Archive | September, 2012

3 family cars to look for in the used market (Contributed Article)

Buying a family car can be a difficult business, as you try to balance your desire to own a stylish motor with making sure it has all the practical features you need. That’s before you even start thinking about how much it will cost.

If you are operating on a strict budget, you should take a look at what is available in the used market. A three-year-old model will cost you significantly less than a new one, and you will also avoid that sinking feeling of losing thousands of pounds in depreciation as soon as you drive off the dealer’s forecourt.

However, it is easy to confuse price with value when buying a second-hand car. You will have to pay a little extra to get a model with a reputation for reliability, but it should work out cheaper in the long run. Having fewer, or hopefully no, mechanical problems will reduce the total cost of ownership, as well as ensure you do not experience the frustration of having a vehicle off the road.

If you need to stretch your budget slightly to buy a high-quality used car, there are a number of finance options available. As well as personal loans from the bank, you should investigate the cost of Personal Contract Purchase and hire purchase deals.

There are many good family cars worth looking at, but the three below are perhaps the most sensible purchases if you want a vehicle that is both reliable and good for transporting children and their paraphernalia.

Toyota Avensis

Toyota finished second in the 2012 What Car? reliability survey, behind Honda, so you can be confident its vehicles are well made. The Avensis is no exception and you can expect a good second-hand one to last for years.

While most motors marketed as family cars are hatchbacks, the third generation Avensis shows that a saloon can be every bit as practical. It boasts a huge boot and enough room for three adults in the back, so your children should find it really comfortable.

If you need a car for regular long journeys, as well as the school run, the fuel economy of a diesel Avensis make it a great option. It also handles well and boasts good ride quality.

Models with the TR trim usually represent the best value for money. Although they are slightly more expensive than the entry-level T2 versions, they come with dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, and a huge number of safety features.

Honda Accord

More than 17.5 million Accords have been sold since the range was launched by Honda in 1976 and it is easy to understand why. While you may be able to get a cheaper family car or a slightly more stylish one, you would find it very difficult to identify a more reliable model.

Whether you opt for a petrol or diesel version of the eighth generation Accord, you will get a superb array of safety features, including electronic braking, anti-skid technology and six airbags. You will also benefit from plenty of space in the comfortable rear seats and a large boot.

While there are lots of Accords on the second-hand market, don’t expect to find rock-bottom prices, as they hold their value well. However, as the entry-level cars have such a high spec, there is no reason to stretch your budget to buy a top-of-the-range model.

Ford Mondeo

The Mondeo may have a reputation as a sales rep’s car, but the hatchback version of the fourth generation also has all the qualities needed for a family motor. In addition to excellent engines, low noise levels and a wealth of safety features, all the models in the range have a huge boot and enough space for three people in the back.

Air-conditioning, CD player with MP3 connectivity and cruise control all come as standard on even the entry-level models, so whichever version you choose will be well-equipped. The real bonus is that Mondeos do not hold their value particularly well, so there are lots of affordable used ones in car supermarkets.

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A guide to the features of a MINI Clubman (Contributed Article)

There are many things to consider when you start searching for a contract hire deal for your company, or for yourself if you are self-employed or have a small business. From practicality and reliability to energy efficiency and comfort, there is lots to think about.

If you want a stylish vehicle that isn’t overly expensive, has a good record on reliability and energy efficiency and that looks the part, consider the MINI Clubman.

Car leasing firms such as Listers Group can offer competitive deals on a host of MINI Clubman vehicles, including the One D and Cooper D models. If you can afford to splash out on something a little more high-end, the John Cooper D is the luxury version of the Clubman.

Here are just a few of the MINI Clubman’s features to give you an indication of whether this is a suitable vehicle for your firm.

Size

MINIs are not known for their large size – in fact, their compact dimensions make them excellent cars to manoeuvre in cities, as they can fit into small parking spaces and are easy to drive on busy roads.

While the MINI Clubman is certainly not what you’d call a big car, it is larger than some of its more traditional counterparts. For a start, the boot space has increased from 160 l to 260 l, which while still small in comparison to other cars on the market, gives you substantially more room.

The Clubman also stands out because more space has been introduced to the rear passenger seats, making it comfortable for three adults to fit in the back of the car.

