Author Archives: Pete Barden

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Top speed cameras gunning for your cash

Keep ahead of who or what's watching you... and stay below the limit

Keep ahead of who or what’s watching you… and stay below the limit

 

Heading out onto the highway, then it’s time to grab your wallet and prepare to be assaulted by a barrage of multipurpose ‘safety’ cameras all vying for a slice of your cash. Here’s our spotter’s guide to the UK’s most common roadside devices…

Gatso

What is it: It’s the cute cuddly camera we all know and love. Exceed the speed limit and it’ll use radar and camera technology to take several photos of the car as it passes over a grid of white lines on the road surface. Gatso devices are rear facing to stop drivers being blinded by the powerful flash they use to ensure the car’s number plate and position are recorded. Additionally, the lines on the road are merely a back-up and the camera can tell the speed a vehicle was travelling without them. Gatso cameras are smart, too, and can distinguish between difference vehicle sizes – catching out HGVs and cars with caravans etc – that have separate speed limits. Many motorists would dodge fines because the camera’s role of film had run out, however, new cameras take digital pics and won’t run out of space.
Where are they: Mainly on busy A-roads, but the can be found just about anywhere. It used to the case that they could only be located at accident black spots.
Stealth rating: 2/5

SPECS

What is it: These smart snoopers can monitor four lanes of traffic and are equipped with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), and photograph every vehicle that passes beneath their gantry- or pole-mounted location. The data is then shared with a second unit at least 200m down the road and the car’s average speed is then calculated. The cameras don’t use film and can communicate with a remote processing centre where tickets are issued. Effective regardless of time of day or weather conditions.
Where are they: Motorways and dual carriageways across the UK, with some even starting to appear on rural roads with accident black spots.
Stealth rating: 3/5

Truvelo

Truvelo_speed_camera

Truvelo: image credit

What is it: This is a forward-facing camera that works without a flash, so it won’t risk blinding the speeding driver. These devices take a photo of the driver’s face – cutting the risk of unscrupulous motorists getting someone else to take the points for them. The device is linked to sensors embedded in the road surface, which calculate the speed and trigger the camera.
Where are they: The Truvelo isn’t widely employed across the UK, but anyone pulling on their driving gloves in Northamptonshire and Hampshire should be on the lookout.
Stealth rating: 3/5

Truvelo D-Cam

Truvelo D-Cam: image credit

Truvelo D-Cam: image credit

What is it: Meet Truvelo max! This updated version of the Truvelo uses lasers and can store up to 100,000 images on an internal drive or ping photos directly – in real time – to a central processing hub. Unlike the standard Truvelo, the D-Cam can also be used as a forward- or rear-facing unit to keep motorists on their toes.
Where are they: You’ll find these on A- and B-roads, motorways and on traffic light signals. They’re not overly common yet, but West Yorkshire has a policy of replacing all of its devices with these digital cameras over the coming years.
Stealth rating: 4/5

SpeedSpike

speed-spike

SpeedSpike

What is it: One for the Big Brother conspiracy theorists, the SpeedSpike uses Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and can be linked to monitor a motorist’s entire journey. There are currently1,000 of the digital snoopers being assessed on the streets of Hampshire. The camera works in a similar way to average speed cameras – measuring speed over a certain distance, rather than at a single point in time like Gatsos. If successful – read profitable – expect a national roll-out over the next few years.
Where are they: Look out for these in Hampshire, particularly around the village of Hursley.
Stealth rating: 4/5

Mobile camera

mobile-camera

Mobile camera: image credit

What is it: The old-school hand-held or tripod-mounted cameras that pop up at the side of a road. Using laser or radar technology, these cameras are still one of the hardest to spot. Look out for vans parked at the side of the road accompanied by men in hi-vis jackets trying to keep a distinctly low-vis profile.
Where are they: Expect these to pop up in lay-bys anywhere around the country. However, cops will usually pick high-value roads, so the answer is simply ‘don’t speed’!
Stealth rating: 4/5

HADECS 3

HADECS3: image credit

HADECS3: image credit

What is it: Introduced by the erstwhile Highways Agency, the HADECS cameras – short for Highway Agency Digital Enforcement Camera System 3 – were intended to help improve traffic flow and improve motorway capacity, but they seem increasingly employed as average speed cameras. The anonymous grey paintjob makes them difficult to spot – sparking accusations of profit over safety for these cameras. They are mounted either on poles or in overhead gantries. The cameras don’t use film, with data being sent directly to a remote location for processing.
Where are they: These have been identified on the M25 in the Kent section, with more popping up on the M3 in Hampshire and Surrey, while the North gets them on the M1 in Derbyshire and Yorkshire. The M6 around Birmingham is also covered.
Stealth rating: 5/5

Vector

vector-new_1

Vector: image credit

What is it: Live on the UK’s highways since 2014, these smart cameras work using ANPR. The multi-talented devices are not only used to catch speeding drivers, but also contraventions involving bus lanes, level crossings, red lights, tolls, congestion zones, parking, yellow box incursions and access control. The camera doesn’t use film, so there’s no limit to the amount of violations they can record and process.
Where are they: Find them popping up in Kent, but expect that to spread if successful. The small, hard-to-spot devices can be located on traffic lights, street lamps, poles, bridges and gantries.
Stealth rating: 4/5

SpeedCurb

SpeedCurb: image credit

SpeedCurb: image credit

What is it: These cameras can often be found keeping a watchful eye on traffic lights as well as speeding offences. The cameras are similar in appearance to Gatsos and also use a rear-facing camera to record the offence. However, unlike its counterpart, the SpeedCurb is not triggered by radar, but uses sensors embedded in the road surface. The SpeedCurb does not use film and digitally transfers records to a remote processing centre.
Where are they: These devices are common across the entire UK.
Stealth rating: 3/5

Peek

What is it: Similar in appearance and operation to the Gatso, the Peek uses radar to measure the vehicles speed as it passes by – recording it with a rear-facing camera.
Where are they: Counties currently using Peek Traffic cameras include Berkshire, Greater London and Leicestershire.
Stealth rating: 2/5

DS2 cameras

ds2

DS2 camera strips

What is it: These devices are semi-permanent systems that are hooked up to strips either laid on the road surface or embedded within it. The system can cover two lanes and traffic going in both directions. The cameras might be monitored by roadside police who’ll stop drivers at the scene and issue an on-the-spot fine, or left unattended to record offences to be processed at a later date. They’re incredibly hard to spot, but the strips are sometimes marked by short grey poles at the side of the road.
Where are they: Expect to find them where you live!
Stealth rating: 5/5

DVLA cameras

What are they: With the demise of the road tax disc, the DVLA has upped the number of cameras it has operating to spot vehicles that haven’t paid excise duty. These can be permanent or operated from roadside vehicle.
Where are they: All across the UK
Stealth rating: 4/5

Diary of a speeding ticket

Caught speeding... here's what happens next

Caught speeding… here’s what happens next

Worried that you might have been caught speeding? Firstly, you should slow down and comply with speed restrictions. However, it can be a worrying time waiting for a ticket, so here’s our guide to how the system works.


Will you get a ticket:

Will you get a ticket: Was the camera working, or were you actually speeding? The police have 14 days to issue the registered keeper of the vehicle involved with a notice of intended prosecution (NIP). If this doesn’t arrive within 14 days, it’s likely you will not be liable for prosecution. However, this is not a clear cut as it sounds and you should get legal advice if it arrives after 14 days – simply ignoring it could result in prosecution and further penalty points. You must act on your belief that the ticket arrived too late.


Are there any other time limits:

Are there any other time limits: Once the NIP has been sent and complied with, the case must progress within six months. If this is not the case, seek legal advice and ask for it to be thrown out.


What next:

What next: You will have to comply with the request to identify the driver of the car involved within 28 days. Fail to do this and you could find your licence endorsed with six penalty points and a £1,000 fine.


What about fines and endorsements:

What about fines and endorsements: Most offences captured by a speed camera will attract a penalty of £60 and three to six penalty points depending on the speed you were travelling. Serious breaches will not be dealt with through a fixed penalty notice and will be sent to court.


How long are penalty points valid:

How long are penalty points valid: Penalty points are valid on your licence for three years from the date of the offence, or from the date of your conviction if it’s heard in court. You will have to wait four years to have the offence completely wiped from your record.


Will taking a speed awareness course prevent points:

Will taking a speed awareness course prevent points: Yes, these courses are run by many police forces across the UK and will mean you don’t get points on your licence. You will have to pay to attend and they won’t apply to those convicted of serious speeding offences. It’s likely that those with a poor driving record won’t be offered the chance of attending such a course.


 

Give your licence a health check here

Driving licence changes you need to know about… Updated Feb 2015

We’ve already said goodbye to the tax disc – and from June 8, 2015 it’s the turn of your driving licence to fall under the axe – with some significant changes and updates you need to know about.

This is also a good time to give your driving licence a thorough health check at the CDG clinic to ensure you’re not about to be struck down by big fines.

 Driving licence changes – your questions answered

Your paper counterpart will become obsolete from June 8, 2015

Your paper counterpart will become obsolete from June 8, 2015

Here’s our at-a-glance guide to all you need know about driving licence-related changes, fines and other pitfalls that are just waiting to spoil your day.

So what’s the big change?
Unlike the tax disc, your driving licence isn’t being abolished entirely – just the paper counterpart that goes with your photocard.

When is this happening?
The changes take effect from June 8, 2015… so, set your alarm for early o’clock, jump out of bed, tumble jauntily downstairs, locate your paper counterpart and destroy it without delay… or maybe wait to see if the Govt has delayed implementing the changes – again!

What else do I have to do?
Nothing. Providing your details are correct and up to date, your photocard is all you’ll need.

I don’t have a photocard – just an old paper licence. Do I destroy it?
No! If you have an old-style paper licence issued before the photocard was introduced in 1998, you should not destroy it. Furthermore, the green paper licence remains legal and – providing the details are correct – you’re under no obligation to change it to a photo-based version. If you do want to upgrade, though, this can be done for free if you are changing your address, name or adding a driving entitlement . Otherwise, with no change of details, it’ll cost you £17.00 by post or £14.00 for online renewals.

How can I see information about my licence now?
The paper counterpart of your driving licence can be used to tell you how many penalty points you have, when they expire, what classes of vehicles you can drive and when the document itself will expire. So, how will you be able view this vital information once the paper part of your licence disappears? Most of this information is available on the back of the photocard, but is not that clear and easy to read. To help address this, the DVLA has launched its online ‘View Driving Record’ service, which lets you see the data you need by entering your driving licence number, national insurance number and postcode.
View Driving Record: See yours here

Hold on – employers or car hire firms need to see this information, too?
Very true. Many interested parties – such as employers and holiday hire car firms – will want to see the paper counterpart to prove you haven’t got a record for instantly becoming a homicidal psychopath once behind the wheel. Obviously, this won’t be possible with the abolition of the paper counterpart, so the DVLA is developing a new online service to provide your real-time driving data to those who have a genuine reason to request it. The information will only be provided with the knowledge of the licence holder. See our guide to how this could affect you when hiring a car for your overseas holiday here.

I’ve moved and need to change my address… how can I?
The paper counterpart allows you to change your address, so abolishing it could cause confusion for motorists who’ve just moved home and find the additional cost of a £1000 fine somewhat distressing. Not a problem, simply use the DVLA’s online service to change your address.
Change your address: UPdate your driving licence here 

Is that it, then?
Yep! It’s not a huge change, but keeping abreast of such changes will ensure you avoid any problems when hiring a car or checking your validity to drive other types of vehicles. This in turn could save you large amounts of cash in fines.

In fact, many motorists will find the changes helpful by cutting the amount of documents they need to carry while travelling both in the UK and abroad.

Why won’t drivers in Nothern Ireland get the Union Flag on their licence?
A spokesperson for the DVA in Northern Ireland told the Belfast Telegraph: ‘In 2012 it was agreed that, recognising the particular sensitivities surrounding symbols in Northern Ireland, NI driving licences, which are produced for the Driver and Vehicle Agency in Swansea by the DVLA, should continue to be produced without the flag or crest.’

