These motorway myths are a load of rubbish

Busted: 12 common myths about motorway driving

These motorway myths are a load of rubbish

This year began with a furore about whether smart motorways are safe. Then the coronavirus lockdown led to a different problem: speeding on near-empty roads. 

This week, a driver was clocked at 151mph on the M1 motorway. And in a separate incident, a man was caught at 130mph on the M25. His alleged excuse? He was fleeing the coronavirus

Such behaviour is obviously well outside the law, but other aspects of motorway driving aren’t so clear-cut. Here, with help from LeasePlan UK, we bust 12 common motorway myths. Are they news to you?

Leaseplan's 5 motorway myth-busters

1. Any vehicle can drive in the right-hand lane

On a three-lane motorway, it’s against the law to drive a goods vehicle with a maximum laden weight of more than 7.5 tonnes in the outside lane. The same applies to trailers, including caravans, so don’t use the ‘fast lane’ to get to the campsite quicker. You could be docked three points and fined up to £2,500.

2. The left-hand lane is the lorry lane

Similarly, the inside lane of the motorway can be (and should be) used by any vehicle. Worryingly, a survey by the AA found nearly one in 10 young drivers described the left-hand lane as a ‘lorry lane’, only to be used by those driving HGVs. Drivers using the middle or outside lanes when the inside lane is empty can be hit with an on-the-spot fine.

3. There is no national speed limit on the motorway

We all know there’s a speed limit on the motorway, but many drivers they can get away with travelling at 80mph or 90mph. While cameras typically stick to the ’10 percent plus 2mph’ rule (meaning they’re unlikely to issue fines for speeds up to 79mph on motorways), traffic officers are within their rights to penalise you for driving at anything beyond 70mph.

You should note, too, that a lower 60mph limit applies to vehicles over 7.5 tonnes or towing a trailer (including caravans).

Vauxhalls on the motorway

4. If you break down, you can remove any animals from your car

If you have to pull over onto the hard shoulder, it’s important for you and your passengers to safely leave the vehicle and stand behind the crash barrier. Accidents involving cars stopped on the hard shoulder are fairly common, and the damage can be devastating if a lorry takes out a broken-down car.

However, you should not remove any animals you have in the car. Most of us are attached to our pets, but removing them at the side of the motorway is too dangerous. You don’t know how they’re going to react they might panic and run into the road, causing a pile-up. It’s safer to leave them inside the car.

5. You can stop on the hard shoulder if you are ill or need the toilet

A motorist stopped on the hard shoulder for a ‘comfort break’ is still a worryingly common sight. The hard shoulder is for emergency use only and that doesn’t include a passenger feeling travel sick, needing the toilet or reading a map.

Keep going until you can leave the motorway and find somewhere safe and legal to stop.

Leaseplan's 5 motorway myth-busters

6. Fog lights should be used in poor visibility

The Highway Code states: ‘You MUST use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet). You may also use front or rear fog lights but you MUST switch them off when visibility improves’.

Some drivers switch their fog lights on at the slightest hint of rain, snow or mist then forget to turn them off. They can be blinding to other drivers and even disguise your brake lights. If you can see the rear lights of the car ahead comfortably, you probably don’t need your fog lights on.

7. Motorway traffic should move over for joining vehicles

If there’s a lot of traffic heading down a slip road and you’re in the inside lane, it might be helpful to indicate and move outwards to create space. Ultimately, though, it’s the job of joining traffic to give way to cars already on the motorway.

Some people are overly cautious when joining the motorway. Joining at low speeds can be very dangerous. If you’ve got a queue of traffic behind, you could put other drivers in a dangerous situation. It’s easier to lose speed than gain it, so build up your speed on the slip road then slot into traffic when you join the motorway.

8. Lorry drivers can see everything

However many mirrors are fitted to lorries, drivers will always have blind-spots. This is particularly true for drivers of left-hand-drive lorries on British motorways, who might struggle to see cars or motorbikes alongside them. If you are overtaking a lorry, spend the minimum time alongside it.

Also, be careful not to change lanes into a lorry’s blind-spot when the driver might be about to pull out and overtake a slower vehicle.

Highways Agency patrol car

9. You should slow down for speed cameras

Average speed cameras are increasingly common in roadworks and on smart motorways. These time how long a vehicle takes to travel between cameras, and can issue fines if average speed is above the variable speed limit.

