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Safest Used Cars

Safest Used Cars

When looking to buy a used car we are faced with tough choices. A car with good mileage, a car with an enticing exterior or a car high on performance may all have certain appeals to certain customers. However, when applying our various filters during the shortlisting process we often forget to apply another filter and it happens to be quite an important one, safety.

Importance of Safety Ratings

It doesn’t matter what you’re compromising on – colour, style, age, mileage or condition, as long as you’re safe inside the car nothing else truly matters. Even though the number of deaths in the UK due to road accidents have dropped by 2%, still a huge number of lives could have been easily saved, 1732 to be precise, if cars were safer.

How Safety Ratings are Determined

Safety requirements and standards are different around the world but the testing methods to determine their safety are similar. The testing methods have been designed in a similar way as the risks that any driver is subjected to, is more or less the same in every country. Following are some of the common safety tests:

Frontal Crash

Frontal Crash

Most of the accidents around the world occur due to head-on collision of vehicles. It is to avoid injury in such collisions that air bags and seat belts were introduced in automobiles. These tests are also known as ‘overlap’ tests and they usually involve head-on collisions but with some variety. In some cases they apply force to a quarter or half of the vehicle’s front end.

Side Crash

Preventing injury from a side crash is extremely difficult as there is little that can be done to save passengers from an impact. There is a very thin separation between the passenger seat and the point of collision. In most countries the side crash test is performed by slamming a huge metal block on one of its sides.

However, in some countries instead of a huge metal block, a pole is thrusted into the side of a car. This way a lot of force is concentrated on a smaller area and if the pole pierces through the car it means the car has failed the side crash test.

Roof Strength

The chances of your car suffering damage from the direction of your roof are quite less but one can never be too sure. In places that are prone to hurricanes, storms or heavy rainfall, the possibility of a tree falling on the roof a car is quite high. Not just in these cases, sometimes the car rolls over and lands on its roof, this makes it important for cars to be tested for roof strength.

In the test that determines the strength of a roof, different corners of the roof are subjected to increasing weight at a constant rate. The bigger the vehicle greater is the weight placed on its roof. A vehicle with good roof strength should be able to withstand at least four times its weight before displacing for more than 5 inches.

Moose Test

Even though the name of the test is funny, it isn’t meant for recreation of testing engineers in between their testing job. It is a test that is normally performed in countries where animals may appear out of nowhere on the road. In such situations the standard response of most drivers is to take a sharp turn in either direction. This test determines if a vehicle suffers a roll over on being suddenly turned.

Seats and Headrests

In case you were thinking a car’s seats and headrests are just for the comfort of passengers then you will be surprised to know that they are there for their safety as well. The design and geometry of headrests is such that it has a direct impact on the severity of injuries sustained during an accident. This feature is especially useful when the vehicle is crashed from the rear end.

If the headrest has been designed the right way then it will catch the head quickly and prevent it from suffering a major jolt. The seats when designed well, cushion and support the passenger and driver’s body. Airbags also perform the same function.

Pedestrian Safety

When we speak about vehicle safety it is not just limited to those who are inside the car but also includes those who are out on the street unguarded by any metal around them. In this test the engineers try to determine the safety of a pedestrian who is struck by a car. Car manufacturers try to design their front end in such a way that if something like this happens the surface of the engine block does not have a severe impact on the head of the pedestrian. There have been several innovations keeping in mind pedestrian safety and these include an external airbag that gets deployed when a pedestrian is struck by the vehicle.

Electric and Autonomous Systems

With improvements in car technology, the safety systems used in cars have undergone drastic transformations. Some of these design innovations include automatic emergency braking if the system has come to a conclusion that a crash is imminent. There are also other systems that detect whether a driver is about to fall asleep while on the steering wheel. If the driver’s eyes are found to be shut for a consecutive few seconds then the car is automatically brought to a halt. They are also tested for other features such as stability control and traction.

On the basis of above tests a comprehensive report is made which includes details of how a car has performed in various tests and then a safety rating is given to the car which is being tested.

