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Christmas is coming: Give the Gift of Driving

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Picture the scene on Christmas morning: a Yuletide fire burning and festive hits blaring out as the family assemble by the tree to open their presents. One gift appears to be a small box-shaped object, and your teenager rips it open with a sense of anticipation – to find a car key. A rush to the window confirms the new car – little does anyone know that you only purchased it yesterday…

The gift of driving is actually a multi-faceted one, as you are also providing freedom, adventure, and a source of pride. There’s nothing more exciting than climbing behind the wheel of a new Ford, Citroen or Mazda. If the gift of a new car seems too far-fetched and way beyond your budget don't forget that dealerships such as T W White and Sons offer some great deals.

There are two parts to getting on the road; the lessons, and the car itself. And the prices of both can soon pile up faster than junk in the glove box.

The average driver will spend around £1,000 learning to drive, composed of these elements: *47 hour long lessons (on average), each costing £15-20. *Theory exam: Now £25 thanks to a recent drop in price from the Ministry of Transport. Another drop is planned next year. *Driving test: £62 on weekday, £75 in the evening and weekends.

Other possible costs include an increase in your own insurance premium should you add another driver, and any additional fuel that is then consumed by ‘lessons’ you are providing.

If and when the test is passed you might want to buy a car for the new driver-to-be, but purchasing at Christmas presents pros and cons. On the negative side is the weather, as you need to become familiar with a new vehicle in potentially poor conditions. This shouldn’t discourage the experienced driver, but it’s a different ball game for the newbie. Even a veteran driver can be caught out if buying a powerful car and driving it in ice and fog.

In addition, be careful if you’re drinking over the festive period, as losing your licence through drink-driving shortly after acquiring it would be horrific; being a new driver is no excuse.

One of the main advantages of buying at Christmas is the price of the car, which is likely to drop. Shoppers are saving their pennies for gifts and holidays, and unless it’s a desperate measure a new car is one of the last things on their mind.

New car sales in December drop to a third of their normal sales and so showrooms may drop a vehicle by as much as 10-15% to entice at least some custom. In fact, Christmas Eve is probably the best day of the year to purchase, as the double whammy of virtually no customers and sales targets to meet might push the boundaries even further.

Similarly a young driver in the family who can wait a few weeks may be regarded with a better car in the new year, when people are short of money. A quiet period, plus fresh stock equals bargains – unless you’re looking for a 4x4 (don’t forget it’s winter!). Ask for finance options before taking the plunge.

There are several other costs to consider. Insurance is devastating for new drivers, so consider this when choosing the model, value and age of the car. Ways to knock insurance down include paying a higher excess, and choosing a policy that incorporates telematics. Also known as ‘black box insurance’, the telematics device is fitted to the car and measures your driving patterns, rewarding sensible driving with lower premiums.

Finally, don’t forget the changes to the road tax system, which mean that tax is not transferred from another vehicle when it changes owners; read this piece in the Independent and avoid a £1,000 fine.

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