They don’t work like normal speed cameras, so slowing down when passing below gantries before speeding up again could land you with a ticket. It will also annoy other drivers.

10. Highways Agency traffic officers can stop you for speeding

It’s a common sight: drivers sitting in line behind a Highways Agency traffic officer doing 68mph. Yet while their vehicles might look similar to police cars, they have no powers to pull you over or prosecute you for speeding.

Traffic officers are there to help in emergency situations and have the power to close the motorway when required

11. Smart motorway cameras aren’t always on

On smart motorways, the overhead display screens aren’t always illuminated. However, that doesn’t mean speed cameras are switched off. 

If no speed is displayed, you can assume the standard 70mph limit applies. Exceed that, though, and you risk a flash and a fine. 

Empty motorways due to coronavirus
12. Smart motorway speed limits are advisory

If the motorway ahead is clear and a 40mph, 50mph or 60mph limit is displayed, many drivers assume this is advisory. In fact, that’s only the case if orange lights are flashing.

If the speed limit is ringed by a red circle, it is compulsory – so you could face points and a fine if you go faster. You have been warned.

How to care for your car during the lockdown

How to care for your car during the lockdown

There are a number of things you need to consider to keep your car in good condition during the coronavirus lockdown.

We’ve explained how to maintain your car tyres when not in use, but what about the battery and brakes?

Kia has published guidance on what actions to take if your car won’t be moving for a while. The advice includes specific guidance for hybrid vehicles.

Seven top tips for the lockdown

Caring for your car during the lockdown

  1. Ensure that the car’s doors and tailgate are shut. Also make sure the interior lights are switched off and you’ve secured the vehicle with the remote transmitter.
  2. Avoid running a petrol or diesel engine for short periods. It is preferable to keep it running until full temperature is achieved – refer to the water and oil temperature gauges.
  3. Charge the 12v battery at regular intervals – fortnightly is recommended. Alternatively, use a trickle charger, as this will maintain the health of the battery.
  4. If you don’t have a battery charger, leave the engine to idle for 20 minutes, switching off unnecessary electrical items. That said, we’d recommend running the air conditioning for a few minutes to maintain the health of the system.
  5. If you have a flat battery, recharge it using a charger. If you use jump leads, refer to the vehicle handbook for specific advice. Damage to the stop-start system can occur if you fail to follow the instructions.
  6. For electric and plug-in hybrid models, it is recommended that the high voltage battery is left in a fully charged state.
  7. Specific advice for the Kia Niro hybrid: on no account should a charger, jump pack or jump leads be attached to the vehicle. Instead, use the battery reset switch. Refer to the vehicle handbook.

Kia is also keen to point out that surface corrosion on the brake discs is normal. Initial brake resistance will occur when you pull away, but will clear after a few brake applications.

We’d recommend keeping an eye on your car’s bodywork. Bird droppings can damage the paintwork if left untouched, so remove them when you spot them.

It’s worth remembering that MOTs for cars, motorcycles and light vans due from 30 March 2020 have been granted a temporary six-month exemption. Click here for more details.


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How to care for your car tyres while not driving

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The requirement to stay at home during the coronavirus lockdown presents new challenges for looking after your car.

Tyres are among the components that can suffer most from sitting still, so here is how to keep them healthy when the car isn’t in use. These tips are provided by Falken Tyres.

Visually check your tyres

It sounds obvious, but you should be doing this regularly – regardless of the pandemic. If you’re not driving much, or at all, this may be a good time to source replacement tyres if needed.

If the tyres are worn, cut, bulging, have flat spots, are cracking, or are out of date, it’s time to change. Check they are inflated to the recommended pressures and wearing evenly, too.

Valve caps

Get a Grip tyre campaign to get young drivers educated

The valve cap is another important part of the tyre. This stops dirt and moisture getting in and causing damage to the stems. They are, however, small and easy items to lose.

Over-inflate your tyres

To make sure your tyres don’t get too low while the car stands for a while, over-inflate them by around 15 PSI.

For most cars, this will take the tyres to between 40 PSI and 45 PSI. Over-inflation can also prevent flat-spots.

Jack up your car

Look after your tyres in the lockdown

Another way of avoiding flat-spots, or excess pressure loss, is to put your car on axle stands.

