reacted to the change in legislation over the last quarter.'

‘The most recent results from the Confused.com Car Insurance Index reveal, as expected, that women have experienced the greatest increases to their car insurance premiums. As a result, women aged 17-20 are now facing record prices of £2,256 on average for their car insurance.

‘At the opposite end of the spectrum, their male counterparts are enjoying huge price decreases of up to 21.6 per cent as the industry attempts to level out car insurance prices.’

Steep rises: Young female drivers have seen prices rocket in the last thee months

Men the winners as premiums costs plummet

The average comprehensive car insurance price now stands at £736, compared with £816 this time last year. This means there has been a year-on-year decrease of £80, or 9.8 per cent.

For Third Party Fire and Theft cover, average premiums stand at £1,169, showing a slight increase of one per cent year-on-year.

 

In the first three months of 2013, men paid £748 on average for their comprehensive car insurance premium, a reduction of 13.9 per cent compared to the same time last year.

Women on the whole did see a slight drop in premiums. They now pay £721 on average, a 3.9 per cent decrease over the same period.

As a result of these price changes, the difference between men and women’s car insurance premiums on average now stands at just £27.

This is a huge contrast to price differences seen this time last year, when men were paying £117 more than their female counterparts.

However, a larger price gulf remains in the younger age group. Currently, 17-20 year old males pay £2,848 on average for their comprehensive car insurance premiums, with females of the same age paying £2,256 – a price difference of £592.

However, this price gap has reduced dramatically over the years, with the biggest difference seen in the first half of 2011, when men aged 17-20 paid £1,787 more on average for their car insurance than women.

AA: CAR INSURANCE COSTS GO INTO REVERSE

The average price for car insurance fell slightly in the first three months of 2013, according to the AA car insurance index on Thursday, but only for fully comprehensive policies as third-party cover continues to rise in price.

The motoring organisation's quarterly British insurance premium index found the average quoted premium for annual comprehensive car insurance is £747 – a fall of 1.4 per cent since the beginning of the year.

The latest fully-comprehensive insurance figure is also 4.1 per cent down on this time last year but policies covering third party, fire and theft (TPFT) have edged up, rising two per cent since the beginning of the year to just under £1,128 now - a figure which represents a 0.9 per cent rise on the average this time last year.


How to stay safe, and legal, when you drive abroad

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Where could overtaking a school bus get you into hot water? And which country requires drivers with glasses to always carry a spare pair? Driving abroad can be a minefield for the unprepared motorist, so here we round up essential information for staying safe and within the law when driving on the continent - as well as some of the quirkier local customs that can catch unsuspecting British drivers...

Driving abroad is increasingly popular, as the record number of vehicles that crossed from England to France via EuroTunnel this Easter shows.

On Good Friday alone more than 10,600 drove off the shuttle at Calais. Driving abroad offers you great flexibility and it should be adventurous and fun, providing you’re prepared.

Road to ruin: Brits driving abroad need to be aware of local laws.

There’s more to it than simply remembering which side of the road to drive on. For a start, the rules can differ from one country to the next. Drive in France and you’re required to pack a breathalyser kit. Cross the border to Spain and drivers who wear glasses must keep a spare set of specs on them.

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What to pack for hassle-free driving

To meet the basic requirements of most continental countries, you’ll need to pack a red warning

SOME MORE OBSCURE LOCAL DRIVING RULES...

Austria: Honking a horn is generally prohibited in Vienna and near hospitals.

Belgium: The minimum speed on motorways is 43 mph (70km/h).

Bosnia Herzegovina: It’s compulsory to carry a tow rope or bar.

Bulgaria: In one way streets parking is exclusively on the left .

Croatia: It’s compulsory to have a shovel during the winter.

Estonia: It’s compulsory to carry two wheel chocks (to put under a vehicles wheels when parked).

France: Most roundabouts have signs showing that traffic on the roundabout has priority. If there is no sign present, traffic joining from the right has priority.

Germany: Motorists can be fined for using abusive language or making derogatory signs

Overtaking a school bus that has it’s hazard lights on is prohibited.

Greece: The police are empowered to confiscate the number plates of illegally parked vehicles.

Holland: Buses have right of way when leaving bus stops in built-up areas.

Portugal: It is illegal to carry bicycles on the back of a passenger car.

Russia: It is forbidden to pick up hitchhikers

Spain: Drivers who wear glasses (and this is noted on their licence) must keep a spare set in their car.