MyLicence: Driving licence changes and insurance quotes – NEW

New MyLicence scheme revealed

New MyLicence scheme revealed

In another new driving licence-based initiative, the MyLicence scheme is designed to help drivers get cheaper insurance quotes and cut the risk of driving without cover by failing to provide correct information about endorsements.

Operated by the DVLA and Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB), the scheme shares digital information held on your driving licence with insurers, which will enable them to produce fast, accurate quotes and protect against unwittingly making false declarations regarding motoring convictions which could invalidate insurance cover.

This will prove useful for drivers who need to check for motoring convictions after the paper counterpart section of the licence is axed in June 2015 – leaving them with no locally held record of endorsements on their licence.

Here’s all the at-a-glance information you need


What is MyLicence: The new scheme explained

What is MyLicence: This is a scheme that allows insurance companies to check your licence for convictions and entitlements.


Is it compulsory: Do I really need to take part

Is it compulsory: No, but insurers can choose to not offer you a quote if you don’t provide your driving licence number. Price comparison sites are particularly unlikely to offer a service to those who withhold their number and ‘self-declare’.


What are the benefits of MyLicence: How it might help save time and cash

What are the benefits of MyLicence: The scheme will negate the need to endlessly enter huge amounts of personal details every time you apply for a quote. Participating insurers and price comparison websites will simply need to enter your driving licence number.


Could it save me from invalidated insurance: Stay legal

Could it save me from invalidated insurance: Yes. If you accidentally forget to mention a conviction or other restrictions on your licence, your insurance may not pay out in the event of an accident. The new scheme will provide all pertinent information straight to the insurer when you apply for a quote. Currently, nearly one in five policyholders under-declare the number of motoring convictions they have – some by accident, others maliciously in order to pay a lower premium.


Will it save me money, too: And how much

Will it save me money, too: Yes – it could well do. Research shows 7% of drivers over-declare their convictions and endorsements – meaning they pay too much. The MIB reckons honest drivers will save an average of £15 on their insurance policy. They’ll also pay a lot less in phone charges by swerving the long list of questions they’d otherwise have to answer.


Can named drivers join the scheme: Who else needs to give their number

Can named drivers join the scheme: Yes and this could save more money and protect you from invalidated policies, according to the MIB and DVLA.


What information will be passed on to insurers: You need to know

What information will be passed on to insurers: Joining the MyLicence scheme will provide the following information to insurers preparing a quote:

Type of licence held
Length of time the licence has been held for
Entitlements to drive
Penalty points
Convictions
Conviction dates
Disqualifications


Why is it needed: The facts revealed

Why is it needed: The paper counterpart section of a photocard licence is where information on convictions and current penalties is held. With the abolition of this counterpart in June 2015, drivers will have to check online using the View-Driving-Licence [https://www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence] service. This may not be convenient at all times. You need your driving licence number and national insurance number to view your details.


Will my licence details be shared: Is it a licence to spam

Will my licence details be shared: Your personal details and driving record will only be used to calculate a motor insurance quote and won’t be shared with anyone. MyLicence adheres to the Data Protection Act 1998, and there are strict controls in place about what data is provided, and how it can be used.


Will the service help me keep my licence up to date: Beat fines

Will the service help me keep my licence up to date: It could do. Your insurer is allowed to advise if the photocard is out of date or if the postcode on your application and licence does not match. This information could help you dodge fine of up to £1000.


Will parking fines be declared: And cost me more

Will parking fines be declared: Don’t worry, these are not kept on record by the DVLA so won’t be declared.


Where can I find out more: I am intrigued

Where can I find out more: Hmm – how about the official website, right here



Help – I don’t know my driving licence number
With the new MyLicence scheme making it more likely that insurance companies won’t quote without your driving licence number, it’s important to know what it is.

So, if for any reason you can’t get your hands on the number, here’s how to find it online.

What you’ll need: To find your driving licence number you’ll need the following:

National insurance number – You can find your National Insurance number on your payslip, P60 or tax return. If not, call 0300 200 3500
Postcode that’s on the licence
Your name and date of birth

Find your driving licence number here

Urgent update: Changes to how you collect your holiday hire car

Don't be left at the car hire desk without a vehicle

Don’t be left at the airport car hire desk without any wheels: image credit

Are you planning to hire a car for your holiday this summer? Read on to ensure driving licence changes from June 8 don’t leave you marooned at the airport hire desk without any wheels…

Open the guide below for our at-glance-guide to making sure you’re ready to hit the highway as soon as you land…


At-a-glance guide to hire car licence changes: All you need to know here

New driving licence changes coming into effect at the start of the holiday season could cause chaos for travellers picking up their hire cars. Here’s our at-a-glance guide to all you need to know.

What is the problem: The DVLA is axing the paper counterpart that currently accompanies your driving licence photocard. These will cease to have legal standing from June 8.

But how does this affect collecting my holiday hire car: The paper counterpart contains information on penalty points and other traffic offences that hire companies want to check before letting you loose with their car. This will now be held on the DVLA’s database and need to checked online, by phone or post.

This switch to a fully digital system is likely to make it harder for hire firms to check your driving record – and some local overseas firms might not even know the change is coming.

So how will hire car companies check my record: From June 8, travellers will need to log on to the DVLA’s website the day before they fly, enter their driving licence and national insurance number to obtain an access code that’ll allow a car hire company to check their details via the internet when they arrive.

Sounds straight forward: In theory, but there are some issues that could cause big problems. For instance, the system is still being tested and no website address has been released. A DVLA spokesman told us it will ‘definitely’ be ready for June 8, but there’s no guarantee it would have been fully tested by then.

How long does the code last for: The code will be valid for 72 hours, so anyone hiring a car more than three days into their holiday will need to logon and get a new code – potentially incurring hefty mobile data charges if they don’t have access to free Wi-Fi.

Is there any other way: Yes. If you have access to a computer you can download your driver ‘record’ on a PDF document, print it out and show it to the hire car company. However, some motoring organisations are concerned firms could be reluctant to accept this.

What if I forget to get an access code or to download a PDF: Arrive at the hire car desk without any of the above and the operator could be forced to ring the DVLA’s premium rate helpline, which costs up to £3 a minute. Guess who’ll be paying …

Do I need internet access to use the service: No, the DVLA spokesman assured us that the system will have an associated phone number for drivers to call and obtain a code.

I have the old-style paper licence – is that okay: Yes, old-style paper licences are still legal and providing they are up to date, should be accepted at the hire desk as proof of your driving record.

So can you quicky run this by me again: Yes – just do the following…

Online: Logon to the DVLA website (address to be announced) the day before your flight, enter your driving licence number and National Insurance number. You will receive a code to give to the hire car company when you collect your car. Don’t lose this code.

Print: Logon to the DVLA site, as above, then download and print a copy of your record to give to the hire car company.

By phone: Call the DVLA – no number has been announced yet – give them your driving licence and National Insurance in return for an access code. Make sure you take it with you.

Don’t forget: Take your driving licence and National Insurance number with you – just in case you lose your access code or have a change of plans and decide to hire a car.


And now the good news… price cuts from 31/10/14

The cost of buying or renewing your licence is set to fall by 30% from October 31, 2014

The cost of buying or renewing your licence is set to fall by 30% from October 31, 2014

The cost of getting or renewing a driving licence has been cut following a public consultation. The new prices include the following reductions and came into effect from 0ctober 31, 2014.

New provisional licence: Falls from £50.00 to £34.00 online or £43.00 by post
Renewals: Fall from £20.00 to £14.00 online or £17.00 by post

We’ll update the full price list when it comes into effect

Driving licence health check…

Give your licence a health check here

Give your licence a health check here

Your driving licence can suffer from many administrative ills, so take our health check-up to help avoid painful fines. We’ve got the problems and cures right here…


Incorrect address: How to change it

Incorrect address: Are you one of the 2.6million drivers who haven’t updated their licence with a current address – and risk being slapped with a £1000 fine? Don’t play fast and loose with your cash, simply change the address now.
Change address here
How much: Free

 

Wrong name: Just married - or divorced

Wrong name: Research reveals that 3% of married women still have their maiden name on their licence. Changing your name on your licence is simple – and free. Firstly, you’ll need to complete a D1form – which you can get from the Post Office or by ordering it online here. You’ll need to send supporting information such as a marriage certificate, decree absolute or Deed Poll certificate. All documentation must be original. You’ll also need to send your photocard and counterpart (if before January 1, 2015), or your old-style paper licence.
How much: Free

Medical change: Tell the DVLA now

Medical change: If you’ve suffered a medical event that could effect your driving, you must contact the DVLA with details. It will then decide if any changes need to be made to your driving licence. These could include giving a shorter licence of 1, 2 or 3 years, demanding that you adapt your car or even give up your licence.
Find out about your medical condition and how it might afffect your licence: Contact the DVLA here
How much: Free

Out of date photo: Change it or pay the fine

Out-of-date photo: Around 40,000 drivers are currently at risk of a fine for failing to update the photo on their photocard licence. This needs to be done every 10 years and while a reminder is sent out, many people claim the correspondence is confusing. So, check the valid from date on your licence then add 10 years – this is when you need to renew your photo.

Here’s how to change you photocard photo:

By post: Get yourself a D1 form from the Post Office or by calling the DVLA to order one on 0300 790 6801
How much: £17.00

At the Post Office: Take your renewal letter or completed D1 form along to the Post Office – not forgetting a passport style photograph, too.
How much: £24.50

Online: To use this service you will need a valid passport – because this is the photograph that will be used on the licence. Click below to get full details.
Change your licence photo online: Do it here
How much: £14.00

Expired licence: Here's how to renew or exchange... and how much

Expired licence: Around 2million Brits have an expired licence, according to research from Direct Line – equating to around £2billion in potential fines. Reasons for this could be anything from age to the type of vehicle being driven, so make sure you know when yours need renewing. Here are some costs involved: (These prices are set to fall from 0ctber 31, so will be updated then.)

Reason for renewingFee
Renewing an expired driving licence£17.00 by post or £14.00 online
From age 70Free
For medical reasonsFree
Bus or lorry driversFree
After disqualification£65.00
If disqualified for some drink-driving offences where the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) needs to arrange medical enquiries£90.00
After revocation (under the New Drivers Act)£50.00

Reason for exchangeFee
Add entitlement to full or provisional licenceFree
Paper licence to photocard with change of details (eg, name or address)Free
Removal of expired endorsements£17.00 by post or £14.00 online
Full Northern Ireland licence to a GB licenceFree
Full European Community, European Economic Area or other designated foreign licence, if a previous GB licence heldFree
Northern Ireland licence with a GB test passFree

Beware of licence fraudsters

Don't respond to emails asking you to give personal details

Don’t respond to emails asking you to give personal details

Changes to the driving licence have led to an increase in fraudsters attempting to exploit the confusion and trick drivers into giving out personal details. These can then be used to gain access to bank accounts or other forms of identity theft.

How does the scam work: Drivers are sent an email claiming to be from the DVLA. The communication asks motorists to use a link to a copycat version of the DVLA’s website, where they’re asked to verify their driving licence details.

Do not respond: The DVLA has not sent out an email and would never ask licence holders to divulge information through an unsolicited email or phone call. Do not click the link or give any information. If the DVLA want to contact you, it will do so by post.

Don’t respond to phone calls: As a rule, you should never disclose any personal details – such as date of birth, passwords, pin numbers, passport number, address etc – in response to an unsolicited phone call – even if the caller claims to be from the police or your bank.

Don’t call back: Many scammers use a technique where they ask the ‘victim’ to call them back, to give the impression it’s a genuine call. Many phone lines allow the fraudster to stay on the line, so despite you putting the phone down dialling the correct number, you are still connected to the crook. If you really think you should call back, check the number is genuine, then dial from a different phone.

New scam alert from DVLA – April 2015

DVLA has warned of an email scam asking drivers to verify their driving licence and vehicle tax details via an online link. In some cases the email quotes a 16 digit reference number, telling drivers they’re due a refund for part-payment made when taxing their vehicle. Drivers are then asked to verify their bank details via an online link.

The DVLA will never send any unsolicited email or other correspondence asking for bank details or passwords. Simply ignore it and visit http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ to report it.

