Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Contract Hire, the Answer to Modern Day New Car Ownership?

Peace of mind and sustainability

Contract hire may only be the only solution to modern day new car ownership. With the average household debt in the UK being over £50,000, purchasing a new car at £20,000+ is becoming out of reach to many UK households. Contract hire looks to be a sustainable and beneficial solution. A new car every three years or so, manageable, consitent monthly payments and servicing options thrown in.

As time becomes more and more of a precious commodity, the less hassle offering is becoming more attractive by the day. I recently went to buy a new (used) car, I hadn't though of contract hire and leasing before, but now i'm starting to wonder whether to sell my 5+ year old car and swap it for a brand new one on contract hire. The benefits seem pretty clear to me, and the thought of getting a new car in three years time is also rather appealing. With everything becoming more obsolete more quickly these days, technological advancements and the onset of electric cars, in three years time it's doubtful i'll be able to afford a new electric one if I keep the car I have, and I may end up feeling very bad about my carbon footprint.

I'll look to blog about electric cars in the near future once i've done my research, and coupled with that i'll make a decision about contract hire. What are your thoughts?

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Changing Face of Car Dealerships

Is the Internet the answer to the downturn woes of the car industry? 
Recently I was looking to purchase a new (used) car. I've always thought of this process of rather treacherous.  You go into your local car dealership, just to browse, end up coming out with something you can't afford and has no practical use to you, because the salesman is too good at his job. This time, with an ankle in cast and strenuous activities being limited, (yes this would be classed as strenuous), I sat at my computer and looked at what it could offer me, I actually had no idea whether you could buy a car or if they delivered, now that would be handy.

A quick Google search for 'cars for sale bournemouth' bought up a whole host of results from various new and used car dealerships, websites where you can upload a picture of your car and sell it through the internet, car leasing websites, the list goes on. Navigating to some car dealerships I recognised the name for, what struck me first is the level of professionalism and the quality of design of these websites. Easy to navigate, and with easy, clearly defined options. Within 10 minutes I had booked 4 test drives, enquired about finance, made an offer on a used car that looked exactly what I wanted and slowly drank a cup of tea. No annoying salesman in sight.

Yes the internet may be dehumanising the planet, but it sure is making life easier.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Used Car Hypermarket Battlefield

10 dos and don'ts of buying a used car.

It is, a battlefield out there, when looking to buy a second hand car. So many avenues to take, so much choice on offer, so many different routes to purchase, the list goes on. In this short guide we'll try and steer you in the right direction and help you get the results you want, in the shortest and most pain-free way possible.

The dos
  • Look online before going out to view any car. There are hundreds of sites where you can get a good idea of how much the type of car you want should cost.
  • Finance yourself. Of course, this option isn't available to everyone, but try the bank before negotiating finance with a dealer. Its one more thing they can negotiate with you over and as the buyer you need to retain the power.
  • Take a test drive, reports have loosely shown that up to 30% of car-buyers don't take a test drive before purchasing, absurd.
  • Consider a new car dealer. Many dealers now offer certified used cars with warranties and dealerships often keep the best trade-ins for themselves.
  • Get the car checked out by a mechanic, and review the service history, look for anything that may shed the cars worth in a new light.

The don'ts
  • Don't buy a card advertised on the roadside. You know little about its past and an unlicensed seller has little rules to conform to.
  • Don't reveal you have a trade-in. Do that after you have negotiated the price for the car you're buying. Again it gives the dealer your power.
  • Don't bargain from the list price down. Bargain from the realistic price up - the price you looked up online.
  • Don't pay for add-ons, like credit life insurance and protective coating. They add little value to a used car and your ownership of the vehicle.
  • Returns not accepted. Bear this in mind before signing on the dotted line, most companies will not accept returns on used cars. Check with the company before you buy.

Hopefully these tips will steer you somewhat clear of ending up on the pavement, so to speak. I often find when looking for prices on cars, location can make a difference. There are lots of cheap cars in Dorset for example, as oppose to buying in London.

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Volvo V60 Hybrid

Clear concious and a serious rebate.

This, is the new Volvo V60 Hybrid, and if you buy one, the government will give you £5000. Thats not a bad start is it? It is of course qualifying for the government grant due to its electric motor parked in the back of the car, and when used only in 'Pure' driving mode, has a theoretical electric-only range of up to 32 miles. Hang on though, this car can also get off the grid, with 0-62mph time of 6.2sec in 'Power mode', this is all looking rather promising.

The logo inspired dasboard of the V60.
Hybrid mode is the default-operating mode for the V60 D6. Volvo claims this mode best blends the hybrid system’s environmental and performance capabilities. It is in this mode where the 49g/km CO2 figure was recorded using the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) standard tests.

