Monday, 26 May 2008
As petrol and diesel prices soar to record levels, just imagine the luxury of filling up for free.
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A petrol station in north London has installed security spikes to stop motorists driving off without paying.
The Drivestop device has been fitted at the service station on Seven Sisters Road, in Finsbury Park, after a rise in the number of fuel thefts.
If a motorist drives away from a pump without paying, warning signs flash. Staff can then activate the spikes if the motorist continues to drive off.
The system tags the tyres so police can link the car to the petrol station.
'Try their luck'
Owner Mukesh Patel said: "Drive-off is a big issue now. Last year we lost about £7,000 - over five years we've lost about £20,000.
"All those drive-offs and we haven't had one come back yet [to pay] and the police are not doing anything about it, so we have to have our own security."
Jaginder Mudhar, who invented the system, said: "It gives the managers and the operators the ability to do something from behind that cash counter.
"Innocent people who forget to pay will stop when the red lights are flashing.
"People who have got something to hide, who have something to steal, will try their luck but will find that they won't be successful at all."
Sunday, 25 May 2008
The amount people intend to spend on used cars over the next few months has fallen compared with last autumn and the early part of this year, statistics from Sainsbury's Finance showed.
Around 4.9 million people plan to buy second-hand cars in the period March-August 2008 and intend to spend a total of £22.76 billion or £4,636 per vehicle on average.
Saturday, 24 May 2008
Prices would soar to Pns 1.46 per liter, if oil breaks 200 dpb, it said.
The average cost of a unleaded petrol in Britain is now over Pnds 1.13 per liter, with motorists suffering from almost daily rises over the past month.
The warning comes as investment bankers, Goldman Sachs, have been advising clients, including airlines and haulage groups, to buy oil supplies now for delivery in eight years, to insulate themselves from further increases.
The bank, which has previously forecast the possibility of oil reaching 200 dpb next year, has said that there could be a major shortage of oil over the next 10 years.
The escalating prices has prompted a renewal of fuel protesters, who are due to converge on London next week to demand that the government cuts the high fuel taxes, which are due to go up again in October by a further 2 pence per liter.
Britain's Automobile Association (AA) is backing the demand to shelve October's increase, while blaming speculators for the unprecedented run on oil prices.
"For the consumer it is very worrying that you have got financiers taking a punt on the price of oil which then becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy," said AA president Edmund King.
"This is now affecting the daily lives of millions of people and ministers should be looking at a range of options to deal with the rising cost of petrol," King said.
There is already anecdotal evidence that motorists are "downsizing" their vehicles because fuel costs for family cars are now so high, facing bills of more than Pnds 70 when filling up popular saloons, twice the price of three years ago.
Friday, 23 May 2008
A car dealership in the United States is offering a free handgun with every vehicle sold.
Max Motors in Butler, Missouri, says sales have quadrupled since the start of the offer.
Customers can choose between a gun or a $250 (£125) gas card, but most so far have chosen the gun.
Owner Mark Muller said "we're just damn glad to live in a free country where you can have a gun if you want to".
The dealership sells new and old vehicles, including General Motors and Ford cars and trucks, and its logo shows a cowboy holding a pistol.
It has sold over 30 cars and trucks in the past three days, an increase which the owners put down to their promotional offer.
Inspiration from Obama
Mr Muller said that every buyer so far "except one guy from Canada and one old guy" chose the gun, rather than the gas card.
He recommends a Kel-Tec .380 pistol, which he describes as "a nice little handgun that fits in your pocket".
He added that the promotion was inspired by recent comments from one of the Democratic nominees for the presidential election, saying: "We did it because of Barack Obama.
"He said all those people in the Midwest, you've got to have compassion for them because they're clinging to their guns and their Bibles. I found that quite offensive. We all go to church on Sunday and we all carry guns."
The website advertisement for the offer, which continues until the end of the month, mentions that an approved background check on gun ownership is required.
Thursday, 22 May 2008
Internet auctions are becoming an ever more popular route to buy and sell new & used cars online. Car buyers, particularly those in the market for used vehicles, have flocked to online auctions in ever increasing numbers. With thousands of people every day searching for that elusive bargain or "must have" car it has quickly increased the visibility of this sector making it one of e-commerce’s brightest success stories.