Practicality

The size of the boot is one feature that MINI has improved in terms of practicality, but the design of the doors is also innovative. At the rear of the car you have split double doors, making access to the boot much more straightforward.

On the driver’s side of the car, meanwhile, there is an unusual split side door, which provides a little extra space for passengers in the backseat to enter and exit the vehicle.

Equipment

BMW – which now manufactures MINIs, in case you didn’t know – has introduced plenty of high-end technology for the Clubman models. As you would expect, not all of this comes as standard, but your leasing company should be in a position to customise your model if you want.

Among the features you can have installed in your Clubman are:
• A rain sensor that automatically turns the windscreen wipers on when it rains.
• A multi-function steering wheel that enables the driver to control the radio and even use the inbuilt telephone system.
• Heated front seats.
• The MINI Connected system, which allows your iPhone to sync wirelessly with the car’s stereo.

Reliability

Thanks to its association with BMW, MINI has become a much more reliable brand than it was when it first went on sale all those years ago. Top automotive technology is utilised in the engines of every MINI model, and the Clubman is no exception.

Couple that with BMW’s reputation for smooth driving experiences and reliability and you’ve got a winning recipe for a business car. Of course, that’s not to say that MINIs can’t go wrong, so it’s worth being prepared by choosing a leasing deal that includes breakdown cover and a full warranty as part of the price.

 

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Nurturing the Student Car, the Toyota Corolla 1992 (contributed article)

University was a fairly expensive adventure, my student debt resides somewhere in double figures and I anticipate the total cost of expenses during my study would be an ample amount for a deposit on a four bedroom house in the countryside. I also remember eating pasta on a daily basis as the most affordable meal supplement to fund my social life and pay for those college books. The best sidekick, friend and trusted partner I had during that time was my beloved car. It never failed me; it may have suffered broken wind mirrors, a scrape from the neighbour and a heavy load of parking tickets distributed by the University Campus Officer Steve Redding, a very friendly chap….. but it never broke down.

Guest post photo - Toyota Corolla 1992 student car maintenance article

This car was the Toyota Corolla 1992 1.3 K Reg Model with 82,000 miles on the clock. Its resilience saved commuting costs to find the nearest Asda, transport my bedroom effectively on moving days, and dart through campus to make that University deadline at the end of term. On reflection I perhaps took the car for granted although it was well nurtured and treated as part of the family.

I recommend the following tips to maintain your vehicle during university. I still drive the same Toyota Corolla, and that’s two years later and now 20 years old!

Oil, Tyres & Fluids – Oil is required to make the engine operate smoothly, no oil means big trouble and in old cars it runs out very quickly. I use 10:40 Oil but check with your Car Manufacturer for the best use. The tyres must be inflated to the correct PSI, located in the vehicle handbook. The car must be regularly topped up with washer liquid and retain the correct level of brake fluid oil.

Warning Lights – Don’t ignore these, temperature and oil levels are likely to be there source and needs to be addressed quickly.

Short Trips – Only make short trips when this is absolutely essential, in shorter trips water remains in its liquid state and it enters your oil supply. As this dilutes the oil it provides no lubrication, wearing the engine down.

Treat the Car like Yourself – Cars are people my friend! Ok they might not be human but they like to be treated carefully, violent breaking and poor gear changes wear the cars down which you will bear the cost of.

Trusty Worthy Garage – If there is a problem with your vehicle which you an unsure of the cause, however minor it may be, it’s best to play it safe. A reliable mechanic can offer you advice which may not need to cost you anything. If you don’t know a mechanic, it’s likely someone in your friends circle will.

Author BioJames Barnett is a former student and motoring fanatic who contributes research to Road Traffic Accidents

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Make sure your car is in shape for the colder months (Contributed Article)

As much as I hate to say it, the summer is now over. I really did love the warm weather – although there wasn’t that much of it – but autumn’s a fairly magical time of year too. As the leaves turn golden-brown and the temperature begins to drop, however, it can create problems for drivers, so you need to make sure the car you drive is ready to cope with the colder months.

Whether you’re thinking of buying a used vehicle as a way of getting to and from work in the autumn or you already own a car, I really can’t stress how important it is to ensure that your automobile is in good enough a condition to cope. Although you might think you can get away with not carrying out any checks on your car until the wintertime, doing this may mean you run into significant problems in the months ahead. So, what steps do you need to take? Here are some of the things I think you will need to look at.