Switzerland: It is unlawful to wash your car on a Sunday.

triangle, a reflective jacket for each passenger, spare light bulbs and a first aid kit. Wherever you go, make sure you have slapped on your GB sticker and applied stick-on headlight convertors so you won’t dazzle oncoming traffic at night.

The AA has vital information on specific countries’ requirements.

Don’t forget your travel documents

Standard motor insurance policies are adequate for driving abroad, but won’t necessarily include extras that you might prefer to have, such as cover for damaged or stolen cars.

If you want any extras on top of third-party protection, remember to ask your current insurer to quote for the additional cover.

Wherever you travel you’ll need to carry your insurance policy, vehicle registration documents and driving licence.

In the EU these documents will suffice, but elsewhere you may need a ‘green card’, which is a form of identification that your insurer can provide for free.

If you’re planning to drive outside of Europe, you’ll need an annual International Driving Permit, which can be purchased for £5.50 from the Post Office, the RAC or the AA.

Beware of local customs

There is a raft of local customs that might seem odd to us, but are best to be aware off when zipping along continental roads.

In Germany you’ll get into hot water if you overtake a school bus that has its hazard lights on, while in Spain your car could get towed away if you park on the wrong side of the road in some cities.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has produced a new tool, which tells you what you need to know when driving in different countries.

And then there are the road signs. Many are similar to our own, but not all will be familiar. According to a recent FCO survey, two fifths (40 per cent) of holidaymakers who drive abroad admit to not knowing the local highway codes. French rules on roundabouts are a case in point.

 

Signs stating ‘Vous n’avez pas la prioritĂ©’ or ‘CĂ©dez le passage’ mean traffic on the roundabout has right of way. In theory, vehicles entering the roundabout have priority where these signs are absent, but many drivers ignore this rule, so watch out. Pick up a guide at your local book shop or order one online.

Safety rules for travelling with children

Different countries have their own rules on how to ensure children travel safely and it’s essential to know what these are.

In France, for instance, under 10s and kids less than 1.5metres tall must travel in an approved child seat or restraint system.

Further south, in Spain the same rules apply to under-12s and those less than 1.35metres in height.

Child trafficking: Child seats are compulsory even for older children in some countries.

But what about babies and toddlers? Again, the rules differ. For instance, in Norway and Ireland a very young child can’t travel up front in a rear-facing seat unless the airbag has been deactivated.

Tots can in Denmark, providing there is no airbag fitted, while in Portugal children can only travel in the front passenger seat if they are aged 12 or more and at least 1.5metres tall.

Presuming that the same rules apply across Europe and beyond could well come back to bite you, so check out the AA’s country-by-country guide for more information.

Of course, making a genuine mistake will probably not ruin your holiday in relation to most of the examples given here. But there’s one area where strict accordance with the law is a must.

What are the rules on alcohol limits?

The rules on drinking and driving are invariably tougher abroad than they are here. The UK limit for drivers is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, whereas it’s typically 50mg per 100ml (and often even less for new drivers) in the EU.

So, while you might feel a little more relaxed while abroad, the local police won’t take your holiday vibe into consideration if they decide to pull you over for a random breath test.


New car sales soar as cheap finance tempts buyers away from used - and petrol engines bounce back

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Car sales have continued to soar as cheap finance deals and rising second hand prices tempt more people to buy new – and the petrol engine is staging a comeback.

New car registrations were up 14.8 per cent annually in April, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported with private buyers snapping up a third more vehicles in April than in March.

The rise in new car sales has been driven by affordable finance offers, such as those that allow buyers to put down minimal deposits and get a showroom fresh version of one of Britain's favourite cars for less than £150 per month.

Hot hatch: The Ford Fiesta is Britain's favourite new car, as buyers are tempted to opt for a showroom fresh model by cheap finance deals.

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At the same time businesses with fleet vehicles and private owners are holding onto cars for longer, decreasing the supply of popular three-year-old used motors and sending their prices up.

 

The most recent used car report from British Car Auctions said prices were up 17 per cent in the year to March.

Car sales hit 163,357 units in April, the month’s best performance since 2008.

SMMT Interim Chief Executive, Mike Baunton, said: ‘The UK new car market continues to perform surprisingly strongly, with volumes again increasing in April. While the headline increase was up almost 15% there were more sales days this year than last

‘The UK continues to perform well ahead of the troubled Eurozone as consumer confidence, regular purchase cycles, attractive finance deals and wider market factors continue to make new car buying favourable for motorists.’

