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Yellow box junction

Yellow box junctions: how to avoid a penalty

Yellow box junctionYellow box junctions can catch drivers unawares – and result in a hefty fine. Many are monitored by enforcement cameras, which can automatically process penalties.

Our guide will help you obey the rules and avoid a £130 charge.

Most yellow box junctions are found in urban areas, where tailbacks can block opposing traffic flow. Until recently, only local councils in London and Cardiff could issue fines for ‘moving traffic violations’. However, drivers across the UK now face the same rules. 

According to research by the RAC, eight in 10 drivers say they struggle to drive cleanly through yellow box junctions. And nearly half admit to getting stuck in them accidentally, with one in three blaming other law-breaking motorists for their infringement.

Breaking the rules of yellow box junctions

An investigation by Click4Reg found that London councils earned up to £520,000 from moving traffic violations every day. The City of London borough issued nearly 200,000 penalties in 2017-2018, raking in almost £25 million as a result.

Read on for the facts about yellow box junctions.

Yellow box junctions: what you need to know

What is the point of a yellow box junction?

A box junction keeps traffic flowing by marking out an area of road space that should be kept clear at all times.

When can I drive into a yellow box junction?

You are only meant to enter a box junction if your exit is clear – in other words, if you can drive all the way through it without stopping.

Am I ever allowed to stop in a yellow box junction?

If you are turning right, you can stop in a box junction if oncoming traffic prevents you from doing so – but only if your exit is clear.

What is the penalty for stopping in a yellow box junction?

You can be fined up to £130 for unlawfully stopping in a yellow box. 

Will I get points on my licence for breaking yellow box rules?

No, you will not receive penalty points on your driving licence for a yellow box offence.

Why do people get wound up about yellow box junctions?

Motorists get annoyed with box junction transgressors because everyone else gets blocked, along with the offending driver. It is considered one of the more ‘selfish’ motoring offences.

I think I remember something about them from my driving test…

Well remembered! Yellow box junctions are covered by rule 174 of the Highway Code.

Watch: how to use a yellow box junction

RAC spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Our research shows yellow box junctions are a very divisive issue with drivers.

“There is a strong feeling that many junctions are not set up fairly, which leads to drivers having no choice but stop in them, whether that’s due to poor traffic light sequencing, poor design or being used in the wrong place.

The RAC adds that authorities should carefully analyse every box junction before installing a camera, to confirm it’s possible to drive through without stopping.

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How to save money on car insurance

How to save money on your car insurance

Insurance is one of the biggest expenses associated with running a car, but there are ways to save money on your annual premium.

No specific advice can guarantee cheap insurance for all, but here’s a general guide on how to cut the cost of your cover. And the things you definitely shouldn’t do…

Buy the right car

This seems obvious and, of course, there’s probably a whole other article here. Generally speaking, the more powerful the car’s engine, the costlier its insurance.

Equally, choosing a more expensive car will also bump up the cost, as will any model considered a theft-magnet. Ask anyone who drives a Volkswagen Golf R.

If affordable insurance is your prerogative, a humble hatchback beats a racy sports car. Check out our list of the cheapest cars for young drivers to insure.

For many reading this, though, that won’t matter. You have your car and simply want the lowest quote. 

Shop around – and haggle 

Many drivers get complacent about car insurance. Put in the legwork, shop around and switch providers if necessary. Never simply accept your renewal quote.

Try the price comparison sites, but also contact insurance companies directly. It’s mostly up to chance which provider gives you the best deal, so it’s worth talking to all of them.

Research by Consumer Intelligence shows haggling with your existing provider at renewal time could save you money, too. One in five drivers who haggle are offered lower premiums by their existing insurer, who will frequently match the best price quoted elsewhere.

Get your story straight

cheap car insurance

There are a number of things you must tell an insurer about yourself and your driving career. These include: how old you are, how long you’ve been driving, if you’ve had any accidents and when, what you do for work, where you live, how much you drive and so on.

While you must tell the truth, there is some leeway. Your career for instance, can be listed in a number of different ways. A photographer might be a videographer or a multimedia assistant. A bricklayer is a builder is a labourer . Play with the variables, but don’t stray from the truth.

It’s worthwhile working out how far you drive, too. The number of miles you cover in a year will affect your quote. Lower is better, in most cases.

Consider different types of policy

There are generally two types of policy: third-party, fire and theft, and fully comprehensive. If your car is worth anything over £500, we’d recommend fully comprehensive.

Third-party policies do not cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle in the event of an accident – only the car or object you crash into. Third-party is often a last resort taken by new drivers to get their premium down.

Multi-car policies are interesting, however. Whether you’re living with your parents or have flown the nest, they can offer significant savings. Likewise, if you live with a partner and you both drive, it’s definitely worth checking whether you can share a multi-car policy.