While the vast majority of online car deals go through without a hitch, the sheer volume of transactions performed on online auctions mean that it is inevitable that some auction users will be far from happy with their purchases.
Obviously buying a vehicle through an online auction site can present the buyer with problems not associated with buying from traditional auctions. However it can also provide the buyer with a wider range of vehicles, lower prices and much more accessibility.
You can negate some of the problems that may be encountered by following the simple 10 Step Safety Guide to purchasing vehicles supplied by AuctionAutoTrader:
# Check The Vehicles Details
Thoroughly review the description, pictures, model and price of the vehicle - it may be an idea to print this out. Ensure you know what you are buying prior to placing a bid. The old adage "if the price is too good to be true, it usually is" applies especially on high value/desirable vehicles.
# Check The Seller's Feedback
Feedback is a way for previous customers to rate the seller and this is worth checking prior to bidding on an item. Most online auction sites have a feedback system and it's a great way to see if your seller has a good trading history.
# Ask The Seller Questions
If you are unsure about any aspect of the vehicle you are considering purchasing then contact the seller. Good sellers will always be happy to answer reasonable questions. Can I have a test drive? Can I collect or will you deliver? Better to ask now than to leave it until it is too late.
# Vehicle Suitability
Consider the vehicles total running costs such as: Insurance, Servicing, Fuel Consumption, Replacement Parts etc How old is the vehicle? How many owners? Has it been regularly serviced?
# Vehicle Documents
If you are buying a car in the UK does it have its V5 Vehicle Registration document usually known as the "log book"?
# Vehicle Value
Nobody wants to pay over the odds for a car so to prevent yourself from bidding too high you may want to check what the cars usual sale price is. Prior to bidding you can seek out comparable used car pricing on sites such as Parkers or your local auto trader site - set a price you are prepared to bid to and stick to it.
# Vehicle Reports
When purchasing a car or any other vehicle you may wish to consider obtaining a report on it prior to bidding. As an example eBay UK motors offers potential bidders the opportunity to purchase a Vehicle Status Report. Specially designed for eBay Motor users and powered by HPI® the UK's most trusted independent information source for the motors industry this report offers the buyer peace of mind.
# Check The Small Print
How will the vehicle be delivered and is there a cost? A ploy by some unscrupulous sellers is to inflate the transport costs. Will the vehicle be insured in transit? How long will delivery take?
# Check How To Pay
You need to check what form of payment the seller will accept and whether there will be any associated costs. Never Pay With Cash!! The best methods of payment from the viewpoint of the customer are via Credit Card direct or through companies such as WorldPay. Alternatively an online payment service such as Paypal or NOCHEX is another secure way of making payment. Using the companies above will also ensure that the seller will not see your credit card number and details. By paying via Credit Card you may be entitled to additional protection subject to your card issuers Terms & Conditions. Finally as an additional option you may wish to consider using a reputable Escrow service to make payment.
# Check Your Bid
How much are you willing to pay? Consider any additional costs such as delivery etc and then if you are still happy with it place your bid. Remembering that if the bid is accepted then you will be expected to complete your side of the deal and pay.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
According to astrologer Michele Knight, your driving style can be down to your stars. Vauxhall Motors have teamed up with Michele, to give you advice on who to drive with, where to drive to and how to pick a car for you - all designed to make your driving experience as pleasurable as possible!
Ideal car: a red sporty number, preferably a convertible.Your machine has got to get you from A to B in an Aries jiffy.
Favourite journey: a spontaneous and unplanned route - you like to be impulsive and enthusiastic.
Least compatible passenger: a Virgo who criticises your driving and hates to go on unnecessary detours.
Worst driving trait: speed, you are a speed junky and love to put your foot down. Save this for the racetrack.
Best driving trait: enthusiasm, you love your car and you love adventures.
Predictions for 2008: thanks to Saturn this year, you are learning to drive responsibly. Goodbye Aries speed freak - hello sensible driver. A long road trip to see an old pal many miles away is predicted.
Ideal car: a green people carrier that is practical like you and gives you the space to drag all your mates from location to location.
Favourite journey: setting off to family and friends reunion.