Tyres

As obvious as it sounds, the weather in autumn is far colder than it is during the summer. This means the roads can become icy, so you’ll need your tyres to offer maximum performance. I’m sure you don’t need reminding that the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, but you shouldn’t let them run down so low in the autumn. Instead, it’s best to make sure your tyres have a 3mm tread, if not more, so you can enjoy responsive, powerful handling. Whether you’re considering buying a car at an auction or just want to make sure your current vehicle is in the best possible shape, you should check the existing tyres carefully and, if you think it’s necessary, get a new set.

Windscreen

It’s not only the temperature that plummets in the autumn, but the sun. As it hangs lower in the sky, its dazzling rays can cause some discomfort when you drive, especially in the morning. You can get around this by ensuring your windscreen washer fluid is topped up at all times and that wipers are in good condition (a wornout set won’t clean the window as well and could see a hazy film build up on the surface).

I also advise you make sure your wipers are turned off whenever you park. That way, you won’t face the problem of the blades sticking to the windscreen or damaging your wipers when you to turn the ignition back on.

Headlights

While I love a clear and crisp autumn morning, I think you should remember that this time of the year often sees a rise in the number of foggy days. Add to this the fact it gets darker quicker, and I think it’s pretty clear why you should take the time to ensure your headlights are in good condition.

Inspect both your rear and front headlamps for signs of damage and any bulbs that don’t work properly, and get them sorted as soon as possible. If you fail to do this, you don’t only increase your chances of being involved in an accident but you also run the risk of being pulled over by the police.

How are you making sure your car will be able to cope with the change in weather? Please leave us a comment and let us know!

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An MPV for Growing Families (Contributed Post)

Multi Purpose Vehicles are the first choice of people who are looking for some extra space in their vehicle or when it is all about stowing people and luggage. Much more comfortable than smaller cars and spacious than luxury cars, these have become a primary choice for those with growing family members and increasing needs.

Why do you need an MPV?

If you have a growing family, with in-laws and relatives to consider, MPV cars may be what you should be looking at. Right from the time you have your first child, the things you need to carry increase multi-fold. It is no more just about you and your partner. A whole lot of things need to be carried along, such as a baby car seat, pram, cot, baby bag. The list is endless and it only grows with your family.

Buying an MPV when you are expecting your first child makes sure that you are investing in a vehicle that is equipped to manage the needs of your growing family. To make journeys more comfortable with your younger ones and other family members, an MPV is an ideal vehicle as it has got a lot of interior space.

Benefits of an MPV for a Growing Family

As your family grows, comfort takes precedence over style and features that make travelling more stylish only becomes a bonus. Gone are the days when siblings needed to be squished together at the back seat for lack of space, with only a degree of movement that could be afforded in that space. With an MPV, the benefits that come along are:

  • A seating of 5 or more passengers, usually 7, ensures a comfortable ride on longer journeys as well.
  • Unlike the other luxurious and large cars, MPVs are more affordable and are the best choice when you are on a tight budget.
  • MPVs are carefully designed and have spacious and practical interiors that are a huge advantage for families with more members. With the provision of spaces for cups, bottles and other various items that a family needs to carry, these prove to be the ideal option. </li>
  • With the soaring prices of fuel and other commodities, MPVs offer fuel efficiency, thanks to the high mileage they come with. Moreover, running costs, annual tax fees and service charges of MPVs are lesser as well, when compared to other cars.
  • These vehicles offer a lot of flexibility in terms of seating arrangement and boot. The seats can be adjusted, with many models offering individual back seats that come with a reclining feature. On the other hand, the shelves in the boot can also be adjusted in several ways that makes it very easy to load different sizes of luggage, providing adequate and flexible storage space.
  • An MPV offers versatility, as it provides extra seating space when required, which can otherwise be converted into storage space.

Anything that makes a journey with kids or family comfortable is worth having and an MPV does just that.

Written by:

Antony Jackson has had a fascination with cars from an early age and has followed race and road car developments on 3 continents.  Photographing and writing about cars here and abroad, including visits to the Porsche works in Germany, 1000+ mile classic road trips and conversations with retired racing drivers in Las Vegas, his love of cars comes through in his work.

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