Young drivers can also be added to a parent’s policy – fully-comp, with the ability to earn a no-claims bonus – for potentially a lot less than insuring themselves. 

Have a black box fitted

It’s not the most pleasing of solutions, but a black box telematics systen watching your every move behind the wheel may lead insurance companies to charge you less.

They have become a mainstay of the newly-passed young driver. Indeed, many companies insist on a black box for the youngest road users.

Move somewhere safer

car insurance

Location is a big factor in the cost of car insurance, whether you park on the road or keep your car garaged.

Perhaps you should consider moving away from Carjack Alley and closer to Upstanding Avenue.

Don’t crash

Obviously, not crashing is a good thing in general. Never mind the immediate stresses of a prang, for the next three years (at least), your insurance will be more expensive.

That’s all thanks to the no-claims bonus you shattered – along with someone else’s headlight…

Get older

With age and experience come a great many things, including cheaper car insurance. Both 21 and 25 are big milestones when it comes to lower quotes.

If you can afford to go without a car, sit on your licence until you’re a bit older. Pass your test as early as possible, though. Remember, insurance companies will ask how long you’ve had your licence when totting up quotes.

How NOT to save money on car insurance

Car insurance

Be honest about everything – simple as that. Don’t lie about modifications, the miles you’ll be driving, where you live, what you do, or where the car is parked.

Any untruths will invalidate your policy in the event of an accident. It’s not worth the risk.

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How to get the best price for your PCP trade-in car

How to get the best price for your PCP trade-in

Research shows that only 1 in 5 people with a Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) deal actually go on to buy the car.

This means the vast majority either walk away at the end of the contract or decide to use the car as a trade-in against a new model.

In fact, getting a new car on a new PCP is the most common option for people at the end of a PCP deal.

So how do you ensure that you get the best possible price for your trade-in vehicle? Read on to find out.

Beware the ‘minimum’ in GMFV

There are three parts to a PCP deal: the deposit, the monthly repayments and the final payment, which is often referred to as a ‘balloon’ payment.

The final payment is set by the finance company estimating what the car will be worth at the end of the contract. This is called the Guaranteed Minimum Future Value (GMFV) and it’s your first indication of what the car will be worth as a trade-in.

But it’s not set in stone, because a number of variables will dictate the final valuation.

Note the use of the word ‘minimum’. If the car drops in value, you’ll be protected against a potential loss – the finance company will take the hit. But it’s your responsibility to maintain the car to the terms set out in your PCP contract.

Failure to do so could mean that the price you get for the car drops below the ‘minimum’ agreed value.

Mileage limit

PCP mileage limit

Your first potential pitfall is the mileage limit you agreed to at the start of the PCP contract. Dealers tempt punters with low monthly payments based on strict mileage restrictions, so make sure you set a realistic limit.

A finance company will charge anything from 3p to 30p for every mileage you are over, so a few thousand miles could cost you a few hundred pounds. You have been warned.

If you think you’ll go over the mileage limit, it’s far better to negotiate a new deal before the contract than to wait until the end, as the penalty is likely to exceed that of a higher mileage cap.

Damage charges

PCP deal damage

Read the small print of your PCP contract and you may notice financial penalties for minor damage to the car. Remember, you don’t own the car unless you make the final payment, so the finance company expects you to take care of the vehicle on its behalf.

If the car requires light work to make it ready for sale, you’ll be expected to stump up the cash. This could include damage to the paintwork, kerbed alloy wheels and stains on the upholstery.

Wear and tear is fine – you don’t have to live with a concours-winning car – but anything beyond that could cost you dear.

It’s in your interest to maintain the car to the highest standards, because the difference between the final payment and the car’s value can be used to reduce the deposit on the next car.

Service history

PCP deal service history

You’re required to maintain the vehicle to the manufacturer’s service schedule at the correct franchise dealership. Failure to do so will cost you hundreds, possibly thousands, of pounds at the end of the contract.

These points apply even if you decide to have the car back at the end of the PCP deal, so if you’re not comfortable with any of them, you might want to consider another form of financing your car.

For example, a personal loan means that you’re free from mileage and servicing restrictions, but at the mercy of potential depreciation disasters.

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How to avoid low-speed car parking accidents

How to avoid parking prangs

The car insurance industry estimates there are more than 1,000 low-speed collisions in the UK every single day.

Yet despite the lack of speed, the average repair bill for these accidents tops £1,500.

According to GEM Motoring Assist, it’s partly to do with the size of parking spaces, and the size of cars we try to squeeze into them.

Legally, a parking space can be between 7ft 6in (around 2,300mm) and 8ft 10in wide (just under 2,500mm), but most are closer to the minimum.

Compare that with the width of a typical family hatchback – 5ft 9in or 1,800mm, and you don’t have much left either side of the car to work with, for both parking and getting out.