This takes the weight off the tyres, relieving the load. ‘Tyre trainers’ can also help. 

Store your car in a garage

One of the best ways to protect your tyres is keep them out of the sun. If leaving your car for a long period, park it in the shade, or in a garage.

If you have spare tyres, such as winter tyres, make sure they are stored appropriately as well.


How to protect your car during the COVID-19 lockdown

How to prepare your car to sit during the lockdown

The UK’s coronavirus lockdown may mean your car isn’t driven for three weeks or more.

Here’s how to keep it safe and roadworthy for when you need it – and for when the lockdown lifts.

Protect against bad weather

How to prepare your car to sit during the lockdown

The basis for this advice comes from Euro Car Parts, but we’ve added some notes of our own. The first point is that your car needs protection from bad weather.

Older or classic cars in particular don’t take well to a battering from the elements. If possible, parking in a dry, sheltered location is best.

A car cover may be a worthwhile investment, too, if a canopy or garage is unavailable.

Clean your car before storing it

How to prepare your car to sit during the lockdown

A proper clean will do your car good. Leaving grime on the bodywork, especially at this time of year when it may be lathered in road salt, can cause damage over time.

Euro Car Parts also emphasises the importance of cleaning your tyres. This will get brake shavings, grease and mud off, which can all cause damage after a while.

As ever, use the two-bucket method, rinse with free-flowing water and dry with a leather chamois for a tidy finish. As well as being good for your car, it’ll be a productive task to keep you busy at home.

Clean and protect the interior

How to prepare your car to sit during the lockdown

Your car interior can be a petri dish for dangerous microorganisms, including the coronavirus. Give the interior a spring clean while you’re in lockdown. It’ll stave off bad odours that you don’t want to smell on your return – and prevent damage to cabin materials.

Using a sunny day to air the car can really help as well. It’s surprising how quickly damp, and eventually mould, can build up in a car that doesn’t move. Put some moisture-absorbing silica gel in there for good measure.

Tyres, handbrake and more

How to prepare your car to sit during the lockdown

There are little things you can do, that will make a big difference to your car’s condition. Leave it in gear, with chocks behind the wheels instead of with the handbrake on. This will save your handbrake cable from stretching, and your brakes from binding over long periods.

Keep the car fuelled up, to prevent moisture from developing in the tank and leading to rust.

Also pump your tyres up to avoid flat spots developing if it isn’t being used.

Keep your battery charged

Indeed, the best thing you can do when leaving your car for long periods, is not actually leave it. Running your car will help keep the battery charged, but you should only drive during the lockdown if strictly necessary.

The most common failure on cars that stand for a while is a dead battery. Left flat, car batteries can develop dead cells, with a replacement costing at least £50. If you have one, plug in a trickle charger to keep the battery topped up.

These are the top 5 car parts that cause accidents

Get a Grip tyre campaign to get young drivers educated

The five car faults that cause most accidents can be avoided with the right maintenance.

With help from Euro Car Parts, we reveal the problem areas – and how to tackle them.

Defective brakes

Halfords offering free brakes for life

It sounds obvious to say that faulty brakes would be a leading case of accidents, but it bears repeating. Especially given they lead to 630 accidents in the UK each year, of which 15 were fatal in 2018.

Your car’s brakes rely on a number of things. The most important components are the pads, discs and brake fluid.

The latter you should top up yourself if needed. The discs can be assessed with a visual inspection, but you’re probably best off asking a professional.

If your brake fluid reservoir is depleting regularly, it’s worth having that same mechanic check your brake lines for leaks or corrosion, too.

Worn tyres

illegal tyres

Tyres that aren’t in suitable condition are the second-most common part to factor in accidents. They cause around 550 a year, of which 17 were fatal in 2018. They’re also a part that motorists often neglect.

Your tyres can underperform for a number of reasons. Being over- or under-inflated will reduce their performance and increase wear on the rubber. The tread depth being too low will also reduce grip.

The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6 mm across the full width of the tyre. You can check this yourself, using a 20p to see if the tread covers the outer rim of the coin. It’s good practice to think about replacing your tyres well in advance of this point, however.

Your local garage will usually have an air compressor to check your tyre pressures. The correct pressures can be found in your car’s handbook. 

Faulty steering or suspension

what broken car parks cause the mose accidents

We’re getting a bit more technical now. However, with around 260 accidents a year attributed to faulty steering or suspension, it’s important to keep tabs on how your car handles the road.