Changes to how your driving licence is managed is expected to create more such scams and ‘phishing’ emails – made more likely by the online checking systems that replace the outgoing paper counterpart.

We’ll update scam warnings as they appear, so check back regularly.

Driving licence to get Union Flag

Union Flag on licences has proved controversial

Union Flag on licences has proved controversial

Anyone applying for a new driving licence, or renewing a current one will now fly the flag for Britain, with the Government revealing plans for the document to display the Union Flag alongside the European Union standard.

The changes will apply to motorists in England, Scotland and Wales. However, drivers in Northern Ireland will not be included.

Transport Minister Claire Perry said: ‘People in this country rightly take pride in our national flag which is why I am delighted it will now be displayed on British driving licences.’

Controversy

However, the move has proved controversial for pro-independence supporters in Scotland and Wales, while some members of the community in Northern Ireland are unhappy about being excluded from the change.

Are you proud to fly the flag? Tell us your thoughts here…

Don’t smile… take a new photo for your licence

Photos for your driving licence photocard should adhere to the same guidelines as those demanded by your passport pic (you won’t need to get it signed, though). Getting the photo right can be tedious or expensive if you go to a pro, so why not download this handy app to do the work for you?

Download the app here 

 

Related content: Parking tickets

Parking-header-(1)Dangerous parking deserves to be punished, but getting a ticket that you believe to be wrong can be infuriating. Find out your options here.

Parking guide here 

London_Parliament_2007-1

General Election 2015: Who’s supporting drivers?

Thinking about who you’ll be voting for on May 7? Have a look at CDG Cars‘ quick guide to how the main parties stand on motoring-related matters. See who’s driving the best deal for car owners here…

Conservatives

David_Cameronspeaking2

David Cameron

Here’s what the austerity-driven Tories have planned for the UK’s drivers and transport in general…

Fuel Duty: No direct reference to Fuel Duty, but with a track record of looking kindly on hard-pressed motorists, it seems unlikely the Tories would increase this any time soon.

Roads: The Conservatives have pledged to bring drivers the biggest investment in roads for more than 30 years. With £15bn investment promised for roads – 6bn earmarked for highways in the North – road trips should get a lot smoother and faster.

Verdict: On the face of it, the Tories look like they’re promoting a driver-friendly future on the roads.

Labour

Ed_Miliband_and_Fabian_Hamilton

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband isn’t such a fan of austerity, so will he blow his billions supporting drivers if he gets the keys to No.10?

Fuel Duty: No mention of this in the party manifesto, but the Party’s energy chief, Caroline Flint, said a future Labour Government would consider increasing fuel duty ‘in line’ with inflation. Using the motorist as a ‘tax cow’ will not be popular.

Roads: No talk of money, but Labour says: ‘ We will support long-term investment in strategic roads, address the neglect of local roads, and promote cycling.’

Verdict: The Labour manifesto is heavily biased towards public transport such as buses and trains, so don’t expect too much love for drivers.

Lib Dems

clegg

Nick Clegg

Not known for its support of private motoring, let’s see what the erstwhile Coalition partners have planned for drivers if they grab a slice power-sharing action after May 7.

Fuel Duty: Not mentioned in the party manifesto, but expect a less than sympathetic ride for drivers.

Roads: Reading the Lib Dem manifesto shows it’s more an ideological take on roads rather than doing anything that might help drivers. Here’s what the manifesto says: ‘ Updates to roads regulation to promote innovation in transport like driverless cars and personal electric vehicles.’ Sounds good in theory, but doesn’t sit well with an age of austerity and cuts, perhaps?

Verdict: Move along, there’s nothing here for drivers.

Ukip

Nigel_Farage_of_UKIP

Nigel Farage

After its self-confessed ‘drivel’ manifesto, Ukip return with a more coherent document for 2015. Here’s what is on offer…

Fuel duty: While there’s no direct mention of fuel duty, the Ukip manifesto says: ‘Motorists are already taxed highly enough through fuel and vehicle taxes.’ This appears to be a clear indication it won’t be making the situation worse by hiking fuel duty.

Roads: The party is clear in its opposition to ‘safety cameras’ on roads and demands they should only be used for ‘safety’ and not just as a revenue opportunity. Ukip says it will also remove road tolls wherever possible.

Verdict: Whatever you think about its wider policies, it would seem the driver has little to fear from Farage.

Green Party

natalie-bennett1

Natalie Bennett

We’re thinking it might be better for hard-pressed and over-taxed motorists to skip this section… but just for the record…

Fuel Duty: The Green Party would like to ‘reintroduce the fuel duty escalator, raising £2.2billion in 2015 and an additional £2.2billion in each successive year through the Parliament’. Yes – that £2.2billion will be coming from your pocket.

Roads: You’ll be happy under the Greens – if you can cycle to work or have usable public transport in your area. Otherwise, move along.

Verdict: We all appreciate the environment needs help, but we also need to be realistic. New low-emission cars etc make the automotive industry one of the most environmentally progressive sectors.

Scottish National Party

Nicola_Sturgeon_2

Nicola Sturgeon

It might well have power far beyond the Scottish border, but will it help the wider UK population (that it wants to break free from).

Fuel Duty: If you live in a rural area of Scotland then expect some relief on fuel duty. There’s no word in the manifesto about bringing a fairer deal to the rest of the UK.

Roads: Mostly interested in better rail links. Nothing else on offer for UK road users.

Verdict: Not surprisingly, the SNP won’t be looking south when it comes to helping motorists.

Democratic Unionist Party

Robinson,_Peter_DUP_MLA

Peter Robinson

The Northern Ireland-based party may have influence after the election, but is it interested in UK drivers as a whole?

Fuel Duty: No mention of this.

Roads: Devolution has meant more and improved roads for the people of Northern Ireland, but there’s nothing mooted for the rest of the UK.

Verdict: Not surprisingly, the DUP is not really looking to improve the roads in the rest of Britain.

Plaid Cymru (Wales)

800px-Leanne_Wood

Leanne Wood

Like the DUP and other smaller parties, votes from the likes of Plaid Cymru could be vital in a hung Parliament. Find out which way it would veer on motoring issues here.

Fuel Duty: Plaid will ‘create a fuel duty regulator to prevent unpredictable rises in fuel charges and push for rural fuel price reductions’.

Roads: The party has said it supports a cheaper ‘blue route’ to reduce south Wales M4 traffic. It will also invest in all regions, including A55 north Wales

Verdict: Good bet for Welsh drivers. However, devolved powers will make other areas irrelevant for the remainder of the UK.

 

Ride high

Bikes and cars… the best of both worlds

We show you how to share your life with a car and bike…

Take a break from the car and experience life on two wheels

Take a break from the car and experience life on two wheels

Are you looking for a way out of those rush-hour jams that stretch before you in a never-ending snake towards eternity? Why not step from the car, saddle-up and get cycling? We all need a car, but that doesn’t mean we can’t occasionally lose a couple of wheels and take to a bike instead. Follow our guide to that first tentative push of the pedal here…

How safe is your ride

First things first – just how safe are your cycling plans? Rate your risk here…

Find out how safe your cycling plans are

Find out how safe your cycling plans are: image credit

Getting on your bike is a great way to improve fitness and enjoy time with your family, but you’ll need to make sure you stay safe, too. Perhaps cycling to work is the safe option, or maybe you should opt for weekend rides in the country? Use our risk-assessment tool to estimate just how safe your biking plans are.

Welcome to your Cycling safety test.

Simply answer the following seven questions and we'll reveal a guide to how safe - or otherwise - your cycling habits and routes are.

We're using official data from the Government and cycling organisations to create your risk rating.

Do you mainly cycle on…
During what times do you usually cycle…
Have you ever been convicted of…
Do you mainly cycle in…
Are you male or female...
Do you mainly cycle on…
How old are you...

Now click the submit button below to see your risk rating in the Crawley Down Group's cycle safety test...



5 Health reasons to get in the saddle…

How two-wheeled transportation can boost your health…

stockvault-cycling-through-the-forest103824

Getting fit can be fun with cycling

From becoming part of your commute to weekend rides with your family, cycling can be a great way to have fun and improve your health. Here are some of the medical benefits you’ll receive from from cycling….


Burning calories: Find out how many here

Burning calories: Cycling is great because you can cremate calories while enjoying a leisurely ride. A person weighing around 11.5 stone will eat up 292 calories for an hour’s riding at 10mph. The heavier you are, the more calories you’ll burn. Use this tool to calculate the amount of blubber you could be burning simply by swapping a few car journeys for your bike…

Calories Burned Calculator

Estimate calories burned on your bike ride:
Pace:
Weight:
Time:


Cut the risk of heart disease: Find out how many miles you'll need to cycle

Cut the risk of heart disease: The British Heart Foundation says that cycling 20 miles a week will slash your risk of heart disease by a half when compared with people who don’t exercise. Heart disease can lead to damaged arteries and cause heart attacks.


Feel years younger and live longer: Find out how many years here

10 years younger: Middle-aged cyclists will enjoy fitness levels of someone 10 years younger – while also boosting their life expectancy by two years.


Stroke buster: By how much can cycling cut your risk of stroke

Stroke buster: Regular cycling can help cut the risk of suffering a stroke by 30%.


How far from fitness: How many hours of exercise are needed to get fit

Two and a half hours from fitness: According to official advice, adults aged 19-64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity over the course of a week. Cycling is a great form of moderate exercise that the whole family can take part in.



What type of bike do you need…

Don’t just follow fashion – get the bike that’s right for your plans…

Make sure you buy the right type of bike for your needs

Make sure you buy the right type of bike for your needs

Sadly, turning up at your local bike store and asking the proprietor to supply you his finest new bicycle could leave you with a hefty bill and a machine that’s incompatible with your plans and lifestyle. Gone are the days when all you had to decide between was a Chopper or Raleigh Arena ‘racer’ – now you’ll need to be a little more clued-up when looking for a way into the saddle. Avoid bike-geek humiliation with our basic guide to the different types of cycles on offer…


Road bikes:

Road bikes:

Built for speed on the hard stuff

Built for speed on the hard stuff

Lightweight frames, large thin wheels and drop handlebars are the tell-tale signs you’re looking at a ‘road bike’. Don’t be tempted to call it a ‘racer’ as this will blow your cover and reveal you to be a bike novice and easy prey to the spot-ridden 18-year-old sales assistant.
Great for: Serious athletics types planning long, high-speed rides on the roads.
Not so great for: Commuters, family outings, riding anywhere that’s not topped with baby bum-smooth Tarmac.
How much: From around £150 to many (and we mean ‘many’) thousands of pounds.
Where: Halfords.com


Mountain bikes:

Mountain bikes:

Get a go-anywhere attitude

Get a go-anywhere attitude

Commonly identified by wide, heavily treaded tyres, tough-looking design, suspension and a bucket-load of gears. These are set up for heading off-road and tackling wet, muddy surfaces. They make a great solution for family bikers and commuters whose journey comprises local roads and off-road cycleways, such as disused railway lines.
Great for: Families, commuters and just about anyone who wants an easy go-anywhere solution for getting into the saddle.
Not so great for: Anyone who will be spending their time on Tarmac. The wide tyres and hefty tread will make for slow and noisy progress.
How much: From around £85 to £6,500+
Where: Decathlon.co.uk

City bike:

City bike:

Cruise the city streets in comfort at a relaxed pace

Cruise the city streets in comfort at a relaxed pace

This machine can be identified by its upright and relaxed riding position. The tyres aren’t as wide as those on mountain bikes, but more so than those on road bikes, making the perfect solution for cruising flat, city streets. They’re also well designed to fit boxes, a pannier rack and even child seats.
Great for: The city commuter or anyone who wants to get around flat streets for work or  light shopping etc.
Not so great for: Anyone who is cycling to aggressively improve fitness, or those who want a mix of on- and off-road cycling; city bikes will soon get bogged down.
How much: From £120
Where: Bikes2udirect.com


Folding bikes:

Folding bikes:

Combine your commute with car and bike to save cash and get fit

Combine your commute with car and bike to save cash and get fit

Is it an odd suitcase or is it a bike? Well, it’s a folding bike, actually. The bike can be ridden then folded into a smaller more manageable size that can be carried by hand on public transport or in the back of a car.
Great for: Anyone whose commute is too long for a bike alone, but combined with a car – where the driver can get cheaper out of town parking etc. Simply drive to a  location of your choice, unfold the bike and get cycling the last few miles to the office. Equally efficient for those using trains or buses.
Not so great for: Speed, off-road use or avoiding smirks from small children.
How much: Around £140
Where: Tesco.com


Hybrid bikes:

Hybrid bikes:

The best of all worlds?

