Car insurer offers free home recovery as lockdown lifts

RAC recovery

Car insurance company NFU Mutual is providing free RAC recovery and home breakdown cover as the lockdown lifts.

The offer applies to more than 600,000 of NFU’s car and light van customers. It remains valid until 31 August, even if UK lockdown restrictions are fully lifted before that date.

RAC data shows a 78 percent increase in home breakdowns between 23 March and 11 May, with a record number of call-outs due to flat batteries.

This number is expected to increase in the coming months. 

Battery breakdowns at record level

RAC recovery

The NFU offer includes national recovery and home start (normally an addition to standard RAC breakdown cover). 

To quote the small print: ‘The cover will include emergency roadside assistance, recovery of the vehicle, driver and passengers to any UK destination if the vehicle cannot be repaired at the roadside, accidental mis-fuelling cover, unlimited call outs and no call-out charges, and small hire car for 48 hours if the vehicle needs a longer repair and the repair cannot be done the same day.’

Motorcycles and larger commercial vehicles (e.g. tractors and lorries over 3.5 tonnes) aren’t covered, but the vast majority of NFU Mutual policyholders will be eligible.

There is no need to activate the offer. If you are insured with NFU Mutual and need RAC assistance, simply call 0800 282 652 and select ‘breakdown’ when prompted, quoting your vehicle registration. 


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British drivers unprepared for winter breakdowns

Winter breakdowns RAC

A survey of 2,000 UK car owners reveals many are hopelessly unprepared for a winter breakdown. That’s despite 62 percent having broken down at some point.

The research by NFU Mutual, published by the RAC, found that drivers are more likely to carry an umbrella (50 percent) in their car, than basic safety equipment. They’re also far more likely to keep chewing gum and mints on board (30 percent) than a reflective triangle (26 percent), jump leads (23 percent) or a high-vis jacket (24 percent).

Just one in five drivers (21 percent) keep a blanket and warm clothes in their car. And sunglasses are more commonly kept (52 percent) than a breakdown service number (43 percent).

More than a third of drivers don’t have a spare tyre on board, while 50 percent don’t know how to change a tyre. Yet wheel changes are the most common cause of breakdowns.

Remember your winter FORCESWinter breakdowns RAC

The RAC has a one-stop acronym for fending off winter breakdowns: FORCES. It stands for Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics (especially lights) and Screenwash.

Make sure that all of the above are at the correct level (fluids), are in good condition (tyres, electrics), or are working correctly (electrics).

What you should carry in winterWinter breakdowns RAC

NFU Mutual has a list of winter driving essentials. It recommends you carry the below items, preferably in a waterproof bag:

  • Warm blankets, clothes and waterproofs
  • Long-lasting food and water
  • Red reflective warning triangles
  • High-visibility jackets
  • Jump leads
  • Torch
  • Sunglasses
  • A spare tyre and jack
  • Road atlas
  • Breakdown number on paper
  • In-car charger
  • First aid kit
  • Ice scraper/de-icing kit

Winter breakdowns RAC

“While brollies might be among the essentials for daily British life, don’t forget the safety fundamentals such as a torch, blanket and a spare tyre to prepare for a breakdown,” said Aleks Corr of NFU Mutual.

“Keeping basic safety equipment in your car could spell the difference between a minor inconvenience and a traumatically freezing and potentially hazardous family event.

“While technology can be a real lifeline, don’t completely rely on it. Poor signal or a low battery may mean it lets you down when you need it most. Always keep an in-car charger handy, but also equip yourself with analogue alternatives including a road atlas and your breakdown service number written on a piece of paper. Familiarise yourself with safety tips and what to do in an incident, such as how to park safely or how to find an SOS phone on the motorway.”

Air con

Why you may find water under your car in hot weather

Parked car in summerWith the summer weather now turning into a heatwave, some motorists may be alarmed to find pools of water beneath their cars – sometimes with drips still falling from the engine bay.

But don’t worry. Chances are, it doesn’t mean the radiator has sprung a leak and the car is about to overheat. You can take your head out of your hands.

More advice on Motoring Research

Rather, it’s most likely to be water dripping from the air conditioning system – and there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.

It is caused by the air conditioning compressor working hard in hot weather: due to thermodynamics, the unit itself can freeze over as it takes moisture out of the car.

