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How to save money on car parking

How to save money on car parkingCar parking is often a frustrating and expensive business for motorists. Challenges range from finding spaces, to finding spaces that don’t cost a fortune, to actually paying for car parking once you find a space. 

So here’s a guide from us on taking the pain out of car parking, from booking ahead, to clever alternatives, to avoiding taking the car altogether. We start with the basics.

Ask around

You never know who knows what. Finding somewhere to leave your car could be a puzzle solved with a simple query to a friend, or a quick alert to all your friends on Facebook

ALSO SEE: Newcastle named best city for car parking

The life experience of your friends and loved ones is an invaluable resource for all any and all problems life throws at you, including finding good places to dump your wheels.

Parkopedia

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So your friends and family have come up short. What do you do? Thankfully, the world’s biggest brain, the internet, has your back. As its name suggests, Parkopedia is the Wikipedia of the parking world.

The website claims to cover 89 countries and over 15,000 cities, giving you access to over 70 million parking spaces. This number is rising all the time, as demonstrated by the ever-increasing figure on the homepage.

It’s all rather easy: you simply search for your desired location and Parkopedia displays a map of the car parks within the immediate vicinity. You can check out the prices and opening hours, as well as any restrictions or items of note.

The map also features a handy ‘traffic light’ system, enabling you to locate the cheapest car parks.

There’s also a smartphone app, while some car parks give you the opportunity to book ahead. Whether you commute to work or are visiting a city for the first time, the Parkopedia website could save you enough to pay for a good lunch.

Connected cars – the future of parking?

Connected cars create a variety of opportunities to streamline motoring life. Wejo is an app in development that uses this technology to, among other things, help you find free car parking spaces quickly and easily.

Being connected to other cars, means those cars can ‘tell’ your car when they’re leaving a parking space. The car park ballet dance could become a thing of the past. 

Book ahead

This is especially important if you intend to leave your car at an airport. Use the official Heathrow Airport website to book seven days of parking and the savings are significant. 

The prices will vary depending on availability and how early you book, but you will benefit from booking in advance, even if it’s on the day of travel.

Long stay, not short stay

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Sticking with airports, there are obvious benefits associated with short stay car parks. Take Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 – it’s a 2-4 minute walk to the short stay car park, compared with a 5-7 minute bus ride to the long stay.

In some airports it feels like the long stay car park is located in an entirely different continent, so you might argue the convenience of being closer to the terminal outweighs the pain associated with the 20-minute ride in a minibus.

Use a price comparison website

There seems to be a price comparison website for just about everything these days, including airport parking. Holiday Extras is one of the biggest and the most established of all the sites, and the savings can be significant.

The website claims you could save up to 60 percent versus the price you’d pay on the day. Holiday Extras also offers a best price guarantee, meaning they’ll refund the money if you find the same airport parking cheaper elsewhere.

It’s important to do your homework, because not all price comparison sites are as reputable as the market leaders. It’s also worth remembering that cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better. Research your options before you book.

Hotel package deals

If you’ve booked a room the night before your flight, ask if it’s possible to leave your car at the hotel for the duration of your trip. Some hotel operators offer a hotel+parking package deal, so ask about this when booking your accommodation.

This also applies to city centre breaks. Ask the receptionist if the hotel offers on-site parking, as this could save you tens of pounds over the course of a long weekend. Some hotels will offer free parking on a first come first served basis, while others will expect a small fee. Check to see if the local pay and display is cheaper.

Park on the edge of the city

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In basic terms, the closer you get to the city centre, the more expensive the cost of parking. You’ll also have to do battle with the inevitable congestion and fight for that single elusive free parking bay.

Do yourself a favour and find a car park on the edge of the town or city. In some cases, the parking might be free, but it will almost certainly be cheaper. If you’re worried about the walk, take the bus into the city centre.

In our own experience, we recently mored up in St Albans from Saturday to Monday, for free, and got the train into London. That’s three days of free parking. Lord knows what that would have cost in the city itself, and whether it would have even been available.

Park and ride

Speaking of which, using a park and ride facilities are the industrialisation of this tactic. They do tend to work out cheaper than parking in a city. Using Plymouth as an example, you’ll pay £3.40 for an adult return ticket from the George Junction park and ride.

Hire a driveway

05_Parking

When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. During working hours, your driveway is likely to be empty, so why not invite somebody else to park there?

