Tag Archives: Which?

Which? best car brands

female new car shoppingWhen you’re shopping for a new car, whether it’s brand new, nearly new or unflatteringly described as ‘used’ you need to do a lot of homework to get to the perfect shortlist to suit your needs. And this takes time to get right.

A good place to start is the new Which Car Guide 2014/15 – it’s the biggest car reliability and satisfaction survey with more than 49,000 owners revealing their likes and dislikes.

Which? rates cars by road and lab tests adding reliability results and customer satisfaction feedback.

The majority of motorists in this survey were cash buyers, fractionally more bought petrol than diesel cars, 30% bought automatics, only 2% drove hybrids and there was a fairly even split between new and used car models. Sadly no gender based information for us here.

Top Ten Best brands (out of 32)
1. Lexus
2. Honda
3. BMW
4. Toyota
5. Audi
6. Skoda
7. Porsche
8. Mercedes
9. Mazda
10. Volkswagen

Bottom Ten Brands (out of 32)
32. Chrysler
31. Vauxhall
30. Alfa Romeo
29. Fiat
28. Chevrolet
27. Peugeot
=24. Landrover
=24. Mitsubishi
=24. Dacia
23. Renault

Clearly the rest slot in between but it’s worth noting that big brand Ford comes in at 11th whereas similarly familiar brand Vauxhall is languishing nest to bottom. Would Vauxhall do better if this was a business driver survey or do they do badly because their cars have been hammered by business drivers before becoming used cars?

So what does all this tell us? It tells us that too many motorists buy cars that aren’t the best out there. Presumably they think it’s better the devil you know and maybe they stick with a familiar brand rather than trying a new one. My personal experience is that many women don’t enjoy test driving a new car in an unfamiliar area and perhaps get their husband to or stick with the brand/model they know.

Car buying advice for women

Our advice? Always pick the best rated models in terms of reliability, safety and economy. Then ask for a test drive car to be delivered to your home for an overnight test. Then you can try it out on familiar roads. If you don’t ask, you won’t get…

But always factor in a few of your own driving fancies. For example, I find some of the top brands to be a boring drive but having chosen a drive I enjoy, my car hasn’t the visibility I need and I’ll want to put this right the next time…

Car shopping should always be a learning experience about the latest cars and models. Be adventurous and test drive a new car that performs better than your current model.

I’m looking forward to my new car later this year, when I’ve decided what it’s going to be…


Which insurer is best for women?

We can always rely on Which? to keep us posted about the latest tactics of car insurers in what can be a minefield of information. And just in case you don’t get their magazine here is a review of their latest findings (March 2012 pp55-57).

1. Those who shopped around in 2011 paid 18% less than those who settled for the first quote.

2. Sharp rises in premiums were often dropped when challenged – without any apparent reason.

3. The average Which? consumers paid for their car insurance policy was £343 and in many cases those who found cheaper insurance didn’t have to jump ship – all they had to do was ask their current insurer to match the lowest quote.

4. Even those who queried a price over the phone were able to trim the premium by £15, without having an alternative quote.

5. Some 70% didn’t negotiate and paid more than they needed to.

6. Beware optional add-ons you don’t need such as eSure’s charging for ‘free’ Motoring Legal Protection after Year One without drawing this to your attention. Other insurers like Churchill will offer a free hire car in the first year of a policy (we preseume this is to replace your in the event of an accident) but this is reduced to a 10% discount the next year and should be removed from the policy.

7. Firms offering ‘free’ breakdown cover will usually have asked for your credit card to make renewals easy and less noticeable in subsequent years…

In a nutshell, women drivers really do need to be foxy to negotiate a fair price for car insurance… and that’s before the discriminatory EU ‘gender equality’ Directive comes into force this December.

I am not at all surprised that so many Which? consumer panel members are tired with shopping at comparison websites. It is tedious, wastes hours and defeats the common sense principle that insurers should reward existing customers not neglect them in favour of attracting new ones through discounts.

As Which? sees it, many insurers are guilty of not stating the premium you paid last year in their invitation to renewal letter. It’s as if they know the increases they are suggesting are unreasonable.

Looking on the bright side however, here are the top ten insurers that Which? recommends and FOXY supports, based on 54 different policy considerations. I am delighted to see that customer service is alive and well, depending on who you choose as your insurer…

1 NFU Mutual
2 LV
3 Nationwide
4 John Lewis
5 The Co-operative Insurance
7 50 Plus Insurance
8 Marks and Spencer
10 Sheilas’ Wheels
with the biggest samples coming from SAGA and LV.