Air con

When the car is parked and the air con unit deactivated, the ice on its surface melts: this is what causes the puddle under the car (and the hotter the weather, the bigger and more alarming-looking the puddle may be…).

RAC spokesman Pete Williams revealed the motoring organisation had received lots of calls from drivers worried by pools of water under their cars.

“The advice is to check whether this is simply odourless water of if it has coolant in and a clear smell and colour.

If it’s is the former, then there should be no need to worry.”

Hopefully, that’s panic over. Meaning it’s only the sunshine that will leave you hot under the collar during this heatwave. 

Diesel fuel pump

Diesel car tax rise a ‘knee-jerk reaction’, say experts

Diesel fuel pump

Government plans to raise taxes on diesel cars have been labelled “a terrible misjudged ‘knee-jerk’ reaction” by the RAC. The response follows a report in the Financial Times outlining chancellor Philip Hammond’s decision to inflict higher taxes on diesel vehicles to raise funds for new air-quality initiatives.

The government is expected to announce the move as part of its autumn budget, although it’s not clear whether the chancellor will increase VAT on diesel cars or decide to implement a new levy.

Sales of diesel cars have plummeted this year, with the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showing a 30 percent fall in registrations, amid concerns over emissions and the threat of anti-diesel car charging schemes.

The RAC is urging the government to think again, arguing that diesel cars remain relevant for company car drivers and those who cover long distances.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “We might be just over 20 years from the Government’s own deadline for ending the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles, but it seems intent on dissuading as many of us from opting for diesel as possible.

“We are concerned that those who drive long distances, business drivers especially, might consider sticking with their older diesels given the superior economy they offer. It would be a terrible misjudged ‘knee-jerk’ reaction which could backfire and have the unexpected effect of encouraging these owners of older diesels and fleets not to upgrade to newer, cleaner diesels which offer significant benefits in reduced emissions.

“This isn’t what the Government, or any of us, want and is the opposite of what is needed from an air quality perspective. However, it would also be grossly unfair to penalise owners of current diesel vehicles.

“The irony is that the next generation of diesel engines which manufacturers are developing right now are likely to be as clean as their petrol equivalents – so while a new tax might be logical in the short term, this logic will likely not apply within a year or so.

“The possibility of a sudden rush to petrol engines also risks a new rise in CO2 emissions, precisely what previous governments tried to avoid by encouraging drivers into diesel vehicles.”

The chancellor of the exchequer will present his autumn budget to parliament on 22 November 2017.

NEXT> Diesel remains Britain’s favourite used car fuel

Young drivers warned: lie about your insurance and lose your car

Young drivers warned: lie about your insurance and lose your car

Young drivers warned: lie about your insurance and lose your car

The RAC has discovered that almost half of young drivers are willing to name a parent as the main driver of their car in a bid to save money on insurance.

The motoring organisation’s survey of 500 17 to 24-year-olds found that 47% didn’t see the problem with ‘fronting’ – despite it being an illegal practice that could leave your car uninsured.

This is despite the majority (57%) of young motorists questioned admitting they realise the act is against the law.

“Fronting is where someone other than the main driver of a car is said to be the policyholder,” said the RAC’s insurance director Mark Godfrey. “In the case of a young driver who is the most frequent driver of a vehicle, this tends to be a parent with a longer, proven good track record as a driver and therefore attracts a lower insurance premium than their son or daughter would.”

With 18- to 20-year-old drivers paying £993 a year for car insurance on average, it’s not a surprise to see young people resorting to desperate measures in a bid to save cash.

The RAC says that young men know more than young women about fronting – perhaps because of the myth that males pay more for their insurance than women.

Godfrey added: “It’s important for anyone who has done this to realise that it could result in invalidating the policy for everyone covered by it, not just the young driver concerned. What’s more, its illegal activities like this that increase the overall cost of insurance for all young drivers.

“The fact our research shows more young males are aware of fronting may be because they think their insurance premiums will be higher than young women’s which, of course, is no longer the case since the EU ruling that gender cannot be used in determining premium prices.”

If drivers are found to be fronting, their insurance company might refuse to pay out in the case of a crash, and could force them to compensate for damage caused to other vehicles.