There are a number of websites offering a search facility, including yourparkingspace.co.uk, which includes well over 250,000 hourly, daily and monthly parking spaces across the country.

We searched for driveways for a Saturday visit to London. Over 2,300 results came back in a variety of locations, offering parking for over 24 hours.

Booking is easy: you simply select your arrival and departure times, key in your details, pay online, and the website provides the full address of the space along with the contact details of the owner.

Buy an electric vehicle

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Buying a new car to save money on car park costs might be a tad excessive, but driving an electric vehicle will reduce the amount of cash you spend at car parks.

Many car parks offer free parking while your EV is being recharged, while some will allow you to park for free, regardless of whether you’re charging or not. Assuming you pay £2 per day to park at work, you might save over £400 a year by driving an electric car.

Look for cashback options

To encourage people back into towns and city centres, some local authorities and business groups offer incentivised parking. In other words, whilst you’ll still be asked to pay and display, the cost is refunded if you spend a certain amount in a participating shop.

Similarly, a supermarket situated in a town or city centre might offer a refund if you happen to shop in store. As one supermarket might say: every little helps, right?

Car park season ticket

If you park in the same car park on a daily basis, it might be worth considering a season ticket. NCP claims a season ticket could save up to 70% on the cost of parking, with the added benefit of not having to search for loose change.

On a similar note, it can pay to be a member of the National Trust. Spend a week on holiday in somewhere like Cornwall and you could spend a small fortune on parking at one of the many National Trust car parks. Membership starts from £6.40 a month – a cost you could recoup on car park fees alone.

Use the correct change

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Those cheeky car park operators want to extract every last penny from your wallet and you’ll often see a ‘no change given’ notice stuck to the pay and display machine. It’s a simple thing, but make sure you use the correct change.

Alternatively, pay by card or use one of the parking apps, such as RingGo. This cashless solution allows you to pay via your smartphone and will provide an alert when your time is running out.

Look for alternatives to the car

Whilst we appreciate that you’re hardly going to take the bus to a famous Swedish furniture store to collect a new wardrobe, or cycle into town to pick up your groceries, you have to ask yourself: do I really need to take the car?

Would it be cheaper to take the bus? Could you walk into town? Would it be easier to cycle into work? Could you share a car with somebody else, going Dutch on the cost of the car park?

Railway stations are notoriously expensive places to park, so have you considered cycling to the station? The rail fares are expensive enough without the cost of moring up lumped on top.

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Buy a car park space

Sounds extravagant? That’s because it most probably is. Parking is an expensive business, so you could consider buying a car park space. Not that this is the cheapest option. Spaces in London can stretch into six figures – enough to buy a house elsewhere in the country…

Don’t park in a hurry

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If you’ve followed our advice, you’ll never have to park in a hurry again. If you’re forced into a corner, either through lateness or a lack of planning, you’ll choose the wrong and often most expensive car park.

A little forward planning goes a long way.

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.

Parking fines: When and how you should appeal

How and when you should appeal parking fines

Nothing knocks the wind out of your sails quite like the sight of a bright yellow parking ticket wedged under your car’s wiper. Unlike many private parking tickets, council and police-backed parking tickets are more often than not the real deal. However, there are still circumstances where you can appeal, and get away without that sting in your bank balance. Here’s how to appeal a parking fine.

The advice comes courtesy of Hippo Leasing, which has revealed that council-owned car parks in England generated a massive £930 million in parking fines in 2019. Many of these tickets could have been unjustly given, or easily appealed.

Indeed, 56 percent of motorists who appeal a parking fine are succesful. The first piece of advice, for private or public fines, is to not pay it if you want to appeal. Payment is an admission of guilt, and you’ll have a devil of a job getting that back.

Good reasons to appeal your fine

Train station parking

Obviously, if you’ve parked and not paid, or knowingly outstayed your welcome, that is a wrongdoing on your part and the fine is fair. However, there are a number of situations where appealing might be worthwhile.

Broken down

If you’ve outstayed a prescribed parking period because your car has broken down, you should definitely appeal. Evidence will be needed, like a recovery receipt or the like, but given everything’s above board, the appeal should be successful.

Illness

If you pulled over spontaneously because you were ill, it’s also worth appealing.

Incorrect details

This is where reading the notice carefully is a good call. Know the charge, and know your story. If the timings don’t match up, or the plate is incorrect, state your case. As above, evidence is always useful, like a parking receipt.

