Maria McCarthy

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

How to pay less for car insurance

If you are about to renew your car insurance, you might want to brace yourself. The average cost of car insurance is now a whopping £941 according to comparison website Confused, after increasing by £284 (43%) in the past 12 months. In its quarterly car insurance price index survey of more than 6 million insurance quotes, Confused found that even drivers who would expect to pay less due to building up a no-claims bonus are paying more now than they were five years ago. In particular, 22-year-ol

7 tips for learning to drive later in life

There are lots of reasons why you might not have learned to drive as a teen or twenty-something. Maybe because money was tight, you lived in a city, or because early attempts at learning to drive didn't go well and knocked your confidence. But that doesn't mean you can't pass your test later in life. The prospect can feel daunting, but think how wonderful it will be when you finally gain your licence and enjoy the fun and freedom of motoring. These top tips will help you lose those L plates!

5 ways to keep down the cost of driving lessons

There's no escaping the fact that learning to drive is expensive. According to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) it takes on average 45 hours of lessons and 20 hours of private practice to pass the driving test. The cost of lessons has sky-rocketed in recent years, with many learners paying between £30-50. Taking £40 as average that's £1800 just for lessons. There are other costs too; a provisional driving licence is £34, the theory test is £23 and the driving test itself is £75. T

An end to discrimination for disabled EV drivers?

Annika Phillips loves her Nissan Leaf and uses it for shopping, hospital appointments and the school run. However, as a wheelchair user Phillips has faced challenges when it comes to public EV charging. “So many charge points just aren’t designed in an accessible way,” she says. “Sometimes I can’t even get out of my car as there isn’t enough space.” Sam Bomorse from Staffordshire, who drives a Hyundai Kona Electric, has also struggled. “I have arthritis and, when I’m using my crutch, dealing w

Diesel emission claims - should you do it and how?

Thousands of motorists who owned a diesel car between 2007 and 2020 have joined forces to make a legal claim against car manufacturers for allegedly installing defeat devices into vehicles resulting in reduced readings for nitrous oxide emissions under test conditions. But, it is claimed (denied by manufacturers) the results gave out lower readings when in fact out on the road the vehicles were extremely polluting. If you own a diesel car and think you were affected, you may be thinking of maki

Electric cars: Why buy when you can rent?

Many motorists are interested in trying out an electric car but feel reluctant to take the plunge in case it doesn’t suit their lifestyle. Renting can be an excellent way of sampling an electric vehicle without fully committing. Online research provides an enticing array of rental choices, some of which can involve having a new motor delivered to your door with just a few clicks. But just because you can sign up to a rental or subscription quickly it doesn’t mean you should. Many of these deal

Car warranties explained

Sometimes referred to as Mechanical Breakdown Insurance (MBI), car warranties are extremely complex. Most warranties cover the the main parts of the car such as the engine, gearbox, suspension, and transmission, but there are other items they don't cover. These tend to be what are called 'frictional parts' which need regular replacing such as tyres and windscreen wiper blades. There are also various guidelines the motorist must follow or the warranty can be declared invalid. It can be helpful

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

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
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