You could also be refused insurance in the future, be charged more – and the police could hit you with a £300 fine and six penalty points for driving without insurance. Your car could also be confiscated.

The RAC says young drivers should reduce their car insurance costs by legal methods such as buying a car with a smaller engine or having a telematics ‘black box’ system fitted to monitor their driving behaviour.

RAC Fuel Watch

Fuel price rise a ‘perfect storm’ of Brexit and OPEC

RAC Fuel WatchA ‘perfect storm’ of a Brexit-induced plummet in the pound and a threat of oil production cuts by OPEC and Russia has led to the average price of fuel increasing 3p in just three weeks.

The average price of petrol now stands at 116p, says the RAC – a huge contrast to just eight months ago, where petrol was around 102p a litre.

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Fuel prices falling after 4 months of hikes

Is this as good as it gets for cheap fuel prices?

The days of £1 a litre prices, last experienced around Christmas 2015, are now but a memory, says the firm’s fuel price consumer champion, RAC Fuel Watch.

Spokesman Simon Williams told Motoring Research there’s a threat of further fuel prices too, as the 14 oil-producing countries that make up OPEC are due to meet on November 30th, where they could possibly agree on a cut in oil production.

“Even the threat of a cut has been enough to push up prices,” said Williams. “We can expect further increases in the cost of a barrel of oil if OPEC actually does agree to cut oil production.

“It’s possible Russia will agree to a cut in production as well,” he added – Williams also revealed that the UK imports 40% of the diesel sold here, and it comes mainly from… Russia.

‘Flash crash’

The biggest factor in recent price rises has, however, been the ‘flash crash’ in the value of the pound on 7 October. As fuel is traded in US dollars, it’s this that has hiked up forecourt prices by so much recently.

The last time prices rose this quickly was at the start of 2011, revealed Williams. “Less than four months later, the then Chancellor George Osborne took the step of cutting fuel duty by 1p to 57.95p.”

These days, fuel is around 20p a litre cheaper than it was back then, but the outlook still looks rather ominous, said Williams.

“If the Chancellor has been tempted to raise duty in next month’s Autumn Statement as a result of recent lower fuel prices, the current uncertainty should make him think again.”

Motoring selfie

RAC reveals motoring mobile phone ‘epidemic’

Motoring selfieMobile phone use while driving has reached ‘epidemic’ proportions, says the RAC, as tens of millions of drivers admit they reach for their smartphones while behind the wheel.

A staggering 11 million drivers have taken or received a call on a handheld mobile in the past year; even more worryingly, 5 million have taken photos or videos while driving. Some even admit to making video calls when driving.

1 in 5 drivers feel it is safe to check social media updates while waiting at traffic lights, and 44% of younger drivers aged 17 to 24 admit they have taken photos or videos when stationary behind the wheel.

In 2014, just 8% of motorists admitted they used a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel: this year, it’s shot up to 31%, with the proportion of drivers saying it’s not acceptable to take a quick call at the wheel actually falling by 6% – in other words, more and more drivers think it’s now acceptable to take a use a smartphone while driving.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said there is now clear evidence the use of handheld phones behind the wheel is on the increase. “The fact that drivers have little or no confidence that they will be caught when braking these laws is a likely contributor,” he said. “Every day, most road users see other drivers brazenly using their handheld phones – a sight which should be a thing of the past.

“The use of handheld mobile phones is the biggest road safety concern among motorists today: we call on all stakeholders to step up efforts to shift cultural attitudes and make the use of handheld mobile phones as socially unacceptable as drink driving.”

RAC pothole

RAC proves potholes ARE getting worse

RAC potholeIf you think Britain’s roads are littered with more potholes these days, RAC breakdown data suggests you may be right: vehicle breakdowns caused by bad roads have risen a whopping 125% between 2006-2016.

The sort of things that are damaged when you hit a pothole – components such as dampers, suspension springs and bent wheels – made up 0.4% of RAC callouts in 2006. By 2016, this had risen to almost 1% of callouts.

“Our analysis… unequivocably confirms what most road users already know, which is that the condition of our local roads has deteriorated drastically in the last decade,” said RAC chief engineer David Bizley.

“This analysis suggests that the quality of the UK’s roads suffered a steady decline from the start of 2007 through to the end of 2009, presumably due to lack of investment in maintenance and resurfacing during worsening economic times.”

