A simples guide

Essential tips for new and young drivers

Although it can be wallet-draining, having a car is a real ticket to freedom. It’s normal to feel a bit of love for your car, so here are our top ten tips to help you look after it and enjoy the open road. They’ll help keep you safe and make your wallet a bit fuller, hopefully.


Think strategically when buying a car

Buying a car is a big purchase. It's not just buying the car itself either, it's learning to drive, and getting your insurance… the combination adds up to a serious amount of cash. 

To make this less financially painful, it makes sense to find a car that’s cheap to insure (a car within a low insurance group), cheap to maintain and cheap to run. Is it fuel efficient? What’s the tax going to be like? Click here to see what other tips The Money Advice Service give. 

But make sure whatever you buy is safe.
EuroNCAP will tell you the safety ratings for any car you are looking at. Take a look at Car Buyer's top 2016 safe cars for young people.


Get your insurance down

We already know that young drivers’ car insurance is expensive, so getting it as cheap as possible is important. There are lots of ways you can reduce your premiums, but staying with your current provider and just accepting your renewal quote is definitely not one of them.

Compare your car insurance quote every year, a few weeks before your renewal date. That’ll give you plenty of time to find the best deal and could save you money if you buy three weeks before. We can help you – our online search will only take a few minutes and you'll end up with a page full of insurers that are happy to insure a young driver.

Once you have your quotes, you can see if there are ways to reduce them any further – you could take off any unnecessary add-ons like a courtesy car for instance. But think about whether you could afford alternative transport while your car’s being fixed or even if you have alternatives available. Or you can increase your voluntary excess, which could bring the premium down – but do make sure that you can afford to pay both the voluntary and the compulsory excess if you ever need to claim.

Try Telematics

Normal car insurance premiums are worked out based on the risk you are to the insurer. In other words, that means how likely you are to make a claim. They calculate this by using statistics about claims made by your age group.  Statistically, 17-24 years olds are more likely to have an accident than other age groups, which is why your premium can be so hair-raising.

Telematics is relatively new and monitors your driving – not the driving of the masses.  A box is fitted to your car, which tells your insurance provider how and when you’re driving. If you drive carefully you’ll be rewarded with lower premiums.  However, it works the other way too, so if you drive too fast or at peak times it could increase your premium.

Add an experienced driver

Another way to make car ownership cheaper is to share your car with a responsible driver. If you still live at home, add one of your parents as a named driver as this should reduce your premium. Just make sure that they will be using the car as it’s fraud to add someone on who isn’t really going to be driving the vehicle.

Basic car care

Having a car is a bit like buying a pet – learning to look after it is really important. Just jumping in and driving away just doesn't cut the mustard as far as safety and saving cash are concerned. 

A little bit of time learning what's under the bonnet and what you need to do with it will keep you safe – and could save you from a big mechanics bill.

It could also stop you becoming stranded on the side of the road scratching your head and wondering which one is the coolant reservoir. Ask your parents or seek out some of the many YouTube tutorials.

You need to know:

-how to check and top up the oil, coolant, screen wash and transmission fluid

-how to check for wear on your windscreen wipers

-how to check your tyres, what depth the tread should be, the correct pressure and how to change the tyre pressure

-how to change a tyre. Have a dry run, it's the best way.

Another important thing is to take notice if your car starts doing anything unusual. Funny noises, warning lights on the dashboard, stalling, drips on the ground where you’ve parked… that kind of thing.

Getting them checked out early is usually better than waiting until the car conks out, and could save you a lot of money. A final note – if your car has done more than 60,000 miles, get the timing belt (also know as a cambelt – it’s part of your engine) changed. It costs a bit, but if you leave it and the belt snaps, it could mean a new engine.

windscreen smear

Don't let summer con you... it's got its dangers too

Ah, we all like a bit of summer driving, but there's still some hazards to look out for.

Keep a regular check on your coolant as engines can overheat – that can be both dangerous and expensive. In the heat any weaker parts of rubber on your tyres can become fragile, which can be made worse if the pressure is low – so check them regularly. Keep a pair of sunglasses in the car – the summer glare can be dazzling.

To save on fuel turn off your air con when it gets to a comfortable temperature.

Take extra care when driving in the winter

Driving in the winter is a whole different kettle of fish to the nice warm days of summer, and your first winter as a driver can be a bit of a shocker.

Don't pretend you're invincible – driving in bad weather like fog or heavy rain for the first time can be pretty stressful. That could stop you concentrating on other things, like putting your lights on, or allowing a longer stopping distance.

If you don't feel safe, pull over when you can and wait for the weather to ease. On the subject of rain, today’s increasing risk of flooding means you could find yourself driving into flood water. Make sure you avoid any waterlogged roads, and watch out for oncoming traffic creating a wave that could go into your engine. 

In the winter always keep your lights, windscreen and registration plate clean. The AA recommend that your tyres have a minimum of 3mm tread depth in the winter to allow for bad road conditions – take a look at your tyres and see what condition they're in. If you have to drive in wintry weather make sure you've cleared the car of ice or snow and drive slowly and carefully. You should increase your stopping distance to 10 times the norm. Remember if you're driving in the fog and you use your fog lights, turn them off when visibility has improved otherwise you'll dazzle other traffic.

winter tyres

Get yourself an essential car kit (your Mum will be proud)

Now this may sound like something your grandparents may have in the back of their car but don't scoff – it could make all the difference. Having an 'essential kit' will mean that you'll be prepared for any eventuality. The AA have a checklist of things you could put in it – from de-icer to a torch, even some snacks. You could buy one too: Halfords, RAC, The AA all sell their own. You could be glad of it one day.

Improve your driving

If you think driving on a motorway is about as terrifying a parachute jump, then you might benefit from a motorway driving course. The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) provide courses and assessments to help with all levels of driving, from helping you gain confidence to giving you advanced-level experience. Pass Plus is a government recognised practical driving course that is designed to improve your skills and help you to drive more safely. A bonus is that some insurance providers recognise an advanced driver’s course qualification and might offer you a discount on your premium.

Plan long journeys

Whenever you're off on a journey, it's always a good idea to prepare. But that doesn’t necessarily mean packing up sandwiches and a flask. Check out your route first, get on Google maps or grab an up to date road atlas if you want to play it old school. Either way it’s a great idea to familiarise yourself with the route.

If you're really organised, you can plot in places to stop for a snack or a break. Stick the route in your sat nav or mobile phone, but always take a map in case you lose signal. Oh, and don't forget your charger. Check the weather on your route too... it might be sunny at home but throwing it down further on in your journey. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get there. Being late is a big distraction when driving and can make you take silly risks.

We hope that our guide helps you get the best out of driving, whether you’re covering the equivalent of Land’s End to John O’ Groats or just doing your daily commute. 

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