In Hybrid mode, Volvo quotes a theoretical range of 746 miles. A full recharge of the batteries takes between 3.5 hours and 7.5 hours depending on the amperage of the power source. While recharging, it is also possible to pre-heat or cool the cabin to prevent the car using unnecessary charge on these tasks when on the move. The battery can also be pre-conditioned to its optimum working temperature, too, thus maximising the electric-only range.

Until we can utilise electric motors more, this is the perfect solution depending where you stand on electric vehicles. The power and performance of a regular car and the economy, efficiency and low CO2 emissions of an what electric cars claim to be offering, Internally the car provides all the latest mod-cons, with a swish, futuristic dashboard display.

The new Volvo V60 Hybrid is a great move from Volvo and looks to be a genuinely decent offering if you're looking for an electric car. Book a test drive today at your local new car dealer and find out for yourself.

Fiat Panda 4x4

A 4x4 cross city slicker creating a stir.

If anyone remembers the old 4-wheel drive Fiat Panda of the eighties, i'm fairly certain it wouldn't conjure up memories of prestige and timeless design. It was, a box. I remember my parents owning one when I was fairly young, i'm pretty sure even then, in my innocence of youth, I knew it was ugly. I can't even bring myself to post a picture on here, i'm sure a quick Google search will bring it up, lets hope eventually all knowledge and documentation of it gets lost to the confides of history. However, we are here to talk about the new Fiat Panda 4x4, and in 20 years time hopefully not look back in too much disgrace.

We should start by assessing the Panda as a competitor to other 4x4's, and lets face there are alot, good ones too, so Fiat have their work cut out. In a show of strength to show off the 4x4 capabilities of the new Panda, Fiat (read Marketing stunt) drove one to a mountaineering base camp at Mount Everest, 5,200 metres above sea level with no proper roads. So how did the locking differentials and low-range transfer box perform? Well, if it had any of these i'm sure i'd be able to tell you. The point i'm getting at is that really the new Fiat Panda 4x4 isn't really a true SUV, more of a off-roader cross city slicker, so we should probably review it as one. We should also note that, this Panda is one of the cheapest 4X4's on the market, half and more of the price of its current competitors, so in that sense, its created a niche for itself to fill, so it looks set to fly off the shelf.

The carbon copy interior of the new Fiat Panda 4x4.
The off road performance itself is good, powered by Fiat's eight-valve, 1.2-litre, 60bhp petrol engine, backed up by suspension that's raised by 50mm all-round, with the rear getting a new independent set-up. There are also specially designed tyres and additional underbody protection. To be honest, unless any of you are planning on taking this further than 5,200 metre Everest base camp - you'll be in good hands.

Internally, the new model is a carbon copy of the standard Panda, well configured, spacious and comfortable offering more than you would expect at this price range. The car comes complete with ABS and EBD, remote central locking, driver and passenger airbags, a CD player and electric front windows. Standard alloy wheels, black roofbars and foglights. All in all a good package, well priced, feature packed and multiple uses. I can see these flying out of the showroom when they arrive here in the UK in April.

Check out your local new car dealer now to book a test drive and see what you think.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Mazda CX-5

Finally a compact crossover that can deliver?

It would be nice, wouldn't it, to live in a world of lower carbon emissions, less pollution and at the same time, enjoy high standards, space and lets face it, a lower fuel bill.

I'm pretty sure that was Mazda's thinking, when it set about to design the new Mazda CX-5. First on the cards, fuel efficiency. A no brainer of course is to make the car lighter than its predecessors, less weight, and less fuel needed to lug it round, however, you risk losing the stability and safety larger cars can offer. This is partly, where Mazda's new 'Skyactiv Technology' comes into play. A redesigned chassis, a 3rd lighter than its predecessors, made of new blend of steel, offering excellent collision performance and enhanced handling.

The new Mazda CX-5 'SKYACTIV-BODY'
The key to the low CO2 emissions produce by the new SKYACTIVE-G petrol engine, and SKYACTIVE-D diesel engine is the compression ratio. SKYACTIV-G is a 2.0 litre direct-injection petrol engine achieving a record-breaking compression ratio of 14:1, while SKYACTIV-D is a 2.2 litre turbocharged diesel engine also delivering a 14:1 compression ratio. This all makes for low fuel consumption, apparently, and statistics usual sell me, so i'm sold.
The new Mazda CX-5 space-age interior.

Externally, the new Mazda CX-5 has been designed with a new 'KODO - Soul of Motion' design theme (read Marketing speak), from a human beings point of view, it looks the business, internally too, and the 'cockpit' has been designed to create ease of use between you and every contact point of the car. Designed to be as aerodynamically sound as possible, this also helps with fuel consumption.

So, all in all, Mazda look to be onto a winner with new the CX-5, and it seems i'm not the only one to come to this conclusion.

Check out your nearest new car dealer now and book a test drive for yourself.