Since then, there has not been sufficient funding to fix the backlog.

“Although 0.9% (of call-outs) seems low, the growth in this type of call-out is indisputable. With few exceptions, it’s the vehicle owner who picks up the bill, adding up to millions of pounds each year.”

And motorists are fed up. The RAC Report on Motoring shows the state of Britain’s local roads is their number one gripe and 50% feel the condition of roads in their area has declined over the past year.

One in three thus want the government to prioritise fixing Britain’s roads above everything else and a further half rate extra investment here as a top-5 priority.

Not something that’s going to happen soon though, says the RAC: “The effect of insufficient investment over much of the last decade care going to take some considerable time to rectify,” warns Bizley.

Nearly 1,000 children convicted of driving without insurance

Nearly 1,000 children convicted of driving without insurance

Police carThe number of children caught driving a vehicle without insurance has shot up in recent years, according to data released this morning by the RAC.

A freedom of information investigation by the organisation has discovered that 991 under-17s were caught driving on public roads in 2014 – a rise of 169 compared to two years earlier.

Just 30 girls were caught driving on the roads without insurance in 2014, compared to a staggering 961 boys.

The youngest boy caught behind the wheel in 2014 was aged just 11 – a year younger than the youngest female. A total of 12 boys aged 12 were convicted, in contrast to just one 12-year-old girl. Just one 13-year-old-girl was caught, too – compared to 27 boys of this age.

The number of drivers of all ages being caught uninsured and without a licence is also increasing – with 15,307 prosecuted in 2014, compared to 14,466 in 2012.

RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey said: “In trying to discover how many people have been convicted of driving without insurance, we found there is a shocking number of children who are caught driving before they’re even old enough to apply for a provisional licence, let alone have proper instruction.

“Sadly, we may have little choice but to accept there will always be a minority of young males who will be prepared to drive without a licence or insurance. The fact that the number convicted has remained so high suggests a greater focus is needed to work with this group, so they understand better the risks and potential consequences of their actions.”

The investigation has also revealed that men of all ages are much more likely to drive without insurance than females. In 2014, there was a total of 45,838 male convictions, compared to just 12,879 female convictions.

Convictions of elderly men (aged 65 and over) were up 23% in 2014, with 992 full licence holders in this age category caught driving without insurance.

Godfrey added: “Insurance is a mandatory driving requirement for good reason; it’s there to protect drivers, as well as their passengers and other road users and property owners. Anyone who drives without insurance is not only breaking the law, they are also selfishly putting others, as well as themselves, at financial and legal risk.

“The rise in the number of qualified male drivers aged over 65 being caught is, however, a surprise. With an ageing population, there are now more older men driving – numbers rose by about 4% between November 2012 and March 2014, but the number of male convictions between 2012 and 2014 grew at more than five times that rate.”

The motoring organisation suggests the number of people driving on UK roads without insurance could increase as the number of police traffic patrol decrease.

French autoroute

Travelling to France? Do not stock up on fuel in cans warns RAC

French autorouteMotorists travelling to France for the Bank Holiday weekend are being warned NOT to stock up in the UK on fuel in cans before they travel – because not only is it dangerous, it’s also illegal.

The RAC is warning drivers that French authorities only permit motorists to bring 10 litres of additional fuel into the country. “That is only enough to drive around 70 to 100 miles,” says the RAC’s Simon Williams, “and therefore may not be that helpful for holidaymakers who are driving long distances.”

Not only that, ferry operators such as P&O do not permit the carrying of any additional fuel in cans. Others only allow a maximum of 5 litres.

The RAC adds that it’s not a good idea to carry petrol or diesel for prolonged periods anyway – and it’s certainly not sensible to store it up if your car’s in a confined space such as a ferry or train.

Williams said the French government insists it’s committed to swiftly resolving the fuel issue – but “though fuel stations do have supplies of petrol and diesel, motorists should expect delays and rationing in the next few days”.

Latest reports are that filling stations are using France’s strategic oil stocks, reserves last used in 2010, as the dispute with the CGT union drags on. Striking workers are preventing fuel tankers from loading and unloading.

Are you travelling to France this Bank Holiday weekend? Let us know how you get on