Worst passenger: Capricorns because they're as obstinate as you! Your car is like your home and you are picky about who you allow into your car's inner sanctum.
Worst driving trait: you can be a stubborn and belligerent driver and refuse to be given directions even if you are heading the wrong way up a one way street. You also love to backseat drive!
Best driving trait: you are loyal and generous with your driving time.
Predictions for 2008: you are dreaming of buying your ideal car. Like the perfect partner, choose carefully and don't plump for the first sexy little number you stumble across!
Ideal car: a silver car that is nimble and swifty with plenty of gadgets to keep you amused.
Favourite journey: you relish longer journeys that give you space to ponder your zillions of ideas.
Worst passenger: an intense silent Scorpio who won't open up to you. You love to know what people are thinking and hate silent journeys.
Worst driving trait: you can let your attention wander.
Best driving trait: you are great fun to travel and keep everyone amused.
Predictions for 2008: your fickle Gemini nature is exacerbated this year with the planets making you an unpredictable driver. A car journey to an ex-lover's could turn romantic!
Ideal car: you are attracted to curvy comfortable cars. Your car represents a protected cocoon for you to travel in.
Favourite journey: driving your loved ones out to the country or on a day trip makes your day.
Worst passenger: an arrogant Leo would get right up your nose and bring out the worst in you.
Worst driving trait: you might drive along and turn around to offer food or snacks to passengers. Nurturing is your thing - just don't do it whilst driving!
Best driving trait: you are a very calm driver at all times and are very safety-conscious.
Predictions for 2008: Saturn has finally left your sign leaving you carefree and adventurous. You'll feel the urge to trade in your safe reliable model for something flashier. Go for it! A new image is exactly what's needed.
Ideal car: you desire a car even better looking than you and something that makes a statement.
Favourite journey: to a celebrity party or event which no one else can get tickets to.
Worst passenger: a flaky hippy Pisces with wacky dress sense does not go down well.
Worst driving trait: stop admiring yourself in the mirror when you should have your eyes firmly on the road!
Best driving trait: you are generous and magnanimous and make your passengers feel like a million dollars.
Predictions for 2008: the next car you buy seems to be a big commitment. It is bigger, bolder and more serious than your previous vehicles. Your life and your car are trading up.
Ideal car: you would like a nice clean, sensible car with the ability to be turned into a convertible at the flick of a switch to express your hidden cheeky personality.
Favourite journey: your daily trip to work, as you like to be on time. You always get arrive in a neat and pristine vehicle.
Worst passenger: a sporty Aquarius who has just got back from football and has forgotten to shower.
Worst driving trait: you can rattle other drivers on the road when your ultra-cautious driving style means you dip way under the speed limit...again
Best driving trait: a diligent and safe driver, you are probably the least likely sign to get into an accident, as you are.
Predictions for 2008: a drive to the sea is indicated where a sense of freedom is found. Your driving destiny this year is to find remote places you love and to have an adventure with your car.
Ideal car: everything in your life has to be aesthetically pleasing. It would pain you to drive a car that was unattractive or too noisy.
Your favourite journey: you sometimes need space and use your car to retreat from the world and go off for a solitary drive.
Worst passenger: a loud Aries knocks your driving equilibrium and could be your worst nightmare on a long journey.
Worst driving trait: you are often seen going round and round the roundabout scratching your head and dithering as you attempt to make up that shaggy Libran mind.
Best driving trait: you have impeccable manners on the road. You let people out of turnings and always give a wave if you are let through.
Predictions for 2008: sharing a car is becoming a bit of a problem. You are normally easy going but may need to be assertive and tell your partner to buy their own. If you are single, giving someone a lift home is likely to lead to much, much more.
Ideal car: a jet-black car with an air of mystery and sophistication would be your ideal drive. Something sultry but not obvious, you hate anything ostentatious.
Favourite journey: is to a secret rendezvous with a luscious lover. If you are in a relationship, you will love to surprise your lover with a trip to anywhere mysterious and unknown.
Worst passenger: a charismatic Leo, as you don't like competition.
Worst driving trait: if you're in a bad mood you sulk and go into a world of your own.