Expensive high-street parking

Unclear or incorrect signs

Signs that are out of your way can be cause for appeal. Pleading ignorance, or citing the parking period, can go far. It’s entirely possible you were papped after a free parking period began, making the fine unjust, or that the sign detailing the rules was too far out of your way to fairly make you aware. Photo evidence would help you in that case.

Over-strictness

Council-run car parks operate a ten-minute grace period. If a parking warden has got a bit over eager handing out tickets, provided you can prove it, this is grounds for your fine to be dropped.

Legitimate pay, unfortunate display

Finally, if you have paid, but haven’t displayed as well as you could have, it’s also worth a shot. It’s possible you’ll be declined, but, nothing ventured…

In any case, it’s always worth establishing a dialogue with the authority that issued the fine, by email or even on the phone.

Appealing private tickets

Van drivers facing parking crisis

Private tickets, while sounding official and often coming with photo evidence (if arriving through the post), are not a fine. They are a breach of contract and can be challenged if you think you’re in the right. Private firms can also be more trigger-happy in sending out fines, too.

We’ve experienced fines for exceeding time limits when we haven’t, and fines for being somewhere on an entirely different date to when we were. Stories are rife of ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) systems penalising people for simply turning around in the entrance to a car park. In all cases, it is worth an appeal, following the process detailed on the ticket.

Rows of used cars in a parking lot

If the parking firm is part of a trade body, like the British Parking Association, you can help yourself by going through its independent portal. If the company isn’t a part of an official trade body, write a letter detailing your claim for exemption. Don’t worry if you don’t hear back: it’s a habit of private firms to go quiet of the case has been dropped, but a cursory phone call or email a couple of weeks down the line just to confirm can’t hurt.

You could appeal via the venue you were visiting. I successfully appealed an unjust fine I received at a Morrisons, via the supermarket, rather than the parking company. Time limits catch people out when they’re new or not clearly signposted. Again, dialogue is key. If you don’t try, you don’t win. A call or email to explain the situation, and that you weren’t exploiting the facility, can go a long way.

Storm Ciara: How to drive safely in strong winds

How to drive safely in strong winds

Storm Ciara is set to bring strong and damaging winds this weekend. The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning which covers the entire UK and is in force from 6pm Saturday.

Winds will reach 50-60mph across inland areas, with gusts of up to 80mph expected in exposed locations.

Neil Armstrong of the Met Office said: “An extremely strong jet stream flowing from North America will be steering a succession of low-pressure systems towards the UK at least into the middle of next week. The relative predictability of this pattern has provided an early warning and has given us the certainty to be able to name this storm four days ahead.” 

No-one likes driving in a nasty storm. Heavy winds and rain are enough to encourage you to stay indoors. So what precautions can you take to make things a little easier when driving in Storm Ciara?

Of course, it makes sense to stay at home or to delay your journey if a storm is forecast. GEM Motoring Assist says alternatives should be considered by everyone, when conditions warrant it.

Driving in a storm

“We want all road users to be aware of how risk increases when weather conditions become more challenging,” said GEM road safety officer Neil Worth.

“So, if your journey is not necessary, then consider delaying it, or using public transport if available.”

Stay safe in strong winds

Driving in a storm

So you’re on the road, and it’s getting rough. What can you do to be as safe as possible when driving in these conditions?

  • Slow down: the faster you drive, the more difficult it becomes to maintain control in crosswinds. Take particular care if you’re driving a high-sided vehicle or towing a trailer or caravan
  • Hold tight: keep both hands on the wheel and be prepared for sudden gusts.
  • Give cyclists and motorcyclists extra room when overtaking.
  • Be prepared for stronger winds and sudden gusts when driving in exposed areas or over bridges.
  • Keep your distance, especially from high-sided vehicles and caravans.
  • Avoid towing a trailer, caravan or horsebox if possible.
  • Avoid using a roof box, as these can increase the car’s susceptibility to crosswinds.
  • Look out for debris in the road, especially after blind bends. Also look out for low-hanging branches, especially at night when they might not be picked up by your headlights.
  • Park away from trees, telephone lines, power lines and buildings.
  • Expect delays, speed restrictions and bridge closures. You might need to change your route, so leave extra time for your journey.
  • Listen to the weather forecast for updates. Remember, it’s often better to delay your journey if possible.
  • Keep an eye on traffic updates, either via local radio, social media or your sat-nav system.
  • With wind comes rain, quite often, so make sure your wipers, lights and tyres are up to the job.

