Maria McCarthy

I'm a journalist, author, broadcaster and media consultant

Car insurance: everything you need to know

If you drive or park your car on the public road car insurance is a legal requirement. Understanding the basics will help you ensure that you get the right cover at the best price. We turned to the experts for tips, tricks and explainers, so here's how to find the best car insurance for you. During lockdown there were fewer cars on the road and hence fewer accidents, which has contributed to lowering the cost of motor insurance. 'The average cost of car insurance is currently at a four year lo

4 places to charge your electric or plug-in hybrid car

Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are better for the environment and more economical than petrol or diesel cars. However, many motorists who would like to drive a more eco-friendly vehicle are deterred by worries about where and how often to charge it. Currently over 80% of vehicle charging takes place at home. But with the Government's proposing the end of the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2035 it's clear that the options are going to have to increase so that motorists living in f

How to overcome anxiety about driving

In England, lockdown guidance around driving has eased - although everyone should still remain home as much as possible. But in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland 'stay at home' lockdown rules remain in place. However, people are now allowed to drive somewhere to exercise and those who aren't able to work from home are being encouraged to return to work. Everyone is being being asked to avoid using public transport if possible for health reasons and because necessary social distancing on buse

Q&A: MOT test need-to-knows

In the UK all cars over three years old are legally required to undergo an annual MOT test. This is an examination of key mechanical and electrical points to ensure the car is roadworthy. It can be a nail-biting time. Will your car sail through or will it need expensive repairs? Being prepared is key, so check out our guide... How do I know when my car's MOT test is due? Recent research by Halfords Autocentres has revealed that 20% of motorists have at some time driven a car without a valid

5 common car breakdown problems – solved!

Car breakdowns are annoying and inconvenient but many are avoidable or easier to remedy if you're switched on about your options. Unless you consider yourself a natural with the wheel braces and jump leads, it's an excellent idea to sign up to one of the breakdown services. The AA cover starts at £59, Green Flag at £25 and The RAC at £70 for a year. They have trained patrols and specialist equipment that make dealing with most breakdowns a straightforward experience. But here's some go-to advi

5 things everyone should know about car depreciation

When you think about keeping down motoring costs, the price of fuel, car insurance, servicing or road tax is what probably springs to mind. But according to the Money Advice Service, although fuel is likely to be your biggest day-to-day running expense, the real cash-burner is depreciation. Depreciation is the difference between a car's value when you buy it and when you come to sell it. It's sometimes referred to in the car trade as 'residuals' – that is, a car with 'good residuals' is one

The best way to keep your car secure

All cars are vulnerable to theft and Home Office figures reveal that the number of stolen vehicles has increased by 50% in the last 5 years. If you've got an upmarket car you might think that its high-end security will keep it safe. However it could be in danger of being hacked and stolen by tech-savvy thieves. At the other end of the scale you may have an old banger you feel that no-one would think worth stealing – but it could have huge appeal to youthful joyriders. And even though it might

How to check and adjust your car head rest

We all know how vital it is to fasten our seatbelts at the start of a drive and ensure that all occupants are safely strapped in. But do you realise how important it is to also check your head restraint (otherwise known as a head rest) and the head rests of your passengers to guard against whiplash injuries? How to adjust your car’s head restraints • Position your car head restraint as high as your head • Tilt the head rest as close to your head as you can. Touching the head is best. • If the h

Hybrid cars have to be plugged in – and five other common misconceptions

As awareness of the climate crisis grows and urban pollution levels creep ever higher, we’re all starting to think more about our carbon footprints. For those who are considering buying a car, which one to go with requires careful thought and research. Should we stick with petrol or diesel, take the plunge to buy an electric vehicle or maybe opt for a hybrid? Of these options, there tends to be the most confusion around hybrids. There are a lot of myths about these vehicles, many of them based

Blue Badge Scheme: eligibility, how to apply and where Blue Badges can be used

On 30 August 2019, the Blue Badge scheme changed, making people with 'hidden disabilities' such as autism and dementia eligible for the scheme. We reveal everything you need to know about the changes and how to apply for a Blue Badge. What is the Blue Badge scheme? The Blue Badge scheme was introduced as a way of helping people who are blind or have physical mobility problems park closer to their destination. The badge is linked to the disabled person rather than a vehicle. It can be used fo

Do you do these 5 safety checks before you drive?

Even if dealing with anything vaguely mechanical feels out of your comfort zone, and you tend to view what goes on under the car bonnet with a certain amount of fear, there are still some essential car checks that every motorist should be able to carry out. To make things easier for the car maintenance novice, we've put together everything you need to know to complete the POWDER sequence of checks below. You should carry out out this routine once a fortnight and before any long journey.

Keep the road in your sights

Almost 300 injuries on UK roads each year are estimated to be caused by drivers with poor vision. The Association of Optometrists (AOP) are running an ongoing campaign, Don't Swerve a Sight Test, to press for changes in the laws around vision tests and driving and also to urge motorists to have their sight tested regularly. 'We want to make our roads as safe as possible,' says Farah Topia, optometrist and spokesperson for the AOP. 'But currently our laws on driving and vision are among the most

This is how much it actually costs to run a car

UK motorists spend an average of £162 per month on car running costs, or just under £2,000 each year, according to research by Kwik-Fit. And that doesn't take into account the cost of the car itself! While some motorists keep a close watch on what they're spending to keep their car on the road, others have only a vague idea of how much it takes to keep their car's motor running. It's not difficult to see why some of us find it hard to keep tabs on what we spend on our cars. Not only are the

4 ways to stay safe when driving alone

Whether it's being targeted by road-ragers or facing the nerve-wracking experience of picking up your car from a deserted multi-storey car park late at night, staying safe on the road as a woman can feel challenging at times. But there are plenty of practical steps you can take to increase your personal safety and feel more confident. When driving somewhere unfamiliar plan your route and where you're going to park in advance. Always have a fully-charged mobile phone with you. Having a dash ca

4 ways to cut car use

Whether you'd like to give up or cut down on your car use because you want to live a greener lifestyle, save money, get fitter .. or a combination of the three, the summer is the perfect time to try it out. Walking and cycling are more enjoyable when the sun is shining and once you've got the car-free habit you'll be more likely to continue for the rest of the year. According to environmental charity Sustrans, if four out of five short journeys were made by foot, bike or public transport drivers

Busting the myths around female drink-driving

We all know drink-driving is wrong. If we're out drinking cocktails at a friend's birthday party or celebrating till the small hours at a wedding, a designated driver will have been arranged or a taxi booked. But what about when we're having a cold beer at an afternoon barbecue, or a glass (or two) of wine at a book club? Many women feel that with 'just a glass' they will be safely under the limit and that all will be well. But is that really the case? How much is safe? Lauren Booker, an alco

Fight back against plastic in your weekly shop

Almost two thirds of UK shoppers say they are either ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned about the amount of packaging on the products they buy - and the amount of plastic packaging, in particular. What's more, almost a fifth of us now take into account the amount of packaging on a product before we decide whether or not to put it in our shopping trolley*. We are right to be concerned. Each year, the UK uses 5 million tonnes of plastic, just under half of which is used in packaging, government figu

Have you considered becoming a volunteer driver?

If you enjoy driving and have some spare time then maybe you could consider becoming a volunteer driver. The opportunities are many and varied. For example, The Red Cross needs drivers to transport elderly and disabled people, to collect deliveries for their shops and to help out at their event first aid service. The National Trust has opportunities for drivers at heritage sites such as Powis Castle in Wales and Greenway House near Torquay. Their role is to drive a minibus or buggy transporting
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