Best driving trait: you are very perceptive and your intuitive driving gives you an uncanny ability to avoid traffic jams.
Predictions for 2008: you have started to get into a routine and are about to make a big commitment that could involve a new car. Don't refuse to visit a relative in your new motor: Christmas is a time for forgiveness.
Ideal car: a caravan or a van in an unusual and daring colour. You have a freedom-loving spirit and want to be able to drive around the world without worrying about accommodation.
Favourite journey: your love of the unusual makes you one of the most daring drivers and you would travel anywhere for the right view or scenery.
Worst passenger: a stuffy Virgo as they may make you feel restricted. You need passengers who allow you to play loud music.
Worst driving trait: you can be easily swayed off route to some other strange and wondrous destination.
Best driving trait: every journey is like a party, you are optimistic and excited about where you might end up.
Predictions for 2008: this year you are even bolder than before and decide to drive to Europe or some far-flung destination. Your car can be trusted but can you? Thank goodness for that fabulous navigational system.
Ideal car: you favour a practical yet exploratory 4x4. You like something that can handle any terrain and weather.
Ideal journey: off-road driving that allows you to flex your car's muscles and feel the earth move under your feet.
Worst passenger: a squeamish Pisces who does not like puddles. You want to roar around and take the track less travelled.
Worst driving trait: you can be a pig-headed driver and rarely back down if you feel you have the right of way.
Best driving trait: you certainly know how to handle your car. You can fix it if it breaks down (or know who to call!).
Predictions for 2008: you have had more new car brochures this year than petrol fill-ups. Make a decision and go for it, you know you want to! Something sporty and practical is going to grab your attention.
Ideal car: you are wacky and original and need a car that expresses this. A nippy car that's small on the outside but packed with interesting gadgets suits you.
Favourite journey: anywhere new! You love to be stimulated by new environments, places, ideas.
Worst passenger: a conservative Virgo who is judgmental or critical.
Worst driving trait: with your mind so keen to get where you are going you may forget to fill up the petrol tank and find yourself stranded.
Best driving trait: your passion and enthusiasm for driving makes you a great person to share a car journey with.
Predictions for 2008: we are still in the age of Aquarius and don't you know it! You decide to feng shui your new car or hang a meaningful object from the dashboard. Make sure it is on securely or it could do more harm than good.
Ideal car: your prime choice of car is classically stylish. You are the most likely sign to name your car and build up a friendship with it.
Favourite journey: would be to go to Cornwall and park near a cliff overlooking a castle at midnight. You would open your sunroof and stare at the stars.
Worst passenger: an earthy Capricorn who doesn't take the time to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Worst driving trait: getting caught up with the view and not applying your handbrake. Don't forget to put on your practical hat when driving.
Best driving trait: your sense of fun is contagious and long journeys fly by.
Predictions for 2008: Uranus is making you very indecisive. You can't seem to make your mind up what car you want or even where you want to go! The bright side of this is an unusual trip can really broaden your horizons.
A speedy jaunt that you can easily complete in a couple of hours. Begin in central London (a great excuse to sneak in a shopping trip), and take the A23 south. As the hustle of the capital opens up to the beautiful countryside of the Weald, and then the South Downs, you'll get a real feeling of freedom.
Soon the road gets quicker (for some of the journey it's actually the M23), letting you experience the lure of the coast, pulling you towards Brighton. The town has changed considerably since the days when Mods and Rockers made the same journey for their seaside confrontations.
In fact, Brighton's not even a town any more - it's been a city since 2000 - and is sometimes nicknamed London-by-the-sea. Cool bars, funky clothes shops, unusual jewellery boutiques (not forgetting shopping mecca, The Lanes) make this the perfect place to unwind after your spin in the car.
Celebsville Central - The Cotswolds
As well as being one of the most beautiful parts of the country, the Cotswolds now rival Beverley Hills as the home of choice for A-list celebs. Whether you're coming from the west or the east, your foot-down fun comes early, as you take the M4 to junction 17.
Then it's the A429 north towards Cirencester (the great place names start straightaway - you'll see signs for Stanton St. Quintin, Little Somerford and Shipton Moyne). Cirencester itself is a pretty little town, well worth a look. Then take the A417 east.