The best of all worlds?

These are a cross between road bikes and mountain bikes. They’re comfortable and capable on off-road cycle tracks, while also offering decent on-road performance. It’s a best-of-both-worlds-type solution for the wannabe biker.
Great for: Anyone who wants to combine family rides at the weekend with a reasonably challenging commute will love the versatility of this type of machine.
Not so great for: If you are looking to get serious about  road or off-road biking, this type of cycle will be hugely frustrating.
How much: £109
Where: Argos.co.uk


Electric bikes:

Electric bikes:

No tax or insurance and it'll help you get fit

No tax or insurance and it’ll help you get fit

Some might call this cheating, but that’s not strictly true. The user can set the amount of assistance given to the pedal action. The less assistance asked for, the further the bike will travel on a single charge and provide more fitness-inducing exercise for the cyclist. Electric bikes don’t require you to have a licence, road tax or insurance.
Great for: Anyone who has a long commute or wants to explore further afield without being a world class athlete. Most bikes will travel 20-30 miles on a charge and cost less than 5p per mile to run.
Not so great for: Anyone who wants an inexpensive way into cycling.
How much: From £400
Where: Scootercity.co.uk

Essential apps to get you cycling…

Yes – smartphones will help improve your cycling, too…

Let apps take you places that cars can't go

Let apps take you places that cars can’t go

So, how can the smartphone turn us into better, safer cyclists? Find out here…


Cyclemeter: Your cycling in stats

meterCyclemeter: A comprehensive app that pairs up with the GPS functionality of Apple devices to deliver a raft of statistics to help log and improve your cycling.

It’ll record speed, time in the saddle, distance travelled and offer you a whole host of workouts to help hone your performance.

It even has voice prompts so there’s no need to take your eyes off the road.

How much: Free
Where to get it: Apple devices


Cycle Hire: Get on your Boris Bike

hireCycle Hire: Heading to London? Swerve the Black Cabs this summer and get your mitts on the handlebars of a two-wheeled steed from the London Cycle Hire Scheme… that’s ‘Boris Bikes’ to you and me.

This independent app will help you devise a cycle-friendly route to a Cycle Hire docking station close to your destination, while also telling you how many bikes and spaces there are.

You can also view your Cycle Hire account on the app.

How much: £0.79
Where: Apple devices


Bike Hub Cycle Journey Planner: Go where only two wheels can go

sat-navBike Hub Cycle Journey Planner: It’s a sat-nav that’s just for cyclists. Plot a route from A-B and the app will work out a cycle-friendly route avoiding dual carriageways and motorways, but including cycle paths and other such off-road routes.

Choose from routing options such as quickest, quietest and flattest.

Must-have app for any new cyclist finding their pedals.

How much: £Free
Where:
Android devices
Apple devices


St John Ambulance First Aid for Cyclists: When things go a bit wobbly

sjSt John Ambulance First Aid for Cyclists: Not exactly the app you’ll be itching try out, but one that’ll make sense to prime your smartphone with.

The app covers a number of common cycling-related injuries that might need to be treated at the roadside.

Step-by-step guides and informative diagrams. It also gives action advice for serious emergencies.

How much: £Free
Where:
Android
Apple devices


SizeMy Bike: Get the bike that's right for you

sizeSizeMy Bike: New to cycling and buying your first bike online? It might seem a little daunting as you attempt to find the right size machine for your body.

Handy then, that you can download this Size My Bike app to your smartphone. It’ll walk you through finding six key body measurements then compute the ideal geometry of your new mountain- or road bike.

A must-have app for new bikers.

How much: £3.77
Where:
Android


Bike Doctor: First aid for your bike

docBike Doctor: It’s not just fallen riders who need a little tlc, keeping your bike in top condition will help avoid painful spills and mid-ride breakdowns.

Another must-have smartphone filler for virgin bikers, the app offer step-by-step guides for fixing just about all mechanical problems.

Designed with the beginner in mind.
How much: £3.99 (Apple) £1.79 (Android)
Where:
Android
Apple devices


What’s at the back of your shed…

You might not have sat in the saddle since your schooldays, but what actually happened to your bike? If your trusty mount’s still languishing at the back of a garden shed somewhere, you could be sitting on a two-wheeled goldmine. Here’s how much you could be cashing in for the original Raleigh Chopper and its associated family of bikes.

Cash in on that old Chopper

Safety tech… coming soon

Car makers doing their bit to make it safer when you’re in the saddle…

Safety tech is taken seriously by car makers

Safety tech is taken seriously by car makers

There’s no denying the fact that cyclists are vulnerable road users, but car manufacturers are doing their bit to ensure that two-wheeled road users will soon be a lot safer. Here are just a couple of new technologies coming soon…

Jaguar Land Rover ‘Bike Sense’
‘Bike Sense’ tech will tap the driver on the shoulder and ring a bicycle bell inside the car to help prevent accidents involving bicycles and motorbikes. Watch the video for more info.

Volvo helmet that communicates with cars World-first technology connects cycle helmets with cars: Volvo Cars and POC work on the helmet that uses a smartphone app to connect with nearby cars to avoid collisions. Watch the video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essential kit: Bike racks

You might have your bike, but now you need to find a reliable way to transport it. Here are three top bike racks you might like to consider – suitable for all budgets.

 

bike racks Halfords Thule

Cycleways of the future…

Cycling is hot news for the political elite, so expect plenty of new high-tech cycleways to be touted over the coming few years… and some of them might even become reality. Here we look at some that have already been built along with a couple of great Brit schemes that are still on the drawing board.

The Hovenring, Eindhoven, Netherlands

The Hovernring

The Hovenring

It’s the world’s first suspended cycle roundabout. It hovers above the busy Heerbaan/Meerenakkerweg intersection on the Dutch country’s A2 motorway. It cuts congestion and makes cycling safe.

The Green Connection, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Easy access for all

Easy access for all

Faced with crossing a motorway and busy railway line, many cyclists in the UK would be tempted to head home and buy a pizza instead. Not so in Rotterdam where the €9.2m (£6.6m approx) Green Connection bridge and cycle path will get them there safely. Take a virtual ride here.

The Bicycle Snake, Copenhagen, Denmark

The snake: image credit”

The snake: image credit

This €5.1m (£3.6m approx) construction is a bike and pedestrian bridge that is connected to the final stage – the Snake – to help return the elevated bridge across the harbour to ground level.

The Underline: London, England

Ride beneath the city

Ride beneath the city

A design concept slammed by some cycle groups, but we think the idea of employing unused, or surplus Underground tunnels for biking is an innovative idea. Safe and direct routes… what’s the problem? Discuss.

SkyCycle: London, England

Ride high

Riding high

This scheme is built upon a network of 10 cycleways above the streets of London. A proposed 136-mile network that suspends routes above existing railway routes and would cost in excess of £200m… but a price worth paying, we’d say.

Sky Cycling, Eden Nature Park, Davao, Philippines

The cost-effective solution?

The cost-effective solution?

How about this for a concept? String a few steel lines up between skyscrapers and follow this Sky Cycling experience in the Philippines. Fancy a ride?

Head to the hills...

Let the MAMIL inside escape – or spill out – from you Lycra…

Alpe d'Huez: image credit

Alpe d’Huez: image credit

If you’re a man whose suddenly developed an ill-advised devotion to donning Lycra, the chances are you are becoming a Mamil – Middle Aged Man In Lycra. Don’t resist, merely head to your natural habitat… the moutain climb. Here are some of the best for you and your bike…

Five mountain climbs to tackle

Choose your mountain here, then get more details by clicking the tabs below.

Ride your your own mountain stage

Ride your your own mountain stage

Load your bike and head for these classic mountain climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees. Ride your own personal Tour de France and experience the pain and glory for yourself.


Col du Tourmalet
Start from: Sainte-Marie-Campan
Distance: 17.1km
Average gradient: 7.3%
Details: Part of the first ever Tour de France in 1910 – and visited by it more than 80 times since. Start in the town of Sainte-Marie-Campan and traverse the eastern approach for 17km until topping out at 2115m. The Tourmalet, along with the Peyresourde, Aspin and Aubisque, make part of the classic Tour de France stage through the Pyrenees, which is known as the circle of death.


Mont Ventoux
Start from: Bédoin
Distance: 21.1km
Average gradient: 7.6%
Details: One of the hardest mountain climbs in France, with a relentlessly steep start that cuts through beautiful tree-lined slopes. Once again, though, the final stage of the climb are without vegetation and expose riders to stunning views – leaving them to be battered by wind and sun. The mountain is infamous for the death of Tommy Simpson in 1967, who collapsed in the inferno-like heat as he approached the top. A monument now stands near the spot he fell.


Col d’Izoard
Start from: Briançon (northern approach)
Distance: 19.5km
Average gradient: 5.9%
Details: A classic climb that boasts plenty of Tour history. These were the slopes where legendary winners Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet both launched their race-winning attacks. A memorial stands to both men near then summit.


L’Alpe d’Huez
Start from: Bourg d’Oisans
Distance: 13.8km
Average gradient: 7.9%
Details: It’s not the longest or steepest of climbs, but it’s certainly the Tour’s most well-known. With 21 hairpins that wind their way up the rock face from Bourg d’Oisans it’s a must-go destination for any serious fan – a natural theatre of sport. Visit the climb early on race day (Wednesday 16th July) and let the 500,000 cycling fans who line the climb power you to its summit. Look out for the hordes of orange-clad Dutch fans who party on the Alpe for days before the peloton’s arrival.


Col du Galibier
Start from: Valloire
Distance: 17.5km
Average gradient: 6.9%
Details: Expect a long, hard grind to the Plan Lachet, before the route enter a series of steep switchback as it climes the face. The gradient hardly falls below 8%. This is a daunting yet beautiful climb, which finishes with a final challenge that taunts riders with a 1km run with a gradient of over 10%.

The limited edition 'Opening Edition' version... lots of kits for not much cash

Fiat 500 gets the X factor… meet the Fiat 500X

As your motoring horizons expand, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on Fiat’s retro style when it comes to motoring. Rebel against the bland and check out the all-new Fiat 500X…

What is the Fiat 500X

All-New Fiat 500X

All-New Fiat 500X

What is it? Simple, it’s an SUV version of Fiat’s 500 city car. Bringing the option of retro-styling and city chic to those who need more space, the ‘X’ is 70mm longer, 17cm wider and 12cm taller than the regular car. All adding valuable space for those who need to move on from the restraints of city car motoring.

Trim levels

The 500X brings more space inside

The 500X brings more space inside

Available in three trims, buyers can choose between the Pop, Popstar and Lounge version. There will also be two off-road-ready models – the front-wheel-drive 500X Cross and the four-wheel-drive 500X Cross Plus – for those with plans to set their sights beyond the black stuff.

Early adopters will also get the option of choosing the high-spec ‘Opening Edition’ trim, which will come in a run of just 500 cars – 325 will be in two-wheel-drive City Look form, with the remaining 175 as four-wheel-drive Off-Road Look variants.

What engines are on offer

Retro-styling with modern twist

Retro-styling with modern twist

Three petrol and three diesel engines will be available when the car hits showrooms from the second quarter of 2015.

Petrol versions include a 109bhp, five-speed manual and a 1.4-litre turbo unit producing a feisty 138bhp. Both of these powerplants will be matched with front-wheel-drive transmission, while a 168bhp version of the 1.4 will get four-wheel-drive.

Diesel options come in the form of a 93bhp 1.3 with five-speed transmission, while the 500X Cross gets a 120bhp 1.6 delivering its juice through a six-speed manual. The AWD 500X Cross Plus is powered by a 140bhp 2.0-litre diesel that’s couples with a six-speed manual or nine-speed auto.