Wouldn’t it be nice to turn back the clock to the days when High Street insurance brokers knew their stuff and offered that oft missed element of personal customer service. Well, maybe they do and we should try them out as well as or instead of the comparison websites…

As an example, my son used my browser recently and all the comparison websites he visited quote his name when I go back to them. It never fails to irritate me – a human being would never get us confused!


PS: If you’d like FOXY to keep you posted about the EU’s Unfair For Females insurance plans you can either
join the Club
subscribe to our news via the Unfair for Females sidebar textbox on the Insurance page
LIKE us at Facebook
LIKE the new Unfair For Females community page at Facebook

BBC Watchdog Kwik-Fit mauling good for garage future

Oh dear. Kwik-Fit took a mauling from BBC Watchdog last night. As Annie put it, for their dishonesty and negligence. After the disappointing Which? garage findings so recently isn’t it time that the bad businesses are named and shamed so that trusting motorists can favour the honourable ones and not be put at risk and overcharged in this way? Surely this is a ‘super complaint’ moment for the OFT to finally take regulatory action on behalf of consumers?

Admittedly the Kwik-Fit screened sample was small – 3 rip off instances at Kwik-Fit Reading, Southend and Hastings but with a further 10 branches which failed to service one car correctly between them.

Understandably Kwik-Fit’s response is robust and impressive; their nationwide garage business is under threat.

But the garage industry won’t sympathise with them because for years this is what Kwik-Fit has done and we all have our stories to tell. To this day they still owe FOXY for the manifold we sourced for them to fit to one of our members’ cars (needed as a result of their brute force to an exhaust repair). We dealt with HQ and their Area Manager; I haven’t forgotten how unprofessional they were and they didn’t pay us despite saying they would. Their card was marked indelibly as it is for many women when a business behaves as badly as this one.

But no surprises for the Kwik-Fit hierarchy surely because their staff are incentivised to sell motorists products and services (inevitably things they don’t always need, want to buy or get, as per Watchdog’s findings) to supplement modest income. What did the top jollies (and other national chains who also pay commission) expect was happening on the shop floor?

I must admit I was surprised to see Kwik-Fit staff completing ATA training requiring them to sign the IMI Code of Conduct – a commitment to the highest level of ethical behaviour. I was hopeful of a renaissance of course 😉 but ethical behaviour and tempting commission to prop up income aren’t natural bedfellows in my book. This may well be the case with Kwik-Fit Reading, listed as an ATA employer, who charged Joanne £650 for safety brake repairs for her Mitsubishi when none were necessary. And she nearly paid as many will do. Granted they sent her £250 in vouchers but would you want to go back to a dishonest business? I’d much rather spread the word via women drivers within FOXY Lady Drivers Club ;-).

After the Which? garage investigation this is yet another nail in the garage industry coffin of self regulation – it hasn’t worked for the last 60 years, once again it’s supported by the franchised dealers but not the garages that need it most… Why would a new service and repair code work now when it hasn’t previously? Ipso facto.

And the reason it doesn’t work? Because of what we saw last night – endemic dishonesty and shoddy workmanship in the motor industry. Tinkering at the edges of this industry isn’t enough – we need regulation so our cars are safer, we need to outlaw the cowboys to give the garage industry an ethical image to be proud of and then hopefully the mediocre businesses will either pull their socks up or pack up and go.

Let’s get real about garage services and sort it out for the trusting motorists who don’t read good garage guides or watch BBC Watchdog perhaps.  The time is surely now.


Which? garages vs car dealerships

The recent Which? undercover garage investigation turned up a few surprises for me, mainly to do with the cost of servicing cars.

Not the findings that some 90% of garages missed at least one of the potentially dangerous faults on the cars submitted, or that nearly 40% charged for something they didn’t provide – we talk to women and garages everyday and the stories we hear confirm this sort of thing is happening everyday.

But I was surprised to see the prices charged by the different categories of garages.

Most expensive in the performance league was OFT fully approved network Bosch Car Service whose average servicing price came in at £218.56.

Next came subscribers of the recent Motor Codes scheme (88% dealerships; yet to gain full OFT approval) where the average charge was £217.11.

Members of the Good Garage Scheme came in at £177.72 but no measurable signs of quality promoted here – the business simply pays £23.50 a month to be listed as a good garage ;-).

And least expensive of all were garages that aren’t members of any association and didn’t seem to have any notable attributes according to Which? – they charged £148.20.

So arguably you get what you pay for. A cheap price with no frills or safety guarantee, up to the Bosch garages and Motor Codes dealerships where you pay more but have the reassurance of varying stages of OFT approval.

But what I thought was interesting is the much publicised statistic that independent garages are some 30% (sometimes the percentage quoted is more) more expensive than dealerships. Not so in this case where the dealerships in the Motor Codes average were actually cheaper than the Bosch franchised garages.