Bumpy or uneven driving, as well as unevenly worn tyres, can be an indication of tired suspension. Strange noises and odd feel can indicate worn steering components. Check your power steering fluid is topped up and see a mechanic if problems persist.

Broken lights or indicators

How to use your fog lights

Around 150 accidents every year can be linked with faulty lights or indicators. Happily, in a lot of cars, the process of replacing bulbs is easy. It’s certainly easy to check, although it’s not always the bulbs themselves that are the cause for a light being out.

If it is the bulb, access is either under the bonnet (for the front lights) or in the boot (for the rears). If the bulbs aren’t at fault, you may need to have the wiring checked.

Broken or missing mirrors

Union Flag Mini door mirror cap

The fifth and final component is mirrors. Just 12 accidents come of someone having faulty mirrors every year, but they’re vital for keeping track of what’s going on around you.

Happily, they are the easiest item here to sort yourself. If it’s just the glass, you can buying a new mirror part and stick it over the top. If the whole unit is smashed, that could complicate things, but not too much. 

“Keeping on top of basic maintenance can really help protect you and your vehicle against accidents on the road,” said Chris Barella of Euro Car Parts

“The tips we’ve provided will hopefully give people the confidence to take on some of the simpler checks themselves, but make sure to go to a garage if you’re unsure about anything.”

How to stay healthy and safe when driving

Stay healthy behind the wheel

We recently revealed how dirty car interiors really are, and how effectively they harbour bacterial and viral illnesses. However, extended periods of time behind the wheel can make you ill in other ways, too.

Firstly, your commute can get you down in terms of stress and a poor diet. According to TUC data, Mancunian commuters spend 48 hours a year stuck in traffic, while for Londoners it’s 50 hours.

Stay healthy behind the wheel

“People have longer work commutes than ever before so it’s important that you do everything you can to reduce frustration on the road and make your commute as enjoyable as possible,” said David Johnson, director of Nationwide Vehicle Contracts.

“Quite often a work commute is unavoidable, so by putting simple measures in place, you can make your car a welcoming environment, which in turn, directly impacts your health and mood.”

So, here’s how to stay healthy on the road, and make your commute work for you.

Take some time for yourself 

Stay healthy behind the wheel

One of the advantages of a long commute is you have time to yourself. How you use that time in your own head, while of course paying attention to your driving, can be the difference between a bad drive and a good one.

Time for reflection is helpful, without the distraction of social media and technology. Enjoy the downtime and you’ll hit the ground running when you arrive at work.

Long commutes are also the perfect opportunity to educate yourself with audiobooks, podcasts and music. You could learn a new skill, develop a new interest, or simply broaden your knowledge. 

Make your commute more fun

Stay healthy behind the wheel

It may sound obvious, and maybe a bit silly, but a good first port of call for a pick-me-up on the road is putting on your favourite tunes and having a good singalong. A study by Nature Research has found that listening to ‘heroic’ music can up your mood. Line up that Avengers soundtrack…

Listening to music too loud can get you in trouble, though. Bradford council tried to pass a law that would see drivers playing loud music fined £100.

Take up a hobby

Stay healthy behind the wheel

Being crafty around your commute can free up time. Finish work at five, but traffic doesn’t calm down until half-six? Get a gym membership near your work, so you can either get in early, or leave late. Either way, that hour-and-a-half commute could shrink to 50 minutes if you devote a bit of time to your fitness.

The other plus points are well-known. Burning calories will keep you healthy, and a bit of exercise releases good endorphins. A good mood, made better by clear morning or evening roads. A win-win.

Work in the city? Break up your commute by leaving your car on the outskirts, then walking or taking public transport. It could save you time, money (depending on where you are) and boost your mood. A bit more exercise is never a bad thing.

Give yourself enough time 

Stay healthy behind the wheel

Needless to say, a rushed drive is a stressful drive. And you’re more likely to make poor decisions behind the wheel. Get ahead of the traffic, roadworks and any other obstacles by leaving with time to spare. 

Then there’s the obvious problem of the law. Driving carelessly can land you in hot water, with a £100 fine and three points. The job of driving should always be top of your priority list. 