How to avoid parking prangs

How to avoid parking prangs

Happily, we have a guide to avoiding parking prangs, with some tips from GEM Motoring Assist.

Mirrors

The first thing you should do, when it comes to driving in general, is make sure your mirrors are set correctly. Maximise what you can see and you’ll be a better driver – and a better parker.

Spacial awareness

Cars come in all different shapes and sizes, so familiarise yourself with your vehicle. Know where its extremities are, and learn what it can do in terms of turning radius. 

Take your time

Parking safely is more important than doing so quickly. Plan your journey and allow time for parking. Aim to travel at times you know it won’t be busy. Have in your mind exactly where you’ll be able to park as easily as possible. Don’t fight others for spaces, either. That’ll just put pressure on and increase the likelihood of a prang.

How to avoid parking prangs

Use what you’ve got

Gadgets like parking sensors and reversing cameras can be a godsend. Make good use of them, and you can turn from a parking pariah to a space-saver overnight.

Clear view

Make sure all your windows, mirrors and cameras (if you have them) are nice and clean, for ease of use. It’s no good having perfectly set-up mirrors if they’re rainy or mucky.

Reverse in, drive out

We suspect a great deal of the 1,000+ parking accidents that happen each day are due to people are reversing out of spaces blindly. Avoid this by reversing into your desired space. That way, you get a clear view out when it comes to leaving. If you must reverse out of a spot, do so slowly and carefully, perhaps with the guidance of a passenger or passer-by.

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How to sell your car for the best price

01_Advertise_Car

Advertising your car for sale – it sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised how many people get it wrong.

Little mistakes can make a big difference and could affect the final price you agree with a buyer.

Worse still, it could mean the difference between shifting your car in record time or it being sat on your driveway for longer than expected.

With our guide to advertising your car for sale, you should sell your used car swiftly and with the minimum of fuss.

Prepare your car for sale

Before you get as far as listing the car for sale, you’ll need to prepare it for viewing. Those empty crisp packets in the footwell, dog hairs in the boot and sticky finger marks on the rear windows aren’t a good look.

Potential buyers will make snap decisions based on the car they see in the photographs, so spending half a day washing and waxing will pay dividends in the long run. At the very least, a visit to the local hand car wash will ensure your vehicle is fit to be seen.

Alternatively, bring in the experts. A mini valet is likely to cost upwards of £30 and will include a wash and wax, interior dust and vacuum, window clean and rubbish removal. That should be enough to attract potential buyers on the strength of your advertisement.

Washing the car

For seriously soiled motors, a full valet is a good move – especially for more expensive cars. Think of this as a deep clean, which is likely to include a polish, power-washed wheelarches, an interior shampoo, the door and boot shuts cleaned and the interior deodorised.  

Prices vary depending on the size of car, length of valet and additional services, such as engine steam cleaning. But £100 to £200 could be money well spent if you’re looking to achieve a top price for your motor.

Any chips, dents or damage you find should be rectified prior to sale, but only if it will affect the price you expect to achieve. There’s little point spending £250 on a car that’s worth just £500. Use your common sense.

Where to sell your car

Once upon a time, selling a car meant selecting from a small number of options, with the weekly Auto Trader magazine the most likely avenue. Other options included the small ads in the local newspaper, weekly car magazines and the Post Office noticeboard.

Times have changed and there are a number of different outlets to choose from. Here are some of the most popular:

Online

Simply advertising your car online and hoping for the best isn’t enough – you have to select the most appropriate channel. Consider the car and the audience it is likely to appeal to.

If it’s a performance car, PistonHeads might be the best option. For older vehicles, have a look at Car & Classic. It’s free to list your vehicle and many fans of retro and classic cars will happily spend an hour on the site, dreaming of filling their fantasy garage.

Searching for a car

What was once the printed hero of used car market is now one of the leading outlets of the digital age. Auto Trader claims a car is listed for sale every 60 seconds, with the site featuring a number of different search options and pre-defined fields.

Other outlets to consider include Gumtree, one-make car forums, social media and auction site eBay. 

Print

While selling online is quick and easy, printed media should not be ruled out. If you’re not in a hurry to sell or are looking to achieve the maximum price possible, advertising in a glossy car magazine could be for you.

You should also consider the weekly classic car newspapers, such as Classic Car Weekly and Classic Car Buyer. Remember, not everyone heads online to buy a car. Traditional methods still work.

Other options

Other options to consider are traditional auctions, part-exchanging at a local dealer or selling via a company such as We Buy Any Car. 

There are pros and cons associated with each option, so decide which one is best for you. Bear in mind that, in the majority of cases, you’re likely to achieve far less than the retail value of your car. The flip-side is a hassle-free sale.

How to photograph your car

Car photography

With your car fresh from its makeover, now’s the time to take some photographs. You don’t need to be a wannabe Annie Leibovitz behind the camera, but it’s essential to take a good range of shots to present your car in all its glory.

