New or Used Car ?





The first thing you need to ask yourself when you set out to replace your car is whether you actually need to buy a new one.

• Depreciation is the single biggest cost in running a car. Even if you only buy a one-year-old model, you'll be missing out on some seriously large losses as the biggest drop comes in the first 12 months.

• Look at the sums, and you might be able to buy a better equipped, more powerful version of the model you want by opting for a used model. You might even be able to upgrade a whole class thanks to big second-hand savings.

• Our reliability and owner-satisfaction reports can show you which models are proving robust and which are proving disappointing. Pick one of the best, and there's no reason to think you'll be left stranded by the roadside just because you bought second-hand.

• Even if the car you're looking at is more than three years old, it doesn't mean it can't be protected by a warranty. Most approved-used schemes will provide 12 months of cover, and you can always take out your own policy with an independent provider for a few hundred pounds.

• If you've got the budget and you're determined to buy new, haggle hard. Use the What Car? Target Price to find out the kind of discounts that you should be able to get on any new car, and you'll offset some of those nasty depreciation losses.

• A new car will also obviously come with the full balance of the manufacturer's warranty, which repairs many faults free of charge. This will usually give you three years' peace of mind but it can be as long as seven if you opt for a Kia.

• Special offers such as interest-free finance are most commonly attached to new cars, so this might be enough to convince you not to go down the used route.

• A new car will be to your exact specification, and you can't put a price on sitting in your own new car for the first time.

• Whatcar.com has more than 1000 new and used cars reviews online now, from the smallest and cheapest to the fastest, biggest and most expensive.

CHILD SEAT SAFETY


The injury or death of a child in a car accident doesn't bear thinking about. Reading these tips and using your common sense could help prevent it ever becoming a reality for you.

• Never fit a rearward facing child seat in front of an active airbag – it's a lethal combination, and it’s also illegal.

• Always use a child seat that's appropriate for your child, no matter how short the journey is or how much of a rush you're in. The law says that any child under 12 years or 135cm tall needs a proper child seat, but that’s a minimum – there’s no reason why older/taller children shouldn’t continue to use boosters up to around 150cm.

• Failure to comply with these laws could result in a £30 fixed penalty fine, or a fine of up to £500 if the case goes to court. Parents shouldn’t need the threat of a fine to ensure the safety of their children, however.

• Help is available. Seat manufacturers will be able to tell you which seat to use, and stores such as Mothercare should have a trained staff member who can advise you.

• Children grow at different speeds but broadly speaking you'll be looking for a group 0/0+ seat for newborns and babies up to nine/15 months (up to 22/20lbs), a group-one seat between nine months and four years (or 20-40lbs), a group-two seat between four and six-years-old (or 33-55lbs) and a group-three seat up to 12-years-old (or 79lbs). All occupants over this age still need to wear a conventional seatbelt.

• Make sure you know how to use your seat. Read the instructions carefully and seek advice if you don’t understand them. Pull belts and buckles tight and check them before each journey to ensure they haven't slackened off.

• If your car has ISOFIX mounting points, it's best to use them. But remember that you may need to use an additional top tether or support foot to secure them properly.

HOW TO DRIVE SAFELY


Driving is probably the most dangerous thing you do. Recognise this fact, and you're one step closer to becoming a safer – and therefore probably more well off – motorist.

Check your car. Brakes, tyres, windscreen wipers and lights are all critical. See our maintenance tips for more advice.

Concentrate. There's a lot happening, so stay on the ball. Look well ahead to spot potential dangers and always be ready to react.

Keep calm. Don't let congestion get to you. Accept that the journey that used to take 20 minutes now takes half an hour, and leave more time.

Don't tailgate. Slow drivers hogging lanes on motorways are annoying, but intimidating them is not the answer.

Slow down. Everyone's in a hurry but speeding to your next appointment could mean you don't arrive at all.

Be aware of weather conditions and that they can change quickly. Just because the roads weren't icy where you started off doesn't mean they aren't covered a mile away.

Never use a handheld phone. Even if you've got a hands-free system in your car, it's best to limit conversations as they'll distract you.

Don’t drive tired. If you're flagging, you have to stop. Take a 20-minute nap and drink some caffeine. Opening windows and turning up the stereo don't work.

Don't drink and drive. Your ability at the wheel is seriously impaired even by one drink.

Always carefully read the label of any medicines you are taking. You should not operate machinery if taking certain medicines – this, of course, includes driving a car.

Emergency braking. Most cars have anti-lock brakes. Press the pedal as hard as you can and remember that you'll still be able to steer. If you don't have ABS, pump the pedal and brake in a straight line.

If your brakes fail, try to stay calm. Pump the brake pedal, gradually apply the handbrake and use the gears to slow your car down.

If you start to skid steer in the direction that you're skidding in to counteract the movement.

CAR SECURITY



A few common-sense rules will help you to stay one step ahead of car thieves. Follow these guidelines and you’re far less likely to become a victim.

• Always lock your car, even if you are only leaving it for a few seconds to pay for fuel. Close all windows, including the sunroof, put the steering lock on and activate any alarm fitted.

• Keep doors locked while you’re driving. Some cars automatically lock doors when you pull away. Make sure valuable items are out of the reach of criminals, who can approach your car in traffic queues or when stopped at lights.

• Don’t leave anything on display or stored in your car, especially when it’s parked overnight. Don’t think that because your car is on your driveway it will be safe – Home Office figures show 63% of thefts are from outside owners’ homes.

• If someone attempts to steal your car during busy periods while you are in it, sound your horn and flash your lights to attract attention. If there’s no-one about to help, or if it looks like the attacker could turn violent, hand over the keys.

• Fit an alarm if one is not standard on your car. Approved installers can be found through www.vsib.co.uk while products tested by security organisation Thatcham are listed on www.thatcham.org.

• Choose a busy, well-lit place to park, preferably close to CCTV cameras. You can find more secure car parks by logging on to www.saferparking.com and looking for the Park Mark.

• If you don’t have a unique-fit stereo that can only be used in your car, consider fitting a system with a removable front panel. Take it with you when you leave the car so that thieves aren’t tempted.

• Hide car keys well away from doors and windows in your home. Thieves can use fishing rods to hook them through a letter box or open window and make off with your car.
 
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