Keep your car tidy

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We’ve saved the nagging for the end, but it’s necessary all the same. Maintain the place where you spend two hours of your day, and your mood and health will likely improve. 

From crumbs to clutter, you’re better off without it all. Have a good clean-out and rediscover your car’s cabin.

Is it illegal to park in front of a driveway?

Resident parking and parking in front of your driveway

Where parking is at a premium, some drivers will take desperate measures to secure a space.

One of the most frustrating situations for many home owners is when others park in front of their driveway. So, what is the law surrounding this? And is there anything that can be done?

The space in front of your house isn’t ‘yours’

Resident parking and parking in front of your driveway

The law is fairly clear on people’s rights to park in residential areas. Unless otherwise specified, the spaces on your street, and outside your home, are fair game. The police will remind you that it’s not ‘your right’ to park in front of your house.

That said, there is one situation where this doesn’t apply: areas that use resident parking permits, which have proliferated where commuter parking is rife. These areas require displayed permits, owned by residents only, for specified periods of the day.

A couple more grey-area parking rules are that you’re not allowed to park ‘in front of an entrance to a property’, or ‘anywhere that would prevent access for emergency services’. These are potentially worth investigating for your problem parker.

Parking pariahs: places you should NOT park

Van drivers facing parking crisis

There are a number of areas where you are definitely not allowed to park. These are areas marked off by zig-zag, red or double yellow lines. You should also avoid cycle lanes, marked taxi bays and close proximity to bus/tram stops if the signs indicate as such. 

Parking near to school entrances is also not allowed, along with areas close to junctions, plus parking spaces for Blue Badge holders and motorbikes.

Driveway parking: the law

Resident parking and parking in front of your driveway

Where people are not allowed to park is in front of your driveway, provided, of course, that there is a dropped kerb. 

Dropped kerbs, be they for pedestrians, or for drivers, are a no-go zone for parking. A vehicle can be ticketed for even partially covering one. Parking close to a dropped kerb, even if it restricts access, is not illegal, however.

What also isn’t illegal, bizarrely, is parking on someone else’s drive. It’s private property, and therefore a civil issue. 

Resident parking and parking in front of your driveway

“In a bizarre way, the system seems to favour the offender over the victim in this case,” said Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA.

“Because the offence of trespass is a civil matter the police cannot get involved, and as the vehicle is on private land the council cannot help either. So the only options available to homeowners seeking to get back what is rightfully theirs, costs both time and money.”

Provided the car is taxed, insured, has an MOT and is in safe condition, this is an issue way down the priority list of the authorities. Thankfully, it’s not all that common.

What is E10 petrol and should you use it?

Consultation begins on standardisation of E10 petrol

The government has started a consultation on introducing E10 petrol as the standard petrol grade across the UK. The idea is to replace the E5 fuel used now. We explain what E10 fuel is, along with the pros and cons of standardising it.

The difference between E10 and E5 petrol is quite simple. The numbers refer to the percentage content of bioethanol in the fuel. E5 contains five percent and E10 contains 10 percent. Last year, normal petrol and diesel were renamed at the pumps, to E5 and B7, to inform motorists of their biofuel content.

Why the proposed switch to E10 petrol?

E10 petrol to reduce emissions

Standardising E10 appeals to the government, because it would help reduce CO2 emissions of petrol-powered cars on UK roads. It’s claimed the benefit would be equal to taking 350,000 cars off the road. The Department for Transport says CO2 emissions will be cut by around 750,000 tonnes a year. 

This would be a big help in reaching the UK’s climate change targets, and its ‘Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation’. The latter is the promise that 9.75 percent of all transport fuels will be from renewable sources by the end of this year. 

What are the problems with E10 fuel?

Volkswagen Beetle

The worry is that some older cars suffer when you fill them with E10 petrol. The bioethanol is believed to be corrosive to many components, including hoses, seals, plastics, gaskets and even certain metals in the fuel system.

This can damage fuel pumps, injectors, pressure regulators, carburettors and fuel tanks. And it’s worth noting that ‘older cars’ doesn’t necessarily mean classics. Many regular used cars could sustain damage if filled with E10.

When asked in parliament what assessment she has made of the issues with E10 for older vehicles, Rachel Maclean, Parliamentary Under Secretary (DFT) said: “One of the main barriers to introducing E10 has been vehicle compatibility. Currently, around 95 percent of petrol cars used in the UK can use E10, but around 700,000 are not warranted by their manufacturers to use E10.”

