Tips for Driving Abroad

When driving abroad the most important thing to do is to stay legal. Being prepared and taking care when on the roads in Europe can ensure you don’t get hit with a big fine or possibly even worse. There are plenty of motoring regulations and rules in the UK but in Europe they step it up a level.

The info-graphic below shows some of the wide-spread and unusual legal requirements you’ll need to be aware of. You’ll need your own breathalyser in France, two pairs of glasses in Spain if you wear them and even replacement light bulbs in Italy. The bizarre rules can massively vary by country but some don’t get any less strange to your average UK driver.

There’s also the typically lower drink/drive limits to consider in majority of European countries so if you’re driving then you probably shouldn’t be considering that small one. You might also want to consider going easy the night before if you’ve got an early start driving the following day.

That “expensive” taxi or bus ride isn’t looking so bad now is it?

Image courtesy of Autoweb.

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Choosing the right van for your business

Vans are the workhorses of the automotive world. Depending on your requirements, your commercial vehicles have to be versatile enough to complete a variety of tasks during the course of a typical working week or they might simply have to do one job very well. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all van that’s perfect for every requirement but here are five things to think about to make sure you get the right one for you.

Body types

The Classi Combi van

The best body type for you will depend on the type of jobs you need the van for. A Combi van, is used for transporting stock and other goods, are typically panel vans, box vans or Luton vans. Panel vans are solid ‘one-piece’ vehicles with an enclosed cargo bay and panels where the rear side windows would otherwise be. Box vans have a cab at the front and a separate cargo bay behind, while Luton vans are similar but feature a cargo bay that also extends over the top of the cab for extra space. Other options include mini-vans, flatbeds and pick-ups.

 

Size and capacity

The ideal carrying capacity will also depend on what you need to transport. A bigger van and load capacity will obviously allow you to carry more but a van that is bigger than your needs may be impractical in terms of economy and accessibility. If you only need to transport yourself and your work tools for example, your needs will be different than if you regularly have to transport bulky stock.

 

Versatility

If you require your van to have multiple capabilities, a small-medium van might be versatile enough to cover most eventualities. Folding or removable seats and variable storage configurations can help you switch between different loads including goods, passengers or a combination of both.

 

Affordability

The list price of your van is important but it’s far from the only aspect of affordability. Fuel efficiency can make even more of a difference, especially if you intend to use the van heavily over a long period of time. Tax and insurance can also affect your overall costs and reliability is important. You certainly don’t want a van that breaks down at a crucial moment and servicing, maintenance and potential repair costs should also be taken into account.

 

Security

It’s always best not to leave goods or tools in a van unattended but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Consider the security features fitted as standard and consider additional after-sales improvements where required.

 

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First look at the 2014 Chevrolet SS

If you live in the UK or any other part of Europe, then the likes of the BMW M3 and Audi RS4 are the best mid-size performance saloons money can buy. There’s others, but these two saloons mix refinement, luxury, handling and performance best. Over in the US, things are a little different, although the BMW and Audi are still available.

If you’re looking for a stylish mid-size performance saloon that’s a little different to what the Germans have to offer, the Chevrolet SS should fit the bill nicely. But then it should – this is the first RWD performance saloon Chevrolet have made in 17 years.

2014 Chevrolet SS

It’s powered by General Motor’s trust-worthy LS3 V8 which in this car develops 415 bhp and 415 lb /ft of torque. According to Bristol Street Motors MOT Gloucester, this engine is simply to service. Power is sent to the rear wheels by a six-speed automatic gearbox, with fat and sticky 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tyres to keep everything in check. The brakes are big too – four-piston Brembo calipers with 14-inch front rotors provide the stopping power this 1,622 kg car needs.

In a straight line, the Chevrolet SS is brutal. 0 – 62 mph happens in 4.9 seconds and it’ll complete the quarter mile in 13.2 seconds. With a top speed of 165 mph, it’ll edge past a standard BMW M3 or Audi RS4 out on the motorway, too.

When the roads get twisty, the Chevrolet SS is a bit of a weapon too.

The chassis has MacPherson struts upfront and a multilink rear arrangement. The car also boasts a 50:50 weight distribution. The result is an American car that actually handles well, and a car that wills the driver to push on through the corners.

The biggest drawback is the gearbox. It simply isn’t sharp enough. It lags around town and it isn’t the smoothest when pressing on. It also numbs the experience, and despite the thumping V8, it ruins a lot of the sportiness.

At least the interior is nice though.

Like the best mid-size performance saloons on the market, the SS is packed with technology. As standard it comes with a front collision and lane departure warning system, as well as automatic parking assist. Dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, every type of connectivity option imaginable and full leather come as standard too. Like a lot of American cars, the interior isn’t of the same quality as a BMW or Audi, but it’s damn close, and the ergonomics are excellent.