Think brochure shots rather than anything too arty. If possible, find a plain background and make sure you shoot in daylight, but avoid direct sunlight.

Today’s smartphones will be more than up to the task, but avoid using any of the phone’s fancy filters. Definitely a case of #nofilter here.

As for the selection of photos, we recommend the following:

  • Front three-quarter
  • Rear three-quarter
  • Side profile
  • Front face-on
  • Rear face-on
  • Dashboard – taken from behind the front seats
  • Dashboard – looking through from one of the rear doors
  • Front seats
  • Rear seats
  • Inside the boot
  • Engine bay
  • Close ups of all alloy wheels
  • Any damage
  • Roof up and roof down (convertible only!)
  • Any special features/modifications

Finally, make sure the photos are in focus. You’ll be amazed how many sellers forget this simple point.

Do your homework

Homework

You’re almost ready to write the ad, but before you do, it’s time to do some homework. Don’t worry, it’s nothing too strenuous, but could avoid wasted time in the long run.

Take a look at similar cars for sale, which will help you decide how much to ask. If it’s a classic car, check out the Practical Classics guide for a rough estimate of what you’re likely to achieve.

If the vehicle is stuck somewhere between classic status and something relatively modern, you might consider selling via eBay. The market will dictate the price, but list the car with a reserve if you’re worried about getting less than it’s worth

It’s also worth mentioning eBay has an advanced search function, allowing you to view the prices of recently sold vehicles.

Writing the ad: the essentials

How to advertise your car

This is it: your moment to shine – a chance to give your beloved motor the send-off it deserves. A sales pitch to beat all sales pitches. Just avoid heading into David Brent territory.

Be informative and descriptive, but don’t be afraid to ‘big up’ your motor. List the positives, point out the faults, but above all else be honest. It’s illegal to wrongly describe your car.

Crucially, the ad must tease people into picking up the phone to arrange a visit/test-drive. But you don’t have to give everything away.

You can read our guide to writing the perfect advert for a used car here

In general, be clear and avoid using jargon or meaningless phrases. ‘First to see will buy’ means nothing and text-speak is a no-no. When you’re done, put your words through a spell checker.

Once the ad is written, you’re all set. Be prepared for your phone to start ringing off the hook. Not that mobile phones can ring off the hook…

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How to save money on fuel

Petrol pump

Filling up with fuel is probably one of your biggest household bills. Just think: if you spend £50 a week on petrol or diesel, that adds up to £2,600 a year.

The good news is, saving fuel isn’t as hard as you might think – and in most cases it won’t cost you a penny.

In fact, follow our advice and you could find more money in your wallet at the end of the month.

Check your tyre pressures

Tyre pressures

Admit it, it’s been a while since you checked your car’s tyre pressures. Michelin recommends you should check them at least once month and before long journeys.

Ignoring this advice could damage your tyres, as well as having a negative effect on the way your car handles or stops in an emergency. More relevant to this feature is the impact it will have on your fuel consumption.

Tyres under-inflated by 15psi (1 bar) will lead to around six percent greater fuel consumption. That’s the equivalent of 47mpg instead of 50mpg. Most petrol stations will have a tyre inflator and some are free to use. Alternatively, you could invest in a good quality tyre pump, allowing you to check your pressures at home.

Remember, the correct tyre pressures will be listed in your car’s handbook, as well as somewhere on the car itself – often on the inside of the fuel filler cap.

Turn off the air conditioning

Air conditioning

At low speeds, using the air conditioning can increase fuel consumption by between five and seven percent. That’s according to Anthony Sale of the Millbrook Proving Ground. At higher speeds, air conditioning has less of an impact.

If possible, turn off the air-con when driving through town or when stuck in traffic, opening the car windows instead. When travelling on faster roads, close the windows and switch on the air conditioning, as driving with the sunroof or windows open will increase drag and thus fuel consumption.

Remember to use your air conditioning at least once a month to maintain its efficiency and avoid problems with the system.

Reduce weight

Reduce weight

The more your car is carrying, the harder the engine is having to work, which increases fuel consumption. In simple terms, if you don’t need it, don’t carry it.

This doesn’t mean you can dump your mother-in-law at the bus stop and tell her to walk, but it does mean you can remove all the rubbish piled up in the footwells and the garden waste you’ve been hauling about for the past few weeks.

You should also remove your set of golf clubs from the boot, unless of course you’re intending to bowl a few overs after work. Or whatever it is you do on a golf course.

Reduce drag

Reduce drag

Roof racks and roof boxes will seriously damage your car’s aerodynamic properties, rendering the hours that engineers spent in the wind tunnel well and truly wasted.

Now, we’re not saying you should leave your mountain bikes at home when heading off for a cycling holiday. And we’re also not suggesting emptying the contents of your roof box into the boot and leaving the dog at home.