Jaguar E-type

“This number is expected to decrease as vehicles come to the end of their life. However, some classic and cherished vehicles that are not advised to use E10 will remain in use. The prolonged use of E10 fuel in those older and classic vehicles not under manufacturer warranty can cause corrosion of some rubbers and alloys used in the engine and fuel systems. 

“For those vehicles, the department remains committed to ensuring that E5 is retained as a protection grade, if E10 is introduced.”

Moving the CO2 around

Emissions reduction congestion charge zone

A more general issue, highlighted by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, is logistics. It’s reported that the only UK refinery for the fuel additive is no longer running. The environmental benefit of the E10 fuel rollout could be negated by the emissions cost from shipping.

The FBHVC has committed to pressing for the so-called ‘protection grade’ being made available, alongside the rollout of E10, in the latest consultation. 

The RAC’s view on ‘protection grade’

fuel prices drop coronavirus

The RAC has raised concerns about the retention of E5 as a ‘protection grade’ of petrol. While possibly adequate for niche and leisure classic owners, it could put a strain on low-income drivers.

This fuel could be hard to find and more expensive – for drivers who really don’t need added cost. Furthermore, fuel forecourts may not have the capacity to incorporate both grades. That could further affect rural low-income motorists.


“Everybody agrees that steps must be taken to reduce emissions from road transport. However, introducing E10 as the standard petrol will pose some challenges,” said RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams.

“Firstly, ​as the RAC Foundation points out, there could be as many as 600,000 vehicles on our roads that aren’t compatible with the fuel. Many of these are likely to be owned by those from lower-income backgrounds and while it is welcome that E5 petrol is not being phased out altogether, owners of these vehicles will face higher fuel costs – and will also have to hunt out those forecourts that still sell E5.

“Some retailers will also not have the capacity to be able to provide both E5 and E10 fuels on forecourts, so the impact is likely to be most keenly felt by those with incompatible vehicles in rural areas.”

Incentivising the use of E10

oil price drops should mean petrol savings for motorists says RAC

Auto Logistic Solutions, an incident management company, has called for the insurance industry to use incentives in policies to encourage drivers’ use of E10. This could mean reduced premiums.

It also wants incentives for drivers to scrap their older cars and buy newer E10-compatible models. This could be a solution, at least in part, to the alienation of low-income drivers the RAC has highlighted.

parking fines petrol station

“We are calling for the motor insurance industry to implement incentives into their policies and encourage drivers to use E10 fuel,” said Kyle Harris, managing director at Auto Logistic Solutions.

“By offering a reduced premium, drivers will be incentivised to opt for the lower octane fuel. It would [also] be beneficial to provide an incentive to drivers and make it financially viable to scrap their older car.” 

Getting the word out on E10

petrol pump

Then there’s the issue of publicity. Drivers will need to be made aware of the changes to fuel grades. The RAC has also recommended that a guide on exactly which cars will be affected should be published.

“It is also vital that owners of affected vehicles are aware of the changes,” Williams continued. 

“We’d like to see the DVLA writing to these owners to inform them that E5 will no longer be the standard premium grade, and to let them know their options. This, alongside a trusted online resource where drivers can quickly identify if their vehicles are E10 compatible or not, will go a long way to avoiding any expensive problems from filling up wrongly with the new blend.

“For the overwhelming majority of drivers with compatible vehicles, the introduction of E10 petrol will make little difference other than a possible slight reduction in fuel economy.”

When is the best time to renew car insurance

When is the best time to renew your car insurance?

When is the best time to renew car insurance

Renewing your car insurance policy eight days before it expires could save you money. That’s according to data released by a leading price comparison website.

It found that drivers who renewed with eight days to go saw an average saving of £132 (28 percent). This is in comparison to if they had taken the price quoted on the day the policy was due to start.

The data shows that prices start to rise three days before a policy’s expiry. The most expensive policies are those bought on their current policy’s end date.

This graph shows the difference a little forward planning can make.

Best time to renew car insurance graph

MoneySuperMarket is keen to point out that there’s no extra benefit to renewing your policy more than eight days ahead of schedule. Any longer than that and the curve is flat.