Britain's favourite cars

Britain’s favourite new car remains the Ford Fiesta, followed by the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Focus.

The list of top new sellers is dominated by smaller vehicles, with the largest vehicle on the list Nissan’s Qashqai crossover.

April's best sellers

1 Ford Fiesta 8,083     2 Vauxhall Corsa 6,084     3 Ford Focus 5,944     4 VW Golf 5,283     5 Vauxhall Astra 4,244     6 Nissan Qashqai 3,761     7 VW Polo 3,630     8 Fiat 500 3,037     9 Peugeot 208 2,975     10 Audi A3 2,935

Petrol cars stage a comeback 

Petrol cars are clawing back some of the ground lost to diesel motors in recent years, as the dramatic increase in their fuel economy shines through.

Drivers who only do minimal miles over short journeys have also been warned off diesels by motoring writers, as they can suffer from issues with diesel particulate filters if they do not do regular long journeys.

Overall car sales this year are 8.9 per cent better than at the same stage in 2012, with diesels up 4.5 per cent but petrol cars up 13.7 per cent.

There are still a shade more diesels sold at 50.3 per cent to petrol’s 48.6 per cent of the market, with the remaining 1.1 per cent made up of alternative fuels. A year ago the market share figures stood at 52.4 per cent for diesel, 46.3 per cent for petrol, and 1.3 per cent for alternative.

M6 toll road 'should be nationalised' urges transport chief as traffic drops by 40% in 7 years

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The M6 toll road should be nationalised because it has failed to relieve congestion, the head of the region's local transport authority has said.

Britain's only privately-run toll road, which runs through the West Midlands, has not relieved congestion on the motorway around Birmingham, he said.

Geoff Inskip, chief executive of Centro, the West Midlands transport authority, called on the Government to take the M6 toll road out of private hands to ease congestion around Britain’s second largest city, after evidence emerged that traffic on the toll road has fallen 40 per cent since its peak of 55,000 vehicles a day in 2006.

Under used: the M6 Toll Road should be nationalised rather than expanding the original M6 to cope with the projected 25 per cent increase in traffic over the next 15 years, transport chief Geoff Inskip said

When it was completed ten years ago it was hoped the M6 Toll would relieve traffic congestion around Birmingham with around 74,000 vehicles predicted to use the road each day.

Currently, around little more than half – 34,360 - the number of vehicles expected to use the road each day actually do.

Congestion around Birmingham has become so bad that the Highways Agency has already begun work on converting the hard shoulder of the original M6 motorway into a new lane in order to deal with the additional traffic.

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But Mr Inskip warned the additional capacity would not be enough to deal with the Department for Transport's own projections for a 25 per cent increase in traffic over the next 10 to 15 years.

‘To deal with that we would need to build a new motorway but why do that when we have a parallel motorway that is being underutilised?,' he told the Financial Times. 'To get traffic up on the M6 Toll one of the options would be to bring it back to public ownership.’ 

Falling numbers: Traffic on the toll road has dropped by 45 per cent since 2006, it has been reported

Midland Expressway – a subsidiary of Macquarie Bank – which owns and operates the M6 toll road has blamed the economic downturn for the fall in traffic on the road. 

But critics have also pointed to excessive charges to use the road.  It costs £5.50 for a car to use the 27-mile stretch of motorway but for HGVs its costs double this amount.

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There have been eight price rises in the ten years since the toll road opened in December 2003 when a car could travel on the road for just £2. HGVs were charged £10 for use of the road before the charge fell to £6 the next year only for prices to begin rising again in 2005.

The call to nationalise the road comes amid a debate on how to finance new road building in Britain, with tolls being one option given consideration by the Coalition, although the Government has ruled this option out for existing roads. Plans to privatise the motorway network have also been shelved.

The M6 toll road's owner, Macquarie faces the additional problem of a £1billion debt burden associated with the road following a refinancing in 2006. The bank is currently in talks with its creditors to restructure the debt. 

In July, Midland Expressway is making the toll road free to use for all haulage vehicles in an effort to attract more hauliers to use it. The toll is due to remain in private hands until 2054 and the Department for Transport said the Government had no plans to nationalise the road before this.


Young motorists can save £200 on insurance by using telematics

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Young drivers who face steep costs for motor cover could save an average of £201 – or 12.5 per cent - a year by choosing telematics technology over a standard policy, according to data.