Forget competing with garages that can’t demonstrate measurable quality like ATA technician accreditation, they will be cheaper because that’s their competitive advantage in the absence of quality. The point I am making is that measurably good garages like Bosch and measurably good dealerships like Motor Codes and ATA employers seem to be charging much the same for car servicing.

So how do some of the increasing number of garage brokers justify their sales claims that they work with qualified garages (they often say Bosch) and that their prices are c35% cheaper than dealers? I’d like to see the evidence.

But the dealerships need to be totally honest at all times and remember their ATA ethical Code of Conduct. In the Which? investigation 11 out of 17 Motor Codes subscribers (ie mostly dealerships) charged for screenwash when the wash bottle was full and didn’t need topping up.

Not a lot of money but it’s the principle that we women remember and dislike.  If they can do it to overcharge us a couple of quid, what else are they charging us for and not doing…

Mind you Bosch also charged 5 times out of 14, whereas members of the Good Garage Scheme and individual garages (only?) did it in 3 out of 13 cases.

None of this is good enough remember. It’s still a quality lottery for confused motorists to find a measurably good UK garage. The industry isn’t doing its bit to explain this to motorists and the whole thing is far too confusing.

To have safe cars on our roads we need ONE SCHEME CALLED REGULATION and all mechanics to be qualified to ATA standards. Never mind the bureaucracy the industry dreads, regulation could save lives.

That will fix it for once and for all. Nothing more and nothing less will do. Then the businesses can all compete for customer share on an equal footing by differentiating themselves by price and service levels.

In the meantime, I think it makes sense to choose an ATA employer whether an independent garage or dealership.


Is your garage good enough?

Car safety is a topic I feel passionately about and few motorists understand that their garage choice could well be a matter of life and death. Choose a bad garage by accident and you could be compromising your family safety.

Last week a mystery shopping exercise (involving 62 cars with pre-existing faults) carried out by consumer watchdog Which? found ‘shocking levels of incompetence’ and ‘inexcusable dishonesty’ in UK garages where only 8 garages did the job properly and 90% missed at least one potentially dangerous fault.

Shocking yes but no surprises for those of us who know that UK garages aren’t licensed, mechanics don’t have to be qualified, many garages aren’t up to the job and are overcharging us by baffling us into forking out.

If you’d like to know what your best garages are by all means read the Good Garage Guide at FOXY Choice’s website. Where in doubt (and it’s a minefield I’m afraid), pick an ATA qualified mechanic over another whether in an independent, fast fit or main dealership garage. He or she has to stay up to date with the latest best practice, is tested every five years and has signed an ethical Code of Practice.

And don’t trust well-intentioned recommendations from friends; they’re usually based on the friendly welcome there – what you need is evidence of measurable quality of workmanship first of all, such as a professionally qualified mechanic.

You should also remember the following findings from the Which? exercise, that…

Even the best performing garage group (Bosch Car Service) failed to find 36% of faults

Garages from the Good Garage Scheme (don’t be deceived by the name – this is a B2B scheme to sell Forte engine flushing oils to garages, not to identify the best garages by any measurable indicators) performed worst of all, finding just 39% of simple pre-existing faults.

Yes, it’s a lottery out there with your life and purse at risk.

Be aware too that if you opt for a much publicised Motor Codes subscriber, odds are you’ll be directed into a dealership* (the code sponsor here is the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders representing manufacturers and their dealers) where you’ll pay more than you would to a measurably good independent garage. Motor Codes subscribers found 60% of the faults in the Which? Shopping exercise by the way.
*as at 30 August 2010 and using a 5 mile radius; in Glasgow 2 of the 58 subscribers are independent garages, the rest are dealerships; in Manchester 7 are independents out of 47; in Birmingham 5 are independents out of 45; in London 10 are independents out of 43; in Bristol 13 are independents out of 43; in Southampton 5 are independents out of 38; in Exeter 4 are independents out of 30.

Having studied garage safety standards all ways up I can’t see any other solution, after 60+ years of the industry failing to put its own house in order, than full blown Government regulation. We deserve qualified garage mechanics and retail garages (including fast fits and dealerships) that are regularly inspected.

The argument is that regulation will be expensive and the motorist will pay in the end but what price our lives in dangerous cars? And let’s see the cost facts within the context of motorists getting ripped off as the Which? exercise confirms is happening today.

I imagine someone knows how many of the massive number of annual garage complaints are to do with overcharging practices.

If you take anything away from reading this blog I hope it will be to do your homework seriously before choosing a local garage in future. And check out the local one you use, just because it’s convenient.


Find out about UK garages that have signed the female friendly FOXY Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women services they don’t need.’