Just after Fairford, take the left turn to Southrop (home to Kate Moss), then follow the signs back through Hatherop and Coln St. Aldwyn's to Barnsley (no, not that one), where Liz Hurley has her 72-acre estate. Then rejoin the A429 heading north, and just after Bourton-on-the-Water, turn right to Westcote, where Sam Mendes and Kate Winslet share a 14th-century manor house.
Then head up to Stow-on-the-Wold, and along the A429 to the equally picturesque Moreton-in-Marsh. This beautiful road (it's been there since Roman times, though there has been the odd resurfacing) will eventually take you to the M40.
Town and Country - The two faces of Yorkshire
It's grim up North, they used to say. Not anymore, with Leeds now one of the most fashionable cities in the UK. Start your trip with some luxury shopping (or keep it cheap with just a frappucino in the Harvey Nicks cafe), then take the A64 to York and Malton, then the A169 to the market town of Pickering, which is a good place to stop for the night.
The second day of this trip will blow out your cobwebs - you're onto the Yorkshire Moors. The A169 heading north lets you pick up speed through some of the bleakest but most awe-inspiring scenery you could imagine, then the port of Whitby offers a lunch of freshly-caught fish.
Take the A171 west, then turn off through Stonegate, Castleton and Hutton-le-Hole down to Kirkbymoorside, which should hold a place in every motorist's heart - it was the last town in England to introduce double yellow lines. Helmsley and Thirsk are great towns for a second night's stay, or if you want to head home the M1 is nearby.
Whisky Galore - The Scottish Highlands
At nearly four hundred miles, and spread over four days, this is the mother of all road trips. But if you or your man like a drop of the hard stuff, it's the one for you.
Starting in Edinburgh, cross the Forth Road Bridge and take the M90 to Perth, then the A9 to the Blair Athol whisky distillery, just south of Pitlochry, where your passenger(s) can sample the produce (don't worry, it's your turn tomorrow). Stop overnight in Pitlochry, then change drivers as the A9 takes you through the Grampian Mountains to the Dalwhinnie distillery, then to Inverness, where you stop your second night.
Day three is the A96 to Elgin, then the A941 to the Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown. Stop overnight here. Your final day takes you down the B9009 to the Glenlivet distillery, then the A939, A93 and B974 to the one at Fettercairn. The A90 is waiting to ferry all those bottles south.
Laid back and lazy - The Norfolk coast
If you want to keep your motoring nice and sedate, take the A149 from King's Lynn to Cromer. This stretch of the Norfolk coast is famed for its nature reserves (including Titchwell, Snettisham and Cley), and also includes Sandringham, country estate of the nation's best-known Helen Mirren impersonator.
During the summer, take the B1355 inland to Compton Hall, where there's a fascinating maze - it's cut into a cornfield.
So whether you're a city slicker wanting to flee the metropolis for a while, or you're bored of your usual surroundings and hungry for something new - there's nothing like taking the wheel and setting off on an exciting adventure to restore your zest for life
Tip 1: If you ain't broke, don't fix it
If you're lucky enough to have a new car, remember that it's covered by a three-year warranty. If you suspect something isn't right, take it into a dealer and ask them to check it out; they'll almost certainly fix it for free. This cover applies to the car, not just the original buyer, so you can make use of it even if you haven't had the car from new. And make a note of when the three years are up; the cost of extending the warranty is usually reasonable, and the peace of mind is invaluable.
Shop around for quotes on breakdown cover and carefully compare the level of cover you're getting - it's always a price worth paying. Getting your car recovered can be horrifically expensive otherwise, and the patrolman can often fix it for free. Remember that most policies cover you and not just your car, so keep the emergency number on your phone and not just in your glovebox. If you're a passenger when a friend's car breaks down, you can still use your policy.
Tip 2: Prevention is better than cure
Getting your car serviced regularly is the best way to avoid problems; modern cars need little attention between trips to the professionals. Not keeping your car's service history up to date can ruin its value, so find the service book, see how often it needs done and don't forget when the next one's due.
Tip 3: Getting your hands dirty
There are only three things you need to bother with under the bonnet, and they're all fluids.