‘Be prepared’ for windy conditions

VW damaged by tree after strong winds

“Strong wind can occur just about anywhere, but it can be more common in wide open spaces. Areas for concern also include bridges, exposed stretches of road and cuttings where roads pass through hilly areas. These locations can act as funnels for wind.

“Expect strong gusts, keep an eye on any large trucks or vehicles towing trailers near you, as their drivers may have difficulty staying in their lane. Be particularly careful around pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, who may all be affected by strong winds.

Driving in a storm

“Heavy rain makes driving hazardous. So please slow down and turn your lights on to ensure you can see more clearly, and so that other vehicles can see you. Do not rely on automatic headlights.

“Give other vehicles more space, and double the distance between you and the vehicle in front, so you have more time to react and stop safely if you need to.”

Click here for the latest UK weather warnings issued by the Met Office.

London ULEZ charge: How to check if you need to pay

How to check if you need to pay the ulez

The 24-hour Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has been in operation in central London since early 2019. 

There are quite stringent emissions standards that cars have to meet in order to comply. Diesel cars from just five years old could be chargeable. Usefully, Transport for London has created an online checker to see if you need to pay the London ULEZ.

There is also the issue of ULEZ expansion, which will see the zone move outward to the North and South Circular roads in October 2021. Soon, the regulations will apply to many more people than those who live or in the established ‘Congestion Charge zone’.

Other cities are watching the performance of the ULEZ closely, and may look to operate their own schemes. The ULEZ concept could spread to city centres across the UK.

ULEZ compliance: what you need to know

The London ULEZ is coming

Drivers who enter the ULEZ in vehicles that do not comply with the emissions standards will be subject to a £12.50 fee – and that’s on top of the £11.50 daily Congestion Charge. This system replaced the T-charge scheme.

Unlike the Congestion Charge, the ULEZ is enforced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Vehicles affected are those with pre-Euro 6 diesel and pre-Euro 4 petrol engines. Motorcycles built before 2007 will also have to pay the ULEZ charge.

The ULEZ is enforced based on the declared emissions of the vehicle, but diesel cars that meet the standards are generally those registered after September 2015. Similarly, petrol cars registered after 2005 should meet the minimum requirements. The ULEZ is thus likely to hit diesel car owners hardest.

‘Out of pocket’

London Congestion Charge

If in doubt, you can also use an online tool from data firm HPI, which includes a breakdown of the different Euro emissions standards.

Fernando Garcia, consumer director at HPI, said: “Research has already shown that over a third of motorists had not heard of the Euro Emission Standard classification system, while two-thirds of those who had were unsure what category their vehicle fitted in.

“The changes around vehicle emissions could give motorists a real headache and leave them out of pocket.”

DID YOU KNOW: Boris Johnson gave the green light to the London ULEZ when he was Mayor of London in 2015.

How to protect the windscreen wipers on a frozen car

Frozen windscreen wipers

There’s plenty of advice about how to clear a frozen windscreen on a cold morning. But it’s not so easy to find information on how to protect the windscreen wipers.

The chances are, the wipers will be stuck to a frozen windscreen. Prizing them away from the screen risks permanent damage to the wiper blades, leaving you out of luck – not to mention out of pocket. A new wiper blade for a Ford Fiesta will cost between £10 and £25.

You’re unlikely to have one to hand on a cold and frosty morning, so you can add being late to work to your list of problems.

If you’re fortunate enough to own a car with a windscreen wiper de-icer, you’ll never encounter the issue. The likes of Subaru and Lincoln feature wiper de-icers that clear the lower part of the windscreen. The systems work automatically, so many owners may not know they are there.

For the rest of us, prevention is better than cure. While a can of de-icer will begin to work its magic, a few preventative steps can keep your wipers ice-free, minimising the risk of permanent damage.

The simplest method is to lift the wipers away from the windscreen. This is possible in most cars, although in some vehicles, it might not be possible without opening the bonnet. With the wipers clear of the glass, there’s no chance of them being stuck to the windscreen.

While you’re there, rub some full-strength alcohol along the entire length of the wiper blades. This will prevent the wipers from sticking to the screen if you’re caught unawares.

Getting covered?

Frozen windscreen with wipers upright

To protect the wipers and the windscreen, you should consider investing in a cover. They cost as little as £10 – although the pricier options tend to be more robust and offer better protection – and they sit between the wipers and the screen to prevent ice from forming.