Comparison website Moneysupermarket.com analysed almost 17million car insurance quotes and found telematics policies are cheaper than traditional policies.

At the same time, there has also been an increase in the number of telematics insurance deals being offered to younger drivers as its popularity grows.

Cheaper driving: Comprehensive research has found that telematics can help bring down insurance costs

It found that 29 per cent of motorists aged 17-19 were likely to be offered the choice to opt for a telematics policy, followed by 18 per cent of 20-24 year olds.

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Female motorists aged 17-19 were the most quoted group for telematics policies, making up almost a third of all quotes.

WHAT IS TELEMATICS?

Telematics works by drivers having a small 'black box' fitted to their vehicle.

This monitors a number of factors, including times driven, accelerating and breaking, and what types of road drivers use.

The driver is then able to monitor their progress online and can make any adjustments to their driving style accordingly.

Telematics policies serve to make motorists more aware of how they drive - this in turn can make premiums cheaper.

There may be restrictions however, such the times in the day that motorists are able to drive and a maximum annual mileage.

Peter Harrison, car insurance expert at Moneysupermarket, said: ‘Telematics technology, similar to those found on Formula One racing cars is now becoming mainstream within the insurance industry.

‘Although having your driving monitored may appear a little “big brother” for some drivers, the financial benefits of using this technology is a no brainer.

‘For drivers who are considered a higher insurance risk, installing a black box device in your car can save almost £200 on the price of a policy compared to standard car insurance products.’

Telematics helping young drivers be safer on the road

Annual premiums for younger drivers often reach four-figures. This is because inexperience means the risk of them being involved in an accident is higher than average.

Having a black box fitted to the car to monitor driving behaviour provides an insurer with a greater knowledge of the driver. It can also influence driving habits – motorists know that they have the box fitted and driving safely will result in premiums falling faster. 

 

Despite telematics being a relatively new product, there is already evidence that the introduction of this technology is helping to improve driver behaviour with less accidents, and therefore insurance claims as a result, Moneysupermarket says.

But there are some pitfalls to be weary of. Peter Harrison adds: ‘Motorists should be aware there are some restrictions with some black box policies such when and where you can drive your car, and some ban night time driving.

‘It is also important to be aware if the provider will charge you for the black box and installation should you choose to cancel the policy. Telematics is based on driving patterns and so is not a guaranteed way to see cost reduction.

‘Make sure you are aware of your options and find the policy best suited to your needs by using a comparison tool as you may still find a better deal with a more traditional policy.’

Young females witness record price rises – but males benefit

Young women have been hit by the largest increases to car insurance premiums ever recorded for an age group over the past year, as EU rules on gender discrimination removed the discount they have traditionally enjoyed over their male counterparts.

The average quoted comprehensive premium for a 17-20 year old woman rose by an eye-watering 20.7 per cent in the last 12 months, according to research in the Confused.com/Towers Watson car insurance price index. This is the biggest year-on-year jump ever recorded for any age group.

Yearly car insurance costs for young females are now at an all-time high average of £2,256. But at the same time, young male motorists have seen prices plummet. The average quoted price for a 17-20 man fell by an average 21.6 per cent over the past year.

Petrol costs for British drivers in Europe has rocketed

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British drivers will have to dig deeper into their pockets to drive on the Continent this summer as petrol and diesel prices have risen steeply in the last year, according to research.

The cost of diesel and unleaded fuel for UK buyers has risen in most European countries compared to last summer, a survey by Post Office Travel Money showed, thanks to price rises but also currency movements which have made items priced in euros more expensive.

The rise has been the sharpest in one the most popular destinations for Britons – Spain. Prices have risen an eye watering 7.4 per cent in just 12 months, while the increase in France is 4.7 per cent.

Fuel costs: Diesel and unleaded prices for British holidaymakers driving abroad has rocketed in the last year

Of 17 European countries surveyed, only Croatia, down 3p a litre, the Czech Republic, 1p, Switzerland, 3p, and Denmark, 7p, had cheaper petrol for UK drivers in April 2013 than in April 2012.

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The least-expensive European petrol is to be found in Andorra, at 117p a litre, followed by Luxembourg, 123p, and Croatia at 124p.

 

Spain's petrol is 130p a litre - 9p more than in April 2012, while petrol in France is 7p up on last year at 156p.

The most expensive of the countries surveyed for petrol was Norway where prices at the pumps have pushed up 7.2 per cent to 179p a litre.