Each model gets three driving modes; Auto, Sport and All Weather. These alter engine, braking and steering responses. The ‘All Weather’ setting will be renamed ‘Traction’ in the Cross and Cross Plus versions to offer more aggressive traction control for the front-wheel-drive car and faster transfer of torque in the AWD car.

Equipment

New touchscreen system

New touchscreen system

All models get a colour touchscreen system called Uconnect, with Pop models fitted with a 5-inch screen, while higher-spec models expand this to 6.5-inch. Other standard kit includes Bluetooth, aux-in and USB connections, steering wheel-mounted controls and voice recognition.

Upgrades available include TomTom sat-nav on the smaller-screen models, while it’s standard for the high-spec versions.

The Uconnect system also brings smartphone integration allowing users to access social media, digital radio, weather, traffic info and news reports.

Opening Edition models

The limited edition 'Opening Edition' version... lots of kits for not much cash

The limited edition ‘Opening Edition’ version… lots of kits for not much cash

Opening Edition models are based on the 138bhp 1.4-litre petrol in Pop Version in Pop Star trim. This gets 17-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers, climate and cruise controls and rear parking sensors, as standard, while the Opening Edition upgrades it to 18-inch alloys, tinted rear windows plus Safety Pack and Comfort Pack.

The safety pack adds:
Blind-spot warning system
Automatic emergency braking
Reversing camera

The Comfort Pack includes:
Keyless entry and engine starting
Front armrest
Electric lumbar adjustment on the front seats

Four-wheel-drive versions of the Opening Edition take their DNA from the 500X Cross Plus model and get a raft of additional kit for no extra cost. Additional equipment includes everything offered on the two-wheel-drive version, along with the Visibility Pack that adds automatic lights and wipers, electric door mirrors and auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

Personalisation options

Looking good from all angles

Looking good from all angles

The 500X comes with 12 exterior colours and eight designs for its alloy wheels. There are plenty of decals to from, along with just as many interior finishes.

Performance and econony

Performance, emissions and mpg

Performance, emissions and mpg

Got and eye on the environment or your tax costs? Here are the essential emissions and economy figures you’ll need for the all-new Fiat 500X

Take a closer look with our dashboard zoom

Have a look around the Fiat 500X’s dashboard with our zoom feature. Simply follow the instructions below for to get up close and personal with the interior.

How much

Fiat 500X prices

See above for a full price list, but the entry-level Pop version comes in at £14,595, while the range tops out at £25,885 with the 2.0-litre Cross Plus.

The limited-edition ‘Opening Edition’ costs the same as the models it’s built on, but come with far more equipment – so get in early for big savings.

Geek section

Want to check out the tech spec? Then you’ve come to the right place. Click below and we’ve got something very special just for you…


Click here for full Fiat 500X tech spec

Fiat 500X tech spec

Fiat 500X tech spec


This is why Britain is Great... the Black Cab

Spice up your garage life… alternative car guide

If your automotive love life has hit the skids, why not  put some excitement back in the garage department with our alternative car buying guide. Reignite the spark in your plugs here…

Used funeral hearse: Stylish but not for the squeamish

Get a hearse... ideal for those trips to Ikea

Get a hearse… ideal for those trips to Ikea

Keep up with the Adams’s by purchasing a shiny black hearse. We’ll all get to have a go in one of these eventually, but while most of us will just be ‘passengers’, why not beat the reaper and jump in the driver’s seat?


Read our full hearse buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Why buy:  Be honest, you’ve not seen many hearses screaming down the outside lane of the M1. With most of their working life spent crawling the streets at a respectful 25mph, it’s safe to say the retired hearse won’t have any skeletons under the bonnet. There’ll certainly be plenty of life left in the powerplant, too. You’ll also get to display a hilarious ‘No corpses left in hearse overnight’ sign.

Refinement and performance: While most of clientele encountered during its professional life wouldn’t have cared too much about refinement, hearses will always be based on large, comfortable models without a sporty bone-shaking chassis below the black coachwork. It’ll soak up the scarred surfaces of Britain’s roads, while making an ideal motorway cruiser. Performance-wise, hauling a cargo of hefty pall-bearers and ‘client’ in heavy wooden overcoat isn’t to be underrated, so expect plenty of power buried beneath your right foot. Typically, you can expect at least a V6 to help cremate the rubber.

Practicality: Buying an ‘alternative’ car might dictate you compromise a little practicality for your quirky runaround – but not so with a used hearse. Most will have room for four to ride (in seats), but it’s the huge loadspace that’ll impress when doing the weekly shop or paying a visit to your local Ikea.

Buying guide: Providing you’re not planning on moonlighting as a cabbie touting one-way trips to the local crematorium, your MoT and insurance will be just the same as any regular car. When buying used, look out for rotten bodywork, as retired hearses can be left standing for long periods before they’re sold on.

Type of licence required: Standard car licence

How much: From £1,200 for models based on donor cars such as a Ford Granada, but expect to pay much more for an upmarket cruiser straight from the undertaker.
Where: Click here to search


Electric milk float: Power to the past

Join the electric car club with a used milk float

Join the electric car club with a used milk float: image credit

Long before Elon Musk was more than a spark in his daddy’s fuse box, our very own milkie was trundling the pre-dawn streets of the UK in his battery-powered milk float. Now you can fulfil that childhood dream – yes we know – and take to the highways in your very own example of the dairy express.


Read our full milk float buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Why buy one: If you’re looking to cut your fuel bill, then a milk float will return a respectable distance of around100miles for £10 worth of electricity. However, it’ll also be exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge – and doesn’t require an MoT certificate.

Refinement and performance: The hefty battery pack hanging from its underbelly won’t promote F1-style handling, but with a top speed of around 15-20mph, an electric milk float’s ride certainly won’t be a deal breaker for the urban driver. Some owners do complain of heavy steering. Range anxiety shouldn’t impinge on enjoyment, either, as most milk floats are capable of travelling up to 80 miles on a single eight-hour charge.

Buying guide: The most important thing to do is get the float’s battery tested to check it’s in a serviceable condition. Leaving them discharged for long periods of time can leave them ruined – and deliver you a hefty bill for a replacement. Try to find one that’s been in daily use. Most drivers will find insurance very reasonable too; typically paying around £100 per year. Along with savings on road tax, fuel, Congestion Charge and insurance, you might be able to make some cash, too, by signing your float up with a film and TV vehicle casting company such as actionvehicleagency.co.uk

Practicality: Not a luxury vehicle by any means, but the large loadbay and easy driving style will be perfect for driving around town or short commutes. Great for small businesses looking for a cheap delivery option, too. Join the electric revolution without needing to read the Guardian, live in Hampstead and have a gas-guzzling – and hypocritical – Range Rover in the garage.

Type of licence required: A full car licence should have you covered; just look for category ‘L’ which entitles you to drive electric vehicles.

How much: Expect to pay £500-1000 for an example with useable batteries, but budget twice that for a top-notch version
Where: Try this milk float enthusiast page for the latest vehicles for sale


Amphibious car: Take drive on the wet side

Road or water... the Dutton can handle it

Road or water… the Dutton can handle it

If environmentalists are proved right, increased flooding and rising sea levels could make owning one of these car/boats an inspired choice – just don’t forget the lifejacket.


Read our full amphibious car buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Why buy one: It’s got to be the ultimate summer runaround. No beach is out of reach with an amphibious car and the best known of all manufacturers is Dutton. No lengthy bankside conversion needed, simply disengage the wheels and switch power to the fully enclosed propeller with one easy-to-use lever.

Refinement and performance: The Dutton Commander is converted from the four-wheel-drive Suzuki Jimny, so comes with a go-anywhere drivetrain that won’t necessarily suit drivers looking for a motorway cruiser… however, if you want to sidestep the Tarmac and head off-road and onto the UK’s waterways, the Commander becomes infinitely more refined – if not a little noisy. Expect to travel on water at speeds of up to 6mph. It’s said that one even ‘drove’ across the English Channel in Force 4 winds.

Practicality: Who cares about practicality – this is a car that can drive on water! Do you want the moon on a stick?

Buying guide: Some people say that amphibious vehicles are compromised cars and sluggish boats, but if you’ve an ounce of imagination and adventure in your body this is an argument you’ll dismiss with the disdain it deserves. These cars are rare, but they are available. They’ll mostly be well looked after, too, but get a full check before ‘splashing’ the cash. If you find a used vehicle you like the look of, simply email the chassis number to Dutton and they’ll check the history of the vehicle for you. Head to dtech.uk.com for contact details. Insuring the car might be relatively expensive, but talk to a specialist firm and you should get a good deal.

Type of licence required: A full car licence should have you covered and Dutton’s website says the following regarding use on waterways:
To date we have not found any Country that requires you to have either insurance or a licence to drive a Surf on water.

How much: A new vehicle will cost you around £30,000 but a used example could be bought for half of that.
New Dutton cars for sale
Here’s a typical secondhand version

See it in action:
Customer being taken for a test drive/sail by company owner Time Dutton


London Black Cab: Hail the iconic Fairway taxi

This is why Britain is Great... the Black Cab

This is why Britain is Great… the Black Cab: image credit

If you’re looking for the ultimate family car, the Fairway Black Cab should top your list. There’s space for up to seven people to travel in comfort with huge amounts of loadspace for all you belongings, too. Most come with ramps, too, so they’ll be fully accessible for anyone with mobility problems.


Read our full Black Cab buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Refinement and performance: First up, the ride is extremely quiet – thanks to the partition between the driver and kids screaming in the back. All-round visibility is excellent and the Black Cab has one of the smallest turning circles available (25ft) – making it perfect for tight city streets and nabbing parking spaces. They’re comfortable, too, and with a top speed of up to 75mph, they’re not overly sluggish.

Practicality: If you want an endorsement of how pleasurable these cars are to own, simply consider some of the celebrity owners who have taken to the streets in an iconic Black Cab. Kate Moss, Stephen Fry, Bez, Carry On star Sid James, Sir Lawrence Olivier and the Duke of Edinburgh are – or were – all famous owners.

Buying guide: Reliability shouldn’t be an issue, many Black Cabs have covered more than a million miles. Insurance costs won’t break the bank, but many insurers won’t be able to find the Fairway on their system, so head for a specialist firm such as peterbestinsurance.co.uk and they’ll sort you out. Drivers over 25 with a good record should expect to pay around £300-£400. Average fuel economy is 35mpg for newer models, which certainly isn’t awful for such a large vehicle. A form of taxi ‘scrappage’ scheme took many off the road, so they’re not as plentiful as at one time, but there are still plenty on offer if you look hard enough. According to myblacktaxi.blogspot.co.uk/ the ideal Black Cab to look for is a P or R reg Fairway Driver Plus with less than 200,000 miles on the clock. Check out this excellent guide to what needs checking before you buy…

Type of licence required: Standard full licence.

How much: From £1,500 for a decent example.
Where: Head here for used cabs


Beach buggy: Hit the beach this summer

Having a mid-life crisis can be fun... with this

Having a mid-life crisis can be fun… with this: image credit

Summer’s coming so step from your MPV straight into the driving seat of a mid-life crisis – it’s time to hit the surf and buy a beach buggy.


Read our full beach buggy buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Why buy: Why not? They’re cheap, fun to drive and will take you straight back to a time when you didn’t need to use the dog as an excuse to dodge Corrie and head down the pub for a few pints. Here’s all you need to know about getting your hand on the wheel of a used beach buggy.

Refinement and performance: Open-top driving won’t be suitable for year-round motoring, so this is a second-car-only motoring experience. The gearing and tyres won’t make for comfortable motorway cruising – however swapping Tarmac for sand will offer a majestic ride as you glide over the dunes and make the oceans while simultaneously humming the theme tune to The Banana Splits

Practicality: Let’s not pretend… there’s not a sniff of practicality here and that’s what makes beach buggy ownership so damn attractive.

Buying guide: Beach buggies – or dune buggies – hit the height of popularity in the 50s and 60s, with most being sold as kit cars. There are three main types of buggy:

Sand rails: Fast light and used for sandy terrain.
Trail buggies: Heavy and strong bugs used for tough terrain. Best for hardcore off-roaders.
Baja buggies: More like cars with a roof and stronger suspension and brakes.
Fibreglass buggies: Built with fibreglass shells, these are best for use on both the open road and sand. Good for all terrain, but ideally suited to sand because of their lightweight construction.