Some windscreen covers use magnets, others use tags to tie them to the A-pillars, while the Delk Frostblocker even comes with door mirror covers. At £28, it isn’t cheap, but it could save you a fortune in de-icer and wiper blades. Furthermore, just think of the time it will save you on a frosty morning.

One further piece of advice. If your car has automatic wipers, be sure to turn them off before defrosting the windscreen. As the ice thaws, the wipers will sweep across the screen, and any residual ice will damage the rubber.

For more motoring advice, check out our dedicated advice section.

How to drive safely through flood water

How to drive safely through flood water

Three quarters of drivers (74 percent) would risk driving through flood water. That’s despite it being the leading cause of death in flooded areas. Indeed, 32 percent of flood-related deaths are in vehicles.

New research reveals that many drivers are oblivious to the risks associated with driving through flood water. With heavy rain expected over the Christmas period, this could spell trouble for many motorists.

Just 30cm of moving water is enough to float a car, but only one in four drivers (24 percent) would find an alternative route to avoid a flooded road. 

In November, three people were rescued from the roof of a car in Devon after fast-flowing water reached the windows of their vehicle. Meanwhile, a woman in Doncaster had to be rescued from a submerged car.

The survey carried out by the AA in partnership with the Environment Agency found that Leicester is the top place for flood-related breakdowns in the UK.

Watery Gate Lane played host to 88 flood-related callouts between 2014 and 2018. It tops the list of the top 10 places for breakdowns due to flood water.

LocationCallouts
Watery Gate Lane, Leicester88
Rufford Lane, Newark71
Houndsfield Lane, Birmingham49
Furnace Grange Road, Wolverhampton37
Riverside, Dartford35
Buttsbury, Essex32
Green Road, Birmingham30
Tanners Lane, Salisbury28
Riverside/The Embankment, Twickenham28
Hawkswood Lane, Gerrards Cross27

‘Never drive through flood water’

Never drive through flood water

Caroline Douglass, director of incident management and resilience at the Environment Agency, said: “It is concerning that so many drivers are willing to risk their own life and the lives of others by driving through flood water.

“Our message is clear: surface water flooding it is often deeper than it looks and just 30cm of flowing water is enough to float your car. Never drive through flood water. Turn around and find another route.”

The AA’s Ben Sheridan added, “Don’t chance it if the road ahead is flooded – flood water can be deceptively deep and can hide other hazards in the road which can leave you stranded.

“Trying to drive through flood water puts you and your passengers at risk, but it can also cause damage to your car. It only takes an egg-cupful of water to wreck your engine and on many cars, the engine’s air intake is low down at the front.”

How to drive through SHALLOW flood water

Flood water in Worcestershire

The message is pretty clear: you should avoid driving through a flood. However, if you decide that the flood is shallow enough to drive through, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has the following advice:

  • Allow oncoming traffic to pass before driving through the flood water.
  • Drive along the highest part of the road (usually the centre), but look out for approaching drivers who may be doing the same thing.
  • Go slowly and keep to a steady speed.
  • Use first gear and keep revs high by slipping the clutch (keep it partly engaged).
  • Once you’ve made it through, test your brakes before resuming normal driving.

NEVER attempt to drive through fast-moving water such as a flooded bridge or a ford. Conditions can change rapidly, so you may be swept away. Equally, you don’t know if the flood water is hiding debris or a broken road.

MG in flood water

If your engine cuts out after driving through flood water, don’t attempt to restart it. Instead, call your breakdown provider and wait for help.

The AA lists these facts about flood water. They are worth considering before you attempt to drive through a flood.

  • Most drowning deaths happen within three metres of a safe point
  • Two-thirds of people who die in flood-related incidents are good swimmers
  • Just 15cm of fast-flowing water can knock you off your feet
  • If the speed of the water doubles, the force it exerts on you and your car goes up four times
  • Flood water can carry diseases

Listen to local traffic and weather reports, and use social media to receive an early warning of roads blocked by flood water. It’s better to plan ahead than it is to react to sudden changes in conditions.

How to pack your car effectively for Christmas

Stressful Christmas packing

Christmas for many means packing up your family and hitting the road. However, it’s not just people your car needs to carry, but presents, food and all the essentials for a road-trip. New research by Nissan has found 65 percent of people find loading a car for Christmas stressful.