The biggest reason for the rises in the price for British motorists has been sterling’s slump in value against European currencies, not local pump price hikes.

In May 2012, £1 would get you €1.25. In July, this peaked to €1.28 – but has since slumped down to €1.18, having a detrimental impact to the cost of filling up a car on the Continent. 

Diesel price disparity the highest in Britain

Diesel - which is generally much cheaper in Europe than in Britain - has risen in most of the 17 countries. Diesel has risen 6.1 per cent in Spain to 122p a litre and three per cent in France to 139p a litre.

But despite the rises, it may be worth opting for a diesel if you are getting a hire vehicle abroad. Diesel is still 8p and 17p a litre cheaper than unleaded in Spain and France respectively.

Andorra has the cheapest diesel, at 105p a litre and Norway the dearest, at 164p.

Both Britain and Switzerland have the biggest disparity in diesel prices – diesel costs 5p a litre on average more than unleaded. On the flip side, diesel prices in Holland are a whopping 31p cheaper than unleaded. 

 

Andrew Brown, of Post Office Travel Money, said: ‘The disparity between what motorists pay for diesel and for unleaded petrol in Europe is in marked contrast to the UK, where diesel has long been more expensive.

‘This was just one of the anomalies we picked up in this year's survey, another being a difference of up 48p a litre in fuel costs across the eurozone.’

‘It may not make sense for holidaymakers to plan big detours just to save a few pounds, but the higher price of motoring on the Continent this year means they should plan their routes carefully before setting out so they keep costs down.’



A little black box helps women cut soaring car cover

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Young female drivers, whose car insurance premiums have soared to a record high after EU gender rules were introduced in December, can keep a lid on costs with ‘black box’ technology that rewards safer driving.

Women, who previously paid less than men for motor cover, have seen their premiums rise because insurers are no longer allowed to discriminate on gender. Meanwhile, boy racers have seen their costs fall.

The average annual insurance premium for women aged 17 to 20 is at an all-time high of £2,256 – up 20.7 per cent on a year ago. The cost of the average premium for 17 to 20-year-old men fell by 21.6 per cent.

Road test: Josie Elworthy installed a tracker in her car and saved thousands

But black box technology – also known as telematics – can slash premiums for careful drivers.

The box is a tracking device fitted into the vehicle, allowing insurers to monitor driving behaviour including speed, braking and turning. The safer the driver, the lower the premium.

For waitress Josie Elworthy, 18, from Longwick, Buckinghamshire, it was the perfect solution. She passed her test in February and couldn’t wait to get out and about in her Ford Fiesta, which was sitting on the driveway.

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She says: ‘I looked at car insurance quotes and they were absolutely ridiculous, some even coming in at £4,000.’

Josie, who lives with her mother Jane, 46, found telematics on the  Co-operative Insurance website.

‘I gave it a go and it brought it down to £1,680,’ Josie says.

 

‘I have to stick to the speed limit and I can’t drive after 11 at night or before six in the morning, but I am quite happy with that as I get home from work at half past ten in the evening.

‘Without telematics I wouldn’t have been able to afford my car.’

In theory, anyone who is a careful driver can benefit from telematics, but those who stand to gain the most are youngsters between 17 and 19.

Figures show that a third of all telematics quotes are for women in this age group. They have been hardest hit by the European Union rules.

Drivers under the age of 25 save on average  12.5 per cent – £210 – on the cost of cover if they opt for a telematics policy, according to price comparison website MoneySupermarket.

There are about 20 providers, including Co-operative Insurance, the AA, and Marmalade, but other major players are likely to enter the market later this year.

The British Insurance Brokers’ Association estimates that 360,000 drivers are using telematics, but predicts that this will rise to half a million within a year.

Policies based on driving behaviour are also likely to become more common from 2015, when a new EU initiative called eCall, which aims to bring rapid assistance to motorists involved in an accident, will require all new cars to have telematics technology.

 

Amy Kilmartin, who is young driver product manager at the Co-op, says: ‘Telematics is very much in its infancy, but with some big brands entering the sector and the Government keen on exploring the solution to the number of accidents involving young drivers, with the resultant higher premiums, it will become more mainstream.’

However, the technology might be too redolent of Big Brother for some drivers. According to accountant Deloitte, the main reason motorists do not want to use the technology is because they think it too intrusive. And it could increase premiums for drivers not sticking to the criteria of careful driving.