We’d recommend the fibreglass variant. They’re light and resistant to the attack of salt water. They are prone to mechanical failures, but the engine is easy to access and mostly simple to work on – with many owners claiming this aspect simply adds to the ownership experience. When it comes to insuring the buggy, you’ll need to look for a specialist company for the best deals. Check out insurers such as adrianflux.co.uk

Type of licence required: Standard full licence

How much: From £3,500 for road-ready buggies
Where: Check out buggies for sale here


Ice cream van: You scream, we all scream… you know the drill

Buy a van like this and become superdad

Buy a van like this and become superdad

If anyone can honestly say owning a fully operational ice cream van doesn’t fill them with a shiver of desire, then we’d advise they get someone to take their pulse and quite possibly call an ambulance.


Read our full ice cream van buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Why buy: It’s the ultimate novelty vehicle that’ll guarantee your summer barbies are the events to be seen at. Just don’t try selling your wares as competitors paying big bucks for licenses won’t be knocking on your window with the intention of buying a Lolly Gobble Choc Bomb.

Refinement and performance: You’ll be driving a van with a large refrigerator bolted to the floor… don’t expect the ride to be anything other than unremarkable at best. However, it’s when you park up and start dispensing goodies that the fun really begins.

Practicality: Once again, this isn’t about practicality and more about your kids branding you as ‘literally’ the coolest dad in the UK.

Buying guide: First rule of buying an ice cream van is don’t skimp on cash by purchasing a ‘lookalike’ van. These, as the name suggest, look like the real deal, but come without the gubbins of a freezer and ice cream dispenser. Ask yourself, what is the point? When you find a genuine van, make sure the cool bits all work before parting with any cash. Look around the London area as recent low-emissions regulations resulted in many owners having to replace their old vans if they wanted to remain in business. This has resulted in more vans on the market with lower prices.

Type of licence required: Standard full car licence

How much: Expect to pay from £3,500 for van with operational ice cream machine
Where: Check out vans for sale here


Buy an affordable supercar: Lotus Esprit Turbo

The quintessential supercar... yours for less than £10k

The quintessential supercar… yours for less than £10k: image credit

It’s an exotic mid-engined supercar from darkest, deepest Norfolk… the rocket-like design of the Lotus Esprit Turbo brings everything that we know and associate with a supercar – apart from the price. Read on to find out how to get one for around £10k.


Read our full Lotus Esprit Turbo buying guide here: We've all the information you need

Why buy: Because it’s a Lotus Esprit Turbo, of course.

Refinement and performance: Despite the fact it was built in Norfolk and not Maranello, it doesn’t mean the Esprit is merely a sheep in wolf-like clothing. Built on a reputation of precise handling and responsive steering, the Esprit also offers a supple and compliant ride. It’s also perfectly balanced and ‘enthusiastic drivers will relish attacking corners and harnessing the delicious oversteer as they exit the apex. Okay, it’s not all great; the gearbox lacks precision and the interior is very 70s and cramped, but that’s why you get it for such a great price. If old-school driving is your thing, then leave behind the banality of modern-day motoring and take your seat in an Esprit.

Practicality: Not really that useful for doing the weekly shopping or as family transport, but certainly acceptable as a daily ride. Once again, practicality isn’t really a prerequisite for supercar ownership.

Buying guide: If you’re serious about an Esprit Turbo, then you’ll need to realise the purchase price is just half the story. Repair bills can be hefty, but treat it right and the Lotus can easily be used as your everyday car – in fact, leaving it in the garage for weekend outings only, will not sit well with the mechanics. You’ll need to do your research before buying, so clicking on this this excellent buying guide will help you get the best possible example. Insurance for older models will likely be Group 19, but upping the excess and opting for a limited-mileage policy should cut premiums to a reasonable level.

Type of licence: Standard full car licence.

How  much: From £10,000
Where: Find example of the Esprit for sale here


Find out how many hours you're wasting each year

UK’s most-congested cities revealed

Have you noticed your commute getting longer? You’re not alone – new research reveals jams have significantly worsened over the past 12 months.

Traffic in your town… it’s time to make for Bristol

Find out how many hours you're wasting each year

Find out how many hours you’re wasting each year

The fifth annual Traffic Index from TomTom shows average journeys in 2014 took 29% longer than they would in free-flowing traffic – up from a 27% delay in 2013.

It also revealed snarl-ups in 14 out of Britain’s 17 largest cities have got worse over the last year. One city bucking the trend for jammed streets is Bristol – where congestion has lessened for the second year running.

TomTom data – extracted from 12million actions across the globe – has revealed evening rush-hour to be the busiest time of day.

With figures for 2014 showing the average commuter with a 30-minute drive spending 66 hours stuck in evening rush-hour traffic (compared with free-flowing streets), this increases to a total of 129 hours when the morning commute is added.

Congestion levels worsened over the past year in London, Brighton, Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Southampton. They have also failed to improve in Sheffield and Leeds-Bradford.

The city taking the dubious accolade as the UK’s most congested is Belfast, with journey times 82% longer in both the morning and evening rush-hour.

Second is London with journey times 67% longer in the evening peak.  The Scottish capital Edinburgh is the third most congested city, with travel taking 36% longer on average and 71% longer in the evening rush hour.

Brighton and Hove – with 34% congestion in 2014 compared with 31% in 2013 – moves up the table from fifth to fourth, while Manchester also jumps a place to fifth with congestion increasing from 26% to 32%.

Good news for drivers in the west, though, with Bristol dropping two places to sixth – showing a cut in congestion from 32% to 29%.

Top 10 most-congested UK cities

Here are the cities to avoid as the clock strikes rush-hour. See how many hours you’ll have wasted in the past year slogging your way home in these metropolitan areas…

Top 10 most-congested UK cities

Top 10 most-congested UK cities

Driving on your hols

Istanbul...the world's most-congested city: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul#/media/File:Istanbul_panorama_and_skyline.jpg" target="_blank">image credit</a>

Istanbul…the world’s most-congested city: image credit

Heading off on your travels? Then you should avoid hitting the road in Istanbul! It’s now the most congested city globally with congestion at 58%, rising to road rage levels of 109% in the evening peak.

Mexico City (55%) is in second place, followed by Rio de Janeiro (51%).

Cut the cost of motoring

The price that new drivers and parents pay

Find the painful truth about how much it'll cost to help a child hit the road

Find the painful truth about how much it’ll cost to help a child hit the road

Getting behind the wheel of your first car and cutting free from childhood restraints is a rite of passage for all of us… but claiming that sacrament of youth is rapidly becoming a debilitating financial burden on parents, too. Find out how much it’ll cost to set your offspring on the highway of life – and how you can slash that very same bill.

How much to get on the road

Here’s how the price of automotive freedom stacks up for new drivers and their parents…

The cost of getting a new driver on the road revealed...

The cost of getting a new driver on the road revealed…

Shock new research from price comparison website Gocompare.com has revealed that getting a young driver through their test and on the road in their first car is now a staggering sum of £6,537.

The price has jumped by more than 18% over the past five years, despite the UK’s plunging inflation rate.

Learning to drive: Typically, this will cost in the region of £600 once the cost of driving lessons, taking tests and obtaining a provisional licence have been added to the bill. Research shows young drivers will need an average of 20 lessons (costing around £24 each) before passing their test, so be prepared to pay around £480 for driving lessons alone.

Buying the car: Most of the increase in the cost of getting new drivers on the road comes from spending more on the first car; up from £2,477 in 2009 to a current average price of £3,825.

Insuring the car: Despite the overall increase in the cost of getting on the road, insuring the car for new drivers has actually fallen from £2455 in 2009 to £2232 in 2014. However, it remains a huge barrier for young drivers and their parents.

Price that parents pay…

It has also been revealed that it’s parents who are paying the price for spiralling costs of getting their children driving. Here’s how mum and dad are helping set their kids on the road to independence.

Getting a young driver on the road is a headache for parents, too

Getting a young driver on the road is a financial headache for parents, too

How to cut the cost of getting on the road

Cut the cost of motoring

Cut the cost of motoring

With the average cost of getting a new driver on the road approaching £7,000, it might seem an impossible dream for many youngsters to get a wheel on the highway. Don’t buy the bus pass just yet, though; simply follow our cost-cutting guide to getting on the road.


Sensible cars: Put the Bugatti Veyron on ice

Sensible cars: While a sparkling red drop-top with a prancing horse adorning the bonnet might seem the obvious choice to the average 17-year-old, opting for sub-1000cc city car nestling in a low insurance group could well offer the ever-so-slightly more cost-effective option. It’ll be cheaper to buy, cut insurance premiums and (hopefully) help them build up a decent no-claims bonus – and prevent the need for a second mortgage on the family seat.


Cheapest cars for new drivers to insure: Beat the policy pirates

Cheapest cars for new drivers to insure: Research shows that the Vauxhall Corsa is the number one choice for drivers under 25, but it’s also one of the most expensive to insure for the age group – costing an average of £1,304 to buy cover. If they took a more pragmatic approach and chose the Peugeot 107 instead, this would fall to an average of just £900. Here are the cars that young drivers tend to buy – and how much they cost to insure – compared with the cars they could buy to slash their (read ‘parents’’) costs.

What they should buy…
See how much you’ll save on these cars compared with the cars most young drivers choose.

Cars that they should be buying Insurance costs for under-25s
Peugeot 107 £900
Fiat 500 £912
Citroen C1 £928
Kia Picanto £955
Toyota Aygo £970

...And what they actually buy
See how much extra young drivers are paying because of the car they choose.

Cars that new drivers buy Insurance costs for under-25s
Vauxhall Corsa £1,304
Ford Fiesta £1,266
Renault Clio £1,248
Volkswagen Golf £1,702
Vauxhall Astra £1,402


Use a price comparison site: Don't pay the price of loyalty

Use a price comparison site: It might sound obvious, but some people still feel loyalty to insurance companies and blindly accept the auto-renew price that dutifully drops into their inbox. Never do this – head straight to one of these price comparison sites to reveal the price you’ll be paying for ‘loyalty’. Here are the top sites rated in order by MoneySavingExpert.com

1) Confused.com
2) Compare The Market
3) GoCompare.com
4) MoneySupermarket.com

Don’t miss these… Not all insurance companies get into bed with price comparison sites, but that doesn’t (necessarily) mean they’ve got anything to hide. Here are two companies you won’t find on the results page, but certainly shouldn’t be ignored…

Aviva: This company offers discounts for buying online, or for those adding a second car.
Get your quote here

Direct Line: Check the site to see if you qualify for extra discounts
Get your quote here


Choose to pay a higher excess: Keep it on the Tarmac

Choose to pay a higher excess: This is a bit of a gamble, but one you can play the odds with by comparing how much you’ll save on the policy with how much extra you’ll need to pay in the event of an accident. If your child was constantly dragging his/her bicycle home with buckled wheels and punctures, you might want to stick with a lower excess.


Consider a ‘telematics’ policy: Big Bruv can save you cash

Consider a ‘telematics’ policy: These policies use GPS-enabled ‘black boxes’ or smartphone apps to track and monitor the young person’s driving. It will look at driving style, miles covered and times of day the user is on the roads. All this information is then analysed to work out the driver’s risk – and the policy is adjusted accordingly.

Insurers will look at the following types of data to determine if you’re more Lewis Hamilton or Driving Miss Daisy…

– The time of day or night you drive (11pm to 5am is likely cost more)
– Your speed
– Gentle braking reactions (erratic driving is not a cash-saving tip)
– Gentle acceleration and cornering (save it for the video games)

Here are some to telematics-based policies to consider.