Being organised is the key. You should receive a renewal notification a month before the policy is up for renewal. Place the renewal documents in a visible location to serve as a reminder to search for some cheaper quotes. Never accept the renewal quote offered by your existing provider.

Figures provided by MoneySuperMarket show that car insurance auto-renewal costs motorists an estimated £565 million every year. Insurers add an average of £40 per year to existing policies. At the very least, give your current provider a call to see if they can reduce the quote.

Finding alternative prices in advance is a good idea. A price comparison website is a good place to start, but it’s worth remembering that some of the best insurance companies aren’t listed on such sites.

‘Shop around’

Rachel Wait, consumer affairs spokesperson at MoneySuperMarket, said: “If there’s one thing to remember when it comes to saving money on your car insurance, it’s making sure you shop around before your policy automatically renews – you could save hundreds of pounds.

“What our data shows is that the time you run your quotation can also have an important bearing on the level of savings you can make. Insurers know that many of us leave buying insurance to the last minute, which is why we see prices increasing closer to the date a policy is due to expire. To avoid higher costs, you should shop around for your new policy at least a week before the old one runs out and lock in the price you are offered at that point – those that do can make substantial savings.”

Cold snap 2020: Driving safely in ice and snow

Driving safely in snow

Highways England has issued a warning about driving in sleet and snow, following recent footage of a car skidding out of control on the M61 in Lancashire.

A traffic officer, who was dealing with another accident, had to jump the barrier to avoid being hit. The crash, which happened in March last year, has been used to highlight Met Office yellow warnings for snow and ice in the UK. Drivers are being warned to drive to the conditions.

It’s worth saying of course, that driving in the snow is something you should attempt only if really necessary. Being able to tackle it doesn’t necessarily mean you should. We’ve collated some top tips from Seat factory racing driver Jordi Gené, as well as some tips from Highways England…

Anticipation: keep your distance

snow driving cold snap 2019

The first rule of driving in the snow is one you should apply to driving as a whole: anticipate what’s ahead. It’s all the more pertinent in low-grip conditions, given that it will take you so much longer to slow down or even steer, in reaction to what’s ahead. Highways England says it can take up to 10 times longer to stop in icy conditions.

The easier and slower you take it and the more distance you keep from those in front, the more time you have to react. “Anticipate what’s ahead and take it easy, that’s the basic rule for driving in harsh conditions,” says Gené. 

Engine braking

snow driving cold snap 2019

A useful technique for steep descents is called engine braking. In an auto, you simply release the accelerator. In a manual, you can select a lower gear that sees your revs rise higher. While using your foot brake could easily see you lock up and skid (or make the ABS anti-lock brakes kick in), engine braking slows and controls the wheels without grabbing at them like conventional brakes do.

Engine braking should limit the risk of accelerating or skidding. Then you can start carefully applying your brakes. “Driving downhill in low gears will help you stay in control and it takes a lighter toll on the brakes,” explains Gené.

Stay calm and don’t make sudden manoeuvres

snow driving cold snap 2019

You should be keeping a keen eye out for dark patches of black ice. Once in low grip areas, it’s important to not make sudden adjustments to the controls. Yanking at the wheel or stabbing the brakes will only increase your likelihood of losing grip. The goal is to pass over or through ice and snow as smoothly as possible.

Overtakes often aren’t a risk worth taking in these conditions. Worth remembering, given that the temptation to overtake will be greater with gritters out on the roads.

“It’s important to stay calm and avoid making sudden manoeuvres,” explains Jordi. “You have to turn the wheel gently and lightly step on the brake until you’ve passed the ice patch and the wheels begin to gain grip again.”

Use your fog lights sparingly

snow driving cold snap 2019

This is for the benefit of other road users. Fog lights are only for when rain, snow or fog is extremely dense, such that it’s possible other cars may not be able to see you.

Fog lights, particularly rear fog lights, are not really there to help you see out, but for others to see you.

Parking up

cold snap 2019

Good, you’ve arrived. Time to pop the wipers up so they don’t stick to your screen. Also, make sure you leave the car in park (auto) or first gear (manual). This will increase the likelihood of your car being where you left it upon your return.

Other than that? Winter tyres are transformative for cold weather driving, although drivers in the UK use them. Otherwise, keep your car in good nick and you should be alright.

Snow chains are an option in the most extreme circumstances but we’d say if the weather warrants them, it’s perhaps best not to make the journey at all.