What Car?'s top reader stories of 2019

We answer thousands of reader questions each year, providing advice and helping owners of faulty cars to get redress from car makers. Here are some of the most popular stories from the past year...

Top 10 advice stories 2019

Every week, What Car? receives phone calls, emails and letters from readers needing our help. And whether it's answering a simple query about which new car is best suited to their needs, or intervening when something's gone wrong, we'll always try and help our readers get the answers – and the cars – they deserve. In this story, we've gathered together some of the most popular cases we've tackled in 2019.

Can I buy a car on finance and then pay it off?

I'm looking to buy a Jaguar F-Type. I've been given a cash price and a finance price, and the finance price is £6000 less than the cash price. Am I legally allowed to take out the finance package and then pay it off straight away? Also, please can you tell me why there is such as big difference in the prices?

John Newby

What Car? says…

If you’re buying on hire purchase (HP) finance, you’re allowed to make early payments to repay the loan. If the finance is a personal contract purchase (PCP) deal, you’re also allowed to settle the loan early, but the terms and conditions for doing so vary from one finance company to another, so it’s important that you read the small print of the finance agreement before signing up for it to ensure any early settlement fees don’t eradicate the savings from taking out finance. 

Jaguar F-Type Coupé

Even if you do have the cash to buy a car outright, it's actually beneficial to get it on finance or pay for at least £100 of it on a credit card; doing so gives you protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which covers all transactions from £100 to £30,000. 

Buying on HP or PCP gives you added protection if the car develops a fault too, because the finance provider is jointly liable along with the car maker to fix the problem and refund payments where appropriate.

Although you’d expect buying a new car with cash to be cheaper than getting it on finance, because you don’t have to pay interest on a cash purchase, doing so means you miss out on the incentives that are frequently offered with finance deals. 

Many new car PCP deals are offered with a manufacturer ‘deposit contribution’ of at least £1000 and a lower interest rate than other forms of finance. In fact, at present, around 18% of new car PCP deals have a 0% interest rate. Dealers are also likely to offer bigger discounts on cars bought using their finance, because they and the car manufacturer make greater profits from this. It also gives them more opportunity to keep in contact with you for servicing and to offer you a new car in the future. 

Is my car covered for hail storm damage?

Ford Kuga hail damage

I live in the Yorkshire Dales and, due to the recent freaky weather, I have found myself in an unusual position. My leased Ford Kuga was caught in a bad hail storm while it was parked up. 

Hail stones the size of golf balls came down and the car has sustained extensive damage to every panel with around 200 dents on the roof alone. 

Even though the car is only 17 months old, there is a good chance it will be written off. Where do I stand in this situation?

Ben Deakin

What Car? says...

Incidents caused by the elements are often considered an 'act of God', and this means it’s generally accepted that any damage incurred was unavoidable. So, provided you have a fully comprehensive car insurance policy, you should be able to make a claim for the damage to your car on this. 

You will only be covered if you have a comprehensive insurance policy, however; third party and third party, fire and theft (TPFT) policies only cover damage caused to other cars and property, and will only pay out for damage to your car if it was caused as a result of fire or theft.

A comprehensive policy will enable you to claim either to get the car repaired or to cover the cost of replacement if it’s deemed an uneconomical repair. 

You are likely to have to pay the excess on your policy and, unfortunately, your premiums are likely to increase slightly after making the claim – or you could lose your no claims bonus if it’s not protected.

This is because most weather damage falls under the ‘at-fault’ claim category – not because you are to blame for the damage, but because your insurer will not be able to recover its costs from elsewhere as it would if you’d been involved in a collision that was another driver’s fault. 

SUV or estate: which should I buy?

Hybrid SUVs compilation image

I currently drive a 2016 Audi A4 Avant Sport Ultra, but my company car deal is going to run in a month’s time and, like about 50 percent of the UK population, I fancy switching to an SUV.

I cover 22,500 miles a year, so fuel economy is important as is the relevant BIK for company car drivers. I also need a car with a luggage compartment that’s big enough for two dogs in a large cage, and rear seats that are roomy enough for two teenagers, with USB ports for mobile phones. 

My budget is about £35,000. I like the look, sound and size of the Toyota RAV4, but I’m put off by the poor reviews it receives for its infotainment system. It doesn't have apple Carplay or Android Auto, which are essential in my opinion as I’m going to spend a lot of time in the car over the next three years. 

Other makes and models have their plus points, such as the Volkswagen Tiguan and Volvo XC40, but neither of these tick all of my boxes. Can you suggest some alternatives, or do you think I need to stick to an estate for its greater practicality? 

Mark Jardine

What Car? says…

We think you need a larger SUV than the ones you’ve been considering in order to have enough space for teenagers and dogs. We do agree with your concerns about infotainment systems – the minimalistic, touchscreen-controlled system in new Volvos isn’t as easy to use on the move as the rotary-dial controlled systems you’ll find in Audi and BMW models. 

However, BMW’s X3 has to be ruled out for you because, although you can add Apple CarPlay as an option, you can’t add Android Auto at all. Audi’s Q5 comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it’s roomy in the back seats, has good connectivity and a good-sized boot, but it’s too pricey. 

Mazda CX-5 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150 SE-L Nav+

Another five-star alternative that could fit the bill is the diesel variant of Mazda’s CX-5. Its boot isn’t the biggest on offer but should accommodate your dog cage, and the rear seats are roomy enough for two adults. It also comes with your preferred smartphone connectivity. Our target price for the Skyactiv-D 150 2wd Sport Nav+ is £28,048, so it’s also within your budget. 

Next: More reader questions answered >

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