Direct Line Drive Plus. This gives users a 25% discount upfront which can be removed if they don’t drive carefully enough.
More info here

Coverbox. This is a ‘pay as you drive’ scheme from Coverbox* which allows you to choose from as low as 3,000 miles and is available for a wide range of ages.
More info here

iKube: For 17-25-year-olds who are usually tucked up in bed between 11pm-5am.
More info here

Drive Like A Girl: Also at 17-25 year-olds who avoid driving at night, but this time between 11pm and 4am). And – before you get on the blower to the Equality and Human Rights Commission – it is open to boys, too.
More info here

Insure The Box: Lets you pick a 6,000, 8,000 or 10,000 mile-per-year policy for your premium, and then you can earn extra miles by driving safely – or buy more online if required.
More info here

Co-op. This policy fits a box into 17-24-year-olds’ cars to monitor acceleration, braking, cornering and time of driving. Drivers are then charged every 90 days with safe driving cutting the cost of each payment.
More info here 


Untick the added extras: Don't pay the broker's bonus

Untick the added extras: Have a close read through the policy being offered, it’s likely to have pre-selected added extras such as courtesy car, legal assistance, breakdown cover and key cover. All very well if you’re a well-off retired banker but not so essential for the average new driver. Search them out, untick – and see the price tumble.


Adding a safe driver: Cash-saving mums and dads

Adding a safe driver: Adding another named driver with a clean licence and several years claim free driving to young driver’s policy could reduce their premium. This is one way a parent can help their child to get lower premiums without breaking the law. However, don’t be tempted to add the experienced driver as the main driver to save more cash – this is known as fraud.


Drive safely: The best way to cut costs

Drive safely: Ultimately, this is the best advice for any young/new driver and the only way to rapidly reduce insurance premiums – and allow them to move up a gear when it comes to style and power.


Test your driving with Intelligent Marmalade app

Get your driving score

Get your driving score

Could you slash your insurance bills with telematics insurance? Young drivers – or anyone – can see just how safe their driving is with this free app from insurance firm Wanna Insure.

Simply leave it running while you’re driving and it will look at acceleration, braking and other factors to see how good your driving is – issuing a possible score out of 100. It will also tell you how much you could save on your insurance premium.

Get the Marmalade app here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Got an unfair ticket? Here's how to fight it

Parking… fines, lines and saving cash – updated

Parking-header-(1)

Parking… it’s a word that strikes fear into the heart of motorists across the country. From locating a space to fighting off the unwanted advances of ticket-wielding wardens, Brits are finding it harder than ever to park the nation’s 35million vehicles. Don’t think it’s going to get any easier – the number of UK cars has increased yearly since World War 2.

Slogging your way through the UK’s clogged automotive arteries can be difficult enough, but it’s when the wheels stop turning that your problems really begin. Don’t despair, though, our complete guide to parking has the answers you need.

What’s new in 2015: Latest parking updates

Latest news

Latest news

Keeping up to date with parking rules can help prevent tickets. Here’s the latest for 2014/15

10-minute grace period confirmed for March: Hold that ticket, Mr!

The 10-minute ‘grace period’ will be introduced to add a grace period of 10 minutes after your ticket runs out for on-street parking. Parking adjudicators will be obliged to follow this statutory advice and uphold appeals when the ticket was issued within 10 minutes of the ticket or parking period expiring. Applies to council-owned parking spaces only. If you get a penalty within 10 mins of your ticket expiring, the adjudicator will have to allow it. This will take effect from late March 2015.


Spy cars: Who's watching you

In a victory for drivers, the Government has banned councils from using cctv ‘spy cars’ to cruise the streets and issue unsuspecting motorists with tickets through the post – denying drivers the opportunity to gather supporting evidence to challenge the penalties. All standard tickets will now need to be physically stuck to the car’s windscreen. The use of cctv-issued tickets will be restricted to areas such as schools, bus lanes and red routes.

 

Discount after appeals: Win or lose

Unsuccessful appeals against parking tickets removes the 50% discount for paying the fine early. Addressing this, the Government is trialling a 25% discount for drivers who lose an appeal at tribunal. This is designed to encourage more drivers to challenge charges they believe to be unfair.

Parking at out-of-order meters: Tell us the truth

Changing guidance so motorists parking at an out-of-order meter are not fined if there are no alternative ways to pay.

New rights for residents and businesses: Power to the people

Has the council suddenly painted yellow lines outside your house or introduced charges for parking? New rights will allow you to demand a review of parking in your area – including restrictions and charges. Get together with your neighbours and local businesses and start bothering the local council.

Being nice to drivers: All you need is love

Councils have been told to be less heavy-handed with motorists – preventing the over-aggressive use of bailiffs. If a council is harassing you for payment of a parking fine write an official complaint and then contact the Local Government Ombudsman here.

How much money are councils making: We're just cash cows on wheels

Figures from the RAC Foundation reveal that council in England made a combined surplus of £667 million from on- and off-road parking charges and fines in 2013-2014.

Where the cash is going: Champagne and Caviar?

Councils will be forced to publish information detailing where cash raised from parking charges is being spent.

Widen powers of the parking adjudicator: He's the man

This will allow adjudicators take direct action against areas such as poor signs or dubious methods of enforcement by ordering an authority to stop issuing tickets or change signage.

Freeze on penalty charges: Money's too tight to mention

Councils will not be able to increase parking fines until May 2015 at the earliest – when the General Election takes place.

It’s all signs, lines and penalty fines…

Have you got your doctorate in deciphering confusing road lines and signs, yet? No, then beat the parking bandits with our easy-to-read interactive guide to the most common and confusing parking signs, lines and other restrictions. Simply hover your cursor over the hot spots for more info,



Fines: These will vary depending where you are. Most councils are now in control of enforcing parking regulations, so visiting the local authority’s website is likely to have a page dedicated to parking fines. Find your local council here.

Find your space and save cash

Roll-up for cheap parking

Roll-up for cheap parking

Parking can be an expensive business, but following our price-busting guide to finding a space could save you plenty of cash – and slash the risk of falling victim to parking fines.


Stock up on change: Don’t pay for parking you don’t use:

Stock up on change: Don’t pay for parking you don’t use:
Unlike other ticketing machines, the science of being able to dispense change hasn’t been developed for the parking industry as yet. Strangely, most providers will also price units of parking at fees that exceed the nearest pound… for example, an hour of  parking will likely be charged at £1.10 rather than £1.00. Obviously this is determined by hard economics and not simply because many people will only have pound coins – giving the authority a 90p profit. Additionally, turning up in a car park with no change could result in getting a ticket as you nip into a nearby shop to grab some. Also – look for payment apps for the car park to download to your phone.
How to save cash: Most people hate carrying ‘shrapnel’ in any case, so simply find a cubbyhole in your car and deposit change there whenever you get it. If you’ve got no change at all, simply pull into a garage and break your note or pound coin by purchasing a cheap tabloid. You’ll still be better off and have the satisfaction of not lining the pockets of your local council.


Choose wisely: Locate the cheapest spaces before you leave home:

Choose wisely: Locate the cheapest spaces before you leave home:
Parking fees can vary by considerable amount of cash in large town, with big savings to be made by just moving a few streets further from the centre. Research before you leave home to make big savings.
How to save cash: Head to website Parkopedia and type in the postcode of where you’re visiting. We looked for parking near the Shard in London and managed to find a public car park that was 50% cheaper than most other car parks in the area. Along with prices, you can also filter your search to types of car park and get a list of security features.
Visit: parkopedia.co.uk


Inter-city parking: Park outside of town:

Inter-city parking: Park outside of town:
Heading for a night in one of the UK’s cities? Then it might well be cheaper to park outside town and take the train instead… even if your town doesn’t have a railway station.
How to save cash: Taking a theoretical trip to a swanky central London hotel for the weekend, we compared parking in a car park in Westminster with reserving a space at a APH airport parking near Gatwick and taking the free transfer bus to Gatwick and catching a train. Here’s how it worked out…

Parking in NCP car park WestminsterParking at APH Airport Parking
Price for 48 hours £100.00
Total: £100.00
Price for 48 hours parking £19.28
Price for return to London from Gatwick £30.00
Total: £49.28

Contact APH Airport Parking


Share the cost: Grab a lift and save cash

Share the cost: Grab a lift and save cash
If you use your car to commute to work then parking can be a big drain on your earning. Parking for a working week can cost anything from £30.00 for a rural town such as East Grinstead in Sussex, to £250.00 for those who park in London.
How to save cash: Regardless of whether you need to park on a daily commute, or are just making a one-off trip, looking for or offering a lift share can halve you expenses – including parking and fuel. Enter your requirements or route that you’re offering into a website such as Liftshare.com and get saving.
Visit Liftshare


Pay and save: Get a weekly or monthly ticket

Pay and save: Get a weekly or monthly ticket
Once again, this one’s for those who use a car park on a daily basis. It might sound obvious, but not everyone takes advantage of buying a monthly or weekly ticket.
How to save cash: Call the operator of your favourite car park and ask for season ticket prices. Many will offer weekly, monthly, or annual tickets for their car park. In a typical Mid-Sussex, council-owned car park buying an annual ticket can save pots of cash. Working around 261 days a year will cost £1,566 at the daily price of £6.00, while buying a yearly ticket would cost £550.00.


Go private: Park on a local’s driveway

Go private: Park on a local’s driveway
Whether you’re working or just visiting one of the UK’s city’s, renting space on a local’s driveway or communal car park can save a bucket of cash. Money Saving Export found that parking in Manchester city centre car park would cost around £140.00 per month, while this could be slashed to as low as £75.00 by using a park share car park.
How to save cash: Head to one of the websites we list below and add your details and check out the savings.
Head to: parkonmydrive.com or yourparkingspace.co.uk


Profit from parking: Earn cash while you’re away

Profit from parking: Earn cash while you’re away
Local councils and private firms make millions from it, so why not grab a piece of their cash for yourself and sell your driveway to space-hungry car drivers looking for a safe haven away from the clutches of wardens and clampers.
How to earn cash: If you live in a large town or city and have a parking space that’s empty while you’re away, why not rent it out. Depending where you live, you could earn anything from £100 – £200+ per month.
Read this excellent guide from moneysavingexpert.com/

Park safe

Park safely

Park safely

Not all car parks are made equal, with some nothing more than a handy place for criminals to operate with virtual impunity. When parking in a town or city you’re not familiar with, make sure you pick a Park Mark Safer Parking awarded car park. This means it’s been vetted by the police and has good measures in place to protect both you and your car.

Use the Park Mark safer car park finder here.

Got a parking ticket… what next

Got an unfair ticket? Here's how to fight it

Got an unfair ticket? Here’s how to fight it

Bad or dangerous parking deserves to be punished, but it’s clear that many councils and private operators view fines as a legitimate source of revenue to be aggressively chased. This is unacceptable and motorists who’ve been targeted by dubious ticketing methods and unscrupulous private parking firms shouldn’t pay without a fight. Read on to find out how to challenge the parking bandits…

How to: Challenge a parking ticket

Follow this guide to appealing against parking tickets you believe to be unfair.


Step 1: Collect evidence

Got a ticket that you know is wrong? Don’t get angry and rip it up before driving speeding off in a cloud of smoke. Stay cool – and start collecting your evidence to get your penalty cancelled. Here’s what to do.

Don’t rip up the ticket: This could be your best piece of evidence. Civil enforcement officers, traffic warden and police need to correctly complete their tickets and any omissions or mistakes will render it void. Check that the following information is present and correct.

You should be able to clearly see the following information:

The date when it was served
The name of the enforcement authority
The registration number of the vehicle
The date and time of the alleged contravention
The reason for the issuing of the ticket
The amount of the penalty charge
A statement that the penalty charge must be paid within 28 days
A statement that only half the charge will need to paid if it is paid within 14 days
Instructions regarding how to pay the charge
Information about grounds for appeal and the appeal process.

These rules won’t apply to ‘tickets’ from private parking firms.

Smartphone photos: Use your smartphone to take as many photos as possible to support your case. Show poorly marked or covered road lines, obscured of damaged signs and anything else that’s relevant to your case.

Location, location, location: Sometimes you’ll need to prove the exact position of your car, so taking a photo of it using most smartphones will save something called Exif data. This digitally embeds the GPS co-ordinates, time and various other information within the image. This can then be read at a later date to provide a host of information that might help your appeal. This is also useful for finding your exact location if you’re in a strange town or city.
Read Exif data from your pictures here.