However, once you’ve arrived at your destination, you should remove the roof box or anything else you plonked on the roof rack. Oh, and if possible, remove the roof rack as well.

Change up earlier

Change up earlier

Develop a smooth driving style, accelerating gently and reading the road ahead to avoid any unnecessary braking.

Don’t let the engine labour, but aim to change up a gear at around 2,500rpm in a petrol-engined car or 2,000rpm in a diesel. If your car has a gear-shift indicator, use it.

When possible, change up into fifth or sixth gear, which should see fuel consumption drop to its lowest level. But don’t speed, because that’s illegal and it could hurt your wallet. More on this shortly.

Stop braking. No, really…

Stop braking

Strange as it may sound, we urge you to stop braking. Don’t worry, we haven’t taken leave of our senses, it’s just that using your brakes is seriously bad for your wealth.

However, wait, before you go careering off into a wall or the back of that Honda Jazz, hear us out…

If you can keep the car moving all the time, you’ll use less fuel. This is because the act of stopping then starting again uses more fuel than simply rolling along. Read the road ahead and anticipate the flow of traffic, especially when approaching roundabouts. Maintain a steady speed without stopping and you’ll save money over time.

Reduce your speed

Reduce your speed

Speeding is the big no-no, but not only from a legal perspective. A car travelling at 80mph will consume 10 percent more fuel than the same car travelling at 70mph. If you spend most of your time on motorways, this could turn out to be a significant chunk of money.

Of course, it’s not a simple case of the slower you drive, the less fuel you’ll consume, but there is a happy medium to be achieved. Driving at speeds of between 50mph and 60mph in fifth or sixth gear will maximise your returns. But we do appreciate you need to reach your destination at some point.

Whatever, don’t speed – a flash from a camera could result in a fine totalling the cost of a tank of fuel…

Service your car

Service the car

A serviced engine is a happy engine. Well, that’s according to an oil-stained poster we saw hanging up in a garage, once upon a time.

The fact is that a well-maintained engine will run more efficiently and use less fuel. So you should really think about giving your car a long-overdue service.

Your car’s handbook will tell you when it should be serviced, and don’t ignore that helpful reminder on your dashboard. Remember to check your oil from time to time and always use the correct grade for your engine. Again, consult your handbook or telephone your nearest dealer for advice.

Leave earlier

Leave earlier

Sounds obvious, but you should think about leaving earlier for that very important meeting. If you’ve got a deadline to meet, leave home or the office with plenty of time to spare. Not only will you avoid speeding, you may arrive an hour early, giving you time to relax and prepare for that awfully important meeting.

Similarly, if you can combine numerous trips into one journey, you’ll save fuel. Clearly that’s not possible if you have to be in Skipton one day and St Ives the next, but with some basic planning, you could be able to cut down on there number of trips you make in a single month.

Apps like Waze and Google Maps can help with finding the best route, too. 

Avoid driving at peak times

Avoid peak times

Nobody likes getting stuck in a jam. A congested morning commute can set you off on the wrong foot, while a stop-start journey home can lead to added stress before you reach your front door. So, why not avoid driving during peak times?

Setting off for work 30 minutes earlier could result in you missing the jams altogether, giving you time to go for a stroll or have a relaxing coffee before you face the working day. In fact, the money you save on fuel could mean you can afford a few extra take-away lattes every month.

If you can’t avoid the rush hour, think about buying a hybrid car, which should use less fuel in traffic than a standard diesel or petrol model. At the very least, you should consider a car with stop-start technology, which will minimise the amount of fuel you’re wasting.

Shop around for fuel

Shop around for fuel

The cost of fuel can vary from retailer to retailer and it’s not uncommon to find a different set of prices in two outlets next door to each other. So it pays to shop around, although we wouldn’t recommend taking a 20-mile journey to save 1p on a litre of fuel.

PetrolPrices.com is an excellent fuel price comparison site and takes data from nearly 11,000 petrol stations across the UK. Prices are updated daily and the difference between high and low prices can be staggering.

Also consider signing up to a supermarket or petrol station loyalty card, as points can be converted into money-off vouchers.

Buy a more economical car

Buy a more economical car

Some of the smallest and most economical new cars can be purchased on a PCP finance contract for less than £100 a month. If they offer something in the region of 60mpg and your current car manages half that, the maths could add up.

Work out how many miles you drive in a year and how much you’re currently spending on motoring. Then work out how much it would cost with a new car and go from there. Don’t be lured into a false economy.

If the majority of your journeys involve short trips and you have the capacity to install a home charging point, don’t rule out an electric car either For short journeys and town driving, they make a great deal of sense and electric cars have come a long way since the days of the Ford Comuta (see above).

If the sums don’t add up, stick with what you’ve got and look at ways of driving more economically.

