Getting Personal: Car Buying & Maintenance Tips from Industry Experts
The following interview was conducted with Lauren Fix, Rebecca Jackson and Steph Savill, three car experts renowned for their expertise across a wide range of automotive fields.
They frequently contribute informed opinions online, in print and on television. Here, they give their insights and tips for buying and maintaining a car that readers can take away and refer to when thinking about the cost of insuring their automobiles and how to avoid unnecessarily high repair costs. The interviews were conducted on behalf of UK car insurance comparison site Compare The Market.
What was your first car and what’s the story behind that purchase?
Lauren: I purchased a 1976 Camaro with a 305 V8 engine, I wanted a Pontiac Firebird like the Rockford Files TV show, but couldn’t find one in my price range. I was 15 years old and couldn’t drive the car for almost a year.
Rebecca: My first car was a Peugeot 205 1.4 GR. I really wanted a 205 in topaz blue and searched high and low, rejecting a Fiat Punto and Ford Fiesta in the process! I loved it!
Steph: My first car was a Ford Escort, a cast off from my father in the 80s. After several expensive repairs I finally had to consign it to the bin after the MOT tester asked me if I’d been sailing in it – there was so much rust.
Have you got one car-buying tip for women?
Lauren: Do your homework online for incentives, insurance rates and financing then print the information out and bring it with you. Never buy a car on the first test drive.
Steph: My one car buying tip would be ‘By all means choose a car that looks good but NEVER compromise on practicality, safety & economy ratings. You’ll be disappointed every time you drive it, knowing there was a better car out there for the money.’
Rebecca: Do as much research as you can before you go and look. Take someone with you. I always used to take my Dad until I developed my own mechanical knowledge and experience with used cars. If you are looking at an old car I recommend taking a mechanic. If you are spending quite a bit of money it is worth getting an independent vehicle inspection. Read my buying guide in any event as it is very comprehensive!
Earlier this year, researchers from Northwestern University found that auto-repair shops are more likely to overcharge uninformed female shoppers than equally clueless men. What women can do to avoid getting overcharged for car repairs?
Lauren: Use websites like Car Care which is a non-profit site to educate people. You don’t have to decide on a repair in 1 second, call someone if you feel pressured and never tell someone you don’t know anything. Be strong and confident.
Rebecca: If the stats say that when you are uniformed you are more likely to be overcharged then certainly do not turn up uniformed! When I was much younger I would make the mechanic aware that I knew about cars by including my knowledge into the conversation. If you do not possess mechanical knowledge it is virtually impossible to fake so I wouldn’t try and pretend. Instead I would recommend seeking out a trusted garage by asking around. This isn’t fool proof though and you could even get a second or third opinion by taking your car to more than one garage for a free quote before settling on the one you choose to use.
If they want to charge you though this will not be possible, however you can still ask them for a price for the job garage no1 quoted you for. There is also The Good Garage Scheme, which has feedback that you can refer to. Finally, technically no mechanic should overcharge for a job because you can call them first to find out what their hourly rate is and then they have a reference book that tells them how long a particular job should take. If your car is particularly old then it is not uncommon for jobs to deviate from this book as they may come across problems that hold them up – just like with houses – for example seized bolts, rounded heads on bolts, other corrosion. Example job: cam belt change. You know the registration and the car, call around for the best price and after doing your research you will know that you can simply change the belt or put a whole kit on complete with tensioners.
Don’t automatically go for the cheapest; make sure each garage is quoting like for like jobs. Putting a whole kit on is more expensive and if your car needs it, you must get it done. The cheapest isn’t always the best which is why recommendations and feedback is good. The standard of work is the key. If a cam belt is done wrong and it fails, unless you have a non-interference engine, you will bend valves in the cylinder head resulting in an overhaul with new valves or a reconditioned head – this is not cheap. Also, cutting corners is bad.
Doing a water pump and putting the old cam belt back on is not good. The belt itself is only about £30 – £40 and you have to take it off anyway to do the pump. Some mechanics will get half way through this job and then call the customer to ask if they would like their cam belt changed as well for only an extra £100 – when normally it is £250-£350. That’s not very ethical considering the belt is coming off anyway for the water pump.
Steph: I’d want all women drivers in the UK to know that UK garages aren’t licensed and that too few mechanics are professionally accredited to repair their cars. So they realize that choosing the wrong garage can seriously compromise their motoring safety. Then I’d recommend they choose a FOXY garage that has signed a promise to ‘never overcharge, patronize or sell women services they don’t need.’ We look for signs of measurable quality and monitor their performance through feedback, to keep them on their toes. No other garage network does this, for men or women.
About Lauren Fix
The self-proclaimed Car Coach, Lauren Fix is a recognized authority within her field, frequently lending opinion to national television and media, events and online publications. She is a regular contributor to Parade Magazine and appears regularly on Arise Global News and Time Warner Cable News.
A trusted car expert, she is knowledgeable in all facets of the automotive industry including buying and selling, insurance and safety issues. She is also a member of numerous industry associations such as the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the Society of Automotive Analysts (SAA)
Lauren has written three books and away from the world of cars she frequently speaks publicly about her success in marketing, entrepreneurship, parenting and lifestyle issues.
A supremely driven and energetic individual, Rebecca Jackson is a racer, writer and presenter specializing in all things cars. Gaining a Business degree from Bath University has allowed her to show off entrepreneurial qualities resulting in the establishment of a successful used car sales business, something that she does alongside regular appearances on TV and online.
Rebecca knows how to buy cars, what to watch out for and how to look after them, as well as how to properly insure them. Racing is her true passion and she has competed in a variety of track days and racing events with the Triumph Club and Porsche.
Her next quest is to compete in the world famous Le Mans 24 hour racing event and as a Michelin Inspired Woman in both 2012 and 2013 you’d be hard pressed betting against her succeeding in realizing her next dream.
A Chartered Marketer with a 30-year career in sales and marketing roles in the travel, leisure and automotive industries, Steph Savill is the founder of the award-winning FOXY Lady Drivers Club. This not for profit online organization is the UK’s only motoring organization for women (and their families).
As a member of the Institute of the Motor Industry (FIMI), Steph is actively working towards addressing women’s specific needs and expectations in regards to the automotive industry. She’s also an avid blogger and writes regularly on the FOXY Lady Blog.