Should it stay or should it go now?
Feature By Maria McCarthy - Maria is a motoring journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates: How to Pass your Driving Test. Maria writes for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and Good Housekeeping and appears on BBC Breakfast news, Sky News and Good Morning Britain commenting on motoring matters. She has also carried out over 600 radio interviews.
Everyone knows how important it is to stay safe on the roads. But it seems that many motorists are cutting corners when it comes to keeping their vehicles roadworthy. A recent survey by car finance specialists Zuto’s recent survey reveals that more than one in ten drivers are running unsafe cars because they feel they can't afford to fix or replace them.
Their car faults include damaged wiper blades, broken headlights and bald tyres, any of which can lead to dangerous accidents. And of course, when driving an unsafe car, it's not just your own safety you have to consider, but also that of other road users. 'The law requires motorists to take responsibility for the road worthiness of their vehicle,' says motoring lawyer David Barton. 'The consequences of not doing so can be serious. If the police carry out a check on your car and detect an issue like tyres below the legal limit or a faulty headlamp, you can be given three penalty points for each defect. This will affect your car insurance and if combined with other penalty points can lead to the loss of your driving licence. If the vehicle is in an obviously dangerous condition, this can also result in a prosecution for dangerous driving, as the charge doesn't have to be about the way the vehicle is driven – it can also relate to its unsafe condition. And if you kill or seriously injure someone while driving such a car, you could be looking at a prison sentence.'
So clearly, driving an unsafe car isn't a situation that can be allowed to continue. You need to get into gear and sort it! There are certain repairs, such as replacing worn wiper blades that are easy to carry out and relatively inexpensive. When it comes to more significant ones, such as replacing a broken exhaust, you'll need to find a trustworthy garage. Personal recommendation is helpful here, but also look out for membership of a trade association that will ensure certain standards are adhered to and help out if there any disputes. The Trust My Garage scheme run by the Retail Motor Industry is an excellent place to start.
But there comes a time when motorists have to ask themselves whether it's economical to keep their current car on the road or whether they should invest in a new one. In the study, 20% of the motorists who approached Car Loan 4U for finance did so because they believed their car was no longer roadworthy. And 75% of motorists were aware that sometimes repairing a older car can be a case of 'throwing good money after bad' and that it would be better to cut their losses and invest in a newer one. Where that 'tipping point' is will vary – obviously you're not going to replace a car that needs minor work, such as a new headlamp bulb – but if you're making repeated trips to the garage for repairs or if a serious issue such as corrosion or a problem with the catalytic converter comes up then it's best to find move on and find a more reliable car.
It's not just ongoing repairs that can make motorists realise that it's time for a newer car. You might get a job that requires a longer commute and need a more comfortable, fuel-efficient car. Or become a parent and want a car with modern safety features to protect your children.
When you decide to take the plunge and buy a newer car, it's important to do lots of research. This is a major purchase, so the time you invest will be well spent. Think about the journeys you plan to do, the number of passengers you'll have, also issues such as fuel economy and of course reliability.
One key factor is of course your budget, so if you'd like to use car finance then check that out in advance then you can research cars in the correct range.
Then look at independent car reviews on the internet. Soon you'll be able to work down to a shortlist of suitable makes and models. But before buying any new car it's essential to carry out a HPI check on it – to find out its past history such as whether it's been in any accidents and whether there is any outstanding finance against it. It's also vital to get a vehicle valuation to ensure that you'll be paying the right price for your new car. And when you've made your choice, hopefully you'll have years of trouble-free motoring together!