- Windscreen wash: the only one likely to need topped up between services. Buy some from the garage, mix with water according to the instructions on the bottle, then use your cars handbook to find where to pour it in. Top up regularly and maybe keep some in the boot too, as being unable to clean your screen on a dirty road is an utter nightmare.
- Oil: this is checked with the dipstick. If you can't find it, consult the handbook, (although some cars check the oil for you and so don't have a dipstick). With the engine warm, let the car stand with the engine off for five minutes on a level surface. Pull the dipstick out, wipe it with a clean cloth, stick it back it and remove again. Now look at the oil at the bottom; it should be between the high and low levels on the stick, clean and the colour of dark honey. If it's black, sludgy, has bits in or a white froth, you might have a problem and should go to a garage. If it's low you can top it up yourself; again, follow the instructions in the handbook to find the filler cap and get the right grade of oil.
- Coolant: this is easier to check. Most cars have a see-through reservoir under the bonnet with high and low markings, and a quick look is all that's required. Look out for puffs of white smoke from the exhaust that might mean you are burning it up.
Tip 4: Feel the pressure
Worn tyres are dangerous, and under-inflated tyres cost a fortune in extra fuel. The correct pressures are on a label usually found inside the petrol filler cap or in the area where the front door closes. Top up at least once a month, and remember to check the spare too. Get a tyre pressure gauge from somewhere like Halfords as garage air lines are notoriously inaccurate. Pick up a tyre tread depth gauge at the same time; they're only a couple of quid but you can check when your tyres are due for replacement. The legal limit is 1.6mm of tread, but consider changing them when they drop to around 2mm. While you're down there, check for any odd lumps, which indicate tyre damage and a possible blow-out on the way, and for any uneven wear on the tread, which could indicate problems with your wheel balance, steering or suspension.
Tip 5: Pit-stops without the pain
Changing a tyre is invariably a cold, wet, miserable experience. If you opt to do it yourself rather than calling the AA, four key items will make it almost tolerable. Old gloves will keep your hands warm and clean. An old sheet will keep everything else clean when you're sat on a filthy roadside, and can be used to wrap the dirty flat tyre in the boot. An old anorak will keep you dry if it's raining and you won't mind getting it dirty, and a fully-charged, powerful torch is essential. Double-check you have your locking wheel nut key, which you'll need to remove the special, odd-shaped security bolts fitted to some car tyres. Practising in the comfort of your own driveway makes it far easier; you'll also learn where the jacking points are on the underside of your car, which are near impossible to find in the dark.
1. Shop around for the best deals. Insurance broker Swinton found recently that motorists can save more than £115 when renewing their policies, but they need to obtain at least seven quotes to get the best deal, although most people get only three.
Be careful though. Frances Browning at Churchill Car Insurance says, 'When shopping around for car insurance, it's important to make sure that you are comparing like for like cover. Some policies may seem cheaper, but you may find you don't have the same level of cover when you have to make a claim.'
2. Ensure that only regular drivers are named on the policy. You can always add someone for a few days when they really need to drive the car.
3. Protect your no-claims bonus. This may increase the premium by a few pounds, but this fades into insignificance against the potential loss of a 60% discount on a premium of several hundred pounds. But the definition of a protected no-claims bonus can vary widely between insurers. Though accidents caused by another driver will normally have no impact on such a bonus, those caused by the insured could.
4. Increase your voluntary excess. Agreeing to pay more towards the cost of any accident repairs will bring down premiums. If you are not at fault in an accident, the excess can be recovered.
5. Fitting an approved alarm, immobiliser or tracking device can attract a discount of around 5%.
6. Agree to a mileage restriction. The fewer miles the car covers, the greater the saving. For example, a reduction in annual mileage of 5,000 miles could save a typical 35-year-old female driver about £50 a year in premiums. A cut of 10,000 miles a year could save more than £100.
But you must be honest about your annual mileage, as innacuracy will jeopardise any claim. And Sally Leeman of Norwich Union adds: 'Check your use cover - if you don't use your car to drive to work or for business you may be able to get a cheaper rate.'
Norwich Union has even introduced a 'pay-as-you-drive' scheme aimed at younger drivers using a "black box" device fitted inside cars.