Walk or use public transport

Use public transport

If all else fails, leave the car at home and go for a walk. Clearly this won’t work if you live in the country and have a 30-mile commute to contend with, but in some cases a walk or public transport could be the answer.

Alternatively, think about a car-share scheme. By pairing up with another commuter heading in the same direction, you could literally halve the cost of fuel. Hey, it worked for Peter Kay, so it can work for you…

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How to write the best advert to sell a used car

How to write the perfect used car advert

Writing a used car advert might sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many people get it wrong. You might have a perfect vehicle for sale, but if the advert isn’t up to scratch, you’re not maximising its potential.

At best, it might take longer for your car to sell. At worst, you could be missing out on hundreds of buyers who are keen to part with their cash.

You don’t have to be an ace salesperson or an award-winning writer to prepare a compelling used car advert. However, there are some simple things to remember. If nothing else, be honest – it’s illegal to wrongly describe a used car.

At the very least, the advert should encourage people to pick up the phone or send an email to arrange a visit and/or test-drive.

If it’s a popular car, you’ll be competing for attention alongside other cars of a similar specification and price, so don’t be afraid to give it the ‘big sell’.

What to include on a used car advert

Writing a used car advert

  • Make and model
    • For example: Ford Focus. Also include the trim level, e.g. Zetec, especially if it’s a special edition.
  • Year of registration
    • Include the letter or number, i.e. Y-reg or 2001. This could be important from a VED (road tax) perspective and also for buyers looking for facelift/refreshed models.
  • Engine size and type of fuel
    • For example: 2.0-litre TDCi diesel or 1.2-litre PureTech petrol.
  • Equipment
    • Create a list of the options and accessories fitted to the car. Concentrate on the big ticket items, such as air conditioning, leather seats, infotainment system, LED headlights, heated seats, etc.
  • Mileage
    • Be honest about the mileage, because it can be looked up online. Some buyers will be actively looking for low-mileage vehicles.
  • Owners
    • List how many owners the car has had, including yourself.
  • Warranty
    • State whether the car is still covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. If not, list any details of an aftermarket warranty, if applicable.
  • MOT
    • List the date when the MOT expires. If it’s due within a couple of months, it makes sense to get it tested prior to selling the car, as this will maximise the price you achieve. Alternatively, say you’ll provide a fresh MOT upon sale.
  • Service history
    • Buyers will pay more for service history, so make sure you include this in the ad. Be aware that full service history means that the car has been maintained to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule – if it hasn’t, it’s only part service history. A stamped service book complemented by receipts is always preferable.
  • The price
    • The price is essential, but don’t worry about adding ‘ono’ (or nearest offer) because buyers will be keen to negotiate anyway. Listing the car as ‘no offers’ could deter some buyers. Similarly, using ‘POA’ (price on application) is a no-no, as this irritates many buyers. Do your homework and find a price that’s suitable.
  • Contact details
    • Add your mobile number and email address, along with any times that are best to call or to avoid. Be prepared to answer any questions. One thing that’s often overlooked is that people will be more inclined to buy the car if the seller is polite and courteous. Be nice!

Selling a used car: also consider

The list above details the basic elements of a used car advert, but consider noting any known faults or any significant damage to the bodywork. Most used car buyers will expect a few stone chips or scratches, so don’t go overboard.

This is also an opportunity to elevate your car above the thousands of other vehicles available online. If it has a full set of nearly-new premium tyres, say so, being sure to include the brand name. Mention if it’s had a recent service, including expensive jobs such as the gearbox, clutch or cambelt.

Avoid waffle. Auto Trader recommends between 50 and 75 words for an online ad, but you can adjust this accordingly. If it’s a rare, classic or exotic car, the buyer will be keen to discover more about it.

That’s a GR8 motor, M8

You should also avoid abbreviations and cliches. While some of the common abbreviations, such as ‘AC’ (air conditioning) and ‘FSH’ (full service history) are well known, others might give the impression that you’re a trader.

Cliches are another thing to avoid. ‘Future classic’, ‘tastefully modified’ and ‘first to see will buy’ are pointless and irrelevant. Oh, and avoid BLOCK CAPITALS, as it looks like you’re shouting at the buyer.

When you’re finished, stick the words through a spell checker, strip away any evidence of text-speak and ask a friend or family member to check the advert.

This advice assumes that you’ve taken a decent selection of photographs and selected the right channel for your used car advert.

For more information, visit our guide to advertising your car for sale. Good luck.

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Hybrid Catalytic Converter Thefts

How to stop catalytic converter theft from cars

Hybrid Catalytic Converter TheftsThere has been dramatic increase in the theft of catalytic converters from cars in recent years, with police forces across the country seeing a surge in the expensive components being taken.

London has been hardest hit, with the Metropolitan Police recording more than 2,900 catalytic converter thefts in the first half of 2019 alone. That compares with 1,674 thefts in the whole of 2018. 