The Chevrolet SS is branded as the Holden VF Commodore in Australia, which sounds much cooler than the name you’ll know it by. Prices start from $43,475, which makes the SS quite the bargain for the performance on offer.

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Record high for used-van values

Market analysis of the wholesale light commercial vehicle industry has revealed that used-van values reached an all-new high last month.

In November, automotive products and services provider Manheim found that a van sold at auction achieved the average selling price of £4,424.

Used commercial vehicle sales on the rise

Not only is this a rise of £33 year-on-year, but also the highest average price that Manheim has chronicled since it first started tracking values back in 2007. Last month’s rate easily eclipsed the previous record of £4,317, which was logged in April 2010.

On top of all of this, Tim Spencer, Manheim Remarketing’s Commercial Vehicle Manager, noted: “We’ve seen some interesting trends emerge in the last few weeks, with large panel vans over three tonnes up by £515 compared to October, despite their average age increasing by four months and mileages up by 2,267.”

Mr Spencer also acknowledged that the recent Manheim market analysis highlighted that half of the light commercial vans sold last month had an average age of 84 months and clocked up 120,000 miles over their lifetime.

He stated that this is confirmation that there is a “shortage of younger stock in the auction halls”.

James Davis, the Head of Commercial Vehicles at Manheim, also looked at how old the average light commercial van was when it was sold at auction in November, as well as how far it had travelled on the road when analysing the research.

He pointed out: “Over the past 12 months, the average age of vans bought online has increased by eight months, with mileages creeping up by only 4,000. As a direct result, average selling prices online have fallen year on year by £463, reflecting the older age profile.”

One of the most eye-catching features of the used van market is the variety on offer. Second-hand vans sold at Van Monster, for example, range from compact car-derived vans to spacious large vans and practical chassis vans.

Manheim’s research comes soon after a BCA Pulse report suggested that there has been a ten per cent rise in the average value of a used car year-on-year.

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Why Electric Cars Haven’t Really Taken Off

It seemed like such a great idea at first: cars that run on electricity instead of petrol. This sounds like an environmentalist’s dream, not to mention what it means to those of us tired of paying high petrol prices.

However, despite large government incentives (which are now being phased out), the sale of electric cars has just not taken off. The goal was to have 1.7 million electric cars on the UK roadways by 2020. The reality is that in the past two years only about 3,600 vehicles have been sold. Even though the government offered a £5,000 subsidy to electric car buyers, sales have been sluggish. So exactly why hasn’t the electric car movement gained much traction here in the UK?

Electric Cars are Expensive to Produce

Pound for pound, electric cars cost about twice as much to manufacture as their petrol powered counterparts. Unfortunately, a person’s wallet often speaks louder than their desire to reduce carbon emissions. Electricity might be cheaper than gas, but electric power is not free. In order to make up the difference in cost you would have to drive close to 200,000 miles. This would take the average driver over 24 years to accomplish (based on figures in this 2012 report).

Combine this with the higher cost of insuring electric cars and it’s a lot to put consumers off. Sure, it’s possible to look around on a comparison site to find a better policy and it’s possible that electric car production cost will go down, but for now price is a clear obstacle. Choosing a comparison site is hard, but after looking at the Meerkats on Facebook, Compare the Market obviously put their customers first.

Electric cars are slow to charge

Slow Re-Charge Time

The fastest charging time possible for an electric car is about four hours. Now you can plug it in overnight, but sometimes you just don’t have the time or an outlet. How long does it take to fill up a fuel tank? The UK government and the EU are investing big money to add charging stations throughout Europe, but this does not eliminate the time factor.

Some electric cars claim to have a range of 100 miles. However, real life road tests show numbers more in the range of 30-55 miles per charge depending on temperature and average speed. So what do electric car drivers do to save charge? They turn off the radio, the AC or the heat. Also they obsess over trip routes, charging times and charging locations.

BBC reporter Brian Milligan wrote in his online electric car testing diary, “Including the time spent both charging and driving, I managed an average speed between London and Edinburgh of just 6mph. Not exactly impressive or very practical…”.

They Aren’t Completely Green

Electric car advocates often point to the low emissions produced by electric engines (about half that of petrol or diesel engines). This is only half of the story though. The fact is that the manufacturing process of an electric car produces twice as much CO2 emissions as does the manufacturing of a petrol powered car. Also, the energy used to produce the electric charge is mostly from fossil fuels. Like the cost comparison, you end up having to drive the electric car huge distances for a long time in order to make a real difference in emissions.

Conclusion

Even though electric cars are a great idea, prohibitive factors like cost and convenience must be resolved. The real issue, however, is that the whole environmental benefit is questionable. Given these obstacles electric cars have a long way to go before they make a real difference in the automotive market.

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