Reason for Popularity of Used Cars

Reason for Popularity of Used Cars

The automobile market around the world has been booming since the last many years and this trend has given birth to a whole new market of used cars. These days when people want to upgrade they often opt to sell their old car. As a result the used car market today has great machines which are value for money and high in performance at the same time. Irrespective of whether you’re high or low on budget, you are bound to find a suitable match according to your requirements.

Why it’s Crucial to Buy a Safe Used Car?

When buying a used car there is very little that can be known of its history. Despite the various ways to know if a vehicle has been involved in an accident, people get duped by charming salesmen and land up buying such cars. However, if you buy a used car from a garage you can trust then possibilities are low that you will be short-changed.

There are certain cars which are built in a way that are naturally safe and will ensure minimum damage to those seated inside. This is what makes it important to buy a car that has been certified as safe by concerned authorities.

Used Cars to Avoid

Used Cars to Avoid

There are always cars that are priced at much lower rates compared to others. It is easy to be inclined towards such cars but one should try to understand why the price of these cars is low. Is it because its performance is inferior to others? Does it have lesser seating capacity? In most cases when the price of a car is less it is because it is less safe than the others in the market.

There are many cars in the UK market at present which were primarily built for the US market but are still available in UK. These cars have a mere 1-1.5 rating out of 5 which means they are not much reliable in terms of passenger safety in accidents. Following are some of the cars that you should avoid at all cost:

  • Isuzu D-Max – 2008 model.
  • Chrysler Voyager – 2007 model.
  • Chevrolet Aveo – 2006 model.

Cars with a 2 out of 5 NCAP safety rating.

  • Jeep Compass 2.2 Diesel – 2011 model.
  • Renault Trafic 2.0dCi Passenger ‘Expression’ – 2012 model.
  • Ford Ranger Pick Up – 2008 model.

Balance of Safety and Budget

Wouldn’t you prefer to save money for some more months and buy a car that is safe instead of buying an unsafe car out of haste? Cars that strike a good balance between safety and affordability are often those that you find in the range of £1000 – £5000. Following are some of the cars that leave us with no excuse to compromise on safety because of budget:

Volkswagen Golf

The Volkswagen Golf has been deemed as the best hatchback by many automobile magazines. It has a lot of street credibility and has been engineered in a way that makes it the ideal family motor. The level of safety offered by it is impressive as it scores a whopping 5 out of 5 NCAP rating. The engine keeps getting better with each of its variant. Its spacious interiors is an icing on the cake. For £5000 you should be able to find a 2008 or 2009 make which has travelled for less than 80,000 miles.

Honda Jazz

Just like Volkswagen Golf, the Honda Jazz too is a strong contender for the title of the best family car. If you look it up on Google you will find several testimonials that swear by its safety features. This has influenced several car magazines to proclaim it as the best family car. It is a good value for money product as it provides both great running costs as well as spacious interiors.

Even the earlier models of this car which date back to 2004 have a 4 out of 5 NCAP safety rating and can be bought for just £1000. The relatively newer models belonging to the 2009 batch have an even more impressive safety rating of 5 out of 5 and can be purchased for £4500-5000.

Mazda 3

Mazda 3

There are always those who take out their family from time to time but also want their ride to look better than an average family car. Not only is Mazda 3 an attractive option but it also hits the right spot between price and safety. It is a visually appealing car with designs that are eye catching.

You cannot hope to get a better deal for just £5000 as you may find a great range of five door models which have run for less than 50,000 miles. If you opt for models that were built in 2009 you will be riding a car that has a safety rating of 5 out of 5.

High Budget High Safety Cars

If you can stretch your budget to £10,000 you will be able to buy a 2012/2013 model which have higher safety features to offer. Here’s a list of cars that are friendlier on your wallet but at the same time have a 5 star NCAP rating.

Ford Focus

If there’s a car that has earned the badge of the best family hatchback then it has to be Ford Focus. It is spacious, has incredible hi-tech features such as electronic stability control and is also packed with robust safety features such as brake assistance.

You will get a 2011 model with a 5 star safety rating but in this price range you may have better options to choose from such as a 1.6 petrol with titanium trims and top spec Zetec. You can also have a car with a TDCi diesel engine manufactured in 2012 and 2013.

Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta is one of the bestselling used cars in Britain. It is perfect for smaller families living in congested areas as it offers a range of small, economical engines and many exciting options for extra accessories such as emergency brake assist which increase the safety of the car and front windscreen heaters that are particularly useful in winters.

If you have the budget for a Ford Fiesta you should be able to get a standard 1.2 Zetec model of 2012 for about £5000. If you can stretch your budget a little further you may get an EcoBoost model of 2015 for about £10,000. It’s worth remembering that all these models have a 5 out of 5 safety rating.

Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Astra

If you have a minuscule budget and wish to own a safe used car then you will be surprised to know that even a 2004 Vauxhall Astra has a safety rating of 5 out of 5. However, by spending a little more, say about £8000-£9000 you can avail the full range of features that Vauxhall has to offer such as a 2015 registered model with parking sensors and cruise control. Basically, it is a car that can tailored to suit a budget of any size.

There are a ton of cars out there in the used cars market that score a perfect 5 on 5 when it comes to safety features. It is still advised that you do not take the above advice without a proper test drive and thorough inspection. It is ultimately you who needs to decide what you want from a car. If you find it difficult to shortlist a car you should go for expert opinion.

Top 6 Signs of Car Engine Trouble

Top 6 Signs of Car Engine Trouble

A healthy engine is clearly the most important component in any car for it to run smoothly without any issues, and when engine problems do arise, it can be a daunting prospect to even acknowledge these problems. What’s more, you may not even recognise the signs of a car having engine trouble. The best way to ensure engine problems are recognised quickly is to get your car regularly serviced by professionals.

However, it is important to know the signs of a dodgy engine so that you are equipped to replace it or fix the problem, and this will also ensure your safety when driving.

If you are worried about your car and you suspect that the engine may be the main culprit, read on to find out more about the top signs of engine trouble with your car.

Trouble starting the engine

Trouble starting the engine

Many cars have trouble starting up in cold winter months, and sometimes you may even have to turn it over a few times before it revs into life. However, if this problem is prevailing to the extent where the car is not switching on at all, or if it is happening throughout the year regardless of weather, this may indicate that you are having problems with the engine.

If this is the case, your cylinder casing may be cracked, which can be caused by changes in temperature.

If you are experiencing any of these problems, it could be a sign of engine trouble and it’s best to get it sorted out as quickly as possible.

Oil leak

Another sign that your engine may currently not be in the best shape is that it is leaking oil. If you have seen your car leave a puddle of oil behind when parked, this could signify an oil leak in the engine.

An oil leak is a major issue and will need to be dealt with as soon as possible, otherwise, it could end up seizing up completely, causing hazards and potentially leaving you stranded.

Knocking sound

Knocking sound

This is one of the most common and well-known signs that your engine may be in trouble and is known to be one of the most impending problems with a car. If you have been hearing a suspicious knocking sound coming from your car, this could mean imminent problems for the engine.

The knocking sound can mean that the camshaft is no longer working in time with the pistons, and there is very little you can do about this than to replace the engine completely, so if this sign sounds at all familiar to you, you will need to start saving up to replace your engine completely or even your car if financially viable.

Smoking from the engine

Smoking from the engine

Perhaps one of the scariest signs that your engine might be in trouble is when the car starts blowing out smoke from the exhaust. This is often a sign that there is a bad mix of petrol and air in the engine.

There are a few options as to what this symptom could be caused by. Possibly the best this sign could be is that there is a problem with one of the tappets, however, it could mean a problem with the piston rings, which could mean a much more expensive full replacement of the engine.

If you start seeing a lot of smoke coming out of your car, it is best not to ignore this problem. In fact, you need to get it seen to as soon as possible before your engine cuts out on you completely. Take the car to the garage as soon as possible to get professional help.

Steam coming from the engine

Another fairly shocking symptom of a faulty engine is steam coming from it, which will appear to be coming from under the bonnet and signifies an overheating engine. Most commonly this is to do with a lack of fluid in the engine’s coolant system, however, it could mean a number of other things, including a problem with your engine.