What does a catalytic converter do?

Hybrid Catalytic Converter TheftsA catalytic converter forms part of the exhaust system on a car. It processes the emissions from a combustion engine into less harmful gases, before releasing them into the atmosphere. 

Catalytic converters first gained widespread use in the 1970s, with the United States making them mandatory from 1975 onwards. They became a common feature of modern cars in the UK from 1992. 

Why are they a target for theft?

The chemical reaction that takes place within the converter requires precious metals to act as the actual catalyst. These include metals such as palladium, rhodium, and platinum. 

Market values for these rare materials have increased substantially in the past 18 months.

Palladium can be sold for £1,300 per ounce, with rhodium is worth up to £4,300 per ounce. Such high figures naturally make catalytic converters a desirable target for thieves. 

How do thieves steal catalytic converters?

Hybrid Catalytic Converter Thefts

As part of the exhaust system, catalytic converters are left exposed beneath most cars. This means thieves can simply slide under the car to remove them. SUVs are particularly at risk, as the ride height makes access beneath the car easier.

Some are bolted onto the exhaust, with other types being welded into place. The latter can be removed by cutting through the pipework to free the cat. 

Most catalytic converters are unmarked, meaning they cannot be easily traced to an individual vehicle. Once taken, converters can then be sold to unlicensed scrap metal dealers. 

Why are hybrid cars being targeted the most?

Hybrid Catalytic Converter Thefts

Hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius, have seen a larger increase in the volume of catalytic converters being stolen. 

Thieves target these vehicles as the catalytic converters are said to be less corroded. The hybrid drivetrain results in lower overall exhaust emissions, leaving the precious metals in better condition. In turn, this makes them more valuable to sell on.

What are manufacturers doing to help?

The problem of catalytic converter theft is not new, with the AA noting that it has been an issue for more than a decade. This has given manufacturers time to develop ways of keeping cats safe.

Toyota offers a special ‘Catloc’ device, which can be retrofitted to a number of vehicles made by the manufacturer. Priced between £200 to £250 including fitting, Toyota has said it sells the Catloc without making a profit. 

The company has also reduced the price of replacement catalytic converters, and increased production, to help get drivers back on the road quicker. 

What else can I do to protect my catalytic converter?

Hybrid Catalytic Converter TheftsNot all cars are at such risk, with some models having the catalytic converted mounted within the engine bay. This makes it much harder to steal. Drivers should check with their local dealership if they are unsure. 

The Met Police has also published advice on how to reduce the risk of your catalytic converter being stolen. These include:

  • Parking your car in a garage overnight
  • Ensuring your car is parked to make accessing the catalytic converter harder
  • Trying to park in a location that is well-lit and overlooked
  • Installing CCTV to cover where your car is parked
  • Marking your catalytic converter with a forensic marker, which can make it harder to sell on by thieves

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How to find the cheapest petrol and diesel near you

Fuel prices

The coronavirus crisis was meant to bring fuel prices down, due to a collapse in the price of oil. 

However, while there was initially a big drop in the pump price of petrol and diesel, decreases seem to have stalled in recent weeks. 

Happily, there are a number of ways you can track down the best deals, making savings despite pump prices remaining stubbonly static.

Here’s our complete guide to finding the cheapest petrol and diesel near you.

Latest petrol and diesel prices in the UK

Car fuel gauge

First, let’s set a baseline. What are the average prices for petrol and diesel in Britain right now? The RAC has a Fuel Watch tool that reveals all.

As of 11 May 2020, diesel is 114.2p per litre, unleaded petrol is 108.7p and super unleaded is 123.9p. The RAC says all are very likely to decrease in the coming weeks.

So there’s your target petrol and diesel prices right now. Let’s see how to get the cheapest fuel near you…

Connected cars

Audi Connect

If you’re in a new car with a built-in SIM card and the latest infotainment system – for instance, an Audi equipped with Audi Connect – your route to the cheapest fuel in your area should be very swift indeed.

Audi Connect utilises an online database to find fuel stations with the cheapest fuel options for you. Simply follow your way through the infotainment to the petrol stations icon where it says ‘Refuel for the best price’ (see image above).

Many manufacturers over the past couple of years have been taking similar measures to get connected and will likely offer a similar service – it’s worth asking the salesman as you shop around for the best car deals. Great stuff if it works…

Waze

Waze fuel finder

And if it doesn’t… Waze is a free user-supported navigation app for iPhone and Android. Accident alerts, roadworks, camera locations and more are fed in as contributions from people using the app, thereby keeping information up to date for the entire user base in that local area.

That user contribution-based system isn’t limited to route planning, either. One incredibly useful feature is the fuel station finder complete with, you guessed it, prices to match. If the BP up the road from your hotel is a bit heady at 129p a litre, Waze might show you a Tesco five miles away that’s down at 124p. We are quite literally dealing with pennies here, but if you have a long journey ahead, you’d save £2.50 on a 50-litre fill-up.