Indeed, one in four say they would rather cancel Christmas than face packing the car. And 68 percent say their number-one worry is boot space. Many find the packing process more stressful than wrapping presents. 

Nissan has teamed up with packing expert Kate Simon to develop a six-step guide. So, how do you maximise the space you have?

How to pack your car efficientlyStressful Christmas packing

1. Trial runs

Apparently, 36 percent of Brits already do this to prepare for the packing nightmare. Filling a boot is like playing Tetris. It’s about knowing the container, what fits and what doesn’t. This leads into the second point…

2. Know your boot

For the best chance of a packing win, it helps to know your boot. Find out its dimensions and keep them in mind when buying cases.

Pack efficiently

Roll, don’t fold. That’s the advice when it comes to clothes. Stuff your shoes with your socks and underwear. You’ll be surprised how much space you save.

Share cases

That means you may be able to share cases. If you can reduce your packing from a case per parent down to a case for you both, plus a case for two or more children, that potentially halves the amount you need to carry.

Stressful Christmas packing

Prioritise

Decide what you absolutely do and do not need to take. Then, get the most important stuff in first. Once the essentials are in, you can start chipping away at the superficial stuff. 

“Christmas preparation can be stressful, and often the need to pack up the car to visit family can only makes things worse,” said Kate Simon.

“Packing for the family road-trip, where lifelong memories will be made, should be a fun activity for all to get involved in.”

How to use emergency refuge areas on smart motorways

Do you know how to use emergency refuge areas on smart motorways?

Emergency refuge areas are a safe haven for stranded vehicles on busy smart motorways – but alarmingly, more than half of motorists don’t know what they are or how to use them.

That’s according to research by the RAC, which surveyed 2,000 drivers and discovered that only 1.5 percent of respondents have ever used an emergency refuge area.

If you’re not familiar with emergency refuge areas, they’re similar to laybys and are located on stretches where the hard shoulder is sometimes open as a live lane on smart motorways.

They’re only meant to be used in an emergency – something 98 percent of motorists realise, according to the RAC’s research.

Did you know? 

What many drivers didn’t realise, however, is that you’re supposed to contact Highways England before rejoining the motorway if the hard shoulder is acting as a running lane.

If you didn’t know this, you’re not alone – just one respondent to the RAC’s survey did.

“It is essential that motorists understand how and when to use an emergency refuge area so they do not put their own safety and that of other road users at risk,” said the RAC’s chief engineer, David Bizley.

“Vehicles should pull up to the indicated mark on the tarmac or the emergency telephone and then the occupants should leave the vehicle from the passenger side.

“Everyone should stand behind the barriers and should use the emergency roadside telephone provided to speak to a Highways England representative.”

What is a smart motorway?

Smart motorways are becoming increasingly widespread – including sections of the M6, M25 and M1. They open up the hard shoulder as a live lane during busy periods to ease congestion, and control traffic flow using variable speed limits displayed on overhead gantries.

Emergency refuge areas are located on smart motorways and positioned every 1.5 miles with an emergency roadside phone available to request assistance. Cameras monitor the motorways and lanes can be remotely closed if required, for example if a vehicle breaks down.

How to add wireless phone charging to your car

Add wireless charging to your car

Wireless phone charging isn’t always available on modern cars, let alone anything older. But there is a way of adding it retrospectively. Meet the Connects2 universal in-car charging pad.

This wireless charger can be placed anywhere flat in the cabin of your car, or indeed in the office or at home. And while wireless charging capability may cost several hundred pounds extra for a new car, this one retails at £29 from Halfords.

Add wireless charging to your car

Also available is an in-car charging pocket, which adds a level of security for your device. Essentially, it holds your phone, rather than it resting atop a pad. It mounts in a glovebox, armrest or on any flat surface.

Lights on the pouch indicate the phone’s charge status and there are two USB ports for multi-device charging. This more comprehensive item is available for £79 from Halfords.

Opinion: Wireless chargers – gimmick or essential?Add wireless charging to your car

I’m not sure if I can speak for my MR colleagues, but I’ve been genuinely disappointed by the lack of wireless charging in some new cars I’ve driven recently.

I can confidently say this is something I’ll likely add to my own, older car. That’s an exclusive list, mostly reserved for broadcasting devices, which include aux cables and FM transmitters. It could make a nice replacement for my old-fashioned USB cable.