7. Don't add a young, inexperienced driver to your policy, as it's a false economy. The premium will still be calculated on the youngest driver and he or she will not have a no-claims bonus.
8. If you decide to change your car, check with your insurer if the model will have a significant effect on the premium. Sporty cars can attract a high premium and often a slightly different model or smaller engine can make a big difference in your favour. It will also probably save you on petrol too!
9. If your garage is full of junk, clear it out and use it for your car. Aside from the benefit of not having to scrape the ice off in winter, there is a higher risk of theft by keeping the car on the road, so keeping it in the garage will be reflected in your premium.
10. Drive more carefully. We all know having accidents Join the Pass Plus scheme or take an advanced drivers' course. Both offer discounts - up to 35% - from some of the major insurers.
- Follow the Recommended Maintenance
A vehicle that is well maintained means it will operate with greater efficiency. This not only improves your overall vehicle performance, but it will improve your fuel economy as well. Fouled spark plugs, a dirty air filter or clogged fuel filter will all affect your fuel economy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), replacing a clogged air filter can increase your mileage by 10 percent, while replacing an oxygen sensor could result in an improvement as high as 40 percent. Proper maintenance also means using the right octane gas and the recommended grade of motor oil. Using the recommended types for your vehicle will give you optimum fuel economy — and can save you money as well. Check your owner's manual for your vehicle's recommendations and have maintenance performed regularly by a dealer or reputable mechanic.
- Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated
Underinflated tires require more energy to roll, which translates into more frequent fill-ups. You can improve your fuel economy by about 3.3 percent if you keep your tires inflated properly, according to the DOE. The psi number noted on the sidewall of your tires is the maximum pressure of the tire and is not the proper inflation level for your car. Your vehicle manufacturer will list the recommended tire pressure in your owner's manual or a sticker on the doorjamb of the driver-side door. Buy a tire-pressure gauge and check your tires monthly, adding air as necessary.
- Take a Load Off
Heavier vehicles require more energy to move, so carrying around excess weight will also affect your mileage. Empty out your trunk (or even your backseat) of unnecessary items. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk will reduce your fuel economy by 1 to 2 percent in the typical vehicle. If you have a roof rack or roof carrier, install it on your vehicle only when absolutely necessary. Not only does the carrier add extra weight, but it also increases the aerodynamic drag on the vehicle, which further contributes to a loss of fuel economy.
- Don't Drive Aggressively
We're not talking road rage here, but the type of driving many people do when they are in a rush. Mashing the accelerator pedal from a stoplight, braking hard and speeding all contribute to a decrease in fuel economy. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination and think "steady and smooth" as you drive. On surface streets, driving at the speed limit will give you mostly green lights, which improves your gas mileage as well as reduces the wear on your brakes. On the highway, the DOE says that every 5 mph you drive over 65 mph represents a 7-percent decrease in fuel economy.
- Use the Highest Gear Possible
Cars are designed to start in the lowest gear possible because that's where they have the most power, but that power translates to an increase in fuel consumption. To improve your fuel economy, drive in the highest gear possible when you are cruising at a steady speed, such as on the highway. If your vehicle has an automatic transmission with a "sport" mode, it's most likely that this is a computer program designed to shift later (and therefore keep you in a lower gear longer). While this gives you greater performance, driving in "sport" mode will also decrease your fuel economy.
- Use Cruise Control — Selectively
Using cruise control can improve your gas mileage by helping you maintain a steady speed, but only if you are driving on mostly flat roads. If you are driving in hilly terrain, using cruise control typically causes your vehicle to speed up faster (to maintain the preset speed) than it would if you were operating the accelerator yourself. Before you push that cruise control button, think about the terrain ahead.
- Think Clean
Keeping your car washed and waxed improves aerodynamics and therefore affects fuel economy. Engineer Tom Wagner, Jr. reported to Stretcher.com (as in stretching your dollars) a 7-percent improvement in fuel economy, from 15 to 16 mpg, during a 1,600-mile road trip.
- Avoid Excessive Idling
When a car is idling, it is using fuel, yet not going anywhere. This translates to 0 mpg. When you leave your car running while you are waiting in line at the drive-thru, or as you wait outside your kids' school, you are wasting fuel. It is more efficient to turn the engine off while you wait and then restart the car. If that's not practical (like in the line at McDonald's), then park the car and go inside instead.