What are the drawbacks? Well, depending on where you are, the user-supported nature can be patchy. In busy urban areas, it’s great. Savvy commuters are always online, keeping the app’s information fresh on all of the above, including fuel prices. Find yourself further out in the sticks, however, and it falters. The user base is Waze’s most precious resource and if that dries up, well, so does Waze. The ads can get irritating, too, but ads make the world go round!

Regardless, it’s a handy first port of call to have installed on your phone.

Price comparison websites

Confused.com fuel guide

We mean that in the actual Confused.com sense, and its dedicated cheapest fuel price finder near you tool.

Sign up for free, pop in your postcode, tick whether you want stations that are open at that particular time and away you go. It’s a clean and crisp facility. The semi-regular weekly update can catch you by surprise price-wise if there’s a sudden hike in between updates.

By and large, the cheapest stays the cheapest, though, regardless of universal hikes. One thing none of these facilities can do is keep prices down. The main drawback really is that you’ll have to search for your chosen watering hole on a map separately.

petrolprices.com

That’s where Petrolprices.com comes in, in a manner of speaking. Like Confused, you plug in your postcode but the filling stations come up on a map within a radius around your chosen postcode. It seems to be the best of the website-based facilities that feature a map.

Where Petrolprices falters is in its clunkiness (we suspect due to the ads) and the fact that to get rid of them, it’s a £20-a-year subscription as standard. Whats more, some of the fuel stations, while marked out on the map, are kept anonymous. It’ll only show you all of them if you get that subscription. You may prefer to use Confused.com and search the station on a map.

Fuel prices

Know your brands

One thing it’s easy to overlook is just having a general knowledge of fuel station brands. The general rule is that supermarket filling stations are cheaper than branded stops like Shell, BP and so on. Especially if you’re in the market for the juicier stuff. We found in a recent stop at Tesco that Momentum (99 Octane) came in at the same price as the standard 95 stuff from a nearby Shell.

Want proof? The AA produces a regular report on fuel prices, and the results are conclusive. The average at supermarkets is nearly always cheaper than the national average – in the case of February, 4.5p cheaper than average.

Asda regularly sets the standard for fuel price drops, with the most recent coming at the end of January. Its prices are set country-wide, too. If you’ve got a big shop planned, Tesco can be a worthwhile stop. It often runs a 10p discount per litre of fuel bought if you spend over a certain amount (usually £40 or more) in-store.

M6 motorway

A general rule of thumb? Stay well away from motorway service stations unless you want to pay a huge premium for a litre over literally anywhere else.

So, if you’re in an unfamiliar area and want a safe bet on cheap fuel, simply ask someone where the local supermarket filling station is.

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Buy a car battery in lockdown

Road traffic levels are now ‘akin to those in the early 1970s’, as millions of motorists stay at home during the lockdown. As a result, many cars will be left unused for weeks on end.

Leaving a car untouched can lead to problems with the battery, tyres, brakes and bodywork, but there is specific advice for electric and plug-in hybrid cars. Here, we reveal the tips for electrified vehicles when not in regular use.

The advice comes from Bob Taenaka, senior technical leader for battery and cell system development at Ford. He says the most important thing is to make sure your car’s 12-volt battery remains charged and the high-voltage battery has adequate charge. At least 10 percent is required to prevent it draining to zero.

If you have driven or had your electric/plug-in hybrid vehicle on charge for at least eight hours within the past month, the 12-volt battery should be adequately charged.

When storing a battery electric car for longer periods, a charge of between 10 percent and 80 percent is recommended. A high-voltage battery above 10 percent state of charge can go for more than six months without charging, but the 12-volt battery will drain much faster.

Ford Kuga plug-in hybrid

Taenaka recommends disconnecting the negative terminal of the 12-volt battery. Alternatively, leave the electrified vehicle plugged in and connect the 12-volt battery to a trickle charger.

 “If you are storing your vehicle for longer than 30 days without use, we recommend disconnecting the negative terminal of your 12-volt battery,” says Taenaka. “This avoids depletion and potential damage to the battery, which runs the internal systems such as heating – without the need for monthly maintenance.”

Disconnecting the 12-volt battery

Car battery

Remember the following points when disconnecting a 12-volt car battery:

  • Make sure you have the key fob outside of the car, because you may need to use the physical key to lock and unlock the vehicle.
  • If the vehicle is in a locked garage and the 12-volt battery is in the boot, leave the boot lid open.
  • Once the 12-volt battery is disconnected, use the key to unlock and lock the doors.
  • If the battery is in the boot and you’re not storing the car in a garage, you will require another 12-volt source. Follow the ‘jump start’ instructions in the owner’s manual to restore 12-volt power to the vehicle in order to open the boot.

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