Steam coming from the engine could be a sign that the engine’s gasket, radiator or pipes are leaking, and your engine could seize up fairly quickly.

If steam is coming from under your bonnet, it is highly advisable to get it seen to straight away, by a professional who will advise you on the problem and how it can be fixed.



Let’s face it, no one likes to see their engine catch fire, in fact, it can be one of the most horrifying moments of your driving life. If your engine catches fire, act immediately with a fire extinguisher, or if one is not available, move away from the vehicle immediately and call the emergency services.

An engine catching fire can be caused by several different factors, such as a fuel leakage, a short circuit, overheating, and accidents. However shocking it may seem at first, if you’re quick to put the fire out, it might not actually mean a new engine needs to be installed.

If left to burn though, the engine fire could damage fuel pumps and pipes and could lead to an explosion. It goes without saying that the issue needs to be sorted instantly.

So, those are the top 6 signs of engine problems, all of which need to be dealt with by a professional as quickly as possible once they are identified. If you are having difficulties and suspect that your engine might need some TLC, contact us at In Town Automotive for help and advice.

To prevent any major engine issues occurring, there are a few ways in which you can help to maintain your car’s engine. Changing the oil on a regular basis, using a good brand of oil, ensuring there is enough fluid in the coolant system and having regular services can mean the difference between a healthy and unhealthy engine and can save you a packet!

car repairs petrol brakes

Car Repairs: Up, Down, Stop!

We’ve found three great UK stories for you that look at car repairs, car brakes, petrol prices and in-car technology. Enjoy!


Remember earlier this year when petrol prices dipped under £1? It was a far cry from back in 2012 when the average price of a litre of petrol was £1.35 and diesel was £1.42. High fuel costs have had a considerable knock-on effect over the last few years, in that people have been forced to drop their annual mileage. Now, a drop in fuel prices means that mileage is back up, people have a bit more disposable income, and we can engage in a bit more consumer spending, which is beneficial to our economy.

Sadly, the same can’t be said of national average prices for car repairs, maintenance costs and insurance premiums. Over the last five years, national costs for car repairs have gone up by 10% on average, and 38% in the last decade. It’s not just car repairs that have risen, in fact, the price of car insurance has gone up, the price of new cars has gone up and the living wage has gone up.

If you want to keep up the quality of car repairs and maintain a consistency for your car in a world of ups and downs, call In Town Automotive on 01604 666700.


It’s not all rising fees and costs, as this next story will explain. It is becoming widely known that cars with ‘smart’ features offer more safety, more security, automated parking, rear view mirror cameras, crash-avoidance systems and stop-start engines. These are just a few of the innovations will you find in a smart car, and the knock-on effect they are having is that insurance companies are lowering their premiums for the owners.

As 75% of collisions occur at city driving speeds, of 20-30mph, autonomous braking systems and crash-avoidance technologies automatically detect when there will be a crash and are most effective at these speeds. Cars fitted with these systems had 38% fewer rear-end crashes last year, and as a result, the insurance premium will be going down. Fewer car repairs will be needed to fix damaged vehicles, which could be an indicator as to why some garages have increased their prices. We are not one of them, we have consistent pricing for your benefit!

When you consider that a quarter of all claims are as a result of parking or low-speed manoeuvring, it can be easily understood why cars with an automated parking system now demand a lower insurance premium.


The European body for testing car safety, NCAP, has announced that new car functions, such as ‘autonomous emergency braking’ and ‘pedestrian detection systems’ will be included in the next safety tests. This is great news for people who own and drive these cars, as a successful performance in testing means that the car’s safety rating will improve, leading to a drop in insurance premiums.

NCAP has already tested the Toyota Prius and remarkably awarded it a 5-star rating for its ‘Toyota Safety Sense’ technology. If the car senses a collision, it will automatically brake. The second car tested was the Suzuki Baleno, which was awarded a three-star rating, although when fitted with the optional ‘Radar Brake Support’ system, it is awarded 4 stars!

The new testing system allows for cars to be given two separate ratings, as has been done with the Baleno above. One rating is given for the base model, and a separate rating is given for the higher spec version, although it does seem a little bit awful that cars should be sold without all of the safety features available.