The cost of installing a black box – at between £50 and £200 – also acts as a deterrent. Customers have to pay for this as part of their premium, meaning that any savings could be wiped out in the first year. And if they were to buy a new car they would have to pay for it to be refitted.

Phone app can track you

Only one per cent of drivers buy telematics insurance, but the launch of an app that effectively turns your phone into a black box is likely to change that.

Insurance technology specialist SSP and telematics provider Wunelli will tomorrow allow drivers to get telematics quotes from a panel of five insurers without installing a black box. Instead, the GPS function on smartphones will monitor speed, acceleration, deceleration and cornering.

By building a picture of a driver’s style and destinations, the SoteriaDrive app claims to be able to tell if users turn it on selectively, or whether someone else is driving.

Penny Searles, managing director of Wunelli, says: ‘The cost of fitting the black box is so high that insurers have only used the technology for young drivers as that’s the only time the benefit outweighs the cost. Using an app will massively cut the cost.’

The app, suitable for all iPhone and Android users, will initially be available through 1,000 high street brokers.

However, Searles says three or four of the insurers on the panel are likely to launch similar apps direct to consumers this year.

There are other apps simulating telematics technology. But Scott Kelly, head of car insurance at website Gocompare, says: ‘Up to now, they have been 50 to 60 per cent accurate, which is not good enough for insurers.’

Co-operative Insurance has a ‘try before you buy app’, which can be downloaded for free. It shows how telematics works – and whether it is likely to save drivers money. But the app will not itself cut premiums.

Aviva has an app for existing policyholders that can cut their premiums by 20 per cent.

Majority think drivers over the age of 66 should have to retake their driving test

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Older drivers should be forced to retake their driving test when they turn 66 - which will be retirement age in 2020 - according to the majority of motorists in a survey by Auto Trader.

Over the last 20 years there has been a 72 per cent increase in the number of licence holders over the age of 70 and there are currently more than one million registered motorists over the age of 80 on British roads, data from the car website’s latest Owners Guide shows.

At present, there is currently no upper age limit for holding a driving licence. Drivers over the age of 70 self-certify their fitness with little official regulation. This has led to calls for an age limit on driving or compulsory retesting - and 60 per cent of nearly 4,000 drivers polled agreed.

Older drivers: Despite being statistically safer, the majority of almost 4,000 motorists surveyed say that drivers should be retested at 66

The number of people over the age of 65 living in Britain is expected to jump by nearly five million in two decades according to a recent Government report.

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Projections of a 50 per cent increase in numbers of over-65s between 2010 and 2030, and a doubling of over-85s, will put significant pressure on the roads, Auto Trader said.

 

However, despite people believing those over a certain age should retake their test, official statistics from the Department of Transport show those over 70 are safer drivers than younger ones.

In 2011, people over 70 made up nine per cent of drivers, but only six per cent of driver casualties. Drivers under 30 made up 20 per cent of drivers, but 35 per cent of casualties.

According to the survey, 73 per cent feel concerned on the road behind an older driver while 30 per cent think older drivers should be allowed fewer points before their licence is revoked.

Nathan Coe, group director at Auto Trader, said: ‘Any correlation between growing old and driving safely is not straightforward, making it difficult for Government to enforce a one rule fits all policy.

‘Driving is a combination of experience, attitude, physical health and brain function. We want to help people to stay on the roads for as long as they are safe to do so.’

Older drivers being penalised by insurers

Older drivers are being forced to pay higher premiums or being refused cover altogether once they reach a certain age.

Analysis of policies by consumer group Which? shows that average premiums increase sharply the older drivers become.

An annual policy for a 75 year old woman driving a Citroen would be £702. But according to the data, at 85 this would be 74 per cent higher at £1,224.

Insurers state they are entitled to charger higher premiums for older drivers because they are more likely to claim on car insurance – and the cost of these claims are greater for this age group.

In a recent case highlighted by This is Money, Harry Fox, 86 – who has flying insurance and a pilot’s licence – was told by his insurer Allianz that he was too old to renew his motor cover.

Age UK found last year in mystery shopping research that 21 per cent of people aged 80 plus were refused car insurance because they were too old.

Age UK added that its research showed 85 per cent of those aged 80 plus who were initially refused motor insurance were not referred on to other insurers or the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA), as is supposed to happen under the agreement.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Should older drivers be forced to retake their test and if so, what age do you think? Or is it an unnecessary nuisance? Let us know in the comment box below…