Time expired: Parked on a street and returned to find your ticket expired a few minutes before, but a ticket is already decorating your windscreen? The Government has advised that on-street parkers should be given a 10 minute ‘grace period’ before receiving a penalty. Make sure you retain your permit to park and match this against the time on the penalty ticket.

Documents: Don’t forget to keep any documents that might be used to support mitigating circumstances such as a breakdown – where something like a receipt from the AA will help boost your claim.

Witnesses: Anyone who can corroborate your version of events will help your case. Make sure you have a voice recorder app downloaded to  your smartphone for instant and complete witness statements.



Step 2: What sort of ticket have you been issued

This will tell you where to lodge your appeal or whether you should ignore the ticket altogether.

Read on to identify the ‘penalty ticket’ and type of  appeal you need to follow

Parking tickets come from four different types of operators and fall under civil or criminal law. Criminal tickets will be issued by old-style traffic wardens or police officers, while civil law-based tickets will be issued by most local councils, private parking firms and Transport for London.

The four issuing agencies are as follows…

Local councils: Most councils took control of parking away from the police, which means tickets are issued under civil law. This makes them easier to challenge. Not all councils have signed up to this scheme but a vast majority have.
Find out if the ticket-issuing council has joined the Civil Parking Enforcement System (CPE) here
Type of ticket for CPE councils: Penalty Charge Notice (PCN)
Type of appeal: Civil

Transport for London: If you’ve been issued a ticket for parking on red lines in London, the notice will have come from Transport for London. This should be made clear on the ticket.
Type of ticket: Penalty Charge Notice (PCN)
Type of appeal: Civil

Police: This also includes old-style traffic wardens who work for the cops and who are not to be confused with civil enforcement officers who are employed by councils. Some of the tickets they issue will come under criminal law. These tickets will include the name of the police force and quote the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.
Type of ticket: Fixed Penalty Notice
Type of appeal: Criminal

Private parking operators: If you’ve parked in a business’s car park or shopping centre, for example, you are entering into a contract with the landowner and this comes under civil law. Many private operators will try to make their ticket look like a police-issued Fixed Penalty Notice to prompt people into paying without questioning its validity. If it hasn’t got the name of a local authority or police force on it, then it will have been issued by a private operator.
Type of ticket: No official name – they are merely invoices asking you to pay
Type of appeal: Private


Now appeal against that ticket

By using Step 2 you’ll know what appeal path you’ll need to follow, so simply click the relevant section below.


Civil: Click here to start your appeal

Grounds for appeal: There’s no point in appealing your ticket without any good to do so – just being angry doesn’t count. To be in with a chance of success, you’ll need to satisfy at least one of these grounds for appeal:

1. The contravention did not occur: There is no case to answer and the issuing agent got it wrong. This covers everything from incorrect signage to contradictory information.

2. The penalty exceeded the amount applicable in the circumstances of the case: There are strict limits on what you can be charged for this type of ticket, so being overcharged is a legitimate reason to appeal. The amounts will be published on the issuing authority’s website.

3. The relevant Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) is invalid: This is where a new traffic restriction – such a double yellow line – was introduced without the authority following correct procedure. This is an unlikely avenue of appeal, but worth investigating if rules have recently changed where it was previously legitimate to park

4. There has been a procedural impropriety by the council: This could occur when the council or issuer has made an error on the ticket or subsequent Notice To Owner letter. Look closely for inaccuracies or omissions.

You should be able to clearly see the following information:

The date when it was served
The name of the enforcement authority
The registration number of the vehicle
The date and time of the alleged contravention
The reason for the issuing of the ticket
The amount of the penalty charge
A statement that the penalty charge must be paid within 28 days
A statement that only half the charge will need to paid if it is paid within 14 days
Instructions regarding how to pay the charge
Information about grounds for appeal and the appeal process.

If any of this information is missing or incorrect, it’s likely you’ll win your appeal.

5. The appellant did not own the vehicle when the alleged contravention occurred: This is where the offence occurred but you weren’t the owner – i.e you’d just bought or sold the vehicle. Log book records should win your appeal

6. The owner is a vehicle hire firm and the vehicle was on hire under a qualifying hiring agreement: This is for hire car owners and not relevant to this guide.

7. The vehicle was taken without the owner’s consent: If the vehicle was stolen and the offence committed by the thief, then you have a good case. Make sure you have a crime number to prove you reported the theft to cops.

8. The penalty’s already been paid (i) in full; or (ii) at the discount rate and in time: Get proof from your bank or any emailed receipts.

Mitigating circumstances: If the above don’t apply, but you have mitigating circumstances such as suffering a health event, breakdown, bereavement or similar, then collect proof and use as grounds for your appeal.

New 10-minute rule: If you were parked on the street and fined within 10-minutes of your ticket expiring, cite the Government’s new advice on the10-minute ‘grace period’. Keep your parking ticket and match it up against the time on the Penalty Charge Notice.

Make the civil appeal.
Now you have grounds for appeal, here’s how to lodge it…

Stage 1: Informal appeal
You will need to do this once the ticket has been slapped on your windscreen. If you were towed or clamped, just move on to the next stage.

Contact the council: You’ll find the address, email and other contact methods on the ticket. Write to the council and explain your grounds for appeal and request they cancel the ticket. Submit (copies) of all the evidence you have to back up your appeal to prove you have a case and intend to take the case further. This will cost them time and effort so the council may decide to do cut its losses and cancel the ticket. Send the appeal within the 14-day 50% discount period as many councils will let you pay the lower amount even if they reject your appeal – should you decide to pay it at this stage.

Result:
They agree – you win…
They reject your claim – move on to next stage

Stage 2: The formal appeal process
Depending on how  you get to this stage, you will at some point receive an appeal form. You can also add a separate letter to go into more detail. Make sure you resend all the evidence to support your claim. The council must respond to your appeal within 56 days or you will automatically win. Make sure you keep electronic receipts or postal records to prove when you lodged the formal appeal.

Result:
They agree – you win…
They reject your formal appeal – move on to next stage

Stage 3: Appeal to Independent tribunal
If  your formal appeal is rejected, you’ll receive a Notice of Rejection of Representations letter and a Notice of Appeal to continue your challenge at an independent tribunal. You must submit this appeal within 28 days of receiving the form. The time will start two days from the letter’s date.

Going to the adjudicator is free and independent. They are accepted to be fair and not afraid to challenge councils. A large number of these appeals are successful, so don’t think it’s not worth carrying on because your formal challenge was rejected.

Now all you need to do is make your appeal. Many of the tribunal bodies will let you apply online, providing you have your Notice to Appeal from the council. This will have a reference on it that you will need to enter.

Choose the body for you then make your appeal:

England and Wales (not London):
Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

Scotland:
The Scottish Parking Appeals Service: Call 0131 221 0409.

Northern Ireland:
Northern Ireland Traffic Penalty Tribunal. 

London:
The Parking and Traffic Appeals Service. 

Final result:
You win – ticket is cancelled
You lose – pay the fine within 28 days or it can rise by 50%
The appeal is adjourned – more information is required
The appeal is dismissed but the adjudicator believes there to be reasons why the penalty should not stand – this can include mitigating circumstances that you submitted. The adjudicator will ask the council or issuing body to consider waiving the charge. It has 35 days to respond. If it doesn’t – you win.

Case closed!



Criminal: Click here to start your appeal

Grounds for appeal: Contact the issuing police force for guidance, or read the ‘grounds for appeal’ section of the ‘Civil’ process, above, as most sections apply to Criminal appeals.

You should realise from the outset that your chance of winning an appeal against a police-issued parking ticket is much lower than if it was a council ticket.

Stage 1: Informal appeal
Only official appeals are allowed against police tickets, but some forces will consider informal representations. The ticket or release form (if you’ve been clamped or towed) will let you know if this is the case. If you can, simply send a letter outlining your reasons and including copies of supporting information.

Result:
They accept your appeal – you win~
They reject your appeal – you move on to the formal appeal

Stage 2: Contest the case
You will now get a Notice To Owner form giving options to pay the charge, nominate a different driver who was in charge of the vehicle at the time of the offence or ask for the case to be heard at a magistrates’ court. If you fail to respond to this notice within 28 days, the fine will increase by 50%. If you are determined to challenge the ticket, you will need to opt for a court hearing. It’s likely that you will need to take legal advice ahead of the hearing. In most cases you will need to finance this yourself. In reality, it may be financially prudent to cut your losses and pay the reduced fee and avoid the 50% increment and hefty legal bills.

Our verdict: Unlike councils and private firms, the UK’s cops are disciplined and adhere closely to strict guidelines. If a bobby issues a ticket, the chances are you deserve it – so paying is likely to be the smart move.

Result:
You win – great, but you’re unlikely to win costs to cover legal fees
You lose – you pay 50% more on the fine along with few hundred pounds in legal fees

Case closed!


Private ticket: Click here to start your appeal

First things first, if you get a ticket in a private car park, don’t pay it without a little additional investigation. Despite dubious attempts to label the tickets as ‘Penalty Charge Notices’ demanding a ‘fine’ for an ‘offence’ that you’ve committed, the document is nothing more than an speculative invoice inviting you to pay for a breach of contract between you and the landowner. Many of these are not enforceable and the use of wording such as ‘fine’ ‘offence’ is actually banned – you have not committed an offence and they have no right to fine you. Figures show that as many as 45% of appeals against these ‘tickets’ are successful.

Remember, the only way that private firms can make you pay is by taking you to court, where the evidence will be properly reviewed. They will be forced to pay for this, while you won’t. Additionally, they can’t put black marks on your credit reference – despite what they say – because you don’t officially owe them any money.

Stage 1: Check who the firm is
Private parking firms have a cosy arrangement with the DVLA that allows them to side-step the data protection act and get your name and address from your car’s registration number – but only if they are members of an accredited trade body. Check out these trade bodies to see if the parking firm is a member:

www.britishparking.co.uk
www.theipc.info

If the firm that clamped you isn’t on either of these lists, the chances are they are cowboys and have no legitimate access to DVLA information. Do not contact them under any circumstances as this will merely give them your name and address. Ignore the letter and get on with life.

Result:
The parking firm is not an accredited member – they can’t get your details and you win
They are a member – they get your details, so start the appeal process

Stage 2: Appeal to the operator
Providing the parking operator is a member of the trade bodies above, then make your appeal directly to the company. The ‘ticket’ should include details of how and where to appeal. Outline why the ticket was unfair – reasons such as unclear signage, excessive demands for compensation – and remember to include photographic evidence.

Result:
It accepts your argument and cancels ticket – you look up and watch the pigs fly by
It ignores you – you win… oh and look, more flying pigs
It rejects you appeal but cancels ticket – you win… this could happen
It rejects your appeal and demands cash – move onto the next stage of appeal

Stage 3: Appeal through POPLA
This is the official appeals process; Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) for the BPA and Independent Appeals Service (IAS) for the IPC. Appealing through POPLA will need a reference number that should have been given to you when your original appeal to the operator failed. Visit IPC’s website for information on getting your reference number for its members.

Ground for appeal to POPLA and IAS
IAS allows appeals on all grounds, while POPLA sets out the following requirements:

The vehicle was not improperly parked.
The parking charge exceeds the relevant amount.
The vehicle was stolen.
I am not liable for the parking charge.

Visit the website here for details on how to submit your appeals
www.britishparking.co.uk
www.theipc.info

Remember to send all supporting  evidence.  The appeal should take no more than 35 days, while IAS usually issues a decision within 14 days.

Result:
You win – victory against the cowboys
You lose – you pay up or refuse to pay and take your chances in court – if the parking operator bothers to take it that far.

Appy days… get your smartphone to park your car for you
Parking perils don’t just include getting a ticket, the physical act itself can be just as infuriating. Attempting to find a space on Britain’s clogged highways can leave you attempting to parallel park in a space that appears to be no bigger than a box of matches from the driving space, but akin to a gap the size of a football pitch to the hooded youth that’s stopped to mock your parking as he sips from a can of cheap cider. Help is at hand, you can now let your smartphone do the parking for you. The system uses 12 car-mounted sensors and automatically parks your car with just a tap of your smartphone’s screen. It should be available during 2015. See it in action here.