- Think Before You Vent(ilate)
Running your air conditioner does cause your vehicle to consume more fuel, but driving with your windows rolled down can be even worse due to the increase of drag on the vehicle. If you are driving slowly, such as around town or in city traffic, then you are better off leaving your windows open, if at all possible. For highway driving, roll up the windows and turn the air conditioning on.
- Combine Your Errands
A little planning can make a big difference in fuel economy. When your engine is cold, it uses more fuel than when it is warm. Combining errands can improve your gas mileage because your engine will be warm for more of the trip. It might also mean you travel less total miles. According to the DOE, several short trips all begun with a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a single, longer trip that covers the same distance.
1. Avoid the "fast lane." By using the center or right lane on multilane roads, you have more "escape routes" should a problem suddenly arise that requires you to quickly change lanes or pull onto the shoulder. Most highway accidents occur in the left lane. Furthermore, you are more conspicuous to highway patrol if you are in the "fast lane."
2. Keep your eyes scanning the area ahead. Don't just eyeball the car in front of you but watch the traffic in front of that car as well. This increases your chance of seeing a problem while still having enough time to react to it, and decreases your chance of rear-ending the vehicle in front of you should they make a sudden stop.
3. Beware of blind spots. Yes, adjust your side mirrors and rearview mirror to provide you with one near seamless panoramic scene of the view behind you, but don't rely solely on them. Actually turn to look directly into the lanes beside you to avoid missing something left undetected by your mirrors. Also consider the blind spots for other drivers around you, especially truckers, and try to minimize the amount of time you spend in them.
4. Drive with your hands in the 9 and 3 o'clock position. Instead of the lazy, typical way people drive with one hand at 12 o'clock or both hands resting at the bottom of the steering wheel, this recommended position facilitates maximum vehicle control when you're forced into quick maneuvering to avoid a potential car accident.
5. Get racecar driver control of the wheel. Another trick to maintain control of the wheel is to move your seat close enough to the steering wheel so that your wrist can rest on the top of the wheel with your arm outstretched and your back against the seat. This not only ensures your arms won't easily fatigue but they'll be in the optimum position for some last-minute evasive maneuvers.
6. Judge a driver by his/her car's condition. If a car's condition indicates an inattentive owner because of body damage or dirty windows, it could easily suggest an inattentive driver, too. Also, drifting in the lane often identifies a tired, drunk or cell phone-preoccupied driver — so you should get away from that person.
7. Know your car's limits. After getting behind the wheel of everything from minivans to exotic sport cars, our editors know the performance limits of the cars they drive. Pay attention to how your particular vehicle reacts in certain situations — if the vehicle leans a lot when you're rounding corners, this means that wrenching the wheel at high speeds to avoid an accident will be a scary proposition. It's also key to be familiar with the limits of your car's brakes and tires. How long does it take to stop when you apply maximum pressure? How much grip do your tires have? If you replaced your car's stock tires with a cheap set, chances are you've reduced its braking and handling capability.
8. Keep your car in good shape. We stick to the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule for our long-term cars. This ensures that they'll accelerate, stop and steer when we need them to. Reconsider the wisdom of "getting another 1,000 miles out of old tires" — if you encounter an unexpectedly slick road, you may find yourself rubbing up against the guard rail.
9. The nighttime is not the right time. Some people like to travel at night to avoid traffic, but with it comes certain hazards. In addition to your own increased fatigue and decreased field of vision, you need to be aware of joyriding teens and drivers who may be tired or drunk. Drive extra defensively around the witching hour, after midnight when some people are leaving bars, parties or sports arenas. And for goodness' sake, don't drive down a dark road with burned-out headlights or taillights.
10. Learn how to drive a race car. It may sound like a frivolous expense, but going to a high-performance driving school is one of the best ways to improve your skill as a driver. Here you'll learn what it feels like to drive a car "at the limits" and have an opportunity to practice accident avoidance maneuvers and skid recovery in a safe, controlled environment. Understanding how to make your car do what you want it to do in emergency situations could save your life.